Tag Archives: monuments men

New Monuments Men Unit Seeking Volunteers

(Not Professor James Bezjian)

When James Bezjian, a business professor at The Citadel, was told he was accepted into the U.S. Army Reserve’s new project to revive a historic unit to safeguard cultural icons, artwork, and artifacts, he felt like it was the answer to a lifelong calling.

“It’s so vitally important to preserve as much of history as possible so that the narrative of history doesn’t get lost or twisted in the process,” he said. “Once this stuff is gone, it’s gone.”

Bezjian was inducted into the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command 38G Monuments Officer training program.

If you are interested in applying for the Civil Affairs 38G(6V) Monuments Officer program, check out the Army’s website for more information.

Modern day Monuments Men

The Nazis were really hit and miss when it came to art. While they stripped German museums of “degenerate” art and burned thousands of pieces in the courtyard of the Berlin Fire Department in the 1930s, they also systematically grabbed anything of interest in occupied Europe and brought it back to the Reich for the planned Führermuseum— in addition to officers and functionaries who simply looted pieces they liked and sent them home to the frau.

This, of course, led to the Allied Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA)– popularly known as the Monuments Men– who tried to turn back the clock when the purloined artwork was discovered in the war’s endgame. While the unit was disbanded by 1947, their work continues.

The FBI announced this week they are moving to recover a piece, A Family Portrait, aka An Amorous Couple, aka A Loving Glance, painted by minor French Rococo-style artist Pierre Louis Goudreaux.

This:

Why? The painting was allegedly stolen from the Bohdan & Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, during WWII.

According to an affidavit, the Khanenko had been willed the painting by Tsarist-era art collector Vasilii Aleksandrovich Shchavinskii in 1924 and is seen in photographs of the interior of the Museum in the 1930s.

When the Germans crossed the Dnieper into Kyiv in August 1941, the Khanenko evacuated some of its artwork eastward but left the Goudreaux behind in the shuffle.

The Germans occupied Kiev, September 19, 1941.

Once the city fell– which was disastrous to segments of the local population who couldn’t collaborate with the Germans– the Reichskommissariat Ukraine then seized numerous pieces from the Museum for the residences of occupying authorities and German troops reportedly looted many remaining valuables when they pulled out in 1944, so it’s unsure just who swiped it, but when the Reds came back into the city and did a review in 1948, the painting was no longer there.

Fast forward to 2013, and the Goudreaux resurfaced on the website of a New York auction house with a provenance that it had been held in a private collection in London and then a private collection in Massachusetts before being bought by a dealer in 1993.

So, it changed a bunch of hands from 1944 when it ghosted from Ukraine to when it appeared in London, likely several decades ago. How it got there is the mystery.

In the meantime, the Feds are trying to get it to send it home.

If you are curious about other pieces that are still missing, check out the Lost Art Foundation.

Great background on the Real Monuments Men

Over at the National Archives there is an in depth article up, published in 1999 on the real life background of the so-called Monuments Men featured in a movie that came out this week.

Merkers, Germany U.S. Soldiers examine a famous painting, "Wintergarden," by the French Impressionist Edouard Manet, in the collection of Reichbank wealth, SS loot, and paintings removed by the Nazis from Berlin to a salt mine vault. The 90th Div, U.S. Third Army, discovered the gold and other treasure. 04/15/45 Photographer: Cpl. Ornitz RG-111-SC-203453-5.tif

Merkers, Germany: U.S. Soldiers examine a famous painting, “Wintergarden,” by the French Impressionist Edouard Manet, in the collection of Reichbank wealth, SS loot, and paintings removed by the Nazis from Berlin to a salt mine vault. The 90th Div, U.S. Third Army, discovered the gold and other treasure. 04/15/45. Photographer: Cpl. Ornitz. RG-111-SC-203453-5.tif

” Late on the evening of March 22, 1945, elements of Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Rhine, and soon thereafter his whole army crossed the river and drove into the heart of Germany. Advancing northeast from Frankfurt, elements of the Third Army cut into the future Soviet Zone and advanced on Gotha. Just before noon on April 4, the village of Merkers fell to the Third Battalion of the 358th Infantry Regiment, Ninetieth Infantry Division, Third Army. During that day and the next the Ninetieth Infantry Division, with its command post at Keiselbach, consolidated its holdings in the Merkers area.

During April 4 and 5, displaced persons in the vicinity interrogated by the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) personnel of the Ninetieth Infantry Division mentioned a recent movement of German Reichsbank gold from Berlin to the Wintershal AG’s Kaiseroda potassium mine at Merkers. In all of these instances they quoted rumors, but none stated their own knowledge that gold was present in the mine. But just before noon on April 5, a member of Military Intelligence Team 404-G, attached to the 358th Infantry Regiment, who was in Bad Salzungen, about six miles from Merkers, interviewed French displaced persons who had worked in the mine at Merkers. They told him they had heard that gold had been stored in the mine. The information was passed on to the G-2 (intelligence section) of the Ninetieth Infantry Division, and orders were issued prohibiting all civilians from circulating in the area of the mine.

Early the next morning, two military policemen guarding the road entering Keiselbach from Merkers saw two women approaching and promptly challenged and stopped them. Upon questioning, the women stated that they were French displaced persons. One of the women was pregnant and said she was being accompanied by the other to see a midwife in Keiselbach. After being questioned at the XII Corps Provost Marshal Office, they were driven back into Merkers. Upon entering Merkers, their driver saw the Kaiseroda mine and asked the women what sort of a mine it was. They said it was the mine in which the German gold reserve and valuable artworks had been deposited several weeks before and added that local civilians and displaced persons had been used for labor in unloading and storing the treasure in the mine…”

The rest here