A hoard of about 1,500 valuable works of art, looted by the Nazis
more than 70 years ago, has been found in an apartment in the German
city of Munich.
The collection includes paintings by artists including Henri
Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. German officials said
that the collection could be worth as much as 1.35 billion dollars.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has estimated that the
Nazis seized more than 16,000 works of art while they were in power.
Most were taken during the Second World War when the Germans occupied
much of Europe.
The collection uncovered in Munich was found hidden in the home of
Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of a prominent art dealer.
Hildebrandt Gurlitt was an associate of the Nazi leadership who is
thought to have acquired works of art deemed “degenerate” by the regime
that largely came from Jewish collectors. The Nazis banned such pieces
for being un-German or for being the work of Jewish artists. Some were
confiscated or destroyed; others were sold to collectors like Gurlitt
for very low prices.
The Munich find was made in early 2011 but has only now been
revealed by the German magazine Focus. The discovery came
about by chance when the authorities investigating Cornelius Gurlitt on
suspicion of tax evasion obtained a warrant to search his apartment.
The artwork was found stashed behind tins and packets of food. It is
understood that at least 200 of the pieces were on international lists
of missing art treasures.
Some of them are reported to have been part of the 1937 Degenerate
Art Exhibition in Munich, put on by the Nazis to demonstrate to
the public the kind of art that they felt showed “decadence” and
News of the find comes just prior to the 75th anniversary of two key
events in the Nazi era.
On November 9, 1938, Jewish communities in Germany and Austria were
subject to a wave of coordinated attacks by Nazi paramilitary troops
and Gentile civilians. The event became known as Kristallnacht, or the
Night of Broken Glass: a reference to the shards that littered the
streets after the windows of Jewish-owned buildings and synagogues had
The events of that night prompted an international effort to
evacuate Jewish children from Germany and the countries it occupied,
known as the Kindertransport. The first party arrived in Harwich,
south-east England, on December 2, 1938. The rescue mission continued
for nine months until the outbreak of war, saving nearly 10,000 lives.
More than 1 million young people under the age of 16 were killed by
the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.
1. What crimes are associated with the Nazi Party?
2. Why might Nazis have wanted to steal expensive artwork from Jewish
3. Discuss the significance of finding works of art that were once
thought to be lost.
4. Why do we consider some works of art to be very important?