The International Museum of World War II
|Founder(s)||Kenneth W. Rendell|
The International Museum of World War II is a not-for-profit museum devoted to World War II located in Natick, Massachusetts, a few miles west of Boston. It was formed over a period of more than 50 years by its founder, Kenneth W. Rendell, one of the world's premier dealers in autographs, letters and manuscripts, who has earned international renown as an authenticator of historic artifacts. The museum's collections document the events of the war, from the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I to the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials. The museum's goal is to preserve the reality of the history of World War II and to provide an educational experience of the lessons to be learned. In 2016, the Museum of World War II became The International Museum of World War II to reflect its being the only museum in the world with an international collection of letters, documents, and artifacts.
On display are over 7,000 artifacts as well 103 mannequins outfitted in complete uniforms and military equipment. Every piece is authentic, from documents with the handwriting of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the actual uniforms worn by concentration camp prisoners. The collections include highly important wartime letters, documents and manuscripts of all the major political and military leaders, as well as the papers of officers and soldiers of all ranks, concentration camp inmates and civilians. Adolf Hitler, Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George S. Patton, Bernard Montgomery, Joseph Stalin, Erwin Rommel, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, Raoul Wallenberg and Anne Frank's family are all represented in original letters.
The museum has been praised for the scope of exhibits in its collection. Rendell has said that "if a visitor is overwhelmed with the enormity and the complexity of the war, I have achieved my goal."
Documents and manuscripts of particular importance include an original copy of the announcement of the Treaty of Versailles with Hitler's earliest handwritten antisemitic words; Hitler's draft of the Munich Agreement with his notations as well as those of Neville Chamberlain; the first message alerting the U.S. Navy of the attack on Pearl Harbor; complete German plans for the invasion of England; General Patton's 1942 letter to the Sultan of Morocco announcing American landings in North Africa and warning him of the consequences of resistance by French forces; General Montgomery's address to British troops before El Alamein; Patton's annotated map for the invasion of Sicily; complete plans for the Allies' D-Day landings at Normandy, France; and General Douglas MacArthur's draft of the Japanese surrender terms.
Among the significant artifacts are Hitler's SA (Sturmabteilung) shirt; his first sketch for the Nazi flag; his reading glasses; Patton's battle helmet; Montgomery's beret; and copies of Mein Kampf that belonged to Hitler, President Roosevelt, and General Patton. There are also six different Enigma code machines, including the ten-rotor T-52, of which only five are extant; an American Sherman tank from the North African Campaign; a German Goliath tank used at Normandy; and one of the very few surviving landing craft (LCVP) from the Pacific in near-original condition.
The collections, which are arranged chronologically and geographically, include artifacts, manuscripts, and printed material in the following areas:
- Germany in the Interwar Period
- Adolf Hitler and the Rise of Nazism
- The German Military
- The Munich Agreement and the Fall of France
- Winston Churchill
- The Battle of Britain
- The Resistance Movement
- Occupied Europe
- The Holocaust
- Pearl Harbor and the American Home Front
- The U.S. War Effort
- The Italian Front
- The Russian Front
- D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy
- The Rising Sun and the Aggression in the Far East
- The Pacific Front
- Iwo Jima
- Prisoners of War
- Everybody's War
- German Collapse and Surrender
- The Atomic Bomb
- The Nuremberg War Trials
- The Surrender of Japan
- The Tokyo War Trials
- Cold War Espionage
The museum's archival collections include:
- More than 500,000 photographs and documents and about 750 photograph albums that document military and civilian life and activities during World War II.
- Propaganda leaflets dropped by planes over Europe and the Pacific (these number over 10,000).
- Black propaganda such as forged currency, postage stamps, newspapers, official army discharge documents and identity papers, and fake ration stamps.
- A French museum's collection of newspapers, handbills, posters, documents, leaflets, and other printed pieces documenting the occupation and the French resistance.
- Printed material documenting the German invasion of the Soviet Union, including German plans to strip the nation of its natural resources, a complete set of the invasion maps, and booklets and bombing and artillery target maps.
- An extensive collection of diaries of prisoners of war from both Japanese and German camps, and the assortment of escape devices and forgeries collected by the camp commandant at Colditz.
- The archive of Douglas MacArthur's public relations chief, which documents the general's life and actions from the time of the Japanese air raid on Manila the day after Pearl Harbor to the evacuation of Corregidor, as well as his return to the Philippines and the Japanese surrender.
- D-Day archives containing a comprehensive collection of invasion plans.
- Personal objects owned by Hitler (and his paintings), Roosevelt, Churchill, Eisenhower, and many others.
Manuscripts and artifacts from the collection have been exhibited at the Imperial War Museum, London; National Archives; West Point; Museum of Our National Heritage; Grolier Club, New York; University of Southern California; the Newseum, Washington, D.C.; the Supreme Court of the United States; the National D-Day Museum, New Orleans; all the Presidential Libraries; the CIA Museum; and the German Historical Museum. Manuscripts and artifacts from the museum have been used to illustrate numerous books and articles, and the museum has been featured in documentaries.
"The Power of Words and Images in a World at War," a 2014 exhibition in New York City's Grolier Club, was reviewed by The New York Times, which noted, "It is the ephemera that ends up reviving the past, jolting us into more vivid understanding. And much of what we see in this exhibition does just that. Objects of everyday life during World War II—the posters, the signs, the leaflets, the newspapers, the letters—land on contemporary senses like sparks still smoldering... These artifacts give sharp, incisive glimpses of passions and experiences that can be missed in the larger currents of the war's history. But we also see the war itself unfolding, and in many instances are amazed that we are seeing these artifacts at all.... It manages to give a powerful compact survey, while suggesting how much of that epochal conflict yet remains beyond easy understanding." 
On April 12, 2016, "The Power of Anti-Semitism: The March to the Holocaust, 1919-1939," an exhibition developed by Kenneth Rendell from the museum's collections, debuted at the New York Historical Society and ran through July 31. An 80-page companion book of the same name, written by Rendell and Samantha Heywood, was published simultaneously. The Wall Street Journal described the exhibit as "powerful," while the director of the New York Historical Society deemed it "a new—and path-breaking—understanding of the trajectory of anti-Semitism in Europe."
The museum's special exhibitions, based wholly on its own artifacts and documents, have included "Most Secret: Rudolph Hess' Own Archive," "The Reality of the Resistance," "Enigma Code Machines and the Imitation Game," and "Hitler Attacks, Churchill Rises From the Ashes of Appeasement." The most recent, "The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: Why We Remember," ran from October 8, 2016, through January 7, 2017.
The museum is set to expand in 2017. With 60,000 square feet of space, the new two-story facility will boast three times its current exhibition space, extensive archives, a library, and the state-of the-art Shipley Education Center. With these plans in place, Rendell announced several developments in mid-2015. Among them was a new partnership with Natick-based technology company MathWorks, which signed on as the museum's first corporate sponsor. In addition, Marshall Carter, formerly the K-8 principal at Milton Academy, joined the museum as its first director of education. Samantha Heywood was hired as museum director and director of exhibitions. Ms. Heywood came from London's Imperial War Museum, where she served as director of public programs. Veteran fundraiser Sheila F. Dennis was named the museum's new director of development.
In 2016, the museum was renamed the International Museum of World War II to reflect the global perspective of its content.
- With Weapons and Wits: Propaganda and Psychological Warfare in World War II (Overlord Press, 1992)
- The Real World War II: Fear On the Home Front, Terror on the Front Lines (American Enterprise Institute, 2002)
- World War II: Saving the Reality, A Collector's Vault (Whitman Publishing, 2009)
- Politics, War and Personality: Fifty Iconic World War II Documents That Changed the World (Whitman Publishing, 2013)
- The Power of Anti-Semitism: The March to the Holocaust, 1919-1939, Boston, 2016
- The Secret History of World War II: Spies, Code Breakers, and Covert Operations, National Geographic Books, 2016
- Cantrell, John (January 2000). "Man of Letters: With Ken Rendell, America's leading autographs and manuscripts dealer, the handwriting is on the wall". Town and Country: Pages 63–67.
- Mooney, Brian (September 24, 2009). "Veil lifts on a trove of WWII treasures". The Boston Globe.
- Clarke, Gerald (November 2009). "Museum of World War II". Architectural Digest. 66 (11): Pages 66 and 68.
- Mooney, Brian (September 24, 2009). "Veil lifts on a trove of WWII treasures". The Boston Globe.
- "Natick exhibit: Hitler, 'the failed artist'". Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- Rothstein, Edward (June 7, 2014). "Like Smoldering Sparks, War's Ephemera". New York Times.
- The Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2016,
- The Power of Anti-Semitism: The March to the Holocaust, 1919-1939.