Hoard of artworks looted by Nazis discovered in Munich - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 4 November

A hoard of about 1,500 valuable works of art, looted by the Nazis more than 70 years ago, has been found in a flat in the German city of Munich, it was reported this weekend.


Hoard of artworks looted by Nazis discovered in Munich

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 4 November


William Stewart

A hoard of about 1,500 valuable works of art, looted by the Nazis more than 70 years ago, has been found in a flat in the German city of Munich, it was reported this weekend.

The collection includes paintings by artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. German officials said that the hoard could be worth as much as 1 billion euros (£856 million).

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has estimated that the Nazis seized more than 16,000 works of art while they were in power. Most were taken during the Second World War when the Germans occupied much of Europe.

The collection uncovered in Munich was found hidden in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of a prominent art dealer.

Hildebrandt Gurlitt was an associate of the Nazi leadership who is thought to have acquired works of art deemed “degenerate” by the regime that largely came from Jewish collectors. The Nazis banned such pieces for being un-German or for being the work of Jewish artists. Some were confiscated or destroyed; others were sold to collectors like Gurlitt for very low prices.

The Munich find was made in early 2011 but has only now been revealed by the German magazine Focus. The discovery came about by chance when the authorities investigating Cornelius Gurlitt on suspicion of tax evasion obtained a warrant to search his flat.

The artworks were found stashed behind tins and packets of food. It is understood that at least 200 of the pieces were on international lists of missing art treasures.

Some of them are reported to have been part of the 1937 Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich, put on by the Nazis to demonstrate to the public the kind of art that they felt showed “decadence” and “racial impurity”.

News of the find comes in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of two key events in the Nazi era.

On 9 November 1938, Jewish communities in Germany and Austria were subject to a wave of coordinated attacks by Nazi paramilitary troops and Gentile civilians. The event became known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass: a reference to the shards that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned buildings and synagogues had been smashed.

The events of that night prompted an international effort to evacuate Jewish children from Germany and the countries it occupied, known as the Kindertransport. The first party arrived in Harwich, south-east England, on 2 December 1938. The rescue mission continued for nine months until the outbreak of war, saving nearly 10,000 lives.

More than 1 million young people under the age of 16 were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.



Questions

1. What crimes are associated with the Nazi Party?
2. Why might Nazis have wanted to steal expensive artworks from Jewish art dealers?
3. Discuss the significance of finding works of art that were once thought to be lost.
4. Why do we consider some works of art to be very important?


Related resources


The birth of the Nazi Party

  • Discover the origins of the Nazi Party and learn about the rise of Adolf Hitler with this engaging lesson.

Nazi timeline

  • This detailed timeline resource contains images, video links and plenty of information about the rise and fall of the Nazi regime.

Teaching resources for Kristallnacht

  • Teach your students about the significance of the devastating events of Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass.

Kindertransport by Diane Samuels

  • Explore the reality of the Kindertransport initiative through this moving play by Diane Samuels.


Further news resources


First News front page

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Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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