The Arty Semite

German Database Gives Access to Nazi-Looted Art

By Anna Goldenberg

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Cornelius Gurlitt is a curious man. The 80-year-old lived most of his life shut in his Munich apartment, rarely seeing visitors or leaving the house. His only companions were his 1,000 paintings, many of which are suspected of being looted from Jewish homes and bought from Nazi authorities by Gurlitt’s father during the Holocaust.

As German authorities investigate the art, the state prosecutor of Augsburg announced in November that they would gradually put photographs of all of them online. As of today, there are 354 registered art works available on the Lost Art Internet Database, including several lithographs by Edvard Munch, a female portrait by Paul Gaugin and drawings by the German-Jewish impressionist Max Liebermann.

More than 100 families and individuals have contacted the Augsburg authorities claiming ownership of different pieces, according to the JTA. Germany’s newspaper Bild Zeitung already managed to find the rightful owner of a Chagall painting in Gurlitt’s collection, as JTA reported last week.

In February 2012, Gurlitt’s massive private collections was seized by German authorities because they suspected Gurlitt of tax fraud. More than half are thought to be looted by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and later bought by Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand, an art dealer. Another 390 were considered “Degenerate Art” under the Nazi regime.


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