Hitler’s Wish List of Art Treasures Returns After 65 Years

Bloomberg 22 January 2010

By Catherine Hickley

An album depicting the artworks that Adolf Hitler wanted for his Fuehrermuseum in the Austrian city of Linz will today be returned to the German government by a U.S. war veteran who took it as a souvenir 65 years ago.

John Pistone, 87, was among the U.S. troops who entered the Berghof, Hitler’s refuge near Berchtesgaden in the Alps, at the end of World War II. He picked up the album and took it back to his home near Cleveland, Ohio, where it sat on a table for years. He wasn’t aware of the contents or its historical significance until an acquaintance asked him whether he could take it to the Monuments’ Men Foundation to find out.

“As soon as John Pistone realized that the book might help us to find paintings that are still missing, he wanted to help,” Robert Edsel, the foundation’s president, said by telephone. “The biggest danger is that people might not know what they have, and throw it away.”

In a ceremony at the U.S. State Department, Pistone will return the book to German ambassador Klaus Schariot. It is Volume 13 of 31 albums cataloguing Hitler’s choices for his planned museum in the city where he grew up. This volume is particularly important because it shows the German 19th-century art the Nazi leader loved most, Edsel said.

Nineteen of the 31 albums are in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. The other 12 were presumed destroyed. Pistone reported seeing at least three in Hitler’s home and tried to take two but they were too heavy, Edsel said.

New Orleans

The volume is about 60 pages long and contains photographs of the paintings Hitler acquired for the museum, with the names of artists and the works handwritten next to them. It will go on display at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans for three months, before joining the other 19 at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Edsel said.

Also at today’s event, which is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Washington time, a 16th-century book valued at $600,000 will be returned to the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. A New York court in March ordered a collector to return the volume to a museum in Stuttgart more than six decades after it was stolen by a U.S. army captain at the end of World War II.

The book, the “Augsburger Geschlechterbuch,” is a bound volume of drawings and prints showing prominent families of Augsburg in different costumes and situations. The collector had bought the book from a St. Louis dealer for $3,800 in 2001.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at
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