Death of a Monuments Man

  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 4:40 PM

Walter Huchthausen’s obituary, as it appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune, Aug. 19, 1945:

Nazis Kill Minnesotan on Trail of Art Loot

Two jeep-riding art connoisseurs from Minneapolis have helped recover $2 billion worth of stolen European art treasures in Germany.

One gave his life for art’s sake.

Dispatches that told the death of Capt. Walter J. Huchthausen in Germany last April mentioned him simply “killed in action.”

On the hunt for loot

The captain, former assistant professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota and son of the late Rev. Jul Hucht­hausen, pastor of Trinity First Evangelical Lutheran Church, actually was on the trail of an art cache.

Huchthausen was one of the group of AMG [Allied Military Government] officers who helped plot maps of art centers so that the artillery could avoid damaging historical material.

With the Ninth Army as it crossed the Rhine, Huchthausen dashed ahead of the American forces in a jeep to make observations that would help the Army to preserve some art treasures.

Killed by machine gun

Only bare details have come back to his friends at the university. He was killed by fire from a German machine gun nest. The jeep driver was wounded but lived.

Huchthausen was graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1928. He studied at Harvard and abroad and returned as a member of the staff in 1940.

Still at the job of locating and returning to rightful owners the paintings and sculpture stolen by the Germans is Capt. K. Parker Lesley, former assistant fine arts professor at the University of Minnesota.

Lesley, known here as an art historian, also has been assigned to write an art section for a history of World War II being compiled by a special board of review.

Likes his job

“I’m enjoying myself tremendously, Lesley told his wife, Miriam, 1915 Humboldt Av. S., in recent letters. He is attached to the Fifteenth Army.

An enormous amount of work must be done. Before Allied armies drove into Germany, fine arts and archives officers had been informed through secret channels of the existence, and usually the location, of some 500 caches of looted art in Hitler’s Reich.

As soon as a hoard of treasures was uncovered, the officers were summoned.

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