Report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas

Report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas

Report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas

Report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas

Excerpt

During 1942, as it became evident that the Allied armies were preparing to invade the continent of Europe, various groups of civilians in the United States began to formulate plans by which some measure of protection consistent with military strategy could, in the war areas, be extended to the cultural monuments-- buildings, works of art, libraries, and records--which constituted, in a broad sense, the heritage of the entire civilized world. In the autumn of that year, the President of the Archaeological Institute of America, the President of the College Art Association, and the Directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington proposed to Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone of the United States Supreme Court the creation of a governmental commission for the protection and salvage of artistic and historic monuments in Europe. Contact was also established with the Chief of the Civil Affairs Division, War Department, and with the Army Air Intelligence Service, to arouse interest and enlist their cooperation.

On December 8, 1942, Chief Justice Stone wrote to President Roosevelt asking his support of a plan for the "creation of an organization functioning under the auspices of the Government, for the protection and conservation of works of art and of artistic and historical monuments and records in Europe, and to aid in salvaging and returning to, or compensating in kind, the lawful owners of such objects which have been appropriated by the Axis powers or by individuals acting with their authority or consent." At the same time he pointed out the incidental but important advantage to be immediately gained by proclaiming to the world, friends and enemies, our Government's practical concern in protecting these symbols of civilization from injury and spoliation.

The memorandum enclosed with this letter contained a parallel recommendation concerning the appointment of the proposed committee and a suggestion that the British and Soviet Governments be asked to consider parallel action on their parts in carrying out this work. The proposed functions of the committee were clearly outlined both for the war and postwar phases, and the membership of such a committee suggested.

To this letter, President Roosevelt replied on December 28 that he had referred the proposal to the appropriate Governmental agencies in order that it might be studied in detail, and indicated his confidence that there would be almost unanimous agreement with the objectives of the proposal.

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