Nov 7 - German authorities face a long struggle to return the Nazi art found in Munich to its rightful owners. But, as David Pollard reports, it may not be the original owners who will benefit most from the find.
It's a fantasy shopping list for an art lover, a roll call of the greats. A huge cache of artworks found hidden in a Munich flat belonging to the reclusive son of a wartime art dealer. But now, according to these German officials, in the caretaker hands of the state. There are 1500 in total, including masterpieces the Nazis labelled as 'degenerate.' That didn't stop them stealing them Anne Webber is with the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH), ANNE WEBBER, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION FOR LOOTED ART IN EUROPE, SAYING: "There are families who were looted under the most terrible, brutal, terrifying circumstances of persecution, threats of murder, actual murder, and for whom these paintings mean a huge amount." The Commission says it's been inundated with inquiries from possible owners. It asks why the German authorities took so long to reveal the cache. And it says their decision not to publish a list of the paintings - apparently to deter false claims - is wrong. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH), ANNE WEBBER, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION FOR LOOTED ART IN EUROPE, SAYING: "They are the last links with those lives utterly destroyed or transformed by the Nazis, and so it's a matter of, it's really an urgent matter that the Bavarian authorities should publish a list so that the families can see if their art works are there." The Art Loss Register also works to restore stolen or lost art to its owners. On its database: a massive three hundred thousand items. Chairman, Julian Radcliffe, says the lack of a paper trail poses huge problems for the latest cache. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH), JULIAN RADCLIFFE, CHAIRMAN, ART LOSS REGISTER, SAYING: "Either the victims weren't able to keep documentation because they were fleeing the country, or the documentation was destroyed during the War, or the Nazis, who kept pretty good documentation, that may well have been destroyed as well, which means that some of these items, nobody will ever know where they came from." The Register has a top ten of masterpieces it's trying to track down. All were lost or stolen during World War Two. A valuation of those alone could run into billions. Public galleries may stand to benefit the most from the latest find. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH), JULIAN RADCLIFFE, CHAIRMAN, ART LOSS REGISTER, SAYING: "If there was no record of them amongst the Nazi seizures, and no family can remember having them, there won't be anybody to whom they can be returned and then they will probably go to a museum and be held until, if ever, a proper claim can be made." Which will at least give some of us a glimpse of them. For the time being though, the paintings remain under wraps at a secret location - just as they have done for the last seventy years.