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Germany Speeds Investigation of Nazi-Looted Art Nazi Art Worth $1.35 Billion Found In Closet During Routine Tax Probe; Recluse has Vanished

By Tony Sokol | December 08, 2013 04:42 PM EST

Germany is coming under heavy pressure to investigate Nazi-plundered art valued at $1.35 billion was found in a closet in Munich.Cornelius Gurlitt,the 79-year-old recluse in the middle of the Nazi Art mystery has vanished. The Nazi Art hoarder has not been charged but has been under investigation for tax evasion and concealment. 

 Focus magazine reported on Sunday that Germany has come under increased pressure to speed its probe into Nazi-looted art works stashed in a recluse's flat. Germany sent legal experts to help local authorities in Munich resolve ownership issues. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert 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." 

During a routine tax evasion instigation authorities in Germany found Nazi looted art, including works by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse. Focus magazine said,"A large portion of Hildebrand Gurlitt's treasure confiscated from his son can probably not be returned to the rightful owners." 

According to the German magazine Focus, art works that had been looted by the Nazis was found in a closet of an 80 year old recluse in Munich. The Nazi art is worth about $1.35 billion.

The magazine reported that a Matisse painting that was found among the Nazi art used to belong to French art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who represented famous artists, including Picasso and Matisse. Rosenberg fled France in 1940.

Investigators valued the Nazi-plundered art works at about 1 billion euros, which is about of $1.35 billion.

The Nazi art was found behind cans of food and cartons of juice two years ago when tax investigators were checking up on Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitt's father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, directed a museum and was an art collector himself.

Customs officials first noticed Gurlitt in 2011 during a routine search during a train trip from Switzerland to Munich. Gurlitt had a large amount of cash in an envelope on him. Focus reports that the police raided Gurlitt's apartment in the Schwabing district of Munich in spring 2011 when they found the Nazi art treasure trove. It is believed that Gurlitt inherited the Nazi art from his father and he sold pieces when he needed money.

300 paintings of the Nazi art works are thought to be part of the 16,000 that the Nazis deemed "degenerate art." Other pieces might have been bought from Jewish collectors who were fleeing Germany.
Hildebrand Gurlitt was half Jewish. He was forced out of his museum job when Hitler came to power.

Tagged :  nazi art, recluse, investigation

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