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More About The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel; Bret WitterOverviewAt the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 40.
- Review Date: 2009-06-22
- Reviewer: Staff
WWII was the most destructive war in history and caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items remain missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe's great art, and they were called the Monuments Men. (Coincidentally or not, this book appears only briefly after Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers: The Untold Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II, Reviews, June 1.) Edsel has presented their achievements in documentaries and photographs. He and Witter (coauthor of the bestselling Dewey) are no less successful here. Focusing on the organization's role in northwest Europe, they describe the Monuments Men from their initial mission to limit combat damage to structures and artifacts to their changed focus of locating missing items. Most had been stolen by the Nazis. In southern Germany alone, over a thousand caches emerged, containing everything from church bells to insect collections. The story is both engaging and inspiring. In the midst of a total war, armies systematically sought to mitigate cultural loss. (Sept. 3)BookPage Reviews
Saving Europe's greatest treasures
From 1939 through the last months of the war, the Nazi army seized priceless paintings, sculptures, tapestries and more, from museums, palaces, cathedrals, private homes, even tiny chapels—the Nazis plundered everything, carting off the cultural history of every nation they entered.
But just as the Allied Forces fought to save the Western world, others fought to save Western Civilization. They were “the Monuments Men,” a handful of soldiers given a unique assignment: to preserve the cultural soul of Europe by protecting Europe’s art. Robert M. Edsel’s masterful book The Monuments Men shares their story, in a tale that is part history, part war story and part treasure hunt. Undermanned, undersupplied and with virtually no authority, the Monuments Men (and women) faced bullets, bombs and Nazi booby traps to rescue works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Vermeer, Michelangelo and more.
Edsel and his co-author, Bret Witter, have crafted an account that moves like a Hollywood action adventure, with scenes ranging from a peasant’s cottage in the middle of an artillery battle, to the depths of an ancient salt mine. There are heroes to root for, villains to hiss at and an increasingly pressing race against time as the Nazis, in a last vicious act of defiance, set about to destroy the art rather than give it up.
Edsel and Witter interviewed the few surviving Monuments Men, examined family letters and even Nazi archives in their research. Whether you’re a fan of art, military history or stories of real-life heroes, The Monuments Men is a treasure worth the hunt.
Howard Shirley is a writer in Franklin, Tennessee.