YORK -- An 18th-century painting was returned to Poland Wednesday,
nearly 70 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. The campaign to recover
looted artwork dates back to 1943, when FDR ordered the
biggest treasure hunt in history.
"They found themselves unintentionally as treasure hunters trying to track down millions of cultural objects that have been stolen by the Nazis," said Robert Edsel, who wrote the book that became the movie.
are middle-aged men," Edsel said. "They have every reason not to volunteer for military service,
but they felt they had a contribution to make as part of winning the war,
winning the freedom by preserving the great cultural treasures of Europe."
He was also a German Jew, who was forced to leave Germany. So how could he go back to help with the war effort?
went back as an American soldier, not as a German," he said. "Instead
of taking things, we adopted policies of returning them to their rightful
owners. It gave us a great feeling that we were able to come along and do
Robert Edsel took CBS News to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, home to a dozen paintings recovered by the Monuments Men. But the whereabouts of major works remains a mystery, including a portrait by Raphael.
"I think there are hundreds of thousands of works of art, cultural objects, library books, documents that are still missing," Edsel said. "We're still gathering the pieces. We're still solving the mysteries."
Just last year, German authorities announced they had found 1,400 pieces in a Munich apartment, including works by Matisse and Picasso. Nearly 70 years after the war, the treasure hunt continues.