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Monuments Men and the Allied Effort
to Save European Cultural Heritage

 

The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, often referred to as the Monuments Men, was an international group established in 1943 that worked under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections to help protect cultural property during and after World War II. Their mission was to identify art, architecture, monuments, and archives that needed to be preserved; work with Allied commanders to limit damage to these cultural resources; work with local officials to stabilize and repair damages to monuments and architecture; identify and locate art, archives, and other cultural resources that had been removed by German forces; gather recovered works into staging areas for identification and preservation; and return the works to legitimate owners.

Cable from General Marshall to General Eisenhower Regarding Protection of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Italy, October 14, 1943 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 132, Cables Official (GCM/DDE) July 29, 1943 - February 19, 1944 (3)]

Memorandum from John J. McCloy to General Eisenhower, December 13, 1943 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 75, McCloy John J. (3)]

The Ancient Monuments of Italy, Part I, March 19, 1944 (section 1 of 2) [Lauris Norstad Papers, Box 14, The Ancient Monuments of Italy Part I (1)]

The Ancient Monuments of Italy, Part I, March 19, 1944 (section 2 of 2) [Lauris Norstad Papers, Box 14, The Ancient Monuments of Italy Part I (2)]

The Ancient Monuments of Italy, Part II, March 19, 1944 [Lauris Norstad Papers, Box 14, The Ancient Monuments of Italy Part II]

Memorandum from General Dwight D. Eisenhower regarding preservation of historical monuments in Europe, May 26, 1944 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 13, Bradley Omar N. (6)]

Annex XX (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) to Basic Preliminary Plan, Allied Control and Occupation of Germany (Control Council Period), February - April 1945 [Eisenhower Library Collection of 20th Century Military Records, Series II, Box 20]

Cable from General Marshall to General Eisenhower, April 10, 1945 [Walter Bedell Smith Collection of WWII Documents, Box 28, Eyes Only Cables 1945 (incoming) (3)]

Cable from General Eisenhower to General Marshall, April 11, 1945 [Walter Bedell Smith Collection of WWII Documents, Box 28, Eyes Only Cables 1945 (outgoing) (4)]

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, inspects art treasures looted by the Germans and stored in the depths of a salt mine in Germany along with gold, silver, and paper currency. The mine was captured by U.S. Third Army troops. Behind Eisenhower are Omar Bradley (left), commanding general of the 12th Army Group, and (right) Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, commanding general of the Third Army. April 12, 1945. [U.S. Army photo 66-78]

Monthly Report of Military Governor, U.S. Zone, 20 September 1945, No. 2: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, September 20, 1945 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 150, Military Government of Germany: Monthly Report of the Military Governor, U.S. Zone (2)]

Monthly Report of Military Governor, U.S. Zone, 20 October 1945, No. 3: Reparations and Restitutions, October 20, 1945 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 150, Military Government of Germany: Monthly Report of the Military Governor, U.S. Zone (4)]

Notes for Use at Luncheon Given at Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2, 1946 [Eisenhower's Pre-Presidential Papers, Principal File, Box 192, Speeches November 1945 - April 1946 (1)]

Arts, Monuments and Archives: A Provisional Technical Manual for Civil Affairs/Military Government, April 1951 [This guide draws heavily on the wartime experiences of the Monuments Men] [Eisenhower Library Collection of 20th Century Military Records, Series III, Box 5]

See Also:

Nazi War Crimes

Links to other primary resources:

International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property

The Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) Photographic Albums at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg

description of the albums
access to the digitized copies of the albums

Civil Affairs and Military Government Activities in Connection with Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives -- This report from the General Board, U.S. Forces, European Theater is available online at the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Records of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) Section of the Reparations and Restitution Branch, OMGUS, 1945-1951 -- These are the official records of the MFAA and are held by the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. A guide to these records is available online. (These records have been digitized and are available by subscription on Fold3, an Ancestry.com web site.)

Holocaust-Era Assets -- A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, requests for these materials should be directed to archives2reference@nara.gov. Listed below are the guides to records available in the research room in College Park, as well as select digitized documents that are available online.

Holocaust-Era Assests Research Page: Doing Research at NARA

Civilian Agency Records

Military Agency Records

A sampling of images relating to looted art

Secondary Sources:

Bradsher, Greg. "Documenting Nazi Plunder of European Art." The Record, November 1997.

Bradsher, Greg. "Nazi Gold: The Merkers Mine Treasure." Prologue, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 1999).

Bradsher, Greg. "Monuments Men and Nazi Treasures." Prologue, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Summer 2013).

Edsel, Robert M., and Bret Witter. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. New York: Center Street, 2009.

Edsel, Robert M. "The Art Army: Harvard's Monuments Men at War," Harvard Magazine, January-February 2010.

Edsel, Robert M. Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe's Great Art: America and Her Allies Recovered It. Dallas: Laurel Publishing, 2006.

Edsel, Robert M. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Grimsted, Patricia Kennedy. "Spoils of War Returned: U.S. Restitution of Nazi-Looted Cultural Treasures to the USSR, 1945-1959." Prologue, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Fall 2002).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Rothfeld, Anne. "Nazi Looted Art: The Holocaust Records Preservation Project." Prologue, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Fall 2002).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3