Monuments Men and Women Foundation returns rare document to Italy with support from Odessans

Odessa America Online 15 June 2023

The Monuments Men and Women Foundation recently restituted a papal bull issued by Pope Pius IX and turned over custody of the rare document to Italian officials. Odessans Sondra and Toby Eoff generously helped underwrite the restitution costs. The papal bull, an official decree issued by the Vatican, was signed by Pope Pius IX in 1862. It established the Catholic Church of Santo Stefano in Scascoli, located south of Bologna and still in existence today.

During WWII, portions of northern Italy were devastated by bombing and artillery including the church that housed the papal bull. United States Army officer Wolfgang Lehmann—a member of the “Ritchie Boys,” a special group of American soldiers trained at Camp Ritchie in military intelligence—was attached to the 88th Infantry Division when he found the document among the church rubble, picked it up, and took it home to the United States as a souvenir. Following several years of service, Lehmann was honorably discharged from the US Army with the rank of major and began a long and distinguished career in the United States Foreign Service. He and his wife are interred at Arlington National Cemetery. His nephew, Walter Lehmann, reached out to the Monuments Men and Women Foundation to identify the object and coordinate its return to Italy.

Second Lieutenant Wolfgang J. Lehmann, circa spring 1943. (Photo Courtesy of Private Collection (Lehmann Family))

“My uncle would have been pleased to know that a document that he rescued from the destruction of war is now on its way back home to the church where he found it 79 years ago,” said Walter Lehmann.

The restitution ceremony was hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in New York on Tuesday, June 6, the 79th anniversary of the historic “D-Day” landings.
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