The Daily Beast reports that for the last 40 years, Cornelius Gurlitt owned a house in Salzburg, Austria, which has yet to be searched. It adds that an official from the prosecutor’s office in Augsburg, Germany, would not say whether Gurlitt was alive or dead. The Nazis squirreled away a lot of looted property later recovered from Austrian salt mines, making the house a logical place to look.
One possible explanation for the delay is that authorities wanted to document the collection and, wherever possible, its provenance before the inevitable avalanche of claimants: descendants of the original Jewish owners who were expelled or exterminated, museums stripped by the Nazis, collectors forced to sell for a pittance.
The task of finding rightful owners is formidable. But simple justice demands that the German government at least try.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.