- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

An original leather-bound album containing photographs and documentation of the extensive art collection stolen by the Nazis almost 70 years ago was donated to the National Archives yesterday.

Two albums were recently recovered from heirs to an American soldier stationed near Berchtesgaden, Germany, said Robert Edsel, president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, who donated Album 8 yesterday and will donate Album 6 at a later time.

After World War II, 39 albums were located and turned over to the Monuments Men, a group of primarily American soldiers, museum curators and directors searching for the stolen art after 1945 in what Mr. Edsel called “the greatest treasure hunt in history.”

Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist for the federal Office of Records Services said he thinks there are about 85 albums, which is why, he added, “this is so particularly important that another one has surfaced. It really shows the sweep of [the] Nazi looting operation.”

The whereabouts of the new albums were previously unknown, but the original 39 have been in U.S. possession since the end of the war.

The 39 albums were used at the Nuremberg trials, not as evidence but as the “smoking gun to the theft that took place over eight tragic years,” Mr. Edsel said. They are now located at the Archives building in College Park and will be joined by the newly discovered two albums, he said.

U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein said this is “one of the most significant finds related to Hitler’s premeditated theft of art and other cultural treasures” since the Nuremberg trials.

Nazi organizations, such as the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), were formed to systematically rob individuals, museums and places of worship of highly valuable masterpieces, Mr. Edsel said.

Greg Bradsher, director of the Holocaust-Era Assets Records Project at the Archives, said the Holocaust wasn’t only the “greatest murder in history,” but “World War II was also the greatest theft in history.”

Mr. Edsel said albums seized from the victims were presented to Hitler “to both document the [effectiveness] of the looting operation and to allow him to peruse the catalogs at his leisure to select works of art that he wanted for his Fuhrer Museum.”

These albums contained works stolen from the Rothschilds, Veil-Picards, Alphonse Kann and other wealthy families, and according to ERR documents from 1944, the art seizures in France totaled 21,903 objects from 203 collections.

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