Robert Edsel's Blog

Blog entries for the ‘Amazing Stories’ Category

Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 20th, 2012 | 2:49 pm

Yesterday in a speech for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta praised the work of the Monuments Men, and described Col. Seymour Pomrenze as a “hero.” Col. Pomrenze, who passed away last year, was the first Director of the Offenbach Archival Depot. He was instrumental in the restitution of thousands of looted archives. I agree with Secretary Panetta: Col. Seymour Pomrenze was a hero, as were all of the Monuments Men!

(The Monuments Men Foundation received the National Humanities Medal in 2007.
Col. Seymour Pomrenze is 3rd from the right)

To learn more about Col. Seymour Pomrenze, please visit his bio:
http://www.monumentsmen.com/bio.php?id=238
Read the full text of the Defense Secretary’s speech here:

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67th Anniversary of an Amazing Day in History: April 12,1945

April 12th, 2012 | 3:27 pm

Left to Right: Generals Bradley, Patton, and Eisenhower (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Having heard about the extraordinary discovery of most all of Nazi Germany’s gold reserves and paper currency, along with its vast cultural wealth from Berlin’s greatest museums and libraries, in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley left SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France and made a several day visit to see it firsthand. As the Monuments Men, led by George Stout, were urgently crating the works of art for removal from the mine, the generals descended in a rickety elevator manned by a lone German operator.

Their sense of disconnection was palpable: billions of dollars (in today’s currency) of gold bars and bagged coins sat stacked in one chamber adjacent to some of the world’s greatest works of art. Chests filled with gold fillings pulled from the mouths of murdered victims of the Nazi genocide sat idle, not yet smelted into bars to sit atop the Reichsbank horde. Suitcases of silverware, another reminder of property stolen along with the lives of the owners, lined several walls.

General Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration Camp (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Later that afternoon, the generals visited Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American forces. Strewn before them were the corpses of the dead and emancipated figures of those near death. General Patton, old “Blood and Guts”, had to lean against the side of one of the bunkhouse sheds as he was sick to his stomach from the horrors and stench of what he was witnessing.

President Franklin Roosevelt attending Yalta Conference in February 1945, less than 2 months before he died. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

After dinner, as the generals returned to their respective tents, General Patton overheard on the BBC the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death earlier that day. At age 63, 12 years into his presidency, having led the nation through its most perilous fiscal crisis and a world war, Roosevelt was gone. He did not live to see the fruits of his leadership – victory – which would follow 26 days later in Europe, and 125 days later in Japan.

April 12: a day that had momentous implications for our nation, the world, and the Monuments Men.

 

(For a more detailed account of this story, please read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History).

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National Archives and Monuments Men Foundation Announces Discovery of Hitler Albums Documenting Looted Art

March 27th, 2012 | 3:29 pm

Monuments Men Foundation Founder and President Robert Edsel and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero unveil the donation of two “Hitler Albums” to the National Archives at the Meadow Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX

To Learn More about this amazing discovery, please visit us at www.monumentsmenfoundation.org.

PRESS RELEASE

Today at a ceremony in Dallas, David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist and Robert M. Edsel, President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art and author of The Monuments Men, announced the discovery of two original leather bound albums containing photographs of paintings and furniture looted by the Nazis. The Monuments Men Foundation will donate these albums, both of which have been in private hands since the end of World War II, to the National Archives.

These albums, created by the staff of a special task force, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, document the unprecedented and systematic looting of Europe by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The ERR was the main Nazi agency engaged in the theft of cultural treasures in Nazi-occupied countries.

The Archivist hailed this discovery as “one of the most significant finds related to Hitler and the Nazi’s premeditated theft of art and other cultural treasures to be found since the Monuments Men Foundation’s previous discovery of Albums 6 and 8. It is exciting to know that original documents are shedding light on this important aspect of World War II. Documents such as these may play a role in helping to solve some of those mysteries and, more importantly, helping victims recover their treasures. The National Archives is grateful to Mr. Edsel and the Monuments Men Foundation for today’s donation of Albums 7 and 15, which will allow scholars and historians immediate use of these materials.”

“The Foundation often receives calls from veterans and their heirs, who don’t know the importance of items they may have picked up during their service, or aren’t aware that anyone is looking for the items,” Foundation President Robert M. Edsel stated. “These albums are just the tip of the iceberg for hundreds of thousands of cultural items still missing since World War II. The role of the Monuments Men in preserving cultural treasures during conflict was without precedent. We honor their legacy by completing their mission.”

In the closing days of World War II, U.S. soldiers entered Adolf Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Many picked up trinkets as souvenirs as proof that they had been inside. Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti and Private First Class Yerke Zane Larson each took one leather bound album. Neither man knew the significance of the albums, other than being a memento of their war service. Heirs to both men contacted the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, a not-for-profit organization that received the 2007 National Humanities Medal, after reading media stories about the Foundation’s work involving the restitution of other valuable World War II documents.

Yerke Zane Larson proudly served in the 501st Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, “the Screaming Eagles.” His daughter Sandra Runde stated: “If my father was still living, I know he would be pleased to serve as an example for other veterans and their families of the importance of returning cultural treasures, just as the Monuments Men set the standard for protection of culture during armed conflict.” In the final days of the World War II, Larson picked up Album 15 as a souvenir while in Hitler’s home, known as the Berghof.

Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti, who served in the 989th Field Artillery Battalion, removed Album 7 from the Berghof the same week as Larson as proof he’d been in Hitler’s home. His niece, Jane Gonzalez, commented: “My uncle was from a generation that grew up making sacrifices and putting others before themselves,” said Ms. Gonzalez. “I believe that donating this album to the National Archives and thereby assuring its preservation and availability to the public honors his legacy and is a testament to his personal character and patriotism.”

As the ERR staff looted, photographed and catalogued the French collections, they created leather bound albums, including the two being donated today. Each page of the album contained a photograph of one stolen item. A letter representing the family from which the item was stolen and an inventory number is noted beneath each image; for example in Album 7, “R2951” would be the 2951st object stolen from the Rothschild family. The albums were specifically intended for Hitler in an effort to keep him apprised of the ERR’s progress in France. According to noted historian Dr. Birgit Schwarz, once Hitler received the first set of albums on his birthday in April 1943, he issued a directive that incorporated the confiscated items into “Special Commission Linz.” This organization oversaw building the collection for the Führermuseum, an unrealized museum complex Hitler planned to build in his hometown of Linz, Austria, as well as distribution of art to regional museums throughout the Reich. As the director, Hitler decided which items would be placed in certain museums.

ERR Albums 7 and 15 are significant discoveries. Album 7 includes images of sixty-nine paintings which represented very early thefts, some as early as 1940 and early inventory numbers such as EW4 (the fourth item stolen from Elizabeth Wildenstein). Images of two important paintings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard are featured in Album 7. Girl with Two Doves, or Mädchen mit zwei Taube,n (inventory code: R38) sold at auction in 2000 for over $5 million after having been properly repatriated by the Monuments Men in 1946. Album 7 also includesThe Dance Outdoors, or Tanz im Freien, (inventory code: R67) attributed to the painter Jean-Antoine Watteau, which was intended for Hitler’s Führermuseum. Although the majority of the paintings featured in Album 7 appear to have been properly restituted after the war, four paintings are listed on the ERR Database as not having been restituted. Album 15 contains photos of forty-one pieces of furniture, primarily from the Rothschild family. Three of those pieces, inventory codes R917, R943, and R944, were prominently featured in one of the exhibits staged at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris for Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to select items for his own collection.

In May 1945, thirty-nine original ERR albums were discovered at Neuschwanstein by the Monuments Men. They had been stored there by the Germans along with records that documented their confiscations and thousands of looted items. These albums were subsequently taken to the Munich Central Collecting Point where they were used by the Monuments Men to assist in the restitution process. In late 1945 these albums were used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials to document the massive Nazi art looting operations.

Today the National Archives has custody of the original thirty-nine albums, as well as two additional albums, 6 and 8, discovered by the Monuments Men Foundation and donated to the National Archives in 2007. Like Album 7, Albums 6 and 8 were picked up by a member of the 989th Field Artillery Battalion who was stationed in the Berchtesgaden area in the closing days of the war. Mr. Edsel stated about this occurrence: “I hope discoveries such as these will encourage other members of the 989th Battalion and their families, as well as all veterans, to look in their attics and basements for any lost wartime items as they may hold the clues to unravel this unsolved mystery.”

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George Clooney to Direct, Star in ‘Monuments Men’ About Stolen Nazi Art

January 9th, 2012 | 12:07 pm

EXCLUSIVE

George Clooney has started to work on his next project, writing, directing and starring in a big-budget movie about the men who chased down the stolen art of Europe during World War II, he told TheWrap on Saturday.

The Monuments Men,” which Clooney is co-writing with his producing partner Grant Heslov, will tell the story of a hand-picked group of art experts chosen by the U.S. government to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.

“I’m excited about it,” Clooney told TheWrap at the Palm Springs Film Festival on Saturday. “It’s a fun movie because it could be big entertainment. It’s a big budget, you can’t do it small — it’s landing in Normandy.”

The movie will be based on the book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” by Robert M. Edsel.

Click Here to Read More: http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/george-clooney-direct-star-monuments-men-about-stolen-nazi-art-exclusive-34177

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ANOTHER HERO HAS DEPARTED: ROBERT A. KOCH (1919-2011)

December 5th, 2011 | 4:45 pm

Monuments officer, Lt. Robert A. Koch, died on November 11 after a lengthy illness.  Koch served with the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946. While working with the MFAA, he was stationed at the Office of Military Government for Wurtenberg-Baden in Germany. Koch signed the Wiesbaden Manifesto, a document outlining the MFAA opposition of the removal of German-owned artworks from the Wiesbaden Collecting Point to the United States.

Koch became a prominent Northern Renaissance scholar earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina in 1940 and 1942, respectively. Following his military service, he attended Princeton University for continued graduate studies. In 1948, he received a Master’s of Fine Arts and began working on his Ph.D., which he received in 1954. Koch’s teaching career began at Princeton in the fall of 1948 in the Department of Art and Archaeology.  He was named full professor in 1966. In 1950, he accepted the additional position of assistant director at the Princeton Art Museum. Koch also became Curator of Prints and Drawings in 1961. In 1990, Koch retired from the university and was named professor emeritus.

Among his many honors, Koch was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant in 1956 to study art history in Belgium, and later received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies in 1961. He was a member of the College Art Association, serving as its director from1961 to 1963. He is also the author of several books, including Joachim Patinir (1968) and Hans Baldung Grien; Eve, the Serpent and Death (1974).

With the passing of Mr. Koch, there are now just seven living Monuments officers.

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Honor Our Veterans!

November 11th, 2011 | 2:12 pm

Veterans and Monuments Men Bernard Taper, Harry Ettlinger and Horace Apgar and President of the Monuments Men Foundation Robert Edsel (second from right) at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

During World War II, while tens of thousands of Allied troops were flooding the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, the Monuments Men were impatiently waiting to cross the English Channel for their chance to contribute. For Monuments Man James Rorimer, future director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the gravity of the situation gripped him that day as he wrote in a letter we found while researching my last book:

“We are told that the invasion of Western Europe by overwhelming forces is underway…Now I am thinking of the combat troops and the task which is theirs. We older men are anxious on the one hand to help deal the death blow to tyranny, and on the other we think of our families at home and the obligations which we have as husbands, fathers, sons, and members of the peace-time community.”

-James Rorimer Letter to his Family, June 6, 1944

Over the last few months, I have been conducting research for my next book, Saving Italy, which will also rely on the letters the Monuments Men wrote to their families. One of the first things that occurred to me while reading these letters, was the extent to which the thoughts and feelings conveyed reflect their age and maturity. The Monuments Men had an average age of 40; a few had even fought in World War I. For the most part, these heroes were not the fearless young men who went to war before their adult lives had really begun. In contrast, these men had accomplished careers, they had wives and children, they had learned lessons from life’s experiences, and they had everything to lose. Reading their letters always reminds me about their commitment to saving the cultural world and its great artistic treasures we all cherish, and the courage of their convictions in volunteering to serve.

So today, I would like to thank the Monuments Men for their service, and all of the Veterans and service men and women of our country. Their cumulative sacrifices enable us to live the lives we lead. It is a silent sacrifice, one without complaint, as these brave soldiers “just do their job” out of duty and honor to our nation. We can’t say thank you enough to these remarkable men and women. We celebrate your bravery today and every day.

Click Here to Watch a Video about The Veterans Story

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Monuments Men Newsletter – Bust of Isabella D’Este at the Kimbell Art Museum

October 26th, 2011 | 11:45 am

The Bust of Isabella d'Este in the saltmine of Altaussee, Austria in May 1945.

The latest edition of the Monuments Men Newsletter was published. The 24th edition includes the inside story of the Monuments Men Foundation’s role with the Kimbell Museum restitution the Bust of Isabella D’Este, what Robert Edsel has been doing this summer, the fitting tribute to the recently departed Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze,  and the rescheduling of the “In the Footsteps of the Monuments Men” European Tour. Please click on the link to read the newsletter and forward to all your family and friends.

Just in case you may not know, we are on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/RobertEdsel) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-Edsel/130960233032)

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Was Kimbell Statue Hiding a Sordid History?

July 7th, 2011 | 11:22 am

Museum historian Nancy Edwards, left, and author Robert Edsel were both instrumental in determining the history of a bust of Isabella d’Este at the Kimbell Art Museum. The bust was found among articles collected by Adolf Hitler.  Star-Telegram / Ron T. Ennis

Robert Edsel, Nancy Edwards and the Kimbell Museum were instrumental in determining the provenance history behind a bust that is on display at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.  The article that appeared in the Fort Worth Star Telegram explains how Robert became aware that this bust was in a salt mine at Alt Aussee during and after World War II due to Adolf Hitler’s desire to own it and its incredible travels from auction houses in Europe and America and eventually settle in Fort Worth.

To read the full article as it appeared in the newspaper, click here: Fort Worth Star Telegram – Mystery Woman

To read the full article as it appears on their website, click here: DFW.com – Was Kimbell Statue Hiding a Sordid Sales History?

Please forward this article to all your family and friends.

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WATCH ROBERT EDSEL ON THE 33 NEWS TONIGHT

May 13th, 2011 | 1:29 pm

Watch  Walt Maciborski’s special report about Robert Edsel talk about the Monuments Men and the greatest untold story of World War II on The 33 News at 9pm CST. Robert will also talk about his continued search for displaced cultural items from World War II. Click the link to watch the trailer and for local listing.

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MONUMENTS MEN NEWSLETTER – EISENHOWER AUDIO RECORDING DISCOVERED

April 27th, 2011 | 11:25 am

General Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, departing the Met.
(photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries.)

The Monuments Men Foundation is proud to announce the discovery of an audio recording of General Eisenhower speaking about the importance of art and its protection during war.

The speech was delivered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on April 2, 1946 at an event in which General Eisenhower was presented with an Honorary Life Fellowship from the museum with a citation that read:

“To Dwight D. Eisenhower, soldier, diplomat and statesman, through whose irreplaceable art treasures were saved for future generations.”

Award recipients with Texas Governor Rick Perry, including Bill Paxton,
Bob Schieffer, Barbara Smith Conrad and ZZ Top.

Other articles in this newsletter: the announcement of a new book coming out in Spring of 2013, Remembering Maria Altmann, and Robert Edsel presented with Texas Medal of Arts.

Click On the Link to Read The Monuments Men Newsletter

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