Robert Edsel's Blog

Blog entries for the ‘Art’ Category

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).



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.


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 (!/RobertEdsel) and Facebook (

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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: – Was Kimbell Statue Hiding a Sordid Sales History?

Please forward this article to all your family and friends.



April 1st, 2011 | 10:18 am

General Eisenhower Talking at Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 2, 1946 about the importance of saving art and culture during World War II.

An amazing discovery of historical significance was recently found, an audio recording from April 2, 1946 that has General Eisenhower specifically talking about his decision to safeguard the world’s cultural treasures during World War II. Eisenhower gave this speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was honored with a life fellowship. His words reiterate both his actions during the war and America’s actions after the war in dealing with cultural items, both domestically and internationally. It is a unique occurrence to hear Eisenhower speak only on the topic of art.

The Associate Press wrote an article that explaining the finding and its significance that is running on Yahoo! News. Click the link to read the article.

You can listen to Eisenhower’s entire speech on the newly redesigned Monuments Men Foundation website,

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D-Magazine Feature: The Nazi Treasure Hunter

February 24th, 2011 | 1:53 pm

The Nazi Treasure Hunter

D Magazine March 2011

There are those who believe that two of the world’s most high-profile missing artifacts are hidden somewhere in the Dallas area. It’s an intersting coincidence, given that the man leading the search for them and other cultural treasures lost since World War II happens to live right here.

D-Magazine – Robert Edsel is the Nazi Treasure Hunter – March 2011


Ms. Maria Altmann Passes Away at 94

February 8th, 2011 | 12:15 pm

Mr. Robert M. Edsel and Ms. Maria Altmann

On February 7th, 2011, Ms. Maria Altmann passed away at the age of 94. She escaped Nazi-occupied Vienna and returned to Austria in 1998 to wage a triumphant fight to recover Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer, an iconic portrait of her remarkable aunt.

To watch a short video to learn more about her remarkable story, please click the link:

To learn more about her remarkable story, please click the link:,0,493390,full.story

We will write more about this woman’s remarkable life in the coming days.

Ms. Maria Altmann in front of her aunt's portrait "Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer" by Gustav Klimt

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Book Giveaway Contest Starts Today!

October 20th, 2010 | 2:55 pm

Dear Supporters,

To continue celebrating the release of The Monuments Men paperback edition, we are having a book giveaway contest. Here is how you enter to win your free copy of The Monuments Men:

1. Go to our blog

2. Under the comment section leave your favorite Monuments Men story or your favorite WWII story. One story will win every day for the next two weeks!

It is that simple. Please share your stories with us for a chance to win.


Robert Edsel



July 2nd, 2010 | 2:05 pm

James N. Wood, long time director of the Art Institute of Chicago (1980-2004) and more recently President and CEO of the Getty Trust, died recently.  I met Jim Wood more than 3 years ago at the memorial service for one of his great mentors, Monuments Man S. Lane Faison, Jr, his college professor of art history at Williams College.  Jim was one of a group of prominent students who went on to lead some of our nation’s greatest museums including Rusty Powell (Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), Jack Lane (former Director of the Dallas Museum of Art), and Kirk Varnadoe Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

I remember well the moving story Jim Wood told about Lane visiting the Art Institute for a tour of some of the great works and the dramatic moment that brought Lane to his feet when standing before a great work of art.  The esteem and affection this once student felt for his old teacher was still evident after all those years.  Everyone was brought to tears as the telling of this story came alive.

Jim Wood leaves a lengthy and worthy legacy of scholarship and contribution to the arts at these two and other institutions.  His connection to the Monuments Men was considerable as many of his peers once served the MFAA; others studied and worked for men and women who were Monuments officers.  These first line connections to this great part of our history are something to cherish while we still have them.  They underscore the urgency with which we continue to gather all aspects of the story of the Monuments Men.

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June 30th, 2010 | 2:31 pm

Rembrandt van Rijn, Nightwatch (Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq), 1642. Oil on canvas, 3.6 x 4.4m (10 ft 10 in x 14ft 4 in).

On June 30, 1945, Rembrandt van Rijn’s masterpiece, Nightwatch (Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq), was formally unrolled at the Rijksmuseum after having been returned to Amsterdam by the Dutch canal system on a special boat.

Photo Courtesy of NARA.

The painting had spent the last six years in hiding, in no fewer than four different repositories. It traveled from Castricum, to Heemskerk, to St. Pietersberg, and finally to a specially constructed bombproof shelter at Paaslo.

Photo Courtesy of NARA.

After the painting was unrolled, it was reattached to its stretcher and carefully examined by Rijksmuseum officials, as seen in the photo above. From left to right: Professors Reuling and Wolter of the Committee of Amsterdam; Dr. C. Lindeman, a director of the Rijksmuseum; D.C. Roell, general director of the Rijksmuseum; and (second from right) the Dutch painter Ruter, also a member of the Committee of Amsterdam.

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