I just finished reading The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released film of the same name. It is the story of the allied force of quite notable art professionals including museum curators and directors, conservators, architects, artists and art historians that volunteered to risk their lives to protect, save and recover Europe’s most important buildings and landmarks and stolen works of art, cultural objects and personal property during and immediately following World War II. It is completely fascinating. The Rape of Europa, both the book by Lynn H. Nicholas and the subsequent documentary, is a brilliant telling of this most tragic moment in history and one whose aftermath still exists to this day. Edsel, actually a co-producer on the documentary, later focused his own tremendous research specifically on those men in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit (MFAA) and their remarkable and heroic efforts to preserve the artistic heritage of Europe. I can’t wait to see the film and I can’t wait to read Edsel’s new book, Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, published last spring.
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter (Center Street, 2009)