|Portrait of a Young Man|
by Marc Masurovsky
What happened to Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man which belongs to the world-renown collection of the Krakow-based Czartoryski family? The now-iconic painting (the poster child for WWII plundered “treasures”) pulled off a world-class vanishing act in the early days of May 1945 as US troops closed in on the South Bavarian compound of Hans Frank, Governor-General of German-occupied Poland.
The Czartoryski family, one of the flowers of Polish nobility, owned palatial residences and estates in Krakow, Goluchów and Sieniawa (Poland). Since 1893, the Goluchów Castle served as a Museum of the Czartoryski collection. Many of the family’s artistic possessions were stored and displayed there. They included close to 5000 art objects and antiquities as well as several hundred Old Master paintings. The bulk of the collection was transferred to Sieniawa for protection. Soon after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, German troops reached the Czartoryski estates and seized their contents. To make matters worse, a local mason had betrayed the location of the hidden Czartoryski “treasury.”
In October 1939, Kajetan Mühlmann, who had played a major role in the plunder of cultural treasures in German-occupied Poland, brought to Berlin choice pieces from the confiscated Czartoryski collection—works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. In late November, at Martin Bormann’s urging, Hans Posse, the director of Hitler’s Linz museum project, requested the transfer of the best pieces from the Czartoryski collection to the Linz museum. It fell on deaf ears. The paintings returned to Krakow only to be shipped back to Berlin in 1942, this time on orders from Field Marshal Hermann Goering. However, the Nazis, fearing for the safety of the works due to Allied bombardments, opted to send the works back to Krakow, where they were stored at the Wawel Castle.
|Wawel Castle, Krakow|
From August 1944 to January 1945, in the face of an imminent offensive by the Soviet Red Army, a gradual evacuation began of Hans Frank’s Krakow HQ and the many plundered art objects and paintings under his control. The main evacuation point was the estate of Count Manfred von Richtofen in Seichau (Sichów), Silesia, which the Auswärtiges Amt [German Foreign Office] had requisitioned for use by Hans Frank, his staff and the German Army. At the outset, a small number of Frank’s aides had appeared at Seichau (Sichów). It was not until the surrender of Krakow that the largest contingents overtook von Richtofen’s castle. He confirmed that Frank and his top aides had remained in the main house for only a few days until their “sudden” departure on 23 January 1945. In other words, Frank did not reach Seichau (Sichów) until mid-January 1945.
|Seichau Castle, Silesia|
Frau von Wietersheim’s Muhrau estate, 14 km from Seichau, served as a secondary evacuation point. Wilhelm Ernst von Palézieux, Hans Frank’s chief of the ‘Referat für Kunst’ (Art Section) and Eduard Kneisel, an Austrian-born restorer, were responsible for ensuring the safety of the plundered treasures from the Czartoryski and other noble Polish collections. They watched over the thousands of art works and objects in their custody at both estates.
It took the greater part of a month for the various convoys carrying Hans Frank and his many staff members to reach Neuhaus am Schliersee in southern Bavaria where Hans Frank had an estate. Neuhaus am Schliersee became the final destination for the Polish looted cultural treasures under Frank’s control, including those that belonged to the Czartoryskis. On 17 February 1945, Hans Frank informed Dr. Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancellery, that the last convoys had reached Neuhaus.
According to London-based Count Zamoyski, one of the heirs to the Czartoryski estate, the Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael was stored at a villa serving as a residence for Wilhelm Ernst von Palézieux in the immediate vicinity of Hans Frank’s compound. Eduard Kneisel confirmed this fact in subsequent years and testified that he had not conducted any restoration work on the painting but that it had been removed from its massive crate.
In the first week of May 1945, American military units converged on the Bavarian compound of Hans Frank at Neuhaus am Schliersee. They searched Frank’s office in the “Bergfrieden” chalet, which was near the “Schoberhof”, his main residence. According to an American miliary investigative report, the troops conducted only a superficial search of the “Schoberhof.” The MFAA took nearly a year to file a report on the circumstances surrounding Hans Frank’s capture and the disappearance of the Raphael. The report acknowledged that US troops had not conducted an extensive search of the “Schoberhof.”
On 4-5 May 1945, American troops located and arrested Hans Frank as he tried to escape with members of this retinue. Frank made a failed attempt at suicide on 6 May 1945. US troops recovered most of Hans Frank’s loot. However, the Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael vanished into thin air either right before the arrival of American troops or under their very noses while they were overtaking Neuhaus. It’s anyone’s guess where the painting is currently stashed.
Frank to Lammers, Document 3614-PS, Office of US Chief Counsel, IMT
"The loot from Poland," unsigned summary. RG 59, Lot 62D-4, Ardelia Hall Collection, Box 9, NARA.
Ardelia Hall to Count Zamoyski, 15 December 1960, Lot 62D-4 Ardelia Hall Collection, Box 13, NARA.
Walther Bader interrogation by Edgar Breitenbach and Dr. Roethel, 24 June 1947, RG 260 Prop. Div., Ardelia Hall, MCCP, Box 479, NARA.