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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nazi Art Bust: $1 billion worth of paintings Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and more discovered in Munich apartment


Nazi-Art Bust: The German government has "kept the secret" of the hoard for years, a magazine report says.

The legacy of Nazi war crimes resurfaced on Monday when a German magazine reported that a trove of artworks looted from Jewish collectors had been discovered in a Munich apartment. According to the weekly Focus magazine, the hoard of paintings could be worth more than a billion dollars, as it includes masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Paul Klee. German authorities discovered the works almost by accident in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Munich art collector.

How could the son of an alleged Nazi collaborator stay off the grid?

Gurlitt’s father Hildebrandt was known in international art circles for helping Nazi leaders monetize the artworks seized from Jewish families. Hildebrandt Gurlitt, an historian and art dealer who was Jewish on his mother’s side, had reportedly fulfilled this role at the request of Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. But the art dealer’s only surviving son managed to avoid registering with German tax authorities and social-services organizations for years. “He was a man who didn’t exist,” a German official was quoted by Focus as saying.

Why did investigators believe that the works had been destroyed?

At the end of World War II, Hildebrandt Gurlitt was reportedly captured by American forces and claimed during interrogation that his family’s art collection had perished during the 1945 bombing of Dresden, where the family had a home. Because of his Jewish heritage, the elder Gurlitt was deemed a victim of Nazi persecution and released. He continued trading art until his death in a car accident in 1956. It is not clear whether the postwar government in Germany ever tried to confirm whether Gurlitt’s art collection had really been destroyed.

How seriously does Germany take warrants for stolen art?

According to Focus, 200 of the works found in the younger Gurlitt’s apartment are the subject of international warrants. One of the works by Matisse reportedly belonged to the Jewish collector Paul Rosenberg, who was forced to leave his collection behind in Paris after fleeing the Nazi invasion of France in 1940. His granddaughter, Anne Sinclair, a prominent French-American journalist who was married to former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been campaigning for decades to get her family’s art collection back.

More at Time. via Mental Floss.

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