Congresswoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chief sponsor of the Monuments Men Recognition Act, H.R. 3658, announced recently that the bipartisan legislation has surpassed the critical threshold necessary for consideration in the House. As of last week, H.R. 3658 has received 293 co-sponsors.
H.R. 3658 would honor the “Monuments Men” of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest recognition for distinguished achievements and contributions. Congressional Gold Medal bills must be co-sponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the Members of the House of Representatives.
“It has been amazing to see the overwhelming show of support. In a matter of only four months, I am proud to say that our legislation has gained the necessary co-sponsors to be considered in the House,” Granger said. “Today, there are only six surviving members of the Monuments Men, which makes the urgency to honor their unit with the Congressional Gold Medal all the more important. Now is the time to recognize the extraordinary efforts of these men and women.”
According to Congressman Michael Capuano, D-Mass, support continues to grow for legislation. “Without thought for their own safety, these brave men and women helped ensure that cathedrals, sculptures and other works of art were saved from destruction. Let’s honor their service by passing this legislation,” the lead Democrat and original co-sponsor said.
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Congressman Cohen, D-Tenn, echoed similar sentiments.
“The Monuments Men who put life and limb at risk to save priceless art and preserve important cultural artifacts deserve to be recognized by the American people for their service,” he said. Cohen, who has been involved in the effort to recognize the Monuments Men since 2007, played a vital role in securing support for the gold medal legislation.
“Their quiet dedication ensured that generations to come will be able to enjoy and be uplifted by the great art that would have otherwise been lost forever. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation to award their unit with a Congressional Gold Medal, and I am delighted that it finally has the support necessary to be considered in the House.” He said that he applauded Congresswoman Granger’s leadership on this important effort.
“It is a tribute to Kay Granger and her staff that a two-thirds majority of the House of Representatives have indicated their support to recognize these heroes of civilization, known as the Monuments Men, with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Robert Edsel said. “On behalf of the Monuments Men Foundation, we will be redoubling our efforts to encourage members of the Senate to act in concert to honor these great patriots while six are still alive.” Edsel is the Founder and President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, and author of three non-fiction books on the topic including, Rescuing Da Vinci, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History and Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the concept of cultural preservation officers in 1943. The Monuments Men and women were a group of World War II soldiers from 13 nations, most of whom were American, who were able to locate, preserve, and return almost five million cultural items, including many of the world’s greatest works of art, to their rightful owners. The Monuments Men served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Western Allied Armies.
In February, the movie The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, was released. The movie follows “an unlikely World War II platoon…tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves…”. Matt Damon, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman and Bill Murray, among many others, are starring in the upcoming movie.
Some of the world’s most famous pieces of art were saved and recovered by this special military effort including Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna, Vermeer’s The Astronomer and Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, as well as works by Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci. In addition to preserving countless churches and other historic structures from the destruction of war, the Monuments Men and women oversaw the restitution of millions of stolen library books, church bells, Torah scrolls, and other priceless cultural objects to their rightful owners.
Honoring the work of the Monument Men has been a long-term effort for Congresswoman Granger. In 2007, Granger introduced H. Con. Res 48 a resolution to honor the contributions of these men and women. During the Armed Services Committee markup in May 2007, then Congressman Robin Hayes offered the resolution as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment was approved by the Armed Services Committee and was included as part of the Defense Authorization Act that passed the House.
There are currently only six surviving members – five men and one woman – of the Monuments Men.
Companion legislation, S. 1862, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Roy Blunt, R - Mo., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.