“The real Walker Hancock was a different kind of guy, and anyone who knew him will certainly know that,” French said.
Growing up, she met several of the Monuments Men over the years when they visited her father, who made works ranging from monuments to medals over his nearly century-long career. He made his home and studio on a quarry in the village of Lanesville where he worked and taught until he died.
The Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who rose to power in Germany, did have one thing in common with these Monuments Men — love of the fine arts.
Historians wonder how world history might have changed had Hilter been able to fulfill his aspiration to be a painter instead of failing the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts’ entrance exam.
At one point, likely in the 1920s, Hancock would find himself at a beer house in a close encounter with the man who would change the course of the world.
Daniel Altshuler, a sculptor who worked with Hancock for 13 years in his Gloucester studio, recounted the tale he heard many times from his mentor.
“He was in Germany with a friend and they were going into this bar. His friend told him there would be this guy talking and giving a speech. He was told not to speak any English and not to say anything,” he said. “So they go in and sit down at a table, and here was a fellow who was not even six feet away giving this crazy talk — and it was Hitler.”
The young Hitler was in a frenzy.
“Walker said he was just furiously speaking. His friend looked at him and noticed how people at the bar started to look at them, and it seemed something funny was going on. They got this uncomfortable feeling and the friend nodded to Walker and they got up and left,” related Altshuler. “They were several blocks away before his friend spoke, telling Walker they had to get out because he thought they were in danger.”