A Look At A Real Man Portrayed In ‘Monuments Men’


“If you got to know him, you realized that he’s got to be appreciated. Saving culture was ingrained upon him and he was successful,” said Harry Ettlinger, who as a 19-year-old U.S. soldier volunteered his services to Rorimer after learning the Monuments Men needed someone who spoke German.

Ettlinger, one of only a handful of Monuments Men who are still alive, had fled Nazi Germany with his family the day after his bar mitzvah in 1938 and returned to Europe in 1945 with the U.S. Army. He inspired a character played by Dimitri Leonidas.

Ettlinger said he quickly realized that Rorimer was a man who got things done, a “wheeler and dealer,” as Ettlinger put it. Ettlinger recalled a time when Gen. George S. Patton’s men had their sights on moving into the building the Monuments Men planned to use for their Munich Collecting Point – a building that happened to be the former Nazi headquarters. Rorimer, Ettlinger said, quickly put a stop to that.

Anne Rorimer grew up in the postwar years and says most of her memories of her father are tied to his work at the Met. “I heard more about all the day-to-day workings of the Metropolitan Museum.”
Her father died when she was in college, but she became an art historian and eventually learned more about his work as a Monuments Man. As Edsel was writing his book, which came out in 2009, he asked her to track down wartime letters from her father to her mother. When she finally found the letters in storage and read through them, she was struck by her father’s longing for family life and by the hardships he described.

“This week has been a cold and difficult one,” he wrote in January 1945. “I left Paris a few days ago on a field trip. The cold winds, ice, rain and snow blew into the open jeep with which I went about from place to place.”

But by the end of that year, as successes mounted, the letters became more upbeat. In October 1945, he wrote, that they were getting results in the “long fight for cultural objects.”

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Posted by on Mar 1st, 2014 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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