Germany Speeds Up Investigation Into Apartment Full of Nazi-Looted Art

Government Is Criticized For Staying Quiet on Discovery for Year

Hidden Treasure: One man hid 1,406 piece of precious art work in his Munich apartment. German authorities are now hastening the investigation into the collection which is believed to have Nazi ties.
getty images
Hidden Treasure: One man hid 1,406 piece of precious art work in his Munich apartment. German authorities are now hastening the investigation into the collection which is believed to have Nazi ties.

By Reuters

Published November 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

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 too long about 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 customs experts believe some of the art cannot be legally returned to its original owners because it came from state museums - and 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 the “degenerate” art work found.

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 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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.