Cornelius Gurlitt, the elderly son of a Nazi era art dealer has come to a co-operative agreement with German authorities to resolve which masterpieces held in his collection were stolen during the Second World War. This will be the first step in securing the return of the art to the heirs of the mainly Jewish families, who are the rightful owners of the property.
The agreement is thought to stipulate that any undisputed works will be returned to the collector within a year. The guidelines in German law state that Gurlitt is protected by a Statute of Limitations, which “negates any claim for incidents that happened more than 30 years ago”. Mr Gurlitt is free to keep the works but has now waived his right, and will act in accordance with the Washington Principles, which says that: “If the pre-War owners of art confiscated by the Nazis can be identified – or their heirs – steps should be taken to achieve a just and fair solution.”
The collection was seized by police in 2012, after a routine stop and search on a train revealed that Mr Gurlitt was carrying nearly 10,000 euros in cash. Although this was just under the legal limit, tax authorities later searched his residence uncovering a hoard of 1,400 works of art many by modern masters including, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Renoir and Franz Marc. The works of art are thought to be worth up to £200 million pounds. A further 60 works were also discovered in his house near Salzburg, earlier this year.
The committee dealing with the case has agreed that works not being examined “will be returned to him promptly”. Gurlitt’s lawyer, Christoph Edel added, that his client had “demonstrated exemplary moral responsibility” in reaching this agreement.