I just saw an episode of “Bones” where an old Nazi was murdered in South America and in his basement they found art work, gold, pictures and other items he had been hiding. Then a real-life story of Nazi theft caught my attention.
Just recently more than 1,500 paintings that haven’t been seen in 75 years were recovered. Many of them had been believed destroyed during the war.
Three years ago customs officials doing a routine check on a train from Switzerland met an man from Munich, Germany, named Hildebrant Gurlitt. It turns out the Gurlitt was a fake name.
Officials tracked him down in 2011 to an small apartment.
“Behind “mountains of rotting food and decades-old tin cans” lay a collection of artworks thought to be worth over $1.35 billion, including paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir,” reported TheVerge.com.
Many of the pieces came from Gurlitt’s father who was an art historian. Cornelius Gurlitt acquired many of the paintings from Jews who were trying to raise capital to get out of Germany after the rise of the Third Reich. Cornelius took advantage of the Jews’ desperation and bought them for next to nothing. Other pieces had been seized outright by the Nazis.
“A total of 121 framed and 1,285 unframed works, among them works by famous artists, were seized,” prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz told CNN.com. “There were oil paintings, works in india ink, pencil, watercolors, lithographs and prints.”
Gurlitt had been making a living selling off some of the lesser-known pieces in order not to draw attention to himself. Though he wasn’t living a flashy lifestyle, investigators found one bank account with $650,000 in it.
Officials are now searching for the original owners of the art work. “It’s believed that one of the Matisse paintings may belong to Anne Sinclair, the wife of disgraced politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund facing trial in France for his part in abetting a sex trafficking ring,” TheVerge.com.