A Property Puzzle

The story broke this week of a treasure trove of modern art, in Munich.
In the 1930s, the Nazi government of Germany stole its paintings from Jews, against whose right to live and work it had written laws.
In about 1935 it also fired Hildebrand Gurlitt from his job as art director of a museum in Zwickau, because one of his parents was Jewish. However Hildebrand was a smart cookie; he negotiated a commission to sell these Modernist paintings to foreigners, because the Nazis thought they were “degenerate.” So they hired what they called a filthy half-Jew to sell filthy pictures for filthy lucre. Which they did want, so as to shore up their revenues.
Hildebrand sold some, and survived the war; but when the victorious Americans asked him about the residue, he said he'd stored them in Dresden for safe keeping since that cultural haven had no military significance. Therefore the USAAF had destroyed them all.
However, that was a fib; he had kept them safe. Hildebrand, and later his son Cornelius, lived for the next 65 years by selling a few off, one at a time; until a “random cash check” at the border in 2010 triggered a raid on his apartment and the confiscation of the trove. Hence...

  • One German government stole the paintings from their rightful owners, all now dead
  • Hildebrand stole them from the thief, but after it had ceased to exist
  • Successive German governments stole money from taxpayers to compensate the Holocaust survivors, to an agreed extent
  • The current German government stole the paintings back again

When property rights are not respected, see how far knickers can get in a twist; and say, with reasons, to whom the paintings now belong :-)