Last week, I was able to attend a Dallas Museum of Art lecture during which Dallasite Robert Edsel spoke about the Monuments Men, a group of men and women who helped recover artwork stolen by the Nazis during WWII. Edsel has lived in Europe and has devoted much of the past years to researching and writing about the Nazis' theft of millions upon millions of artworks, books, cultural artifacts, and architectural pieces prior to and during World War II. He is now promoting his latest title, The Monuments Men.
I knew that much had been stolen from the Jewish population and from French museums during that era, but I had no idea of the true scope of the thefts throughout Europe. Pilfered countries not only included France and Germany but Poland, Austria, and Italy. Works stolen (or sometimes purchased) included statues such as the Winged Victory; religious items such as Catholic regalia, Torah scrolls, church bells; and - of course - millions of paintings by any number of artists. These works were to comprise the planned Furor Museum, an art museum to rival all others. It never came to pass, and millions of items were left stashed away in places like salt mines or remote buildings. Other items had been destroyed, including "degenerate" art such as that of Picasso.
Toward the close of the war, the U.S. began assembling a small team of art experts to go into Europe and work to protect the great monuments of Europe during the final battles of WWII. These are the Monuments Men (and women) of whom Robert Edsel writes and speaks. The group grew to include British citizens and some women, most with military experience. Their mission took a turn from protecting just monuments, and they began to see to the rescue of stolen art and cultural objects. Numerous items remain missing, though, and like uncataloged books, there is no way of knowing what may or may not still exist.
Read about art theft through history by checking out a title from the Richland Library or any Dallas County Community District library. Any student, staff, or faculty in DCCCD may check out or request the books at the following pages.
The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel.
The Rape of Europa, a documentary film on which Edsel collaborated. The original book is by Lynn H. Nicholas.
The Amber Room: The Fate of the World's Greatest Lost Treasure. What happened to the room created entirely from amber for Frederick William I of Prussia?
The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and The Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece. The true story of recovering Edvard Munch's The Scream.
Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft. Photos, true crime, and a broad look at art theft.
Title checked out or not at your DCCCD location? Use the "Request it" button to have it held at or delivered to your DCCCD library.
Not a member of the DCCCD community? Search www.worldcat.org to find titles at your nearest library.
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