According to an Austrian journalist whose book has just been published this week in Austria, the £5billion worth artworks were actually saved by a group of salt miners and not the real Allied team. The real heroes are now said to be these Austrian salt miners who did not want to take part in the destruction of the works.
George Clooney’s movie depicts the story of the Monuments Men as it happened towards the end of the Second World War, a film in which Americans were the rescuers of the priceless objects and paintings.
Apparently, the real story can now be found in Konrad Kramar’s book ‘Mission Michelangelo’, where the salt miners offered to save the artworks from who was at the time the most feared man in Nazi Germany, Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
Kaltenbrunner died at Nuremberb where he was charged and hanged for his war crimes. He was almost as influential as Heinrich Himmler in regards to terror, repression and murder all across the occupied territories, the Mail Online reports.
Kaltenbrunner went back home to Austria, where he was actually from, just 11 day before Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945.
Before he died, Hitler order for all the power plants, railways, roads, mines and bridges to be destroyed. He knew that this way, the Allied forces would never have what he had. Among the targets was the Altaussee mine, with its 40,000 square metres of galleries and where some of the most important works in history were hidden, waiting to vanish under the Nazi attack.
Among the artworks stored at the Altaussee mine were the The Astronomer’ and ‘Painter in his Studio’, by Jan Vermeer and ‘The Bruges Madonna,’ Michelangelo’s statue, just a few of the 6,557 including Rembrandt and Rubens. The works were going to be destroyed using TNT bombs.
According to Kramar’s book, Alois Raudaschl, the miner’s supervisor and a member of the Nazi party, met up with Kaltenbrunner just a few days after Hitler killed himself, on May 3, 1945, because he thought Kaltenbrunner might just want to give up on that nonsense and stop the destruction of the galleries and everything that was in them.
‘It wasn’t resistance fighters, an Austrian agent of the British secret service who claimed the credit, nor the Monuments Men or the management of the mine who saved the paintings, but the miners themselves,’ insisted Kramar.
Kaltenbrunner understood that the operation wasn’t going to prove anything to anyone and it wasn’t worth the priceless artworks inside the mine, so he encouraged the miners to take in the mission of saving them.
The next day, Raudaschl and his team of miners, returned to the galleries and removed all the bombs, which were later hidden in the woods around Altaussee. The miners were able to put guards outside the entrance of the mine so that nobody could go inside.
13 days later, the artworks were found by the Monuments Men at Altaussee. They ensured the all the objects and paintings were safely moved to Munich.