No scent of roses

The discovery of 1,400 art works hoarded by the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, one of Nazi Germany’s infamous art dealers, draws back the curtain on a murky period.

A great deal of art owned by Europe’s Jews was acquired by the Nazis at knock-down prices in return for exit visas or simply confiscated when they were sent to the camps.

But Hitler, a failed artist whose work had been rejected in Vienna in favour of modern art, had his revenge by declaring such art unfit for display in Aryan galleries.

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Goebbels used dealers such as Gurlitt to sell modern works abroad but this became almost impossible when war broke out and dealers were left with these priceless pieces.

Peace brought Russia’s Trophy Brigades confiscating millions of artworks, plus senior British and American officers using bomber aircraft to carry off their private booty.

No-one comes out of the 1933–45 period smelling of roses, and I have some sympathy – but not much – for German dealers who hid these collections from Allied looters.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews