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German court returns $1.2 billion Nazi art trove to elderly recluse

Published on Apr 9, 2014 11:30 PM

BERLIN (REUTERS) - A German court released on Wednesday an art trove valued at US$1 billion (S$1.24 billion) to an elderly recluse who had kept it stashed away for decades in his flat before its confiscation in a tax probe.

The decision followed an agreement by Mr Cornelius Gurlitt, 81, to cooperate with German authorities to determine if some of the 1,280 art works had been stolen or extorted from their original owners, many of them Jewish, in the Nazi era.

Mr Gurlitt's father took orders from Adolf Hitler to buy and sell so-called 'degenerate art' to fund Nazi activities. The collection includes masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

"We have come across new evidence in the course of the investigation ... that leads us to re-evaluate the legal situation," said Augsburg state prosecutor Matthias Nickolai in a statement announcing the decision to release the art works.

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