The Monuments Men

After seeing the trailer of the new George Clooney’s movie “Monuments Men”, we went to dig a bit more about the history behind the scenes and we discover the truly amazing tale of the “greatest treasure hunt in History”.  In the wake of the destruction brought by the World War II, even before the United States entered the war, several American art organisations were working to find ways to protect European arts and monuments from devastation. In 1943, the pressure done by these organisations resulted in the establishment by President Roosevelt of the “American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas”. Later that same year, the Commission helped to found the ‘Monuments, Fine Arts and Archive Program’, a program set up by the Allied armies to protect all cultural property during the war.  This group that became known as the ‘Monuments Men’ was composed by approximately 350 voluntary men and women from 13 different nations, mainly architects, artists, art historians and museum directors. Their first responsibility was to try to control the damages of combat, especially in churches, museums and other historic monuments. Yet, as this task proved to be rather impossible their responsibilities changed. Their mission became to discover or locate art works that had disappear or been stolen during the war.  In Germany alone, they found out 1500 hiding places with art and cultural objects from all around Europe. Indeed, the ‘Monuments Men’ rescued thousands of works, from Manet to Raphale, De Vinci to Cezanne. Without a doubt, “they restored the cultural heritage of Europe back to the hands of its own people”.

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