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In US Army Vault, 'Heinous' Art Includes a Hitler Bust

Andrew Beaujon explores Nazi art collection at Fort Belvoir
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2017 1:09 PM CST
In Vault, US Army Keeps 3-Foot Bust of Hitler
Adolf Hitler is saluted in Munich on Dec. 5, 1931.   (AP Photo, File)

Getting to the 3-foot bust of Adolf Hitler, taken from his mountaintop retreat known as the Eagle's Nest, was a monthslong effort. Even on the day that Andrew Beaujon would set his eyes upon it, he had to pass through a security gate, drive a mile to its host building at Virginia's Fort Belvoir, then get inside a vault. There, he found the bust looking "less than menacing" with 70-year-old dents from boot kicks and the word "FOOL" written on the side. But opinions can change. That's part of the reason this item—one of 586 Nazi-era art pieces in Fort Belvoir's collection—is cloaked in near secrecy, Beaujon writes in a 3,500-word feature at the Washingtonian. As the curator of the collection explains, "There's a very narrow line that we have to walk because we certainly don't want it to be a rallying point for Nazism."

Neither did Gordon Gilkey, a "real-life Indiana Jones" who was instructed by the Chief Military Historian's office to seize all Nazi militaristic art in Germany after World War II, Beaujon writes. In his travels from an Austrian bar to a Bavarian castle, Gilkey uncovered 8,722 art pieces, most of which were returned to Germany after 1982 based on a historian's assessment that they were "laughable to all but the lunatic fringe." The bust and four paintings by Hitler were among the "most heinous" pieces kept in US possession, and Beaujon notes recent neo-Nazi rallies mean the "conviction that these pieces were laughable feels a little less persuasive today," even as the National Museum of the United States Army prepares to open at Fort Belvoir in 2019. The full piece is here, and explains how much of the collection was nearly handed over to a guy from Texas. (More Nazis stories.)

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