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Lost artworks go online

November 12, 2013

The German government has put online the images of 25 lost art works from a trove found last year in a Munich apartment, dating back to the Nazi era. This follows mounting pressure from art experts and Jewish groups.

Photo provided by the Augsburg, southern Germany, prosecution Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 shows Otto Griebel's 'Kind am Tisch' (Child at a table) 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)
Image: picture-alliance/AP(Ausschnitt)

Masterpiece find posted online

German authorities criticized over slow disclosure of artworks believed pillaged by the Nazis displayed 25 paintings online early Tuesday and said they would update the list. Those shown include works by artists Otto Dix and Max Liebermann.

In a written statement, the government said some 380 of the 1,400 items found in Munich might be artworks stolen or bought for a pittance from Jewish collectors during the 1933-1945 period of Nazi rule under Hitler.

A taskforce of six art experts would examine some 970 of the works to establish their origins.

Demands 'understood'

Chancellor Angela Merkel's main spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday the government understood demands, especially from Jewish organizations, that the pieces be made public swiftly.

Until Monday, officials had released few inventory details of the works, including those of Picasso and Matisse.

They were found in the Munich apartment of 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt during a tax investigation. The case only came to light last week in a German magazine.

World Jewish Congress head Ronald S. Lauder told the Die Welt newspaper that "valuable time" had been wasted because possible heirs were elderly and "no clarity" about ownership had emerged.

"The German government must show these pictures," Lauder said, adding that if nothing happened "we will raise the pressure."

Dix and Liebermann

Among the 25 listed online were Otto Dix's "The Woman in the Theater Box", Otto Griebel's "Child at the Table" (pictured above), and Max Liebermann's "Rider on the Beach."

In the 1930s largely modern artworks were slandered as "degenerate" by the Nazis Gurlitt is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a powerful Nazi-era art dealer.

The German government said the task force would work in "parallel" wih an ongoing legal probe by prosecutors in Augsburg, near Munich.

So far, prosecutors claim to only have evidence that one item - a Matisse painting of a sitting woman - was stolen by the Nazis.

Stuttgart police said on Monday that local police last week also took 22 pieces of art from a home at Kornwestheim in southern Germany.

German media identified the person in possession as Gurlitt's brother-in-law.

ipj/ng (AFP, dpa, AP)