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INFO VINE * The History of The Monuments Men *

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Post by Paul Wed 24 Jan 2024, 6:43 am

The History of The Monuments Men






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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]
When the Second World War broke out on September 1st, 1939, numerous aspects of every country in the world were in danger. The people, economy, and culture all around the world were being threatened by the Axis powers such as Germany, Italy, and Japan. The United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union were the Allies who tried to stop the reign of many evil men such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. 

With war comes great tragedy, and since the end of the war in 1945, this war has been reflected on in almost every history book. Even though the Monuments Men were a significant part of the war, they are scarcely learned about. Without this group of men and women, cultural artifacts from around the world would have been lost forever. 





The Monuments Men Consisted Of Men And Women 


Pictured below is the famous painting by Jan Vermeer, The Astronomer, which is one of the thousands of pieces of art that the Monuments Men had recovered. The Monuments Men and their journeys were not highly documented, so finding a photo of a group of these war heroes can be difficult. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Leemage/Corbis/Getty Images]


345 men and women from 14 nations were united before, during, and after the war in order to find, protect, and preserve famous art from all around the world. Adolf Hitler in particular was out to steal famous art so that he could collect it for himself and went through extensive measures in order to do so. 


Preserving The Art Was A Dangerous Job 


Over 75 million people died in World War II, including soldiers and civilians. Most deaths were from bombings, massacres, and other brutal acts of war. This being said, it's hard to imagine that hundreds of untrained people went into war in order to preserve significant works of art. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Michael Nicholson/Corbis/Getty Images]


The Monuments Men would put themselves directly in danger whether it be with the militia who wanted to kill them or entering salt mines that could easily collapse on them. From before, during, and after the war, only two Monuments Men died in combat. This proves that even though they weren't trained soldiers, they were intelligent people who usually survived after finding historic pieces of art. 


New York Was Important To The Monuments Men 


New York was a flourishing cosmopolitan area at the time of the war, and it only grew more as the need for war equipment arose. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland in September of 1939, the Allies became very concerned with the well-being of life, along with the historic art that told stories from millennia ago. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]


A German order had been sent out to create a plane that could fly a five-ton bomb to New York, and this is when officials became concerned with losing art. After Hitler declared war in 1941, museums in New York began to take safety precautions while also arming and protecting historical artifacts. Hundreds of truckloads of art were also shipped to New York for safekeeping and structures such as metal racks were built in order to store the art carefully. 


Members Were From All Around The World 


The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt is pictured below, one of many pieces of history that the Monuments Men had rescued. The people who rescued cultural art were located from all around the world, for many art historians, museum curators, and artists did not want to see human history erased. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Imagno/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images]


Members from Belgium, France, the United States, Great Britain, and many other places around the world had people who found and protected art. This diverse group of people worked together for the sake of preserving some of Europe's most well-known and oldest art. 


There Was A Mixture Of Professions Involved


Art conservationists, art historians, architects, librarians, and artists among many other professions were all involved in World War II. Most of them had no experience in war and the ones that did brought great assets to the team. People were struggling daily to stay alive, yet these people risked their lives in order to preserve artifacts that we can continue to enjoy today.


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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]


Pictured above is a famous painting by El Greco, one of the hundreds that the Monuments Men had recovered over their span of active duty. When the Nazis and other Axis powers began to loot historical museums, this group of 345 people fearlessly went into the war because they realized how important art was to society.


President Roosevelt Approved The Organization 


The Monuments Men had begun recovering and protecting art before the war started, but they did not become an official organization until June of 1943. President Roosevelt had approved this establishment and the State Department had proceeded to set it up as people from art-related professions were recruited.  


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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


A reason the Axis powers wanted to destroy this art was that they had included the idea as a significant part of their extermination plan. Ironically enough, most of the art was not destroyed, but it was looted, collected, and occasionally sold for millions of dollars.


Over 5 Million Pieces Of Art Were Saved


Countless portraits, paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and other types of art were recovered over the few years that the Monuments Men were active. As soon as Hitler started to talk of war, these people had started taking precautions and creating plans in order to protect the art.


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Photo Courtesy: [National Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


The Monuments Men were active before, during, and numerous years after the war in order to recover and restore art that the Nazis had looted. In total, over 5 million pieces of art were saved because of these 345 people, and the art that they couldn't find was at least documented so that people can still continue to look for it today.


The Monuments Men Continued Even After The War Was Over 


Many courageous Monuments Men continued to stay in places like Germany, Japan, Italy, and Austria when the war had come to an end because of the passion that they had for their duties.


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Photo Courtesy: [Photo12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]


The Nazis looted millions of pieces of art and stashed them all around the world, so it is to no surprise that some members stayed in other countries for up to six years. In these years they had made sure that the art was being returned to its rightful place in a timely and safe manner.


People Are Still Looking For Art


The Axis powers made significant strides in stealing famous historical art and it was one of many main priorities that they had had on their missions. Sometimes they would find clever hiding places, and that is a reason that attributes to why some art pieces are yet to be found.


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Photo Courtesy: [Kurt Rohwedder/picture alliance/Getty Images]


Pictured above is one of these pieces of art being presented in 1963, so art was being found decades later, and some have even been found in recent years. There's an extensive list of art that may be missing available online so that anyone and everyone can contribute to helping find these irreplaceable artifacts. 


"Monuments Men" Is A Nickname 


This group of extraordinary people went by many names, but the official name of the organization was the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section, which was developed by the State Department when it got President Roosevelt's approval.


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]


These people also went by the nicknames of the Venus Fixers or Monuments Men throughout the years. This organization was a part of the United States Army Civil Affairs and Military Government Division.


Why Hitler Did Not Leave The Art Alone


One of Hitler's main goals was to exterminate anyone and everything that did not fit his image of perfection. His mission was to purify the world, which he did so by murdering mass amounts of people and destroying many locations on Earth. A part of this destruction also included all the historical art that told stories from countries all around the world. Pictured below are sculptures created by a famous Jewish-Italian artist. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Laura Lezza/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images]


Despite him wanting to "purify" everything, he wanted the art because he wanted to collect it for himself. Hitler's goal was to create a massive museum containing all the beautiful and historical art that he stole from around the world, and to display it with great affection. 


Nazi's Records Of Art Was Used Against Them 


After the war ended, people were set out on obtaining justice for all the horrible acts that were committed by the Axis powers. A result of this was the creation of The Nuremberg Trials, which was where hundreds of people who were a part of the Nazi Party faced a judge, and where many were either sentenced to death or put in prison for life.


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Photo Courtesy: [Daniel Karmann/picture alliance/Getty Images]


During the war, the Nazi Party had documented numerous pieces of art that they had either stolen or planned to steal. With having physical copies of these documents, they were readily collected and used against them in these trials as sufficient evidence.


A Toothache Led To Valuable Information 


The Axis powers hid art in a myriad of places, and one of the largest locations was discovered because of a toothache. When two Monuments Men were on duty, one of them needed treatment by a dentist, and a secret was revealed when the dentist introduced them to his son-in-law.


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Photo Courtesy: [Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images]


His son-in-law was guilty of helping the Nazis steal hundreds of pieces of art, yet he wanted redemption and was trying to make it to Paris for his and his family's safety. Upon meeting the Monuments Men, he had told them about Hitler's stash in the Altaussee salt mines.


They Received The Highest Civilian Honor 


In October of 2015, all members of the Monuments Men had received the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian honor that someone could receive. Although many members had passed away at this point, they were still remembered and appreciated at this time.


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Photo Courtesy: [Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images]


The United States Congress had presented the medal, and on this day all 345 members and 14 nations that were involved in this organization were remembered and honored for all the sacrifices that they had made.


The Nazis' Thoughts On Art


The Nazis believed in the Aryan race, and anyone who did not fit under this category was considered a degenerate. According to the Nazi Party, these degenerates and everything that they were involved in was better off being destroyed.


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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


Their belief in these principles was incredibly strong, yet when they got their hands on the art that these people had made, their first instinct was not to destroy it. Despite them hating the people who made the art, the Nazis went to great lengths in order to steal and protect it for themselves.


Nazis Sold Art To Fund War 


The Nazis had many reasons behind their desire to obtain Europe's most historical pieces of art. Some wanted it in order to display their power and wealth, while others wanted to sell it to make loads of money.


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Photo Courtesy: [Photo12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]


Documentation has shown that Nazis would steal the art and then sell it amongst themselves for their own personal collections and steal it in order to fulfill Hitler's dream of having his own art museum. Some of this stolen art was also sold for an astronomical amount of money, with the money then being used to fund the war (equipment, food, supplies) for the Axis powers.


This Position Is Still Active In The United States Army Civil Affairs


This organization had done wonders for cultures all around the world as they risked their lives to find and protect historical art. The members were active for over 10 years at the time of the war, and even though they aren't mentioned a lot in history, they are one of the most important formations of Allied people that helped lessen the severity of the war.


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Photo Courtesy: [Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images]


The Monuments Men was a new idea to the world that had developed in a time of great tragedy. With them playing such an instrumental part in World War II, it is easy to see how the organization was never shut down; it is still active in the United States Army Civil Affairs, for some art is still lost, and if there were to be another war, preserving and protecting historical art would still be a major concern.


The Monuments Men Saved Art From Europe And Asia


For many years, the Monuments Men had put their lives at risk in order to search all across Europe and Asia to search for the art that Nazis had stolen. They made it their goal to find, preserve, and protect art that had been treasured for years and pieces that told stories of the past.


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Photo Courtesy: [OFF/AFP/Getty Images]


It is important to note that the Monuments Men were not just searching for paintings; there are countless forms of art that they were trying to save, including historical buildings like cathedrals. The giant scavenger hunt for the lost pieces continued well after the war, and some of the art in Europe and Asia is yet to be found.


A Diverse Amount Of Art Was Protected


When thinking about saving art, the first thing that comes to mind is historical paintings. Yet it is important to remember that Nazis stole from museums that held a large amount of other cultural artifacts. Paintings, sculptures, and crafts were all sought after, along with other historically significant pieces like famous cathedrals.


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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


Religious relics, sculptures, furniture, manuscripts, books, tapestries, scrolls, paintings, and church bells were the main categories of art that Nazis wanted to steal, and the main categories that the Monuments Men were trying to protect from the cruelness of war (bombing, massacres, thievery). 


The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg Was The Group Who Stole Art


Alfred Rosenberg, a leader in the Nazi party, had created the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in 1940. This organization was established solely in order to skillfully steal art from around the world for Hitler's museum. The members took great care with keeping up with record-keeping and the documentation of which artworks they had stolen.


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Photo Courtesy: [Pierre Jahan/Roger Viollet/Getty Images]


This organization had documented everything about the artwork in leather-bound books. These physical documentations were later used against them to prosecute them for their actions in the name of the law.


The Parisian Museum Was Where A Lot Of Stolen Art Resided 


The Nazi Party would have particular hiding places in many different countries in order to stash all of their stolen art. Different museums, mines, and castles among other famous places were taken control of and used to play out the Nazis' thievery scheme.


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Photo Courtesy: [Photo12/UIG/Getty Images]


Pictured above is the Parisian Museum, which is located in Paris, France. The museum itself is of historical significance, for it was created in 1793, and the Nazi Party used it extensively to stash art. By 1945, the ERR had stolen and stashed over 2,000 pieces of art in this museum, 300 of those pieces being paintings.


Art Was Hidden In Salt Mines


Hitler established numerous hiding spots throughout the countryside once he realized that salt mines had ideal conditions to store art in. Not only was the climate good for most types of art, but the mines were also dangerous, and he thought that that may have stopped the Allied powers from attempting to retrieve the cultural artifacts.


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Photo Courtesy: [National Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


One of the main mines that Hitler stashed art in was in Austria, and when it was found, the Monuments Men took truckload after truckload of the pieces to a safe place until it could be returned to the rightful owner. Pictured above are two members of the Monuments Men loading up art from a salt mine in order to ship it to an Allied power's safe hiding spot.


Hermann Göring Had Massive Amounts Of Art


Hermann Göring was Hitler's right-hand man and was a leading figure in politics and war at the time of World War II. Hermann had taken over 1,000 pieces of art and by 1945 his collection was worth 200 million dollars. Most of the art he had stolen was from France and was secretly stored in Germany.


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Photo Courtesy: [Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


The Nazis were careless with the art and took it as they pleased, yet Allied forces around the world were trying to save and preserve it. After the war, Hermann Göring was charged with multiple crimes and was sentenced to death.


The Art That The Allies Were Trying To Save


The art that the Monuments Men were trying to save was sacred all around the world because of its beauty and age. Art is a form of storytelling, and the Allied forces did not want to see the culture of many countries be destroyed forever.


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Photo Courtesy: [Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images]


Works from famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Gustave Courbet, and hundreds of other artists were at risk of the start of World War II. These artists had created sculptures, paintings, and other works of art that could withstand time if they were properly preserved, which was the duty of the Monuments Men to fulfill.


The Monuments Men Would Restore The Art


The members of this organization were highly skilled and talented in different areas of work. Most of them were art lovers, historians, and conservationists, and the act of preserving the stolen art was rightfully put in the hands of the Monuments Men. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Office of War Information/PhotoQuest/Getty Images]


Some art would accumulate damage as it was taken out of museums, let alone when it was put in secret hiding spots like salt mines. A lot of the art that was recovered needed repairs, and this is where the expertise of some of the Monuments Men really benefited the idea and actions of saving and recovering all the art that the Nazis had stolen.


The Monuments Men Were Not Soldiers 


One of the most interesting parts of this organization is that it was formed at the time of war, yet many of the members were not trained as soldiers. This is mainly due to a lack of time and resources, yet thankfully some of the members did fight in previous wars and did have war experience. With this in mind, hundreds of people put themselves at high risk by not knowing about war but continued to proceed on the mission of saving art.


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]


The Monuments Men and their duties would have been more respected if they were officially part of the military at the start, yet particularly after the war, they were universally recognized for their work especially because they weren't soldiers. Another reason why the organization had such success was that they had a diverse team of people who had had many different life experiences.


How They Hid The Mona Lisa


The Mona Lisa was painted in 1503 by the Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci. It is the most famous painting in the world for it is the most well-known and most visited. The main reason why the painting is so popular is that it is done so well. The portrait looks very realistic, and Leonardo shows that he understands anatomy and how to portray someone to look very real in a painting.


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Photo Courtesy: [Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images]


With this being said, protecting the Mona Lisa was one of the most important jobs for the Allied forces. The painting was stolen by Nazi forces and kept in a salt mine until it was recovered by the Monuments Men. Overall, the painting was moved six times in order to keep it protected once it was in the hands of Allied forces, and it returned to its original museum after the end of the war.


Members Were Busy With Documentation 


The Monuments Men realized since the beginning of their mission that it was of great importance to keep documents on all the paintings; they had developed a list of paintings that were missing and ones that were to be found. This was essential by the end of the war because it allowed people to continue looking for art even after Germany surrendered.


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Photo Courtesy: [Pierre Jahan/Roger Viollet/Getty Images]


These documents would include any information that the Monuments Men had on the paintings or works of art. Much of the information that the Monuments Men had was collected from the Nazis; the Nazis had over 39 photo albums that documented their thievery, which highly benefited the Allied powers after the war.


A Member Worked At The Parisian Jeu de Paume Museum


Rose Valland is a legend when talking about the Monuments Men, and without her not near as many art pieces would have been recovered during World War II. Rose was an intelligent art historian and she had worked at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris before the start of the war.


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Photo Courtesy: [KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images]


Once the war had begun, the Nazis began to use that museum to store the priceless art that they had stolen. The Nazi Party kept Rose on the staff once they started using the museum, but little did they know, she spoke German and became an important spy for the Monuments Men. With having this language benefit, Rose was able to make lists, notes, and take photographs of stolen art, which still helps the organization today.


The Bust At Altaussee


One year before the war ended, the Monuments Men had gotten a lead from a German soldier about a critical location that Hitler had used to store art. The organization had learned about Hitler's secret stashes in salt mines, for the salt mines were a perfect climate in order to preserve the paintings.


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Photo Courtesy: [Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


In the Altaussee mine alone, the Monuments Men discovered 6,577 paintings, 2,300 drawings, 954 prints, and 137 sculptures. There were a few cool, humid mines that Hitler had used and Altaussee was one of the most massive storage places that the organization had uncovered.


Dwight D. Eisenhower Played A Role 


Dwight D. Eisenhower had an essential role in the Monuments Men organization. Especially being a General in the war, Dwight had a lot of experiences that had allowed the members to discover important art.


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Dwight had a strong belief in the idea of the Monuments Men and showed that repeatedly throughout the war. After the war had ended, the organization had a goal to return all of the stolen art to its owners. Under the command of Dwight Eisenhower, he had led 200 men and women on a search for more art, and they were quite successful in recovering many cultural pieces that they indeed were able to return.


There Is Still Art That Is Missing


Both the Allied and Axis powers had kept detailed records of the art that had come into their possession, yet there are still over 30,000 pieces of art missing because of the Nazis' strong will to collect and hoard all of the cultural artifacts.


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Photo Courtesy: [Horace Abrahams/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


Thanks to the documents that were created during the war, society has now been able to develop an even more detailed list that is accessible to the public in order to possibly try to find any more pieces of art. It is highly likely that some of these pieces of art were destroyed or ruined, yet the search continues to this day.


Members Moved On To More Prestige Positions 


Most of the people who were a part of this organization came from an art background, whether it be history, conservation, or being a creator. Architects, librarians, and other professions were also important to the Monuments Men. After the war ended, all the members were held in remarkably high regard because of their efforts and successes during the war.


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Photo Courtesy: [Ben Martin/Archive Photos/Getty Images]


When the war ended, most of the members went on to create or be a part of very prestigious facilities. Many of the members continued their careers by becoming directors of museums or dabbling into other forms of art; the person who created the NYC ballet was a member of the organization.


The Nazis Did Not Care About Art Like The Allies Did 


Even though the Nazis heavily pursued historical art, history shows that they did not care as much about the art compared to the Allied forces. The Nazis only wanted to collect all the art to gain power and to make profits off of them. Meanwhile, the Allied forces had been concerned with historical art all around the world and its well-being.


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Moreover, the Allies took countless precautions in order to try to preserve the art. Their main strategy was to develop maps for air pilots, so that they could still proceed with war but avoid priceless historical structures such as cathedrals and museums when bombing locations.


Hitler Was Inspired By Napolean 


It is to no surprise that Adolf Hitler had admired Napoleon Bonaparte and pursued many of the ideals that he had. Napoleon is considered one of the greatest military generals of all time, especially after his role in the French Revolution. He was a man of conquest and went on to be the leader of France.


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Adolf Hitler also relates to Napoleon because Napoleon had started a national art museum where he desired to collect priceless art. This is similar to Hitler because that was one of his main motives for stealing art - to create his own museum. 


Hitler Liked Jewish Art


Adolf Hitler was a beyond evil man who conducted the mass murder of millions of people, most of whom practiced the Jewish religion, for the sake of "purifying" society. He tried to murder every person who did not fit into his definition of perfect and unfortunately succeeded, especially when he started concentration camps.


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Hitler was an artist in his younger days, so it's not too surprising that he loved and appreciated art and would use his power in order to steal historic art from around the world. It is interesting to notice the irony of Hitler's beliefs because all the art he was collecting was from the cultural backgrounds that he hated and was attempting to exterminate. For example, many of the famous artists whose pieces of works he wanted to steal were of the Jewish faith.


Many Museums Evacuated Their Art


As soon as European countries noticed that Hitler was going to declare war, they began to take many safety precautions as far as historical art. Many museums would close before dusk, and almost all of them would be guarded at night in case Hitler did a sneak attack.


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Photo Courtesy: [Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


A lot of art was shipped out of museums and into secret hiding places before and during the war so that Hitler would not even have a chance to get it. People like the Monuments Men were concerned before the war even began and if they wouldn't have started their plans to evacuate and protect when they did, countless pieces of art would have been lost forever.


The Importance Of James Rorimer


James had graduated from Harvard and was involved with museums long before the war began, and when he was drafted three years into the war, he became one of the first Monuments Men. As soon as he was drafted, he was concerned about the art and attempted to help save it in any way that he could.


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James played a part in finding the largest loots that the Monuments Men had come across, including the tens of thousands of pieces of art in the salt mines. He and Rose V. worked very closely together, and they are the reason that many of these hot spots that were full of art were found. They had met in 1944, and at first, she had a tough time trusting him, but eventually realized that he wanted to love and protect the art as much as she did, leaving her to give him important documents that she had made about the art.


Remembering George Stout 


Along with Rose and James, George was also a key member of the Monuments Men organization. George Stout was an art conservationist before he became a part of the war. As soon as the war broke out, he was one of the first advocates to push for an organization like the Monuments Men. He wanted to be able to protect the art and work closely with the military so that they would be aware of certain art and not accidentally destroy it. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images]


George had joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, and he helped create the art of preserving and restoring cultural artifacts. George had put himself in direct danger throughout the war because he would go onto battlefields or into mines in order to survey art that may have been damaged or to find art that he needed to protect. Pictured above is one of the thousands of paintings that George had rescued over his time of service. 


There Were Collection Points


By the end of the war, the Monuments Men were working tirelessly to find and return art to its rightful place. Hitler had hidden art in bunkers, salt mines, and various other places in order to maintain control. As people like the Monuments Men began to uncover these cultural artifacts, they established collection points to ensure safety.


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Photo Courtesy: [Austrian Archives/Imagno/Getty Images]


The two main collection points were established in Munich and Wiesbaden, Germany. Much of the art that was stored there until it could be returned was under debate, for some was easily identified as belonging to another country, while other pieces had to be inspected by the Monuments Men. Some of the art did belong to Germany, but the art experts had to confirm that before they moved from the collection points. 


Originally They Were Only Protectors


Since the start of the war, there was a great urgency to establish a force that could protect art that had shaped humanity and had been created by some of the most talented people in the world. The Monuments Men were quick to fill this role, and it is important to note that originally, they were only instructed to protect the art. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]


As the war progressed, these duties quickly shifted though, and soon some of these men and women found themselves digging through shambles after a bombing or walking across a battlefield. Pictured above is Pvt. Ernest Garrison of Elizabethtown, Tennessee protecting art, for soon then the duty of the people was to find, hide, restore, and protect the artwork. 


The U.S. Army May Not Have Listened To The Monuments Men 


Everyone in the Allied forces thought that protecting ancient cultural artifacts was a top priority, but with the horridness of war, sometimes the visions of people would get muddled. With this in mind, originally, the U.S. Army was hesitant to listen to the organization that hosted a lack of untrained soldiers. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images]


Thanks to President Roosevelt making the Monuments Men an official unit of the U.S. Army, the members then had lesser worries of being accepted and being able to do their jobs in the midst of the war. Once they were officially a part of the U.S. Army, they worked with military men in order to guide them in their bombings and attacks so that the art would not get destroyed. 


Members Needed More Than Just Art Knowledge 


The people who were members of this organization mostly came from an art background, whether it be history or conservation. This certainly helped when trying to rescue artwork, because they were familiar with famous cultural artifacts, and were able to correctly identify them when they would find Nazi hiding places. Pictured below are people who were gathering to see "degenerate" art which the Monuments Men went on to recover and return to its rightful place. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images]


Aside from the art knowledge, the Monuments Men also needed other skills in order to get them through the war and to the artwork. Problem-solving, stealth, strategic planning, along with countless other traits were needed to readily and successfully complete their missions. 


Members Had To Make Special Signs


World War II was one of the most violent wars in history, so it is understandable why all of the Allied forces did anything they could to protect themselves and innocent people. While this was good for all the people involved in the war, it was somewhat of a barrier for the Monuments Men. In terms of art that they had preserved during the war, pictured below is Two Riders on the Beach, created by Max Liebermann, a German-Jewish painter.


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Photo Courtesy: [JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images]


U.S. forces would go into any war zone and stay focused on the main objective, and the Monuments Men had to be extensive in their methods of saving the artworks. Yellow caution tape wasn't enough to keep soldiers out of historical art places, so they had to make explicit white signs that stated that there was art in an area that was not to be touched!


Some Art Was Ruined Because Of How The Nazis Stored It 


One of the main hiding places for the Nazi Party was inside salt mines because generally, they had suitable conditions for the cultural artifacts. The mines had a cool temperature along with humidity, which helped to reduce damage to the paintings. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Office of War Information/PhotoQuest/Getty Images]


While this was good for some artifacts, others were destroyed because of the way that they were stored. In particular, ancient scrolls did not do well in the mines and often were ruined beyond repair. Due to the Nazi Party not learning about all the cultural artifacts and how to store them, by the end of the war many of them were destroyed despite the Monuments Men's effort.


Appreciating Dr. Paul Ortwin Rave


Dr. Paul Ortwin Rave worked extensively with the Monuments Men, and thanks to him a lot of art was able to be found, protected, and shipped to a safe place. Paul was a German art expert, although, at the start of the war, he was not able to work as much in his areas of expertise. 


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Paul's studies were inhibited because he did not believe in the Nazi Party and he refused to join them, resulting in his life being threatened many times throughout the war. While the war got increasingly worse, Paul tried repeatedly to get the military and the Monuments Men to evacuate art in the Berlin area. He was persistent and after two tries, people listened to him and he said it would take eight weeks to safely get all the art out, but he was only given two. Without the actions of Paul, a lot of artworks would have been destroyed forever. 


The Danger Of Mines


Again, one of the most extensive hiding places used by the Nazi Party was the salt mines around the country. The Nazis did this because of the conditions of the mines, and they thought that Allied forces would not enter them because of the danger. The areas were exceptionally large and at one point, the Monuments Men found 6,500 paintings in a salt mine. 


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Photo Courtesy: [Austrian National Library/Unsplash/Free Use License]


The mines were threatening because they could collapse at any time, and instantly kill anyone. There were only small, narrow passageways to get to the art, some going hundreds of feet into the ground, let alone all of the fumes that people would breathe in as they tried to locate cultural artifacts.


So Far, There Was Never Another Organization Like This During War 


Before World War II, an organization like the Monuments Men had never existed, despite there being other wars where art could have been in danger. The members had not been given any extra resources and pursued the mission of the organization because of their strong beliefs towards cultural artifacts.


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Photo Courtesy: [Office of War Information/PhotoQuest/Getty Images]


Ever since World War II, no other organization like the Monuments Men had been created in any part of the world. Even though the division still exists in the United States government, no other place around the world has felt the need to create a membership of their own, especially since people from 14 other nations participated in the Monuments Men group. 


Much of The History Is Lost


Usually, the Monuments Men are not extensively taught in history class, so many people may go their whole lives without ever knowing that such an important organization exists and helped the Allied forces. Numerous members of the Monuments Men are modest, so they were okay with not receiving a lot of recognition. They certainly have though, because they have received medals for their efforts and many of them have a biography online created by historians in order to commemorate them.  


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Photo Courtesy: [Pierre Jahan/Roger Viollet/Getty Images]


Nowadays, the work that they had done has resurfaced thanks to books and movies. There are also many websites that talk about them and are an archive for art that could still be missing. The Monuments Men were one of the most essential parts of the war, so thankfully their work is being celebrated more and more. 
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