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Everything You Need To Know About The Mysterious Discovery Of Nazi-Looted Art

More than 1,400 artworks suspected of being stolen by the Nazis were discovered in an apartment in Munich.

Posted on November 12, 2013, at 1:33 a.m. ET

On Feb. 28, 2012, German authorities raided the home of art connoisseur Cornelius Gurlitt and seized more than 1,400 works of art estimated to be worth over $1 billion.

Michael Dalder/Reuters

The artworks included a previously unknown painting by Marc Chagall and an engraving by the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, and were taken to a customs facility near Munich for storage.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

It is not clear why German authorities waited nearly two years before revealing the discovery.

Dominic Ebenbichler / Reuters

The artworks were apparently collected by Cornelius Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand, who was a quarter Jewish, but was still one of a handful of Germans granted permission by Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's closest associate, to sell confiscated art.

Michael Dalder / Reuters
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After the war Gurlitt was detained and questioned by Americans investigating art looting, and he told the authorities that his collection burned in the bombing of Dresden.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

The trail to the art began when customs officials became suspicious after finding Cornelius Gurlitt carrying a large sum of cash on a train from Switzerland to Germany.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

Officials eventually investigated Gurlitt's apartment in Munich, where he had sold off pictures as needed over the years.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

The German government announced late Monday it will establish a task force to investigate the ownership of the artworks that are suspected of being looted by Nazis.

Michael Dalder / Reuters
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About 590 works must be examined to determine whether they were acquired from Jewish owners under duress.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

The statement did not explain when or how looted paintings might be returned to former owners, which will probably take years to sort out.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

Meanwhile, police recovered 22 artworks after Gurlitt's brother-in-law reportedly offered an address just outside Stuttgart where they could be retrieved.

Dominic Ebenbichler / Reuters

Gurlitt, now 80, kept the 1,400 works stashed for decades in a Munich apartment, where he reportedly still resides and continues to go about his business as usual.

Michael Dalder / Reuters

However, Der Spiegel magazine reported it received a typewritten letter from Gurlitt requesting that his family name no longer be mentioned in future publications.

Michael Dalder / Reuters
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