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Dwight D. Eisenhower investigates paintings stored in a German salt mine in 1945
Dwight D. Eisenhower investigates paintings stored in a German salt mine in 1945


Mar. 27, 2012

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In what’s been called an “Indiana Jones-style expedition,” explorers are digging into a 180-foot silver mine in Germany to retrieve what they suspect is a nearly $800 million trove of Nazi-looted artworks by Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Édouard Manet, according to The Daily Mail.

New documents obtained by Austrian scholar Burkhart List indicate that SS lieutenant Adolf Eichmann ordered the transportation of several hundred artworks from the prominent collection of Jewish businessman Baron Ferenc Hatvany from Hungary to two underground storage spaces in the Erzgebirge Mountains.

List’s evidence includes records of a “mysterious” shipment from Budapest that was labeled “top secret”; a photograph of Nazis in front of the mine, where he says they had no reason to be; and a neutron generator probe into the mine that indicates man-made construction never before recorded on maps. The mayor of the nearby town Deutschkatherinenberg told the paper, “The question is not what we find here, but when we find it.” 

Hundreds of other works from the Hatvany family’s collection were looted by Soviet troops in 1945, many of which have surfaced over the years and entered museum collections. Perhaps most famously, Nazi officials deemed Hatvany’s Gustave Courbet masterpiece L’Origine du Monde lacking in artistic merit and let him keep it. He sold it in 1955 for about $300,000 at auction to psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

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