“A priceless haul of invaluable art thought to have been destroyed by the Nazi’s has recently been uncovered in Germany, raising questions about if and how artefacts are returned to their rightful owners or their heirs
When the Bavarian customs officer searched Cornelius Gurlitt aboard a train crossing the Lindau Border in 2010, he had no way of knowing that he was about to reignite one of the fiercest cultural debates in European history. Gurlitt, the son of an important German art curator during World War II, turned out to be sitting on a veritable trove of priceless works of art thought to have been lost during or shortly after the war – a fact only discovered because police raided his home on suspicions of tax evasion.
An elderly recluse living in an affluent neighbourhood of Munich, Gurlitt had inherited from his father, Hildebrand, over 1,200 pieces the curator had acquired during the war. The story of how Hildebrand Gurlitt came to be in possession of such an array of what the Nazi’s had labelled ‘degenerate art’ – during a time when collectors were fleeing Europe in droves – is murky at best. But because Germany does not have a law preventing anyone or any institutions from owning looted art, it is unlikely that the provenance of Gurlitt’s collection matters very much, should he wish to retain it.
There is no evidence that Hildebrand, who was part Jewish, stole any . . . .”