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Nazi-art hoarder names Swiss museum heir to paintings

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.


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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Julie May 08 2014 at 11:46 PM

Yes, the artwork has a sad, dark history. Yes, it is stolen art, yes, people suffered. But, the past cannot be changed, erased or forgotten. But, this artwork is being returned to the artworld, people can view it again. Is there a way to track down the original owners? Most likely not, so it can't be returned to its rightful owners or their heirs. If the rightful/original owners can prove it, then return them to them. Then, do the next best thing, display it, enjoy it and never forget its history.

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1 reply
k9minds4recovery Julie May 09 2014 at 3:38 AM

Send the art to Holocaust museums… Swiss banks knew what was going on during WWII in Germany. They received tons in gold bars looted from countries and trunks full of gold death taken from camp victims. The Swiss have as much blood on their hands as the SS.

I’m a US citizen via the US Army in ’93; former Spetsnaz GRU, former US Army Ranger (Mogadishu 1st SFOD-D, Balkans, TF88 in Iraq II) retired Colonel O6 2009 when the new CIC reinvaded Afghanistan (losing twice in Afghanistan was too much to ask). Now a partner in a risk management firm; living through the governmental collapse of a “Super Power” makes my presentations to the world’s .025%ers quite compelling.

Ryazan Airborne Senior Command Military Academy

“My jump buddy was a Belgian Malinois”

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k12m34 May 08 2014 at 4:54 PM

How about the artwork taken from the Greek Citizens by the NAZIS? They freely looted the Greek islands of all of the treasures of the Greek citizens! Many ancient statues remain in Germany!!! There were many monstrosities committed during those times.

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1 reply
rmcneal337 k12m34 May 08 2014 at 11:00 PM

I agree totally. I think all art work looted from the victims of the Holocaust and all countries that their art work were stolen should be repatriated.

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jimormarylosc May 08 2014 at 4:44 PM

nazis i hate nazis.

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1 reply
ROBERT jimormarylosc May 08 2014 at 4:54 PM

do you know any ?

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Jim Kolbe May 08 2014 at 3:54 PM

Regardless of the "legal" heir to this phenomenal collection, it seems contrary to everything both sides stand for to let it collect dust for another 40 years! Have the collection vetted, appraised and displayed as soon as possible in museums representing the original and current ownership interests. I understand there are several heretofore uncataloged and possibly unknown items in this amazing collection, Let's not add to the list of crimes by depriving the public viewership while it's ownership is contested. With this amount of money at stake, it is sure to be a lengthy legal battle.

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1 reply
rmcneal337 Jim Kolbe May 08 2014 at 11:04 PM

Morally it should not take so long that another Holocaust survivor dies before their art is returned.

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paulhornstein May 08 2014 at 3:14 PM

These paintings were rubbed from jews of germany and may be other European countries.
They should now be restored to the original owners or their heirs. they should not belong to
Swiss museum.

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3 replies
lawlady50 May 08 2014 at 3:12 PM

If the owner's families reasonably believed the art works had burned or been stolen by unknown people or entities how could they have gone after them? No museum should be allowed to open their doors if they knowingly keep the stolen art from people who not oly had it stolen but were killed by the very same people.

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2 replies
mhirsch424 lawlady50 May 08 2014 at 3:43 PM

How could the owners' families have gone after the artwork? Simple answer, they couldn't.
Hitler murdered the Jews so there was no family left to make a claim.

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rmcneal337 lawlady50 May 08 2014 at 11:07 PM

But many surviving heirs did apply for their return. I saw a documentary on that and there is some verification on what art in out US State Department.

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startkts2 May 08 2014 at 3:03 PM

Whether the art bequeathed to the museum was stolen from individuals or taken from other museums during the war, a full investigation as to it's origins and rightful heirs should be undertaken before the museum is allowed to keep it. Shame on them if they proceed to claim the art without due diligence.

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1 reply
bobbob3345 startkts2 May 08 2014 at 4:06 PM

Seems like everything of value that;s found to be connected with the Nazi's now belong to the Jews ?

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3 replies
kcarthey May 08 2014 at 2:36 PM

Much of this art was ordered ripped from the walls of German museums and ordered destroyed by Hitler. Gurlett's father who was high up in the Gernaman art world at the time hid it, passing it on to his son. If anything this is an excellent example of civil disobedience and we can all be glad the art was saved.

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2 replies
Mike Howitz kcarthey May 08 2014 at 4:36 PM

Wow the voice of reason shines through the haze of stupidity.

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1 reply
rmcneal337 Mike Howitz May 08 2014 at 11:47 PM

More and More lies to coverup what the Nazi regime did. It murdered for art. Hitler wanted to be a artist. He studied art and even went to Paris and sold his art. If WW! hadn't come along and if he had made it as a artist things would be different. But he felt unappreciated for his art. Why do you think he went to Paris away from the safety of Germany? The art work was stolen from his murder victims and from countries he invaded. Now that is simple.

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rmcneal337 kcarthey May 08 2014 at 11:42 PM

Who believes that. Hitler never destroyed art. he looted German Jews, Jews from other countries and Invaded countries museums and their citizens. Who believed he could pull the wool over Hitler's eyes? Also why hasn't he shown the art to the world after Hilter died? Why he was a Nazi who had control of Nazi stolen art.

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bigred8690 May 08 2014 at 2:20 PM

The artwork needs to be confiscated and divided up between various Holocaust-remembrance organizations, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the like.

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4 replies
Sheila May 08 2014 at 2:14 PM

SEND THESE PAINTINGS TO A MUSEUM IN ISRAEL , THEY CAME FROM JEWISH HOMES AND SHOULD BE RETURNED TO A JEWISH HOME

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