German Art Prosecutor Prioritizes Identifying Nazi Thefts

Photographer: Alexander Webb/Bloomberg

The Austrian home of Hamburg-born Cornelius Gurlitt, is seen at 9 Carl Storch-Strasse, Salzburg, in Austria. Close

The Austrian home of Hamburg-born Cornelius Gurlitt, is seen at 9 Carl Storch-Strasse,... Read More

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Photographer: Alexander Webb/Bloomberg

The Austrian home of Hamburg-born Cornelius Gurlitt, is seen at 9 Carl Storch-Strasse, Salzburg, in Austria.

Identifying which of the 1,406 artworks seized last year from a Munich apartment were looted by the Nazi regime is the priority for investigators, the prosecutor handling the case said today.

Once it is established which pieces were confiscated by Nazi authorities, previous owners can claim restitution, Augsburg chief prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said in a statement. The haul includes works by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old from whose Munich apartment the cache was seized in a tax investigation in March 2012, doesn’t want to relinquish any of the art and is demanding its return, Spiegel magazine reported Nov. 17. Germany’s government has said as may as 590 of the artworks may have been looted from Jewish collectors by the Nazis.

“Establishing the origin of the paintings will allow us to identify without a doubt which of them are the property of the person accused, which we will then immediately offer to return to him,” Nemetz said in the statement.

Families of Jewish collectors whose artworks were confiscated or sold under duress in the Nazi era have filed claims for their looted works to the Augsburg prosecutor, who is investigating Gurlitt.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Webb in Munich at awebb25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Thiel at sthiel1@bloomberg.net

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