A pair of 350-year-old pistols stolen by the Nazis from the Rothschild family one year before the start of World War II have emerged for sale for £80,000.
The ornate guns were seized from the Rothschild family along with numerous works of art kept in their collection in Vienna, Austria, just 48 hours after the country signed a pact with Germany in March 1938.
On the instructions of Hitler, the SS raided the homes of Baron Louis Von Rothschild and his brother, Baron Alphonse Von Rothschild - two influential members of the banking dynasty.
Looted: The guns, pictured, were taken when Hitler instructed the SS to raid the homes of the prolific Jews
Louis Von Rothschild had been arrested and imprisoned just days before for being a Jew. Alphonse Von Rothschild had been warned not to return to Austria and therefore evaded arrest.
The stolen artifacts, including the two 21-inch pistols from 1670, were intended for Hitler's Führermuseum which he had planned in the Austrian city of Linz.
In 1944 they were were taken to salt mines in the small Austrian village of Altaussee to protect them from heavy bombing.
A year later they were discovered by US troops and returned to Vienna.
The Austrian government immediately passed a law banning the items from being taken out of the country.
The items remained in the possession of the state as Louis and Alphonse Von Rothschild had moved their families abroad following the end of the war.
Details: The pistols, pictured above, made by Pietro Manani in around 1670, are now for sale for £80,000
The government ordered the collection broken up and individual items distributed among various state galleries, museums and other institutions.
There they remained until 1999 when they were finally returned to the Rothschild family.
The pistols, made by Pietro Manani in around 1670, are now for sale for £80,000 through London auction house Bonhams on behalf of a private collector.
Experts say the 21-inch Brescian flintlock holster pistols are so valuable because of their sheer quality.
Rare: Experts say the 21-inch Brescian flintlock holster pistols are so valuable because of their sheer quality
David Williams, from Bonhams' antique arms and armour department, said: 'There can be few pistols with a more interesting history than these magnificent survivors of centuries.
They are artistic and technological marvels of their time and remain today a window into the superb craftsmanship of the past. They were stolen by the Nazis from the Austrian string of the Rothschild family in 1938 and kept in a salt mine during the war to protect them.
The pistols were given to a museum after the war and were returned to the family in 1999. They're now being sold by a private collector who acquired them shortly after they were returned.
"The story behind them is fascinating but what makes them really valuable is their quality, workmanship and condition. They are incredibly high end pistols in fantastic condition."