Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Monuments Men: History, Art, Nazis – It’s Three, Three, Three Books in One!

A Review By: Amelia
It’s amazing the things we–as a collective people–have never really thought of before and The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel is one of those things. World War II was some of the worst destruction that the world had ever seen before and miraculously, the artwork survived. Why? Well, a little known group of highly educated, extremely brave men named the Monuments Men are to thank, and within the four-hundred pages of the book, you’ll discover that they didn’t receive half the thanks they should have!

The book follows the Allied group known as the Monuments Men as they raced against time and behind enemy lines to find, retrieve, and save as much Nazi stolen and relocated art from destruction as they could. It focuses on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day and follows the accounts of six of the Monuments Men and the seemingly impossible task of saving the world’s art from the Nazis destruction.

The plot of this book is all about art and how it ever survived the ferocity of World War II’s fighting and Nazi looting. At the same time that Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world and eradict the Jewish race from the face of the Earth, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe for Hitler’s and his highest officers private art collections. The Nazis were painstakingly cataloguing art that Hitler planned to display in his Fuehrer Museum in Lintz but also destroying modern art that they considered ‘degenerate’ art. 

To stop the cultural destruction of Europe from reaching the level of devastation that Hitler intended to reach, American museum directors, Canadian art historians, British curators–and anyone else educated in fine art, were to travel through Europe and save what they could. Their searches lead them from France, to Belgium, to Germany, and back to France. They found huge art warehouses in semi-collapsed mines, Austrian castles, and German basements. They were helped by employees of the Louvre, as well as members of the Nazi party that didn’t want to see the art come to harm.

The Monuments Men is such a wonderful non-fiction book. Edsel writes facts and dates in such an elegant way it almost makes you believe that you’re reading fiction. He goes inside the characters head and writes about what they’re thinking after he painstakingly went through personal letters and diaries of the men who worked so hard to preserve the culture of a war-torn Europe. Without what they did, looting would have run rampant, priceless works would have been stolen or destroyed. Art as we know it would have changed forever!

My final thoughts on The Monuments Men are that it’s an interesting book. It’s written elegantly and contains a lot of facts that I’d never heard before. Everyone knows the stats of how many people were killed in World War II and of Hitler’s hellish policies and practices, but a vast majority of us know hardly anything of the tireless efforts of the Monuments Men. This book remedies that and everyone with even an inkling of interest in history, World War II, or art should pick of this book and learn something new. 

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