Nazi art loot expands; public patience ends

The world continues to watch enthralled as new discoveries are added to the treasure trove of art purloined during the Nazi regime.

In another twist of fate, it has transpired that German officials first found the loot in March 2012 – over a year and a half ago – and blame the delay on appropriating the work to privacy laws.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokespeople have stated they will be identifying the 1,400 looted works later in the week, as well as disclosing how they intend to identify the rightful heirs.

Officials have so far released scant details about the haul found in the apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt – yet it is known that works by Degas, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Rodin and Toulouse-Lautrec all form part of the trove.

The story so far

The son of a Munich art dealer, Cornelius Gurlitt’s home was searched in early 2012 as part of a suspected tax cheat investigation.

What they found, however, beggared belief.

They seized over 1,400 works of art – currently valued at USD 1 billion – which had been seized during the Nazi regime.

And now, in another plot twist, 22 further pieces have been seized which appear to be related to the haul.

Part of the current mystery, infamy and outrage of the story surrounds the timing of the events.

German authorities have had these works for over a year and a half; yet before recently no formal proceedings had taken place.

Legitimate owners of the artworks; whose ancestors were either forced to sell their works for a pittance or became subject to art raids, had not been contacted.

Whilst this discovery has raised hopes for such individuals, the slow trickle of information released by Germany and the readiness of the local prosecutor’s interest in tax has irked many.

Rightful heirs

200 of the artworks are reported to be subject of international warrants.

There are also purchase records showing the art dealer paid just 4,000 Swiss francs for around 200 of the paintings – currently worth millions.

In addition, a German newspaper has printed a contract saying the senior Gurlitt purchased the artworks from Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister during Hitler’s reign, in 1940.

In light of the international scrutiny, German authorities are now scrambling to reach out to groups impacted by the astounding find.

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