Linz’s Least Favorite Son

Linz, Austria is a city with an interesting history, some of which we’ll probably get around to later in the week. However I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that these days Linz is mostly remembered as the childhood home of Hitler. Hey, the guy had to come from somewhere, right? Unfortunately for the PR team at the Linz chamber of commerce, Linz was the place.

Or well he didn’t come from there. Hitler was actually born in a small town called Braunau am Inn which is smack on the German-Austrian border. What, you didn’t know that Hitler was actually Austrian? Well now you do! Of course Hitler didn’t recognize much difference between the peoples of those nations. To him (and a lot of others) the German-speaking peoples of Europe were all one large volk, divided by artificial political borders. This is what made the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, a relatively simple and painless affair.

But I digress. As I mentioned, Hitler wasn’t born in Linz, but he spent his adolescence there, from about age 9 to 16. Important years for any boy. No wonder that he always considered Linz his home town and went to great lengths to make sure it remained economically vibrant during the war. He even had a few Czech factories disassembled and relocated there.

Hitler had big plans for the place once the war ended. It was to be perhaps the most important of the Führerstadt cities Hitler and architect Albert Speer designed as the new architectural centerpieces of Europe. Linz was to become a great river metropolis, the site of grand residences, hotels, universities, stadiums and the Nazi answer to the Louvre, the Linz Museum or Führermuseum.

The Linz Museum was to house the six million-plus works of art and other assorted treasures the Nazis systematically looted from the European population generally, but especially the Jews. If you ever wondered why the Nazis were so mad for art during the Second World War, the Linz Museum is the answer. They didn’t want to sell it, they wanted to display it (the non- “decadent” stuff anyway). Hitler, a former art student and failed artist, was heavily into art, which meant the Nazi leadership generally was into art. And indeed they all competed with one another to acquire the most fantastic treasures for the Linz Museum.

On which note, if you want a recommendation on a truly great Nazi art heist movie, you can’t do better than The Train, a fabulous 1964 nail biter with Burt Lancaster as the heroic French resistance operative and the ever-brilliant Paul Scofield as the most artistically sensitive master race psychotic you ever loved to hate. Add it to your Netflix queue right now.

One thought on “Linz’s Least Favorite Son”

  1. Speaking of Nazi art theft movies: Word came last week that George Clooney is interested in developing a movie based on the story of the Monuments Men, the US and Allied military whose job was protecting & finding the hidden, stolen, and otherwise displaced artworks of Europe. Of the books on this subject I’ve read, I still prefer Lynn Nicholas’s _The Rape of Europa_ over Robert Edsel’s _The Monuments Men_ which will I believe be the basis of the film. I have met the daughter of one of the chief Monuments Men, James Rorimer, and I’m dying to ask her how she feels about the possibility that G. Clooney will play her dad.

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