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This is the tenth in a series of posts on real-life Monuments Men. Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See related posts on Sir Charles Leonard WoolleyWalter J. HuchthausenSeymour J. PomrenzeMason HammondEdith StandenKarol EstreicherS. Lane FaisonSir Hilary Jenkinson, and Walter Horn.

The forthcoming 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 focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the past two months, I discussed some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on Douglas Cooper of the Royal Air Force, and is the tenth in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Arthur William Douglas Cooper was born to an extremely wealthy family in London on February 20, 1911. He was educated at Cambridge, Marburg and the Sorbonne, and at the age of twenty-one came into an inheritance of £100,000.  After a short stint as an art dealer in London in 1933, he pursued a career as an art historian and collector.  By 1939 he had amassed a collection of 137 cubist works primarily focused on the works of four avant-garde artists: Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso.

At the outbreak of World War II he joined an ambulance unit in Paris and earned the Médaille Militaire for his work moving the wounded to safety in Bordeaux.  Back in England he joined Royal Air Force Intelligence and was sent to Cairo to interview prisoners of war.  He also interrogated prisoners of war at Malta.

By the late spring of 1944, Cooper had joined the MFA&A Section of the Operations Branch, G-5 Division of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) and was serving with the German Country Unit, under Major Mason Hammond, developing policies and procedures for use in Germany.  He also became involved with intelligence matters as it related to German looting of cultural property.  In the latter part of August Cooper, recently promoted to Squadron Leader (equivalent of a major in the Army),  was reassigned to the Control Commission for Germany (British Element), headed by Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Woolley, who also served as Adviser on Art and Archaeology to the War Office.  In his new capacity Cooper worked closely with the Americans serving with the MFA&A Section (headed by Hammond) of the newly established United States Group Control Commission (USGCC) as well as with the SHAEF MFA&A personnel, as the respective organizations did their planning, research, and investigation necessary for the accomplishing their missions in occupied Germany.

In January 1945, Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, the head of the SHAEF MFA&A operations, asked Cooper and Hammond to come to SHAEF headquarters at Versailles to discuss the MFA&A organization to be set up in Germany by Webb, as well as the relevant plans and information he expected from Cooper’s and Hammond’s units, and the intelligence needs of all MFA&A branches and possible means of satisfying them.  They left England on January 24 and arrived that night at Versailles.  During the next ten days, with the exception of three days (January 28-30), spent in traveling and conferring with Monuments Man George Stout at HQ 12th Army Group headquarters at Verdun, Cooper and Hammond spent all their time in the Paris area.  In their meeting with Stout they discussed the development of civil administration for monuments and collections in Germany under Military Government; development of data on German civil personnel; exchange of information on German repositories; and, means of conveying documentary information from the field to higher headquarters.  Cooper and Hammond had similar conversations with Webb and other MFA&A personnel.  While Hammond returned to England, Cooper stayed a couple of weeks longer.

On one of his forays into Paris Cooper was able to review the records of the Paris offices of Schenker International Transport, a large German transport company that specialized in transporting works of art.  The company was used by several German buyers, and it enjoyed a close relation with the German embassy in Paris, which used it to warehouse, pack, and transport confiscated art to Germany.  His April 5, 1945 report on the Schenker files provides evidence of art transactions that took place between January 1941 and July 1942; descriptions of artworks sent off to Germany; lists of German buyers and the works they bought; and, the names of the French dealers involved, and the dates of the transactions.  This information would prove invaluable to the Monuments Men after the war.

In February Cooper went to Switzerland to represent both the MFA&A and the French Recuperation Commission to obtain intelligence on the Swiss art trade.  He traveled to Switzerland with the cover title of Technical Adviser to the British Trade Delegation, which was then negotiating with the Swiss regarding German-Swiss economic relations and German assets.  During his time in Switzerland he tried to piece together the movement of looted artworks into and out of Switzerland, and documented his findings in a report dated March 22, 1945.  From Switzerland Cooper proceeded to Italy and then returned to England.

On March 26 Woolley resigned his position as Director of the MFA&A Section, Control Commission for Germany (British Element), and Cooper immediately replaced him, in the capacity of Acting Director.  During the remainder of the war Cooper would play in an important role in cooperating with SHAEF MFA&A, the USGCC, the Office of Strategic Services, the Roberts Commission (American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas), and other organizations in making plans to deal with the post-hostilities phase of MFA&A work and intelligence matters connected with MFA&A operations.  Frequently his discussions involved the exploitation of captured documents; interrogations of enemy personnel; and, the development of lists and catalogs of missing works of art.

After World War II, he settled in France and spent the next forty years as an art critic of modern art, writer of a catalogue raisonné on Paul Gauguin (never completed), and author of monographs and catalogues on 19th century artists such as Degas, van Gogh and Renoir, as well as the cubist masters.  He passed away on April 1, 1984.

Much of Cooper’s MFA&A career can be followed in the Subject File Aug 1943-1945 (Entry 55B), Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 331; Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949 (Entry 463), General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165; and, the Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Record Group 239; and, the Douglas Cooper Papers at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California.



This is the ninth in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men. Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See related posts on Sir Charles Leonard WoolleyWalter J. HuchthausenSeymour J. PomrenzeMason HammondEdith StandenKarol Estreicher, S. Lane Faison, and Sir Hilary Jenkinson.

The forthcoming 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 focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on art historian Walter Horn, and is the ninth in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Monuments Man Bernard Taper said at a conference in 1995, that “My story is not as heroic or as glamorous as those of the earlier Monuments people, whom I look on as legendary figures, truly chivalric in their courage, enterprise, and dedication to a cause.  One such was my predecessor as art-intelligence officer, Lieutenant Walter Horn…”

Walter William Horn was born January 18, 1908, in Waldangelloch, Germany (in rural Baden), and grew up in Heidelberg, attending the university there, and in Berlin and Hamburg studying art history.  He received his Ph.D. at the University of Hamburg in 1933. Horn, opposed to National Socialism, left Germany in 1934 to serve as a research associate at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Italy.  He emigrated to the United States in 1938, and joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, first as a visiting lecturer and a year later given a permanent position as the first art historian in the University of California system.  Horn specialized in medieval architecture and sculpture, and he devoted much of his career to the study of vernacular architecture.

Horn was naturalized in 1943 and that same year he joined the United States Army.  In late 1944, Horn, then a lieutenant, was in England interrogating prisoners of war.  On January 2, 1945, Douglas Cooper with the MFA&A Branch, British Control Commission for Germany, wrote Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, Adviser, MFA&A, G-5, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) that Horn would be invaluable for MFA&A work in Germany. Cooper observed that “He is both a good scholar and a very nice man. He knows many of the museum people and of course is fluent in German.”  This was not to be at the time, for Horn would soon be in General George S. Patton’s Third United States Army, interrogating prisoners of war.  He was then assigned to SHAEF to work as an Intelligence Officer.

On July 20, 1945, Horn joined MFA&A Branch, United States Group Control Council, as a fine arts intelligence officer.  He was assigned temporary duty to Nuremberg that date to locate the Imperial Crown Jewels and Coronation Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire (dated from the 8th through the 14th centuries) that were thought to have been hidden in Nuremberg.  Indeed, the Nazis had hidden them to serve as a rallying symbol for a future Nazi resistance movement.  After many interrogations and much sleuthing, Horn, on August 7 recovered from a hidden room in an underground bunker in Nuremberg the missing items.

Then Horn was off to Munich Central Collecting Point, where at the end of August, he arranged to have established an Art Document Center, in which all documents, correspondence, records and card files pertaining to works of art would be united and made available for study and research. He arranged for the center to be administered under the joint auspices of the collecting point and the Intelligence Unit (to which he had just been assigned as chief), MFA&A Sub-section, G-5 Division, United States Forces European Theater (USFET).

Horn’s next assignment involved the restitution of cultural property to the Czechoslovakian government.  On October 2 General Eisenhower, not wanting to delay restitutions until a formal program was established, authorized, as soon as possible, a token restitution to Czechoslovakia of stolen cultural objects.  Already, on September 29 USFET, anticipating Eisenhower’s wishes, had issued instructions that a token restitution of stolen cultural materials to Czechoslovakia be made on or about October 9, and that restitution would take place at Schloss Banz, in Bavaria. The famous fourteenth century altarpiece by the Master of Hohenfurt found in the Alt Aussee Salt Mine in Austria and moved to the Munich Central Collecting Point, and approximately 18 cases of objects from the Army Museum, Prague, at Schloss Banz, were to be assembled by that date ready for transfer of custody receipt at Schloss Banz. Within a few days Horn left for Schloss Banz to effect the transfer of the looted works to accredited representatives of the Czechoslovakian government. Two military officers from the Czech Ministry of National Defense came to USFET Headquarters and the MFA&A unit arranged for them to proceed from there to Schloss Banz, where they were met by Horn.  While the Czech officers were en route, Capt. Edwin Rae at Third U. S. Army was directed to arrange for the delivery of the Hohenfurth panels to Schloss Banz.  He designated Lt. Cmdr. Hamilton Coulter to transport them from Munich, which he did on October 8. This joint operation was successfully carried out.

In 1946 Horn, having attained the rank of captain, returned to the United States, and resumed his professorship at the University of California at Berkeley.  He would serve as chair of that university’s Department of Art History until his retirement in 1974.  He died on December 26, 1995.

Much of Horn’s career is documented in the Subject File Aug 1943-1945, Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 331, and the various collections that comprise the Records of Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”) of Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.), Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 260.



Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher.

In the forthcoming movie The Monuments Men there will be a scene of Monuments Men entering the salt mine at Merkers, Thuringia, Germany in April 1945, and beholding German and looted gold, concentration camp victims’ gold teeth, and fabulous artwork.  The scene looks something like this:

Capture of Germany’s Gold

 Merker's Mine

ReichsBank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin Museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine vault located in Merkers, Germany. The 3rd U.S. Army discovered the gold and other treasure in April 1945.

RG 111-SC-205409

 

Of course the movie version takes liberties with what actually happened, as documented in the record holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.  What follows is a brief overview of what actually happened as documented in those records, focusing on the artworks. For a more detailed account see “Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure” in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration.

To protect Germany’s art treasures, the Reichminister for Education decided in March 1945 to ship them to mines for safekeeping. The first shipment took place on March 16, when forty-five cases of art from the Kaiser-Friedrichs Museum were shipped from Berlin to an unworked salt mine in Hesse, with shafts at Heimboldshausen and Ransbach. The mine is about fifteen miles west of the salt mine at Merkers, ten miles west of Vacha.  Dr. Paul Ortwin Rave, curator of the German State Museum in Berlin as well an assistant director of the National Galleries in Berlin, who had been sent with the shipment, found that the mine was unsuitable for a deposit, and therefore it was decided that subsequent shipments would go to the salt mine at Merkers.  The Merkers mine complex included more than 35 miles of tunnels and a dozen entrances.  Between March 20 and March 31 the Germans transported one-fourth of the major holdings of fourteen of the principal Prussian state museums to Merkers. Rave was ordered to stay at Merkers and watch over the collection.

Late on the evening of March 22, elements of Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Rhine, and soon thereafter his whole army crossed the river and drove into the heart of Germany. Advancing northeast from Frankfurt, elements of the Third Army cut into the future Soviet Zone and advanced on Gotha. Just before noon on April 4, the village of Merkers fell to the Third Battalion of the 358th Infantry Regiment, Ninetieth Infantry Division, Third Army.

By noon on April 6 a story had reached Lt. Col. William A. Russell the Ninetieth Infantry Division’s G-5 (civilian affairs) officer that there was gold and other valuables in a mine at Merkers. He proceeded to the mine, where interviews with displaced persons in the area confirmed the story. They told him that works of art were also stored in the mine and that Dr. Rave was present to care for the paintings. Russell then confronted mine officials with this information, and they stated they knew that gold and valuable art were stored in the mine and that other mines in the area were likewise used for storing valuables.  Russell learned from a German bank official that that the gold in the mine constituted the entire reserve of the Reichsbank in Berlin and Rave told him he was in Merkers to care for paintings stored in the mine.

With this information, Russell requested that the 712th Tank Battalion be ordered to proceed to Merkers to guard the entrances to the mine. Elements of the Ninetieth Division Military Police were also deployed about the entrances, and arrangements were made for generation of power and electricity at the mine so that the shafts could be entered for examination the next morning. Later that afternoon, after it was learned that there were at least five possible entrances to the mine at Merkers and that one tank battalion would not be sufficient to guard them all, Russell requested reinforcements. That evening Maj. Gen. Herbert L. Earnest, the Ninetieth Infantry Division’s commanding general, called the 357th Infantry Regiment then at Leimbach and ordered that its First Battalion proceed to Merkers to relieve the Ninetieth Division Military Police and reinforce the 712th Tank Battalion.

On the morning of April 7 military personnel interrogated civilians to obtain information on storage of Reich property in the mine. Also that morning, new entrances to this mine and to other nearby mines were found by the Americans at Leimbach, Ransbach, and Springen. Guards were immediately placed at these entrances. Later that morning, General Earnest directed that a company of the First Battalion of the 357th Infantry Regiment be posted to guard the main entrance of the Merkers mine. This company was reinforced with tanks from the 712th Tank Battalion, tank destroyers from the 773d Tank Destroyer Battalion, and Jeeps mounting machine guns for antiaircraft defense. Reinforced rifle companies were also ordered to guard entrances at Kaiseroda and Dietlas. Around 11 a.m. another entrance to the mine was found at Statinfsfeld by the First Battalion. Accordingly, a tank destroyer company was dispatched to guard this entrance.

At 10 a.m. Russell, the assistant division commander, and two other Ninetieth Infantry Division officers, Signal Corps photographers, Rave, and German mining officials entered the mine. The elevator took them to the bottom of the main shaft twenty-one hundred feet beneath the surface

Meanwhile the Ninetieth Infantry Division was continuing on the offensive and needed all of its forces. So at 5 p.m. the 357th Infantry Regiment was ordered to move out and join up with the division’s other units, with the exception of the First Battalion, which was to pass to division control and to continue guarding the mine, and Third Battalion guards were to be relieved by elements of the First Battalion. By that evening three companies of the First Battalion were guarding the entrances at Merkers, Kaiseroda, Leimbach, Springen, and Dietlas, with the assistance of one platoon of heavy machine guns and two sections of light tanks. The Merkers, Dietlas, and Kaiseroda factory areas were guarded by a perimeter defense, and special guards were placed on essential operating installations such as electric plants, transformers, and elevator mechanisms.

While the treasure was being reviewed on April 8, in other tunnels Americans found an enormous number of artworks. Late that day, Capt. Robert Posey, a Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officer with the Third Army, his assistant PFC Lincoln Kirsten, and Major Perera, of G-5, Third Army, arrived to inspect the artworks and the gold and currency.  Robert M. Edsel, in his The Monuments Men (2009) described their inspection:

Slowly, Posey and Kirstein began to realize just how much was hidden in the Merkers mines. Crated sculptures, hastily packed, with photographs clipped from museum catalogues to show what was inside. Ancient Egyptian papyri in metal cases, which the salt in the mine had reduced to the consistency of wet cardboard. There was no time to examine the priceless antiquities inside, for in other rooms there were ancient Greek and Roman decorative works, Byzantine mosaics, Islamic rugs, leather and buckram portfolio boxes. Hidden in an inconspicuous side room, they found the original woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer’s famous Apocalypse series of 1498. And then more crates of paintings—a Rubens, a Goya, a Cranach packed together with minor works.

Posey, Kirsten, and Perera then set out for the Third Army headquarters at Frankfurt, arriving there at 10 p.m. Shortly thereafter they made their report to Lt. Col. Tupper Barrett, G-5, 12th Army Group. Word was passed up the chain of command.

Manet’s “Wintergarden”

 111-SC-203453-5-xl

A painting by the french impressionist Edouard Manet, titled “Wintergarden”, discovered in the vault at Merkers. 4/25/45. RG 111-SC-203453-5

 

Col. Bernard D. Bernstein, deputy chief, Financial Branch, G-5 Division of SHAEF, was then placed in charge of the Merkers operation.  After inspections of the mine regarding the gold and currency, and trips back to Frankfurt, on April 11 Bernstein returned to Merkers, and that morning, he and Rave made an inspection of the art treasures. Later that day Lt. George Stout, USNR, MFA&A Officer, G-5, 12th Army Group, and the SHAEF MFA&A chief, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, reported for duty, with the expectation that they would handle the art matters. After Posey’s earlier visit to Merkers, he had notified Webb of the treasure and recommended Stout, former chief of conservation at Harvard’s Fogg Museum and considered America’s greatest expert on the techniques of packing and transporting, be sent to the mine to provide technical guidance. Webb and Stout arrived at Merkers only to find that they needed Bernstein’s permission to see the art. Bernstein showed them his letter from Third Army’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Hobart Gay authorizing him to decide who went into the mine and the need for XII Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy’s permission for Allied personnel to inspect the mine. Bernstein agreed to let Stout view the works of art, but he denied Webb access.

On April 12 Bernstein gave generals Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, or SHAEF commanding general) Omar Bradley (commanding general of the 12th Army Group), Patton, Eddy, and Brig. Gen. Otto P. Weyland, commander of the XIX Tactical Air Command of the Ninth Air Force, a tour of the mine.  After looking at the gold, currency, and SS loot, including gold teeth from concentration camp victims, Bernstein also showed the generals the art treasures.

Art Treasures

Eisenhower Bradley Patton tour Merkers

General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Allied commander, inspects art treasures in the Merkers salt mine. Behind Eisenhower are General Omar N. Bradley (left), and (right) Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. 4/12/45.

RG 111-SC-204516

 

Stout on April 12 talked to Rave at the Ransbach mine, who explained that the forty-five cases of art there could not be inspected as the mine elevator was not working. Stout returned to Merkers and made a spot-check of some of the boxes and crates of artwork. He found that in addition to the crated items, some four hundred paintings were lying loose. He had seen enough to know that he needed proper packing materials and that the art constituted great wealth. The next afternoon he returned to Ransbach to prepare the items there for the move. Upon his return to Merkers, Bernstein told him that the art convoy would leave on the sixteenth.

At some point on April 14 Bernstein met with Stout, Lt. Col. Carl L. Morris, G-4, SHAEF, and others to discuss the arrangements for the movement of approximately four hundred tons of art stored in different parts of the Merkers mine. It was agreed that loading would begin at noon on April 16. But the loading would actually begin earlier, for at midnight on the fourteenth, Bernstein ordered Stout to prepare three truckloads of art, which were to be mixed in with the gold to make the loads lighter. Stout, between 2 and 4:30 a.m., complied with Bernstein’s order, complete with an inventory.

Also on the fourteenth, Morris flew to Frankfurt to confer with transportation officers about procuring trucks to be used for the shipment of the art to Frankfurt, where it would be stored in the Reichsbank building.  Morris made arrangements on April 15 with the Third Army provost marshal to obtain one hundred POWs to be used in loading the art treasure the next morning. The following morning, Morris flew back to Merkers to assist in the move.

At 8 a.m. on April 15, a platoon of the First Battalion, 357th Infantry Regiment, under the direction of Stout, assisted by 1st Lt. William A. Dunn, Financial Branch, U.S. Group Control Council, started moving the four hundred unpacked pictures. Once the pictures were aboveground, they were placed in an adjacent mine-owned building and wrapped in long German army sheepskin coats Kirsten had found in a neighboring potash mine at Menzengraben. They now awaited arrival of the trucks the next day.

On April 16 at 7 a.m. the convoy arrived. The move commenced once again, under the watchful eye of Morris, who arrived back at Merkers around 9:30 a.m. The move was accomplished by 357th Infantry Regiment personnel, assisted by the one hundred POWs who arrived with an escort of guards later in the day. The move went quickly, in part because some of the art had been moved to the surface the previous day. Besides the Merkers treasures, a few art objects in forty-five cases were removed from the Ransbach mine and added to the convoy. The move was completed at about 8:30 p.m. With this phase of the operation completed, the 357th Infantry Regiment’s Third Battalion took leave of Merkers and rejoined their Ninetieth Infantry Division comrades. The First Battalion would remain at Merkers, under Corps Control, until the treasure’s disposition had taken place.

On April 17, at 8:30 a.m. the art treasure convoy, named TASK FORCE HANSEN, moved out from Merkers, having a sizable military escort and air cover. The convoy consisted of twenty-six ten-ton trucks loaded with art, two loaded with POWs, and two empty for use in the event that a transfer of loads became necessary. The art convoy arrived at Frankfurt at 2:45 p.m., and an hour later the unloading and storing of the artwork began, supervised by Stout, assisted by Dunn and Kirsten. The unloading was completed at 10:30 p.m. Stout’s inventory listed 393 paintings (uncrated), 2,091 print boxes, 1,214 cases, and 140 textiles being moved into the Reichsbank.   At 11 p.m. the infantry guard departed, and the POWs were sent on another assignment.  Stout, Posey, and Kirsten would then be off on other adventures to identify, protect, and recover cultural property in Germany and Austria. The artworks would remain in Frankfurt and be subsequently sent to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point.

 



This is the eighth in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men. Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See related posts on Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, Walter J. Huchthausen, Seymour J. Pomrenze, Mason Hammond, Edith Standen, Karol Estreicher, and S. Lane Faison.

 

The forthcoming 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 focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

 

This post focuses on British archivist Hilary Jenkinson, and is the eight in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

 

Charles Hilary Jenkinson, born in London on November 1, 1882, was educated at Dulwich College and Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1904.  Two years later he joined the staff of the Public Record Office (PRO, now the National Archives of the United Kingdom), where he worked as a processing and reference archivist.  During World War I he served in the artillery in France and Belgium from 1916 to 1918, and then worked at the War Office until 1920.  He returned to the PRO, where in 1922 he authored Manual of Archive Administration (which was republished in a second edition in 1937).  In 1938, Jenkinson was appointed secretary and principal assistant keeper of the PRO.  In 1943, the year he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), he was appointed to the War Office to advise on the protection of archives in occupied enemy territory.

 

On February 21, 1944, acting in his capacity of Archives Advisor to the War Office, Jenkinson arrived in Italy to oversee the work of the Archives section of the MFA&A Sub-Commission of the Allied Control Commission (ACC).  He used every opportunity to call attention

 

to the special danger to which Archives are subject owing to their unique character, to their easy destructibility, to the fact that they may be damaged almost as irretrievably by dispersal as by actual destruction, and to the general ignorance even among men who might be expected to appreciate the possible value of a picture or sculpture, of the possible value of stores of papers or registers; especially when these are not obviously antique.

 

For Jenkinson and Fred W. Shipman (Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, acting as Temporary Archives Adviser to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-commission of the ACC) who came to Italy six weeks after Jenkinson to review the archival situation, a major challenge was trying to ensure that those involved in the exploitation of captured records and archives for intelligence purposes understood the archival principles that applied to them, e.g., original order., as well as their importance in administration.  They were able to have produced policies and instructions providing guidance to those encountering and exploiting records and archives.  After dealing with the intelligence officers, they turned their attention to “records of historical interest and current administrative value to the communities.”  They were also able to have their respective countries send archivists for duty in Italy and arranged for archivists to be attached to the armies to go forward with the troops to better control the handling and exploitation of records when needed for intelligence purposes, as well as for the protection of historic archives in areas occupied by Allied forces.

 

Back at the PRO after his Italian sojourn, and after the Normandy invasion, Jenkinson provided advice to the military about the importance of current records and archives and the necessity for their protection from destruction and souvenir hunters.  He held meetings with intelligence officers to discuss the handling and exploitation of records and archives and during August he fired off two letters to Sir Leonard Woolley at the War Office, who was providing advice and helping establish policies and procedures that would guide the Monuments Men in their work on the continent in 1944 and 1945, about archival issues.

 

Acting on Jenkinson’s advice and that of others, on August 20, General Eisenhower issued a letter on the preservation of archives which marked the first concrete definition of policy on archives as distinct from monuments and works of art.  This letter stated:

 

Accumulations of documents connected with business of all kinds, public and private, secular and ecclesiastical, are to be found in all towns. Some of these Archives date from early times, others from the present day; but whatever may be their intrinsic worth, all have great value for every kind of research and organization, and may be of considerable importance to the Intelligence Service and to agencies concerned with the reconstitution of civil life.

 

The importance of these Archives lies in the fact that not only do they contain valuable information, but also they are continuous series of related documents. They may be almost as effectively ruined by the displacement of a few documents as by the destruction or dispersal of the whole. Moreover, their value as evidence depends largely on their continuous preservation in authorized custody.

 

In order to insure that Archives are not destroyed or damaged, all buildings in which they are house will, where practicable, be put out of bounds to all troops. Should it be essential to occupy parts of such buildings, the necessary steps will be taken, in consultation with the responsible custodians, to insure that there is no access to the Archives except for officers duly authorized by Army Group Commanders.

 

Important archives are for the most part kept in official buildings, but, in order to insure that none are overlooked, the local authorities in all large towns will be consulted as to their whereabouts.

 

At the request of the military during the summer and fall of 1944 Jenkinson prepared a document on the preservation, care, and use of archives, as well as an appendix, briefly summarizing the nature and location of important German archives.  Thanks to his efforts, in the revised Directive for Military Government of Germany prior to Defeat or Surrender, issued November 9, 1944, an important and comprehensive section on “Records and Archives” was added. This directive set forth that the Supreme Commander’s policy was to ensure the preservation from destruction, alteration or concealment of all German records, documents, plans or archives of value to the attainment of the objectives of Military government.  Commanders were directed to take such steps as might be necessary to carry out the above policy; seize and hold records and archives of interest to military government; supervise the custody and preservation of records and archives and make provision for their availability to authorized persons; prevent removal of records and archives unless required by military purposes or for safe preservation; use care in the handling of records and archives; take steps to ensure that no unnecessary or wanton damage was done to German records and archives by troops; require German authorities to give any assistance needed; and, ensure that responsibility for the preservation of records and archives was placed on all military commanders.

 

During the last six months of World War II, and until late 1945, Jenkinson continued to play a role in the development of policies and procedures regarding German records and archives.

 

In 1947 he was promoted to Deputy Keeper (chief executive officer) of the PRO and that same year, with H. E. Bell, for the British Committee on the Preservation and Restitution of Works of Art, Archives and Other Material in Enemy Hands, published Italian Archives During the War and At Its Close (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1947).  He was knighted in 1949 and retired from the PRO in 1954.  The following year he was elected the President of the Society of Archivists, holding that position until 1961, the year he died.

 

Both the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Archives of the United Kingdom, one of our partners in the International Research Portal for Records Relating to Nazi-Era Cultural Property, have substantial documentation about Jenkinson’s MFA&A activities.  The latter archives also holds his personal papers (the archival reference for that collection is PRO 30/75).


This is the seventh in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men. Today’s post is by Dr. Greg Bradsher. See related posts on Sir Charles Leonard WoolleyWalter J. HuchthausenSeymour J. Pomrenze, Mason Hammond, Edith Standen, and Karol Estreicher.

The forthcoming 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 focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively.  Over the course of the next two months, I thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals.

This post focuses on S. Lane Faison of the Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit, and is the seventh in the series of blogs on the Monuments Men.

Samson Lane Faison, Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. on November 16, 1907.  He graduated from Williams College, Massachusetts in 1929, and earned a Master’s degree from Harvard in 1930 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Princeton in 1932.  From 1932 to 1936 he was an assistant professor at Yale and in 1936 he joined the Williams College faculty as professor of art history.  In 1940 he became chair of the Department of Art, a position he would hold for nearly thirty years.

On December 1, 1942 Faison was commissioned in the Navy and served as a Naval Flight Recognition Instructor and Training Officer until April 1945 when he was asked to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).  Faison, in early May, was assigned to the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU).  The ALIU was established in 1944 “to collect and disseminate information bearing on the looting, confiscation, and transfer by the enemy of art properties in Europe.” It was also mandated to find information “on individuals or organizations involved in such operations or transactions, as will be of direct aid to the United States agencies empowered to effect restitution of such properties and prosecution of war criminals.”

Faison joined the ALIU at Alt Aussee, Austria, in the summer of 1945.  It was on May 8, 1945, at that location, in a salt mine, where the greatest collection of looted art was discovered by the U.S. Army and it was there the ALIU established a base of operations. There Faison and his ALIU colleagues, including James S. Plaut and Theodore Rousseau, Jr., set about interrogating many of those involved in the plundering of works of art. Particular attention was paid to the works of art acquired by Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering, to a projected Hitler Museum at Linz, and to the Nazi looting organization in France under the leadership of Alfred Rosenberg (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or the ERR).  The ALIU work at Alt Aussee resulted in the clarification of the nature of the looting process and the identification of the whereabouts of countless masterpieces.  Faison’s primary assignment was to write the “official history, as far as number 4 of the OSS ALIU Consolidated Interrogation reports, “Linz: Hitler’s Museum and Library,” December 1945, and the OSS ALIU Detailed Interrogation report on Herman Voss, September 1945.  Voss had been the director of the Dresden and Führermuseum.

Before leaving Europe Faison unsuccessfully recommended the art looters be included in the Nuremburg trials.  In February 1946 he departed the Navy as Lieutenant Commander.

In the spring of 1946, in recommending Faison for a commendation medal, Lieutenant Commander James S. Plaut, USNR, then Director, Orion Project, X-2 Branch, Strategic Services Unit, War Department, wrote:

As a field agent in the European Theater of a secret counter-espionage project, he conducted investigations and interrogations of enemy personnel with outstanding energy, subtlety, and distinction. Through diligent analysis of captured documents, through competent liaison with other Allied intelligence personnel, and through the aforementioned investigations and interrogations, he was able to produce a major definitive report which, for the first time, has revealed in comprehensive manner the activities and machinations of the group appointed by Hitler to amass cultural and artistic treasures from the occupied countries of Europe for the enrichment of the Linz Museum planned as a personal memorial to Hitler.

In addition, Lieutenant Commander Faison brought such skilled and highly specialized knowledge to his duties to make possible his personal preparation of invaluable interrogation reports on the leading members of the Hitler art-looting group, and the subsequent preparation, in the Washington headquarters of this project, of vital material for inclusion in the definitive lists of enemy art looting personnel presently nearing completion.

The latter was a reference to the ALIU final report, which was issued in May 1946.  The National Archives prepared a list of names mentioned in the final report, pointing to the report and page number where individuals are listed.

Back at Williams College Faison served once again as the chair of the Department of Art and became Director of the Williams College Museum of Art in 1948.

In late 1950, the State Department requested Faison go back to Germany as Director of the Central Collecting Point in Munich to supervise the transfer of U.S. operations to the Germans, and to oversee the final restitution efforts at Munich.  He agreed and stayed there during 1951. For his efforts in finding and restituting looted artworks, he received the French Legion of Honor in 1952.

Once again back at Williams he continued his position as chair of the Department of Art, until 1969 and that as director of the art museum until 1976.  In that year Faison finally retired as a full-time professor.  He then wrote several books, including The Art Museums of New England (1982).  He died in 2006 at his home in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

On April 23, 2001, I phoned Professor Faison and told him the National Archives was issuing the next day a press release announcing the release of Microfilm Publication M-1782, “OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46.”  I told him the microfilmed records—including the detailed, consolidated, and final reports—were being made available on May 8, the 56th anniversary of the U.S. Army’s discovery of the salt mine at Alt Aussee, Austria, where the greatest concentration of Nazi plunder from Western Europe was concealed.  I asked him if he minded me making his phone number available if I received press inquiries about the records and the work of the ALIU.  He said at his age it was tough enough to get up to change the television channel, much less answer the phone regarding things he had done ages ago and which were well-documented in the records we were making available. So, yes, he did mind.  I thanked him for his time, his service, and told him that the National Archives would take good care of his reports.  I added that the records were indispensable to those individuals, institutions, and organizations engaged in art provenance and claims research.  I might add this is still true today.

The ALIU reports contained on Microfilm Publication M-1782, “OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46” have now been digitized and are available on www.fold3.com

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