German authorities have proposed a law that would ease the return of art looted during World War II. It would lift the country’s 30-year statute of limitations for certain cases involving stolen property. This comes after a second discovery of art treasures – including Monet and Renoir – belonging to the son of an art dealer once forced to work for the Nazis.

The BBC reports that the art work seized at the Sazlburg home of Cornelius Gurlitt, are of greater significance than the first discovery at a separate home in Munich two years ago. Many of the art works are believed to be stolen from their Jewish owners.


Germans are proposing a law that would make it easier for looted art to be returned.
Image: Shutterstock

The proposed legislation would also make it easier for Jewish families to pursue stolen art, furniture, or other valuables taken by the Nazis.

The Claims Conference, a Holocaust restitution organization, said that Cornelius Gurlitt’s father Hildebrand Gurlitt, was one of four art dealers commissioned by Adolf Hitler “to handle stolen art.”

“Therefore the origins of his inheritance should be checked,” the Claims Conference said in a statement.

In March 2012, more than 1,400 art works, estimated to be worth $1.35 billion, were found Gurlitt’s Munich home, including works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Otto Dix.

Restitution experts say the burden of proof still lies with the claimant.

Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register in London, said Gurlitt should prove legitimate ownership of the art. Gurlitt’s representatives said there is currently no evidence pointing to Nazi-looted works being included in the second trove.

“Where are the invoices that show the pieces’ provenance,” Radcliffe asked. “It should be very easy for him to prove the acquisition of the pieces through legitimate means.”

Radcliffe predicts there will be more similar discoveries in the future.

“It is imaginable he tried to distribute his risk by keeping his art at several locations,” Radcliffe said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if more collections were found.”