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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.”

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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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