Daily Israel Report

Dead Nazi-Art Hoarder Left Two Wills

German court reveals it has two wills of Cornelius Gurlitt, but notes they don't contradict. The listed heirs 'inherit everything.'
By AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff
First Publish: 5/13/2014, 6:17 PM

The name plate on the house of Cornelius Gurlitt
The name plate on the house of Cornelius Gurlitt
Reuters

The late German recluse who hoarded a priceless art trove, much of it suspected of having been stolen from Jews by the Nazis, left two wills, a court said Tuesday, adding however that they "complement each other."

The Munich court did not reveal the beneficiary, but said both documents named the same recipient or recipients of the spectacular estate of Cornelius Gurlitt, who died last Monday aged 81.

The art treasure of Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, came to light last year, with many works believed to have been stolen or extorted from Jewish collectors, sparking claims by some of their descendants.

A day after Gurlitt's May 6 death, Switzerland's Museum of Fine Arts in Bern said it had been astonished to learn it was the recipient of Gurlitt's collection, an offer it said it was assessing.

With the grant, the museum would become the owner of 1,280 artworks, including long-lost masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, that Gurlitt had hidden in his flat in the southern German city of Munich for decades.

On Tuesday a probate court in Munich said it had received two separate wills, dated January 9 and February 21, from a notary from neighboring Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

More than 200 other paintings, sketches and sculptures were discovered in early February in a separate home of Gurlitt's in Salzburg, Austria including works by Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Gauguin.

The court did not release the names of the beneficiaries, but court president Gerhard Zierl told media that "the wills complement each other," meaning that they are not contradictory.

"The heir or heirs are the universal successor. They inherit everything," he added, according to national news agency DPA, without confirming the Swedish Bern Art Museum as being the inheritor. "I will not say anything about the content."

Beneficiaries have six weeks in Germany, six months abroad to reply

The court said it would now write to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries, stating that those within Germany would have six weeks, and those abroad six months, to reply.

It also said it would check whether, aside from the named heirs, others may qualify as legal heirs. For this it would check the records of the deceased parents and siblings of Gurlitt, who was unmarried and childless.

This week, lawyers for a grand nephew of Gurlitt living in Spain said their client may challenge any decision to make the Bern Art Museum the sole beneficiary, DPA reported.

During the Nazi era, Gurlitt's father Hildebrand was tasked with selling works stolen or bought under duress from Jewish families, and avant-garde art seized from German museums that the regime of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler deemed "degenerate."

Cornelius Gurlitt's vast art hoard - believed to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars - was seized in February 2012, when it was discovered by chance amid a small-scale tax evasion probe.