Detail from a Pablo Picasso painting, some of which were found in a private stash of 1500 paintings that had once been seized by the Nazis. Photo: AFP
Munich: A private stash of 1500 paintings seized by the Nazis, including works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, has been found in Germany, a news magazine has reported.
Customs investigators found the missing art more than two years ago in the dusty, rubbish-filled Munich apartment of an 80-year-old man, but this was not disclosed at the time, Focus reported.
Prosecutors would not confirm or deny the story to DPA.
The Nazis seized vast hoards of fine art during their 12 years in power and some of it remains missing. While some items were destroyed in bombing raids, it has always been suspected many items are in private hands. Focus estimated the stash was worth 1 billion euros ($A1.45 billion).
The art once belonged to Jewish collectors, who were forced to sell it for a pittance before the Holocaust, or it was confiscated by Nazi censors from galleries because it was allegedly "degenerate".
Investigators raided the Munich apartment in early 2011 after its occupant was found carrying undeclared cash on a train from Switzerland to Germany, Focus said. The art was taken away to a secure customs storage depot.
Focus said a Berlin art historian had been retained to investigate where the art came from and its value.
The magazine said the apartment owner's father had been an art dealer who acquired the paintings in the 1930s and 1940s. The son had kept them for 50 years in homemade wooden shelves in dirty, darkened rooms and had lived from selling the paintings occasionally.
He was under investigation for tax evasion, with prosecutors in Augsburg handling the case, Focus said.
Under German law, most art acquisitions made under Nazi duress have to be reversed and the heirs of the original owners can reclaim the art.