Business World

Saturday 20 January 2018

Strauss-Kahn, the Nazis and a €1bn treasure – what a tale

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair
Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair

YOU couldn't make this stuff up. A journey that began on a quiet evening in September 2010 aboard a German train from Zurich to Munich has culminated in the unveiling of a scandal whose bit-players include everyone from the Nazis to disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

It all started with a routine customs check, which brought a man called Cornelius Gurlitt to the attention of the German authorities. Finding that he had no obvious source of income, the authorities began to look into his background.

It turns out that Mr Gurlitt was, in fact, the reclusive son of infamous art dealer Hildebrandt Gurlitt, the man responsible for gathering precious artworks for the Nazis in the run-up to World War II. Resting behind tins of fruit in Cornelius' apartment, German police discovered, were hundreds of priceless works of art. He had been slowly and secretively selling these off to fund his lifestyle.

One of the masterpieces was a portrait by the French master Matisse that belonged to the Jewish connoisseur Paul Rosenberg. Rosenberg had to abandon his collection when France fell to the Nazis in 1940. His granddaughter Anne Sinclair, above, wife of Mr Strauss-Kahn, has been fighting for decades for the return of her grandfather's pictures, but did not know of the existence of this painting.

She will most likely be entitled to claim it now. Lucky Mr Strauss-Kahn; it will sell for a pretty penny. Collectively the paintings are valued at more than €1bn.

Irish Independent

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