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Today’s post is written by Chris Naylor, Director of Textual Records for Research Services, Washington DC.
The Nazis and their collaborators engaged in widespread and systematic confiscation of art and cultural property between 1933 and 1945 through various means including theft, coercion, and forced sales. These activities resulted in the displacement of millions of items of cultural property. During and after the war, the Allies undertook major efforts to identify and restitute the property to its rightful owners. In recent years, the international community has recognized the critical need to ensure access to relevant archival materials dispersed across institutions throughout the world in order to facilitate provenance and claims research to ensure looted art and cultural property is identified and returned to the rightful owners.
On May 5, 2011, the National Archives launched the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property, which is a collaboration of national and other archival institutions with records that pertain to Nazi-Era cultural property. These archival institutions, along with expert national and international organizations, are working together to extend public access to the widely-dispersed records through this single internet portal that links researchers directly to the digitized records and online finding aids of the 18 participating institutions. The Portal enables families to research their losses; provenance researchers to locate important documentation; and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period. This collaborative project was established to fulfill the objectives of the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the 2000 Vilnius Forum Declaration and the 2009 Terezin Declaration, particularly to make all such records publicly accessible.
The Portal links researchers to archival materials consisting of descriptions of records and, in many cases, digital images of the records that relate to cultural property that was stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost during the Nazi era. These records, which are in many different languages, include Nazi documentation, governmental records from 1933 onwards, inventories of recovered artworks, post-war claims records and auction house and art dealer records. Cultural property documented in these records ranges from artworks to books and libraries, religious objects, antiquities, archival documents, carvings, silver and more.
The records that are available on the Portal from the U.S. National Archives (NARA) document the activities of several U.S. Government agencies involved in the identification and recovery of looted assets, including the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and U.S. occupation forces in Germany and Austria. The materials also contain captured German records regarding the seizure of cultural property, such as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) albums, card file, and related photographs. The records have been described in NARA’s online catalog. Many of the records have additionally been digitized and made available online by our partner Fold3.com (Holocaust Era Assets records). The digitized records on Fold3.com are available for free in all National Archives research rooms and many large libraries, or for a fee by subscription. Records that have not yet been digitized are available for research at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
These records were created or received by the U.S. Government during and after World War II as part of its investigations into cultural assets that were looted or otherwise lost during the war. Many of the records available through the Portal highlight the work of the U.S. Army Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFA&A), commonly known as the “Monuments Men.” In total, the records of the U.S. National Archives that can be found through the Portal include over 2.3 million pages of documents, and they are available for your research today.
Today’s post, written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, is the next installment in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men.
The movie, The Monuments Men, has focused great attention on the Monuments Men (and women) and their work during and after World War II. Of course the movie cannot tell the story of the over 300 individuals involved in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) work, so it focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively. Beginning in December 2013, Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals, and thus started a series of blog posts. This blog post on Lester K. Born is the thirteenth in this series.
In 1950, Lester Kruger Born wrote about the first day he went to work as a Monuments Man in 1945:
The rain was pouring down. The hour was 0630. The day was Monday, 12 June 1945. The place was Hoechst, Germany, headquarters of the US Group Control Council. A lone figure, bundled up in hooded officers’ fieldcoat, with musette bag slung over should, and with pistol and extra clip of ammunition fastened at the waist sloshed down the street. This was the only Archivist then on the regular Table of Organization (T/O) of US Gp CC. At the appointed rendezvous bedraggled figures appeared. Trucks arrived. The Archivist and other officers climbed up beside drivers of 2 ½ ton trucks, and the little convoy started up the Autobahn from Frankfurt to Kassel. This was the Advance Party sent to open the Ministerial Collecting Center….
The story of Born joining the Monuments Men began during the fall of 1944 when there were several attempts to get Army Captain Born, then serving with the First Army in Belgium, assigned to work with the Monuments Men. At the end of October, Fred W. Shipman, Adviser to War Department on Archives, then in Europe, wrote Brig. Gen. Frank J. McSherry, Chief, Operations Branch, G-5, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), recommending Born for a Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) position. Shipman pointed out that Born read, spoke, and understood French and German fluently. Shipman added that he also read Dutch and Italian and understood the latter. Born, he wrote, traveled widely in Europe before the war, including to England, France, Germany, Poland, Austria, and Italy. He noted that Born was a special student of medieval Latin and medieval manuscripts and paleography and that his fields of interest professionally had been the history of political theory as well as the history of archival theory and practice. Shipman added that Born had published a number of articles in professional journals and translated Erasmus’ Education of a Christian Prince , with a scholarly introduction, and for several years published systematic abstracts of archival publications in Western Europe (France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany) quarterly in The American Archivist . He noted that Born “is a thorough scholar, and an energetic and conscientious worker.” Although he had never been on the staff of the National Archives, Shipman added, he had many contacts with staff members of the institution, and was highly recommended by all who know him well. Unfortunately, there was no vacancy that Born could fill.
Lester Kruger Born was born in Alameda, California on January 23, 1903. He studied Classical Philology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1925 and master’s degree in 1926. In 1928 he received a master’s degree from Princeton University where he studied Classics and in 1929 received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago. From 1929 until 1938 Born taught at Ohio State University (Classical Languages), Western Reserve University (Classics), and George Washington University (Classical Languages and Literature). In the latter years he became Assistant Archivist of the Works Progress Administration’s Historic Records Survey, a position he held until 1941 when he joined the Office of Price Administration. In 1942 he entered the Army. From 1928 to 1941 he authored articles in Political Science Quarterly, Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Journal of Modern History, and, American Journal of Philology. He also wrote “Baldassarre Bonifacio and his essay ‘De Archivis’ ,” in The American Archivist 4 (1941). His most important work was the translation of Erasmus’ Education of a Christian Prince , with a scholarly introduction on ancient and medieval political thought (1936).
On January 20, 1945, SHAEF MFA&A requested the services of Born (then with V Corps of First U.S. Army, as archivist at 12th Army Group area). In making the request, Capt. Marvin C. Ross, United States Marine Corps Reserve, MFA&A, G-5 Operations Branch, indicated that Born was highly recommended for this work by the Archivist of the United States and by Fred Shipman, and that Born had worked in German archives and was fluent in German. But SHAEF was not to be Born’s initial Monuments Men assignment. On May 29, he joined the MFA&A Branch of U.S. Group Control Council (USGCC) (Germany), as Archivist Specialist Officer, joining civilian archivist Sergeant B. Child, who served as Adviser on Archives and Libraries. Both Born and Child were soon assigned to temporary duty with SHAEF. In mid-June Born began a new assignment, noted above.
On June 12 the advance party of six officers, including Born, and fifteen enlisted men arrived at Fuerstenhagen, some 12 miles southeast of Kassel, to get the Ministerial Collecting Center (MCC) going. The actual site was in the area of the munitions factory known as Fabrik Hessisch Lichtenau. The primary mission of the MCC was to accession and take archival control of German ministerial records. It was Born’s job to get archival operations up and running at the MCC. Born expected his assignment would last a week. But he was still at the MCC on July 4, when the USGCC, placed staff supervision of operational activities at MCC in the Office of the Director of Intelligence. The scope and activities of the MCC expanded, and so did the work and the necessity for having an archivist, i.e., Born, on site.
During the fall of 1945 the volume of documents was increased at Ministerial Collecting Center by the acquisition of the Foreign Office (FO) and other records. At the end of 1945 there were over 1,420 tons of records and 40 tons of film and equipment, with over 1,500 Germans (mainly former Ministry civil servants) working with the records and assisting the Military Government to ascertain the workings of the German ministries. It would be a challenging assignment; and there was continual push to get records accessioned and processed, ready to move to Berlin by February 1, 1946. Before the end of the year Born would be assigned to Berlin with the MFA&A Section of the Office of Military Government (US) for Germany [OMGUS], but he would continue to work at Kassel on temporary duty.
In mid-December, Monuments Man Seymour Pomrenze visited the MCC and Born. After this visit he wrote Oliver W. Holmes at the National Archives that:
I was greatly impressed with the manner in which this place operates and the important position Born as archivist occupies on the operational and technical staff. Born himself is a person of unusual ability, a scholar, and one of the finest officers I have met in the last 40,000 miles of my travels. He is all work and lets nothing deter him from his objective. Having a background in classics and medieval history (he had written a book on Erasmus and many other articles) he appreciates the problems connected with gathering and storing properly documents and books. His addition the staff of The National Archives at some future date would be a most valuable gain for our institution.
By the end of December 1945 a rough screening of the essential part of documents was completed with the exception of those received in December. Most of the ministerial records were moved during January 1946, to MCC Berlin. The MCC was officially closed on February 1, and the 6689th Berlin Document Center (BDC) became fully responsible for its operation. The former MCC would be renamed the Ministerial Documents Branch of the Berlin Document Center. Appreciative of Born’s work Colonel Henry C. Newton, Director, Ministerial Collecting Center, Berlin, on February 12, wrote General Lucius D. Clay, Deputy Military Governor (Office of Military Government, US), that through Born’s work at the MCC, that organization had been efficiently and smoothly operated. He indicated that Born showed initiative, imagination and determination and should be promoted. Born would be promoted to major.
During the 1946-1949 period Born played an important role in the reconstruction of German archival operations and in the restitution and return of archival materials. After his return to the United States in 1950, Born coordinated the microfilming of important holdings of the Library of Congress. He also authored two important works in 1950: “The Archives and Libraries of Postwar Germany,” American Historical Review, Vol. 56, No. 1 (October 1950) and “The Ministerial Collecting Center near Kassel, Germany,” The American Archivist, Vol. 13, No. 3 (July 1950). Born served as a cultural affairs officer at the American Embassy in Manila from 1956 to 1959. He returned to the United States in 1959 to head the manuscripts section of the Descriptive Cataloging Division of the Library of Congress. In 1963 he became head of the European Exchange Section of the Library of Congress. Lester Born died October 7, 1969 in Washington, D.C.
Information about Born’s activities in Germany from 1945 to 1949 can be found in numerous series of records within Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS (RG 260), and within numerous documents contained in Material Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives, 1968 (NAID 6922180), RG 242.
Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
The term “Doughboy” has been part and parcel of the American scene for almost a century. The term “G.I.” dates back some seventy-five years. Buster Keaton, in 1930, starred in the movie Doughboys, about soldiers during World War I. A popular song in 1942 was Johnny Doughboy found a rose in Ireland, performed by Kay Kyser and Sammy Kaye, among others. G.I. Jive, a song written and originally performed by Johnny Mercer hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade in 1944 and later that year, performed by Louis Jordan, made it to number one on both the Harlem Hit Parade and the pop chart. The song begins:
This is the G.I. Jive, man alive,
It starts with the bugler blowin’ reveille
over your bed when you arrive.
Jack, that’s the G.I. Jive
In the 1960 movie G.I. Blues, Elvis Presley sung a song with the same title, which included the lyrics:
I’ve got those hup, two, three, four
occupation G.I. Blues
From my G.I. hair to the heels of my G.I. shoes
And if I don’t go stateside soon
I’m gonna blow my fuse
The terms “Doughboy” and “G.I.” have been variously defined (see Wikipedia for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GI_(term) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doughboy ). Generally the former refers to American military personnel (especially U.S. Army) during World War I while the latter usually refers to American soldiers since the 1940s.
In looking for something relating to the Berlin Museum Masterpieces exhibit in the United States after World War II, I stumbled across a 1946 Army response to an inquiry regarding the two terms. The letter was from the Army Adjutant General to a private citizen who had initially written the Treasury Department on October 25, 1946, asking for an explanation of the differences of meanings of the terms “Doughboys” and “G.I.” The response provides the Army’s view on the meaning and origins of the two terms. The letter is contained in File 000.4 Central Decimal Correspondence Files, 1946-1948 (National Archives Identifier 6626121), Record Group 407.
Today’s blog is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor, Archivists at the National Archives in College Park.
The recent movie, The Monuments Men, and the continuing interest in art provenance research, prompted us to share some information about the primary records for research documenting the work of the Monuments Men (actually Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives [MFA&A] personnel) in protecting, locating, recovering, and restituting cultural property during and after World War II. There is extensive information about the background, recruitment, training, and deployment, as well as many of the activities of the Monuments Men spread across several record groups at the National Archives in College Park.
Record Group 239: Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas
An excellent starting point when beginning research on the Monuments Men are the Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (RG 239), better known by the name of its chairman, The Roberts Commission. The Commission records also document much of the work of the Monuments Men because copies of reports and other documentation were sent to it. Although the Commission was active from 1943 to 1946, its records include some materials dating from 1940 to 1947. There are also nearly 20,000 still photographs in this record group. The photographs were taken in Europe, North Africa, Palestine, the Philippine Islands, Burma, China, and the Netherlands East Indies. These photographs show depositories and looted artwork, effects of bomb damage and vandalism to cities and monuments, liberation by the Allies, and commission employees. Additionally, there are nearly 1,500 maps of provinces, regions, and cultural sites in Europe and Asia, photocopied with overlays marking sites that were to be spared destruction (a few maps are originals with manuscript overlays), with accompanying documentation. Most of these records were reproduced on 187 rolls of National Archives Microfilm Publication M1944, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission).
One series of records in Record Group 239, Copies of Reports from the Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operations Received from the Allied Military Government, 1943-1946 (National Archives Identifier (NAID) 1552680), are reproduced on 3 rolls of microfilm (Microfilm Publication A3380). Included are reports, lists, and card files that consist of selected pages of reports received from MFA&A officers in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations; information on private art collections; and extracts of card files related to war damage, art looting, and auctions.
Record Group 165: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs
The Civil Affairs Division, within the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), contains an abundance of information regarding the Monuments Men programs and operations, and its coordination with the Roberts Commission and the Theaters of Operations. Most of this information is found in the Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-1949 (NAID 3376702), under Decimal File Number File: CAD 000.4.
Record Group 331: Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II
An important source for the organization and activities of the Monuments Men from 1943 to July 1945 are the records of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 331). In the European Theater of Operations the Monuments Men came under the control of SHAEF, primarily under the G-5 Division. There are three series of records within the G-5 Division that contain important information about the Monuments Men:
- Numeric Files, August 1943-July 1945 (NAID 610059), under File Number 751.
- Numeric-Subject Operations Files, 1943-July 1945; (NAID 611522), under File Number 130.
- All fifteen boxes of the Subject Files, August 1943-1945 (NAID 612714)
The most useful information for research into the Monuments Men and their work in Italy are the Records of the Allied Control Commission for Italy (ACC), Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 331). Among the ACC records are the Subject Files, 1943-1947 (NAID 7450631) that is arranged organizationally and thereunder by subject. Within the Subject Files, under File 10000/145 are 506 files on “Monuments & Fine Arts.” Within the records of each region and province, under the sub-indicator 145 there are additional “Monuments & Fine Arts” files.
Record Group 260: Records of the United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II
Information about the Monuments Men’s activities during the war years and the postwar years in Germany is found in records of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone, (Germany) [OMGUS] of the Records of the United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 260). There are eight groups of OMGUS records that are particularly useful when conducting research about the work of the Monuments Men. They are all available on microfilm and have been digitized.
- Records of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA) of the Reparations and Restitution Branch, OMGUS, 1945-1951. These records consist of intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Sixteen series are reproduced on 43 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publication M1949.
- Records Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts of the Cultural Affairs Branch, OMGUS, 1946-1949. These records pertain to the restitution of artworks, investigations of crimes involving art objects, conditions of archives and libraries in the American Zone and their holdings, problems encountered in reopening museums, libraries, and archives and the exchange of experts and exhibits. The series Records Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts (NAID 2570648) is reproduced on 14 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publication M1921.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): OMGUS Headquarters Records, 1938-1951. These records consist of intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. They also include general records, activity reports, and restitution and custody receipts of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section as distributed to the Headquarters of Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) [OMGUS]. Three series are reproduced on 45 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publications M1941A and M1941B.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Munich Central Collecting Point, 1945-1951. These records contain administrative files, property cards, and photographs of artworks and of activities from the Munich Central Collecting Point during the period 1945-1951. Included are also intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Ten series of textual records and two groups of photographic records are reproduced on 334 rolls of microfilm in Microfilm Publications M1946A and M1946B.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Marburg Central Collecting Point, 1945-1949. These records consist of general administrative files, Marburg Central Collecting Point property accessions, the directory of Marburg Central Collecting Point property released to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, and photographs. Three series of textual records and one series of photographic records are reproduced on 28 rolls of microfilm in Microfilm Publication M1948.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1945-1952. These records contain administrative files, photographs of artworks, and property cards from the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point during the period 1945-1952. Also included are intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Fifteen textual series and one photographic series are reproduced on 117 rolls of microfilm, in Microfilm Publication M1947.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Offenbach Archival Depot, 1946-1951. These records consist of administrative files, cultural object restitution and custody records, correspondence relating to restitution claims, monthly reports, and photographs of library bookplates and markings. Four textual series and three photographic record series are reproduced on 13 rolls of microfilm, in Microfilm Publication M1942.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Selected Microfilm Reproductions and Related Records, 1945-1949 A3389). This series consists of 76 rolls of microfilm containing selected files from the restitution records of the central collecting points, along with a number of documents and manuscripts temporarily in State Department custody after the central collecting points of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) [OMGUS] were closed. A copy of the original microfilm was transferred to the National Archives from the State Department with the central collecting point files.
- Among the records of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA), the most useful records relating to the Monuments Men are Records of the Monuments and Fine Arts Branch of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA) Section, 1945-1950. The records were microfilmed as Microfilm Publication M1927. On the 14 rolls of this microfilm publication are reproduced the individual claims processed by and general records of the Monuments and Fine Arts Branch.
Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer
Photographs related to the Monuments Men and their activities, besides those noted above in Record Group 239, are contained in the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (RG 111). The photographs are contained in the series Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754-1954 (Local Identifier: 111-SC; NAID 530707), and are indexed by the series Index to U.S. Army Signal Corps Black-and-White Photographs in Series 111-SC, ca. 1900-ca. 1981 (Local Identifier: 111-SCY; NAID: 531476). The series titled U.S. Army Signal Corps Photographs of Military Activity During World War II and the Korean Conflict, 1941-1954 (Local Identifier: 111-SCA; NAID 531473) contains two albums of photographs numbered 5446 and 5447 selected by the Signal Corps as the best representation of significant subjects and subtopics in the photograph collection (111-SC). Fifteen of the photographs selected from the two albums in Series 111-SCA are available online.
M. SGT Harold Maus of Scranton, PA is pictured with the Durer engraving, found among other art treasures at Merkers. 5/13/45. 111-SC-374661
Office of Strategic Services
One group of Monuments Men served with the Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU). This unit created detailed, consolidated, and final reports containing information collected during interrogations of individuals engaged in Nazi art looting activities. Copies of these reports are scattered among various records groups. A complete set of the reports were microfilmed and are available in Microfilm Publication M1782, OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46. Many copies of the ALIU reports and correspondence related to the reports can be found in the records: Subject Files (NAID 1537311), Detailed Interrogation Reports (NAID 1537319), and Consolidated Interrogation Reports (NAID 1537337) of the Roberts Commission (RG 239). In both instances the records have been digitized and are available online at www.fold3.com.
In this post, we have tried to provide the most useful series one would first review in undertaking research into the Monuments Men. It should be noted that there are other series within the Record Groups mentioned above as well as in other Record Groups at the National Archives in College Park that contain records relating to the Monuments Men.
Please consult NARA’s webpage on Records Related to Nazi Era Cultural Property for more information on NARA holdings relating to the Monuments Men. Some of the records are available in digitized form in the Holocaust Era Assets Collection on www.fold3.com.
Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is the last post in a four-part series.
The National Archives and Records Administration will display Adolf Hitler’s Political Testament, Personal Will, and Marriage Certificate (National Archives Identifier 6883511) in the exhibit “Making Their Mark” beginning March 21, 2014. This series of blogs traces the aforementioned documents from the time of their creation to first being exhibited at the National Archives in 1946.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army Chief of Staff, decided that before sending the Hitler documents to the President, they should be authenticated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Colonel Hopkins, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), thus got in touch with the FBI. On March 6, 1946, E. G. Fitch of the FBI sent a memorandum to FBI Assistant Director D. M. Ladd, in which he attached a so-called brochure or book entitled “Adolf Hitler Certificate of Marriage, Private Will and Political Testament.” This brochure he pointed out was prepared with the original document appearing on the left-hand side of the page and the English translation appearing on the right-hand side. The brochure had been handed to Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the Liaison Section by Colonel Hopkins. Hopkins told Reynolds that the brochure had been prepared by the MIS so that the Chief of Staff might give it to the President, “who undoubtedly will eventually place it in the Library of Congress.”
Hopkins told Reynolds that he had been advised by General Vandenberg that Eisenhower was delighted with the attached material, but was reluctant to pass it to the President until some attempts has been made to verify the authenticity of the documents and Hitler’s signature. Also attached in the memorandum were numerous captured documents which contained copies of Hitler’s signature; as well as documents containing the signatures of Martin Bormann and General Wilhelm Burgdorf. Hopkins told Reynolds that Vandenberg desired the Bureau to make a comparison of the signatures in the attached book with those appearing on the attached official documents in order to ascertain whether or not the signature on the alleged marriage certificate and wills were authentic. Hopkins indicated to Reynolds that Eisenhower desired that this information be obtained as expeditiously as possible and cautioned Reynolds that the information appearing in the book, that is, the fact that the Army had what appears to be Hitler’s marriage certificate, private will and public testament, was not known at the present, and it was desired the matter be maintained secret by the Bureau until after the President has made it known publicly that United States authorities were in possession of these documents. Also included was a photostatic copy of the official documents which were handed to Reynolds by Hopkins. Fitch recommend that his memorandum with the attachments be forwarded to the FBI Technical Laboratory and an examination be conducted as expeditiously as possible and that the result be made known to the Liaison Section with the return of all the documents attached other than the photostat so that they may be returned to Hopkins. Fitch added that it should be noted that the original documents could be removed from the book by releasing certain sections of scotch tape which held the documents in place. At the bottom of the memorandum was J. Edgar Hoover’s blue-inked “OK. H.”
The FBI lab on March 13 completed its work and Joseph A. Sizoo, the Chief of the Document Section of the lab transmitted its report on the document analysis to the Bureau hierarchy. Sizoo reported that the papers were, when received, mounted on cardboard pages of a leather binder, each being covering with cellulose sheets fastened with scotch tape for protection. To conduct the necessary examination, in accordance with express statements of MIS, he reported that several pages were removed from the covers. Since this endangered the specimens and additional preparations will be needed for permanent maintenance, this removal was confined to the minimum “‘random tests.’” Pages 1 and 2 of the marriage certificate (the most questionable), the last (signature) pages of the private will and the political testament were the only sheets completely removed. One or two of the covers of other pages were lifted to gain access to the paper, but otherwise the mounts were not disturbed. Sizoo reported that it had been found that rubber cement was used at the top and corners to fasten the original papers to the cardboard. In replacing those removed, no additional adhesive was added and at no time was anything placed on the papers (in the nature of a test reagent, solvent, adhesive or any other Laboratory material such as might be applied in an examination). Sizoo then provided alternatives for permanent retention and display, citing methods used by the National Archives and Library of Congress. Sizoo indicated that the Bureau might want to suggest those methods to the MIS. He concluded by indicating that the present mountings were restored in the leather binder and specimens were transmitted with his memorandum for personal delivery to MIS with the report if desired. He also noted that photographic copies had been prepared for the records of the Laboratory. Hoover wrote in blue ink “Yes. H.” and also in blue ink that Hopkins was advised as above.
Later that day J. Edgar Hoover wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, War Department, about the results of the examination. The FBI laboratory’s report provided detailed information on the physical material employed, the condition of these materials, typewriting, and handwriting, and while not providing a definitive rendering, still provided enough information to allow the reader of the report to conclude the documents were authentic in all respects. The Laboratory report was attached. Special Agent Reynolds delivered the Hoover memorandum and the report to Colonel Hopkins. Hopkins read the report in the presence of Reynolds and indicated a great deal of satisfaction with the report and was extremely profuse in his praise of the manner in which the Laboratory handled the examination. Colonel J. R. Lovell, in charge of the Document Section, subsequently advised Reynolds that he had reviewed the Bureau’s report and he too was lavish in his praise of the manner in which the examination was conducted. Lovell advised Reynolds that he intended to recommend that the Bureau’s report be made a part of the original documents when they were delivered by the Chief of Staff to the President.
On March 16 Weckerling, the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 wrote Vandenberg attaching the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage, personal will and political testament, together with Bormann’s letter of transmittal to Admiral Karl Doenitz. He indicated “these historic documents have been appropriately mounted in a protective binder together with translation of the documents.” Vandenberg was informed of the laboratory tests conducted by the FBI in order to determine the documents’ authenticity. Weckerling attached the FBI Laboratory report. He wrote that the significance of the documents was such that he recommended that they be transmitted to the President by the Secretary of War with the suggestion that the documents be forwarded to the Library of Congress or other appropriate agency for preservation and suitable public display. He attached a draft of a memorandum to be transmitted to the Secretary of War with the recommendation that he sign a letter substantially as drafted, also attached, to the President forwarding the Hitler papers. According to a handwritten note on the retained copy, Weckerling delivered the package that day. Vandenberg must have immediately approved the recommendations because later that day Weckerling wrote Eisenhower with basically the same information as contained in his communication to Vandenberg, with the recommendation that an attached letter to the President be signed and dispatched with the Hitler papers.
On March 18 Eisenhower sent the Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson, a draft of a memorandum to the President, transmitting the original copies of Hitler’s certificate of marriage and his personal and political wills, together with a letter written by Martin Bormann. Eisenhower wrote that the documents were apparently authentic, as indicated by a very comprehensive laboratory test made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which he was attaching. “I recommend,” Eisenhower wrote, “that you transmit these historic documents to the President, suggesting that they be exhibited in the Library of Congress or in some other appropriate public institution.”
On March 19, Secretary of War Patterson wrote the President:
Our Military Intelligence personnel, through information furnished by the British Intelligence Service, recovered Adolf Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter transmitting these documents to Admiral Doenitz, signed Martin Bormann. The unique character of these papers and their historic significance prompt me to forward them to you as a matter of personal interest. A laboratory test by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that these documents are authentic.
Hitler’s final anti-Semitic tirate (sic), his frantic attempt to maintain a semblance of German government, and what amounts to a suicide pact between himself and Eva Braun vividly illustrates the closing hours of the Nazi regime. These are matters of great public interest. Might I suggest that these documents be placed on display in the Library of Congress or other suitable establishment.
President Truman on March 22 wrote Patterson thanking him for the Hitler material. He indicated that he was pleased to have looked at them before they went to the National Archives, where the other war documents were held.
On the morning of March 26 Brig. Gen. Harry H. Vaughn, Military Aide to the President brought the Hilter documents to Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck’s office, along with a letter from Secretary of War Patterson to President Truman transmitting the listed documents. Buck wrote that it was his understanding with Vaughn that the documents were sent to him by the President to be added to the holdings of the National Archives and they were to be available for consultation, exhibition, or publication under his [the President's] direction. Later that morning, Buck called in Mrs. Elizabeth E. Hamer, Chief of the Exhibits and Publications Staff and Thad Page, Administrative Secretary of the National Archives and Chief of the Legislative Archives Division, and turned over to them the items that Vaughn delivered. Apparently at this time it was decided that they would be placed on exhibition. Hamer took them back to her office to look at and then turned them over to Buck to keep in his office overnight.
The next day, March 27, Mrs. Hamer wrote a memorandum to Page requesting specific information in regard to the creation, discovery, and later history of the documents now in their possession, and forwarding to him copies of Secretary Patterson’s letter and an inventory of the documents. Later that day she took the volume of documents to Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff and discussed removing them from the book and their subsequent rehabilitation with Arthur E. Kimberly, head of staff. The documents were left in the Cleaning and Rehabilitation laboratory so that they could be removed from the binding.
On March 28 Kimberly’s staff completed the removal of the documents from the book and Hamer took them to a colleague to discuss having them photographed the next morning and immediately returned. She then talked to Page about when they could put the documents on display. Page called the War Department to see whether someone could tell him what unit prepared the documents and gave them to Secretary Patterson. The response was the unit could not furnish all the necessary background information but that the War Department would work on the issue. At this point Page and Hamer decided not to display the documents until she came back from her vacation. On March 29 the documents were photographed and returned to Hamer, who got them at the end of the day and put them in the Exhibition Hall for protection.
Meanwhile, on March 28 the National Archives wrote the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, that it had just received from the President Hitler’s personal and political wills, his marriage certificate, and a letter to Doenitz from Bormann transmitting these documents. The material, the National Archives reported, was transmitted to the President by a letter from the Secretary of War under date of March 19 and that the National Archives intended to place the documents on display and to issue a publication concerning them. Before doing so, however, the National Archives indicated that more information concerning the documents would be desirable and requested background information about the documents, including how they had been obtained by the Army. On March 29 the G-2 Secretariat asked the Chief of the MIS to prepare a response for the signature of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 to the National Archives letter.
On April 3 Hamer learned that Colonel Hopkins at the War Department could inform the National Archives about the discovery of the Hitler documents. The documents were given to the archival unit that was to have custody of them and it was agreed that once they were processed, they would be returned to the Exhibits and Publications Staff who would send them to the Cleaning and Rehabilitation Staff for treatment. With those arrangements made, Hamer on April 5 began her one and half-week vacation.
Hopkins was indeed the right person to contact about the documents. On April 8 the response to the National Archives was prepared and the MIS Chief sent it to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, indicating that that letter provided information about the seizure of the documents [the Fial report], that the FBI concurred in sending the National Archives its laboratory report, and recommending that the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 sign and dispatch the letter. The next day, April 9, the MIS Chief was informed that the letter to the National Archives had been signed by the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Brig. Gen. John Weckerling, and it had been dispatched.
The letter to the National Archives provided background information about the seizure of the documents that had been provided by the Counterintelligence Corps in the European Theater of Operations and enclosed a photostatic copy of the report by the FBI concerning the authenticity of the documents. The National Archives was informed that the translation, mounting and binding of the documents was done by MIS captured document specialists. Further, the National Archives was informed that: “While the translation is not particularly good one from a literary standpoint, particular care was taken to preserve preciseness of the original German meaning and wherever possible to retain the German sentence structure to facilitate reference between the translation and the original.” The National Archives responded the next day, indicating it was very much indebted to Weckerling for furnishing them with the information concerning the Hitler documents. “This information,” the National Archives noted, “will be very helpful to us in preparing an exhibit of these documents.”
Hamer returned from her vacation on April 17 and with all arrangements made, the Hitler documents went on exhibit at the National Archives on April 26, less than a year after the documents had been created in the bunker in Berlin.
The National Archives has custody of scores of documents relating to the creation and disposition of the documents discussed in this blog series. The following lists those records most pertinent to the voyage of the Hitler documents from the Berlin bunker to the National Archives:
- Memorandum from Col. Edward M. Fickett, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army to Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel, International Military Tribunal, Subject: Circumstances of Discovery of Hitler’s Wills, January 11, 1946, Hitler’s Private Testament and Political Testament, April 29, 1945, File: 3569-PS, United States Evidence Files, 1945-46 (National Archives Identifier 305264), Record Group 238
- Col. C. R. Tuff, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Allied Force Headquarters, Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary No. 60, for week ending February 27, 1946 – Part II-General Intelligence, “The Discovery of Hitler’s Wills,” File: Combined Weekly Intelligence Summary, Allied Force Headquarters, Publications (“P”) Files, 1950-1951 (National Archives Identifier 656424), Record Group 319
- Capt. Robert E. Work, Air Corps, Chief Interrogator, Air Interrogation Unit (USDIC), Air Division, Headquarters United States Forces in Austria, Interrogation Summary No.1, “The Last Days in Hitler’s Air Raid Shelter,” October 8, 1945, File: Interrogation Summary US Forces in Austria, ibid.
- File: XA085512, Junge, Gertrude, Intelligence and Investigative Dossiers Personal Files, 1939-1976 (National Archives Identifier 645054), Record Group 319
- File: D011874, Zander, Willi [Wilhelm], ibid
- File: XE013274, Willi Johannmeier, ibid
- File: 314.4 Germany, Project Decimal Files, 1941-1945 (National Archives Identifier 1685733), Record Group 319
- File: 314.4, Personal Documents of Adolph (sic) Hitler, Army-AG Decimal File 1946-1948 (National Archives Identifier 6626121), Record Group 407
- File: Major Trevor-Roper Interrogations, Reports Relating to Prisoner of War Interrogations, 1943-1945 (National Archives Identifier 2790598), Record Group 165
- Memorandum, 1st Lt. Allen Fial, 303 CIC Det, Headquarters, Third United States Army to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Third United States Army, Subject: Documents in Luggage of Wilhelm Zander, Alias Friedrich Wilhelm Paustin, December 28, 1945, File: 370.2 1945, Classified Decimal Files Regarding Captured Documents, 1945 (National Archives Identifier 5674542), Record Group 498
- File: 65-53615-61, Headquarters Files from Classification 65 (Espionage) Released Under The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts, 1935-1982 (National Archives Identifier 565806), Record Group 65
- Exhibits and Publications Daily Dairy, File: Diary, Fiscal Year 1946, Daily Diary of Activities, 1945-51 (National Archives Identifier 7580965), Record Group 64