BERLIN (JTA) — Cornelius Gurlitt said he is the legal owner of the 1,400 works of Nazi-looted art found in his Munich apartment and he will fight for them.
At issue are long-lost works by Chagall, Picasso, Matisse and others deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis.
“I won’t give anything back voluntarily,” Gurlitt, 80, said in the German-language Spiegel magazine.
Gurlitt, whose father, Hildebrand, was among a handful of art dealers authorized by the Nazis to obtain and sell works for the benefit of the German treasury, said he had turned over papers to the state prosecutor to prove that his father acquired the works legally.
Customs agents confiscated the paintings, drawings and etchings in early 2012 as part of an investigation of Gurlitt on possible tax evasion charges. The story came to light earlier this month in an article in Focus magazine.
Gurlitt said the courts and media had given a wrong impression of the situation. Expressing amazement at all the attention to the case, he said he “only wanted to live with my paintings.”
Gurlitt said the authorities could have waited until he was dead before removing the artworks and he decried the decision last week by the state prosecutor to post images from the collection online as an invasion of his privacy.