MFAA: The History of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program (Also Known as Monuments Men)

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MFAA: The History of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program (Also Known as Monuments Men)

Hitler on the other hand believed that Allied forces would plunder Germany. Yes, but not quite as romantically as they do in The Monuments Men movie. In real life, this did not happen. However, two Monuments Men did perish in the war.

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Ronald Balfour, 41, who is in fact the real-life counterpart of actor Hugh Bonneville's character Donald Jeffries, died from a shell burst while trying to move parts of an historic church's medieval altarpiece to safety not while protecting the Madonna. George Clooney left secures a sculpture in the movie.


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During the war, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was moved six times before she was returned to the Louvre. The painting was certainly an item that the Germans would have loved to have gotten their hands on. The Nazi's had created "shopping lists" of items that were earmarked for priority "removal" and transport back to Germany. Museum officials, along with the help of the Monuments Men, often went to great lengths to keep priceless works of art out of Nazi hands.

In a comedic moment of the movie, Matt Damon's character steps on a land mine, to which George Clooney's Frank Stokes replies, "Why did you do something like that?

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In relation to the real James Rorimer, Robert Edsel's Monuments Men book does convey Rorimer's concerns with mines and minefields, not only mentioning the dangers but also Rorimer hearing the sounds of exploding mines, minesweepers and signs that warned of land mines. However, at no point does James Rorimer accidentally step on a mine.


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Mines were common in the war and presented an ever present danger when searching for and attempting to recover and safeguard artifacts. The book describes a soldier at Merkers salt mine showing Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley a bag of gold fillings that had been pulled from the teeth of Holocaust victims. Other reports describe the discovery in more detail, citing chests full of gold fillings, similar to what is seen in the movie. Yes, and as we explored the true story, we learned that the press focused more on the gold than the recovered art.

The True Story of the Monuments Men

In real life, more than tons of Reichsbank gold was discovered in the salt mine at Merkers right , April 15, During our investigation into The Monuments Men true story, we came across estimates as high as 20 million. However, in general the estimates vary widely, with many placing the number of looted art and artifacts far lower, at somewhere between five and six million.


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Much of it was taken by Hitler and his Nazi lieutenants for themselves and Germany. The MFAA managed to recover and return around five million pieces to their owners or their countries of origin, since many belonged to Jews who had died in the Holocaust. Unfortunately to this day, not all of the stolen art has been recovered. Despite the discoveries of thousands of art repositories that were used to conceal the Nazi's looted treasures, priceless masterpieces like Bernardo Bellotto's "View of the Grand Canal in Venice" and Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Man" have never been found both are pictured on the left.

They join a number of other celebrated paintings that remain missing, including Van Gogh's "Vincent on his way to work" and Claude Monet's "Manet painting in Monet's Garden. The story made headlines around the world and it is believed that some of the art might have passed through the Monuments Men's hands. It was often difficult to be sure that the art was being returned to the proper individuals.

Monuments Men: Saving Art and Treasure From the Nazis | History Daily

Nick Clooney, the father of Monuments Men director and actor George Clooney, appears in the movie during a s epilogue, portraying an aged Frank Stokes George Clooney. The real-life counterpart to the movie's Pvt. Sam Epstein, a German-Jewish teen who is the driver and translator for the men in the film, is still living. In real life, his name is Harry Ettlinger. He was 19 when he volunteered to join the Monuments Men after hearing that a small group was looking for someone who could read and write German.

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In the last year of the war, they tracked, located, and in the years that followed, returned more than five million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent. The Monuments Men remained in Europe for up to six years following the conclusion of fighting to oversee the complicated restitution of stolen works of art.

During that time they played instrumental roles in rebuilding cultural life in the devastated countries of Europe by organizing temporary art exhibitions and musical concerts. Upon returning home, many of the Monuments Men and women had extraordinarily prominent roles in building some of the greatest cultural and educational institutions in the United States.

Lane Faison, Dec. Walker Kirtland Hancock was a prominent sculptor who taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from to Hancock was drafted into the Army in and initially trained as a medic. Army where he felt he could do the most good In this audio clip, Hancock talks about locating and recovering looted art repositories found in the salt mines.

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In this audio clip, Howe talks about locating large caches of art work that had been looted by the Nazis in the salt mines and the postwar restitution efforts and returning the artwork to their countries of origin. He helped organize the repatriation efforts in postwar Germany at the Munich Central Collecting Point, where the art was collected for restitution to their countries of origin.

In this audio clip, Parkhurst talks about art looting by the Nazis and the Wiesbaden Manifesto, signed by Parkhurst and many other Monuments Men, protesting the removal of German-owned artworks to the United States for safekeeping after the war. Andrew Carnduff Ritchie was an art administrator and art historian. George Leslie Stout was a museum director and prominent art conservator in Massachusetts. Stout was one of the first U. He was appointed Lieutenant Commander of the MFAA unit and supervised the inventorying and removal of looted artwork hidden in the salt mines of Merkers and Ransbach in Thuringia, Germany and in other repositories in France and the Netherlands.

In this audio clip Stout speaks of his experience as a MFAA officer, especially the poor storage conditions in the salt mines. Otto Wittmann was a curator and director of the Toledo Museum of Art from As an ALIU official, Wittmann assisted with looted art recovery in Paris and Munich, investigated transactions in Sweden and Switzerland, and worked with the collection centers in France. In these audio clips, Wittmann talks about his work restituting art looted by the Nazis.