Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is recommending Harry Ettlinger, the Holocaust survivor and World War II veteran who helped recover many priceless artworks stolen by the Nazis, for a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Ettlinger, a resident of Rockaway, was one of 350 people known as the “Monuments Men,” soldiers credited with recovering and restoring millions of seized paintings and sculpture, including works by Monet, Degas, and Picasso.
In a Dec. 17 ceremony at Ettlinger’s home, Carolyn Fefferman, a senior Menendez staff member, read a proclamation citing him and his compatriots for being “instrumental in safeguarding innumerable works of art that might have disappeared or been destroyed during World War II and in its aftermath.”
Menendez said that he and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are cosponsoring a bill to present “the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.”
“I am proud that a New Jerseyan was part of that effort and proud that I can call you my friend,” the senator’s letter said.
“I'm flabbergasted,” Ettlinger responded after reading a copy of the bill. “When I think about it, what I did, I never thought in a billion years I would get this kind of gratitude and thanks from my fellow American citizens.”
The Monuments Men, a film about the art rescuers starring, directed by, and cowritten by George Clooney, is scheduled to be released on Feb. 7.