The Impact of the Gurlitt Collection on The Restitution of Nazi-looted Art in the 21st Century

Brandt, Isabel
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University of Guelph

This thesis examines the history and contemporary significance of the Gurlitt Collection, which was formed in part through Nazis looting during the Second World War. The collection demonstrates the wide array of works of art looted, the individuals and institutions that were affected by these thefts, the complexity of the return process upon the discovery of the works, and the pitfalls within the current legal frameworks that make restitution difficult to achieve. I argue that this case demonstrates unacknowledged complexity related to Nazi-related art theft. The discovery of the Gurlitt Hoard led to a legislative reform of the German Civil Code in an effort to help private individuals and entities navigate and find justice through the restitution process. Further, the discovery of the collection has reignited a debate surrounding the impact of Nazi looting and the responsibility of countries and institutions to address the long-term ramifications of this systematic plundering. Finally, the discovery of the Hoard has highlighted the questionable practices within art industries and the work museums must do to ensure they are not holding Nazi-looted art in their collections.

Art and restitution, The Gurlitt Collection, The Holocaust, Nazi Cultural Campaign, Nazi-looted art