U.S. Asks Germany to Publish Complete List of Nazi-Looted Artwork

1,400 Masterpieces Found in Munich Last Year

Unlikely Trove: A Munich man kept a billion-dollar trove of looted Jewish art in this apartment. Should authorities have done more to report the discovery?
Getty Images
Unlikely Trove: A Munich man kept a billion-dollar trove of looted Jewish art in this apartment. Should authorities have done more to report the discovery?

By Reuters

Published November 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

The United States has asked Germany to publish a list of 1,400 Nazi-looted works of art that were found in a Munich apartment last year during a German tax evasion probe, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. diplomats had contacted the German federal government about the vast trove of art, which included previously unknown paintings by Henri Matisse and Otto Dix.

One U.S. official said the U.S. government had seen the news reports of the discovery of the trove, which came to light this week and included works by artists including Canaletto, Courbet, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec.

“Our mission is discussing these reports with the relevant German authorities, and we ask them to publish a full list of the recovered paintings,” said this official, saying the U.S. contacts were with the German federal government, which in turn was dealing with local authorities about the issue.

Customs investigators seized the paintings, sketches and sculptures, dating from the 16th century to the modern period, last year but stayed silent until now because they had chanced upon the art during a tax evasion probe, which compels secrecy.

The secrecy and the failure so far to publish a complete list of the works has attracted criticism from those who argue that publicizing such finds is crucial to establishing their ownership and returning them to their rightful owners.

The Nazis systematically plundered hundreds of thousands of artworks from museums and individuals across Europe. Thousands of works are still missing.

Jewish groups have urged that the origins of the artworks be researched as quickly as possible, so that, if looted or extorted, they can be returned to their original owners.

For some families missing art constitutes the last personal effects of relatives killed during the Holocaust.

While experts consider the works to be of huge artistic value, the task of returning them to their rightful owners could take many years and poses a huge legal and moral problem for German authorities.

The haul, found in the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a war-time art dealer, is among the most significant discoveries of works seized by the Nazi regime. It could be worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), according to a German magazine, although officials declined to comment.

Gurlitt, who occasionally sold paintings to support himself, has since vanished.

A U.S. researcher said on Wednesday that Allied troops had seized more than 100 art works in 1945 from Gurlitt’s father, then gave them back about four years later.

Marc Masurovsky, who is part of a group that works to return Nazi-looted art to its owners, said documents in the U.S. National Archives showed most of the works were returned to the collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt.

At least one of the pieces listed in the documents appears to be among the 1,400 found at the apartment of Gurlitt’s son, Masurovsky said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.