U.S. asks Germany to publish list of artworks seized in Munich

(JTA) — The United States asked Germany to publish a list of 1,400 Nazi-looted artworks found in a Munich apartment last year during a German tax evasion probe.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that American diplomats had contacted the German federal government about the vast trove of art, which included previously unknown paintings by Henri Matisse and Otto Dix, Reuters reported Thursday.

“Our mission is discussing these reports with the relevant German authorities, and we ask them to publish a full list of the recovered paintings,” said one official, saying the U.S. contacts were with the German federal government, which in turn was dealing with local authorities on the issue.

German authorities have resisted calls to publish a full list of the items seized.

Jewish groups have urged that the origins of the artworks be researched as quickly as possible so that items looted or extorted from Jews during the Holocaust could be returned to their original owners or their descendants.

Customs investigators seized the paintings, sketches and sculptures, dating from the 16th century to the modern period, last year but stayed silent until now because they had chanced upon the art during a tax evasion probe, which compels secrecy.

The secrecy and the failure so far to publish a complete list of the works has attracted criticism from those who argue that publicizing such finds is crucial to establishing their ownership and returning them to their rightful owners.

The haul, found in the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a wartime art dealer, may be worth more than $1.3 billion, according to a German magazine. Officials declined to comment.

Gurlitt, who occasionally sold paintings to support himself, has since vanished.

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