Exploits part of new book titled 'The Monument Men'
ROCKAWAY TWP. -- Harry Ettlinger was a young man when he pulled a Rembrandt self-portrait out of a crate buried in a salt mine 53 years ago. It crossed his mind that this particular work of art had personal meaning. It once hung in a German museum in his hometown. He was not allowed into that museum because he's a Jew.
Harry Ettlinger, of Rockaway Township, and Lt. Dale Ford worked for the Monuments Men in 1946 when they uncrated a Rembrandt self-portrait that had been stored in a salt mine in Germany.
Ettlinger, 83, of Rockaway Township, was part of a group called The Monuments Men at the end of World War II, given the task of recovering art stolen or stored by the Nazis. Their work was largely unacknowledged for decades, but gained notoriety over the past few years, partly because of writer Robert Edsel.
Edsel's latest book, "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History," went on sale this past Thursday.
The group's official name was the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the Allied military forces, and over time 350 men and women were assigned to it. Nine are still alive, according to Edsel. They helped recover millions of items and restored them to their owners.
"We did what no country had done before," said Ettlinger, a retired engineer who was a U.S. Army private at the end of World War II, and later promoted to sergeant. "We did not steal. We gave it back. We changed attitudes. Instead of being considered the devil, we were considered the angel."