Robert Edsel's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘New York City’


April 27th, 2011 | 11:25 am

General Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, departing the Met.
(photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries.)

The Monuments Men Foundation is proud to announce the discovery of an audio recording of General Eisenhower speaking about the importance of art and its protection during war.

The speech was delivered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on April 2, 1946 at an event in which General Eisenhower was presented with an Honorary Life Fellowship from the museum with a citation that read:

“To Dwight D. Eisenhower, soldier, diplomat and statesman, through whose irreplaceable art treasures were saved for future generations.”

Award recipients with Texas Governor Rick Perry, including Bill Paxton,
Bob Schieffer, Barbara Smith Conrad and ZZ Top.

Other articles in this newsletter: the announcement of a new book coming out in Spring of 2013, Remembering Maria Altmann, and Robert Edsel presented with Texas Medal of Arts.

Click On the Link to Read The Monuments Men Newsletter

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April 21st, 2010 | 12:11 pm

Anyone that lives in the New York City area and wants to hear Robert Edsel talk about his latest book “The Monuments Men”. their fascinating story, and their relevance today, you are in luck. He is speaking at IFAR (International Foundation for Art Research) on Monday, April 26 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. The title of his talk is “The Invisible Heroes: The Monuments Men”.  Reservations are needed and is filling up fast, so don’t hesitate. The presentation is guaranteed to be entertaining, informative and thoroughly enjoyed by all that attend. Please click on the link below for more information and to make your reservations.


Title: “The Invisible Heroes: The Monuments Men”

Date: Monday, April 26, 2010

Time: 6:00 – 8:00pm

Location: The Union League Club
38 East 37th Street (at Park Avenue), New York

Please Note: Reservations and pre-payment required. Also note: The Union League Club has a dress code; traditional business attire required.

The Invisible Heroes: The Monuments Men

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February 9th, 2010 | 1:28 pm


The National Cathedral of Haiti devastated by the recent earthquake. (Photo Courtesy of Polaris Images)

I’ve often said that perhaps the most redeeming aspect of the historic work of the Monuments Men is one of hope…that in the face of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and amidst the great human suffering and devastation to homes, towns, and ways of life as a consequence of World War II, a small group of volunteers emerged to risk their lives and everything they had accomplished to rescue and preserve the cultural legacy of civilization for future generations.  This story is certainly filled with heroism, valor, and harrowing close calls in which western civilization’s most beloved works of art and monuments were in jeopardy of being destroyed.   But the story is also one of hope that the lessons of the Monuments Men during World War II would enable future generations to be better prepared to deal with similar situations.

In Haiti, a natural disaster of war-like scope has devastated the nation and its people and suspended the normal functioning of their society.  The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and more importantly all ongoing efforts to save the lives of others while creating a stable safe living environment must be the paramount concern.  This will be years in the doing; no quick fix exists.  Haiti’s long history of poverty and decades of kleptocratic leadership have created that reality despite noble efforts, and some signs of progress, these past few years.   Because of the protracted time that rebuilding even a modicum portion of the infrastructure will require, hope—and all its symbols—will have an added significance.

Hope buys time…hope buys patience…hope can provide a reason to fight for life just one more day until improvement comes, no matter how slight. Hope can bring a sense of confidence about there being tomorrows.  And in my judgment, the people of Haiti need hope as desperately as they need medicine, doctors, and financial aid.  What then can be done that would bring a disproportionate benefit to the aid dollars and individual acts of mercy?  Let us for a moment look to the past as a guide.


Rouen Cathedral damaged by bombing in 1944 (Photo Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

The thousands of discoveries during World War ll made by the Monuments Men of hidden paintings, stained glass, pieces of sculpture, and other art objects too often overshadows their initial assignment which was to protect monuments, i.e., churches, libraries, museums, and other important historical structures, hence the nickname “Monuments Men.”   The Monuments Men were not responsible for restoring these buildings, but they did oftentimes implement crucial temporary repairs that mitigated damage and enabled restoration at a later date.  They also made key determinations about which structures were damaged beyond repair and those that, while severely damaged, could in fact be rebuilt using as much of the original materials and structure as possible.

Many examples of the results of their work and other people of good will exist, but two that are prominent and serve to illustrate the point are the great cathedral in Rouen, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin.  The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen was severely damaged in April 1944 by Western Allied bombing, and again during the D-Day invasion two months later.  It was repaired after the war and remains one of Europe’s great gothic cathedrals, dating back to 1202!  The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, built in honor of Germany’s Emperor (1858-1888), was nearly destroyed in a Western Allied air raid on November 23, 1943.  As late as May 24th, 1953, the church was still unrepaired with parishioners attending services in the ruins of the structure.  Repairs to the church didn’t begin until 1959 and required 4 years to finish.


The National Cathedral of Haiti before the earthquake (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)


And After (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

Haiti’s great church, the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, was severely damaged by the earthquake.  Built between 1884 and 1914, the Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince is a Roman Catholic Church of hugely symbolic importance to Haitians, more than 90% of whom are Catholic. It is, along with the presidential palace, the most identifiable structure in the nation.  (To put this into perspective, imagine the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. being destroyed, or St. Patrick’s in New York City.)  While the roof collapsed, much of the structure’s walls remain standing, in fact eerily similar to the scenes of destruction to the Rouen and Berlin churches.  Those churches were rebuilt:  the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince should be also.

Imagine the impact on these shattered Haitian lives to see this revered structure rebuilt and done so in a way to withstand future earthquakes? And not rebuilt for them, but rebuilt BY THEM combining their physical participation with the technological assistance of experts in such matters, and the funding and support of kindred organizations such as the Vatican, the World Monuments Fund, and others.  The symbol of hope and reassurance to the people of Haiti that there WILL be a tomorrow would be immense and inspirational.  With guidance and assistance from those in the United States, including our government, it would send a message to the world that the leaders of this nation understand the importance of respect for the preservation of cultural property in a way our actions in the aftermath of the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad in 2003 did just the opposite. This was the very essence of why the Monuments Men were created, the core objective of their mission.  It worked in war torn Europe after the deaths of 60 million people.  Why then should it not work in Haiti?



December 7th, 2009 | 10:45 am


We set aside two days a year to honor our Veterans:  Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  But other days of the year border on such importance…today is one of them.  More than 2,400 men and women were killed on this date 68 years ago as they innocently went about their duty and lives that Sunday morning.  It was a dastardly act by Japan and it’s warlords as they sought to knock out the Pacific fleet of the United States in one swift blow.  Within days the United States was at war with Japan and its allies, Nazi Germany and Italy.  World War II  had begun in earnest.

Less than three weeks later a meeting would take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that would have far reaching implications.  Visionary leaders such as George Stout, Paul Sachs, and Francis Henry Taylor, expressed concern about protecting this country’s cultural treasures from concerns about a Japanese invasion of the west coast and Nazi bombings on the east coast.  In time these specific fears subsided but were replaced with an even greater concern:  how to protect the cultural treasures of the western world from the path of war that inevitably would lead to the doors of the Reichschancellery in Berlin.

Fortunately we live in a world today that was spared the “what if” consequences of the Monuments Men never having been created. We can visit the world’s great museums and see the vast majority of the greatest accomplishments of man’s creative genius because of their vision and sacrifices.  Pearl Harbor set them into motion.

So on this day, let us remember the brave men and women who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. May we also acknowledge those who acted and set in motion one of the most benevolent efforts in the history of mankind, an effort that preserved much of the accumulated art, music, and culture produced by thousands of years of civilization, from the path of war:  the Monuments Men and women.