The year is 1939. World War II breaks out. The Nazis begin their assault on Europe and whilst the soldiers on the frontline battle it out for territory Hitler had another agenda which he was intent on rolling out. Having already seized vast collections of art from persecuted Jewish collectors the Nazis also spent a lot of time and resource looting the churches, galleries, museums and private collections of occupied Europe. All this was in preparation for a Nazi victory and Hitler’s vanity project; the Grandiose Führermuseum in Linz.
Once the allied forces realized the scale of the Nazi looting they went about setting up the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program who became more commonly known as the Monuments Men. These were a group of curators, art historians and museum personnel from the USA and Europe. Their mission was to track down, uncover, catalogue and rescue works of art stolen by the Nazis. This group of men and women were taken from their world of culture and academia and were thrust into the world of military combat and infantry protocol. Their work took them throughout Europe uncovering hidden stashes of Nazi loot in remote castles, rural churches and booby trapped underground mines. Once the works of art had been discovered it was the job of the Monuments Men to also find the rightful owners, many of whom had fled Europe in the horror of war.
The raiders team follow their story from inception in 1943 to their legacy today. We contacted the Chairman of the Art Loss Register, Julian Radcliffe who is still doing the work started by the Monuments Men of repatriating works of art to their rightful owners. We also managed to speak at length to Konstanty Czartoryski ancestor of the House of Czartoryski whose collection was plundered in 1939 amongst the works were Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with the Ermine and Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man. The Leonardo was found by the Monuments Men but sadly the whereabouts of the Raphael is still unknown.
Our other contributors who help us explore the world of the Monuments Men are Calandra Caldecott, Art historian. Ian S. Wood, Historian and author of Here Comes Hitler. Martin Bailey from The Art News Paper and Art Detective Charles Hill.
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