Hitler’s Art Thief

The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was – he didn’t have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not exist. He had been hard-wired into a life of shadows and secrecy by his own father long before he had inherited his art collection built on the spoliation of museums and Jews during Hitler’s Third Reich.

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The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was – he didn’t have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not exist. He had been hard-wired into a life of shadows and secrecy by his own father long before he had inherited his art collection built on the spoliation of museums and Jews during Hitler’s Third Reich.

The ensuing media frenzy unleashed international calls for restitution, unsettled international relations, and rocked the art world. Ronald reveals in this stranger than fiction tale how Hildebrand Gurlitt succeeded in looting in the name of the Third Reich, duping the Monuments Men and the Nazis alike. As an “official dealer” for Hitler and Goebbels, Hildebrand Gurlitt became one of the Third Reich’s most prolific art looters. Yet he stole from Hitler too, allegedly to save modern art. This is the untold story of Hildebrand Gurlitt, who stole more than art – he stole lives, too.

 

  • The New Yorker

    [A] riveting portrait of Gurlitt, who detested the Nazis, and stole from them, but did their bidding in the name of ‘saving modern art’

  • USA Today

    “Susan Ronald tells the back story of what may be the most startling art-world bust in modern history.”

  • Amanda Foreman

    “Absolutely gripping from start to finish. Susan Ronald holds nothing back as she lays bare in merciless detail the cunning, greed and hypocrisy that allowed Hitler's willing accomplices, like the notorious Hildebrand Gurlitt, to feed off human misery to their heart's content. Everyone should read this book.”

“Ronald situates Gurlitt’s life and career amid the turmoil of Weimar Germany and then the evolution of Nazi art-looting campaigns from the late 1930s to the end of World War II, [adding] many new details about Gurlitt’s dealings.”

The Wall Street Journal

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