Jump to content
Your browser is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this websites. Learn how to update your browser[Close]

Nazi loot

Gurlitt art bequest a ‘win-win’ says media

Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts has done the right thing, say media pundits (Keystone)

Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts has done the right thing, say media pundits


The Swiss media has generally welcomed the decision by the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern to accept the controversial collection of art from Cornelius Gurlitt – some of which was looted by Nazis during the Holocaust. 

“Mainly winners in Gurlitt bequest” ran the headline of Tuesday’s commentary in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. It described the outcome as “exemplary in terms of provenance research” and in dealings with claims from German museums and private parties asking that their stolen works be returned.

Gurlitt deal

According to the agreement between Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts, Germany and the state of Bavaria, all of the works that were once confiscated as “degenerate art” will go to the museum in Bern.

All works, however, that are suspected to have been stolen in one way or another will remain in Germany for now and be returned to the descendants of their former owners if possible.

“It is also exemplary that Germany and Switzerland have, once again, found a quick and easy solution. That hasn’t always been the case, for example, regarding the tax dispute,” continued the Tages-Anzeiger

“It is a ‘win-win’ situation as everyone fulfilled their responsibilities,” Bernard Fibicher, director of the Lausanne Museum of Fine Arts, told the French-language newspaper Le Temps, adding that the whole Gurlitt affair had brought the museum unexpected but valuable publicity at the international level.

He also raised the issue of the cost of restoring some of the art works.

A must-see

The French-language Tribune de Genève and 24 heures both stated that these works should now be put on display and their history confronted. 

“You have to look at them with their stigmas and teachings about the perversion of art by a totalitarian regime,” insisted both papers. 

Fibicher, however, told Le Temps he was worried that an exhibition of the Gurlitt collection would bring a voyeuristic public attracted by “Nazi treasures” – visitors with no real interest in learning and reflecting more deeply.

Looking ahead, the German-language Der Bund speculated that the Gurlitt case “could be the trigger and catalyst for a new and just handling of Nazi-looted art – also in Switzerland – where, despite the Washington Principles – the will to look into stolen art has been rather modest”.

It went on to note that pieces sold by Jews in a desperate attempt to raise getaway funds might also fall into the category of stolen art.

The Tages-Anzeiger identified one potential loser: Gurlitt’s relatives, one of whom is planning to challenge the museum.

International notice

“Cornelius Gurlitt’s haunted treasure trove of art needs to be seen” stated the headline from the British Guardian.

It argued: “The art is innocent. It deserves to be seen. Whatever the tangle of crime and cruelty that lay behind Cornelius Gurlitt’s strange inheritance of a secret art collection from his father, who had worked for the Nazis as an art dealer … Bern has bravely taken on the challenge of doing justice to the art and its rightful owners.”

The New York Times said that art experts and historians were hoping that the museum’s “pledge of openness in handling the Gurlitt bequest would set a new tone for dealing with future discoveries of looted artworks” – noting that Jewish groups said the bequest gave the museum a chance to set a new standard.

“This is an opportunity for the Swiss to stand up and do the right thing, and set an example for other countries in Europe,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Jewish Claims Conference.



All rights reserved. The content of the website by swissinfo.ch is copyrighted. It is intended for private use only. Any other use of the website content beyond the use stipulated above, particularly the distribution, modification, transmission, storage and copying requires prior written consent of swissinfo.ch. Should you be interested in any such use of the website content, please contact us via contact@swissinfo.ch.

As regards the use for private purposes, it is only permitted to use a hyperlink to specific content, and to place it on your own website or a website of third parties. The swissinfo.ch website content may only be embedded in an ad-free environment without any modifications. Specifically applying to all software, folders, data and their content provided for download by the swissinfo.ch website, a basic, non-exclusive and non-transferable license is granted that is restricted to the one-time downloading and saving of said data on private devices. All other rights remain the property of swissinfo.ch. In particular, any sale or commercial use of these data is prohibited.