On June 23, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas.
The Commission established the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section under the Allied Armies.
The men and women serving in the MFAA Section were referred to as the Monuments Men.
These individuals had expertise as museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators.
In December 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower empowered the Monuments Men by issuing orders to all commanders that stated they must respect monuments so far as war allows.
Initially the Monuments Men were intended to protect and temporarily repair the monuments, churches, and cathedrals of Europe suffering damage due to combat.
Hitler and the Nazis engaged in a pre-meditated, mass theft of art and stored priceless works in thousands of art repositories throughout Europe.
The Monuments Men adapted their mission to identify, preserve, catalogue, and repatriate almost 5,000,000 artistic and cultural items which they discovered.
This magnitude of cultural preservation was unprecedented during a time of conflict.
The Monuments Men grew to no more than 350 individuals and joined front line military forces; two Monuments Men lost their lives in action.
Following the Allied victory the Monuments Men remained abroad to rebuild cultural life in Europe through organizing art exhibitions and concerts.
Many of the Monuments Men became renowned directors and curators of preeminent international cultural institutions, professors at institutions of higher education, and founders of artistic associations both before and after the war.
The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art was founded in 2007 to honor the legacy of the men and women who served as Monuments Men.
There are only five surviving members of the Monuments Men as of December 2013.
This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com