May 2, 2001 18:23: A woman who escaped Nazi Germany as a child came face-to-face with her past during a visit to the National Gallery.

Three of the paintings featured in an exhibition from the Nationalgalarie Berlin once belonged to Irene Matthews' grandfather, Karl Hagen, a banker at the turn of the last century.

He had donated the masterpieces by Monet and Manet now worth millions of pounds to the German museum in 1906 as a gesture of thanks to the country where he had made his fortune.

Irene described the emotional moment when she spotted her past hanging on the wall. "I sat down on a bench opposite and started to feel tears fall down my cheeks," said Irene, of Farm Road, Edgware.

Irene, the author of Out Of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find My Way, admitted: "I wanted to take them down off the wall and take them home because they had belonged to my grandfather."

The paintings are part of an exhibition "Spirit of an Age, 19th Century Paintings from the Nationalgalarie Berlin" which is being staged until May 13.

The works of art are Farmhouse in Ryeil and Sommer both by Manet, St Germain, L'Auxerrois by Monet, and Afternoon of the Children in Wargemont by Renoir.