Saved in the last moment

End of World War II in 1945: Nazis wanted to blow up the hidden treasures in the salt mine of Altaussee

The courageous men from Altaussee and two of the Monuments Men of the US-Army
The Entrance of the Salt mine

Thousands of famous paintings, sculptures, art treasures were brought in the winter 1943 and 1944, till the last months of the war, to Altaussee in Styrian Salzkammergut and hidden there in the salt mine – under risky circumstances and conditions. The film “Monuments Men” which is produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov (2014) covers the Nazi-robbery and shows also the Styrian Salzkammergut with its saltmine. Five of these art treasures were outstanding: the world famous Genter Altar (Lam Gods), Michelangelos Marmorne Madonna of Brügge, Jan Vermers „Der Künstler in seinem Atelier“ and „Der Astronom“.

Genter Altar - Jan van Eyck
Johannes Vermeer - „The Astronom“, Louvre, Paris

In the last weeks of the war the Nazis wanted to blow up the whole mountain with the salt mine because some fanatic Nazi-officers tried to prevent that these art treasures will “survive” for next generations. A handful of very brave Styrian miners prevented this unbelievable crime – although of fear for their working place. There were already some 500 kg bombs inside the salt mine stored by fanatic military people for blowing up the whole salt mine. During night the miners risked their life and brought out the boxes with the bombs. Beside that the mines filled up all the entrances of salt mine through small explosions so that nobody can enter the salt mine. Only some days later US-soldiers entered the whole region and within in the next months and years the art treasures were given back in a long process to the former owners.

Brügger Madonna - Michelangelo
Peter Paul Rubens, Metropolitan Museum, New York
Hans Holbein: „Bildnis eines jungen Mannes“, Washington
Leonardo da Vinci: „Leda mit dem Schwan“, Uffizien, Florenz