The New Jersey Devils honored Harry Ettlinger, one of five living members of the World War II group commonly known as the “Monuments Men,” Friday night as the team faced the Montreal Canadiens.
Officially titled the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, the Monuments Men were a specialized team of curators and historians tasked with identifying and returning works of art and cultural treasures, including paintings, sculptures and tapestries, stolen and hid by the Nazis. The pieces of art were planned to be a part of Adolf Hitler’s personal museum after the war.
Operating from 1943 to 1946, the people of the program worked in German castles, Austrian salt mines, Italian jail cells and more, going wherever Hitler ordered the priceless artifacts be hidden and stored during the war.
Click Here to see more photos of Ettlinger.
After escaping from Germany in 1938, Ettlinger, a Private in the U.S. Army drafted into service, returned to the country initially to serve as an interpreter for the planned Nuremburg trials before being reassigned to the Monuments Men’s mission. Ettlinger’s ability to speak the language allowed him to serve the vital role of smoothing communications between his coworkers and civilians whose help became necessary in finding the works of art.
Speaking to Smithsonian Magazine in February 2008, Ettlinger explained that the Monuments Men’s purpose, “established the policy that to the victor do not go the spoils. The whole idea of returning property to its rightful owners in wartime was unprecedented.” Throughout recorded history there are records of the victors of wars taking prizes and looting the losing states.
Seventy years after the end of the war, it’s a topic that’s still discussed and explored in movies, including 2014’s wildly popular “The Monuments Men” and this year’s recent release, “The Woman in Gold.”