Thomas Giuli (1900-1991)
Thomas Giuli was born in Loreto, Italy on June 11, 1900. His family immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he became interested in construction methods from a young age. At the University of Wisconsin he wrote a thesis paper on the mechanics of reinforced concrete buildings, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1923. Giuli then worked as a professional engineer for the local government in Milwaukee and the Office of Public Works in Bay City, Michigan.
Giuli enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1943 and served in England. While he possessed no formal training in fine arts or art history, his in-depth knowledge of engineering qualified him for service with the MFAA. In April 1945 he was assigned as temporary Fine Arts Officer in charge of the Military Government Detachment in Würzburg, Germany. Two months later, upon the arrival of Monuments Man Lt. John D. Skilton, Jr., MFAA Specialist Officer for the entire Mainfranken area, Giuli became Skilton’s assistant. The two became fast friends, with Skilton later remarking that Giuli, “without any prior civilian connection with the arts, accomplished more than the average Fine Arts Officers.”
In addition to accompanying Skilton on assignments in the field, Giuli conducted inspections of local repositories for looted art. In late May 1945 he visited Aschbach Castle on orders from Monuments Man Maj. Robert K. Posey, MFAA Officer for U.S. Third Army. There, he discovered multiple rooms containing paintings, tapestries, statues, furniture, and records in the possession of notorious Nazi art dealers Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt. When the two men were unable to provide inventories for the objects at Aschbach, Giuli sprang into action. He took possession of the objects on behalf of the U.S. Army, sealed the rooms so nothing could be removed, and placed an MFAA-appointed German art historian, Dr. Berger, in charge of creating a complete inventory. By Dr. Berger’s earliest estimates, the castle’s contents were valued at upwards of $100,000,000 (today, over $1.3 billion). After discussing the matter with his superiors at MFAA headquarters, Giuli received orders to bring Haberstock to Würzburg for interrogation.
Despite his meticulous efforts to guard the collection for proper investigation, Giuli came under fire for his actions. While he continued to receive full support from the MFAA, the Property Control Office argued that Aschbach Castle lay outside Giuli’s jurisdiction. In cooperation with the sensitive and complicated investigation, Giuli submitted all of his notes and records to Lt. Dwight McKay, Judge Advocate for Headquarters, U.S. Third Army. McKay later interrogated Haberstock and Gurlitt at length, securing signed statements from both professing their legal ownership before placing both men under house arrest at Aschbach Castle. The extensive investigations into Karl Haberstock and Hildebrand Gurlitt continued for the next six years.
Giuli continued to participate in MFAA operations in Germany until February 1946, when he returned to the United States and worked as an engineer for the Michigan State Highway Department. He died in Hawaii on February 14, 1991 and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.