The Monuments Men

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Edward Everett Adams ( 1904-1994 )

Edward Everett Adams was born in North Carolina on December 5, 1904. Before World War II, he worked as a professional interior decorator in the design firm of Steton and Adams, Consulting Decorators in Washington, D.C.

Adams was an integral part of the postwar effort to return thousands of looted works of art and other cultural objects to the countries from which they had been stolen. He served in the Storage and Distribution division of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps for two years before requesting transfer to the MFAA in August 1945. The following month, he was assigned to the headquarters of U.S. Third Army as Director of the MFAA Special Evacuation Team. In this position, Adams coordinated the evacuation from Neuschwanstein Castle (near Füssen in the Bavarian Alps) of more than twenty thousand works of art stolen from private collectors and art dealers in France, many of whom were Jews. These included the Rothschild jewelry collection, silver from the David-Weill collection, and paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Fragonard, Watteau, Canaletto, along with the detailed records of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR, the task force commissioned by Adolf Hitler to plunder art including works destined for his planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria).

Using a limited supply of ropes, wood planks, and manpower, Adams directed the evacuation of over 600 crates down the castle’s steep staircases. The crates were then loaded into 52 trucks before being driven seven kilometers to twenty-one train cars. On October 25, 1945, the first trainload of looted objects departed Füssen for Paris escorted by French Restitution Officer Monuments Man Capt. Hubert de Brye. Adams supervised two further shipments on November 24 and December 1 before undertaking a similar operation at Buxheim Monastery. In the September 1946 issue of The Quartermaster Review, Adams detailed the challenges of the highly-involved transports in his article, “Looted Treasures Go Back to France.”

Edward Adams died in Southern Pines, North Carolina on June 6, 1994. His papers, which include photographs from his service as a Monuments Man, are conserved in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.