Robert Edsel's Blog

Archive for May, 2010


May 28th, 2010 | 3:14 pm

Robert Posey’s wife, Alice, sent him this military cartoon featuring “Private Buck” during the last week of May 1945. The cartoon was no doubt inspired by the huge Nazi repository found at Merkers, Germany, which received a large amount of media attention. It makes me wonder though, did Alice even know yet that Posey had been at Merkers ?! Likely not, considering the strict censorship rules on mail and the weeks of lag time between writing and receiving letters. I imagine Alice simply wanted her husband to know that the American public was paying attention to the daunting task of the Monuments Men.

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May 26th, 2010 | 1:28 pm

On May 26, 1944, days before the D-Day invasions, General Eisenhower issued an order outlining his instructions for the protection of historic monuments in war areas. He had issued similar orders in Italy in December 1943, but within just a few months General Eisenhower had learned the importance of issuing protection orders before the battle had begun. There is no doubt that because of Ike’s support for the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives commission, countless buildings of cultural importance and works of art were saved from destruction.

Full Text of May 26, 1944 Order

1. Shortly we will be fighting our way across the Continent of Europe in battles designed to preserve our civilization. Inevitably, in the path of our advance will be found historical monuments and cultural centers which symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve.

2. It is the responsibility of every commander to protect and respect these symbols whenever possible.

3. In some circumstances the success of the military operations may be prejudiced in our reluctance to destroy these revered objects. Then, as at Cassino, where the enemy relied on our emotional attachment to shield his defense, the lives of our men are paramount. So, where military necessity dictates, commanders may order the required action even though it involves destruction of some honored site.

4. But there are many circumstances in which damage and destruction are not necessary and cannot be justified. In such cases, through the exercise of restraint and discipline, commanders will preserve centers and objects of historical and cultural significance. Civil Affairs Staffs at higher echelons will advise commanders of the locations of historical monuments of this type, both in advance of the front lines and in occupied areas. This information, together with the necessary instructions, will be passed down through command channels to all echelons.


Dwight D. Eisenhower

General, U.S. Army.

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May 25th, 2010 | 10:41 am

Robert and Diego Edsel. Photo courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

Today I’m utilizing space for a personal message, call it an author’s prerogative if you will.  17 years ago this handsome, loving and gifted boy was delivered into this world, our son, Diego.  He has been a source of pride for us as parents, and has brought joy to all those with whom he has come into contact.  Being around him makes anyone happier.

Robert and Diego Edsel. Photo courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

Diego is a musician, a gifted guitarist, and is entirely self-taught.  He can play it all, but at present heavy metal is his passion…Metallica is his role model.  And off to Zurich we go in a few weeks’ time to see Metallica, father and son.

Happy Birthday my son!



May 24th, 2010 | 4:38 pm

From left to right: Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz from the DHM (Deutsches Historisches Museum), Mr. Florian Scheurle from the BADV/Ministry of Finance, and Robert M. Edsel. Photo courtesy of Deutsches Historisches Museum.

Last week’s return of the Gemäldegalerie Linz Album XIII to the DHM (Deutsches Historisches Museum) in Berlin was another milestone achievement in our efforts to actively preserve the legacy of these remarkable men and women who saved so much of our cultural heritage during and after World War ll.  We honor their memory and underscore the modern day need to continue their work with events such as this.

We were so warmly received by Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz and his team at the DHM, a remarkable museum filled with more objects and knowledge about German history than anyone could ever fully study.  Much like our National Archives, the DHM team has made history interactive and fun for people of all ages, especially foreign visitors.  I encourage anyone visiting Berlin to allocate a half day minimum to see some of its remarkable displays.

From left to right: Dorothee Schneider, Dr. Birgit Schwartz (art historian), Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz (DHM), Robert Edsel, Dr. Matthias Miller (head of the library and curator of Old Master Prints DHM), Translator, Mr. Max Maldacker (Foreign Ministry, Head of Department for Culture and Communication), Ms. Maja Schweitzer (Foreign Ministry, Department for Culture and Communication), Mr. Harald Konig (BADV/Finance Ministry). Photo Courtesy of Deutsches Historisches Museum.

After the return ceremony we were given a brief tour of just the reading room in their library.  Remarkably this room appears largely as it did when constructed more than a hundred years ago.  It contains many old and priceless manuscripts including the first edition of Goethe’s “Faust” dated 1808, a 1200 year old handwritten document called the “Heliand fragment” written in an old Saxonian dialect now extinct, and even a first edition of the German children’s book “Max & Moritz” from 1865, which sold at auction in Germany for about 125,000 Euro.”

These cultural exchanges of good will between countries won’t change our world, but each step, no matter how small, further and strengthen the ties that bind us.  These alliances are essential to overcoming the challenges of our new world.

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May 19th, 2010 | 5:42 pm

View of the Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

Seven months ago I promised an aging Army veteran I would see to it that his service to our nation was honored while helping put to its proper use a seemingly insignificant object he had taken during the war as a souvenir.  Yesterday, with the return ceremony at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, that promise was kept, and mission accomplished. Museum officials, alongside representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States, expressed their deepest gratitude for the return of the Gemäldegalerie Linz XIII Album after believing it was destroyed 65 years ago. They assured me, repeatedly, that the discovery of this Album would allow them to return to the rightful owners still missing works of art stolen during the war.

Mr. John Pistone and Robert M. Edsel, Founder and President, Monuments Men Foundation. Photo Courtesy of Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 22: (L-R) Deputy Secretary of State for Resources Jacob Lew, Baden-Wuerttemberg Minister of the Interior Heribert Rech, Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art founder Robert Edsel, German Ambassador to the United States Klaus Scharioth and American World War II veteran John Pistone. Photo Courtesy of Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

This is a heartwarming story for the American, Mr. John Pistone, who entrusted the Monuments Men Foundation – and me – with an object of emotional significance no words can convey. In the time we possessed it, the Gemäldegalerie Linz XIII Album was seen at the United States State Department by Germany’s Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Klaus Scharioth, and Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew and other invited guests; more than 90,000 people at the special exhibit we organized with the assistance of our friends at the National World War II Museum in their magnificent museum; and most recently at a special two day exhibit at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of “V-E Day”.

Robert M. Edsel standing in front a statue of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

And now, after the many peregrinations of its travels, it is home where it belongs at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, where people of good will can continue their dedicated work to make something good happen out of the horrible events of the past. In the process, we honor the work of the Monuments Men 65 years ago in not only returning millions of stolen items to their rightful owners, but establishing a legacy concerning the protection of cultural items of all nations that will serve us well in the future.

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May 14th, 2010 | 11:15 am

Since its founding almost 3 years ago the Monuments Men Foundation has been working to encourage museums and collectors alike to comply with best practices guidelines. Simply stated, that means “know your collection” and where the objects were during the reign of the Nazis:  1933-1946.  Many museums, and some collectors, have embraced these guidelines. Some have been slow to catch up. A few continue to ignore the matter.

Belo’s Dallas station, WFAA, an ABC affiliate, broadcast a piece last evening highlighting a recent case we discovered several years ago at SMU’s Meadows Museum in conjunction with research on my first book, Rescuing Da Vinci.  Officials at the Meadows are now aggressively engaged conducting key provenance research on their collection as a whole and the two paintings covered by the story in particular, to their credit.

This case highlights one aspect of the work of the Foundation and the tangible results we continue to obtain while trying to work with important institutions like the Meadows Museum.

You can view the story by clicking on the following link:

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Monuments Men Newsletter for May 2010, 21st Edition

May 12th, 2010 | 11:38 am

This month’s Monuments Men Newsletter focuses on the efforts of Dwight D. Eisenhower regarding his victory in Europe and protecting cultural property. We also highlight the role of Germany in this last chapter of World War II. Please click on the link to read the newsletter.

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May 11th, 2010 | 2:23 pm

Robert M. Edsel speaking at 65th Anniversary of "V-E Day" hosted by Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection

This weekend I was honored to be one of two speakers at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe, known as “V-E” Day or Victory in Europe.  The other speaker was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who took the opportunity to make a major policy statement about the urgent need for  Defense Department budget cuts citing warnings from General Eisenhower years ago about controlling the costs of post-war military spending.

Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert Gates speaking at the 65th "V-E Day" Anniversary hosted by Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

The campus like setting is beautiful with the museum and library buildings adjacent to Ike’s family home where he lived until leaving home for West Point.  There is a small chapel where Ike and his wife Mamie are buried alongside their son Doud who died at the age of 4.  In fact, one of the most touching moments of the weekend was seeing acclaimed political observer David Gergen make a point of visiting the chapel – the only member of a large media contingent to do so. He understood no doubt the historical importance of this great man and wanted to pay his respects.

From L to R: Robert M. Edsel; Karl Weissenbach, Director of Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum; Allen Cullum, Trustee, Monuments Men Foundation. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection

Director Karl Weissenbach and his great team organized a fantastic celebration which began with my lecture Friday night. On Saturday he provided our group with a full tour of the archive and museum.  It was an honor to be surrounded by reminders of this great leader’s historic achievements – as a soldier, Supreme Allied Commander, President, and as a family man and friend.  The archives are overwhelmingly impressive with millions of documents involving all facets of Ike’s life and career and more than a half million photographs!  A researcher’s delight awaits.

Robert M. Edsel standing in front a statue of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

General Eisenhower’s leadership saved our world from the greatest threat of the 20th century – perhaps ever. To be a part of honoring him and the millions of soldiers who fought to win the peace in Europe was an honor and experience I will forever cherish.

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May 7th, 2010 | 10:36 am

(Nazi General Alfred Jodl (between Major Wilhelm Oxenius to the left and Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg to the right) signing the German Instrument of Surrender at Reimes, France, 7 May, 1945.)

The most destructive war in history formally ended this date 65 years ago. May 8 forever became known as “V-E” Day; Victory in Europe. More than 60 million people were killed many during World War II, many murdered by the Nazis. Property of all kinds, in particular cultural items — books, church bells, sculpture, and paintings to name but a few — were stolen as part of Hitler and the Nazis’ premeditated looting plans. It was the greatest theft in history, one that lasted almost eight years.

We continue to live with the altered legacy of Hitler and the Nazis. Consider the painful memories of families that never knew their loved ones who perished during the war, perhaps in battle or at a concentration camp; who WASN’T born that might have been, who DIDN’T live the life they were destined to live but for the murderous consequences of Hitler’s ambition? A scientist who might have discovered an alternative fuel to hydrocarbons? A doctor who perhaps could have pioneered our understanding of medicine and discovered cures for diseases? An artist or writer whose work might have transcended all ages and provided insights or happiness to people of our generation?

Life’s fragile realities play out in the obituary sections of newspapers everywhere. Not a day passes that we’re not reminded of the loss of the incredible generation of men and women who saved civilization as we know it from the gravest threat of the 20th century, and perhaps ever. When they are gone, this will no longer be “living history”. Today should be a day of celebration, the date this great war in Europe ended. Sadly, there is little mention of the day’s significance by our media and even less discussion among the public. That is a shame.

I think of my father today, a World War II veteran of the Pacific, who died in January two years ago. We miss you Dad. Thank you and the men and women who served along side you for saving our world.

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May 6th, 2010 | 10:52 am

One of the many joys of serving as a trustee of the National World War II Museum is the occasional touching email I received which grabs the heartstrings and reminds all people of good will why we honor these heroes who contributed to winning World War II.

This story was written by persons unknown. If anyone does know who wrote it please let us know and we’ll more specifically credit the piece.

Bill Mauldin stamp honors grunts’  hero.

The post office gets a lot of  criticism. Always has, always will.

And with the renewed push to get  rid of Saturday mail delivery, expect complaints to intensify.

But the United States Postal Service deserves a standing ovation for something that’s going to happen this month: Bill Mauldin is getting his own postage  stamp.

Mauldin died at age 81 in the early days of 2003. The end of  his life had been rugged. He had been scalded in a bathtub, which led to  terrible injuries and infections; Alzheimer’s disease was inflicting its  cruelties. Unable to care for himself after the scalding, he became a  resident of a California nursing home, his health and spirits in  rapid decline.

He was not forgotten, though. Mauldin, and his work,  meant so much to the millions of Americans who fought in World War II, and  to those who had waited for them to come home. He was a kid cartoonist for  Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper; Mauldin’s drawings of his muddy,  exhausted, whisker-stubbled infantrymen Willie and Joe were the voice of  truth about what it was like on the front lines.

Mauldin was an  enlisted man just like the soldiers he drew for; his gripes were their  gripes, his laughs were their laughs, his heartaches were their heartaches.  He was one of them. They loved him.

He never held back. Sometimes,  when his cartoons cut too close for comfort, his superior officers tried to  tone him down. In one memorable incident, he enraged Gen. George S. Patton,  and Patton informed Mauldin he wanted the pointed cartoons — celebrating  the fighting men, lampooning the high-ranking officers — to stop.  Now.

The news passed from soldier to soldier. How was Sgt. Bill  Mauldin going to stand up to Gen. Patton? It seemed impossible.

Not  quite. Mauldin, it turned out, had an ardent fan: Five-star Gen. Dwight D.  Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe . Ike put  out the word: Mauldin draws what Mauldin wants. Mauldin won. Patton  lost.

If, in your line of work, you’ve ever considered yourself a  young hotshot, or if you’ve ever known anyone who has felt that way about  himself or herself, the story of Mauldin’s young manhood will humble you.  Here is what, by the time he was 23 years old, Mauldin had  accomplished:

He won the Pulitzer Prize. He was featured on the cover  of Time magazine. His book “Up Front” was the No. 1 best-seller in  the United States .

All of that at 23. Yet when he returned to  civilian life and he grew older, he never lost that boyish Mauldin grin, he  never outgrew his excitement about doing his job, he never big-shotted or  high-hatted the people with whom he worked every day.

I was lucky  enough to be one of them; Mauldin roamed the hallways of the Chicago  Sun-Times in the late 1960s and early 1970s with no more officiousness or  air of haughtiness than if he was a copyboy. That impish look on his face  remained.

He had achieved so much. He had won a second Pulitzer  Prize, and he should have won a third, for what may be the single greatest  editorial cartoon in the history of the craft: his deadline rendering, on  the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, of the statue at the  Lincoln Memorial slumped in grief, its head cradled in its hands. But he  never acted as if he was better than the people he met. He was still Mauldin  the enlisted man.

During the late summer of 2002, as Mauldin lay in  that California nursing home, some of the old World War II infantry guys  caught wind of it. They didn’t want Mauldin to go out that way. They thought  he should know that he was still their hero.

Gordon Dillow, a  columnist for the Orange County Register, put out the call in Southern  California for people in the area to send their best wishes to Mauldin; I  joined Dillow in the effort, helping to spread the appeal nationally so that  Bill would not feel so alone. Soon more than 10,000 letters and cards had  arrived at Mauldin’s bedside.

Even better than that, the old soldiers  began to show up just to sit with Mauldin, to let him know that they were  there for him, as he, long ago, had been there for them. So many volunteered  to visit Bill that there was a waiting list. Here is how Todd DePastino, in  the first paragraph of his wonderful biography of Mauldin, described  it:

“Almost every day in the summer and fall of 2002 they came to  Park Superior nursing home in Newport Beach , California , to honor  Army Sergeant, Technician Third Grade, Bill Mauldin. They came bearing  relics of their youth: medals, insignia, photographs, and carefully folded  newspaper clippings. Some wore old garrison caps. Others arrived resplendent  in uniforms over a half century old. Almost all of them wept as they filed  down the corridor like pilgrims fulfilling some long-neglected  obligation.”

One of the veterans explained to me why it was so  important:

“You would have to be part of a combat infantry unit to  appreciate what moments of relief Bill gave us. You had to be reading a  soaking wet Stars and Stripes in a water-filled foxhole and then see one of  his cartoons.”

Mauldin is buried  in Arlington National Cemetery . This month, the kid  cartoonist makes it onto a first-class postage stamp. It’s an honor that  most generals and admirals never receive.

What Mauldin would have  loved most, I believe, is the sight of the two guys who are keeping him  company on that stamp.

Take a look at it.

There’s Willie.  There’s Joe.

And there, to the side, drawing them and smiling that  shy, quietly observant smile, is Mauldin himself. With his buddies, right  where he belongs. Forever.

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