Join the Hunt
It is one of the core missions of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation to continue the legacy of the Monuments Men and Women by finding the cultural objects still missing since WWII. To date, the Foundation has found and returned more than thirty such objects. Hundreds of thousands remain missing.
Broad enlistment of the public’s help is the essential next step in this important process. Join the hunt for the most wanted missing works of art!
The Greatest Theft in History
The magnitude of looting carried out by the Nazis during World War II, in particular the premeditated theft of art and cultural treasures, has no precedents. Nazi leaders established vast looting operations in occupied countries that targeted public and private property, especially the possessions of Jews.
During Hitler’s first state visit to Italy in 1938, Hitler spent nearly two hours visiting the renowned museums of Florence. At that time, an idea took shape: build an extraordinary art complex – the Führermuseum – in his hometown of Linz, Austria. Most of the coveted paintings, drawings, and sculpture that Hitler wanted were already in public and private collections. This started, in all effects, the greatest theft in history.
The plundered treasures – works of art, entire libraries, church bells, Torah scrolls, and rare documents – enriched the Third Reich at the expense of its victims. The looting operation continued until the end of the war.
The Monuments Men and Women: A New Kind of Soldier
In June 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts to form a commission to protect monuments, cultural objects, and works of art. The work of the “Roberts Commission” led to the creation of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) section. These Monuments Men and Women were museum curators and directors, scholars and artists, architects, archivists, and librarians who volunteered to preserve the cultural heritage of Europe from the destructiveness of war and theft by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
About two dozen Monuments Men braved the front lines to track, locate, and recover looted objects. Two Monuments Men were killed in combat while protecting works of art. In the last year of the war, they tracked and located hundreds of thousands of stolen objects.
In the six years that followed, they returned nearly 4,000,000 stolen cultural objects to the countries from which they had been taken. Nonetheless, their mission was not complete: hundreds of thousands of works of art and important cultural objects remain missing today.
Our Restitution Mission
Almost 80 years since the end of the war, the Monuments Men and Women Foundation is continuing in the footsteps of the Monuments Men and Women their mission of returning missing works of art to its rightful owners.
The Monuments Men and Women Foundation has returned paintings, manuscripts, tapestries and other cultural objects to governments, museums, universities and individuals in the United States, Germany, Italy, and Poland. Most of these objects were in the possession of those who fought in the war (or a relative), who may have taken them as a souvenir without realizing their importance.
Returning cultural objects is all but easy. Our small team of experts follows up on each and every tip we receive. On the most promising ones, it will take months (sometimes years) of research to determine where the object was taken from and who it belongs to.
Over the next ten years, as that Greatest Generation passes, everything in their possession will change hands and many of the missing objects will appear. Frequently those in possession of such items aren’t aware that it is illegal to sell cultural objects taken during war.
Restitutions are an exceptionally important opportunity to right some of the wrongs of WWII. They also demonstrate respect for the cultural property of others, and that is a powerful and essential element of diplomacy.
For this reason, our restitutions are oftentimes presented within the context of a return ceremony. These are once-in-a-lifetime events. Not only it is rewarding for the time and energy our team has put into the research involved, but it also and especially moving to reunite owners with their long-lost property.
“No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed not merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed, we have lost a part of our past, and we shall be the poorer for it.”
Monuments Officer Maj. Ronald Balfour, from remarks he had hoped to deliver to his troops prior to being killed in action in March 1945
Art Still Missing: Join the Hunt
Despite the unprecedented work of the Monuments Men and Women, finding and returning more than 4 million objects after the end of WWII, hundreds of thousands of works of art are still missing.
The only way we can begin to return the missing works of art and documents to their rightful owners is with your help. If you have information about a work of art or other cultural item taken during World War II, please call our toll-free tip line 1-866-WWII-ART [1-866-994-4278] or write to WWIIart@monumentsmenandwomenfnd.org.
It’s time for you to join the hunt and write with us this final chapter of WWII history.
Searching for the works of art still missing is a time-consuming task; putting pressure on those who are currently not the legitimate owners is a delicate undertaking; organizing return ceremonies that properly celebrate reuniting missing objects with their rightful owners is expensive.
For this reason, we need your support!
Discover all the ways you can support our research and restitution activities.