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Ross, Capt. Marvin C., USMCR | Rousseau, Theodore, Jr. | Sawyer, Pfc. Charles H.

Rousseau, Theodore, Jr.  

Art Looting Investigation Unit Operations Officer (ALIU)

For the first years of World War II, Rousseau worked as United States naval attaché to the American embassies in Lisbon and Madrid. In 1945 he began service with the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) as part of the ALIU, which reported directly to the Roberts Commission headquarters in Washington. In this role, Rousseau worked closely with S. Lane Faison and James S. Plaut investigating Nazi-looting operations. After months of questioning various Nazi party members with knowledge as to the location of missing artworks, the three officers eventually developed “Consolidated Interrogation Reports” specifying their findings. In particular, Rousseau’s report entitled The Goering Collection detailed the Reichmarshall’s personal collection and its recovery. In the report he wrote that his discoveries “dispel any illusion that might remain about Göring as the ‘best’ of the Nazis…he was the prototype of all the worst of National Socialism.” .” Much of Rousseau’s initial information was gathered from interviews conducted over “brandy-laced” meetings in Spain with Alois Miedl, Göring’s personal banker. Rousseau investigated other Nazi looting as well, such as that of the French Rothschilds’ collection.

Upon his return home from Europe in 1946, Rousseau began working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an associate curator. Two years later he was promoted to curator of the department of paintings, eventually becoming the Met’s chief curator. Rousseau was often a controversial figure at the museum, widely criticized for his aristocratic demeanor and privileged upbringing. As the son of a wealthy French banker, he was born into high society, was schooled largely in Paris and then attended the Sorbonne and Harvard. Despite being dubbed a “golden boy” by many at the Met, he used his social standing to acquire many pieces for the museum’s collection, and brought a fresh perspective to the curatorial department. Shortly after becoming the curator of paintings, Rousseau introduced the idea of hanging old masters next to modern works, an innovation that was considered radical by many at the time. Controversy was sparked yet again when he led the Met in secretly selling several donated paintings, including works by Vincent Van Gogh and Douanier Rousseau, from the collection of Adelaide Milton de Groot. Despite all of this, Thomas Hoving, director of the Met, said that he was “one of the finest professionals in the Metropolitan’s history.” In 1974, Rousseau died of cancer at age 61, just one day before he was to retire and become a trustee of the museum.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art