Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Time Bandits

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Time Bandits

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Time bandits


An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Nov. 8:

Theft, ownership, culture, history and racism collided this week, both in Germany and in Canada, as the issue of stolen art and stolen land reared its head.

In Germany, a potentially massive trove of art stolen by the Nazis has been found in the Munich apartment of the now 80-year-old son of an art dealer who worked during the Second World War. The German government has so far been reluctant to let the public know the full list of what authorities found in the apartment, despite demands from art historians and various international agencies and lawyers representing the children and grandchildren of the original owners of the plundered art, many of them Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

To be fair, the German government has worked hard in the past to reunite stolen art with its rightful owners and its slow movement on this matter could have something to do with the size and value of the find - with names like Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Picasso involved, it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars - and the fact that the apartment's owner is still on the run and wanted for tax evasion.

German investigators likely have many questions for Cornelius Gurlitt once they track him down about the works found in the apartment, starting with how he and his father acquired them and how much, if any, of the collection they discreetly sold since the end of the war.

For the families seeking to have these works returned to them, demonstrating ownership of invaluable art either outright stolen or sold at ridiculous prices to finance hasty escapes from the Nazis can be challenging. Photographs, receipts, letters and documents can either prove or strongly support their claims but the fog of history and war, combined with the emotional weight of the Holocaust, complicates the matter.

Since the works were found in Gurlitt's apartment, he is the owner of the art until cases can be made that he is in possession of stolen property. In other words, the onus is on those demanding the return of the stolen art to prove it was stolen and Gurlitt is not the rightful owner. …

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