Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

February 7 to April 20, 2014
Washington, D.C. at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery

Join us for gallery talks about the exhibition: March 13 and 28, at 1:00 p.m.

During World War II, an unlikely team of soldiers was charged with identifying and protecting European cultural sites, monuments, and buildings from Allied bombing. Officially named the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section, this U.S. Army unit included art curators, scholars, architects, librarians, and archivists from the U.S. and Britain. They quickly became known as The Monuments Men.

Towards the end of the war, their mission changed to one of locating and recovering works of art that had been looted by the Nazis. The Monuments Men uncovered troves of stolen art hidden across Germany and Austria—some in castles, others in salt mines. They rescued some of history’s greatest works of art.

Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the papers of Monuments Men George Leslie Stout, James J. Rorimer, Walker Hancock, Thomas Carr Howe, S. Lane Faison, Walter Horn, and Otto Wittman. These personal archives tell a fascinating story.

This exhibition complements a project to enhance access to the Archives’ collections for World War II provenance research funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Related blog posts:

“Monuments Men in Japan: Discoveries in the George Leslie Stout papers”

“Artful Collaborators: James J. Rorimer and Rose Valland”

“Monuments Men Inside the Mines”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Walker Hancock, Lamont Moore, George Stout and two unidentified soldiers in Marburg, Germany

Walker Hancock, Lamont Moore, George Stout and two unidentified soldiers in Marburg, Germany, 1945 June

Monuments Men Walker Hancock (second from left) and George “Ole Pops” Stout (second from right).

1941: A Call to Action

When Paris fell to the Nazis in 1940, art curators and historians the world over saw the threat: iconic architecture, monuments, works of art, libraries, and other cultural sites in Europe were at risk from bombing from both Axis and Allied forces. Many museums in Europe were evacuating art and artifacts to remote locations. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, major museums in the U.S. began taking similar precautions.

On December 20, 1941, museum directors, curators, and conservators met in New York City to discuss the crisis. Paul Sachs, associate director of the Fogg Museum in Boston, presented a slide show of the devastation facing museums in Europe. A plan was needed to protect and rescue art.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George L. Stout in conservation lab looking through a microscope

George L. Stout in conservation lab looking through a microscope, circa 1940

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

A well-respected art conservator at the Fogg Museum in Boston, George Stout began advocating for a national plan to protect art in the U.S., to be carried out by a corps of specially trained hands-on conservators. Stout had strong support from Paul Sachs, at the Fogg Museum and William G. Constable, curator of painting at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Over the next two years, Stout’s plan grew in scope. He envisioned a conservation corps that would accompany military units in the field. They would identify European cultural sites that should be protected from Allied bombing, and document bomb damage at historical sites, buildings, and monuments across Europe.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable

George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable, 1942 December 31

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Stout encloses a preliminary draft of his proposal for the protection of monuments.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable

George L. Stout letter to W. G. Constable, 1943 March 28

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Letter from George Stout to William G. Constable, March 28, 1943.

By 1943, George Stout, then in his mid-40s, had enlisted in the U.S. Navy. From the U.S. Naval Air Station in Anacostia, D.C., he writes that he is pleased with the progress of their “nebulous scheme.” “It would interest me greatly to work on it,” he adds, “but I am put in a billet here that is distinctly my cup of tea, and so I have no real regret.”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

W. G. Constable letter to George Stout

W. G. Constable letter to George Stout, 1943 March 30

Creator: W. G. (William George) Constable

Letter from William G. Constable to George Stout, March 30, 1943.

Constable writes: “I thought you would like to know that the plot is thickening” and “they are demanding” a list of qualified servicemen who might be “useful in applying any measures of safeguarding or conservation.”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Stout draft of Protection of Monuments

George Stout draft of Protection of Monuments, 1942 December

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Draft proposal for protection of monuments, December 1942.

In June 1943, the efforts of Stout, Sachs, Constable, and others led to the formation of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas. After drawing up lists of European cultural treasures and providing them to military units, the Commission established the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA) within the U.S. Army, which would operate from 1944 to 1946.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Stout letter to W. G. Constable

George Stout letter to W. G. Constable, 1943 October 18

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Letter from George Stout to William G. Constable, October 18, 1943.

Stout writes that he is pleased with the progress of the “arrangements about the field protection of monuments.” He adds that he “would be happy if the thing goes through and very happy indeed if it turns out that I’m in the job.”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Paul Sachs' list of potential Monuments Men

Paul Sachs' list of potential Monuments Men, 1943 October

Creator: Paul J. (Paul Joseph) Sachs

List of qualified persons who might serve as Monuments Men, written by Paul Sachs, October 19, 1944.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Notes on safeguarding and conserving cultural material in the field, part I

Notes on safeguarding and conserving cultural material in the field, part I, 1943 July 22

Creator: American Defense - Harvard Group

1944 – The Monuments Men Get Busy

In May 1944, shortly before D-Day, General Eisenhower issued an order that every field commander was to protect and respect historical monuments and cultural centers. Lists of sites to be protected were issued. Soldiers assigned to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section were to accompany Allied Forces as they advanced across Europe. Their primary objective was to identify monuments on the list so that commanders knew which sites to avoid during bombing attacks. Most of the protected sites were churches. Additionally, they were to inspect and document existing bomb damage to monument sites in the field.

Field manual prepared by William G. Constable and distributed by the American Defense Harvard Group, Committee on Protection of Monuments, 1943.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Maps of France on a bulletin board

Maps of France on a bulletin board, circa 1943

Map of chateaus in France, likely used as a reference source of cultural sites, circa 1943.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Gardens of Versailles during World War II

Gardens of Versailles during World War II, 1945

Three military trucks and one sculpture covered in camouflage netting in the gardens of Versailles, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Sculpture covered in camouflage netting

Sculpture covered in camouflage netting, 1945

Versailles garden sculpture draped in camouflage netting, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

St. Foillan Church after bombing, Aachen, Germany

St. Foillan Church after bombing, Aachen, Germany, 1945 March 17

Bomb damage at St. Foillan Church, Aachen, Germany, March 17, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Exterior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge

Exterior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945

Statue of the Virgin Mary inside the heavily bombed church in La Gleize, Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge

Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945 Jan. 30

Statue of the Virgin Mary inside the heavily bombed church in La Gleize, Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge

Interior of La Gleize Church in Belgium after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Statue of the Virgin Mary inside La Gleize Church in Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge

Statue of the Virgin Mary inside La Gleize Church in Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945

Statue of the Virgin Mary inside the heavily bombed church in La Gleize, Belgium, after the Battle of the Bulge, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Leslie Stout letter to Margaret Hayes Stout

George Leslie Stout letter to Margaret Hayes Stout, 1944 December 5

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Most of the Monuments Men worked in the battlefields alongside other soldiers, facing the same danger and hardships. Stout writes: “There have been damaged buildings and muddy roads and a few shells whistling around but the fundamental necessities have always been available, food, shelter, a place to get warm, a place to sleep. I have felt better perhaps because of the satisfaction of getting something done . . .”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Pellerhaus courtyard before and after bombing

Pellerhaus courtyard before and after bombing, 194-

The historic Pellerhaus building in Nuremberg, Germany.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Nuremberg City Hall before and after bombing

Nuremberg City Hall before and after bombing, 194-

Creator: Thomas Carr Howe

 

One of the main objectives of the Monuments Men was to document damage to cultural and historic sites.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Transcript of Hitler's orders to the Rosenberg Taskforce to seize cultural goods of value, translated from German to English

Transcript of Hitler's orders to the Rosenberg Taskforce to seize cultural goods of value, translated from German to English, 1940 and 1942

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

James Rorimer's early draft of his memoir Survival: the salvage and protection of art in war

James Rorimer's early draft of his memoir Survival: the salvage and protection of art in war, not after 1950

Creator: James J. (James Joseph) Rorimer

James J. Rorimer was one of the first officially appointed Monuments Men, arriving in Normandy in 1944. A noted expert on medieval art at the Metropolitan Museum, he appears on the original lists of art historians proposed for the project. After the war, Rorimer wrote his memoirs, published as Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War (1950). The pages here are from Rorimer’s first handwritten drafts of the book, which contain more detail than the published version.

Rose Valland, an art historian employed by the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, risked her life to rescue stolen art. The Nazis used the Jeu de Paume to store plundered art. Valland was the only member of the museum’s original staff that the Nazis retained during their occupation of Paris. Valland spied on the Nazis, who did not realize that she spoke German. She kept detailed notes, lists, and photographs of stolen artwork.

Valland met James Rorimer after the liberation of Paris in 1944. She hesitated to trust him at first, but finally she gave him meticulous documentation of what the Nazis had stolen and where Rorimer could find it.

Here, Rorimer recounts his initial meetings with Rose Valland in Paris.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Aerial view of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany

Aerial view of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, 1944?

Photograph of Neuschwanstein Castle, probably given to James Rorimer by Rose Valland, 1944.

The photograph was at some point folded in half, perhaps carried by Rorimer in his wallet. Built in 1886 by “mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle stood in a remote and rugged location. This fairytale castle served as a German repository for artwork stolen from France.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Four men standing in the throne room of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

Four men standing in the throne room of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, circa 1945

Evacuating artwork from Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, autumn and winter 1945.

The castle was remote, the terrain was rugged, and winter was severe. Logistics were difficult, and packing supplies and personnel scarce. The soldiers assigned to assist Rorimer had never worked as art handlers and had to be trained on the job. Packing, crating, moving, and transport required intense physical labor and much improvisation.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Neuschwanstein Castle storage room filled with looted art

Neuschwanstein Castle storage room filled with looted art, 1945 Sept.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Recovery of looted artworks

Recovery of looted artworks, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers evacuating looted art from Neuschwanstein Castle

Soldiers evacuating looted art from Neuschwanstein Castle, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

MFAA soldiers loading boxed artworks onto a truck at Neuschwanstein Castle

MFAA soldiers loading boxed artworks onto a truck at Neuschwanstein Castle, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers loading art recovered from Neuschwanstein Castle onto trains at Füssen, Germany

Soldiers loading art recovered from Neuschwanstein Castle onto trains at Füssen, Germany, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Buxheim repository packing and crafting shop

Buxheim repository packing and crafting shop, 1945

Creator: Edward E. Adams

Rescuing art from Buxheim Monastery, Bavaria, 1945.

Valland reported to Rorimer that the Buxheim Monastery was a secondary location for art looted from France. Here, Rorimer found large caches of stolen decorative arts and paintings, as well as an elaborate conservation lab for works stolen from France.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Painting restoration laboratory at Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria, Germany

Painting restoration laboratory at Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria, Germany, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Photograph laboratory at Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria, Germany

Photograph laboratory at Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria, Germany, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers loading art onto a train at Buxheim monastery

Soldiers loading art onto a train at Buxheim monastery, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Stephen Kovalyak, Lamont Moore and Thomas Carr Howe in Berchtesgaden

Stephen Kovalyak, Lamont Moore and Thomas Carr Howe in Berchtesgaden, 1945 July 25

The Hermann Göring Collection

The Nazi military leader Hermann Göring amassed his own personal collection of art stolen from museums and private homes. His collection totaled more than 1,000 items, valued at $200 million in 1945, most of it stolen from France. The art was hidden at various locations in Berchtesgaden, Germany, in the Bavarian Alps until discovered by the Monuments Men. The recovered artwork was then collected at Unterstein before transport to the Central Collecting Points at Munich and Wiesbaden.

Monuments Men Stephen Kovalyak, Lamont Moore, and Thomas Carr Howe in Berchtesgaden, July 25, 1945.

Written on the back: “Berchtesgaden . . . The other 'little girl' is detail of a Velasquez in the Göring Coll.; left to right, Steve Kovalyak, Lamont Moore, T.C.H.; the three details of the Michelangelo Bruges Madonna & Child are mounted on one mat and hanging on the wall.”

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Harry V. Anderson inventory and receipt for Hermann Göring art collection submitted to Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division

Harry V. Anderson inventory and receipt for Hermann Göring art collection submitted to Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division, 1945 August 4

Creator: Harry V. Anderson

 

Government report and partial inventory of art found at Unterstein and Berchtesgaden, Germany.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Inventory list of looted art from the Göring Collection found at Berchtesgaden

Inventory list of looted art from the Göring Collection found at Berchtesgaden, 1945 July 26 - Aug. 4

Creator: Thomas Carr Howe

 

Inventory list of looted art from the Göring collection found at Berchtesgaden and transported by truck to Munich Central Collecting Point for repatriation, July 26–August 4, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Inventory of Hermann Göring art collection at Unterstein, Germany

Inventory of Hermann Göring art collection at Unterstein, Germany, 1945

Inventory of Göring’s art collection stored at Unterstein, Germany, 1945.

The inventory is 71 pages long and includes paintings by Rubens, Fragonard, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Rembrandt, and Dürer, among other masters.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Reproduction of the  Master of Cappenberg's painting Adoration of the Magi

Reproduction of the Master of Cappenberg's painting Adoration of the Magi, circa 1945

Adoration of the Magi by the Master of Cappenberg, a 16th-century Flemish painter, listed in Göring inventory.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Reproduction of Rubens' painting Diana at the bath

Reproduction of Rubens' painting Diana at the bath, circa 1945

Diana at the Bath (1640) by Rubens, listed in the Göring inventories.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Stout letter to his wife Margaret Stout

George Stout letter to his wife Margaret Stout, 1945 April 4

Creator: George L. (George Leslie) Stout

Masterpieces in the Mines

As Allied Forces advanced across Europe, the Monuments Men discovered stolen treasures hidden underground, in mines across Germany and Austria.

While surveying bomb damage in Aachen, Germany, Monuments Man Walker Hancock learned that the treasures of Aachen Cathedral had been moved to the mining town of Siegen. Hancock and Stout proceeded to Siegen, behind enemy lines, with artillery shells going off around them. There, in a mine, they discovered the Aachen Cathedral treasures, which included paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, a bust of Charlemagne, and the Virgin Mary’s robe.

Letter from George Stout to his wife, Margie, April 4, 1945. Stout describes first entering the Siegen mines, which concealed not only art, but also people.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Aerial view of Altaussee salt mines

Aerial view of Altaussee salt mines, 1945

With many of Europe’s masterpieces still missing, the Monuments Men knew that they had more work to do. Intelligence reports directed them to look into salt mines across Germany and Austria. The loot in the mine at Merkers, Germany, included art and staggering amounts of gold. And in the salt mine of Altausee, Austria, the Monuments Men found a mother lode—Hitler’s personal collection of stolen art.

Aerial views of Altaussee salt mine buildings, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Salt mine buildings at Altaussee, Austria

Salt mine buildings at Altaussee, Austria, circa 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Stout at entrance to the Altaussee salt mine

George Stout at entrance to the Altaussee salt mine, 1945

George Stout at the entrance to the Altaussee salt mine, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Two men standing by racks of paintings inside a salt mine in Altaussee, Austria

Two men standing by racks of paintings inside a salt mine in Altaussee, Austria, circa 1945

A portion of Hitler’s art collection in the Altaussee salt mine, circa 1945.

Hitler had grand plans for a German national museum in Linz, Austria. He had been reviewing detailed lists of stolen artwork, selecting the best for his planned museum. Nearly all of them were stored in Altaussee.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Thomas Carr Howe, George Stout, and Karl Sieber in the Kammergrafen mine in Altaussee, Austria

Thomas Carr Howe, George Stout, and Karl Sieber in the Kammergrafen mine in Altaussee, Austria, 1945 July 9

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Herr Sicher, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe inspecting paintings

Herr Sicher, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe inspecting paintings, 1945 July 9

Lt. Cdr. Stout (center) at the Kammergrafen mine at Altaussee.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Unidentified G.I. holding a painting of the Madonna and child, at Altaussee, Austria

Unidentified G.I. holding a painting of the Madonna and child, at Altaussee, Austria, 1945

Creator: Thomas Carr Howe

 

Annotations by Lt. Cdr. Thomas Carr Howe on the verso of the photograph:

Altaussee, Summer 1945. A G.I. holding a Sch. of Leonardo da Vinci [Madonna and Child] taken – to Göring’s fury – from Monte Cassino. He rejected this painting and many others when they were presented to him by members of his air force. It was not proper to loot the holdings of an ally (Italy). Curious morality!

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Stephen Kovalyak, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe transporting Michelangelo's sculpture Madonna and child

Stephen Kovalyak, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe transporting Michelangelo's sculpture Madonna and child, 1945 July 9

Michelangelo’s 1504 sculpture had been stolen from the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium. In these photos, Stephen Kovalyak, George Stout, and Thomas Carr Howe inspect and pack the precious piece for transport to the Munich Central Collecting Point.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Michelangelo's Madonna and Child packed onto a crate by soldiers at Altaussee, Austria

Michelangelo's Madonna and Child packed onto a crate by soldiers at Altaussee, Austria, 1945?

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Michelangelo's Madonna and child packed and loaded onto a truck

Michelangelo's Madonna and child packed and loaded onto a truck, 1945

Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child loaded for shipment to the Munich Central Collecting Point for repatriation to Bruges, the statue’s place of origin.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Stout and two unidentified men loading a truck at Altaussee, Austria

George Stout and two unidentified men loading a truck at Altaussee, Austria, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers standing in front of trucks for transporting art recovered in the salt mines at Altaussee, Austria

Soldiers standing in front of trucks for transporting art recovered in the salt mines at Altaussee, Austria, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Lt. Daniel J. Kern and Karl Sieber examining the Ghent Altarpiece in the Altaussee mine

Lt. Daniel J. Kern and Karl Sieber examining the Ghent Altarpiece in the Altaussee mine, 1945

Lt. Daniel J. Kern and German conservator Karl Sieber examine Jan van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece (1432). This treasure had been stolen in 1940 from Belgium.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Lieutenant Daniel J. Kern and Karl Sieber examining a panel of the Ghent Altarpiece

Lieutenant Daniel J. Kern and Karl Sieber examining a panel of the Ghent Altarpiece, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Officers standing by an army plane loaded with the Ghent Altarpiece

Officers standing by an army plane loaded with the Ghent Altarpiece, 1945

Identification on verso, penned notes in two different hands:

 

Summer 1945; the plane, loaded with the panels of the famous Ghent Altarpiece, ready to take off for Brussels. (from Munich); center group, U.S.F.E.T. MFA&A officers Lt. Cmdr. Howe, Lt. Moore, Lt. Kovalyak; extreme right, Capt. Posey, MfAA officer, 3rd Army.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers preparing a Rubens painting for shipment

Soldiers preparing a Rubens painting for shipment, 1945

In 1945, the Monuments Men established two primary central collecting points, in Munich and Wiesbaden, Germany, where shipments of stolen artwork and other loot—such as books, decorative arts, and manuscripts—could be received, inventoried, and sorted.

Here, countries could claim their stolen heritage and make arrangements for transport back to their countries. Transport was usually arranged by the Monuments Men, using Allied equipment and airplanes. Many pieces were never claimed, and more, hidden away, have yet to be discovered.

Soldiers prepare a Rubens portrait at the Munich Central Collecting Point for shipment to France, 1945.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Men packing art for shipment

Men packing art for shipment, 1945

Munich Central Collecting Point.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

One panel of the Ghent Altarpiece being loaded onto a truck at the Munich Collecting Point

One panel of the Ghent Altarpiece being loaded onto a truck at the Munich Collecting Point, 1946

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Men loading a truck with a shipment of art at Munich Central Collecting Point

Men loading a truck with a shipment of art at Munich Central Collecting Point, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Soldiers standing by a truck and plane at Munich airport

Soldiers standing by a truck and plane at Munich airport, 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

U.S. Army plane loaded with art shipment to Holland

U.S. Army plane loaded with art shipment to Holland, circa 1945

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Map of paintings looted from Holland, returned through the efforts of the United States Armed Forces

Map of paintings looted from Holland, returned through the efforts of the United States Armed Forces, circa 1946

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Military Government Weekly Information Bulletin, no. 15

Military Government Weekly Information Bulletin, no. 15, 1945 Nov. 3

Creator: Germany (Territory under Allied occupation, 1945-1955 : U.S. Zone). Office of Military Government

 

U. S. Military Government Bulletin with map of the American zone of occupation’s Western Military District, consisting of Hesse and portions of present day Baden-Württemburg. Bavaria, Germany, partially visible on the map, was part of the U. S. zone’s Eastern Military District.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Exterior of the Museum Wiesbaden

Exterior of the Museum Wiesbaden, 1946

Central Collecting Points were established to receive shipments of artwork salvaged from the repositories. Although secondary collecting points existed in several German towns, Munich and Weisbaden were the central locations where art, manuscripts, and artifacts looted by the Nazis were processed by MFAA officials and repatriated to their countries of origin.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Rose Valland at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point

Rose Valland at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1946 April 24

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Interior of Museum Wiesbaden with paintings on storage racks

Interior of Museum Wiesbaden with paintings on storage racks, not after 1946 March

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Storage room filled with crates at Wiesbaden Collecting Point

Storage room filled with crates at Wiesbaden Collecting Point, 1946

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Storage rooms inside Museum Wiesbaden filled with wooden crates

Storage rooms inside Museum Wiesbaden filled with wooden crates, not after 1946 March

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Aristide Maillol sculpture recovery

Aristide Maillol sculpture recovery, 1946 May 24

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Rose Valland and Edith Standen inspecting a statue at Wiesbaden Collecting Point

Rose Valland and Edith Standen inspecting a statue at Wiesbaden Collecting Point, 1946 May 24

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Edith Standen conducting a tour for U.S. guards

Edith Standen conducting a tour for U.S. guards, 1946 April

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France

Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France, 1946 May

Edith Standen and Rose Valland examine artwork, armor, and sculpture to be returned to France, May 1946.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Edith Standen, Rose Valland and a soldier converse while men prepare paintings for transportation

Edith Standen, Rose Valland and a soldier converse while men prepare paintings for transportation, circa 1946

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

Raymond Lemaire and Edith Standen holding a Rubens portrait at Wiesbaden Collecting Point

Raymond Lemaire and Edith Standen holding a Rubens portrait at Wiesbaden Collecting Point, 1946

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Leslie Stout

George Leslie Stout, circa 1965

Creator: Lotte Jacobi

 

Lieutenant Commander George Leslie Stout received the Bronze Star Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for his service as a Monuments Man, especially his work recovering art from several repositories, notably the Altaussee salt mines.

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Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe's Art, 1942–1946

George Leslie Stout's Bronze Star medal and case

George Leslie Stout's Bronze Star medal and case, 1945

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