The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said Friday Jewish descendants could sue Germany to claim back $227 million worth of artwork. Reuters

Descendants of Jewish art collectors who had their prized masterworks stolen by the Nazis during World War II were granted the right to sue Germany from the United States to claim the artwork back, a U.S. district court ruled Friday.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia handed down an unprecedented ruling three years after a German investigation committee charged with handling cases of Nazi theft during the Holocaust claimed that the previous owners of the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, had not been forced to sell the artwork to one of the Adolf Hitler’s top deputies, Hermann Goering, in 1935, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

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Originally, the Jewish collectors had purchased the works in 1929. Their heirs, who have claimed the 82 works have a value of $227 million, have tried for years to retain the artwork supposedly sold to Goering.

However, Germany’s Limbach Commission, in 2014, stated the sale had not been forced upon the Jewish collectors, which resulted in a suit filed in February 2015 against Germany and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The U.S. court stepped in and disavowed the Limbach Commission’s claim that its ruling did not open the floodgates for a civil action.

The head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said in a statement that it would “look at the decision carefully and consider further steps.”

The artwork was first called the Treasure of Relics of the House of Brunswick-Luneburg, which was a collection of medieval pieces and dated as far back as the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The collection included crosses, altars and other religious objects. The Guelphs founded the royal house of Brunswick and had originally possessed the collection for roughly 900 years.

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Today, the works can be found at the Bode Museum in Berlin.

The Limbach Commission began in 2003 and was specifically formed to resolve disputes over what the Nazi’s, or Hitler’s Third Reich, took during its time in power in the 1930s and 1940s.