Adolf Hitler dreamed of a "Führermuseum" in Linz, filled with the most important and valuable works of art in Europe. As the Nazis marched across the continent, priceless paintings, jewellery, furniture and sculptures were removed from their rightful homes and stored in various depots. In 1945, sensing defeat, Hitler issued his "Nero Decree", a scorched earth policy intended to destroy anything and everything that would be useful or important to Allied forces, including the large hordes of art Hitler had amassed.
The "Monuments Men", celebrated in a new movie directed by and starring George Clooney, were artists and scholars who were tasked with locating and saving these precious pieces of European culture from destruction. Thanks to their work, great masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Vermeer and Jan van Eyck, among many others, were rescued. The story of this artistic heroism is about to reach cinemas internationally, and you can find images of the real-life protagonists, artworks, heroes and villians here at akg.