A Tale of Nazis and Stolen Artwork

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A Tale of Nazis and Stolen Artwork

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On November 3rd the police in Germany discovered 1350 old paintings from a wide range of famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall or Otto Dix in an apartment in Munich. The owner of the apartment is 80-year-old Alfred Flechtheim, who hid the priceless paintings during Hitler’s rule.

During the Second World War, Hitler commanded that all art that did not promote his fascist cause must be confiscated and hidden. That so many masterpieces went missing is difficult to fathom. But post-war German investigators knew that there were paintings being stored in residences in places like Munich.

But how did they find out that this man has these works in his possession?  One time Flechtheim travelled by train into Switzerland and had on his person about 9000 euros.   A person is only allowed to take 10000 euros, so the police decided to find out more about him. When their investigation led to his apartment they expected to find something, but not the stockpile of paintings contained therein.

The estimated value of the artwork is placed at about US $1 billion, but it’s probably more than that. Authorities are still trying to identify many the paintings, and are grappling with the difficult task of determining who the rightful owners are.

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