Cornelius Gurlitt’s position
Cornelius Gurlitt considers it his duty to preserve and maintain his father’s collection. And yet, Cornelius Gurlitt is open to historic responsibility.
There are no legal grounds that would compel Cornelius Gurlitt to return the so-called looted art. In most instances, the present owners or their legal heirs have acquired title to the works taken away from them as looted art by way of acquisitive prescription. In addition, the right to seek the return of looted art has long ago expired since the German Civil Code provides a statute of limitations of thirty years after the first instance of theft.
Cornelius Gurlitt was at all times convinced that he had inherited a collection from his father that predominantly consisted of so-called degenerate art from former German Reich property in public collections and museums. Cornelius Gurlitt was not aware that his collection also includes a few works that today can be qualified as looted art.
After the rightful return of the entire collection by the Augsburg public prosecutors and the customs authorities, he is prepared to review and arrive at fair solutions together with the claimants for those works that are suspected of being looted art in such instances where qualified, documented, and justified claims for their return are asserted by heirs of Jewish of persecution and where morally compelling grounds exist. This voluntary, morally driven commitment on the part of Cornelius Gurlitt applies to only very few works in the collection from the “Schwabing art discovery,” according to current information at most 3% of the 1,280 confiscated works.
Several German museums have already made offers to repurchase the works in the collection considered “degenerate” art. Cornelius Gurlitt is quite willing to carefully consider such offers for repurchase, providing they correspond with the market value of the works in question and the legal and factual situation. This approach is in keeping with the historic truth that Dr. Hildebrand Gurlitt legally acquired by way of purchase or trade from the German Reich the works that had been confiscated as “degenerate” art. Due to his father’s secured acquisition of title to the “degenerate” art, no alternatives other than repurchase through German museums come under consideration. Cornelius Gurlitt will gladly review appropriate repurchase offers made by German museums for “degenerate” art.