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Trove of Nazi-looted art reported found in Munich apartment

BERLIN — The German government said Monday that it had been informed months ago about a valuable trove of art discovered in a Munich apartment, which a German magazine describes as a collection of hundreds of works confiscated by the Nazis or sold cheaply by people desperate to leave Germany.

The magazine, Focus, which broke the story Sunday, said the roughly $1.4 billion worth of artwork had been discovered in 2011 in the possession of the son of an art dealer who was among the few authorized by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, to sell confiscated works for the Nazis.

Focus said the collection included paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, and that the trove was found customs officials investigating the art dealer’s son, Cornelius Gurlitt, for suspected tax evasion.

“The federal government was informed several months ago about the case,” Steffen Seibert, a government spokesman said Monday. Neither Seibert nor a spokesman for the finance ministry had any information about claims on the works.

Focus said the collection is being held in a facility in Garching, near Munich, by the Bavarian customs authorities. They declined to comment Monday.

—Alison Smale, The New York Times

Vaccine approved for brain fever

The World Health Organization has approved a new vaccine for a strain of encephalitis that kills thousands of children and leaves many survivors with permanent brain damage. The move allows U.N. agencies and other donors to buy it.

The disease, called Japanese encephalitis or brain fever, is caused by a mosquito-transmitted virus that can live in pigs, birds and humans. Less than 1 percent of those infected get seriously ill, but it kills up to 15,000 children a year and disables many more. Up to 4 billion people, from southern Russia to the Pacific islands, are at risk; it is more prevalent near rice paddies.

There is no cure.

The low-cost vaccine, approved last month, is the first authorized by the agency for children and the first Chinese-made vaccine it has approved.

It is made by China National Biotec Group and was tested by PATH, a nonprofit group in Seattle with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general, said she hoped that approval would encourage other vaccine makers from China and elsewhere to enter the field.

China had given the vaccine domestically to 200 million children over many years but had never sought WHO approval.

India, which previously bought 88 million doses from China, launched the first locally produced version last month.

—Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times