Monday, January 21, 2019

Books I'm Reading: The Monuments Men

First book of the new year. The Monuments Men (2009, Little, Brown and Co.), by Robert M. Edsel, with Bret Witter, is the book from which the recent film was made. It tells the story of the German looting of art treasures in Europe during WWII. This is the same story told in Lynn H. Nicholas's 1994 book The Rape of Europa, but from the perspective of the men and women charged with finding, protecting, and repatriating the loot.

An extraordinary tale in many ways. First, it vividly demonstrates (yet again) the Nazi capacity for organized and meticulously documented criminal activity—activity condoned and encouraged from the very top. Extraordinary that treasures of the caliber of The Ghent Altarpiece were carted away and stowed in salt mines. Extraordinary that Hitler directed all of the looted art to be destroyed at the end of the war, when it had become clear that the war was lost. Extraordinary to think that, at the same time— almost until the day he killed himself—Hitler still had visions of a great museum in Linz where all the stolen art would go. Extraordinary that so few people on the Allied side accomplished so much with so little support from the governments they were serving. The writing is workmanlike, but the tale itself is well worth the time.    

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails