Jan Vlug (1917-1999) 

Jan Vlug was a Dutch art historian who studied art history in London before joining the Royal Netherlands Army.  

 

Born on 5 April 1917 in Harlem, The Netherlands, Vlug served as Dutch Cultural Intelligence Officer for the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Responsible for uncovering information regarding Nazi looting, the ALIU was formed in 1944 to function as the intelligence component of the MFAA. Assigned to this specialized unit were Monuments Men Lt. James S. Plaut, Lt. Theodore Rousseau, and Lt. Cdr. S. Lane Faison, Jr. Vlug was placed on temporary assignment with the ALIU by special invitation. He was tasked with identifying looters of Dutch-owned works of art and locating such works in the Salzburg and Salzkammergut areas in Austria. In August 1945 he participated in the interrogation of Kajetan Muehlmann, the chief figure in the organized Nazi looting of art from Poland and the Netherlands. During the interrogation, Muehlmann admitted to transporting Dutch-owned works of art to Schloss Fischhorn in Zell am See, Austria. When Vlug visited the castle the following month, he gained special permission for Muehlmann to accompany him under military guard so that the former Nazi dealer could personally identify the objects.  

 

After months of interrogating hundreds of Nazi officials and collaborators on the whereabouts of looted works of art, Plaut, Rousseau, and Faison each submitted in-depth reports regarding the three most important Nazi looting programs: the activities of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in France (Plaut), the collection of Adolf Hitler intended for his massive Führermuseum in Linz, Austria (Faison), and the collection of Hermann Goering (Rousseau). This wealth of intelligence data was supplied to the MFAA and greatly expedited the restitution process for millions of looted works of art and cultural objects. It was intended for Vlug to write a fourth report on German methods of acquisitions, but it was not completed in time for inclusion in the 1946 Final Report of the ALIU. However it is still used today by provenance researchers, and has proven to be an invaluable resource. 

 

Vlug remained involved with the effort to recover Dutch-owned works of art until late 1946. He then relocated to Paris, where he worked as a restorer of paintings before moving to Brussels in the 1950s. It was there that he married Nelly Tytens and adopted her three children. As well as collecting and selling paintings and art objects, Vlug became a successful interior designer, designing furniture and working with Jules Wabbes to design the Société Generale building in Brussels, among others. Capt. Vlug died in Brussels on 30th April 1999. 

 

The Foundation is very interested in learning more about Jan Vlug’s life, as well as his military service as a Monuments Man. If you have any information, please contact abottinelli@monumentsmenfoundation.org.

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