Synopses & Reviews
At 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 cataloging 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.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Adolf Hitler's plan for the subjugation of the world included its culture and treasures. Art was to be taken from conquered countries and stored in Germany until Hitler could build the world's largest museum complex in his hometown of Linz, Austria. It was the job of the Monuments Men (as they came to be called) to track down these missing treasures during the latter years of the war. This story concentrates on Northwest Europe only, where men (and at least one woman) from 13 nations, largely from professional arts-related backgrounds and past combat age, effectively saved much of European culture from a gang of murderous thieves. This intriguing story, told largely through letters written by the rescuers and now in various government archives, will appeal to many general and military history readers." Library Journal
"Were the Allied (mostly American) soldiers who rescued works of art stolen by the Nazis before and during World War II really heroes, as Robert M. Edsel claims in The Monuments Men, or were they good men — aided by one resourceful, determined French woman — who were simply, in the best sense of the phrase, just doing their jobs? My vote is for the latter....Still, for the most part they have receded into the fog of history...and that is a pity, so it is good to have them given recognition in The Monuments Men....[A] terrific story, and it certainly is good to give these men (and that one remarkable woman) their due."
The Washington Post
As Hitler's armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others called the Monuments Men risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
About the Author
Robert Edsel began his career in the oil and gas exploration business. In 1996 he moved to Europe to pursue his interests in the arts. Settling in Florence seeing some of the great works, he wondered how all of the monuments and art treasures survived the devastation of World War II. During the ensuing years, he devoted himself to finding the answer. In the process, he commissioned major research that has resulted in this book. Robert also coproduced the related documentary film, The Rape of Europa
, and wrote Rescuing Da Vinci
, a photographic history of an art heist of epic proportions and the Allied rescue effort. The author lives in Dallas.
Bret Witter cowrote the bestseller Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (Grand Central, 2008). He lives in Louisville, KY.