Polish historians wonder if the Gurlitt collection includes looted Polish paintings. It’s not as widely known that the Nazi occupiers also systematically stole art in Eastern Europe, Schmiegelt added. For the most part, it’s the artwork that is stolen in Western Europe that grabs the headlines.
The press conference announcing the Gurlitt collection gave Polish authorities the impression that “some of the paintings may be from Poland,” according to Wojciech Kowalski, a lawyer responsible for looted art at Poland’s Foreign Ministry.
Today, the government in Warsaw keeps a list of about 60,000 works of stolen art. Headlines in Polish newspapers after the discovery of Cornelius Gurlitt’s collection didn’t mince words: “Give back our paintings!” they read; as well as “Are the Germans hiding something?”
Where does the art belong?
The case of Poland is the “most complicated of all,” according to art historian Schmiegelt. “Not only art was stolen there, but borders were redrawn.” Should Cornelius Gurlitt own works of art that originate from the former German areas of what today is Poland, the issue will get particularly complicated, said Klaus Ziemer of the German Historical Institute in Warsaw (DHIW).