Swiss Museum Announces Delay in Return of Nazi-looted Art

The Kunstmuseum in Bern has agreed with German authorities that it will accept the bequest by Cornelius Gurlitt except works proven to have been looted.

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A news conference on Cornelius Gurlitt's art stash, November 2013.
A news conference on Cornelius Gurlitt's art stash, November 2013.Credit: AP

The Kunstmuseum in Bern that inherited an art trove from the son of a Nazi-era dealer announced on Tuesday possible delays in returning any looted works to their rightful owners due to a last-minute request by a family member to block the bequest.

"The board of trustees regrets the delay, which is out of its hands, especially because it will affect restitution cases that have already been cleared and approved [by the museum]," the Bern-based Museum of Fine Arts said in a statement.

The bequest was made by the Nazi-era art dealer's reclusive son, Cornelius Gurlitt, just before his death in 2014.

The delay is down to the fact that Gurlitt's cousin Uta Werner, who made an 11th-hour attempt to block the bestowal, has failed thus far to hand over all of the documents relevant to the case.

The museum, which took six months to consider whether to accept the bequest of the tainted artworks, has a privately financed team of experts to vet each work before taking possession of it.

Under the terms of an agreement with the German government, works that are determined to have been looted will be returned to their rightful owners at the expense of the government. Failing that, they will go on public display in Germany.

The remaining artworks will be displayed in Bern.

Looted art remains a sensitive issue in Germany seven decades after the end of World War II.