Today’s blog is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor, Archivists at the National Archives in College Park.
The recent movie, The Monuments Men, and the continuing interest in art provenance research, prompted us to share some information about the primary records for research documenting the work of the Monuments Men (actually Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives [MFA&A] personnel) in protecting, locating, recovering, and restituting cultural property during and after World War II. There is extensive information about the background, recruitment, training, and deployment, as well as many of the activities of the Monuments Men spread across several record groups at the National Archives in College Park.
An excellent starting point when beginning research on the Monuments Men are the Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (RG 239), better known by the name of its chairman, The Roberts Commission. The Commission records also document much of the work of the Monuments Men because copies of reports and other documentation were sent to it. Although the Commission was active from 1943 to 1946, its records include some materials dating from 1940 to 1947. There are also nearly 20,000 still photographs in this record group. The photographs were taken in Europe, North Africa, Palestine, the Philippine Islands, Burma, China, and the Netherlands East Indies. These photographs show depositories and looted artwork, effects of bomb damage and vandalism to cities and monuments, liberation by the Allies, and commission employees. Additionally, there are nearly 1,500 maps of provinces, regions, and cultural sites in Europe and Asia, photocopied with overlays marking sites that were to be spared destruction (a few maps are originals with manuscript overlays), with accompanying documentation. Most of these records were reproduced on 187 rolls of National Archives Microfilm Publication M1944, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission).
One series of records in Record Group 239, Copies of Reports from the Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operations Received from the Allied Military Government, 1943-1946 (National Archives Identifier (NAID) 1552680), are reproduced on 3 rolls of microfilm (Microfilm Publication A3380). Included are reports, lists, and card files that consist of selected pages of reports received from MFA&A officers in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations; information on private art collections; and extracts of card files related to war damage, art looting, and auctions.
The Civil Affairs Division, within the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), contains an abundance of information regarding the Monuments Men programs and operations, and its coordination with the Roberts Commission and the Theaters of Operations. Most of this information is found in the Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-1949 (NAID 3376702), under Decimal File Number File: CAD 000.4.
An important source for the organization and activities of the Monuments Men from 1943 to July 1945 are the records of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 331). In the European Theater of Operations the Monuments Men came under the control of SHAEF, primarily under the G-5 Division. There are three series of records within the G-5 Division that contain important information about the Monuments Men:
- Numeric Files, August 1943-July 1945 (NAID 610059), under File Number 751.
- Numeric-Subject Operations Files, 1943-July 1945; (NAID 611522), under File Number 130.
- All fifteen boxes of the Subject Files, August 1943-1945 (NAID 612714)
The most useful information for research into the Monuments Men and their work in Italy are the Records of the Allied Control Commission for Italy (ACC), Records of Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 331). Among the ACC records are the Subject Files, 1943-1947 (NAID 7450631) that is arranged organizationally and thereunder by subject. Within the Subject Files, under File 10000/145 are 506 files on “Monuments & Fine Arts.” Within the records of each region and province, under the sub-indicator 145 there are additional “Monuments & Fine Arts” files.
Information about the Monuments Men’s activities during the war years and the postwar years in Germany is found in records of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone, (Germany) [OMGUS] of the Records of the United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II (RG 260). There are eight groups of OMGUS records that are particularly useful when conducting research about the work of the Monuments Men. They are all available on microfilm and have been digitized.
- Records of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA) of the Reparations and Restitution Branch, OMGUS, 1945-1951. These records consist of intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Sixteen series are reproduced on 43 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publication M1949.
- Records Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts of the Cultural Affairs Branch, OMGUS, 1946-1949. These records pertain to the restitution of artworks, investigations of crimes involving art objects, conditions of archives and libraries in the American Zone and their holdings, problems encountered in reopening museums, libraries, and archives and the exchange of experts and exhibits. The series Records Relating to Monuments, Museums, Libraries, Archives, and Fine Arts (NAID 2570648) is reproduced on 14 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publication M1921.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): OMGUS Headquarters Records, 1938-1951. These records consist of intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. They also include general records, activity reports, and restitution and custody receipts of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Section as distributed to the Headquarters of Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) [OMGUS]. Three series are reproduced on 45 rolls of microfilm in the Microfilm Publications M1941A and M1941B.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Munich Central Collecting Point, 1945-1951. These records contain administrative files, property cards, and photographs of artworks and of activities from the Munich Central Collecting Point during the period 1945-1951. Included are also intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Ten series of textual records and two groups of photographic records are reproduced on 334 rolls of microfilm in Microfilm Publications M1946A and M1946B.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Marburg Central Collecting Point, 1945-1949. These records consist of general administrative files, Marburg Central Collecting Point property accessions, the directory of Marburg Central Collecting Point property released to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, and photographs. Three series of textual records and one series of photographic records are reproduced on 28 rolls of microfilm in Microfilm Publication M1948.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, 1945-1952. These records contain administrative files, photographs of artworks, and property cards from the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point during the period 1945-1952. Also included are intelligence reports, interrogation reports, captured documents, and general information regarding German art looting. Fifteen textual series and one photographic series are reproduced on 117 rolls of microfilm, in Microfilm Publication M1947.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Offenbach Archival Depot, 1946-1951. These records consist of administrative files, cultural object restitution and custody records, correspondence relating to restitution claims, monthly reports, and photographs of library bookplates and markings. Four textual series and three photographic record series are reproduced on 13 rolls of microfilm, in Microfilm Publication M1942.
- Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points (“Ardelia Hall Collection”): Selected Microfilm Reproductions and Related Records, 1945-1949 A3389). This series consists of 76 rolls of microfilm containing selected files from the restitution records of the central collecting points, along with a number of documents and manuscripts temporarily in State Department custody after the central collecting points of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (Germany) [OMGUS] were closed. A copy of the original microfilm was transferred to the National Archives from the State Department with the central collecting point files.
- Among the records of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA), the most useful records relating to the Monuments Men are Records of the Monuments and Fine Arts Branch of the U.S. Allied Commission for Austria (USACA) Section, 1945-1950. The records were microfilmed as Microfilm Publication M1927. On the 14 rolls of this microfilm publication are reproduced the individual claims processed by and general records of the Monuments and Fine Arts Branch.
Photographs related to the Monuments Men and their activities, besides those noted above in Record Group 239, are contained in the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (RG 111). The photographs are contained in the series Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754-1954 (Local Identifier: 111-SC; NAID 530707), and are indexed by the series Index to U.S. Army Signal Corps Black-and-White Photographs in Series 111-SC, ca. 1900-ca. 1981 (Local Identifier: 111-SCY; NAID: 531476). The series titled U.S. Army Signal Corps Photographs of Military Activity During World War II and the Korean Conflict, 1941-1954 (Local Identifier: 111-SCA; NAID 531473) contains two albums of photographs numbered 5446 and 5447 selected by the Signal Corps as the best representation of significant subjects and subtopics in the photograph collection (111-SC). Fifteen of the photographs selected from the two albums in Series 111-SCA are available online.
Office of Strategic Services
One group of Monuments Men served with the Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU). This unit created detailed, consolidated, and final reports containing information collected during interrogations of individuals engaged in Nazi art looting activities. Copies of these reports are scattered among various records groups. A complete set of the reports were microfilmed and are available in Microfilm Publication M1782, OSS Art Looting Investigation Unit Reports, 1945-46. Many copies of the ALIU reports and correspondence related to the reports can be found in the records: Subject Files (NAID 1537311), Detailed Interrogation Reports (NAID 1537319), and Consolidated Interrogation Reports (NAID 1537337) of the Roberts Commission (RG 239). In both instances the records have been digitized and are available online at www.fold3.com.
In this post, we have tried to provide the most useful series one would first review in undertaking research into the Monuments Men. It should be noted that there are other series within the Record Groups mentioned above as well as in other Record Groups at the National Archives in College Park that contain records relating to the Monuments Men.
Please consult NARA’s webpage on Records Related to Nazi Era Cultural Property for more information on NARA holdings relating to the Monuments Men. Some of the records are available in digitized form in the Holocaust Era Assets Collection on www.fold3.com.