Nazi Gurlitt family may be hoarding more artwork

Salzburg Times 31 March 2014

The trove of artworks stolen by the Nazis and allegedly hoarded away by art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt could be larger than previously thought after Austrian officials confirmed the discovery of a third house in Austria belonging to the family.

Lawyers hired by German officials to represent the interests of Cornelius Gurlitt, the heir to the Hildebrand Gurlitt art hoard estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of Euro, say that he is too ill at 81 to properly manage his affairs.

Removal of his artwork had left him devastated, and he has reportedly withdrawn into his shell in which it is difficult to get any information out of him. The legal team for example had not realised that there was a third house in Austria where his sister had lived, and that this house, which has still not been searched, had been stuffed with art works at least until 2012 when she died and it was visited by Austrian officials to remove her body.

The news will bring fresh hope to families looking to recover items stolen by the Nazi's from earlier generations as many of the artworks found so far in the Munich and Salzburg homes of 81-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt are thought to be pieces looted in the attempt by the Nazi's to rid Europe of so called 'degenerate art'.

Only last week a further 180 paintings were recovered from the Gurlitt estate, that according to authorities were discovered in his small two-bedroom house in Salzburg in the same rooms where around 60 paintings had already been found during a search in February.

These added to the thousands of artworks already hoarded away in his Munich home for decades as he surreptitiously sold them off piece by piece.

The sensational discovery by a journalist working for the Vienna-based TV station Puls 4 that a third house had been used as a storage depot for the Gurlitt family art deepened the mystery surrounding the hoarded art collection.

The house belonged to Wolfgang Gurlitt, a cousin of Hildebrand who was also acquiring artworks on behalf of the Nazi's. With their Jewish ancestry their connection enabled them to obtain artwork at a low price from persecuted families who were forced to sell their possessions as they tried to flee to safer countries.

Situated in the picturesque mountain town of Bad Aussee, in the Austrian province of Styria, an area of strong Nazi loyalists where many officers had holiday homes and where they also chose to hide whilst trying to evade capture by the Allies, the area was an odd place for a person of Jewish descent to voluntarily choose to live.

Aside from the beautiful lakes and mountain top homes belonging to Nazi officers, just around the corner from the Gurlitt's house in Bad Ausee as the Altausee salt mines where the Nazi's stored a vast collection of looted art which was later to become the inspiration for George Clooney's 2013 Monument's Men film.

What access Nazi art collector Wolfgang Gurlitt, or his cousin Hildebrand, would have had to this underground collection of art is not known.
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