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Cornelius Gurlitt, Scrutinized Son of Nazi-Era Art Dealer, Is Dead at 81

By MELISSA EDDY and ALISON SMALEMAY 6, 2014



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BERLIN Cornelius Gurlitt, the German recluse who captured the art world's attention last fall after it was revealed that he had kept hidden for decades a collection of 19th- and 20th-century European masterworks amassed by his father under the Nazis in his Munich apartment, died on Tuesday, his spokesman confirmed. Mr. Gurlitt was 81.
Mr. Gurlitt died without known heirs, leaving behind a tangle of questions about what will become of the art, some of it in the custody of the German government, some of it still in his possession and some of it subject to restitution claims.
Outrage flared in November after the German newsweekly Focus broke the story of Mr. Gurlitt's collection and authorities' failure to reveal the existence of the approximately 1,280 paintings and drawings by artists including Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann and more confiscated from his apartment. Some of the works were unknown at the time, having never been entered in international art catalogs.
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A print of Max Beckmann's painting "Lion Tamer," which Mr. Gurlitt sold in 2011.CreditWolfgang Rattay/ReutersMatthias Henkel, a spokesman for a task force formed by German authorities to help investigate the provenance of the collection, said Tuesday that its work would go on since the moral obligation to clarify history remains.
Mr. Gurlitt's spokesman, Stephan Holzinger, said that it would be "up to a court to determine whether there is a valid will or contract of inheritance." Under Bavarian law, if there was no such contract, a court will be appointed to decide who if anyone could inherit Mr. Gurlitt's property.
The artworks were seized in a tax evasion investigation in February 2012 from the apartment where Mr. Gurlitt had lived quietly for decades, occasionally selling a painting but otherwise hording a collection assembled by his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, one of four dealers allowed under the Nazis to buy and sell the modern, or "degenerate" art they officially so despised.
Many works in the Gurlitt collection were plundered from German museums, but scores are thought to have belonged to Jewish collectors who were forced to sell their art way below market value as they tried to flee the Nazis or simply had them confiscated before or after being expelled and murdered.
The Jewish heirs mounted the loudest cry after the collection came to light. Authorities in Bavaria and embarrassed officials in Berlin swiftly turned the job of investigating provenance over to the international task force, which is continuing its investigation under an agreement reached several weeks ago with Mr. Gurlitt. Hundreds of his artworks have been posted on a government website, lostart.de, but his lawyers say that only four claims have been received. Not one picture has been returned.
Mr. Gurlitt, who had a serious heart condition and was hospitalized in December, died on Tuesday morning at his home in Munich, his spokesman said. He had been under constant medical care since being released from the hospital some weeks ago at his request, Mr. Holzinger said.
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Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment building in Munich, where prosecutors seized hundreds of artworks, amassed under Nazi rule, from Mr. Gurlitt's unit.CreditChristof Stache/Agence France-Presse Getty ImagesDue to his failing health, Mr. Gurlitt had been appointed and was represented by an official guardian, Christoph Edel, in recent negotiations that allowed the investigation of provenance to continue, despite a court ordering that the artworks be released to their legal owner, Mr. Gurlitt. His only sibling, a sister, Benita, died childless in 2012.

Monika Grütters, who oversees cultural affairs for Germany's federal government, issued a statement on Tuesday lauding Mr. Gurlitt for allowing the investigation of his collection. "As a private person, he set an example in his commitment to moral responsibility in seeking out fair and just solutions," the statement said. "For this step, he was rightly accorded recognition and respect."
The German authorities have held the trove at an undisclosed location, citing security reasons for the secrecy. In February, an additional 238 works some of them said to be top-quality paintings were removed from Mr. Gurlitt's second home, in Salzburg, Austria, and relocated also to an unnamed location.
Mr. Gurlitt was last known to have sold a painting in December 2011, when the "Lion Tamer" by Beckmann fetched 864,000 euros, or $1.17 million, at an auction in Cologne, Germany. The auction house, Lempertz, said it brokered an agreement for some of the money to go to heirs of Alfred Flechtheim, a Jewish art dealer who was forced to leave Germany and died a poor man in London in 1937.
Although reporters from around the world camped outside his Munich apartment for weeks after his art collection was revealed, Mr. Gurlitt gave only one interview, to the news weekly Der Spiegel. In that conversation, he revealed little about his life, saying that the only thing he had loved were his pictures.
He came from a family renowned for activity in music, art and literature back into the 19th century. His father was deemed a quarter Jewish under the Nuremberg race laws, and he was dismissed from two museum posts by the Nazis.
Yet he was also one of the few Germans granted permission by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, to sell confiscated art. Sales to foreign buyers were meant to fill Nazi coffers, but art historians have documented many sales in Germany, as well as proceeds pocketed by the dealers involved.
While Mr. Gurlitt insisted in the interview with Der Spiegel that he would not part with any of the works, the agreement he reached this year with government officials paved the way for looted works to be returned to their rightful owners, regardless of the ultimate fate of his collection.
A version of this article appears in print on May 7, 2014, on page C1 of the New York editionwith the headline: Cornelius Gurlitt, Scrutinized Son of Nazi-Era Art Dealer, Is Dead at 81.
There may or may not be more and hidden aspects to this story - or connected to this story. I have long [below radar of the public or even most of the research community's limelight] been researching the strange story of Hans Kammler [a high level SS Officer who skyrocketed to higher positions and increasingly into the inner trusted circle around Hitler in the last years and months of the War]. Most of that research I'll omit here..but one aspect...that Kammler may well have been involved [with other things such as construction of the underground Nazi facilities and positioning of the Nazi secret weapons systems and research facilities for them] with some movement and procurements of art for Hitler. That is NOT my own research, but that of a research friend of mine, Kristian Knaack, who wrote [only available in German] der Kust-Schatz des Fuhrer. Much of the mystery about Kammler related to how, where, and when he died and under who'd control he was under. There are seven 'official or semi-official' versions, and I have an eighth one. However, the art dealers mentioned in Knaack's book do not mention the one who just died - or his father....but there was a small cadre of SS men and art dealers who handled the plundered art and architecture for the Nazi leaders.
Peter Lemkin Wrote:There may or may not be more and hidden aspects to this story - or connected to this story. I have long [below radar of the public or even most of the research community's limelight] been researching the strange story of Hans Kammler [a high level SS Officer who skyrocketed to higher positions and increasingly into the inner trusted circle around Hitler in the last years and months of the War]. Most of that research I'll omit here..but one aspect...that Kammler may well have been involved [with other things such as construction of the underground Nazi facilities and positioning of the Nazi secret weapons systems and research facilities for them] with some movement and procurements of art for Hitler. That is NOT my own research, but that of a research friend of mine, Kristian Knaack, who wrote [only available in German] der Kust-Schatz des Fuhrer. Much of the mystery about Kammler related to how, where, and when he died and under who'd control he was under. There are seven 'official or semi-official' versions, and I have an eighth one. However, the art dealers mentioned in Knaack's book do not mention the one who just died - or his father....but there was a small cadre of SS men and art dealers who handled the plundered art and architecture for the Nazi leaders.

Most intriguing Peter. Look forward to more on that as it develops.

Meanwhile it will be interesting to see what happens to this man's estate.
Peter Lemkin Wrote:There may or may not be more and hidden aspects to this story - or connected to this story. I have long [below radar of the public or even most of the research community's limelight] been researching the strange story of Hans Kammler [a high level SS Officer who skyrocketed to higher positions and increasingly into the inner trusted circle around Hitler in the last years and months of the War]. Most of that research I'll omit here..but one aspect...that Kammler may well have been involved [with other things such as construction of the underground Nazi facilities and positioning of the Nazi secret weapons systems and research facilities for them] with some movement and procurements of art for Hitler. That is NOT my own research, but that of a research friend of mine, Kristian Knaack, who wrote [only available in German] der Kust-Schatz des Fuhrer. Much of the mystery about Kammler related to how, where, and when he died and under who'd control he was under. There are seven 'official or semi-official' versions, and I have an eighth one. However, the art dealers mentioned in Knaack's book do not mention the one who just died - or his father....but there was a small cadre of SS men and art dealers who handled the plundered art and architecture for the Nazi leaders.

It's a strange thing Pete, but about 5 years ago you could barely find a single mention of Kammler on the internet. Now he's all over the place.

The writer Phillip Kerr in one of his Bernie Gunther novels features SS General Hans Kammler in his "A Quite Flame" first published in 2008. Kammler has escaped to Argentina and has been helping Peron with his nuclear programme.

Apart from these novels being an excellent read I am impressed with the author's first class research, and do wonder if Argentina was Kammler's destination, where - like so many other fled nazis - he worked also for the CIA?
Personally, I don't believe and have good reason to believe that Kammler did not make it to S. America. I have some documents that show he survived the war's end [and his seven semi-official versions of his demise - each mutually exclusive of the others!]. However, my documents and those of one other researcher show that he was in the hands of the Americans in Germany. After that the trail ends and it is my working assumption that after the Americans got what information they wanted from him they either had no further use for him, or he choose to end his own life at that point. I know his family and Kammler was very close to his wife and children - he never contacted them after the war [as promised at his last meeting at home just before the end of it] - something I know he wouldn't do if alive and able to communicate. I'm leaving out a lot in the above summary...there is much more....for a book.

It was Nick Cook's book that started the Kammler rage...and a book called Blunder! before it [though not much noticed]. Most of the Kammler claims are, IMHO, not correct and not based on anything tangible. I worked very hard on this research and to get the documents I have. Despite getting a few authenticated documents [by very back-door means!], the trail of documents ends and the British, Russian, German and American governments all know things they, for their own reasons, do not want to disclose. Despite Kammler's prominence by the end of the war, NARA officially [that is officially!] only claims to have two documents on Kammler and both are unimportant; a list of higher ranked SS officers; and his original SS file [when he enlisted]. Both are useless, and it is not true that they don't have others...but I can't go into how I suspect or know that. What I learned in this research was that NARA either doesn't know what it has or doesn't admit what it has....an important lesson for all researchers.
Interesting. Write that book. I'm intrigued and will be your first customer...
David Guyatt Wrote:Interesting. Write that book. I'm intrigued and will be your first customer...

Hey, I pre-sold one book....I'll start looking at yacht catalogs tonight!Smile :Titanic:
Peter Lemkin Wrote:
David Guyatt Wrote:Interesting. Write that book. I'm intrigued and will be your first customer...

Hey, I pre-sold one book....I'll start looking at yacht catalogs tonight!Smile :Titanic:

I'll buy two and you can get your own exec jet instead, okay...
David Guyatt Wrote:
Peter Lemkin Wrote:
David Guyatt Wrote:Interesting. Write that book. I'm intrigued and will be your first customer...

Hey, I pre-sold one book....I'll start looking at yacht catalogs tonight!Smile :Titanic:

I'll buy two and you can get your own exec jet instead, okay...

OK!!!::bluebaron::
My friend Andreas has uncovered a very large and to date publicly unknown super-secret Nazi underground facility near Linz, Austria. The Austrian government knew about it - but has said and done nothing about it. Andreas has....

Vast underground complex where the Nazis developed WMD is discovered in Austria
Facility was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria
Believed that it could be connected to another Nazi weapons facility
Experts believe that it was used to conduct research into atomic bombs
Supported by heightened radiation readings and witness testimonies


28 December 2014


A labyrinth of secret underground tunnels believed to have been used by the Nazis to develop a nuclear bomb has been uncovered.
The facility, which covers an area of up to 75 acres, was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria last week, it has been reported.
Excavations began on the site after researchers detected heightened levels of radiation in the area - supporting claims that the Nazis were developing nuclear weapons.
Vast: The facility, which covers an area of up to 75 acres, was discovered near the town of St Georgen an der Gusen, Austria last week. It is believed to be connected to Nazi weapons facility B8 Bergkristall (above)
Research: Excavations began on the site after heightened levels of radiation were detected in the area - supporting long-standing claims that the Nazis were developing nuclear weapons. Above, B8 Bergkristall
Significant: Documentary maker Andreas Sulzer, who is leading the excavations, said that the site is 'most likely the biggest secret weapons production facility of the Third Reich. Above, B8 Bergkristall
Documentary maker Andreas Sulzer, who is leading the excavations, told the Sunday Times that the site is 'most likely the biggest secret weapons production facility of the Third Reich'.
It is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 - the first operational jet fighter - was built.
There are also suggestions that the complex is connected to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
Slave labour from the camp was used to build both complexes - with as many as 320,000 inmates in the harsh underground conditions.
But while the Bergkristall site was explored by Allied and Russia after the war, the Nazis appeared to have gone through greater lengths to conceal the newly-discovered tunnels.
Its entrance was only uncovered after the excavation team, which includes historians and scientists, pieced together information in declassified intelligence documents and testimonies from witnesses.
Hidden: While the nearby Bergkristall site was explored by Allied and Russian forces after the war, the Nazis appeared to have gone through greater lengths to conceal the newly-discovered tunnels near St Georgen
Military centre: The newly-discovered site is believed to be connected to the B8 Bergkristall underground factory, pictured above, where the Messerschmitt Me 262 - the first operational jet fighter - was built
Development: While the Bergkristall site, pictured above, was explored by Allied and Russia after the war, the Nazis appeared to have gone through greater lengths to conceal the newly-discovered tunnels
The team is now in the process of removing layers of soil and concrete packed into the tunnels and heavy granite plates that were used to cover the entrance.
Helmets belonging to SS troops and other Nazi relics are among the items that have been uncovered so far.
The excavation was halted last week by police, who demanded the group produce a permit for conducting research on historic sites. But Mr Sulzer is confident that work will resume next month.
He told the Sunday Times: 'Prisoners from concentration camps across Europe were handpicked for their special skills - physicists, chemists or other experts - to work on this monstrous project and we owe it to the victims to finally open the site and reveal the truth.'
The probe was triggered by a research documentary by Mr Sulzer on Hitler's quest to build an atomic bomb.
In it, he referenced diary entries from a physicist called up to work for the Nazis. There is other evidence of scientists working for a secret project managed by SS General Hans Kammler.
Kammler, who signed off the plans for the gas chambers and crematorium at Auschwitz, was in charge of Hitler's missile programmes.
Mr Sulzer searched archives in Germany, Moscow and America for evidence of the nuclear weapons-building project led by the SS.
He discovered that on January 2, 1944, some 272 inmates of Mauthausen were taken from the camp to St Georgen to begin the construction of secret galleries.
By November that year, 20,000 out of 40,000 slave labourers drafted in to build the tunnels had been worked to death.
After the war, Austria spent some £10million in pouring concrete into most of the tunnels.
But Sulzer and his backers believe they missed a secret section where the atomic research was conducted.
Brutal: Slave labour from Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp (pictured) was used to build both the St Georgen site and Bergkristall with as many as 320,000 inmates in the harsh underground conditions
The Soviets were stationed in St Georgen until 1955 and they took all of the files on the site back with them to Moscow.
Experts are trying to discover if there is a link between St Georgen and sites in Germany proper where scientists were assembled during the Third Reich in a bid to match American efforts to build the ultimate weapon.
In June 2011, atomic waste from Hitler's secret nuclear programme was believed to have been found in an old mine near Hanover.
More than 126,000 barrels of nuclear material lie rotting over 2,000 feet below ground in an old salt mine.
Rumour has it that the remains of nuclear scientists who worked on the Nazi programme are also there, their irradiated bodies burned in secret by S.S. men sworn to secrecy.