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A collection of medieval artworks and manuscripts missing from Germany since the end of World War II apparently was stashed in a small town in north Texas all along.

Joe T. Meador of Whitewright, Texas, probably pulled off one of the biggest art thefts of the century, The New York Times reported. He was a U.S. soldier in Germany at the end of the war.Meador transported the priceless pieces to Texas from an ancient castle town in Germany - Quedlinburg, a town in Saxony-Anhalt State, now in East Germany, The Times said, basing its report on interviews with art experts, lawyers and neighbors of Meador.

The treasures were kept in a mineshaft near the town shortly after Germany surrendered in 1945. They disappeared a few days later after American troops took over the area.

Meador, who died in 1980, reportedly would show his employees elaborate and richly bound gold and silver manuscripts, according to a former employee. The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, worked in a hardware and farm equipment store that Meador and his brother, Jack, ran in Whitewright, 15 miles from the Oklahoma border.

"It was one of the world's greatest art thefts," said Florentina Mutherich, former deputy director of the Institute for Art History in Munich.

The Army investigated the theft but dropped the matter in 1949 when Quedlinburg became part of East Germany. An unidentified source told the newspaper that the treasures are in the vault of the First National Bank of Whitewright.

John R. Farley, president of the bank, declined to comment on the matter, the Times said.

The treasures include a small silver reliquary, inlaid with enamels and precious stones, with side panels of carved ivory; a liturgical ivory comb; a manuscript dated 1513; several rock crystal flasks and gold and silver crucifixes.

Three years after Meador died, his brother-in-law, Dr. Don H. Cook, of Mesquite, Texas, sought to have two medieval manuscripts evaluated, John Carroll Collins, a Dallas estate appraiser, told the newspaper.

Cook and his wife, Jane Meador Cook, declined to discuss the matter.