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As It Happened -

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(generated from captions) Captions copyright SBS 2006 the Australian Caption Centre Supertext Captions by in SBS World News Australia at 9:30. Coming up There are concerns tonight

could be in jeopardy, that millions more American jobs with the collapse of American car-makers. a proposed $1 billion bailout Senate talks broke down that workers take steep wage cuts. over demands by Republicans as Zimbabwe's President claims Disbelief the cholera epidemic is over. Robert Mugabe's comments come predicts as the World Health Organisation may become infected. tens of thousand more people continue to grip Greece Violent protests in their wake. leaving a trail of destruction saw protesters clash with police The latest unrest a prison and university. in central Athens and outside several main roads in the capital. Protestors also blocked Many already consider it a wonder. 27 August 1939 - of the Second World War. a few days before the start A convoy of trucks is leaving Paris. Its destination is secret. Its cargo, priceless. of the Louvre Museum, The most famous paintings including the 'Mona Lisa',

out of reach of air attack... were being taken to safety, and of the Nazi plunder squads to go into action. that were already waiting Our story is the story of an idea, the idea of art. And it's a story of power, in a totalitarian state. of the need to possess and to control

In 1938, of a huge art museum. Hitler had sketched the plan as proof of the greatness of Germany. It was to be built after the war In Linz, his home town. His avarice was boundless. The squads operated all over Europe. and private collections alike. They plundered museums for Hitler's museum. They especially wanted works No significant collection was safe. the owners got their lives... In exchange, if they were lucky. began in April 1938 The art-looting enterprise into Austria. when German troops marched unopposed Germany became Greater Germany.

on the Danube. The reception for Hitler in Linz Hitler spent his youth in Linz. He went to school there. As Reich Chancellor he returned, calling it his home town. That evening, still in Linz, Hitler decided to convert the city with a museum into a European art metropolis art collection in the world. that would eclipse every other Hitler wanted to redesign Linz with a grandiose boulevard as a so-called "Fuhrer's city" railway station to the city centre that would run straight from the and the Fuhrer Museum. the would-be painter and architect, Hitler, and sketches himself. drew up the first plans to see his dream become reality. He could hardly wait who would realise Hitler's vision The search for the man led to Dresden. of the famed Dresden Art Gallery, Hans Posse, long-time director as the expert in the field. was recommended to Hitler a model national socialist. But Posse was hardly "I confirm receipt of your commission "which does me such honour my humble gratitude. "and I take the liberty of expressing "Heil Hitler!" thanked the Fuhrer That was how Posse the Linz special project. for giving him he would be Hitler's chief purchaser In the coming years, in the field of art. and most important adviser and a generous budget. He was given unlimited authority Money was no object. But the mission was still delicate. a top-quality collection, Before Posse could start assembling of his petty-bourgeois tastes. he had to talk Hitler out of some at the Reich Chancellery. He was granted an audience reflect the greatness of Germany Posse argued the collection could exclusively for their quality. only if the paintings were selected Incredibly enough, bowed to Posse's expertise. the all-powerful Fuhrer in just a few weeks. Posse compiled a wish list were in other countries But many of the works he earmarked wasn't always known. and their exact whereabouts The search began.

Disguised as harmless researchers, the storage rooms and depots two German art historians inspected of various French and Dutch museums. was to comb Europe for artworks Their real mission to German culture. that could be attributed of everything they found They made detailed lists Germany could lay claim to it all. and they looked for reasons why from the private collection Even to paintings of the British royal family. was the so-called 'Kummel Report', The result which ran to several hundred pages. which, according to the Nazis, This report listed the artworks since the Middle Ages. had been smuggled out of Germany was in Ghent Cathedral in Belgium. One of the most important It was Jan van Eyck's altarpiece, the 'Adoration of the Mystic Land'. behind bullet-proof glass. Today, it is kept in its own chapel already had an eventful history. The Ghent altarpiece The church, of the altarpiece for art history, not realising the significance in the mid-19th century. had sold some of its panels by the King of Prussia. Some were bought In the early 20th century, what a treasure it had lost. Belgium began to realise at the end of the First World War, Under the Treaty of Versailles as compensation for the war. it demanded the return of the panels those parts of the altarpiece The Nazis argued that at least had bought in the 19th century which the King of Prussia legally belonged to Germany. to put it in Hitler's museum Whether Posse planned to be taken to Berlin or whether it was is disputed today. that Nazi Germany wanted the altar - However, there is no doubt

at any price. In the summer of 1939 the threat of war was very real. Europe was on the edge of a volcano. While many people in the major cities the last weeks of peace, were enjoying preparing for an emergency. the Louvre Museum was already by Jacques Jaujard, The planning was led National Museums. Director of the French and prepared for evacuation. Every painting was to be valued Jaujard had labels of yellow, green or red stuck to the back of each painting to indicate its priority during relocation. The greatest possible care was required. The 'Mona Lisa' was given two red dots to signify the very highest priority. Not only the woman with the enigmatic smile

but every important work in the Louvre was placed in a crate and prepared for evacuation. One of the curators was Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt. The 'Winged Victory of Samothrace', a Greek statue more than 2000 years old, was the Louvre's most famous work after the 'Mona Lisa'. Time was pressing. After a few days, the Louvre looked like a giant furniture warehouse. Sales staff from nearby department stores had been recruited to help with the packing. What remained was an empty shell with few reminders that just days before it had housed the world's most important art collection. The first convoy set off on 27 August 1939, just days before the outbreak of war. To avoid detection, the trucks usually travelled at night. Apart from the museum staff, no one knew where the convoy was making for. The cargo was simply too valuable. Jacques Jaujard went too. On his knees lay the world's most famous painting. Other curators also accompanied the transports to help protect the artworks. As the trucks rolled through France there was nothing to suggest the true value of what they were carrying. 1 September 1939 - the start of the Second World War.

Poland was overrun in a blitzkrieg of only a few weeks. The German success in the East made the threat to the West ever more real. The transfer of artworks was still not complete. The transports were heading for monasteries, churches and castles in the presumed safety of southern France. Here, it was thought, they'd be far from the likely frontline and protected from any bombing. The most important thing was that the doors and windows should be large enough.

The most important art depot was Chambord Castle on the Loire. The castle hadn't been lived in for centuries. The sanitary facilities were as old as the artworks themselves. The museum workers settled down to a Spartan way of life between the crates. For their children, it was like a holiday camp. On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Unlike the French, the Belgians had taken no steps to protect their art. Now they had to act.

Especially with the Ghent altarpiece. While the attack on Belgium continued, the Nazi looting squads awaited their orders. Hans Posse wanted the Ghent altarpiece. He decided to ask for help from the army high command. The man for this secret mission was Count Wolff Metternich, the German army's art officer. Like Posse, Metternich was an internationally recognised art historian. Metternich set off for Ghent to see the situation at first hand, secure the altarpiece and have it shipped to Germany. The only way to save the altarpiece now was to get it out of Belgium before the Germans could seize it.

Hastily, three trucks were loaded up. They were to make for Rome 1500 kilometres to the south. Belgium's most important art treasures, including the altarpiece, were to be hidden in the Vatican. URGENT MUSIC To transport an artwork as large and important as the Ghent altarpiece over 1500 kilometres by road would have been hazardous even in peacetime. With the war raging, it was a trip into the unknown. The altarpiece was evacuated just in time. Count Metternich arrived in Ghent too late. The spot where the altarpiece normally stood in St Bavo's Cathedral was empty. So Metternich returned home empty-handed. The task now was to find out where the altarpiece was being hidden.

The truck carrying the altarpiece

was managing only a few kilometres a day on back roads. The main roads were reserved for military traffic. In Peronne, just over the French border, the truck ran into a German armoured division that was rushing to the English Channel.

The crew of the truck decided they couldn't go on. They had no choice but to make sure the altarpiece disappeared for a few days. As the official report would later say, the altarpiece survived the fighting unscathed. After three days, the truck was able to resume its journey. But now Italy had entered the war. That meant that the road to the Vatican was closed.

So, with the French government's consent, the altarpiece was stored for the time being in Pau Castle at the foot of the Pyrenees in the far south of France.

PHONE RINGS While his men were looking for the altarpiece, Hans Posse cast a careful eye over the Dutch art scene. "The Dutch art trade," he wrote, "possesses numerous important works of art "that correspond to the wishes of the Fuhrer." Life in German-occupied Amsterdam appeared to be going on as usual. But only on the surface. Within a few days of the German invasion, Nazi henchmen already had the city's many Jewish art dealers in their sights. Some managed to flee the country, leaving their paintings behind. But not all reacted quickly enough. Posse's plans posed a particular threat to this man. Jacques Goudstikker. Over many years, he had built up the Netherlands' most important art collection with works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Gogh and other masters. Posse would have been only too glad to have them for Hitler's collection at Linz. As Jews, Goudstikker and his family were in mortal danger.

When the Germans entered the Netherlands, they decided to leave their collection behind and flee. On 15 May, they left for the port of IJmuiden. They had no papers for travel and no tickets. But every other route out of the country was already closed. The port was crammed with refugees. Nevertheless, with the help of friends, the Goudstikkers managed to get aboard the Bodengraven, bound for Dover, Liverpool and South America. It seemed they were saved at the last minute. But a few days later, Goudstikker told his wife he was going for some fresh air.

Those were his last words, for he fell through an unsecured hatch into the ship's hold. No one knows whether it was an accident or suicide. Armed with a certificate from Hitler's office requiring assistance from all German authorities in occupied territories, Posse now tried to secure the best of the Goudstikker collection at favourable prices. But, like Metternich before him, Posse arrived too late. Another Nazi figure had beaten him to the punch. Hermann Goering - aviation minister, head of the air force and the most powerful man in Germany after Hitler. Goering had been raising his profile with the help of lavish parties and art. Goering had excellent contacts. His agents and henchmen were active everywhere. For his private collection, he purchased 600 of the Goudstikker paintings for a total of two million Dutch guilders. He came up with the money simply by helping himself to funds from the Reich Aviation Ministry. Posse was furious. Goering had snapped up the best pieces from beneath his very nose. He decided to appeal to Hitler's powerful private secretary, Martin Bormann. "My dear Reichsleiter, "Concerning the Rubens from the Goudstikker collection, "which I was the first to access, "others purchasers bid 20,000 marks more "even though they must have known on whose behalf I was purchasing. "It is quite clear that this is driving up the prices outrageously." Posse's intervention was successful. MILITARY BAND PLAYS 14 June 1940. German troops parade through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. France was defeated in a blitzkrieg that lasted just a few weeks. After signing the armistice that confirmed the French surrender, Hitler himself made a dawn tour of Paris. The Nazi looting squads also toured Paris. After Belgium and the Netherlands, France was to be the next victim of the Nazi greed for art. Many Jewish collectors had fled Paris just in time. But their collections were now at the mercy of the Nazi looters who were becoming more and more ruthless. In Belgium and the Netherlands, they had maintained a veneer of legality by paying something. But now they began simply looting, appropriating works without compensation or even a record of expropriation. The Jeu de Paume gallery in the heart of Paris had been empty since its paintings were taken to safety. It now became a depot for confiscated art. Rose Valland worked at the Jeu de Paume as the only French national among many Germans.

New paintings were brought in every day. Every looted painting was recorded and stamped on the back. Rose Valland kept a close eye on what the Germans were doing. Rose Valland began her real work after dark.

She kept a secret record of every item that the looting squads brought into the Jeu de Paume. Month after month, she collected information, like the pieces of a puzzle. Each piece might eventually prove vital. Rose was a spy at the heart of the most important assembly point for looted French art. On 30 October 1940, more than 400 crates arrived at the Jeu de Paume. They contained paintings from the two major private collections in France, the Rothschild and the Wildenstein. The paintings were hung as if for a genuine exhibition. A very important visitor was expected. The visitor was Goering. Goering called himself a "baroque man", which meant to him that he could never get enough. In his luxurious special train, he travelled the length and breadth of Europe to seek out treasures for his grandiose residence. Goering visited Paris on the 3rd of November 1940. The sole purpose of his trip was to inspect the exhibition He spent two full days at the Jeu de Paume. He was highly excited as each significant work was presented to him. This time, Goering contented himself with having the works photographed and sending Hitler the catalogue. He only made his own selection six months later. Even Goering could not afford to annoy Hitler for too long... however great the temptation might be. Rose Valland observed what was going on with disgust but with close attention.

Rose Valland's work went undetected. Taking her life in her hands, to members of the French Resistance. she passed on her reports a comprehensive network, The Resistance had established especially among railway workers. FAST, DRAMATIC MUSIC were taken out of the country Rose Valland's lists and secret couriers. with the help of contacts she would hear on the BBC Days or weeks later, had got through. whether her information Regular coded messages service to Occupied France. were included in the shortwave

life went on as usual in Paris. On the surface, played connoisseur in the Louvre, While German army officers collections continued. the looting of the private and without a plan, It was often done hastily adding to the general chaos. were brought to the Jeu de Paume. Almost every day, new works There, they had to be catalogued. working at the Jeu de Paume The 60 people were kept extremely busy. where the stolen art had come from. They didn't always know 'Herkunft unbekannt' - Often, they classified it origin unknown. to Hitler and Goering Works that could be of interest freight cars at night were loaded into heated first-class and taken to Germany. 29 such transports between April 1941 and July 1944. were sent In those years, with more than 20,000 works of art 120 freight cars went over the German border. for Hitler's museum in Linz Hans Posse's collection was slowly taking shape. had already been reserved for it. Several hundred paintings Posse prepared photo albums the progress of the collection documenting for presentation to Hitler. In the year 2000, in an archive in Berlin. the albums were discovered in Berlin's German Historical Museum. They are now kept They are a unique record. The Berghof on the Obersalzberg. Hitler's residence. to him there as birthday gifts The albums were presented or during other festivities. 22 June 1941. The invasion of the Soviet Union. from the Baltic Sea in the north The front extended in the south. to the Carpathian Mountains of the Slavs as inferior. The Nazis saw the art altars, frescos, icons and furniture Their libraries, paintings, were not to be looted. They were to be destroyed.

to wipe out the cultural identity The aim was of the nations of Eastern Europe. Hans Posse wrote... "With just a few exceptions, that the eastern territories "I believe for the Linz collection. "are not very important "The exceptions apply of German origin." "exclusively to the art Of special interest for Posse in Leningrad, were the great art collections the former Saint Petersburg. By autumn 1941, within a few kilometres of the city. German troops were Russia's most famous art museum, The Hermitage, was closed to the public. of the northern lights, But with the help work went on there day and night. to help the museum staff. Students arrived packed and prepared for transport. The precious works of art were were evacuated just in time. Over a million works The German advance ground to a halt. The siege of Leningrad began. to be starved out Hitler ordered the city and then razed to the ground. on the eastern front, During that first winter in Leningrad. over a million people died did not take Leningrad. But the Germans triumphs further afield. The German army was celebrating June 1942. General Rommel, the Desert Fox, In Africa, in Cairo. was anticipating a victory parade Hitler, in high spirits, the Ghent altarpiece to Germany. decided to bring was still in Pau However, the altarpiece in the unoccupied zone of France. and Pau was had no direct access to it. The Germans now counted for nothing. But international law Art Gallery, Ernst Buchner, The director of the Bavarian was ordered to travel to Pau.

On 29 June 1942,

the so-called free zone of France his small convoy crossed into shortly afterwards. and arrived in Pau Dramatic negotiations began. to surrender the altarpiece. The French refused Buchner didn't give up. in Berlin. He called the Reich Chancellery

And he got the desired result. the French government gave in. Under pressure from Berlin, Buchner had clear instructions. the complete altarpiece, He was supposed to bring back King of Prussia in the 19th century. not just the panels purchased by the was duly put on a truck The complete altarpiece

to be taken to Germany.

remained top secret. Exactly where in Germany A few days later, Buchner enthusiastically reported to Hitler that his mission had been successful. for which the Nazis had no use Many paintings remained in France. and so-called "degenerate art" Modern art at the Jeu de Paume. was taking up more and more space Space that was urgently needed destined for Linz. to store the paintings On 19 July 1942, an important decision was taken. on the international market Degenerate art that could not be sold was to be destroyed. could only stand and watch Rose Valland that had been sorted out as the paintings of the Jeu de Paume were burnt in the garden on 27 July 1942. by Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst, They included works Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. Hitler was at the peak of his power. he celebrated his success. In Linz, Between 1938 and 1945,

where he spent his youth. he paid 10 visits to the city But the plans for building his museum for the duration of the war. were shelved The opening was now put back to 1950. And there was another setback. During the winter of 1943, Hans Posse, Hitler's special museum commissioner, died of cancer. He received a state funeral. were also turning against Germany. The tides of war In the winter of 1942 to '43, its worst defeat, at Stalingrad. the German army unexpectedly suffered Meanwhile, the Western Allies were stepping up their bombing of German cities. To keep them safe from the bombs, the looted works of art were secretly hidden in old mines. Rose Valland would sit in front of her radio for nights on end listening for the latest news. In the United States, there were briefings for special art protection officers. On D-Day, they would be crossing the Channel on the heels of the fighting troops. Their mission - to comb the ruins for works of art looted by the Nazis. A dramatic race to rescue the stolen art was about to begin. Captions (c) SBS Australia 2008

Sirens, roads closed, soldiers with

automatic weapons running alongside

the team bus, today this is how a