Modern Masterpieces Looted By Nazis: Germany Will Face Huge Legal Bills
The discovery of around 1500 works of modern art valued at over 1 billion euros in Munich raises many questions as to why the Bavarian authorities have taken so long in revealing their existence.The hoard has languished in a warehouse since 2011 and details of their existence was uncovered by the press not by public disclosure. The German Government now face massive bills for researching claims and legal costs by heirs of the artworks.
Most of the modern masterpieces were seized from Jewish collectors or removed by the Third Reich from commercial galleries, as "degenerate", has raised many questions as to how much is still lost or missing from the reprehensible Nazi era.
Anne Webber of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe has attested that "90% of Nazi-looted art is still missing". The British expert told the BBC that the hoard of 1,500 artworks found in Munich is just "the tip of the iceberg" and most works acquired by the Nazis are still untraced.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe (CLAE), is an international, expert and non-profit representative body which researches, identifies and recovers looted property on behalf of families, communities, institutions and governments worldwide. It negotiates policies and procedures with governments and cultural institutions and promotes the identification of looted cultural property and the tracing of its rightful owners. It provides a Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property 1933-1945 at www.lootedart.com to fulfil Washington Principle VI which called for the creation of such a repository of information. CLAE is mandated to represent the European Council of Jewish Communities and the Conference of European Rabbis.
The recently discovered Munich trove which includes masterpieces by Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, as well as the Swiss artist Paul Klee is thought to be worth 1 billion euros (£846m; $1.35bn). The large-scale looting that went on in Europe during this period will take German authorities, who have been slow to trace the origins of artworks years to sort out. It is now time for the Bavarian authorities to publish a list which can be cross referenced to the Art Loss Register and other organisations holding a data base of stolen Nazi plunder. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum have recorded at least 16,000 artworks that were taken by the Nazis during the later part of the war.