Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Man Who Stole From Hitler

The long-lost photo album from Hitler's private collection

World War II. The last great, justified war was raging across Europe; thousands were slaughter by the the Third Reich and the Hitler propaganda machine.

John Pistone was a soldier in the war, and found himself in the Bavarian Alps, near Berchtergaden, Germany. Deep in enemy territory, he found himself in front of house that was abandoned quickly, one he recognized.

Adolph Hitler's home.

He and the other soldiers with him rushed in to the house, looking around, excited about where they were and looking for anything useful. While in the home, he noticed tables; there were hidden shelves beneath and none of them were locked. The shelves were full of photo albums and Pistone helped himself to one. Inside the album endless pictures of paintings.

After the war, Pistone returned with the book to the United States. Sixty-four years later, a friend noticed the book on a bookshelf and took a look. He did some research and contacted the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, who were in the business of restitution of other albums stolen from Jewish families by the Nazi's. They examined the book and noticing the stamp on the book's spine, "Gemaldegalerie Linz" and the number 13, realized what it was. The album was part of a series that was put together for the Fuhrer; he was planning a museum in his hometown of Linz, Austria.

All of the art Hitler wanted for his museum was stolen or confiscated. Pistone's book contained some of Hitler's favorites, including a photo of Adolf von Menzel's painting of Frederick the Great that hung in Hitler's office in Munich.

Pistone took what he thought was a souvenir. Instead, he preserved an important part of history at the same time he was saving the world.

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