A day after it was revealed that 1,500 works of art, looted by the Nazi regime in Germany, were found, including paintings by Pablo Picasso, Pier August Renuar, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, the representative of the committee for Jewish property claims demanded Germany to return them to their Jewish owners.
German authorities have yet to explain why two and a half years passed between the discovery of the haul and the report. Formal elements in Bavaria, where the art loot was found, refused to comment.
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"This incident is a testimony to the organized art theft which occurred in museum and private collections during the Nazi regime," said Rodriger Malo, a member of the Claims Conference.
Focus magazine cover
"Nearly all the private collections were owned by Jews," he added.
According to Focus magazine, art experts are currently estimating the worth of the pieces, now impounded, and are trying to determine their owners. Some of the works were on display in German museums and were taken down after the Third Reich decreed them "degenerate."
Other pieces were confiscated or bought for paltry sum from Jewish collectors. "We demand the pieces be returned to their original owners," Malo said.
The Focus article reported that the works were discovered at the Munich home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the "reclusive son" of art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt. Hildebrandt was in charge of gathering so-called "degenerate" art for the Nazis in the run-up to WWII.
Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels hired Gurlitt's to sell the works abroad to raise money for the Reich. Gurlitt also purchased artwork from desperate Jewish dealers on his own.
After the war he convinced the Americans his grandmother was Jewish and that he himself was persecuted by the Nazis. He continued to work as an art dealer until his death in a car accident in 1956.
His son, Cornelius, supported himself by occasionally selling a piece of his father's collection.
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