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Frantisek "Frant" Vrecko ( ? - ? )

Frantisek “Frant” Vrecko was the leader of the Czechoslovak Restitution Mission.

On May 15, 1939, German troops marched into Prague in the midst of a heavy snowstorm. What followed was six years of violent occupation. While many Slovaks were deported to Germany as forced laborers, thousands more struggled to avoid starvation because of strict rationing and drastically cut salaries. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Jews were sequestered in ghettoes or murdered at concentration camps.

The Nazis also targeted Czechoslovakia’s greatest works of art and cultural objects. Many of these objects, including the University of Prague and the fourteenth-century Golden Bull of Charles IV, were looted by Nazi officials and hidden in repositories throughout Germany and Austria. The Czech government-in-exile tried its best to track the movements of its cultural treasures during the war. Upon the German surrender, the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence- General Staff selected Vrecko and a handful of scholars to work jointly with the Allied Military Government to recover what had been stolen. Vrecko arrived in the American Zone of Occupation in September 1945. He immediately undertook his mission with determination, seeking, in his words, “the rapid realization of the restitution of Czechoslovak cultural material, which is the aim of both interested parties.” He was oftentimes accompanied by his trusted assistant, Capt. Egon Suk, and their driver, Pvt. Jiri Snajdr.

In addition to investigations at repositories in Vienna, Salzburg, and Bad Aussee, Vrecko helped identify Czech looted art at the Munich Central Collecting Point. Vrecko appointed a Czech art expert, Monuments Man Capt. Erik Winkler, as the official representative of the Czechoslovak Restitution Mission at the collecting point. One of Vrecko’s most notable restitutions was the recovery of the Konopiště collection, which included Renaissance weapons, tapestries, and paintings looted from the former German Heeres Museum at Prague and transferred to salt mines in Altaussee and Salzburg. Vrecko remained involved in the effort to recover Czech cultural heritage until at least late 1946. Because of his devoted efforts, many of Czechoslovakia’s greatest treasures returned home.

The Foundation is very interested in learning more about the life of Frantisek Vrecko, in particular his service as a Monuments Man. If you have any information, please contact abottinelli@monumentsmenfoundation.org.