12 November 2013

The Munich Nazi art trove

The trove of famous art has been much in the news this past week.  One of the better discussions is a four-part set of articles in Der Spiegel:
In February 2012, German authorities raided the apartment of 75-year-old collector Cornelius Gurlitt and seized 1,406 works of art, a spectacular trove with a value that has yet to be estimated. It includes works by Liebermann, Marc Chagall, Franz Marc, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde, Picasso and Henri Matisse, among others. There were also many prints and graphic works, which Gurlitt had kept in a cabinet.
At the press conference, it was not clear what exactly the collector was being accused of. There is talk of tax evasion and embezzlement, but the legal framework for the authorities' confiscation of the collection seems murky at best.
Image (cropped from the original photo) is of a reproduction of a painting by Otto Dix that Hitler and his henchmen considered to be "degenerate" art.


  1. Born in Ireland I only new the victors history of WW2. I lived in southern Germany from 1978 to 2006. Once I met an old guy in a Munich Biergarten, who told me that as a Hitler Youth he had helped move paintings from a Jewish home in Munch to a safe place in Karlsfeld, a small town north-west of the city. He admitted then (this was about 1980) that he really believed all that Nazi crap at the time. When I asked him did he know what happened to the original owners, he looked away, ashamed. He didn't know then of course, But after the war, when the trials in Nurnburg were being reported, then he knew.

    I didn't push it that day in the BierGarten. This was regular.guy who loved his children and grandchildren, much as I do mine now. there was no win in tearing him apart now.

    The Banality Of Evil by Hannah Arendt, is a really good book. 'I was just following orders' becomes an excuse for small people to do really things without having to think about the consequences.

    Germany lost the war and learned to be skeptical of Messiahs or anybody that says 'Ours is the only true way'. It was a lesson learned the hard way. The victors in that war have yet to learn it.

    1. I saw on op-ed piece recently (which I should have blogged) explaining why the Germans are so sensitive about the NSA spying on them. It's part of the post-war legacy of the Stasi and the internal spying systems in Germany. Americans who have never lived in a surveillance state seem to feel "if you have nothing to hide you should not care," but the German experience is quite different. And thus the vigorous protests.

    2. NSA type surveillance may be needed (re al quaida, lone wolf act) however, if such a scenario falls in the wrong hands, think senator McCarthy, Nixon, we would have an East Germany-like country. The world is rife with psychopaths who would love to use this type of surveillance to the hilt. A vigorous democracy is the best defence against this danger.


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