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Setting the Example: Veterans come Forward with Cultural Objects Taken from Germany

Yesterday, Thursday July 28, president Anna Bottinelli and senior researcher Dorothee Schneider traveled to Ulm, Germany, to hand over to the Ulm Museum ten objects that belong to Germany and possibly the city of Ulm: nine coins dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries and a carved wooden sculpture of Albrecht Berblinger, known as the “Tailor of Ulm.”

From left to right, Eva Leistenschneider of Museum Ulm, Anna Bottinelli and Dorothee Schneider (Photo via Neu Ulmer Zeitung)

Nine coins dating dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries (Photo via SWP © Foto Matthias Kessler)

The coins were sent to the Foundation in an anonymous package, which contained a 2007 letter addressed to the then Mayor of Ulm Ivo Göenner. The coins were supposedly taken by an American soldier from a display case in the town museum in Ulm. He then gave them to a fellow soldier, the one who sent us the package, who had the coins adapted for wear as pendants or on a bracelet. Always regretting his actions, the soldier wished to return them to the city of Ulm “to make some small amends.”

"The Tailor of Ulm" (Photo: Monuments Men and Women Foundation)

The wooden sculpture was also brought to the United States as a war souvenir, this time by Lieutenant James “Jim” K. Kunkle, a P-38 and P-51 fighter pilot of the Ninth Air Force. Kunkle and his first wife, Marian, lived in Munich-Ramersdorf during the post-war occupation of Germany. The statue was brought, wrapped in fabric, to their Ramersdorf home by an unknown woman who bartered the object for packs of cigarettes. Like the anonymous veteran of the coins, Lt. Kunkle looked after this sculpture for decades and in the twilight of his life, he saw in our Foundation the possibility to return this sculpture to the country he took it from.

Seen against the backdrop of some of the masterpieces still missing since the war, these ten objects may seem of little importance. Their monetary value is certainly nominal. But it is not about the individual objects. It is the message that events like today’s send to anybody who may have taken something during the war, something perhaps very valuable, to come forward and follow in the footsteps of Lt. Kunkle, and other veterans and their heirs.

We are grateful to Frau Dr. Leistenschneider at Museum Ulm to make this possible, and to the Kunkle family and the anonymous veteran who sent us the coins for acting as trustees of these cultural assets.

In April 1946, General Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech about the importance of art in our lives. He said: “I do know that for democracy at least, there always stands beyond the materialism and destructiveness of war the ideals for which it is fought.” One of those ideals was respect for the cultural property of others, and his words continue to guide the work of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation today.


Museum Ulm press release

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