Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Photo provided by the Augsburg, southern Germany, prosecution Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 shows a painting 'Reiter am Strand' ('Riders at the Beach') by German artist Max Liebermann from 1901 that was among the more than 1400 art works that were seized by German authorities in an apartment in Munich in February 2012. Investigators, aided by a leading art historian, are trying to establish the artworks' legal status and history. It's unclear how many of the works might be subject to return to pre-World War II owners. (AP Photo/Staatsanwaltschaft Augsburg)
Report: German collector hid art out of ‘love’
First Published Nov 17 2013 01:18 pm • Last Updated Nov 17 2013 04:16 pm

Berlin • The recluse German collector who kept a priceless trove of art, possibly including works stolen by the Nazis, hidden for half a century says he did so because he "loved" them and that he wants them back.

Cornelius Gurlitt told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Sunday that he wanted to protect the collection built up by his late father Hildebrand, an art dealer commissioned by the Nazis to sell works that Adolf Hitler’s regime wanted to get rid of. Bavarian authorities say they suspect the elder Gurlitt may have acquired pictures taken from Jews by the Nazis — and that this may lead to restitution claims by the original owners or their heirs.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

In his first extensive interview since the case was revealed two weeks ago, Gurlitt told Der Spiegel that everybody needs something to love. "And I loved nothing more in life than my pictures," the magazine quoted him as saying.

The death of his parents and sister were less painful to him than the loss of the 1,406 paintings, prints and drawings by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse and Max Liebermann that authorities hauled out of his apartment last year, he told the magazine.

Der Spiegel said a reporter spent several days interviewing the collector while he traveled from his home in Munich to visit a doctor in another city last week.

Officials are investigating whether Gurlitt may have "misappropriated" the pictures or committed tax offenses in connection with them. However, a spokesman for Augsburg prosecutors, who are handling the case, told The Associated Press last week that Germany’s 30-year statute of limitations may prove to be a stumbling block.

Hildebrand Gurlitt died in 1956, and his wife Helene died in 1967. Officials were unaware of their son’s huge collection until a chance customs check three years ago led them to the Munich apartment.

Authorities in Bavaria and Berlin kept the find secret for more than a year and a half. But since the case was revealed by the German magazine Focus two weeks ago they have come under pressure to find a solution that will prevent legal obstacles from standing in the way of rightful claims to the art — particularly if Holocaust survivors or heirs of those persecuted by the Nazis are involved.

Gurlitt told Der Spiegel that he won’t just hand over the art. "I won’t talk to them, and I’m not giving anything back voluntarily, no, no," he is quoted as saying.

He told the magazine he kept his favorite pictures in a small suitcase. Each evening he would unpack it to admire them. The magazine said he also spoke to the pictures.


story continues below
story continues below

The magazine described Gurlitt as being in ill health because of a heart condition, yet fiercely denying any wrongdoing by himself or his father, whose own Jewish heritage put him in a precarious position when dealing with the Nazis.

Occasionally he sold pictures for cash, the magazine reported. The last time was in 2011, when he sold Max Beckmann’s painting "The Lion Tamer" for 725,000 euros. Gurlitt kept a little over 400,000 euros, with the rest going to the family of a Jewish collector who once owned it, according to the magazine.

The heirs of several Jewish collectors have already come forward to claim some of the 1,406 works that have now come to light, saying the pictures were taken from their relatives by force, or sold under duress.

"It’s possible that my father was once offered something from a private collection," Gurlitt told Der Spiegel. "But he would definitely not have taken it."

Gurlitt told the magazine that he helped his father spirit the pictures away from Dresden as the Russian army advanced on the city in 1945.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.