The Merkers Salt Mine Cache
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
In early April, 1945, the German village of Merkers fell to elements of Lt. General George Patton’s Third Army. Stories soon began to emerge about a local salt mine packed with gold, treasure, and priceless art. At 10 a.m. on April 7, 1945, Lt. Col. William A. Russell of the Ninetieth Infantry Division, and other staff followed German mining officials into the mine. The elevator took them to the bottom of the main shaft twenty-one hundred feet beneath the surface, where the image above awaited them.
(Catch up on some of our earlier Monuments Men posts!)
Who were the Real Monuments Men?
German loot stored in church at Ellingen, Germany found by troops of the U.S. Third Army. 4/24/45.
Can’t make tonight’s The Monuments Men talk with Robert Edsel at the National Archives? (Watch it online on the usnationalarchives Ustream channel). Or want to brush up on your history in advance? Read about the real “Monuments Men.”
Made up of art historians, museum curators, archivists, and architects, the men and women from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) Section of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, aka the “Monuments Men,” were assigned to protect Europe’s cultural heritage.
Learn about individual Monuments Men in the recent series on the Text Message blog:
- Walter Kirtland Hancock, Hometown Hero: St. Louis’s Monuments Man
- Ronald Balfour, A British Monuments Man Killed in Action
- Sir Charles Leonard Woolley, An Unlikely Monuments Man
- Walter J. Huchthausen, A Monuments Man Killed in Action
- Seymour J. Pomrenze, A National Archives Monument Man
- Mason Hammond, the First American Monuments Man in the Field
- Edith Standen, A “Monuments Man” in Germany 1945-1947
- Karol Estreicher, The Polish Monuments Man
- S. Lane Faison, An Office of Strategic Services Monuments Man
- Sir Hilary Jenkinson, An Archivist Monuments Man
- Walter Horn, A Monuments Man Investigator
- Douglas Cooper, A British Art Historian and Collector Monuments Man
Read up on the author of many of these pieces: Greg Bradsher: Monuments Men expert at the National Archives
More on the Monuments Men at:
- Media Matters » The Real Monuments Men
- Prologue: Pieces of History » Nazi Art Looter’s Diary, Long Missing, Found and Online for the First Time
- Prologue: Pieces of History » You won’t see this in the Monuments Men movie
- Monuments Men and Nazi Treasures by Dr. Greg Bradsher, via Prologue Magazine
- Hi-res and public domain images relating to looted art
- Dr. Greg Bradsher’s extensive online finding aid to these materials
- In 2011, the National Archives launched the International Research Portal to Nazi-era records, providing digital access to millions of Nazi-era cultural property–related records through a single portal for the first time.
- The Eisenhower Library has a number of records related to the Monuments Men.
It’s an evening dedicated to the Monuments Men on Wednesday, February 19, at 7 p.m. at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Robert Edsel has dedicated years to painstaking research about the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program–the group known as the Monuments Men–and has written several books including The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.
Edsel and a panel will discuss his books, the recent film adaptation starring George Clooney, his work as founder and chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, and the work of the Monuments Men.
The panel includes Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives and author of Holocaust-Era Assets: A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archives at College Park, MD; Nancy Yeide, head of the Department of Curatorial Records at the National Gallery of Art; Michael Kurtz, professor at University of Maryland College of Information Studies and former Assistant Archivist for Records Services at the National Archives; and Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, President Clinton’s special representative on Holocaust-era issues.
A book signing of The Monuments Men and Saving Italy will follow the program.
Image: Artworks that were confiscated and collected for Adolf Hitler, seen here examining art in a storage facility, were designated for a proposed Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. (242-HB-32016-1)
Doesn’t George Clooney look like George Stout, on the far left in this photograph from 1945? Clooney’s character in the film Monument Men is based on Stout.
Did you love the movie? Want more Monuments Men?
Don’t miss your chance to hear Robert M. Edsel, author of The Monuments Men on February 19 at 7 p.m. in the McGowan Theater at the National Archives.
Edsel will discuss his book and the film adaptation along with archivist Gregory Bradsher and others. A book signing will follow the program.
And on display until February 20 as our Featured Document display is a recently discovered album of artwork looted by the Nazis donated to the National Archives by Edsel.
And don’t miss the new exhibit at the Archives of American Art: "Monuments Men: On the Frontline to Save Europe’s Art, 1942–1946."
Image: Monuments Men (from left to right) George Stout, Sgt. Travese, Walker Hancock, and Lt. Kovalyak at the excavation of Bernterode. George Clooney plays a character based on Stout in the movie. (Walker Hancock Collection, courtesy of the Monuments Men Foundation.)
(Ed. note: George Stout’s name corrected, 2/10/2014)
When the movie “Monuments Men” opens today, there’s one macabre story you won’t see on the silver screen. Not only did the Nazi hide art, but they also hid bodies!
In this case, they hid the remains of German leaders, including Frederick the Great and Frederick William I, in a salt mine. (The photograph shows the coffin of Frederick the Great as it was found, draped with a Nazi flag, May 1, 1945.)
The Germans had hidden the caskets containing the bodies of the Fredericks and former Weimar President Paul von Hindenburg and his wife in a mine in a remote area to conceal them from the approaching Russian troops. But the war ended, and U.S. troops made it to the mine first and found the caskets. They were in a room divided into different compartments hung with brilliants flags.
Capt. Walter K. Hancock, an officer specialist with the Monuments Men, described the scene: “Crawling through the opening into the hidden room, I was at once forcibly struck with the realization that this was no ordinary deposit of works of art. The place had the aspect of a shrine … all suggested the setting for a modern pagan ritual.”
Stout later described the casket in an oral history interview with the Archives of American Art in 1978. In the movie, Clooney’s character is based on Stout.
You can read more about the strange discovery in today’s Prologue blog post: http://go.usa.gov/B5Zm
The Real Monuments Men
American GIs hand-carry paintings down the steps of the Neuschwanstein castle under the supervision of Capt. James Rorimer. NARA photo: 239-RC-14-5
The major motion picture, The Monuments Men, is set to debut in theaters nationwide. The movie tells the story of the men and women from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) Section of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Made up of art historians, museum curators, archivists, and architects, these “Monuments Men,” as they came to be called, were assigned to protect Europe’s cultural heritage. As World War II engulfed the continent, that task became exceedingly difficult…
Read more via Media Matters » The Real Monuments Men
Fred Shipman, Monuments Man
Dr. Fred W. Shipman, first Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, was asked to join the Roberts Commission (the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe) in January 1944.
In a letter to President Roosevelt, Shipman described his new position, saying, “It would be my job to survey the problem relative to records and archives in this theater and to organize plans to preserve, salvage and make available important records for use in the continued administration and future reconstruction of the area and to preserve cultural materials.”
Roosevelt granted Shipman leave from the Library and the Director soon began his tenure as Temporary Archives Advisor to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Subcommission of the Allied Control Commission. Members of this Commission are now famously referred to as “Monuments Men.”
Shipman left Washington, D. C. on March 17, 1944. He flew to Naples, Italy where he spent the next month meeting military personnel and getting his orders. From April 18 to May 4, Shipman traveled through Occupied Italy visiting archival repositories. The purpose of his mission was to help protect and preserve Italian archives and records. These materials included both the current administrative records of government and private organizations, as well as the older archives of historical and cultural value.
Read more about Shipman and his time as a Monuments Man.
The Monuments Men
Last week 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.
Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.
Florentine Art Treasures Returned, 07/21/1945
Six trucks with part of the half billion dollars worth of Florentine art treasure, which was taken to Bolsano by retreating Germans, arrives at Piazzo Dei Signoria, Florence, Italy and passes by reviewing stand of American, English and Italian officials.
Art Treasures Returned, 07/23/1945
A photo from a collection about looted World War II and Holocaust-era assets, the caption reads:
One of the trucks that transported the art treasures to Florence, Italy. The paintings had been stolen by the German Army and recovered by the U.S. Army and returned to the city of Florence.