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MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) Section
The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies was established in 1943 to help protect cultural property in war areas during and after World War II. The group of about 345 men and women from thirteen countries worked with military forces to safeguard historic and cultural monuments from war damage, and as the conflict came to a close, to find and return works of art and other items of cultural importance that had been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for safekeeping.
Orders authorizing Alfred Rosenberg and his Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce to “search libraries, archives, lodges and other philosophical and cultural institutions of all kinds for appropriate material and to seize such material” were issued as early as 17 September 1940. Even worse, on 19 March 1945, as he was losing the war, Adolf Hitler issued the Nero Decree. His intent was to destroy all infrastructure, important landmarks and communication facilities so that the advancing Allies would find nothing of value left. In the movie, this edict also includes the destruction of all the art hidden by the German army.
Journal One: Great Art
Journal Two: Three Works Worth Saving
Journal Three: Vandalism
Research and report on this act of artistic destruction or find another of equal impact. Michelangelo’s Mona Lisa, Rembrandt’s Night Watch, Picasso’s Guernica, Al WeiWei’s $1M vase, and The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen harbor, among others have been attacked. Analyze the motivations and consequences of such an act.
Journal Four: And Today?
Journal Five: Join the Hunt
On 19 March 1945, Adolf Hitler issued the Nero Decree. His intent was to destroy all infrastructure, important landmarks and communication facilities so that the advancing Allies would find nothing of value left. In the movie, this edict also includes the destruction of all the art hidden by the German army.
The Sony Educator Website has four excellent lessons and discussion questions --
The Jewish Teacher Project has links and suggestions focusing on provenance and the restitution of artwork taken from Jewish victims.
Albert Knox Gallery Discussion Guide focuses on the book from an artistic perspective.
Mint Museum offers a Book Club Discussion Guide.
Several books are relevant to research on this subject.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel.
As Hitler was attempting to conquer the western world,
Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel. Brilliantly researched and vividly written, Saving Italy brings readers from Milan and the near destruction of The Last Supper to the inner sanctum of the Vatican and behind closed doors with the preeminent Allied and Axis leaders: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Churchill; Hitler, Göring, and Himmler. Exerpt.
Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Greatest Art - America and Her Allies Recovered It by Robert M. Edsel. Told through 460 photographs, a group of 345 men and women from thirteen nations tracked, located, and ultimately returned more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis.
Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum by Corinne Bouchoux. Rose Valland is one of the greatest and yet unknown heroines of World War II. After risking her life spying on the Nazis, day after day for four long years, Rose lived to fulfill her destiny: locating and returning tens of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of France. Exerpt.
The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas is a book and a subsequent documentary film. It explores Nazi appropriation and storage, patriotic concealment and smuggling during World War II, discoveries by the Allies, and the extraordinary tasks of preserving, tracking and returning by the American Monuments officers and their colleagues.
Prologue, online magazine from the National Archives, has an 10-page in-depth article on the historical background of the unit and its accomplishments called Monuments Men and Nazi Treasures by Greg Bradsher.
Monuments Men Foundation honors the legacy of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section .
The Sony Pictures site includes interactive games on decoding, map restoration and discerning forgeries. They also have lesson plans, links to museums, and discussion questions.
Monuments Men at the Met: Treasures Saved During World War II is an interactive tour of works in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art that were saved by the MFAA. It has an interactive tour, with information about provenance and recovery. There is also a series of photographs and journals documenting the work of many who were affiliated with the Met.
The Smithsonian’s The True Story of the Monuments Men offers an introduction to the story. Even better, its more academic Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe’s Art, 1942-1946 is an amazing site provided by the Smitsonian. It includes primary sources, including audio interviews, documents, any photographs, each with in-depth explanations. Especially useful for further research are a serious of eight podcasts, with full transcripts.
The Monuments Men YouTube Channel collects contemporaneous newsreeeal and other archival footage about the group. Sponsored by the Foundation, it also includes more recent interviews. The Merkers Salt Mine Discovery, Neuschwanstein, and General Eisenhower at the Met are especially interesting.
Updated 30 January 2019.
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