News / Arts & Entertainment

Under Pressure, Germany Speeds Investigation of Nazi-looted Art

FILE - 'Two Horsemen at the Beach' by German artist Max Liebermann was one of the paintings found in a Munich apartment in 2011.
FILE - 'Two Horsemen at the Beach' by German artist Max Liebermann was one of the paintings found in a Munich apartment in 2011.
Reuters
Germany, under pressure to hasten inquiries into Nazi-looted art works stashed in a recluse's flat, has sent legal experts to help local authorities in Munich resolve myriad ownership issues, Focus magazine reported on Sunday.
 
The federal government's intervention follows criticism that authorities stayed silent for too long regarding the 1,406 art works by European masters they stumbled upon last year.
 
Focus, based in Munich, said the government sent “several staffers” to the Bavaria justice ministry on Friday.
 
“The federal government is working hard to ensure that information about the confiscated works of art is made available as there are now indications that Nazi persecution could be involved,” Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the same day.
 
Focus, which broke the Nazi art story a week ago, also said on Sunday that some customs experts believe some of the art cannot be legally returned to its original owners because it came from state museums, and that restitution claims would likely fail.
 
Customs officials seized the paintings, sketches and sculptures from Cornelius Gurlitt in February 2012. They were hoarded by his father Hildebrand, a war-era art dealer put in charge of selling “degenerate” art by Adolf Hitler.
 
“A large portion of Hildebrand Gurlitt's treasure confiscated from his son can probably not be returned to the rightful owners,” Focus magazine said, quoting from an internal customs office analysis made for the Finance Ministry that refers to 315 pieces of “degenerate” art work.
 
The legal status of the art remains murky and disputed nearly 70 years after World War Two. Some legal experts say Gurlitt may even get to keep it, but others say Germany could nullify his ownership under the 1998 Washington Declaration, a set of principles for dealing with looted art.
 
The secrecy and the delay in publishing an inventory of the works, estimated to be worth up to $1.34 billion, has been criticized by those who say that publicizing such finds is vital to finding their rightful owners.
 
The Nazis plundered hundreds of thousands of art works from museums and individuals across Europe. Many are still missing.
 
The Munich trove been hailed as one of the most significant discoveries of looted art, fuelling speculation about its provenance and claims from heirs of Jewish collectors who were robbed, dispossessed or murdered by the Nazis.
 
The 79-year-old recluse at the centre of the mystery, Cornelius Gurlitt, has vanished. He has not been charged but has been under investigation for tax evasion and concealment.
 
On Sunday, Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Gurlitt had been seen near his Munich apartment last Monday. Der Spiegel news magazine said it had received a confused-sounding letter signed by Gurlitt dated Nov. 4 asking that it not use his name.
 
“The good news is… Cornelius Gurlitt [is still] alive,” Der Spiegel wrote.
 
Separately, German authorities confiscated 22 paintings on Saturday from the house of Gurlitt's brother-in-law, Nikolaus Fraessle, near Stuttgart, Bild am Sonntag said, after Fraessle called police himself to hand the art works over.
 
The federal government, which ordinarily leaves such cases to state justice officials, stepped up its involvement after the United States asked it to publish a list of the art works.
 
Focus quoted German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as saying he was taking a personal interest in the case and that behind many of the paintings found “are quite likely dramatic stories of people pressured and persecuted” by the Nazis.
 
The apparent official reluctance to publish an inventory infuriated families whose ancestors were robbed by the Nazis.
 
Charlotte Knobloch, a leader of the German Jewish community in Munich, said it was bad enough that the looted art had not been returned sooner, but it would be a scandal if it turned out officials had wasted 18 months since its discovery.
 
“It can't be possible that the injustices of the past are compounded now,” she said, appealing to Merkel to take charge.

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.