Posted by: Gregoryno6 | November 10, 2013

World War 2 has not given up all its secrets yet: an unexpected sequel.

An investigation by the tax department in Germany yielded a bittersweet surprise. Namely, 1,400 Nazi-looted works of art.

The collection spanned several centuries, but artists condemned by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’ are prominent in the collection. Picasso, Matisse, and Otto Dix are represented.

The man who ‘owned’ the collection, Cornelius Gurlitt, has disappeared. Gurlitt’s father was employed by the Nazis as an art buyer and, according to testimony from friends, saved many of the so-called degenerate pieces from destruction.

The story of the Gurlitts calls to mind Colonel von Waldheim, the Nazi art lover in The Train. Possibly the elder Gurlitt was an inspiration for the character; they share a very possessive desire for these forbidden works.

The paintings are mine! They will always belong to me or to a man like me.

The paintings are mine! They will always belong to me or to a man like me.

As you say, mein Colonel.

As you say, my dear Colonel.








Gurlitt Junior inherited both his father’s collection and his “mine, all mine” attitude. He was so intensely secretive about the collection – much of which was ‘acquired’ from Jewish families during the war – that none of his own family were aware of it.

He’s said I am the one that has something unique that nobody has. Not you and not you, and I’m not prepared to show these treasures, all my treasures, all my babies. I don’t want to show it to anybody.

There is evidence however that others in the art world had an inkling at least of the Gurlitt treasure trove. Cornelius was not above selling a piece here and there to support himself.

Gurlitt’s apartment has been stripped of its prizes in much the same way that von Waldheim stripped Mlle Villard’s art gallery. Legal disputes over ownership will probably keep them in their boxes for another 70 years.

And now for a shameful war story much closer to home…

As the Abbott government begins to take on union power and corruption, a timely new book reveals the union movement’s role in one of the most shameful periods of Australian history.

What the wharfies did to Australian troops – and their nation’s war effort – between 1939 and 1945 is nothing short of an abomination.

Perth author and lawyer Hal Colebatch has brought a dirty history into the light of day.

Australian soldiers at the front faced an enemy with weapons at the front and sabotage at home. Supplies were denied and equipment was destroyed. Even when they returned from the war, exhausted and desperate, the Diggers were not to be spared.

One of the most obscene acts occurred in October, 1945, at the end of the war, after Australian soldiers were released from Japanese prison camps. They were half dead, starving and desperate for home. But when the British aircraft-carrier HMS Speaker brought them into Sydney Harbour, the wharfies went on strike. For 36 hours, the soldiers were forced to remain on-board, tantalisingly close to home. This final act of cruelty from their countrymen was their thanks for all the sacrifice.

The dock workers followed their union leaders, who in turn took their cues from Moscow. There was disruption of other industries too.

American forces based in Australia during WW2 sometimes took matters into their own hands. On the Adelaide docks, wharfies took delight in smashing airplane engines; American soldiers gave them a corrective by firing machine guns over their heads.

The Australian Labor Party was out of government for nearly twenty-five years after the war. It’s reasonable to assume that this campaign of sabotage embittered not only soldiers but also some dock workers against the ALP.

Mr Colebatch’s book is available here. There’s a brief interview with him on youtube.


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