Using Nazi-era laws to justify the refusal to return artworks seized by the Nazis is hypocrisy on a grand scale.
Everything the Nazis did was codified in German law. Whether killing Jews or confiscating cultural works deemed a danger to society, it was all “legal.” What’s really at work here is the sheer inconvenience this moral dilemma presents to the billionaire investors who buy and sell art.
The 1938 law that allowed the Nazis to seize it — and thousands of other Modernist artworks deemed “degenerate” because Hitler viewed them as un-German or Jewish in nature — remains on the books to this day.
The German authorities say they believe that 380 works confiscated from German public museums under the Nazi-era law may be among the more than 1,200 paintings, lithographs and drawings found stashed away in the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive 80-year-old son of a Nazi-era art dealer.