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

The elderly German son of a Nazi-era art dealer has launched a website with information about an art trove discovered at his home, suspected to contain Nazi-looted works, according to AFP

Cornelius Gurlitt's spokesman said in a statement that the Internet site demonstrated the willingness of the 81-year-old and his lawyers for dialogue both with the public and possible claimants.

The site, which is in English and German, includes a list of questions and answers setting out Gurlitt's position and apparently aimed at fending off claims about the origins of some of the collection.

"Cornelius Gurlitt considers it his duty to preserve and maintain his father's collection. And yet, Cornelius Gurlitt is open to historic responsibility," it reads.

Gurlitt was reluctantly thrust into the media limelight last November when news broke that around 1,400 works by the likes of Picasso, Cezanne and Degas had been discovered in his Munich flat in 2012. Another 60-odd artworks, including pieces by Monet and Renoir, were revealed last week at his Salzburg home. 

Gurlitt is the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s and had been tasked by the Nazis with selling stolen works and art the Hitler regime deemed "degenerate".

In addition to raiding private collections, often of Jewish families, top Nazis pillaged German museums as well to sell their works or keep the valuable
pieces for themselves.

When news finally broke of the "Nazi art trove", it caught global attention and led Germany to speed up efforts to locate the rightful owners, publishing some of the pictures on website

German officials stated that the process of locating the art's original owners would be long and difficult, and outraged Jewish groups by delaying the announcement for over a year and even returning some works to the defendant in the case. Israel has already asked German officials to keep the art in Jewish hands in the event that original owners are not found. 

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."