Salt Mines and Castles is a first-hand account of the work of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section of U.S. Forces, European Theatre (MFA&A), immediately following the end of World War II in 1945. Often simply referred to as the “Monuments Men,” this group of unlikely soldiers included art curators, scholars, architects, librarians, and archivists from the U.S. and Great Britain. Their war-time mission was to identify and protect European cultural sites, monuments, and buildings from Allied bombing. After the war, and the focus of this book, their mission was the challenging effort to locate and recover works of art that had been looted by the Nazis.
Uncovered were thousands of pieces of art—including priceless paintings by Leonardo DaVinci and Johannes Vermeer, sculptures by Michelangelo, and the Rothschild jewels—hidden across Germany and Austria in underground mines, castles, churches and monasteries. Following the recovery of the art, the no less daunting task of inventorying the thousands of items, identification of the owners, restoration of damaged works, and transporting delicate canvases and sculptures to their home countries began.
Included in this edition is a new Introduction by Steve W. Chadde and twenty-four pages of photographs illustrating the collection of art by Nazi leaders, plus the recovery of looted pieces by the Allies.