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November 3, 2013 6:30 pm
Looted art including works from Picasso and Matisse with a value of around €1bn is reported to have been found hidden in a Munich apartment after being seized by the Nazis during the second world war, according to a German magazine.
Around 1,500 paintings were found by customs officials in the apartment of the son of an art dealer who collected the works of art in the 1930s and 1940s, according to German magazine Focus.
The paintings were discovered two years ago, but the find had previously been kept secret.
The works were bought by art historian and collector Hildebrandt Gurlitt while the Nazis were in power, but were previously believed to have been destroyed during the bombing of Dresden. Instead, he passed them on to his son, who kept them in his apartment until they were discovered following an investigation in 2011.
According to Focus, there are international warrants for at least 200 of the pieces. Art historians have been consulted to try to trace some of the works, the magazine reported.
Thousands of art works were either stolen or acquired through forced sales – sometimes as bribes when trying to flee the country – from Jews during the Nazi regime between 1933-1945.
Some were seized for the Nazi party’s notorious exhibition of “degenerate” art in 1937 in Munich, featuring art the Nazis deemed to be anti-German, including works by artists such as Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has estimated that more than 16,000 modern art works were seized by the Nazis.
Looted art is still being discovered more than 60 years after the end of the war, with descendants of owners trying to trace pieces that once belonged to their family.
Last week, a consortium of museums in The Netherlands said they had identified 139 works of art in their collections that could have been forcibly taken from Jewish owners.
The Dutch museums have set up a website for descendants to identify the pieces and make a claim.
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