Daily Israel Report

Israel Asks Germany to Keep Stolen Art in Jewish Hands

Deputy FM Elkin urges Germany to give any Jewish-owned art from Munich trove to Jewish or Israeli museums if heirs are not found.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/3/2013, 5:13 AM

Stolen artwork seized by Nazis
Stolen artwork seized by Nazis
Reuters

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu) has urged Germany to give any Jewish-owned art from a trove discovered in Munich to Jewish or Israeli museums if heirs are not found.

According to a report on Monday in the Israel Hayom daily, Elkin said Israel has requested to join the German investigation into the roughly 1,400 artworks found in the apartment of a reclusive Munich collector last year.

German prosecutors are checking whether up to 590 works were seized by Nazis. Several heirs of Jewish collectors persecuted by the Nazis have already made claim to individual artworks in the collection.

The collector, 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, says he inherited the works from his father, an art dealer commissioned by the Nazis.

Gurlitt has indicated that he will not give up the works without a fight, saying his father had acquired the paintings legally and that he as his heir is their rightful owner.  

Elkin, according to Israel Hayom, said Israel had suggested that Germany give any Jewish-owned art with no locatable heirs to an institution like the Israel Museum in Jerusalem or a Jewish museum in Germany.

German authorities recently said they would order the return of several of the paintings in the trove to Gurlitt, saying that some of the works confiscated from his home clearly belonged to him.

That decision was blasted by the leader of Germany's Jewish community, Dieter Graumann, who said the aim by prosecutors to give back some 300 works was an “irresponsible choice.”