During World War II, some of the world’s most historic pieces of art and architecture were at risk of being completely erased from our cultural history – da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the list goes on and on. Recognizing this great risk, the United States created the “Monuments Men,” a unit of 345 men and women from 13 countries tasked with safeguarding priceless monuments, art, architecture, and text from Nazi troops determined to steal and destroy millions of cultural treasures. Their efforts during the war resulted in the preservation of more than 5 million historic artworks, churches, and works of architecture.
Tomorrow, the invaluable service and efforts of the Monuments Men to rebuild cultural life will be honored with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow. Attending the ceremony are four of the Monuments Men, including Harry Ettlinger, who will provide remarks at the ceremony on behalf of all Monuments Men. Ettlinger was part of the Allied forces discovery of the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines, filled with thousands of works of art, including stained glass windows from the Strasbourg Cathedral in France and a self-portrait of the artist Rembrandt.
The ceremony will take place October 22, 2015 at 3 p.m. in Emancipation Hall and will be live streamed at speaker.gov/live.
Harry Ettlinger, right, looking over a self-portrait of the artist Rembrandt. Courtesy of National Archives.