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The Men Behind "The Monuments Men" Movie

By: CNN
By: CNN

"Monuments Men" is an action packed movie based on a true story, but what was the work of the real Monuments Men like? We went to their former headquarters in Munich, Germany.

Today, the building is an Institute for Art History, and Iris Lauterbach is one of those in charge.

The recovered art was first brought into an atrium where it was catalogued and photographed.

Lauterbach says more than battlefield adventures, documentation work was the monuments mens' daily routine and their greatest achievement, especially with all the shortages in post World War II Germany.

"They complained about not getting bicycles, not having typewriters, not having paper and these normal things; not getting gas for a jeep to go somewhere," Lauterbach said.

The Monuments Men managed to get tens-of-thousands of pieces back to their rightful owners, but even today not all of them have been returned.

Last year, more than 1,400 missing paintings were spectacularly discovered with a German collector named Cornelius Gurlitt. And just recently, 60 additional masterpieces surfaced in an Austrian apartment. Lawyers are now trying to determine if any of them might be art looted by the Nazis.

One of the places the Germans stashed a lot of looted works was the stunning Neuschwanstein in the Bavarian Alps. Part of the movie is set there.

It didn't take the Monuments Men long to find the art works that were stashed here and to bring them to Munich. That's because the masterpieces were hidden in plain sight.

Hans Schneidberger worked in the castle as a young carpenter when the Germans brought the art there in late 1943.

"It was all on the second floor and in the kitchen," he says, "There was nothing in the floors above. Anyone who says the whole building was full of art. That is not true."

But then again, George Clooney admitted that the movie is only loosely based on the real Monuments Men. They were heroes whose greatest feat was saving much of the cultural heritage of Europe.


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