George Clooney‘s upcoming “Monuments Men,” about stolen Nazi art, suddenly feels very timely: The German government says it has found a trove of paintings from Picasso, Matisse, and others that may have been confiscated by the Nazis.
The German magazine Focus reports that the works were in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of an art dealer who was authorized by Hitler’s propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, to sell art the Nazis stole. The German government said Monday it was informed months ago about the discovery, the New York Times reported.
Hundreds of works, which Focus said also included paintings by Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, were reportedly found in 2011 by customs officials investigating Gurlitt for suspected tax evasion. The magazine estimated their worth at roughly $1.4 billion.
“The federal government was informed several months ago about the case,” said Steffen Seibert, a government spokesman.
Now begins the daunting task of trying to reunite the art with any surviving owners, or their survivors. The government said it had no information about claims on the works.
Focus said customs authorities are holding the paintings. Authorities were expected to discuss the case with reporters on Tuesday.
Focus said customs officials found the art after searching the possessions of a man traveling by train from Zurich to Germany in September 2010. They discovered €9,000 in €500 notes. They soon determined that the man had lived unregistered for decades in Munich, where his apartment was eventually searched in 2011.
His connection to Gurlitt was unclear.
“Monuments Men” is based on the true story of an Allied platoon that entered Germany near the end of World War II to rescue artwork confiscated by the Nazis and return it to its owners.