The Monuments Men

Written on: January 31, 2014 | 2 Comments

Yesterday we were privileged to host two special advance screenings of The Monuments Men, one especially for the staff of the National Archives.  Thanks to the generosity of Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men upon which the film is based for making this possible. The film will open in theaters around the country on February 7th.

In our East Rotunda Gallery, through the 19th of February, our featured document is an Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) album that records artwork looted by the Nazis during the Second World War – one of a series of photo albums created for Adolph Hitler’s benefit to document the Nazis’ systematic looting of cultural treasures and to serve as a pick list for his planned museum in Linz after the war. The Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program recruited the group known as the Monuments Men (although there were also Monuments Women), and they used these albums to return treasures to their rightful owners. The volume on display is one of several recently discovered albums donated to the National Archives by Robert Edsel, the president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. The newly discovered albums supplement the 40 already in the custody of the National Archives.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by General Omar N. Bradley, and Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., inspects art treasures stolen by Germans and hidden in salt mine in Germany., 04/12/194, National Archives Identifier 531272
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by General Omar N. Bradley, and Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., inspects art treasures stolen by Germans and hidden in salt mine in Germany., 04/12/194, National Archives Identifier 531272

Last night’s film was the second of three programs relating to the document display and to the World War II Monuments Men. Last week, on the day the display opened to the public, we showed the 2006 documentary film The Rape of Europa, co-produced by Robert, to a large noontime audience.

On February 19, at 7 p.m., Robert will be back to discuss his far-reaching research about the Monuments Men, the film adaptation we saw last night, and his work as founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art in a panel discussion moderated by Greg Bradsher – an archivist steeped in the documented history of this period – with historians, art curators, and Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat.

The Monuments Men is a dramatized story of an unlikely group of heroes who traded art galleries and libraries for besieged European cities. Their real-life stories can be found among the records in the National Archives – in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives field reports, records of the postwar Office of Military Government in Germany, and the Monuments Men’s own personal records. Two articles written by Greg Bradsher for Prologue Magazine, “Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure” and “Monuments Men and Nazi Treasures: U.S. Occupation Forces Faced a Myriad of Problems in Sorting Out Riches Hidden by the Third Reich,” highlight some of these records.

Robert and I share a dream and belief that this movie will result in the discovery of even more of the albums as WWII vets pass on and their families discover the spoils of war in attics around the world. Please see the film and recommend it to friends.

2 Responses to “The Monuments Men”

  1. M'Lisa Whitney said:

    Thank you for giving staff the opportunity to see the film yesterday afternoon – I thought it was terrific! I worked with the MFAA records for several years and know what a difference the Monuments Men made in preserving our most precious cultural objects in Europe. I am delighted that this tiny bit of WWII history has made it to the big screen!


    (January 31, 2014 at 4:13 pm)

  2. Joanne Rooney Stout said:

    So interesting for me to read through this material and follow the links which so mention with frequency, my father-in-law, George Leslie Stout. I have also been reading his original hand written journals from that same time period.


    (January 31, 2014 at 10:09 pm)