The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men were a group of men and women, most of whom volunteerd for sercvice in the [then] newly created Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section (MFAA).
Most had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects and archivists. Their new job descirption during WWII: save as much of European Culture as possible.
The story of the MFAA and its experts was portrayed by Robert M. Edsel (born 1956), an American writer and businessman, in his book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greaters Treasure Hunt in History
(Spetember 2009). Since 2013 George Clooney is directing and starring in the film Monuments Men
based on Edsel's book.
In 2007, Edsel created the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. The foundation's mission is "to preserve the legacy of the unprecendented and heroic work of the men and women who served in the [MFAA section], known as "Monuments Men" during World War II, by raising public awareness of the importance of protecting and safeguarding civilization's most important artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict, but incorporating these expressions of man's greatest creative achievements into our daily lives".
Since the end of WWII the armies of the formier Allied Forces dropped this program but its legacy found its way in international humanitarian law.
The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was drafted against the backdrop of World War II and- without explicit reference to but obviously also with the personnel of the MFAA in mind- provides for expert personnel in armed forces.
Art. 7.2.: The High Contracting Parties undertake to plan or establish in peace-time, within their armed forces, services or specialist personnel whose prurpose will be to secure respect for cultural property and to co-operate with the civilian authoroties responsible for safeguarding it.
Nevertheless, until most recent years hardly any armed force inthe world had established such services or specialist personnel besides Austria, Switzerland and very few others. This is currently changing and the principle of military cultural property protection is dicussed world wide. A crucial element in implementing the provisions of the Hague Convention and its two Protocols is the UNESCO-affiliated NGO-network of the Blue Shield.