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Rose Valland - Art Historian

Rose Valland was born on November 1, 1898 in Saint Etienne de Saint Geoirs (Isère) in a modest environment. She had a complete training, although quite atypical, in three successive periods of seven years: first the Beaux Arts in Lyon then in Paris (1918-1925), then a complete academic course at the Ecole du Louvre and at the 'Institute of Art and Archeology of the University of Paris (1924-1932), finally concrete training as an assistant, volunteer then paid, at the Museum of Contemporary Foreign Schools, located at the Jeu de Paume on the Tuileries terrace ( 1932-1940). This training, both theoretical and practical, will give her a great ability to adapt in the situations she will have to manage. In September 1938, then in August 1939, she took an active part in the preparation of the Jeu de Paume for war, a third of the collections are sent to Chambord, the remaining two thirds are stored in the basements.

When the Germans entered Paris, Rose Valland was alone at the Jeu de Paume and, from the beginning of October 1940, the building was requisitioned by the Nazis to install the Einzastab Reichleiter Rosenberg (ERR) there. , the very secret service responsible for the theft of Jewish collections. Rose Valland, served in part by her versatile and inoffensive physique, plays the imbecile and stays put: "My intention was fixed, I would try to stay [...]. I still did not understand very clearly the reasons which pushed me to this decision, nor in what way I could be useful and justify my presence [...]. Only my determination was precise not to leave the place ", Rose Valland will thus be maintained during the four years of the occupation, carefully noting everything she saw, borrowing documents in the evening which she had photographed at night and returned in the morning without anyone noticing, recovering and analyzing the carbons left in the secretariat bins , etc. She made a weekly written report of her observations to the director of the national museums, Jacques Jaujard. Her appearance of a "very simple big girl", her docility allow her to move around and to obtain in particular, thanks to the photographic service of the ERR on the spot, the photographs of all the members of the ERR. Most often installed modestly in the small office where the telephone was, and speaking German, she followed the conversations, etc. She was thus able to establish the nomenclature of secret codes under which Jewish collections were listed, as well as the list of warehouses in Germany, etc. Fired several times because her presence was in the way, she returned the next day with extraordinary aplomb and resumed her place as if she had not understood. It was she who gave all the information necessary to stop, in the middle of August 1944, at Aulnay sous Bois station, the last train of works of art looted by the ERR.
Her work was extremely useful because without her nobody would have known precisely what the Germans were doing at the Jeu de Paume, neither the French administration, nor the Americans. James Rorimer will write on this subject: "The person who, more than anyone, allowed us to follow the trail of the Nazi looters and to become aware of the whole situation was Miss Rose Valland, a rude, stubborn and thoughtful expert [ ...]. Her unbounded dedication to French art had left her no room for fear ". When the Artistic Recovery Commission was created on November 24, 1944 to recover the removed works of art in Germany and return them to their legitimate owners, Rose Valland was given the post of Secretary.
Between the Liberation of Paris on August 26, 1944, and her departure for Germany on May 11, 1945, she spent eight months that she used to classify the remaining documents of the ERR, to inventory and restore works of the Aulnay train, etc. and various contacts. Appointed captain of the French army and sent to the French Occupation Zone (Baden Württemberg), she joined the American Occupation Zone (Bavaria) where most of the ERR depots were located. From that time, in conjunction with the "Fine Arts" officers of the 3rd and 7th American armies, she took care of the first convoys (convoys from Füssen) for the repatriation of looted works of art.
She also participates in certain meetings which allow the four winners from Germany to legally establish the processes of Restitution of works of art (Control Council in Berlin). On February 6, 1946, she attended the 52nd session of the Nuremberg trial on Nazi looting and spoliations.
Rose Valland always showed great foresight and at no time wanted to take advantage of the situation, she insisted on remaining in perfect transparency and legality, so we can say without question that the French artistic recovery was clean, scrupulously respecting the defined rules. She spent seven grueling years in Germany, missions, investigations, reports, negotiations, etc., but fruitful, allowing the return to France of more than 60,000 works of art. His independence of action, a necessary condition for the success of the company, irritated his hierarchy and in particular Raymond Schmitlein and his administrative status was always the subject of questioning and procrastination. However Rose Valland stayed the course, without real means of pressure, she obtained important restitutions; in many cases her presence is decisive, deeply respected by her interlocutors, she fights tirelessly for justice to be done. She warns her administration against the premature end of restitutions, which would mean for France, the main looted and looted country, the abandonment of the "remnants" of the Nazi collections. It is very attached to the concept of "Reparation", defined by the Berlin Control Council in 1945, which consists in attributing to the countries victims of Nazi Germany in compensation for the innumerable works destroyed or lost, the works purchased on their respective territories. , in the form of legal transactions, during the occupation by Nazi hierarchs and German institutions. She severely denounces the sly attitude of Austria, which will be highlighted and effectively condemned forty years later (1994).
However, from the start, Rose Valland was right. Albert Henraux, President of the Artistic Recovery Commission was a support for her, he wrote on April 21, 1949: "For my part, I believe that Melle Valland is acting in a skilful way between the two parties, that is to say the Americans. and the Germans, and it seems to me that we can hardly do otherwise ". The French captain Elie Doubinsky who was in charge of a general report on the restitutions, will write to him on April 5, 1951: "The great luck of the French artistic restitutions [...] is that you took the matter in hand from the beginning Thanks to the unique documentation that you put together at the Jeu de Paume, at the risk of your life, during the four years of the occupation, you were in a position to reveal to our Allies, as they advanced, the locations of the main deposits. They were thus in a position to immediately take the necessary safeguard measures ".
For Rose Valland the symbolic dimension of German Reparation was as important as the restitutions themselves, it was undoubtedly for her a just act of Franco-German reconciliation that had to be carried out to the end. She wrote in 1951 to Doctor von Bock: "You know me well enough to know that I will not support any claim which does not appear to me to be in accordance with the law. I love my country too much to involve it in an adventure which does not appear to conform to the law. right. I tried to convince everyone to work together, it was advantageous for the continuation of our restitutions, but it was also to establish you on a European level and make you participate for the benefit of a responsible activity where the Germans will endeavor to right the "Hitlerite wrongs" ".
After her return to France she continued to deal with these issues until her retirement in 1967.
Rose Valland died on July 18, 1980 in Paris.

Decorations:
Officer of the Legion of Honor, Medal of the Resistance, American Medall of Freedom and Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Student card National School of Fine Arts of Lyon from Rose Valland 1922

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Rose Valland, André Dezarrois (museum curator) and a guard of the Jeu de Paume Museum in 1935.

The above photograph, taken in 1935 by an unknown author, is interesting. It shows Rose Valland and her director at the time carefully preparing an exhibition on Italian art from the 19th and 20th centuries. In this photograph, Rose Valland looks at the lens with will, determination. Many works can be seen there: the II Puro Folle statue by Adalfo Wildt (1868-1931), on which Rose leans. But also the Self-portrait of Felice Carena (1880-1966) that André Dézarrois looks at. These valuable works are, at the same time, judged to be "degenerate" by the Nazis in Germany.

 

Degenerate art, (from German: Entarte kunst) was a completely invented genre that allowed the Nazi regime to ban "modern" art in order to promote classical art. Classical art , that is, inspired by ancient art, symbolized the purity of the race. But for Hitler and the Nazis, modern painters (expressionists, surrealists, cubists, etc.) were inferior painters, presented as mentally ill in the service of the USSR or of the Jews.  

 

The above photograph therefore shows that Rose Valland, before WWII, was passionate about an art form that the Nazis hated. This partly explains its resistant action.

 

 

Resistant Rose Valland

      

     In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Jacques Jaujard, who was then deputy director of the national museums, feared the German bombardments on Paris, and the destruction of a work of art. If he had the Louvre collections put away outside the capital, he asked Rose Valland, who has managed the Jeu de Paume alone since 1938, to place the works from his small museum in his basement.

 

      Rose Valland's fate changed in 1940 when the  Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg  (ERR), commanded by Colonel Kurt von Behr, settles in Paris. This Nazi cultural service wants to confiscate all Jewish art collections, as well as those of the opponents of the Reich in France. The ERR is looking for a storage place to store the works stolen from French Jews: Jacques Jaujard is obliged to give them what they want. This will be the Musée du Jeu de Paume, where the ERR is set up in October.

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Colonel von Behr gives a tour of the premises of the Jeu de Paume Museum to a German officer (Credits: Bundesarchiv)

On November 1, 1940, Jacques Jaujard ordered Rose Valland to stay at the Jeu de Paume museum at all costs. He relies on her to take an inventory of all the works of art stolen by the Nazis that pass through, to then be sent to Germany. This is “spoliation” (that is to say, the deliberate and deliberate appropriation of the property of others). The confiscated works of art are therefore first concentrated at the Jeu de Paume, where they are sorted. Then some are sent to Germany, or collected personally by high-ranking Nazis, like Goering .

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Stolen works of art, after passing through the Jeu de Paume Museum, are sent by train to Germany (1943) http://rosevalland.eu/).

This is where the resistance action of Rose Valland begins. She notes all she can, in shorthand, on the thousands of works of art that pass through the Jeu de Paume Museum. His goal is to be able to keep track of his works, and to allow them to be found when Europe is liberated from the Nazis. She also sends regular reports to Jacques Jaujard. She becomes a real spy: she can speak German but makes believe that she does not understand this language so that the Nazi officers do not distrust her.

 

     In a book she published later, Le Front de l'art (Defense of French collections, 1939-1945), she wrote: “Everything I saw and heard ended up constituting in the file of my memory and of my notes, an important reserve, according to which I tried to know as much as possible the operations and the projects of the ERR Everything was to be watched and to remember because one never knows at the moment the detail which will count later ". Here is an excerpt from the notes Rose Valland took during World War II.

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Notes in shorthand by Rose Valland taken in 1940

The many notes she took on the stolen works later enabled the restitution of a very large number of works of art.  But she took great risks to get there. She was surprised several times, and even fired four times. She was subjected to pressure, death threats. But despite everything, she remained at the Jeu de Paume Museum and carried out her mission to the end. During all these years, she attended various significant events, all of which can be found in the handwritten notes that she was able to write and which are called "the notebooks of Rose Valland". These notebooks now belong to the archives of national museums.

       

On December 3, 1941, Rose Valland noted as follows: “Visit of Marshal Goering to the Jeu de Paume on December 2, 1941. Visit of the exhibition of works of art from the expropriated Jewish collections. No French are allowed to stay at the Museum during these visits. Tomorrow, Goering will take the statues from the Hôtel Edouard de Rothschild […] and around fifty paintings […] in his private train. These are impressionist paintings belonging to the Rosenberg Collection ”.

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Goering (seated, left) at the Jeu de Paume on December 2, 1941, choosing stolen paintings for his personal collection

(credits: National Museums Archives).

We can also read, for example, on the sheet of November 28, 1942: "He left the Jeu de Paume on October 29, a shipment giving the impression as a whole of furnishing supplies." All sent to the following address… ”.  

 

On July 23, 1943, she witnessed the destruction of works of art. She can do nothing: “The paintings massacred in the Louvre's sequestration have been brought back to the Jeu de Paume. Five to six hundred were burned under German surveillance in the museum garden from 11 am to 3 pm… Nothing could be saved! "  

 

Rose Valland after WWII

 

      Rose Valland's resisting action did not stop with the war. On the contrary. All the notes she took on more than 21,000 works of art must be used to find the stolen paintings and sculptures.

 

Rose got closer to the Allies in 1944. She told them where the art depots were located, so that they would be spared from the bombardments. She also informed them of the existence of the museum train 40044 , so that the Allies could recover the 148 boxes there. 

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The French resistance pushing one of the wagons of train 40044 in 1944 to prevent it from leaving for Germany with its stolen works.

Above all, after the war, she participated in the recovery of stolen works. Many are found thanks to the clandestine notes that Rose Valland that she was able to take during the war. Thanks to these notes given to James Rorimer , the head of the “American Section of Conservation Specialists”, also known as the “Monuments Men”, the Americans learned of the various places where the confiscated works had been stored. Thanks to her, Rorimer's men traveled to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, where most of the confiscated works were moved by the Germans.

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American soldiers recover stolen paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle. Lieutenant Rorimer sits in the center, notebook in hand (May 1945 - Getty Images)

Rose Valland wants to act directly to help the Allies recover what has been stolen. In 1945, she became a lieutenant "Beaux-Arts officer" and went to investigate the French occupation zone in Germany, to identify the goods there.

 

      In 1947, she was appointed to  "Collection center"  for artistic recovery in Germany, and went to all the zones of occupation, even in the Soviet zone where she carried out espionage missions for France. Risking her life, she brought back many works of them, in order to be able to protect them from the coming Cold War.

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Rose Valland, left, poses in Lieutenant's uniform at the “collection center” for stolen works, Wiesbaden, Germany (1947)

You should know that Rose Valland has, for her resistance action, inspired two films. First of all  The Train , produced in  1964 by John Frankenheimer, who recounts how Rose Valland helped prevent museum train 40044 from ever reaching Germany. And the Monuments Men film, directed by Georges Clooney in 2014, which follows the action of James Rorimer's men and in which Rose Valland is played by Cate Blanchett.

If Rose Valland retired in 1968, she continued to work until her death in 1980 on the restitution of the works she had seen pass at the Jeu de Paume Museum.

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Rose Valland in the “Martyrs' room” of the Jeu de Paume museum

Rose Valland is in the “martyrs room” of the Jeu de Paume Museum. This is what the Nazis themselves called this room in which they gathered the modern art paintings stolen from the Jews. Their goal was to trade these "degenerate" paintings for classical works of art. In other words, here, Rose Valland is in front of the paintings she was protecting. here is  another photograph  of the same part, in better quality.

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The "martyrs room" at the Jeu de Paume Museum, between 1940 and 1944 (source: CNAC)

Rose Valland has received numerous French and foreign decorations for her work and her actions: the "Legion of Honor", but also the "Medal of the Resistance". The United States presented him with the “Medal of Freedom”.  

 

  In 2005, a commemorative plaque bearing his name was placed on the facade of the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries Gardens.

 

These tributes show that Rose Valland was a great resistance fighter. By resisting through art, it has even become today an example for those responsible for protecting the artistic heritage in France and abroad. 

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Plaque in tribute to the resistant Rose Valland, located on the facade of the Jeu de Paume museum, Tuileries garden, Paris I (Commemoration on Monday, December 1, 2014)

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Rose Valland, the resistance fighter who helped recover 60,000 works of art stolen by the Nazis

ROSE VALLAND TELLS YOU ...

Interview with Rose Valland (1963) THE STORY OF THE LAST WORKS OF ART TRAIN ...

TRIAL OF AN ART DEALER: Lohse Affair

The challenges of restitution / IN THE TRACKS OF SPOLISHED PAINTINGS ...

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF SPOLISHED TABLES ...

Rose Valland: a forgotten fate

By writing about Rose Valland, Senator Corinne Bouchoux was far from imagining her book brought to the screen. It is however done with the film "Monuments Men".

 

A phone call from Hollywood

In 2006, in fact, his work " Rose Valland, resistance to the museum " came out in relative discretion. The book is printed in only 2,000 copies. “After years of research, I was very happy to have published it. But then, I felt that a page of my life had turned and I didn't take care of it anymore. for conferences, "says Corinne Bouchoux, interviewed by FRANCE 24 in her small Senate office. "But one day, a little over five years ago, a gentleman with a heavy American accent called me to tell me that he wanted to buy back the rights to my book to make a movie in Hollywood."

Incredulous, the senator believes at first in a joke. But at the end of the line, his interlocutor is very serious: Robert Edsel is a former Texan businessman converted into the history of art. Passionate about the Second World War, this rich American has brought together in a book, today brought to the screen by Georges Clooney, the memoirs of the Monuments Men, these allied soldiers responsible for recovering works of art stolen by the Nazis. "He noticed that in France, there had been very little research on this subject. He just found my book on Rose Valland, specifies Corinne Bouchoux. He wrote a check for 7,500 euros to my publisher for buy back the rights. He had it translated and he even sells it today on his site as a derivative of the film. "

Monuments Men (2014)

By George Clooney

By George Clooney , Grant Heslov

With George Clooney , Matt Damon , Bill Murray

Original title The Monuments Men

174_audiovisual_movie_2df_3f0_fba2d35d8c66e32423d4fb97eb_monuments-men movies-201434-90016

The comics

A discreet death and a belated tribute
 

Rose Valland retired in 1968, but continued to classify part of the archives related to her work. She was a “volunteer” between 1968 and 1978, sometimes annoying her supervisory authority, because of her determination to continue her investigations.

Discreet about her resistance, Rose Valland is also discreet about her private life. There are thus few traces of his companionship with Joyce Heer (1911-1977) who worked as a secretary. The emotional closeness of the two women is beyond doubt, even though their private correspondence has disappeared.

Léon Christophe, a close friend of Rose Valland, confirms that Rose is very affected by the death of her friend in 1977. She no longer calls, and it is he who calls her to inquire about her. The preface to Joyce's thesis, written by his thesis director, on the traveling philosopher Pausanias reveals in 1979 the long companionship of the two women.

Rose Valland died shortly after, on September 18, 1980, in a “mouroir” in Ris-Orangis (Essone) according to a relative. Rose Valland is buried in Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, her native village, alongside Joyce Heer. In the greatest privacy, a mass is celebrated a month later.

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Gravestone of Rose Valland (Saint-Etienne de Saint-Geoirs), Françoise Flamant, 2000, 10 x 13 (cm), private collection, © Françoise Flamant. 

A discreet death and a belated tribute
 

Rose Valland retired in 1968, but continued to classify part of the archives related to her work. She was a “volunteer” between 1968 and 1978, sometimes annoying her supervisory authority, because of her determination to continue her investigations.

Discreet about her resistance, Rose Valland is also discreet about her private life. There are thus few traces of his companionship with Joyce Heer (1911-1977) who worked as a secretary. The emotional closeness of the two women is beyond doubt, even though their private correspondence has disappeared.

Léon Christophe, a close friend of Rose Valland, confirms that Rose is very affected by the death of her friend in 1977. She no longer calls, and it is he who calls her to inquire about her. The preface to Joyce's thesis, written by his thesis director, on the traveling philosopher Pausanias reveals in 1979 the long companionship of the two women.

Rose Valland died shortly after, on September 18, 1980, in a “mouroir” in Ris-Orangis (Essone) according to a relative. Rose Valland is buried in Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, her native village, alongside Joyce Heer. In the greatest privacy, a mass is celebrated a month later.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Léon Christophe and Rose Valland

Rose Valland's friendship for Léon Christophe is underlined by the correspondence between the two individuals. In 1975, Rose Valland replied to Léon Christophe who wrote her a letter following the television program "Les dossiers de l 'screen". She invites her friend Léon Christophe  at lunch: "I would have liked to ask you if in a while, (..) you could not give us the pleasure of coming back to this neighborhood for lunch?" Would your wife mind joining us? »(Extract from Rose Valland's letter to Léon Christophe, April 10, 1975).

An amateur video gives an interview with Léon Christophe, who lived in Brunoy (91). He is one of the few to mention Joyce. He recognized that Rose was quiet and reserved about her personal life and spoke to her two months before her death.

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Joyce Heer, anonymous, 20th century, black and white photograph.

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