Israeli Experts to Join Task Force on Nazi-looted Art Trove

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Two Israeli art experts will be part of the task force handling the billion-dollar Nazi-era art trove discovered in 2012, the Times of Israel reported Monday.

The two experts are Yehudit Shendar, deputy director and senior art curator at Yad Vashem's museums division, and Shlomit Steinberg, a curator of European art at the Israel Museum, according to the news website.

"Heirs should have the right to receive back what the Nazis looted, as part of the effort to compensate the Jewish people for the plunder of their property, Shendar told the Jerusalem Post last year.

Israel was originally asked to submit one name, but German sources confirmed that both experts had been accepted to the prestigious panel. A New York Times blog revealed last week that Sophie Lillie and Agnes Peresztegi, who were nominated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, were also named to the task force.

The works by several of the greatest artists of the modern age were discovered in a raid by German authorities on the apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, an elderly man accused of tax fraud. The 1,500 pieces, held in secret by Germany for two years after the raid, include works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Klee.

The works are believed to have belonged to Jewish collectors and considered "degenerate" before World War II and to have been confiscated by the Nazis. Many were considered lost until now. They were purchased during the 1930s and 1940s by the German art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, who was an associate of the Nazi leadership.

Gurlitt's son Cornelius, kept them for half a century in a dark room in his apartment, following his father's death in 1956. He is believed to have sold off some of the works to support himself.

Because the trove is part of a criminal investigation, German authorities have kept much of the related information under wraps.

Paintings by Chagall, Rodin, Matisse and others were among 1,400 artworks found at Cornelius Gurlitt's Munich home. Credit: AFP

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