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Discoveries & Returns:

It is one of the core missions of the Monuments Men 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!

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  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.
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  Our Restitution Mission  

Almost 80 years since the end of the war, the Monuments Men 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 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. 

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