I am always behind on my movies (same with this blog). Recently, I watched Monuments Men which in turn led me to the Monuments Men Foundation. Hollywood of course took great liberties with the story, but to their credit they actually told the story which might have remained hidden from much of the United States and the world.
The Monuments Men (and women) consisted of 345 people from 13 different countries. During World War II, a department was created to protect art and cultural treasures during the war. That department was known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section or MFAA for short. Then President Franklin Roosevelt approved this formation and it was mainly known as “The Roberts Commission,” being named after Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts, who was its chairman. Most of those who participated were volunteers. They were people who had expertise, such as artists, architects, art historians, museum curators, and educators.
These people helped protect monuments and art during the war. “In the last year of the war, they tracked, located, and in the years that followed, returned more than five million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazis. Their role in preserving cultural treasures was without precedent.” (https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/the-heroes) They continued to do this for many years after the war.
To this day, seventy-two years later, the Monuments Foundation is still working to retrieve articles that were stolen during the war. They have a running list of the most wanted items, http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/join-the-hunt/most-wanted-works-of-art, and that list contains works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Cezanne, and Klee just to name a few. There have been major successes too. Significant restitutions have also been made (http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/join-the-hunt/significant-restitutions).
Unfortunately, once again, we are seeing the destruction of cultural sites. Theft has always been and will continue to be on ongoing issue. Their home page states:
Today, civilization is bearing witness to a cultural cleansing—the theft and deliberate destruction of our shared cultural heritage. These monuments, works of art and cultural objects belong to all of us; they define our human identity. EXPRESS YOUR OUTRAGE. Enlist in our virtual army of Monuments Men and women. Help us locate and preserve important missing objects of our past. Share your ideas with us about how we can unite with others to do a better job protecting these treasures of our past, now, and in the future.
Spread the word, tell a friend. #IamaMonumentsMan
In June, President Barack Obama awarded The Monuments Men Foundation with the Congressional Gold Medal. This award is the highest honor from the United States for notable contributions and achievements. The Congressional Medal is awarded through an act of Congress. This specific act was from Congresswoman Kay Granger who has diligently sought recognition for the Monuments Men Foundation.
“I am profoundly grateful that the legacy of the Monuments Men will now forever be honored and recognized by the United States. What started out as one of the greatest untold stories from World War II has become a celebrated chapter in our nation’s history,” said Granger. “We were reminded this past weekend how special the men and women are who make up the Greatest Generation and all the extraordinary sacrifices they made on our behalf. This generation of heroes is more than deserving of all the honors they have received and I am proud this gold medal can now be added to the list of recognitions of their distinguished service.”
It is fitting that this act was signed by the President just days after the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
To find out more information, you can visit the foundation at https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/
To donate to their ongoing efforts, please visit: https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/contribute