A documentary filmmaker recovered two Nazi-era volumes documenting stolen artworks.
Robert Edsel, whose film “Monuments Men” chronicled the work of art experts to recover and protect World War II-era art and monuments, obtained the volumes from the family of a soldier who had removed them from Adolf Hitler’s home and returned with them to the United States.
Edsel is donating both volumes to the National Archives, which already holds 39 of an estimated 85 of the volumes the Nazis used to keep track of the treasures they stole. The volumes chronicle the theft of the art from prominent Parisian Jewish families, including the Wildensteins, Kahns, Seligmanns and Rothschilds.
In a news conference Thursday presenting one of the volumes to the National Archives, Edsel did not detail how he persuaded the family to give up the volumes. He said he hoped the publicity surrounding his donation of the volumes to the National Archives would prompt other families who might be holding similar volumes to come forward.
“We need the help of the public to work with us to preserve, not destroy, perhaps seemingly worthless old documents such as these albums,” Edsel said. “We are in a race against time.”
Archivists say the volumes are an invaluable tool in tracking the provenance of the stolen art.