Germany Returns 14 Art Pieces Stolen During the Nazi Regime

Germany says it has now returned 14 artworks — from a collection looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners — to their rightful heirs.

In 2012, during an operation, authorities discovered the collection of more than 1,500 works hidden for decades by Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014.

Among the returned works is a drawing by the German poet and painter Carl Spitzweg, entitled “Das Klavierspiel”, something like “playing on the piano”, which had been stolen by the Nazis in 1939 and bought in the following year by Gulitt’s father, a figure close to Adolf Hitler’s regime.

The drawing belonged to Henri Hinrichsen, a Jewish musical score editor murdered at Auschwitz in 1942, and was sent on Tuesday (12) to Christies’s auction house at the request of his heirs.

Fourteen of them have been identified as stolen from Jews, but questions remain about the make-up of the rest of the collection, which includes canvases by Renoir, Cézanne, Beckmann, Delacrpix and Munch, and is valued at millions of dollars.

After his death, Cornelius Gurlitt named the Museum of Fine Arts, the Kunstmuseum, in Bern, Switzerland, as the heir to his collection, but 500 pieces of controversial origin have been preserved in Germany.

Carl Spitzweg, Playing the Piano, ca. 1840
This drawing by Carl Spitzweg was seized in 1939 from Jewish music publisher Heinri Hinrichsen, who was killed at the Auschwitz death camp in 1942. It was acquired by Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt — and later found among the spectacular collection of works hoarded by his son, Cornelius Gurlitt. The work has now been handed over to Christie’s auction house at the request of Hinrichsen’s heirs.

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