During the final days of WWII a drama took place at the salt mine of Altaussee in Austria. Serving as a huge repository for priceless art stolen by the Nazis, eight bombs threatened to destroy the mine. Who rescued the thousands of paintings?

While the Nazis were in power, they plundered cultural property from every territory they occupied. This was conducted in a systematic manner with organisations specifically created to determine which public and private collections were most valuable to the Nazi regime. As the Allied forces gained advantage in the war and bombed Germany’s cities and historic institutions, the Nazis began storing the stolen artworks in salt mines and caves for protection from Allied bombing raids. One of these salt mines was in Altaussee in Austria. At the end of the war the entire depot included over 22,000 artworks. In April 1945, as the Allied troops approached the salt mine, Gauleiter August Eigruber gave orders to blow it up. He had eight bombs each weighing 500 kg transported into the tunnels. The destruction was prevented at the last minute. Today, a number of people claim to have been the true saviours of the art treasure, amongst them the Americans. That’s what George Clooney tries to tell his audience in his feature film “The Monument Men”. But is his version of events really the truth?