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German Count Reclaims Treasure Communists Never Found

February 12, 1996 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ A nobleman who buried family heirlooms in eastern Germany at the end of World War II has found them just where he left them a half century ago.

``I always carried my little map of the place in my wallet but I only half hoped to see our possessions again,″ Count Alexander zu Lynar-Redern told reporters Monday at a viewing of the antiques at Sotheby’s auction rooms.

Sotheby’s will sell the trove of rare silver and Meissen porcelain in Geneva and London in May and June. It hopes to get $230,000.

Lynar-Redern was 16 and Soviet artillery was flashing in the distance when he buried the heirlooms in the dead of night on April 20, 1945, on the family estate at Goerlsdorf, northeast of Berlin. The count and his widowed mother, Princess Victoria, then fled westward to escape the advancing Soviet army.

``When I went back last July with American searching equipment we dug down two meters (six feet) and there it all was, the silver in one hole and the Meissen porcelain in another close by,″ the count said.

The family home, Schloss Goerlsdorf, was burned within a few weeks of the Soviet occupation and the estate became the private hunting ground of Gen. Erich Mielke, head of the East German secret service.

The treasure includes a silver dinner-service of 120 pieces made by the French company, Odiot, in 1834 for a family wedding. It bears the Redern family coat of arms of eagles and a knight in armor. There are 253 Meissen porcelain pieces forming two dinner services and silver salt cellars, jugs, dishes and candelabra.

The 67-year-old count, who lives in Nice, France, was accompanied by Gregory Mills of North Salem, N.H., whose company, Geophysical Survey Systems Inc., made the radar system they used to search underground.

Even though the count said the ground looked different, it only took them 1 1/2 hours to find the treasure with his map, Mills said.

``There were 13 wooden crates which had long rotted away and most of the silver had turned green,″ he said.

``Everything is in incredibly good condition considering what happened,″ said Harry Charteris, Sotheby’s silver specialist.

Lynar-Redern said he was waiting to be drafted into the German navy on the night that family servants helped them wrap their possessions in newspapers, put them on a horse-drawn cart and bury them by flashlight.

``We were scared of the Nazis finding out, and we could have been shot,″ he said.

He and his mother eventually reached safety among British troops, but had to leave valuable furniture and paintings in their home. All those possessions disappeared.

The East German Communists expropriated the Goerlsdorf estate without compensation. The count said he is still trying to reclaim it through various courts.