First glimpse of newly uncovered, Nazi looted art collection released on German websitePosted: November 13, 2013
Josie Le Blond in Berlin and Damien McElroy report: The German government has bowed to international pressure and begun publishing an online list of works from a huge art trove found in a Munich flat.
Twenty-five of the 1,406 paintings discovered in Cornelius Gurlitt’s home will be displayed on a website created to help establish the provenance of works seized by the Nazis, following calls from Jewish groups and art experts.
The government has been heavily criticised for keeping silent for 21 months about the cache – thought to be worth up to $1.4 billion – notably by families whose relatives were robbed by the Nazis.
Mr Gurlitt has been seen in public for the first time since the discovery was made public two weeks ago.
The 80-year-old collector, who has been in hiding, was spotted in a winter coat and scarf as he wandered around a Munich shopping centre.
He was reported Tuesday to have written to the news magazine Der Spiegel asking that his name never appear again on its pages.
The magazine said Mr Gurlitt had explained that he did not like his father Hildebrand Gurlitt being associated with the Nazis, by whom he had been given the task of collecting “degenerate art” across occupied Europe during the Second World War. Hildebrand Gurlitt’s art collection, which included works by Chagall and Picasso, was widely thought to have been destroyed during the war, but survived and was passed to his son after his death in a car accident in 1956.
German authorities have been criticised for not acting fast enough to return the works to their rightful owners after it emerged last week that they kept the discovery quiet for nearly two years.
Now calls are growing for the entire collection to be displayed online.
“Everyone will then have the opportunity to see what’s there. There are no moral questions here; it’s about justice and injustice. Property was stolen and it has to go back to the rightful owners.”
Germany also announced that it would form a task force of six experts to investigate works of art seized from Mr. Gurlitt.
Officials said 970 of the works would be examined.
Out of 590 works feared to have been gained in Nazi-related exchanges, 25 would be urgently examined.
Another 380 works are thought to have been seized by the Nazis for a notorious 1937 exhibition of so-called “degenerate art”.
Focus magazine reported yesterday that when tax investigators and police raided Mr Gurlitt’s Munich flat in 2012, they found his father’s account book containing the names of Jewish collectors whose pictures he had confiscated.
Despite this lead, German customs officials doubt that the works can be given back. Most of the paintings thought to have been stolen by Hildebrand Gurlitt came from museums and not from individuals, the magazine said, citing an internal document.
The report, sent by customs officials to the German finance ministry, states that the 315 “degenerate art” paintings in the collection were acquired “exclusively from state and municipal museums” and so restitution claims of former owners were “not enforceable”. Mr Gurlitt may be allowed to keep the works and even the charges of tax evasion could be dropped because of a lack of evidence, according to the same document, said Focus.
Meanwhile, Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, called for greater transparency in dealing with the find, which he warned could have lasting damage to Germany’s international friendships.
“We don’t want to underestimate the sensitivity of the topic in the world,” he said during a visit to India on Monday.
“We have to be careful not to gamble away the trust we’ve built up over the last decades. The guiding principle of the hour is transparency.”
Daily Telegraph – National Post
- A Glimpse at Masterpieces Discovered in Nazi-Era Art Stash (online.wsj.com)
- Germany Rushes to Let Holocaust Victims Claim Nazi-Looted Art (world.time.com)
- Website For Looted Nazi Artworks Crashes As Heirs Begin To Step Forward (mukeshbalani.wordpress.com)
- Germany Says Art in Munich Haul May Be Nazi Loot (bloomberg.com)
- Brother of dealer at center of Nazi art mystery hands over own collection (foxnews.com)
- Germany to Speed Up Search for Owners of Looted Art (israelnationalnews.com)
- Nazi Art Trove Surprises Family Searching for 70 Years – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)