WWII soldier to return Hitler’s art album

Album taken as a soldier's souvenir 64 years ago

December 10, 2009

John Pistone was among the U.S. soldiers who entered Adolf Hitler’s home Berchtesgaden, nestled in the Bavarian Alps, as the war in Europe drew to a close. Making his way through the Berghof, Pistone took an album filled with photographs of paintings as a souvenir. Sixty-four years after Pistone brought the album home to Ohio, the 87-year-old has learned its full significance: It’s part of a series compiled for Hitler featuring art he wanted for his "Fuhrermuseum," a planned museum in in his hometown of Linz, Austria.

Pistone’s album is expected to be formally returned to Germany in a ceremony at the U.S. State Department in January. Germany has 19 other albums discovered at the Berchtesgaden complex that are part of a 31-album collection of works either destined for or being considered for the Linz museum.

Stamped on the album’s spine is "Gemaldegalerie Linz" (gallery for paintings, Linz) and the Roman numerals for 13. It still has a sticker from the book’s binder in Dresden.

Souvenir hunting was routine by soldiers during the war, and problems arise when people try to sell rather than return culturally important items, according to Thomas R. Kline, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in art restitution and works for the foundation. Kline explained in an interview by the Associated Press, "It’s really important that as people go through their attics and they find the things that Grandpa brought home, people are aware that something as simple as a book of pictures could have a cultural significance."

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