World War II was one of the darkest chapters in human history. Millions of lives were cruelly and callously taken, families were separated, and the world became a battleground filled with blood shed, violence, and hatred. Some of the lesser-known casualties of Nazi Germany were the thousands of precious artworks that officers and foot soldiers stole. However even in the midst of so much evil, one woman was brave enough to resist the poachers. And, the entire time, the thieves had no idea she was watching.
Rose Valland had perfected the art of hiding in plain sight. She worked closely with people she fundamentally despised and held her tongue as she watched injustices occur around her. She let others believe she was a benign, simple woman. But she was merely lying in wait.
Valland was born in 1898 in eastern France. Her father was a blacksmith, and while her family wasn’t by any means well off, Rose was a precocious student, earning a scholarship to a teachers’ school. She had no idea this opportunity would later turn her into a national hero.
After graduation, she landed a job teaching drawing to high schoolers; however, she longed for something more, and so she went to grad school. By 1932, she was volunteering as an assistant curator at the Jeu de Paume Museum.
Jeu de Paume
In the early 1930s, people weren’t yet aware of the full extent of damage that Nazis were capable of. However, by 1941, all of France was under German occupation, and the stakes were made abundantly clear. It was this same year that Valland was given a highly unique opportunity.
Rose was promoted to a paid position as the overseer of the Jeu de Paume. This would have been a thrilling career advancement for her, except by this time, German soldiers had started their widespread and systematic thievery of French art.
The Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce, or ERR, was the German crew jobbed with collecting — read: stealing — and relocating thousands of precious cultural artifacts from throughout France. The soldiers robbed indiscriminately, taking works from both publicly funded museums and private collections
Getty/ Bettmann / Contributor
Germany had a strong chokehold on France, and it seemed nearly impossible to stand up to their forces. However, brave members of the French Resistance didn’t let this stop them from doing what was right. Rose found herself at the center of a very precarious situation.
The Nazis chose Jeu de Paume as their home base for sorting, storing, and ultimately relocating much of the art that they’d stolen. Rose, as the museum’s overseer, was witness of many of their actions. And she held a secret that would aid in their ultimate takedown.
The soldiers, never once stopping to consider the possibility that Rose understood German, often spoke freely and indiscriminately around her. But she could understand German, as she’d picked it up years ago on trips to the country.
As she silently observed the Germans pillaging and redistributing these priceless works, Rose was secretly working against them. Each time she saw art come in and out of the museum, she surreptitiously recorded as much information as she could about the pieces. Of course, this wasn’t enough on its own.
Rose also made a habit of conversing with the German-employed truck drivers who came to pick up the art and bring it to nearby train stations for transportation. Through talking with these men, she procured secret information about the specific places where the art was going to.
War History Online
However, Rose couldn’t do this important work alone. She collaborated closely with her friend Jacques Jaujard, director of the Musees Nationaux. Each piece of intel she received would be passed on to him — this was useful in a few unexpected ways.
Times of Israel
Because Rose let members of the Resistance know which train cars were carrying art, soldiers didn’t inadvertently blow up a car carrying the precious artifacts. For four years, she practiced this silent rebellion, risking her life for little to no thanks. Then came August 1st, 1944.
Only a few weeks before Paris was liberated (though no one knew that yet), Rose discovered that a man named Baron Kurt von Behr, head of the ERR, was planning a huge shipment in the coming days; he wanted to take as much of the remaining art as possible out of France.
These works included many modern pieces the Nazis hadn’t gotten to yet. Among them were paintings by famous artists such as Picasso, Degas, Modigliani, and others. This would be an irreparable loss, and Rose Valland knew she had to act. She secretly procured a copy of the shipping order and sent it along to Jaujard.
Then, she caught wind of the train station the pieces were going to: Aubervilliers, on the outskirts of Paris. By August 2nd, 148 crates of work filled with 978 paintings had been loaded onto five cars. These were intended to be attached to another 48 cars carrying other confiscated possessions. Luckily, the operation would soon veer off course.
The train cars hadn’t been linked yet, and the train itself was running off schedule. Over a week later, on August 10th, the vehicle was finally ready to get going. However another issue had arisen: French railway workers were on strike.
Finally, two days later, the 53-car-long train was able to leave, though the severely overloaded locomotive broke down soon after pulling out of the station. Another 48 hours and the problem was fixed, but by now, it was too late.
The Resistance succeeded in blocking the train’s path, leaving it stuck with all the precious cargo and unable to complete its trip to Germany. The French kicked the German soldiers off the vehicle and quickly stepped in to check out its cargo. There it was: all 148 boxes of priceless art.
Thirty-six crates were transported to the Louvre. The rest of the nearly 150 crates, however, took two months to be brought to safety, an annoying detail for Rose. She didn’t get a lot of time to malign this fact, however. After the war had officially ended, her life took a bizarre turn.
Rose was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with Nazis, since she’d worked so closely with them at the museum. Her real co-conspirators, however, stepped up in her name, and she was quickly released when her true intentions were unveiled.
Rose Valland spent the next several years helping to uncover more and more of the lost art, and a few decades later, authorities found one of the largest caches of lost artwork they’d ever seen.
Rolf Nikolaus Cornelius Gurlitt might look like your typical elderly man, but don’t be fooled by his seemingly nervous-looking appearance. He became the focal point of a huge police bust in Germany, and it all started in Zurich.
On the evening of September 22, 2010, Gurlitt was traveling from Zurich into Munich, which meant he had to cross the Lindau border. This border was a hot spot for the transportation of illegal funds.
That meant it was swarming with police who were trained to keep a close eye on any passengers who looked suspicious. At nine o’clock that September evening, one officer’s eyes fell onto Gurlitt.
As the officer walked down the center aisle of the stationary train and got closer to Gurlitt, the old man was noticeably nervous and shifting around in his seat. The customs agent walked right up and confronted him.
He asked to see Gurlitt’s passport, which checked out, but Gurlitt was so nervous the officer searched him. He found on him an envelope with $12,000, which was legal, but he flagged the old man for further investigation.
Gurlitt proved extremely difficult to track down when officers looked into it. After extensive research, they eventually figured out he lived in a Munich neighborhood called Schwabing. But, it wasn’t just any neighborhood.
It was an incredibly wealthy one with multi-million dollar apartments and luxurious homes. Gurlitt lived in the same apartment for 50 years. However, it was the last name “Gurlitt” that really piqued the police’s interest.
That’s because a man named Hildebrand Gurlitt was an art curator for the Nazis during World War II. The old man mentioned an art gallery when speaking to the officer on the train. Was there a connection?
While known for the genocide of the Jewish people and the deaths of innumerable others, Hitler was always interested in art. In fact, he actually applied to art school when he was a young man but was rejected. During the war, he took advantage of the vacant homes.
He instructed German soldiers to seize as much artwork as they could get their hands on, and the Nazis did just that, stealing over 650,000 pieces. Then, Hildebrand Gurlitt set them up in museums.
Most of the art was never recovered after the war, and precious pieces were lost forever or eventually destroyed. But, not everything, and that’s where Cornelius Gurlitt may have come into play.
Police were curious if Gurlitt was living off the sales of very expensive paintings. However, the art would have been stolen, seeing as the Nazis stole thousands of pictures from homes all over Europe.
Officers knew they couldn’t just walk up to Gurlitt’s door and demand to enter. They needed something to act on. One entire year later, a judge finally issued a search warrant for potential tax evasion, and police went knocking.
When they presented the search warrant, Gurlitt let them inside without a fight. Scattered throughout his apartment was a treasure trove of paintings. The collection was potentially worth over a billion dollars!
Over the course of the next 72 hours, Gurlitt waited quietly while a team of officers carefully removed all of the paintings in his home. Eventually, police found out exactly how the work fell into Gurlitt’s possession.
Much of it centered around Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. He paid Hildebrand huge sums of money to gather the art — dubbed “degenerate” art — from Jews, something Hildebrand felt he had to do in order to remain alive.
Eventually Cornelius, who was Hildebrand’s son, took ownership of the 1,280 paintings that remained of his father’s collection. However, now they were in the clutches of Johnny Law, and Gurlitt couldn’t do a thing about it.
A woman named Meike Hoffmann was tasked with figuring out how much of the art was legitimate. She came to the conclusion 380 pieces were legit. However, laws stated none had to be returned to owners’ heirs.
There’s nothing that actually forced Gurlitt to return the paintings to the rightful owners, or at least the heirs to the owners. However, you can imagine if someone really wanted their painting returned, Gurlitt would abide.
Gurlitt told police he felt he had a duty to protect the art, considering some of them were classic masterpieces. There are still questions surrounding the find, but funny enough, the art world is used to seeing its fair share of scandals.
Marla Olmstead may have seemed like an average child to those who didn’t know her well, but she was truly extraordinary. When she was three, her parents, Mark and Laura, discovered her love of painting.
She took them both by surprise when she reportedly asked her father, an amateur painter himself, if she could use his brushes and canvas one day. He happily agreed, but in no way was he or his wife ready for the journey she was about to take.
After Marla finished a few high-quality paintings, a family friend hung them inside a local coffee shop in Binghamton, New York. Unbelievably, a couple inquired about the price of one. Would you believe the Olmsteads actually managed to rake in $250 for it?
Proud as could be, Laura immediately made a photocopy of the check, excited to one day show Marla when she was older. Her daughter, she knew, would be in shock she actually sold artwork at such a young age!
Thinking it was a complete fluke, Marla’s parents didn’t dwell on the sale. However, word soon got out their daughter had a natural talent, and the flood gates of the press suddenly burst open.
Anthony Brunelli, an accomplished photorealist painter, offered to promote Marla’s work. He put together a huge art gallery in Binghamton, and people from all over the city came to gawk at the young girl’s incredible talent.
After the gallery opened, a reporter from the city newspaper ran a piece on Marla, and even TheNew York Times jumped aboard the story. Everyone wanted to know more about the young prodigy taking the art world by storm.
Not only was Marla getting insane amounts of press, but she was also auctioning off her artwork for exorbitant amounts of money. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars here. Not bad for a kid who wasn’t even in school yet.
All the money she earned was directly deposited into a college fund her parents set up. At one point, she had over 200 people on a waiting list clamoring to buy her masterpieces.
News outlets from all over the world traveled to Binghamton to catch a glimpse of the artistic genius. No one understood how someone with such little painting experience could express herself like a world-class professional.
Art enthusiasts likened Marla’s style to Jackson Pollock, the famous abstract painter who used a unique technique of splashing and flinging paint onto his canvas. The painting on the left here is Marla’s. It looks quite a bit like Pollock’s, huh?
Amidst the whirlwind of attention Marla received, a psychologist named Ellen Winner took a special interest. She spent years studying gifted children, and she wanted to dig deeper into the story behind Marla. But, once she did, things started getting murky.
See, Laura and Mark were adamant Marla had completed all of the paintings without any help. However, no one ever actually saw her complete a project from beginning to end. This raised questions for the psychologist.
The Olmsteads eventually agreed to allow a small hidden camera in the space where Marla painted. People hoped it would put an end to the whisperings that her work may have been doctored by someone older and far more experienced, like her father.
When Winner watched the footage, she was completely unconvinced Marla was a prodigy. Marla, to her, was painting like any normal child: no real focus, ordinary streaks, and no overall plan. It was nothing like the finished pieces her parents were selling.
The parents, however, claimed that the hidden camera was at fault: because they knew they were being filmed, their interactions with Marla as she painted were strained, which threw off their prodigious kid.
Nevertheless, Marla was later featured in a full-length documentary called My Kid Could Paint That, which focused on whether or not her talents were real, or if her parents were pulling an elaborate trick on everyone.
In the end, however, no one was able to provide substantial evidence that Marla was using someone else to complete her art. The Olmstead family made quite a killing off the work, and the money was theirs to keep!
Today, she doesn’t put nearly as much time into painting. The notoriety that swept over her as a child almost completely vanished, and she prefers to live a regular teenage life, focusing on friends and academics.
The Olmsteads learned a lot during the firestorm of attention Marla received. Fortunately, she’s an incredibly balanced person, and that’s all Laura and Mark ever wanted for their daughter.
As an adult, it’s frustrating to know a child with no learned skills at all can start raking in massive amounts of money. But, if Marla’s earnings shocked you, this young YouTuber will knock your socks off!
Like any other 7- year-old, Ryan loves to play with toys. His reactions to new gadgets, while hilarious and charming, aren’t totally out of the ordinary. What is so unusual about his average playdate, however, is that millions of people tune in to watch.
YouTube / Ryan ToysReview
Why do so many people watch him play? Well for starters, he’s not part of some big celebrity family or anything. In most regards, Ryan is a normal first-grader who stumbled into stardom because of a fun idea.
Like many younger kids, Ryan got really into YouTube unboxing videos — clips where people unpack various new products and show off their features. In many cases, kids are simply filming these videos in their own homes, racking up tons of views in the process.
YouTube / Brothers Hobby
Though he was only three years old when he became a regular unboxing watcher, Ryan wondered why he wasn’t a YouTube star. He asked his parents, Shion and Loann, if he could make his own toy videos.
Guinness World Records Kids
Soon after, Ryan had his parents set up a camera. He sat down in front of it, opened up a giant plastic egg filled with characters from Pixar’s Cars, and started playing. Without much editing, Shion and Loann posted the video online under “Ryan Toys Review.”
Ryan followed up his Cars clip with more videos, each one showing off a different doo-dad and his sunny personality. His family cared more about him having fun than building a following. At the same time, they couldn’t help but notice the view count.
Lots of people were watching — a lot. His biggest video, for instance, featured Ryan climbing around an inflatable obstacle course and collecting toy-filled eggs. Since its release, nearly two billion people have watched it.
Who’s watching all these videos? For the most part, most of Ryan’s fanbase is made up of kids just like him. They really connect with a YouTube star their own age, plus they absolutely love seeing all the cool toys he’s featured on his channel.
Then you have parents who might be trying to figure out which new toys their kids would really like. Sure, they could comb through the aisles themselves, but isn’t seeing a kid have fun with a perspective buy more valuable?
Of course, there are countless similar YouTube series out there. You have to wonder why Ryan ToysReview stands out from the pack. Asked about the secret behind his success, the seven year old put it simply: “I’m entertaining and I’m funny.”
Now, with a full-length video debuting almost every day, Ryan ToysReview has ascended to the top-earning account on all of YouTube. In just 12 months, Ryan makes an unimaginable $22 million.
Most of the revenue comes from automated advertisement views. Every watch nets Ryan a few cents. But on top of that, Ryan is pulling in extra bucks by partnering with a company called Pocket Watch to release his own toy line.
Apart from the usual toys, which Ryan picks out himself, his channel also features some branded content. Halo Mandarin Oranges paid him last year to visit one of their orchards and talk about their product. And if you’re put off by a child spokesperson, you can rest easy.
All the dough that Ryan is unboxing will help him in the future. Fifteen percent of his earnings go straight into a trust account, which is locked up until he’s an adult. The rest of the money goes into family savings and costs for future videos.
Ryan’s giant web presence doesn’t get in the way of his other responsibilities. He shoots primarily for a couple hours on weekends, plus sometimes on weeknights. Weekdays are still for school.
Ryan’s parents, who frequently appear in his videos, say he can stop his YouTube career whenever he wants. They’ll know when it’s time. After all, as they point out, kids usually make it very clear when they don’t want to do something. But for now, Loann and Shion are helping Ryan reach bigger and bigger heights.
Ryan’s more recent videos feature elaborate sets and more scripted elements, which clearly come from parental involvement. Even though the toys are still at the forefront, Ryan’s popularity has also allowed him to branch out in new directions.
A second YouTube channel lets Ryan’s fans learn more about his life and family. For example, viewers can get a firsthand glimpse of their trip to Disneyland. Seeing all the rides and characters might even beat seeing all the coolest toys!
Ryan even exists in cartoon form now! An animated “kid superhero” version of him debuted in 2017, and these episodes have Ryan jumping into his TV and going on adventures. And that’s not the only way Ryan ToysReview is expanding…
His two younger sisters, Emma and Kate, are also starting to appear on his YouTube channel! Although they still need a few more years before taking on starring roles, they have a very talented brother to learn from.
It may have been toys and a love of them that landed Ryan where he is today, but with a such bright future ahead, who knows where he’ll speed off to next? Nobody can put this kid in a box!