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Man may keep part of ‘Nazi art trove’

AFP-JIJI

German authorities think a good number of the paintings found in an art trove largely looted by the Nazis may ultimately be returned to the man in whose apartment they were discovered, a media report said Sunday.

The story of the more than 1,400 artworks found in the garbage-strewn Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the octogenarian son of a Nazi-era art dealer, has drawn a rush by potential rightful owners to stake claims to the confiscated masterpieces.

But a German customs audit has found that 315 of the works were seized from public museums by Adolf Hitler’s regime as part of its crackdown on “degenerate” avant-garde art, said Focus newsmagazine, which broke the story of the art trove a week ago. Those works were public property at the time, and neither the museums nor the original owners or their heirs will be able to recover them, Focus said.

But for 194 other works, documents seized in the apartment may establish that they were sold by Jewish collectors under duress — meaning the owners or their heirs stand a good chance of recovering them, it added.

The customs report also says “doubts exist” as to whether Gurlitt will ever face trial, even though German authorities are investigating him for tax fraud and receiving stolen goods, Focus reported.