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Why do housecats roam the halls of the Hermitage?

And why did they disappear during World War Two?

Since the era of Catherine the Great, the Hermitage has been home to hundreds of house cats. They earn their keep by keeping the museum vermin free.

Today, the cats are fed and cared for by dedicated volunteers. But there was one brief period in Hermitage history when cats were nowhere to be found.

This was during the Second World War when St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, was under siege by the Nazis. The Hermitage was under siege too – marked for destruction by Adolf Hitler.

As the staff of the Hermitage crafted a plan to save the museum’s masterpieces, the housecats disappeared one by one.

The secret is revealed in the premiere broadcast of Museum Secrets: Inside the State Hermitage Museum

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