Jewish advocates on Thursday called for the publication of newly found artworks at the Austrian home of an elderly German recluse whose main collection is suspected to include Nazi-looted works, reports AFP.
Aside from 1,400 paintings and drawings found in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, another 60 pieces including works by Monet, Manet and Renoir surfaced in Salzburg, his spokesman said Tuesday.
A list of the latest batch of masterpieces in Gurlitt's possession "must be made public", in an effort to find the rightful owners or their heirs, the Claims Conference said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"The prerequisite for any restitution is the publication. Otherwise survivors and their families cannot register claims," the Holocaust restitution organization added.
Gurlitt's spokesman, Stephan Holzinger, swiftly rejected the request, having claimed that an initial analysis appeared to rule out that any of the works were stolen or extorted by the fascist regime.
"It's a private collection," Holzinger told AFP. "If one were to follow that logic, all the collections in Germany would have to be published."
Asked about the value of the Salzburg find, Holzinger said the "objects are largely oil (paintings), on average of greater value than those discovered in Munich" which included many drawings.
The Claims Conference highlighted that Gurlitt, 81, was the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, "one of the four art dealers commissioned by Hitler to handle stolen art ."
"Therefore the origins of his inheritance should be checked," the statement quoted Ruediger Mahlo, the Claims Conference's representative in Germany, as saying.
"The victims of the Holocaust and their heirs have a right to that."
The Gurlitt case first made headlines late last year when it emerged that investigators had in 2012 found more than 1,400 artworks in his Munich flat, including long-lost works by masters Matisse and Chagall.
A research task force has since said that about 590 of the works are suspected to have been looted or bought cheaply under duress from Jewish collectors.
Germany has been sharply criticized for its "scandalous" handling of the art finds, as news of the discovery was only made public last November through a news report. Following the criticism, Germany created a site to facilitate the return of the art by increasing access to images of the pieces.
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.
Holzinger told AFP that Gurlitt was ready to talk.
"For the moment we're examining the Salzburg collection ourselves" to see if it contains stolen art, he said, adding that they would get in touch with possible interested parties, he said.
Gurlitt has declared in the past that he “will not give anything back voluntarily." Gurlitt 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."
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin 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.