Germany’s parliament on Friday debated a law to help return Nazi-looted art to their rightful owners or their heirs, following the recent shock discovery of a stash of long-lost masterpieces, AFP reports.
Germany has been criticized since news broke three months ago that around 1,400 long-lost works by the likes of Picasso, Cezanne and Degas had been discovered in the Munich flat of an elderly German recluse, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer.
Another 60-odd artworks, including pieces by Monet and Renoir, have now surfaced at the Salzburg, Austria house of the 81-year-old loner, Cornelius Gurlitt.
“The Gurlitt case revealed a flaw in German law that damages the reputation of Germany,” said Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback, according to AFP, adding that “we must do something” to remove the legal hurdle.
In late January, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder called on the German government to draft a new law to ease the process of returning the art.
Germany’s proposed new law, dubbed the “Lex Gurlitt”, was presented Friday in the upper house of parliament, which represents the 16 federal states, and would also have to pass the lower house, reported AFP.
It would not be retroactive, because this would breach Germany’s basic law, and would therefore not affect the Gurlitt case.
Bausback said it would be “a reasonable solution which helps the victims and also complies with the constitution.”
He said the wider problem would arise again “with each new find — be it the new discovery in Salzburg in the Gurlitt case, or future finds involving other people.”
“And then we should be able to say: we didn’t just talk about it at length, we found a solution,” said Bausback.
Gurlitt has declared in the past that he “will not give anything back voluntarily.” He is being investigated on charges of tax evasion and misappropriation of assets. The eccentric collector claims he never committed a crime “and even if I did, it would be covered by the statute of limitations.”
On Thursday, Jewish advocates called for the publication of the newly found artworks in Gurlitt’s Salzburg home.
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