Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TRUE CRIME TUESDAY for November 19, 2013

German Refuses To Surrender Looted Art

The man whose apartment held 1500 works of art, some of which may have been looted by the Nazis during World War II, is refusing to cooperate with authorities to return them to their rightful owners. About 500 of the works may be stolen, including masterpieces by Matisse and Chagall.

It gets worse.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, "he is the owner of the artwork until proven otherwise". Cornelius Gurlitt reportedly told the German magazine Der Spiegel that he would not even discuss the matter with police. His refusal will make it far more difficult to reunite the stolen art with the rightful owners.

The art was seized two years ago as part of a tax fraud investigation, but the public only learned about them a few weeks ago. Countries around the world have been critical of the handling of the discovery, saying that Germany hasn't done nearly enough to return the looted art.

For his part, the 80 year old art collector says that he is a hero for saving the works from being destroyed by the Nazis. He was furious when the authorities displayed some of them to reporters, claiming they had no right to show "his private property".

You can see samples of some of the seized artwork here.

Recognize anything?

You can read more about this strange tale, including the allied soldiers who were assigned to search for such stolen art in the closing days of the war, at this link.

Book Burning Still Stirs Hard Feelings Forty Years Later

It was 40 years ago this November that the school board in Drake, North Dakota received one single complaint about a school assignment. What happened next made the town famous, or rather, infamous.

A new teacher had assigned some novels to read, including Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and James Dickey's Deliverance. After the complaint, the books were removed. The teacher had some defenders but, as an outsider in a small town, most of the citizens stood against him.

Then the books were burned. The outcry was immediate. The image of book burning was worsened by the fact that one of the works, the now classic Slaughterhouse-Five, was inspired by the author's experience as a survivor in the horrendous fire bombing of Dresden, which killed tens of thousands of civilians and burned the city to the ground.

Obviously, the people responsible for making this decision didn't bother to read the book. At the time, none of the school board seemed to understand the impact their action would create. But in hindsight, Superintendent Furhman said "it would have been better to just store them".

The teacher, Bruce Severy, resented by the town folk who blamed him for the outcry, left for Fargo with his family after his contract was not renewed and his pupils re-assigned to another class.

Today, people in town don't like to discuss the matter with outsiders. Probably for the best. None of us like to dwell on our blunders, especially when they make the national news.

To this day, the town library doesn't have a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five or Deliverance on its shelves.  But did you know that donations of used books is tax-deductible as a gift to charity? Let me know if you want the library's address.

Tip of the Week - Don't Rob a Gun Store If You're Armed With a Baseball Bat

The headline pretty much says it all, but if you'd like to read more, here's the link.

I will add this. If you're looking for your 15 minutes of fame in life, there are better ways to get it. Um, actually, all of them are better. Write a book, save a life, run for public office, volunteer at your favorite charity, start a blog (I may try this one, myself). Patent an invention, even if it's something that may only wind up being pitched on late night infomercials. And have some fun along the way.  Life is short.

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