Lauder: Gurlitt agreement in Germany sets precedent for looted art in private hands

WJC 7 April 2014
NEW YORK/LONDON - World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder today welcomed the news that Cornelius Gurlitt , the 81-year-old heir of the controversial art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt , has agreed to an independent investigation into the provenance of all his pictures and promised to return any Nazi-looted art
works to their rightful owners.

"Mr. Gurlitt's agreement to return the looted artworks he hoarded for so many years sets an important and hopeful precedent for future cases, one that we urge other private individuals to emulate," said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. He added: "It should be socially and morally unacceptable not to return looted art, whether that art rests in public or private collections. We thank the German authorities, and especially Culture Minister Monika Grütters and Bavarian Justice Minister Wilfried Bausback , for taking a lead on this matter. These efforts are most welcome in the Jewish world, especially by all the heirs to the victims of the Nazis' art theft."

In return for agreeing the return of any looted art, Cornelius Gurlitt will be given all works seized by prosecutors in Augsburg in 2011 that are not under any suspicion. He signed an agreement with the federal government of Germany and the state of Bavaria, according to a statement released on Monday. Gurlitt inherited the collection from his father, who helped the Nazi regime sell art plundered from Jews.

Although German public prosecutors confiscated the trove in early 2011, its existence was concealed from the public for nearly two years until November 2013, when an article published by the German news magazine 'Focus' forced the authorities to come clean.
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