A member of the Monuments Men — a group responsible for saving dozens of priceless artworks and artifacts stolen by the Nazis during World War II — died Sunday in New Jersey at age 92.
Harry Ettlinger called the thefts the “greatest plunder ever perpetrated in the history of civilization,” in a 2015 interview with McClatchy.
After joining the Army in 1944, Ettlinger was set to fight in the Battle of the Bulge but was instead reassigned to translate at the Nuremberg Trials due to his fluency in German, according to the biography listed on the Monuments Men Foundation website. Waiting for an assignment, Ettlinger instead volunteered for the Monuments Men in 1945.
He became a translator and right-hand man to one of the chiefs of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies, the formal title of the group, McClatchy reported.
The group’s mission was at the center of the 2014 Hollywood movie “Monuments Men” starring George Clooney and Matt Damon. In the film, English actor Dimitri Leonidas portrays Sam Epstein, a character based on Ettlinger, the New Yorker magazine reported in 2014.
Ettlinger, a Jew, was born in Germany in 1926, according to his obituary. His family escaped the Nazis in 1938 and settled in Newark, N.J.
After the war, Ettlinger went on to a career in aerospace engineering for Singer-Kearfott.
In 2015, he and three other surviving Monuments Men members accepted the Congressional Gold Medal for the group during a ceremony at the Capitol building.
The obituary said Ettlinger was preceded in death by his wife, Mimi Goldman, and is survived by his three children, their families and his longtime companion.
There will be a service Friday at Bernheim Apter Kreitzman Funeral Chapel in Livingston, N.J., and a burial service in Cedar Knolls, N.J., according to the obituary.
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