Nazi-art hoarder names Swiss museum heir to paintings

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Nazi-Art Hoarder Names Swiss Museum Heir To Paintings

A Swiss museum says its delighted to receive more than $1 billion worth of paintings from a Nazi-art hoarder, but it also says it has some questions.
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Nazi-art hoarder names Swiss museum heir to paintings
The Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern is pictured on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A student works next to paintings by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A view in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) in Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman visits the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 16: Chairs are pictured in front of the painting 'The Chosen One' (Der Auserwaehlte) by Ferdinand Hodler during the press day of the exhibition ...Giacometti, Hodler, Klee... at the Kunsthalle of the Hypo Kulturstiftung on September 16, 2010 in Munich, Germany. The exhibition shows Swiss art from the Kunstmuseum Bern and opens to the public on September 17, 2010. (Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)
Students work in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) in Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman visits the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Students visit the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION - (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Matthias Frehner, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) of Bern poses on May 8, 2014. The museum said it was shocked to learn that Cornelius Gurlitt the son of a Nazi-era art dealer had left it a disputed hoard of priceless paintings -- some thought to have been plundered from Jews. One day after the death of Cornelius Gurlitt aged 81, his lawyer told the Museum of Fine Arts in the western Swiss city of Bern that it was the sole heir of the German's spectacular collection. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Cornelius Gurlitt inherited several paintings, including works by Renoir and Monet, which he kept hidden for decades. Many believe his father, who was Adolf Hitler's art dealer, took the artwork from Jewish families during the Nazi era.

Gurlitt was 81 years old when he died Tuesday. He has no known heirs, so the future of the collection was unknown until now.

Kunstmuseum Bern confirmed Wednesday it was named the "unrestricted and unfettered sole heir" in Gurlitt's will.

The museum was shocked by the donation, given it has no relationship with Gurlitt. In a statement it said, "The Board of Trustees and directors of Kunstmuseum Bern are surprised and delighted, but at the same time do not wish to conceal the fact that this magnificent bequest brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature."

The collection of more than 1,400 works was seized in 2012 from Gurlitt's apartment for an investigation to determine how many, if any, were stolen by his father. But he was not required to return any because statute of limitations on the German law requiring restitution has expired.

The investigation is ongoing while a court will determine if the will is valid and if a contract of inheritance exists.

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