The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp in history, was this week. Because of this historic moment in history, Huff the Hubs and I watched an intriguing documentary on Netflix called The Rape of Europa. This film focuses not only on the atrocities the Nazis performed against the Jews of Europe, but also to the causalities of war that many don’t think about: the monuments and art that makes a culture what it is.
Which brings us to today’s highlighted woman and another Her’s Day Thursday.
During the Second World War, when the Germans occupied France, the Nazis plundered more than 20,000 pieces of art from local artists (mostly Jewish), vintage furniture, and sculptures from around Europe. The Nazis decided to secure their stolen goods at the Jeu de Museum in Paris, France.During this time a woman named Rose Valland worked at the museum.
Rose had a quiet, meek demeanor and was able to stay on at the museum while the Nazis stole and stored thousands of pieces of art. The Nazis didn’t think anything Rose was much of a threat, however Rose was keeping a very big secret. Unbeknownst to the Third Reich, she spoke and understood German.
While Rose watched all of the pieces of art, furniture, and priceless heirlooms come into the museum she was sure to listen to the Nazis and note where each piece came from, as well as the names of its owners. She kept all of the information in the small notebook hidden in her desk at the museum.
Before the liberation of Paris on August 1, 1944, Valland overheard Nazis officers planning to ship out the stolen artifacts in five boxcars. She listened intently to the plan, memorizing the train’s route and the stops it would make. Rose sent word to her contacts in the French Resistance and they were able to prevent the train from leaving Paris, securing the priceless works of art for generations to come!
Because of Rose Valland’s work, many paintings, sculptures, and pieces of furniture were returned to their rightful owners after the war. Because of her heroic efforts, Rose was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the United States in 1948, and also received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Valland is one of the most decorated women in France, but it wasn’t until 1953 that she was finally awarded the title of “curator.”
Way to go, Rose!