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The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

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The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by Nicky80 on Sun Jun 29 2014, 18:48

The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film



  • Harry Ettlinger fled the Nazis then returned to help recover stolen art work
  • WWII hero's story made into a Hollywood film featuring George Clooney 
  • Ettlinger will soon be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for bravery



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Seventy years after helping recover stolen art from the Nazis, Harry Ettlinger gets to see his story on the big screen

In the searing heat, some 700 feet deep in the bowels of the Kochendorf salt mine in Germany, Harry Ettlinger prised open one of the 40,000 mud-crusted crates stacked by the shaft.
Inside, piled high, were scores of paintings.


Haltingly, he unwrapped the first. Inside the packing paper, its vibrant colours glancing off the flickering light of his pit lamp, the distinctive features of Rembrandt gazed back.


Harry recognised it at once. Six years before, in 1938, as a 13 year old art lover in his native Karlsruhe in Germany, he had yearned to see the Dutch artist’s iconic self-portrait that hung in the town’s museum. But as a German Jew, ostracised and under threat, he wasn’t allowed inside the building. Now, in 1944 with war raging around him as the Allies routed the Nazis troops, Harry, who had fled Germany and was now an American GI, knew his discovery of the precious icon - one of five million art works looted by Hitler’s troops - would be saved for posterity.


In all, that one cache of stolen paintings contained 900 stolen works, among them the precious Stuppach Madonna, a medieval panel painting of the baby Jesus and Mary by German artist Grunewald. All had been stashed by Hitler’s troops after their rampage across Europe.


Their value was incalculable - one, alone, a self-portrait by Italian artist Raphael, is worth £60m today. All had been destined for Adolf Hitler, but even now with the Reich teetering, the fanatical Nazi leader had ordered the irreplaceable iconic works should all be destroyed.


In a few weeks time Harry, 88, who now lives in New Jersey and is one of the few remaining members of the Anglo-American Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section, will finally be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his bravery.
 
The highest award to a civilian for an act of heroism that contributed to America’s history, the medal will seal forever the brave and unflinching sacrifices he and his 350 colleagues made to ensure Hitler’s plan to destroy the majority of Europe’s priceless art works was foiled.
But it isn’t the only honour that Harry has received. George Clooney’s iconic film The Monuments Men, depicting the men’s heroic story, has now been released on DVD and Blue-ray. Directed by and starring Clooney, as well as a star-studded cast including Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchette, it paints a vivid account of the heroism of the 400 or so art historians, museum directors and art curators - all more familiar with a Michaelangelo than a machine gun - who became entangled in a dramatic race against time in their bid to save some 1,000 years of culture.

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Harry Ettlinger pictured with his late wife Mimi, who died 10 years ago. Ettlinger is portrayed in the film by English actor Dimitri Leonidas, but his character is renamed Sam Epstein

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Although he fled Germany just prior to WWII, he said it was not hard to take up arms against his home country


‘Watching the film was such a humbling experience,’ says Harry, a widower who has lived alone since his beloved wife Mimi died 10 years ago.


‘It brought the powerful message that, not only did Hitler want to annihilate an entire race, but he wanted its culture wiped from the face of the earth too.


‘I went back to the Kockendorf two years ago and memories came flooding back. It wasn’t hard for me to take arms against my home country. The day I left Germany I was no longer German.


'I have been an American citizen since I was 19 and I am an American patriot. I will never forget the bravery of the Men. Those British men, such as the Cambridge historian Ronald Balfour (played in The Monuments Men by Hugh Bonneville) who was killed by a shell burst while trying to rescue a medieval altar from a church in Cleves in Germany in March 1945.


'And American architect Walter Hutchthausen who was gunned down trying to rescue an altar piece near Aachen.’


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An art lover from an early age, Ettlinger is pictured with a Rembrandt self portrait he helped recover

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The Monuments Men film, featuring Matt Damon, left, and actor and director George Clooney, right, is based loosely on the exploits of Ettlinger who helped reclaim about 900 boxes of art stolen by the Nazis

The Monuments Men is based on Robert Edsel’s book charting the Men’s success. As a young man in Florence in 1996 Edsel began to wonder how many great masterpieces had survived WWII. His research into the Men’s unit became a labour of love.


When Clooney read his work he, too, became passionate about turning the incredible story into a film. These men, Clooney realised, had been air brushed from history.
‘George helped me to lobby for the medal to be awarded to the few remaining Men, such as Harry,’ Edsel says. ‘I had the honour of breaking the news of the award to Harry. He looked just like a child who had seen Santa Claus. He so deserves it.’

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Harry Ettlinger, pictured left with British actor Dimitri Leonidas and Clooney, and right, with the wider film crew


Harry and his parents and siblings were among the last German Jews who managed to escape Nazi Germany. His father, who helped run a women’s fashion store realised that soon the persecution would go far beyond merely his shop being boycotted.

Increasingly the family was ostracised and when neigbouring Germans made it clear the Ettlinger family was not wanted he moved swiftly.
Harry joined the American army at 19, becoming an infantry man. But his fluency in his native tongue meant he was asked to join the Monuments Men. In the film his story inspired the character of Sam Epstein, played by ex-Grange Hill actor, Dimitri Leonidis.


After the war Harry travelled back to Germany, hoping to find some of his own family’s art treasures which had been stored in a warehouse in Baden Baden.


He travelled with a Holocaust survivor and recalls: ‘When we found the warehouse, my grandfather’s art was there.


But our jeep broke down and we had to stay the night. We ended up in the top suite of the best hotel in town.


There we were, a Jewish soldier and a Holocaust survivor. Sleeping in a bed meant for the German kaiser. I’m proud of that.’


He had the family heirlooms shipped back to America and, today, one piece he saved is still displayed on the wall of his apartment: a print of that Rembrandt self portrait. ‘It reminds me of what we achieved and the sacrifices that people like my buddies made.
‘Sothebys offered me £500,000. But because of the proud memories it brings back it is beyond price to me.’ 


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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by melbert on Sun Jun 29 2014, 21:31

I hope that George and the rest of the cast go to the ceremony!!

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by LizzyNY on Sun Jun 29 2014, 22:22

They don't give the date of the ceremony. It might conflict with the wedding. If not, I hope they go to support him.

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by Mazy on Mon Jun 30 2014, 05:04

melbert wrote:I hope that George and the rest of the cast go to the ceremony!!
I also hope he does, it is an honor long over-due. Seeing as he helped Edsel lobby for them getting the medal. This movie might not win an Oscar as doesn't have any new far-fetched unbelievable effects, As far as I'm concern it should, it was so beautifully made and enjoyable to watch.

It is a movie that is going to go down in the history books about how George Clooney not only righted a terrible wrong, and getting them the recognition that they so well deserved. All the talk has got more museums and art gallerias on the look out for art that still has not been found .Also how all the positive after math will help in (God forbid) future wars to protect the art, so as not to wipe out the evidence of the human race.

George can be very proud for them making this movie. As usual the message is more important then the money that is made as long as the studio is happy. It did a good job and I hope they re-release it again. I'm positive that DVD sales will do very well because MM is still being talked about.

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by LizzyNY on Mon Jun 30 2014, 11:57

Agreed, Mazy. This movie did a lot of good and will continue to have an effect for a long time to come.

Off topic thought - It would improve my opinion of Amal a lot if she went to the ceremony with George.

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by Nicky80 on Mon Jun 30 2014, 17:00

Well, we don't even know if George is going. Before we turn this thread to another Amal thread lets just stay on topic about the real MM and see what happens.... Wink

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by LizzyNY on Mon Jun 30 2014, 17:08

Does anyone know the date of the ceremony?

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by Nicky80 on Fri Aug 01 2014, 20:58

Ok I think I found the answer...I thought it is still going to happen but it was already. In the article below (the article was published 7th July) stated next week so I guess it was somewhere around 14th July

"Next week, Ettlinger is going to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for Bravery, the highest citizenship award for someone who is preserving history. Ettlinger said that he is excited about receiving the honor."


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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by it's me on Fri Aug 01 2014, 21:11

any pics?

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

Post by Nicky80 on Fri Aug 01 2014, 21:15

Didn't find any  I dunno

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Re: The real Monuments Man: Amazing story of the Jewish teenager who fled Nazi Germany but returned six years later as one of the art-hunters made famous by George Clooney film

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