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Banned WWII Art Newly Discovered
It is a glorious find for the art world! Nazis are infamous for practically everything (and deservingly so), and one of their undeniable crimes was destroying culture that did not fit into their version of what is art and what isn’t. They even went as far as burning books. Many pieces of art have been lost due to Nazi domination. During a recent police raid in Schwabing, over fifteen hundred paintings have been discovered and “rescued” from oblivion, according to The Guardian. The pieces of art were thought to be lost due to Nazi looting and include pieces by famous artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde. The outstanding works of art would have been confiscated from Jewish collectors during World War II and considered “degenerate art.” However, lucky for the paintings they found their way into the hands of a German, half-Jewish art collector named Hildebrand Gurlitt. For years he kept this secret and when he died he left all the paintings to his son.
Despite saying he helped many German Jews to escape during those harsh war years he was still considered a Nazi war criminal, which led to the recent raid and discovery on his estate. The paintings were found stored among juice cartons and tins of food in a dark room. They have since been moved to safety in a customs building near Munich. Art historian, Meike Hoffman, has been given the task of figuring out their worth. Police believe that Gurlitt may have sold some paintings off from time to time as an effort to gain quick and bountiful cash. Several of the frames uncovered in Gurlitt’s house were empty. One painting by Beckmann called “Lion Tamer” has been factually recorded as one of the paintings sold. A Matisse painting used to belong to French art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, and his granddaughter, Anne Sinclair, has been campaigning endlessly for the return of many treasures rudely taken by Nazi soldiers. Marianne Rosenberg, also a granddaughter, commented, “We are not willing to forget, or let it go. I think of it as a crusade.”
Many descendants of Jewish art collectors now have a legal right to reclaim what was stolen from their families during that unredeemable time of prosecution and oppression. When the Nazis took control, modernist art was banned. The art newly discovered is perfect and classic pieces of expressionism, surrealism, cubism and Dada. Not only is the recent find good news for art collectors and historians, but maybe now, after all those years, some Jewish families will get to reclaim what once belonged to them.
Image Credit: Bettmann/Corbis