The Monuments Men

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Jacques Jaujard ( 1895-1967 )

As Director of the French National Museums (Musées Nationaux) during the Nazi occupation of France, Jacques Jaujard was instrumental in the protection of thousands of French-owned works of art.

Jaujard joined the Musées Nationaux as Secretary General in 1926, and was promoted to Deputy Director in 1933 and Director in 1939. In late summer of that year, he oversaw the evacuation of the Louvre Museum and its paintings, sculptures and other objects d’art to various châteaux in the Loire Valley. In addition to the state-owned collections, Jaujard also provided safety for many private collections, including those of David-Weill, Jacobson, Levy, Hesse, and Bernheim, in national museum vaults. Some collections were confiscated by the Vichy government; however, museums quickly acquired many pieces through their rights of preemption. For example, the Maurice de Rothschild collection was put up for sale but was acquired by the National Museums and transported to unoccupied France for safekeeping. Jaujard used whatever means necessary to ensure the future of France’s cultural heritage, oftentimes at risk to his own life.

Jaujard also enlisted the help of Rose Valland, who he assigned to oversee activities at the Jeu de Paume, a small museum used as an art storage center by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (“ERR”; the team tasked by Adolf Hitler to acquire works of art for his planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria). Valland secretly gathered information that allowed her to track thousands of paintings as they were shipped across Europe, all the while managing to escape the attention of the Germans working in the building. She faithfully reported her findings to Jaujard and the French Resistance, greatly expediting the discovery and restitution of French property following the war.

On November 24, 1944, Jaujard helped establish The Commission de Récupération Artistique (the French Commission on Art Recovery) to ensure the proper restitution of French works of art. Also in 1944, Jaujard was appointed Director of the French Order of Arts and Letters, and later Secretary General of the Ministry of State in charge of cultural affairs. He was awarded the Medal of the Résistance, and named a Commander of the Legion of Honor for his extraordinary work during the war. In December 1955 he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

Jaujard died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1967. Feuilles, a book of his philosophies, was published posthumously in his honor in 1974.