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Nazi art trove in Munich

  • January 6th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Carl_Spitzweg_055 Carl Spitzweg 2The wait goes on for a solution to the future of the art trove found in Munich, believed to have been plundered by Nazis.

Over 1400  modernist works  – paintings, drawings and etchings – in the collection feature renowned artists, altogether estimated to be worth EU1-billion (A$1.515-billion;, 5.1.14).


They were in the category of so-called degenerate art abhorred by the Nazi political movement, though already valuable enough in money terms to save them from being destroyed outright.

The artists’ names included Henri Matisse, Emil Nolde, Pablo Picasso and Carl Spitzweg. See reproductions above from Spitzweg; one of his works is at the centre of a legal dispute over the present ownership of the collection.


In 2011, police checking on an old man carrying large amounts in cash, found the pictures stashed in his run-down apartment, in among rubbish and old stocks of canned food.

The man, Cornelius Gurlitt, 80, now facing tax evasion charges, is the son of an art dealer, who was pushed out of his job by the Nazis, but entrusted with disposing of the pictures no longer officially approved.

The matter was kept at first kept confidential by the authorities; then the story came out late last year.

Nazi ArtDer Spiegel, 4.11.13, concluded many of the pictures were from the 1937 “Entartete Kunst” exhibition in Munich, which brought together pictures taken by the Nazis from art museums and set up with legends on the walls ridiculing the tradition they came from.

Big crowds attended the exhibition, including leaders of the National Socialist movement who presumably went to confront the kind of creative works that threatened or disturbed them, (picture).


The dealer in question, who died in 1956, maintained his collection was lost in the bombing of Dresden.

His son, who has sold off works from time to time, claims it was legally acquired and he should not have to relinquish it.

Something may have been paid for it, and even if under duress, that might make the transaction seem legitimate under the law.

Der Spiegel reported that a statement by the dealer’s widow relating to part of the collection, with some accompanying documents, may have been false; that could  open a legal means to have the pictures turned over to the state.


The German government has charged a court with investigating the status of the collection, and former owners or their inheritors are demanding the property back.

Wholesale looting during the Nazi period saw the theft of valuable property from museums and from private citizens, mostly Jewish, within Germany, and then in the occupied countries.

Much went underground or was destroyed, or was held onto by museums or other new owners, for example ones in the former Eastern Bloc. Restorations have been made to original and rightful owners, though often only through long and difficult campaigns.


BBC News, London, Nazi-looted art: German collector says he owns pictures, 17.11.13., (6.1.14).

Spiegel Online, Hamburg, Nazi Plunder: 1,500 Modern Artworks Found in Munich Flat, 4.11.13., (6.1.14).

Pictures wikipedia