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World War II was not just the most destructive conflict in humanity - it was also the greatest theft in history- property, culture and heritage were all stolen. The Monuments Men were the people who tried to stop it.
Robert Edsel is the author of Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic essay book providing the first comprehensive visual documentation of Hitler and the Nazis' theft of Europe's great art and its rescue by America and her Allies. He is also co-producer of a documentary film entitled The Rape of Europa. Edsel began his business career as an independent oil and gas producer in 1981. Robert moved to Italy with his family in 1996.
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) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
"After World War Two I served as a British member of the 'Monuments' section in Germany. Our task, I believe, was truly important - we were restoring to Europe evidence of its own civilization, which the War seemed virtually to have destroyed - and I was lucky to have had a chance to participate. It is excellent that Mr Edsel has now recorded this remarkable episode, and I am grateful to him for devoting so much energy to telling the stories of those involved." -- Anne Olivier Bell "Highly Readable ... a remarkable history" Washington Post "Engaging and inspiring" Publishers Weekly