Robert Edsel's Blog

Blog entries for the ‘Friday’s Random Thoughts’ Category

The Monuments Men movie poster is out!

August 23rd, 2013 | 2:51 pm

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April 12, 1945: A Day of Momentous Implications

April 12th, 2013 | 5:52 am

Having heard about the extraordinary discovery of most all of Nazi Germany’s gold reserves and paper currency, along with its vast cultural wealth from Berlin’s greatest museums and libraries, in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley left SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France and made a visit to see it firsthand.  As the Monuments Men, led by George Stout, were urgently crating the works of art for removal from the mine, the generals descended in a rickety elevator manned by a lone German operator.

Left to Right: Generals Bradley, Patton, and Eisenhower (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Their sense of disconnection was palpable:  billions of dollars (in today’s currency) of gold bars and bagged coins sat stacked in one chamber adjacent to some of the world’s greatest works of art. Chests filled with gold fillings pulled from the mouths of murdered victims of the Nazi genocide sat idle, not yet smelted into bars to sit atop the Reichsbank horde.  Suitcases of silverware, another reminder of property stolen along with the lives of the owners, lined several walls.


General Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration Camp (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Later that afternoon, the generals visited Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American forces. Strewn before them were the corpses of the dead and emaciated figures of those near death.  General Patton, old “Blood and Guts”, had to lean against the side of one of the bunkhouse sheds as he was sick to his stomach from the horrors and stench of what he was witnessing.


President Franklin Roosevelt attending Yalta Conference in February 1945, less than 2 months before he died. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

After dinner, as the generals returned to their respective tents, General Patton overheard on the BBC the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death earlier that day.  At age 63, 12 years into his presidency, having led the nation through its most perilous fiscal crisis and a world war, Roosevelt was gone. He did not live to see the fruits of his leadership – victory – which would follow 26 days later in Europe, and 125 days later in Japan.

April 12, 1945:  a day that had momentous implications for our nation, the world, and the Monuments Men.


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October 9th, 2009 | 9:46 am


I was in Washington this week and came out of my hotel near the White House to witness this sad scene. Happily no one was injured. Both drivers were shaken but standing curbside wondering like the rest of us who did what to whom. But it reminded me, once again, “it ain’t all about me”—my problems are mine but no more important than those others are working through. And that day, I wasn’t driving a car or a bus…nor a passenger in either. So it was, all in all, a good day, like most.

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October 2nd, 2009 | 5:28 pm

What does it say about our society today when the salacious has replaced the heroic?  Is that development moving us as a nation closer to an improved and better informed populace, or adding more cobblestones on the path to ruin?  Do we need to have a member of Michael Jackson’s family on television every night?  Does Jon Gosselin (note to readers:  I had no idea who the guy was until I asked…and even then I couldn’t believe he had an hour of fame on the Larry King Show until I saw him on the program last evening) deserve even a minute of television time?  And Mackenzie Phillips…I’m not even going there…

Who is to blame?  The show’s hosts?  The bookers?  The networks?  The advertisers?  The people who watch these programs?  And a better question:  how do we bring it to an end or at least carve out time for worthy subjects, credible people, even amusing stories but of substance?  What was fringe 20 years ago has become mainstream today….abusers (wife, child and substance), cheaters (spouse, business and tax), and the absurd are assured of air time:  the more outlandish and sensational the behavior, the greater the chance a person will be booked as a guest.  Heck, let’s face it:  anyone can do something stupid, vile, mean, cruel, or illegal.  No real talent is required other than a willingness to be very public about whatever transgression du jour that person has selected as their path to greater fame.  And still, they are booked as if their skills or abilities were in any way comparable to the gifted athlete or musician who has spent years sacrificing to hone skills, the brave soldier who risked his life to preserve our freedom and in the process risked his or her life to save their buddies under fire, the great educator who impacted the lives of thousands of students who were forever and positively changed because of one person’s ability to fire their passion.  Truly, it is shameful.

There’s a lot of good news in the world, and many remarkable people, oftentimes ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.  Why don’t those stories get covered?  Why don’t we as a society want to stay up late and watch these moving and motivating experiences of others about people who made our world a better place, who represent the ideals we teach our kids?  Wouldn’t we all wish for more positive role models to inspire us in our own lives?  I know I would like that and benefit.

I guess this is one of the reasons I was so moved by the story of the Monuments Men and women…their goodness and commitment to leave the world better off than how it was when they arrived on the scene dominated their lives by governing their decisions.  It was always about self-sacrifice, shared workloads, the greater good.  Humility ruled.  Not so today…and we are the worse for it.



September 25th, 2009 | 10:55 am


German poet Heinrich Heine said: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbreent man auch am Ende Menschen.” (“This was only foreplay. Where books are being burned there will eventually be humans burned.”)  That was in 1821!!!!  How did he foretell the events that 110 years later would lead to the greatest war the world has ever known?

Of course, the gap between burning books out of fear and ideology and the taking of human lives is thinner than any of us want to consider.  Events in Nazi Germany proved that point in painful detail.  Heine could have also expanded his observation to include the burning of paintings because that, too, was part of Hitler’s determination to influence how people thought, what they believed in, and who they obeyed.

The importance of Heine’s observation is timeless:  they are words of warning to us all…to pay attention…to think for ourselves, and to speak up and act when the very freedoms all people of good will cherish are under attack.

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August 28th, 2009 | 4:19 pm

Statue of President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London

Bronze Sculpture of President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London. (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.)

Before departing London I passed by these two really interesting looking guys and asked them to make some bench space for me on what was a glorious sunny day.  OK, well, it was a pretty humorous setting to sink low enough onto the bench to grab this photo while all the passers-by stopped to take my photo of trying to get this photo!

President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were stallwart allies and became good friends before FDR’s death on April 12, 1945.  This wonderful bronze sculpture at the end of New Bond Street stops not just tourists but Londoners who enjoy spending a moment looking at these two remarkable leaders.  It is but one of many landmarks in the Westminster area of London that remind us of the historic events that took place there 60 plus years ago.

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November 24th, 2008 | 3:01 pm

Tonight PBS will broadcast to the nation our documentary film, The Rape of Europa. This wonderful film will be seen by millions of people unfamiliar with the subject of Hitler and the Nazis’ premeditated looting of Europe and their use of art as a weapon of propaganda to promote their racial theories. Making any film is a challenge. Making a great film, one good enough that PBS would allocate such a prominent slot for its airing during “sweeps” week, is a rare achievement which speaks to the importance of the subject matter. While this is a significant milestone, it is only the first of several that will follow.

We are very excited about providing that PBS audience, and of course people everywhere, the opportunity to learn more about this important story…about the heroes who saved so much of the art, the Monuments Men…about the behind the scenes stories we filmed…about the lessons learned, and those that were ignored…about how the events of World War II should have prepared us for the events that unfolded after the looting of the Iraq National Museum in 2003. These stories couldn’t be told in just two hours and for that reason, and for that reason we created The Rape of Europa Collector’s Edition which contains almost 7 additional hours of interviews, archival footage, and in-depth analysis of key events that were only briefly covered in the two hour film. One example of this extended content is our interview with Corine Wegener, a retired Army major who served in Iraq working to repair the damage to not only their national museum, but our country’s image. This unique DVD is only available on Amazon and is being offered at a special introductory price for a limited time. You can link to order that DVD by clicking on

Of far greater importance is our educational program which is named The Greatest Theft in History Educational Program! This Educational Program is innovative and comprehensive providing a resource not currently available to educators and students. It provides on-line lesson plans customized for classroom instruction by our nationally acclaimed group of educators under the supervision of our Educational Advisory Board members. (To see the names of our team of educators and Educational Advisory Board and their CV’s, please click on the following links: and This program will enable teachers to concentrate their time on teaching, not on looking for materials to teach. By making clips from our Educational DVD and other material we will be continually adding to the website along with other unique features, we have constructed a “one-stop does all” destination for anyone interested in learning more about the protection of cultural resources during armed conflict, the events of World War II and how critical a factor art was to Hitler and the Nazis’ plans, and of course the heroes of the story, the Monuments Men. Our hours of extended interviews and other materials will allow students and interested parties of all ages to participate in the writing of this final chapter to World War II. The students of today will be the ones assisting us in solving the remaining riddles and mysteries of this amazing chapter of the war including developing clues as to the whereabouts of so much of the still missing art and other cultural treasures stolen during the war.

We have constructed this Educational Program with affordability in mind by pricing the entire program at $35/ program which includes the almost 9 hour Educational DVD and access to the custom designed website which contains lesson plans and other teaching resources making it accessible for people of all ages and interests. Already the responses from teachers and other organizations has been gratifying and rewarding…but it is just the beginning.

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July 3rd, 2008 | 4:22 pm

This weekend marks the Fourth of July celebration, a moment marked by celebration, time with family, and relaxation. Parades, fireworks, barbeques….all are part of the composite profile we think of at this time of year. But it does have a more serious side to it (I know, leave it to me to point that out). July 4th, 1776, 232 years ago, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. John Adams stated “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” And he was right although, one wonders sometimes if the celebrations are pausing for a moment to include the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

As you might expect, General George Washington spent the day with his troops and provided them a double ration of rum and an artillery salute in 1778. Of more recent interest, an independence day of another sort occurred: On July 4th, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur announced that the Philippines had been completely liberated!

(John Adams)

Two other fascinating events took place on this date in our nation’s history, one of which I didn’t know until I did a little research, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In 1941 the residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, celebrated Independence Day for the first time since July 4th, 1863, when the Siege of Vicksburg ended with a Union victory during the Civil War. The other is almost too strange a coincidence to believe, but it is fact: Both John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, two of the great thinkers and libertarians of our time, both Founding Fathers and the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence to become President of the United States, died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Five years later, President Monroe died on July 4th, 1831.

(Thomas Jefferson)

My thoughts this holiday will be with our troops abroad who can’t be here to celebrate with their families. Every day, they make a huge sacrifice to protect us. These holidays are especially difficult for them because they bring into acute focus where they are—and where they are not but would like to be. It is to them that we say “thanks” for providing us a safe day to celebrate all those who came before them and helped build this great nation we too often take for granted.

Happy Fourth to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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