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November 22, 2013 1:30 pm

German Official Says Unlilkely Art Hoarder Will be Prosecuted

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Nazis posing with art in Venice, Italy. Photo: Wikipedia.

A German official has said it is unlikely the statute of limitations will be retroactively extended in order to prosecute Cornelius Gurlitt, the octogenarian discovered hoarding a vast collection of artworks, many of which were taken from Jews as they fled Nazi Germany, according to the Handelsblatt newspaper on Thursday.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Handelsblatt such an extension of the 30-year statute of limitations on reclaiming stolen property is “hard to imagine,” but added that Gurlitt must recognize he has “moral as well as legal obligations.”

Augsburg prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz said in a statement on Tuesday that artwork that was not suspicious, not stolen by the Nazis and “undoubtedly was the property of the accused” would be returned to Gurlitt “immediately.”

The German government said 970 works altogether may have been seized by the Nazis, 590 of which may have been looted from Jewish collections.

Earlier this week Gurlitt gave a defiant interview to Der Spiegel Magazine, saying he would not voluntarily return any of the paintings.

“They have it all wrong,” he said of the public prosecutor. “I won’t speak with them, and I won’t voluntarily give back anything, no, no. The public prosecutor has enough that exonerates me.”

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