Former Chillicothe Mayor’s Father Defended Art, Liberty

Shortly before the end of the Second World War, the Monuments Men went hunting the hundreds of thousands of looted art works, to save them from being destroyed by the Nazis. The Monuments Men team included artists, art dealers and architects.

Walter I. Farmer studied architecture at Miami University, from which he graduated in 1935. He worked in Cincinnati as an interior designer, before becoming one of the Monuments Men. During the war he helped build bridges and also rebuild roads across Europe. Following the end of the war, he joined the Monuments Men, who were officially known as the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives branch of the armed forces.

He then became the director of an art warehouse, in Wiesbaden, Germany. Due to a conflict which saw 202 German-owned paintings, including works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Rubens, sent for display in America, Farmer led a revolt of 32 members of the Monuments Men, towards the end of 1945. However, all 202 art works were sent back to Germany in 1949. This story of the 202 painting which were sent to America and back to Germany is not depicted in George Clooney’s movie.

Margaret Farmer Planton, Walter I. Farmer’s daughter said “that’s because my father was part of the first post-war crop of Monuments Men.” She completed Farmer’s memoir, entitled “The Safekeepers: A Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II,” soon after his death and only a month after his 86th anniversary in 1997, the ChillicotheGazette reports.

“My mother was his German assistant at the collecting point for the art. And then there were these wonderful boxes of photos that my dad brought home and that I enjoyed looking at,” Farmer’s daughter, Margaret said. She has a picture of her father and also one of her all time favourite pictures, in which Farmer  was standing in his uniform, next to a limestone bust of Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti, which was 3,300 years old.

She said the story was not featured in the film because it took place after the Second World War, while George Clooney’s film takes place and shows things that had happened during World War Two. “The Allies are trying to keep the Nazis from following orders and destroying all of the art — some of which they looted, some from their own museums — when they lose the war.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE