The Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives Section (MFAA) during World War II:

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower inspects stolen artwork in the Merkers salt mines. Behind Eisenhower are General Omar N. Bradley (left), CG of the 12th Army Group, and (right) LT Gen George S. Patton, Jr, CG, 3rd U.S. Army.

In 1943, the Allied Armies created the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, otherwise known as the MFAA or “The Monuments Men”.  These men and women worked to protect the cultural treasures of Europe and to return them to their rightful owners at the end of the war.  While the MFAA also served in Japan, this pathfinder is dedicated to their service in the European Theater, as is the forthcoming movie.

Book: Edsel, Robert and Bret Witter. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure in History. New York: Center Street Publishing, 2009.

This book is the inspiration for the George Clooney production, to be released this summer.  Edsel and Witter follow the Monuments Men for the chaotic period between the landings at Normandy and the surrender of the Third Reich.

Book: Edsel, Robert. Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art: America and Her Allies Recovered It.  Dallas: Laurel Publishing, 2006.

Compiled as a visual companion to the book above, Rescuing da Vinci includes 460 photographs of Nazi art museums, Monuments Men, and the cultural treasures they saved.

Book: Edsel, Robert. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2013.

Edsel returns to his favorite subject, the MFAA.  While his previous works focused on Nazi plunder in northern Europe, this book turns the spotlight on Italy and the efforts of the Monuments Men as retreating Nazis took whatever they could.

Website: The Monuments Men website: news, stories, biographies, blog (

This companion site to Edsel’s book also provides primary sources related to the MFAA, including photos, maps, and paperwork from both the Allies and the Nazis.

Book: Kurtz, Michael. America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Kurtz’ focus is on the repatriation of art following V-E day.  After the greatest upheaval and dislocation of cultural treasures in world history, the occupying powers struggled to return art to its rightful home.

Website: American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (RG 239)

Established by FDR in 1943, the Roberts Commission attempted to grasp and cope with the enormous scale of cultural restitution during the final year of the war in Europe and after.  At this site, NARA provides online records from microfilm.



One thought on “The Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives Section (MFAA) during World War II:

  1. Pingback: The Monuments Men Pathfinder | the monuments men pathfinder

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