Stolen artwork seized by Nazis (file)
Stolen artwork seized by Nazis (file) Reuters

A new trove of artwork likely stolen by the Nazis has been discovered in the possession of reclusive collector Cornelius Gurlitt, after an initial hoard of over 1,400 valuable paintings was found in his Munich apartment in February 2012.

The new lode of over 60 paintings, including works by the famous artists Monet, Renoir and Picasso, were found at Gurlitt's property in Salzburg, Germany, and were announced on Tuesday.

The find is suspected to include pieces stolen from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Some of the works from the first find have been returned to descendants of the Jews they were stolen from. Investigators have already said around 590 of the works were stolen from Jews.

Regarding the new find, Gurlitt's spokesman Stephan Holzinger told AFP that at Gurlitt's request "these works are being examined by experts as to whether they include possibly stolen art. A preliminary assessment based on an initial screening did not substantiate such a suspicion."

81-year-old Gurlitt is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Nazi-era art dealer who obtained the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s and was assigned the task of selling "degenerate" art by the genocidal Nazi regime. Art that wasn't outright stolen from Jews by the regime was often bought under duress.

When asked if the works from the new find will appear on the internet as some earlier ones had been, Holzinger commented "we must first inspect closely, classify and will then make a decision on that."

Moves to facilitate the return of stolen paintings

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.

In response to Lauder's calls for an updated restoration law, German lawmakers will debate such a law in the parliament this Friday, attempting to address the 30-year statue of limitations on reclaiming stolen property which is hampering the return of the stolen pieces to the rightful owners.

For his part, Gurlitt has said "I 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."