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World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

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World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

Post by Mazy on Thu Apr 17 2014, 22:37

World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

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Local WWII vet discovered gold, works of art in 1945 German mine

Apr. 17, 2014 3:56 PM  
Written by
Christina LoBrutto
Editorial Intern

World War II veteran Nick Alicino, 93, still remembers the day his unit came across gold and art in a German salt mine in 1945. / PHOTO BY CHRISTINA LOBRUTTO

HIGHLAND PARK — Based on a true story, George Clooney’s recent movie, “The Monuments Men,” tells the tale of a World War II platoon going into to Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners. Local resident and World War II veteran Nicholas Alicino is one of the actual soldiers who recovered vast fortunes from a salt mine in Germany in 1945.

Alicino was 23 when he entered the war in 1944, leaving behind his wife, Regina. He had been working as a chemist on the development of a new drug to cure infectious disease.

“With my background, they put me in the medical corps, but then they ran out of infantry men,” Alicino explained. “They took a lot of men from the air corps and the medical corps. I was physically fit. They rushed us overseas and we got in the tail end of the war.”

He still retains numerous original news clippings of World War II events. In fact, many of the original news clips featured in the film are the very same that appear in his scrapbook, which his late wife compiled while he was overseas.

“My wife was writing me letters, so she knew my division and battalion number,” he said. “She saw it in the paper and she saved it. She had the collection in a scrapbook she made.”

A golden discovery

The headlines of national newspapers read, “100 Tons of Gold and Cash Found in German Salt Mine.” Alicino, 93, remembers the discovery quite clearly.

“It was April 7, 1945 that our Battalion, a unit of the 90th Infantry, a division of General Patton’s 3rd Army, captured the small town of Merkers, Germany,” he said in his account. “We picked up a couple of Germans who were out after curfew and were looking for a doctor or someone to deliver a baby. They were from Berlin. Then they said they were here to take care of the works of art. We didn’t know if it was a trick or not. The man identified himself as a Dr. Trilzvieck, a curator of the Berlin Museum.”

After descending about 1,800 feet to the bottom of a salt mine, they discovered a vault. The curator unlocked the door to reveal a room filled with hundreds of world famous works of art, still packaged with labels on them from Paris, Vienna, Prague, Rome, etc.

The German officer said the statues found and the paintings in over 1,000 cases were priceless,” he explained. “Across the way from the works of art was another vault. When we asked what was in the other big vault, he said, ‘Oh das ist gold, das ist alles.’ (That is gold. That is all.) There was no key so we had to blast our way into the vault. In it was an unbelievable collection of gold bullion and currencies from all over the world.”

A few days later, military police from France and the U.S. visited to inspect the site. Alicino said he was surprised by how nicely dressed they were, with colored printed helmets and polished boots.

“I saw nuke planes and artillery came up close by us,” he said. “The next day, General Patton came. I saw him. He came up to the front once in a while. Eisenhower flew over from England to see the gold, and you know what? We let him in. We got a two-day rest out of it.”

Alicino’s unit was recruited to load the contents of the mine onto the army trucks. While doing so, he managed to acquire four gold coins of 10 marks each. He still has one, which his wife used to make a tie clip as a memento.

He said that the gold and works of art were brought to France and the U.S. until they could be returned to their rightful owners.

“The gold was worth over $2 billion in today’s money,” Alicino said. “The value of the art treasures is said to be priceless, and in fact was worth more than the gold that was found. This wonderful experience is so embedded in my mind.”

War is over

Alicino remained in the Army of Occupation after the war ended, where he returned to medics.
“I was in charge of the Nuremberg General Hospital as a laboratory, non-commissioned officer,” he explained. “That was taken over by the United States army for all of our war casualties and all our occupation. We used that as our hospital for American soldiers. We had all our facilities there.”

During his time in the Army of Occupation, Alicino journeyed to Italy to find his family. He took trains, cabs and mail planes from city to city. He spent a few nights sleeping in pulley cars in the railroad yard and used his rations of chocolate and cigarettes for food and other necessities. Alicino spent a few days in the Italian Riviera and the island of Capri before he finally made it to his family in Bari, Italy.

In June of 1946, Alicino returned home to his wife. He remembers the day fondly.
“I wrote my wife that I was coming home,” he explained. “I told her I was coming on a boat, Marine Fox, leaving Hamburg, Germany and I’d arrive in New York Harbor. I could see the Jersey coast and we came to the New York Harbor and stopped at an empty port. Over the loudspeaker, I heard, ‘Sgt. Alicino, report to the deck.’ I got up there and they put down the plank and on the walk was one person – my wife in a brand new, tan suit. She was there at 6:30 in the morning.”

Alicino’s neighbor and doctor happened to be friends with someone who worked at the port. They had managed to open the port that day just so his wife could be there for his return. The ship was to dock in New Jersey.

“I got out of the boat and went down,” he said. “All the soldiers came to the side of the ship. She was the first American girl they’d seen in two years. I give her a big kiss and they all said, ‘Kiss her again!’ I think they almost tipped the boat over. There were a couple thousand soldiers cheering me on.”

Alicino has eight children, with whom he has shared his stories over the years. His son Tom recently saw “The Monuments Men.”

“We’ve been listening to dad’s stories throughout the years,” he said. “They’re always interesting, but we get them in different parts because we are rarely ever all together. As I was watching the movie, I felt like I was listening to his story about it. We are going to get it so we can watch it together and stop and talk about it.”

He values the stories he has heard from his father about such a historic time, because, as he added, “Unfortunately, there’s not that many people left from World War II.”

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Last edited by Mazy on Fri Apr 18 2014, 03:13; edited 2 times in total

Mazy
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Re: World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

Post by it's me on Thu Apr 17 2014, 23:03

8!!!

anyway great story
thanks Very Happy

it's me
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Re: World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

Post by LizzyNY on Fri Apr 18 2014, 00:51

Mazy - Thanks for the story. I'm glad he got back to his wife in one piece.

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Re: World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

Post by it's me on Fri Apr 18 2014, 08:56

oh right!!!!

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Re: World War II Vet From Highland Park Discovered Gold, Works Of Art In German Mine In 1945

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