The 2014 Annual Meeting of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield – celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict – was held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution on September 19, at the Hirshhorn Museum.
Harry Ettlinger, a member of the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the Civil Affairs Division during WW II, presented the opening keynote address. Other highlights of the meeting included an address by Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO; the presentation of the first USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property to Brigadier General Erik Peterson, Commanding General US Army Special Operations Aviation Command; and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Smithsonian Institution and the US Committee of the Blue Shield.
Address of Richard Kurin, Under Secretary of History, Art and Culture
Photo: Michael R. Barnes
Good afternoon, I’d like to welcome all of you on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution and the
Hirshhorn Museum. We have a number of distinguished speakers with us today, including the board and membership of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a number of cultural heritage colleagues from the U.S. government and the nonprofit sector, and representatives from the media. We are also very fortunate today to have with us Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO.
I’d like to give an especially warm welcome to our keynote speaker, World War II veteran Harry Ettlinger. Harry was a member of the U.S. military’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives teams, better known as the Monuments Men. It is very appropriate we have this meeting at the Hirshhorn as our current special exhibition Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler features the work of another Monuments Man. A young Italian-American, Scarpitta had returned to Italy to attend art school and was imprisoned by the Fascist government. He escaped, joined the partisans, and later the U.S. Navy. Because of his classical art training and language skills, he was recruited into the Monuments Men and helped with the recovery of artworks in Italy until his discharge in 1946. I hope you will have time to see the Hirshhorn’s exhibition of Scarpitta’s work and learn about how his wartime experiences helped shape his art.
We’re gathered today to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Though it was drafted to address the destruction of heritage in World War II, the principles outlined in this historic treaty have never been more important than they are today. Just as it did in the formation of the Monuments Men, the Smithsonian and the U.S. museum community have an important role to play. For our part, the Smithsonian hosts training for U.S. military and U.S. Customs Enforcement personnel, provides emergency assistance for domestic and international institutions impacted by disasters, and partners in original research to discover better ways to prevent damage to heritage in natural and manmade disasters.
In recognition of the goals we share, we look forward to signing a memorandum of understanding between the Smithsonian and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield acknowledging our mutual goal of engaging the wider cultural heritage community in protecting our shared cultural heritage.
We’re very pleased to sign this MOU with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield. We began our relationship on the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project in 2010 and have continued to work together to organize training for the U.S. military to help meet our obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention. As the Smithsonian affirms its commitment to protect cultural heritage in crisis situations, this MOU with the Blue Shield is a vital public private partnership and we look forward to working with them in the future.
Keynote Speaker Harry Ettlinger
Photo: Michael R. Barnes
Harry Ettlinger, a member of the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the Civil Affairs Division during WW II, presented the opening keynote address. He is one of the last remaining members of the Anglo-American Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section that rescued thousands of works of art and other cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, Ettlinger fled to the U.S. in 1938 along with the rest of his family. He returned to Europe in 1945 as a private in the U.S. Army. His fluency in German soon led to his transfer to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section and supervision of operations for the return of seventy-three cases containing stained glassbelonging to Strasbourg Cathedral stored at the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines. In addition to the art objects stored in the mines, Ettlinger found firecrackers, which the Nazis planned to set off when Hitler won the war. Before he left Germany Ettlinger said he got some miners to light them in celebration of the Fourth of July.
Harry Ettlinger in the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines
Among the numerous honors he has received are the National Humanities Medal in 2007; the 2012 Emma Lazarus Statue of Liberty Award of the American Jewish Historical Society; the Staufer Medal in Gold, the highest order of merit for service to his home State of Baden-Wuerttemberg in 2014; also in 2014 an honorary Ph.D. from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania; and the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest recognition for distinguished achievements and contributions. Ettlinger’s exploits served as the inspiration for the character named Sam Epstein in the film The Monuments Men.
Address of Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Syria and Iraq
Photo: Michael R. Barnes
As we celebrate 60th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, culture is under attack in Syria, in Iraq, in Mali, in Libya.We are witnessing a campaign of ‘cultural cleansing’ in Iraq, cultural persecution of minorities, and systematic looting and illicit trafficking to finance extremist groups.
This war against culture is not new – Mr Harry Ettlinger has been eloquent about it – but we need to consider the needs of the ‘monuments men and women’ of today.
On 27 March, UNESCO held a special screening of “Monuments Men”, with the US Mission, followed by a high level expert panel on illicit trafficking.
There have been steps forward thanks to UNESCO’s 1970 Convention against Illicit trafficking of Cultural Property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention – but there remains much to be done to educate the art market, to halt wrongful acquisitions.
This is why in 2003, with the support of the US State Department, UNESCO launched a global Database of National Laws on Cultural Heritage – providing complete information in case of a legal question about the origin of an object.
On Iraq, UNESCO has organized several experts meetings, bringing together ICCROM, ICOMOS, ICOM, Interpol, the Customs Organization. We have launched, on the 17th of July, an Emergency Response Action Plan, starting with the creation of an online observatory.
UNESCO will host another expert meeting on 29 September, at the initiative of France and Iraq.
We have immediately shared coordinates of major cultural heritage sites with the United States, when in early August the US announced its intention to carry out air strikes in Iraq.
I have sent letters to all ministers of foreign affairs of all neighbouring countries, state parties and non-state parties to the 1970 Convention, as well as customs agencies, museums and auction houses, calling for heightened vigilance and control, in cooperation with the Iraqi delegation.
On June 17, July 28, August 8, I have made statements to raise awareness on the importance to protect culture, for instance the Citadel of Erbil, just inscribed on the world Heritage list.
In Syria, with support from the European Union and the Flemish Government of Belgium, we are working with all partners to create a monitoring mechanism to assess the state of heritage.
One year ago, I joined many of you for the launch of the ICOM Red List of Syrian Antiquities at Risk Emergency.
In Mali, UNESCO is now rebuilding the 14 destroyed mausoleums, in partnership with local communities.
This is our response to extremism and ignorance.
We can do more – I have called for consideration by the UN Security Council of a resolution to set an international ban on trade in Syrian cultural objects. We need to ring the bell louder, to ensure respect of the 1954 Hague Convention, and we work with the International Criminal Court in Mali to bring those responsible of destructions to justice.
Our biggest enemy may be the false pretext that in emergencies, one should leave culture aside.
Attacks against culture are attacks against people, and this is why protecting heritage must be an integral part of all peace-building efforts, to safeguard a heritage of diversity and tolerance – to prepare the ground for reconciliation.
In this spirit, I thank all our partners here today for their commitment – including the Smithsonian Institution, our host, the United States Department of State, the Metropolitan Museum, and the United States Committee of the Blue Shield.
USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property
For the US Committee of the Blue Shield Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property, the USCBS Board considers men and women in uniform who during the course of military service demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the critical role of cultural property in force multiplication, stabilization in crisis areas, and ultimately in conflict resolution. The winner of this award will have implemented cultural property protection considerations during planning and execution of military missions. Brigadier General Erik Peterson is the first winner of this award which is not necessarily given on an annual basis.
Acceptance Speech of Brigadier General Erik Peterson
Brigadier General Erik Peterson, at the USCBS Annual Meeting, accepting the USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property, with Dr Nancy Wilkie – USCBS President at left, and Dr Laurie Rush – USCBS Board Member. Photo: Michael R. Barnes
Good afternoon friends – Director General Bokova, Dr Kurin, Dr Wilkie, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield Members, and distinguished colleagues.
I am – very sincerely – humbled and honored to be here today. And a bit overwhelmed at being recognized by such an august group – and even more so – being recognized for simply being a teammate and supporting efforts that were and are clearly in the interest of the military missions I’ve been engaged in.
Add to that – sponsorship and generous hosting of this gathering by the Smithsonian Institution – an organization I’ve admired and benefitted from since childhood, and this magnificent venue – the Hirshhorn Museum a treasure in and of itself. In short – even an Old Soldier can be awe-struck.
While engaged in various assignments over the past several years – both in the US and abroad – it has been my great pleasure to learn from and engage with some amazing professionals and scholars – dedicated to the preservation of our troubled world’s rich cultural heritage. My natural shared interest in these things was honed and focused – in no small part -by my friend, colleague and cultural mentor, Dr Laurie Rush, and by engagement with the COCOM Cultural Heritage Action Group.
As a professional Soldier, I’m rather naturally a student of history, geography and culture. As an empathetic human being, I also appreciate art, religion, traditions and the rich diversity of our world’s peoples. My profession has afforded the opportunity to travel widely – mostly to the troubled places – to see and experience much of this – at times to witness the very best and the very worst of humanity – and to earn a sincere appreciation for your noble efforts.
To understand the vital nature of your work – one only has to see the effect and feel the visceral revulsion resulting from the wanton destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, demolition of the Al Askaria Shrine (more commonly known as the Golden Mosque) in Samarrah, the looting of antiquities and archeological sites during recent turmoil in Egypt. Or read reports of the artifacts of ancient Benin lost in the Nigerian conflict, and the burning of the rich, irreplaceable trove of manuscripts in Timbuktu. And most recently ISIS’s systematic and malicious destruction of shrines, temples, churches, mosques and other historic and culturally significant sites in North Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq – representing thousands of years of rich history of diverse races, religions and cultures.
Where your efforts and our collective teamwork are effectively applied, we can make a difference – Soldiers and their leaders become aware, respectful of, and actively protect irreplaceable cultural treasures – in the spirit of our colleague Corine Wegner’s efforts in Iraq, or Laurie Rush and team in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. To understand the tangible benefit one only has to see the joy and pride in Sammarah at the reopening of the rebuilt Golden Mosque, or the unifying and calming effect of the refurbished and secured Shah Maqsud Shrine in remote Khakrez, Afghanistan, the national pride of the reopening of the Iraqi National Museum or the Afghan museum displaying and sharing with the world the treasured Bactrian Gold Ornaments. Or, a bit closer to home – witness and feel the pride and solemn respect of Heads of State of the Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations as they visit well protected and documented paleo-indian sites at Fort Drum, New York.
These efforts are not only morally right – in the eyes of the international community and enlightened people, and compliant with law and policy; but are they practical and effective militarily – they contribute directly to stabilization, unity, conflict termination and post-conflict resolution.
As such, US Army Special Operations Command is placing additional emphasis on the human dimension of competition and conflict, and investing in structure and organizations like the Institute for Military Support to Governance – and in our emerging doctrine and operational design, placing significant specified emphasis on culture as it relates to the causes, conditions and resolution of conflict.
Finally, I’d like to offer thank to Theresa Sims, an old friend, for her selfless efforts in organizing this event. And, most importantly, I must recognize our role models – represented here today by Harry Ettlinger. I’m terribly sorry that I wasn’t able to be here for your remarks – thank you for your courage and determination in the face of a daunting task. Our world is much richer because of you and your teammates’ efforts. We can only pray to do the same for our children.
Again, thank all of you for your efforts, leadership, and teamwork – we’ve come a long way, but much remains to be done. And thank-you for this recognition. I am truly humbled.
Letter to USCBS from Congressman Engel
Although Congressman Engel was unfortunately unable to attend our annual meeting, he sent a letter of apology and expressed his approval and support of the efforts of USCBS to safeguard cultural heritage during times of armed conflict.
Meeting Program of Events
U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and Smithsonian Institution Meeting Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
Friday, September 19, 2014, 1:00-5:30 p.m.Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Ring Auditorium, Smithsonian Institution
- Opening remarks by Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
- Welcoming remarks by Nancy Wilkie, President US Committee of the Blue Shield
- Keynote Speaker, Harry Ettlinger, member of the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section
of the Civil Affairs Division during WW II
- Major Tommy Livoti, speaking on behalf of Brigadier General Hugh Van Roosen, Institute for Military Support to Governance, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, NC
“Update on the 21st Century Monuments Men program”
- Patty Gerstenblith, DePaul University: “The 1954 Hague Convention at 60,” and Laurie Rush, “Activities of the Combatant Command Cultural Heritage Action Group”
- Congressman Eliot Engel, Ranking Member Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Letter of support of the efforts of USCBS to safeguard cultural heritage during times of armed conflict, read on his behalf by Patty Gerstenblith
- Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO
- International Updates Panel: Salam Al Kuntar, University of Pennsylvania (Syria); Susan Wolfinbarger, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (Syria and Cambodia/Thai Border Situation); Katharyn Hanson, (AAAS), (Iraq); Corine Wegener, Smithsonian Institution (Mali, Egypt); Sarah Parcak, (National Geographic Society), (Egypt); Amr Al Azm, Shawnee State University, (Syria) and Brian Daniels (“Building Community and Capacity for the Study of Cultural Heritage in Conflict”, National Science Foundation Project)
- Presentation of USCBS Award for Meritorious Military Service in Protection of Cultural Property to Brigadier General Erik C. Peterson, Commanding General, US Army Special Operations Aviation Command
- Richard Kurin and Nancy Wilkie – Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield