Allies returned art works to Nazi-era dealer, researcher says

Wed Nov 6, 2013 8:06pm EST
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By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Allied troops seized more than 100 art works in 1945 from the German dealer and collector whose trove came to light this week, then gave them back about four years later, a U.S. researcher said on Wednesday.

Marc Masurovsky, who is part of a group that works to return Nazi-looted art to its owners, said documents in the U.S. National Archives showed most of the works were returned to the collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt.

At least one of the pieces listed in the documents appears to be among the 1,400 works that German authorities said this week they found at the apartment of Gurlitt's son, Cornelius, in Munich last year.

Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, said that he searched the U.S. National Archives online after media reported the Munich find this week.

Masurovsky said he dug up a five-page list of the works from Gurlitt's collection. According to him, about 115 paintings along with other works were inventoried in 1946 by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program (MFAA). Those in the program, set up by the Allies in 1943 to protect cultural property, were often known as the "Monuments Men."

Most of the art, which included works by Edgar Degas, Marc Chagall and Max Beckmann, were returned to Hildebrand Gurlitt in 1950 by Theodore Heinrich of the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, according to a receipt in the archives.

Masurovsky's group posted the list on his group's Facebook page and publicized the discovery on Twitter on Wednesday.

Four paintings were not returned to Gurlitt, instead going to French authorities in 1947, Masurovsky said.   Continued...

A painting of Italian artist Antonio Canaletto is beamed to a wall November 5, 2013, at an Augsburg courtroom during a news conference of state prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz and expert art historian Meike Hoffmann from the Berlin Free University. REUTERS/Michael Dalder