A week into the Munich Hoard story, elements are still emerging as numerous researchers in Europe and the US double-back on the German government’s efforts. Here’s a round up of the latest events mostly from German newspaper reports filtered through the English-language press:
“We have to ensure that there is a legal process by which works of art with a questionable origin can be publicized,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, told reporters today.
The Culture Ministry, Finance Ministry, Bavarian government and investigators in Augsburg met Nov. 8 to discuss steps to speed up provenance research and publish a list of the artworks in question, Seibert said. The government will disclose more details of its plans this week, he said.
“The federal government is working hard to ensure that information about the confiscated works of art is made available as there are now indications that Nazi persecution could be involved,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the same day.
Focus, which broke the Nazi art story a week ago, also said on Sunday customs experts believe some of the art cannot be legally returned to its original owners because it came from state museums – and restitution claims would likely fail.
Customs officials seized the paintings, sketches and sculptures from Cornelius Gurlitt in February 2012. They were hoarded by his father Hildebrand, a war-era art dealer put in charge of selling “degenerate” art by Adolf Hitler.
“A large portion of Hildebrand Gurlitt’s treasure confiscated from his son can probably not be returned to the rightful owners,” Focus magazine said, quoting from an internal customs office analysis made for the Finance Ministry that refers to 315 pieces of the “degenerate” art work found.
According to photos and a report first published in the Sunday edition of German newspaper Bild, authorities collected 22 artworks wrapped in old newspapers, Bubble Wrap and duct tape and placed them into the back of a police car.
Nikolaus Fräßle, Mr. Gurlitt’s brother-in-law, lives in the house, according to the paper. Mr. Fräßle, the widower of Mr. Gurilitt’s deceased sister, didn’t return calls to his house in the southern German town of Kornwestheim.
A police spokesman in Kornwestheim confirmed on Sunday that pictures in connection with the Gurlitt case were taken from a residence in the town but wouldn’t say how many or from whom.
Mr. Fräßle contacted the police himself to ask them to come pick up the art because he was concerned about security, Bild reported.
The 1,400 works of art seized by German prosecutors from Mr. Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in early 2012, a discovery made public last week, are believed to have been collected by his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt.
Cornelius Gurlitt, the man who hid a Nazi treasure trove of lost masterpieces in his Munich apartment, is still alive and residing at the same address, according to two separate reports.
Reporters from French magazine Paris Match claim to have confronted Gurlitt in a local shopping centre after seeing him leave the modernist apartment block in Munich’s Schwabing district.
The Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, meanwhile, reported that a painting by Max Liebermann, one of the few of the 1,400 works to be publicly identified, was listed in Germany’s official databank for art seized by the Nazis. The piece, depicting two men riding horses on a beach, is sought by the descendants of David Friedmann, who had been a sugar refiner in Breslau, a former German city now known as Wroclaw in Poland.
Some of the pictures in the Gurlitt collection were exhibited in New York and San Francisco in 1956, claims Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung . The self-portrait by Otto Dix, meanwhile, which art historian Meike Hoffmann hailed as “unknown” earlier in the week, in fact appears on a property card in the National Archive in Washington.