The National Archives unveiled a newly recovered album documenting artworks looted by the Nazis during WWII on Thursday. / Tammy Thueringer
WASHINGTON - The National Archives unveiled the latest in a series of decades-old photo albums that catalog artwork stolen by the Nazis.
The leather-bound book is one of 43 known "Hitler Albums," all held by the Archives, detailing the Nazis' systematic looting of paintings, sculptures, documents, books, musical manuscripts and other cultural items all across Europe during World War II.
"The volume before us today is the last known of the 100 some volumes created during World War II by the Nazis," said Archivist of the United States David Ferriero.
The Monuments Men, a team of WWII soldiers made up of architects and artists who worked to protect artwork from Nazis and recover what had been stolen, found 39 of the albums in the weeks after the war ended. Since then, four others, including the one donated Thursday by the Monuments Men Foundation, have been discovered. The last donation of an album to the Archives was in 2012.
The albums serve as a catalog of stolen items and an example of what Adolf Hitler was trying to accomplish - destroying a culture.
"The album is yet another evidence of the Nazi theft of cultural property and it's also proof of the extent they went to document their thievery," said Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives and an expert on Holocaust-era assets records.
The albums have helped ascertain legal ownership of stolen artwork and get it returned, but hundreds of thousands of items, worth billions of dollars, are still missing today.
The story of the Monuments Men has recently been thrust into the spotlight. A book of the same title documenting their tale was made into a movie starring George Clooney, which was released in December.
Robert Edsel, chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art and author of the book, hopes the recent Hollywood publicity will help more stolen artifacts get returned.
"We're using the visibility of my books and importantly the monuments film that, for the first time ever, is engaging the public to ask them for their help in locating and returning these important objects to their rightful owners," Edsel said.
He believes many of the still missing albums were likely picked up by American soldiers and are in the United States.
"All four of the ones we found were all found by American soldiers, one with the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, one with the 969th Field Battalion, and another with a member of the 969th," Edsel said. "We don't know that they knew each other, but it makes sense; they were all stationed in the same area."
According to Edsel, there are anywhere from five to 57 more albums missing.
He said anyone with information about items taken deliberately or as a souvenir from Europe during WWII should contact the Monuments Men Foundation.
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Read the original story: From the real Monuments Men: Album of Nazi-looted art