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Germany doubles funding to return Nazi art

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Germany doubles funding to return Nazi art
Two of the pictures found in the Gurlitt haul. Photo: DPA
12:42 CET+01:00
Germany will double funding for efforts to return Nazi-looted art to their rightful owners and may invite Jewish representatives to join a mediation body, the government said on Wednesday.

The new Culture Minister, Monika Grütters, told the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that she could not specify the amount of money that would be given for researching art suspected to have been stolen, only that it would be doubled.

The move follows widespread criticism over Germany's handling of the discovery of a vast trove of long-lost masterpieces, many thought to be Nazi loot, found in the Munich flat of recluse.

Although the more than 1,400 works by masters such as Picasso, Matisse and Chagall were discovered in early 2012, the spectacular find only became known to the public late last year through a news magazine report.

The eccentric hermit who was in possession of the priceless art, Cornelius Gurlitt, 80, is the son of Nazi-era art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s.

Germany has since sped up efforts to locate their rightful owners, publishing images of the pictures on website lostart.de.

CLICK HERE to see some of the Gurlitt collection

The elder Gurlitt had been tasked by the Nazis with selling art the Hitler regime deemed "degenerate", or works it had stolen or bought for a pittance under duress, from Jewish collectors.

Grütters also said there were plans to expand the government-backed mediation panel that now hears disputes about artworks of contested provenance, the eight-member Limbach Commission.

The body, which has former German president Richard von Weizsaecker on its board along with a former high court judge, historians and art experts, can make recommendations but no binding rulings.

"I can certainly imagine expanding the Limbach Commission and including representatives of Jewish organisations," Grütters told the FAZ.

She also said that the Gurlitt case and the international criticism it sparked had been a wake-up call for many German art collectors.

"Genuine and responsible Germans were, I believe, rather sensitized by this case," she said. "There are private persons who are re-examining their collections."

Gurlitt too has said he is willing to consider claims for some of the artworks that were found in his apartment, his lawyer Hannes Hartung was quoted as telling national news agency DPA.

Hartung was quoted as saying the octogenarian "is willing to look closely at the looted art lawsuits and negotiate fair and equitable solutions".

READ MORE: Gurlitt Nazi art find prompts law change bid

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