Cousin of German Nazi Art Collector Says He Doesn't Want Inheritance

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A formerly unknown picture by German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner entitled 'Melancholic Girl,' part of the trove.Credit: Reuters

DPA - A controversial and priceless art collection that was hidden away in a Munich flat for years should go to a Swiss museum as its final owner requested, says one of the man's sole remaining relatives.

The final fate of Cornelius Gurlitt's art collection has been the source of much discussion in the art world since its initial discovery in 2012 and revelation by German media in 2013.

Not only has it stoked interest because of the way it was stowed away in a the apartment, but also because of suspicion that some of it was illegally expropriated by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s before ending up in the possession of Gurlitt's father, an art collector.

Adding to the confusion, Gurlitt willed his collection to the Kunstmuseum art gallery of Bern, which, according to reports, is going to accept the gift on Monday.

However, on Friday, one of Gurlitt's last remaining direct relatives, 86-year-old cousin Uta Werner, filed a lawsuit, saying she and her brother were the proper heirs.
Now her brother, 95-year-old Dietrich Gullitt, says that, as far as he knows, Cornelius Gurlitt was of sound mind when he picked the museum as a beneficiary.
"He was so upset about the confiscation of his pictures, that he chose not to pick a German museum. This is not paranoia, but logical and understandable," Dietrich Gurlitt told dpa.

Dietrich Gurlitt said he would not object to the will. He said he would also not back a psychiatric assessment of Cornelius Gurlitt, introduced by Werner, that states the deceased cousin had a delusional disorder.

"I knew Cornelius in his younger years," said Dietrich Gurlitt. "He neither kept nor wanted contact with us [in regards to the inheritance], because we were not competent to manage his large collection."

According to sources watching the negotiations, a deal has been struck between Germany, the museum and the German state of Bavaria stating that, in the case of artwork suspected to have been expropriated, those pieces will stay in Germany pending investigation.

The Gurlitt collection includes more than 1,000 pieces and has been valued at about 1 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars). It is unclear how many of the pieces will ultimately be ruled to have been expropriated.

Gurlitt first came to investigators' attention when he was nabbed carrying a large sum of money from Switzerland into Germany, possibly after having sold one of his paintings.

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