BERLIN - The German recluse whose billion-dollar art hoard was seized by authorities
has broken his silence to ask for the pictures back and to deny his
father, an art dealer for Hitler, ever extorted any from Jewish owners.
In an interview with Der Spiegel,
his first substantive comments since the mysterious trove was revealed
two weeks ago, 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt recalled helping his father
save some of the works from wartime Dresden and said the state had no
right to impound treasures he called the love of his life.
to the deaths of his father Hildebrand, his mother or his sister,
"parting with my pictures was the most painful of all", Gurlitt told the
magazine. "I haven't loved anything more than my pictures in my life
... But hopefully it will all be cleared up soon and I will finally get
my pictures back."
Dismissing suggestions he might return some of
the 1,406 paintings and drawings to survivors of Nazi persecution, the
frail-looking Gurlitt insisted he inherited them legally and sold only
an occasional masterpiece from his Munich apartment to cover medical and
living expenses, as he claimed no pension.
"I'm giving nothing back willingly," he said.
officers found him crossing the Swiss border by train in 2010 with a
large sum in cash, eventually prompting a raid on his apartment early
last year. Prosecutors confiscated works by Renaissance and Modernist
masters, some long thought lost in the war, others hitherto
The authorities valued at 1 billion euros ($1.35
billion) a collection that includes works by Picasso, Otto Dix, Matisse,
Chagall and German expressionists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.