Rescuing The Artifacts Plundered In World War II: 9 Cool Facts About The Monument’s Men

I just recently started reading an excellent book that was also made into a movie. Called The Monument’s Men, many movie critics took some shots at it because of inaccuracies. But in defense of the movie makers, to put the whole book in an accurate way into the movie would probably have made the movie 96+ hours long.

I do recommend watching this great movie directed by, and starring George Clooney. It was released in 2014 and also stars:

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  • Matt Damon
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Bill Murray
  • and other greats in the world of film.

But even more than the movie, I DO recommend the book. You can get it below.

In the reading of this book, I am amazed at the extent these men and women would go in rescuing the artifacts.

And in their honor along with for our reader’s education, I am going to share 9 cool facts about The Monument’s Men (and Women).

Please share it with everyone, especially children who, I would bet, are not learning about this history in school.

These facts are in no particular order… Just given as I find them. So read it completely and enjoy.

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #1: The Search Still Goes On

rescuing the artifacts
Dwight D. Eisenhower (right) inspects stolen artwork in a salt mine in Merkers, accompanied by Omar Bradley (left) and George S. Patton (center)
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

While many of the artifacts have been recovered, there are still many out. And in 2016, police in Italy recovered 3 art works that are each priceless in value. 2 of the pieces of art are:

  • Trinity by Alessio Baldovinetti
  • and Presentation of Jesus to the Temple by Girolamo Dai Libri

And there have been some other works that were seized from a location in Munich, Germany:

  • An unknown painting by Marc Chagall
  • Otto Dix’s ‘The Match Seller’
  • Henri Matisse’s ‘Sitting Pretty’
  • An unknown painting by Antonio Canaletto
  • Two unknown paintings by German artist Otto Dix
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s, ‘Melancholic Girl’
  • and many more…

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #2: The Nazi’s Plundered Many Items

From my understanding, the Nazi leadership deemed that the military units called Kunstschutz would confiscate art work and hold it as hostage but would be destroyed if allied forces were to gain the “upper hand.”

But art was not the only thing the Nazis took. They also plundered:

  • gold
  • silver
  • and nearly anything that held value

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #3: The Real Name Of The Monument’s Men

The term Monument’s Men was actually a nickname. It was a division called MFAA made up of soldiers and civilians from various allied nations – MFAA was short for Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. The Top 20 Military Mistakes of World War 2
  2. The Role of the 101st Airborne in World War 2: What They Did
  3. The Selling Of Military Awards
  4. Battle Of The Bulge: 20 Cool Facts
  5. 10th Mountain Division – Campaigns & Decorations

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #4: The Start Of The MFAA

When you watch the movie, you will get the sense that the MFAA was originally tasked with saving artworks.

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That is false!

The first task the group was given was to protect historic buildings.

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #5: Where The Majority Of Art Was Found

So where did the Nazis hide all the art they stole?

United States Army Lieutenant George Stout led the rescue of over 40 tons of plundered art in 1945. It was hidden in Central Germany in the Merker’s Salt Mines.

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #6: You Can Be A Part Of The Hunt For Still Lost Artifacts

Do you feel a calling to get in on the hunt? Would you like to be a Monument’s Man or Woman?

There are still many works of art and documents missing and the Monuments Men Foundation is calling for anyone and everyone to join the hunt.

You can be a part of the hunt… Just click here.

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #7: Some Of These Monument’s Men And Women

I put some because of the possibility I may miss some. But I want to list various Monument’s Men. Many had art backgrounds. Here are names:

  • Major Ronald Balfour 1st Canadian Army
  • PFC Lincoln Kirstein U.S. 3rd Army
  • Private Harry Ettlinger U.S. 7th Army
  • Jacques Jaujard Director of the French National Museums
  • Captain Walker Hancock U.S. 1st Army
  • Captain Valland Custodian of the Jeu de Paume
  • Captain Robert Posey U.S. 3rd Army
  • Lieutenant George Stout U.S. 1st and 12th Army Group
  • 2nd Lieutenant James Rorimer U.S. 7th Army

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #8: Packing And Moving The Fine Art To Preserve

Lieutenant Stout was given the responsibility of getting all these wonderful pieces of art back to France and Belgium.

How to do so?

Using German sheepskin coats and gas masks, Stout used them to pack so no damage would be done.

Rescuing The Artifacts Fact #9: The Coolest Fact Of Them All: The Toothache

This last fact just brought goosebumps to my spine.

How did the allies… The Monument’s Men discover where all that art was?

A toothache!

Captain Robert Posey had a bad toothache and the dentist he used in Germany introduced Posey to his son-in-law who was hoping to get safe passage out of Germany to France. The son-in-law had aided Herman Goering, the second in command to Hitler, steal and hide the art.

The son-in-law told Posey the location of the art.

In this case, a toothache was a great thing.

Conclusion

Believe me, there are many other facts, but I do not want to ruin the book or movie for you.

I suggest you check them out… Very, very interesting.

Thank you for stopping by today and please share this with all.

And thanks to all the Monument’s Men and Women who helped preserve generations of fabulous art.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monuments_Men
  2. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/paintings-stolen-nazis-war-second-ii-italian-police-milan-a6990941.html
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_plunder
  4. http://www.monumentsmen.com/
  5. http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/02/10/the_monuments_men_true_story_fact_checking_the_george_clooney_matt_damon.html
  6. https://harvardmagazine.com/2010/01/monuments-men-rescuing-art-stolen-by-nazis
  7. https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/
  8. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-monuments-men-180949569/

About The Author

Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at Lancerlife.com.

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