To mark the May 8 anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe in 1945, the National Archives in Washington held a press conference yesterday to unveil the last known leather-bound "Hitler Album" of art works stolen by the Nazis during the war. The Monuments Men Foundation donated this album to the National Archives, which was found at Hitler's home in Berchtesgaden, Germany, in the closing days of the war and has since been in private hands.
Created by the staff of a special Nazi task force, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the so-called "Hitler Albums" document the unprecedented and systematic looting of European art by the Nazis, a story recently brought to the screen by George Clooney in The Monuments Men film. The ERR was the main Nazi agency engaged in art looting in Nazi-occupied countries. As the ERR looted, photographed, and catalogued French collections, they created albums, including the one donated. Each page of the album shows a photograph of one stolen item.
After the war, the U.S. Army discovered 39 of these albums and turned them over to the Monuments Men for use in identifying art work to be restituted. These volumes, in the holdings of the National Archives, served as evidence in the Nuremburg trials to document the massive Nazi art looting operations. Until recently, it was believed that the missing ERR albums had been destroyed. Thanks to the Monuments Men Foundation, four additional albums have been recovered, and the fourth was donated at this event.