This morning Monuments Men Foundation Chairman of the Board Robert Edsel was all mic-ed up alongside Holocaust Museum Board Chair-Elect Florence Shapiro at the Museum behind a table. On the other side of the table was a line-up of TV cameras and photographers and spectators. On the table were a very worn book and an aged menorah that were the center of attention because they were treasures of World War II and, thanks to the Monuments Men Foundation, were being presented to the Museum.
Made famous thanks to Robert’s Monuments Men book and the movie, the Foundation has taken up the cause to return such art, cultural objects, and documents to their rightful owners and/or provide for their preservation.
The seven-branch menorah was “a souvenir” brought to the States by a World War II vet. Considered truly unique because of its “having only seven branches, it resembles the one lit by Kohanim (priests)at the Holy Temple during Biblical times in Jerusalem. It is a symbol of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The commonly seen nine-branch menorah, called in Hebrew ‘Chanukiyyah,’ is used during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.”
According to Robert, “The Monuments Men Foundation is pleased that after some 70 years, this menorah will now have a permanent and appropriate home at one of our city’s most important cultural institutes, the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Now, after a very long journey, it will serve future generations as an ever-present reminder of the horrors inflicted on humanity by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.”
As for the book, it was actually an album “containing 46 tipped-in photographs showing daily work activities of the Monuments Men at the Offenbach Archival Deport, one of three principal collecting points for cultural treasures and works of arts looted by the Nazis during World War II.”
Monuments Officer Captain Isaac Bencowitz, who had been the director of the Offenbach Archival Depot, presented the album to Monuments Man Corporal Rouben Sami for his efforts. Despite its condition, five Monuments Men have been identified in the photos including Monuments Officer Lt. Col. Richard Howard, who was the third director of the Dallas Museum of Art.
As Robert carefully opened the book, he explained, “The Foundation is also excited that the album of photographs documenting the work of the Monuments Men in identifying and returning some of the millions of objects stolen during the war will reside at the Museum.”
As the press conference concluded and the microphones were removed, Robert shared news of another sort with Florence. Not only had he gotten married, but the newlyweds were expecting a baby in August.