Alessandro Olschki (1925-2011)
Alessandro Olschki was born in Florence in 1925 to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. With the advent of Fascism, he had to endure insults and discrimination from the Fascist regime. His name is usually associated with the popular publishing house “Leo S. Olschki”, but in truth, he lived a parallel life “under water” thanks to his great passion for scuba diving. The Florentine publishing house was founded in 1897 and specializes in non-fiction, humanistic and general knowledge books and Alessandro Olschki managed it as the third-generation member of the Olschki family.
In the Spring of 1945, Alessandro Olschki enlisted in the 5th Army Allied Military Government and became a driver and interpreter for Monuments Man Lt. Frederick Hartt. Hartt was tasked with surveying and protecting “Region VII”, Tuscany. Olschki drove Hartt’s jeep, nicknamed “Lucky 13” on their inspection trips. He wrote “The daily task was to drive all over Tuscany and to report on the state of works of art: churches, frescoes, towers, virtually everything that might have suffered damage during the war and that often needed urgent intervention; particularly roofs that had come off. Thus I lived through magical months, visiting famous places like San Miniato al Monte and Caprese Michelangelo as well as forgotten sites in the Tuscan landscape, all full of history and civilization.”
He accompanied Lieutenant Hartt to Alto Adige, where some of the most important masterpieces from Florence had been hidden, and then drove the Monuments officer back to Florence for the works' returning ceremony. On July 22, 1945, Olschki drove “Lucky 13” with Hartt and Giovanni Poggi, the Florence Superintendent for Monuments in the back, into the center of Florence followed by six American trucks.
On Friday, March 5, 1993, when the city of Florence welcomed the urn containing the ashes of Lt. Frederick Hartt to bury them in the cemetery of the Church of San Miniato al Monte, both of Hartt’s wartime drivers, Franco Ruggenini and Alessandro Olschki were there, waiting to greet him.
Olschki wrote about his experiences with the MFAA in an article entitled “Il recupero delle opera d’arte rubate dale truppe tedesche durante la guerra,” I ‘Fochi’ della San Giovanni, III, 2008.