The Lane Faison Personal Diary comes to the National Archives

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

On April 29, 2019, the good friend of the National Archives, Robert M. Edsel, on behalf of himself and the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, donated to the National Archives the 115-page handwritten personal diary of S. Lane Faison[1], covering the time period during which he served as the last director of the Munich Central Collecting Point. The donation ceremony was presided over by David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, who signed the deed of gift on behalf of the National Archives. For the signing ceremony see National Archives News: National Archives Receives Donation of Monuments Man’s Diary.

Image of signing ceremony
Chairman of the Monuments Men Foundation Robert Edsel (center) signs the Gift of Deed as he donates the personal diary of Monuments Man S. Lane Faison, Jr. to the National Archives in Washington, DC, on April 29, 2019. Accepting the diary on behalf of the National Archives are Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero (left) and senior archivist and expert on Holocaust-Era Assets records Dr. Greg Bradsher (right). (National Archives photo by Jeff Reed)

The Munich Central Collecting Point consisted of adjoining large 3-story buildings, one of which was the Führerbau, where Hitler and Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in September 1938. These buildings were requisitioned by the American Army in June 1945 and were used to store recovered looted works of art, over 50,000 paintings, including the 4,000 of Hitler that had been recovered in the mine at Alt Aussee, Austria some 140 miles east of Munich. Also recovered and transferred to the collecting point were artworks found at the Neuschwanstein Castle, some 70 miles south of Munich. These artworks, along with related records and albums, were items looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR). Additionally, Herman Goering’s collection of artworks recovered at Berchtesgaden was transferred to the collecting point. It was the task of the collecting point staff to determine rightful ownership of the artworks and to undertake restitution of the works of art.

The National Archives has custody of the official records of the Munich Central Collecting Point, the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany, and the Department of State. Those records provide information about Faison’s activities during 1950 and 1951 as the director of the collecting point. The diary that the National Archives so kindly received from Mr. Edsel also provides information about Faison’s activities in Munich and elsewhere in Germany and Europe, and gives a more personal glimpse into his work.

The diary has something for everyone.

Faison makes many references to artists[2], artworks, and art collections, such as the Schloss Collection.[3]

The diary makes references to Germans who had been associated with art looting, such as Bruno Lohse, Goering’s art agent in Paris during the war and Walter Hofer, Goering’s art expert. He also makes mention of contact with Maria Dietrich, who sold more works to Hitler than any other dealer during the war. It is interesting to note that Lohse, Hofer, and Dietrich all show up prominently in Faison’s 278-page 1945 Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit’s Report of the thousands of artworks accumulated for Hitler’s proposed museum in Linz, Austria. [4]

The diary contains information about Faison’s extensive dealings and coordination with the American officials involved with restitution policies and activities. These included Edgar Breitenbach[5], George N. Shuster (Land Commissioner for Bavaria)[6], and Thomas Carr Howe, Jr., who served as the last director of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point.[7] Likewise, the diary contains documentation regarding his extensive dealings with German officials and art experts, including Dr. Eberhard Hanfstaengl and Dr. Ludwig Heydenreich.

He mentions the numerous dealings with Rose Valland[8], who visited him at the collecting point regarding French restitution matters. He also records his contacts with Ardelia Hall[9] at the State Department.

As an archivist, what I find most interesting in the Faison diary is his very numerous references to documentation used in the process of identifying the provenance of artworks and information regarding the location and disposition of that documentation.

All in all, the diary provides useful information about the Munich Central Collecting Point, restitution issues, and, of course, about Lane Faison himself.


[1] For background information on Faison see An Office of Strategic Services Monuments Man: S. Lane Faison

[2] He makes references to many artists, such as Rubens, Cranach, Van Gogh, Holbein, Cezanne, Picasso, Holbein, Manet, Camille Bombois, and Helmut Kolle. Sometimes these were references to their artworks being located in the Munich Central Collecting Point and sometimes to other locations.

[3] See The Lost Paintings – The Schloss Art Collection from the National Archives Blog: The Unwritten Record.

[4] For a digitized copy see https://www.fold3.com/image/115/232002191

[5] For background on Breitenbach see Edgar Breitenbach (1903-1977) at monumentsmenfoundation.org.

[6] Faison provides a brief, but interesting, account of his dealings with Shuster, as well as Howe, in his essay “Transfer of Custody to the Germans,” in Elizabeth Simpson, ed., The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath: The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1997), pp. 139-141.

[7] For background on Howe see Monuments Man Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. and the Evacuation and Restitution of European Cultural Treasures

[8] For background on Valland see Rose Valland (1898-1980) at monumentsmenfoundation.org.

[9] For background on Hall see Before She Became the Ardelia Hall of the Department of State, Part I: Miss Hall and the Office of Strategic Services and Before She Became the Ardelia Hall of the Department of State, Part II: Miss Hall as Consultant with the Department of State.

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