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“On a recent visit, [Monuments Man George] Stout had seen more altarpieces in the Suermondt Museum than he had imagined existed in the whole Rhineland,” wrote Edsel. “And if the Monuments Men had anything to do with it, they would all be inspected, repaired, and given back to their rightful owners.”
That preservation of a priceless cultural history would prove to be Huchthausen’s most enduring wartime legacy.
On April 2, 1945, about four weeks before the Allies accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender, Huchthausen and his assistant, Sgt. Sheldon Keck (a Brooklyn Museum of Art conservator) were traveling via jeep through unsecured territory about 30 minutes east of Aachen — investigating reports of an altarpiece — when they were hit with enemy gunfire.
Huchthausen, the driver, was killed instantly. His body knocked Keck to the floor of the vehicle, saving his life. “It was a moment that Shelden Keck — and his son Keckie, who thanks to Hutch was raised by his loving father — would always remember,” wrote Edsel.
Huchthausen was buried about 15 miles west of Aachen in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, in one of 8,301 graves filling its 66 poplar- and rhododendron-lined acres. He was one of the war’s estimated 405,000 American military casualties.
Posthumously, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
“Hutch’s attitude toward his mission in the war was one of my best memories,” wrote fellow Monuments Man Walker Hancock in a wartime letter, which Edsel included in the book. “The buildings that he hoped, as a young architect, to build will never exist … but the few people who saw him at his job — friend and enemy — must think more of the human race because of him.”
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