Inside the U.S. Army’s Warehouse Full of Nazi Art

| January 13, 2021

Photo courtesy The New Yorker (Robert C. Sanchez)

The New Yorker magazine takes a look into the loads of Nazi art confiscated by the US Army in the closing days of World War II.

In the final days of the Second World War, a train loaded with relics of the collapsing Third Reich was speeding toward the Czech border when American pilots, flying P-47 fighters, spotted it and opened fire. The train ground to a halt in a forest, where German soldiers spirited the cargo away. They were pursued, not long afterward, by Gordon Gilkey, a young captain from Linn County, Oregon, who had been ordered to gather up all the Nazi propaganda and military art he could find. Gilkey tracked the smugglers to an abandoned woodcutter’s hut, where he pried up the floorboards and found what he was looking for: a collection of drawings and watercolors belonging to the German military’s high command. The cache had survived the strafing, only to be afflicted by mildew and a family of hungry mice. “They had eaten the ends off many pictures, large holes in a few, and gave all the cabin pictures an uneven deckle edge,” Gilkey wrote.

Two years later, after Gilkey completed his mission, he put the art he had recovered—thousands of pieces of it—on a ship bound for the United States. Today, one of the world’s largest collections of Nazi propaganda sits in a climate-controlled warehouse at Fort Belvoir, in northern Virginia. Much of it is virulent; most of it is never seen by the public.

Fort Belvoir is home to the 29th Infantry Division and also to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. It is also home to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, which maintains the Nazi art, along with thousands of other relics of wars past. One afternoon, before the pandemic struck, I drove inside the base to a cavernous warehouse where the collection is stored. It was like prying open a time capsule from a very dark time.

More at the source. I particularly like how some Third Army dog face bayoneted Hitler on “The Flag Bearer” on display at one of his retreats. Thankfully the curators did not repair it.

Fort Belvoir’s trove of historical art artifacts is also home to several artistic works by the Nazi leader himself.  For obvious reasons, the watercolors from Hitler’s failed career as a painter have not been put on display.

Category: Army, Historical

Comments (5)

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  1. KoB says:

    BZ to the troops that saved these relics. Another BZ to the ones that have kept it safe for future generations to learn more of the despicable behavior of the nazi scum. Too bad history is not taught in schools anymore. Only thing some folks seem to remember from that time frame is how the Brown Shirts acted. And they surely have learned and implemented THOSE lessons.

  2. The new brown shirts are alive and well as the new Schutzstaffel arm of the demoRat party called antifa.

  3. ChipNASA says:

    Wait until they start putting Trump stickers on Hitler’s head. 5…4…3…2…1…
    Oh wait, he’s outta here in a week. Maybe…Unless he’s impeached, hung, re-elected, is anointed by God himself, greeted personally by off world aliens in the Rose garden, or something.

  4. timactual says:

    There is a library in the Pentagon that I visited occasionally when I was a kid. They had a display of militaria they changed every now and then. One of the displays was of some of the ‘booty’ recovered from the Nazis, including things like Herman Goering’s Richsmarshchall baton.

    I miss that library. I often wonder what the folks who worked in the Pentagon thought when they saw a kid in blue jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers (not “running shoes”!) strolling through the halls. Times have changed, and not always for the better.