Awaiting heart surgery, 81-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt was lamenting the German government's seizure of his art collection, which he called his "only love." He then had his lawyers draft a will to name an heir to his billion-dollars worth of art. Gurlitt's will was a "snub to his native land," reports the Wall Street Journal.
A few months later, Gurlitt's death on May 5 came with a will revealing his intention to leave the artworks to the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland, after provenance research determined which were works legally owned and which were Nazi loot to be returned to rightful owners.
For decades a recluse in a Munich apartment, Gurlitt felt betrayed by Bavaria, and Germany, for taking his collection. He wanted his art out of Germany.
Gurlitt's guardian and lawyers say his other concern was to burnish his father's name. Hidlebrandt Gurlitt had worked with the Nazis even though he opposed them secretly, or so claimed his son. He wanted to save the art, much of it deemed "degenerate," and his son became the caretaker of some 1,400 artworks, some with dubious backgrounds.