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First look at art treasures stolen by Nazis found in apartment


 Painting by Otto Dix. Picture: Reuters

Painting by Otto Dix. Picture: Reuters

Painting by Otto Dix. Picture: Reuters

THESE are some of the masterpieces among 1,400 works of art seized by the Nazis which were found at a Munich apartment.

The treasure trove includes previously unknown works by masters such as Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse.

Officials now face a daunting challenge: to identify the art, determine its legal situation and find the rightful owners.

So far, officials said they have done at least preliminary research on only about 500 of the pieces.



The apartment in an upscale Munich district was searched in February 2012 as part of a tax investigation that started with a random check by customs officers on passengers taking a Zurich-Munich train in late 2010.

No charges have been filed. Germany has been on the hunt for tax cheats for several years after stolen bank records showed that thousands of German citizens had bank accounts in Switzerland.

The 121 framed and 1,285 unframed paintings were found in one room at the apartment, where they were "professionally stored and in a very good condition," said Siegfried Kloeble, head of the customs investigations office in Munich.



The collection includes works by 20th-century Masters such as Pablo Picasso, Max Liebermann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and earlier works by artists including Auguste Renoir.

Prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz told reporters in the Bavarian city of Augsburg that investigators have turned up "concrete evidence" the find includes both works that Nazis classed as "degenerate art" and seized from German museums in 1937 or shortly after, and other works that may have been taken from individuals.