Germany begins publishing works found in Nazi art stash
By Erik Kirschbaum and Karen Freifeld
BERLIN/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Germany began publishing an online list on Tuesday of works that were discovered in a huge art stash in a Munich flat last year and believed for the most part to have been stolen or extorted by the Nazis.
The move was welcomed by lawyers representing families whose looted art was feared lost forever. But heavy demand for the government's "Lost Art" website (www.lostart.de) led to technical problems that made it difficult to gain access.
"No one was expecting such a storm of demand," said a spokesman for the Culture Ministry. "The server was overwhelmed by the massive demand. The only thing to do is wait."
At the same time, a German newspaper said one of its reporters had spoken to the reclusive owner of the collection, who had not been seen since the existence of the art works was revealed last week.
A statement from the national and Bavarian regional governments said 25 of the works would be displayed initially on the "Lost Art" site, which helps to establish the provenance of works seized by Germany's Nazi regime, mostly from Jews persecuted during the Holocaust.
The government has been heavily criticized - notably by families whose relatives were robbed by the Nazis - for keeping silent for almost two years about the trove of 1,406 European art works until a German magazine broke the story.
"It's too little, too late but at least it's a step in the right direction now," said Claudia von Selle, an attorney in Berlin specializing in art.
Defending their policy of silence, government officials said they were worried about the security of the art works and the related insurance, and that authorities were also conducting a confidential tax fraud investigation into Cornelius Gurlitt, in whose Munich apartment the art was found. Continued...