Looted art probe ‘fail­ing’

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY TOBY AX­EL­ROD

GERMANYMAYbe­known for thor­ough­ness, but when it comes to trac­ing the own­er­ship of art stolen by the Nazis, its ex­perts are — ap­par­ently — far too slow.

Ron­ald S Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, de­liv­ered a scathing ver­dict last week on Ger­many’s ef­forts to fer­ret out the his­tory of some 1,000 works in art hoarder Cor­nelius Gurlitt’s in­fa­mous col­lec­tion, which Ger­man tax in­ves­ti­ga­tors found in 2012.

So far, the Ger­man re­searchers have found only five works in the trove that were clearly stolen or con­fis­cated by the Nazis.

Mr Lauder, an art col­lec­tor him­self, de­cried “the fail­ures through­out the process… the per­sis­tent lack of trans­parency and com­mu­ni­ca­tion” and said he “ex­pected Ger­many to do bet­ter, given that time is run­ning out”.

The task force was set up two years ago. In the mean­time, hun­dreds of claims from po­ten­tial heirs have poured in. The team’s work will now be taken up by the Magde­burg-based Cen­tre for Lost Cul­tural Goods, a govern­ment agency.

In de­fence of their progress, task From the Gurlitt trove:

by Con­rad Felix­mueller, whose owner is still un­known, and by Max Lieber­mann, which was resti­tuted and sold force chair Inge­borg Berggreen-Merkel said that the team of re­searchers was com­mit­ted to seek­ing jus­tice for vic­tims of Nazi crimes and their fam­i­lies, and that this took time.

So far, two works have been re­turned to dif­fer­ent heirs — one by Henri Matisse and one by Max Lieber­mann.

Gurlitt’s father, the art col­lec­tor Hilde­brand Gurlitt, pro­cured art­works on as­sign­ment for high-level Nazis who wanted to stock mu­se­ums in the Re­ich or sell the works for profit. Out of about 1,500 works, some 500 were not in­ves­ti­gated since they were ei­ther made by Gurlitt fam­ily mem­bers or were cre­ated af­ter the Se­cond World War.

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Monika Grüt­ters said last week that data on 200 works al­ready re­searched will be pub­lished on­line along with the cor­re­spon­dence of Hilde­brand Gurlitt.

Cor­nelius Gurlitt died in 2014 and left the col­lec­tion ex­clu­sively to the Art Mu­seum Bern Foun­da­tion in Switzer­land. A cousin has chal­lenged the will in a Mu­nich court.

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