Museum Ready to Take $1.3B in Nazi-Looted Art

Swiss will help find owners of Gurlitt hoard
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2014 1:03 AM CST
Museum Ready to Take $1.3B in Nazi-Looted Art
This Otto Dix painting is among more than 1,500 artworks Gurlitt hoarded for decades.   (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

A small Swiss museum is ready to take on a huge collection of art looted by the Nazis—and the mammoth task of finding the rightful owners of the paintings. Insiders tell the Wall Street Journal that the Kunstmuseum Bern is preparing to accept the $1.3 billion collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May—not long after his hoard was discovered at his Munich home—and unexpectedly made the museum his sole heir. If the museum does accept the collection, heirs of Holocaust victims could receive restitution in a matter of days. Gurlitt, the son of Hitler's art dealer, made a deal with German authorities to return art known to have been looted to present-day heirs.

Sources say Gurlitt decided to leave the collection, much of which had been deemed "degenerate" by the Nazis, to the Swiss because he was unhappy about how he was treated by German authorities. But the German government, which has been under pressure to return stolen artwork, will be glad to see the scandal end, the Journal notes. One potential hiccup could be a psychiatric report that found Gurlitt was in no fit state to make a will—he was paranoid and believed Nazis had been hunting him since the 1960s to recover the art, according to reports in the German press—but it's not likely to be an issue unless the museum decides against taking the collection, causing the art to be distributed among Gurlitt's distant relatives, Deutsche Welle reports. (More Cornelius Gurlitt stories.)

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