Robert Edsel's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Website’

ROCKET LAUNCHES, GUEST BLOGS, AND MORE…

September 2nd, 2009 | 4:39 pm

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Tomorrow begins the realization of more than 7 years of work:  publication of my new book entitled The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. This is the narrative telling of these heroes’ stories through the experiences of just 8 men and 1 woman–the unlikeliest of spies–who are in a race with time to save the greatest cultural treasures from Nazi fanatics.  The book can be ordered online and will be in bookstores nationwide.  It is being published in more than 16 languages, and will also be available as an audio book.  I hope you will read the amazing stories of the men and women which I have told using their letters home to loved ones written during combat.

Harry Ettlinger speaking at the Hope for Humanities Dinner in Dallas, November 2008. (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.)

Harry Ettlinger speaking at the Hope for Humanities Dinner in Dallas, November 2008. (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.)

This Friday we will have the first of many Guest Blogs…appropriately, the first guest blogger will be Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger.  Harry figures prominently in The Monuments Men.  He provides a fresh insight into these events and speaks eloquently as to why this part of history is so vitally important.

Please check it out this Friday!

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DO YOU POSSESS STOLEN ART OR MISSING OBJECTS?

August 13th, 2009 | 9:42 am

Chief Archivist of the United States, Professor Allen Weinstein and Robert M. Edsel standing before one of the two "Hitler Albums"

Chief Archivist of the United States, Professor Allen Weinstein and Robert M. Edsel standing before one of the two "Hitler Albums" (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection)

Hundreds of thousand of works of art and millions of cultural treasures, including library books, manuscripts, and religious objects, stolen by Hitler and the Nazis, or taken by others during World War ll, remain missing.  The collective value of these items is well into the billions of dollars! Does anyone really believe they were all destroyed during the war?

Two years ago we located the Hitler Albums, two albums filled with photographs of paintings stolen by the Nazis from French collectors, many of whom were Jewish, that were presented to Adolph Hitler for his enjoyment and selection of the best works for his Führermuseum in Linz.  These albums were found in his home – the Berghof – in Berchtesgaden by an American soldier and taken as war booty.  They had been sitting in the attic of his home ever since.

Years later they surfaced when a family member contacted us seeking assistance with determining what they were and their importance. In time they expressed a desire for us to put them to their best use.  We – me personally and the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art – subsequently donated them to the National Archives at a ceremony in Washington in 2007.  Allen Weinstein, Chief Archivist of the United States, hailed their discovery as “the most significant find related to Hitler’s premeditated theft of art and other cultural treasures to be found since the Nuremberg trials.”

I believe there are many more such albums that will surface in the coming years along with missing paintings, drawings, books, and tens of thousands of other items displaced by the war or stolen during those years.  As the World War II generation passes, their belongings will be distributed to family members and, in many cases, sold.  During this sorting and identification process, many missing items from the war will surface.

The internet is also proving invaluable in helping both claimants and others seeking to find such stolen items recover their belongings.  Still, there is much to be done, by certain governments, museums, collectors, even the public at large.  It begins, however, with a far greater public awareness of the volume and importance of what is missing from World War II.

Everyone can participate!  Everyone can help us write the final chapter to this amazing story, the final chapter to this part of World War II, and in so doing, complete the mission of the Monuments Men.

To learn more about how you can help please contact me.

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THE MONUMENTS MEN and WOMEN: HEROES OF CIVILIZATION

August 12th, 2009 | 11:58 am

A group of Monuments Men and Women standing in front of the Munich Collecting Point in 1945.  From Left to Right: Capt. Marcelle Minet, France; Lt. Craig Hugh Smyth, US; Capt. Hubert de Brye, France (above); Lt. Col. Alphonse Vorenkamp, the Netherlands (below); Lt. Doda Conrad, US; Lt. Jean Lemaire, Belgium; Lt. Charles Parkhurst, US; and Maj. Pierre Duchartre, France.

A group of Monuments Men and Women standing in front of the Munich Collecting Point in 1945. From Left to Right: Capt. Marcelle Minet, France; Lt. Craig Hugh Smyth, US; Capt. Hubert de Brye, France (above); Lt. Col. Alphonse Vorenkamp, the Netherlands (below); Lt. Doda Conrad, US; Lt. Jean Lemaire, Belgium; Lt. Charles Parkhurst, US; and Maj. Pierre Duchartre, France. (National Gallery, Washington, D.C.)

I am frequently asked by people, “who are the Monuments Men and if they are so important, why haven’t we heard about them before now?” It’s an excellent question with a simple but seemingly improbable answer.

First, who they were. The Monuments Men were a group of museum directors, curators, artists, architects, and scholars who volunteered for service during World War ll to protect the most important cultural treasures of Europe from the destruction of the war and theft by Hitler and the Nazis. This was an unprecedented effort to fight a war and at the same time mitigate damage to cultural items during combat. (If anyone has any doubt about why this is an important concept, consider the damage to the reputation of the United States and its allies over its handling of the aftermath of the looting of the National Museum of Iraq after the invasion of Baghdad in 2003!)

These men and women left their families and quite established careers to go into combat to save some of mankind’s most beloved works of art and other important items including paintings (by artists no less well known than Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo), sculpture, drawings, stained glass, church bells, religious objects, and of course some of the most important and famous structures in the world. They had virtually no resources allocated to them by the Army; creativity and resourcefulness was their guide. Their success was remarkable: within five years of the end of the war, they located and recovered more than 5 million cultural items stolen and/or hidden by the Nazis.

By the end of the war there were less than 60 Monuments Men in all of Europe. In fact, there had been only a dozen or so on the ground within a few months after the D-Day landings. Because such a few number of men and women were charged with the awesome responsibility of protecting the innumerable cultural riches of our western civilization, their service and mission was lost in the fog of history. They had no spokespersons to preserve their legacy so to speak…and it was almost lost. For that reason, few knew of the Monuments Men and fewer still wrote about them or their achievements until now.

Their heroic achievements didn’t end with the war either. As they returned home from combat, these gifted men and women helped build the cultural world we enjoy today, especially in the United States. In the United Kingdom their leadership impacted world renowned institutions including the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Tate Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Courtauld Institute, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the United States these visionary leaders impacted the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the National Gallery of Art, the Frick Collection, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and the San Francisco Legion of Honor, just to name a few.  We owe them all our respect and admiration, especially when we visit a museum whose existence today is due in part to their sacrifices of long ago.

I hope you will take a few minutes to delve further into our new website, watch the promo video for my new book on the Monuments Men, and WRITE ME to tell me about your connection to this amazing story. I will pick some of the most interesting responses to share with everyone in future blogs.

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WWW.MONUMENTSMEN.COM LAUNCHED!!!

August 11th, 2009 | 2:16 pm

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I am very excited to announce the launch of our new website as we prepare for the release of my new book entitled The Monuments Men:  Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.  This site has been designed to provide visitors with an overview of the Monuments Men story and a sense of the excitement and heroism they experienced during their efforts to save the greatest and most beloved works of art and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II and from theft by Hitler and the Nazis.  It also provides an insight into just how big this story is becoming with links to our speaking engagement site and related activities.  We’ve included a fantastic one minute and a half promotional video about the book which shares the excitement of this unknown and hugely important story about World War II.

As a compliment to the incredible letters and documents included in my new book, this website provides visitors with many additional letters and documents from the Monuments Men and women, many never before seen since they were written in 1944 and 1945, oftentimes during combat.  Also included are additional authentic copies of Nazi documents and letters including orders issued by Hitler and Goering.  We have added a great collection of photos as well.

A complete list of all the 350 or so Monuments Men from 13 nations is included with those biographies we have assembled and photos of each man and women where we have them.  This is an important part of our ongoing story:  to gather and make publicly available a complete summary with photo of each of these heroes of civilization.  It is just one example of how the public can play a key role and make a significant difference by helping us write the final chapter of this story.

We have provided a number of links to related parts of this story and components that might be of further interest, such as Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic telling of the Monuments Men story, Nancy Yeide’s recently released book about the collection of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering entitled Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection, and the 9 hour, 3 disc The Rape of Europa: Collector’s Edition.  We also have details on The Greatest Theft in History Educational Program. These are all unique and important resources to further the telling of this amazing story which we hope you will visit and share with others.

Today also marks my resumption of blog entries after quite a hiatus due to work on finishing the writing of The Monuments Men book.  OUR BLOG NOW ALLOWS FOR READERS TO PROVIDE THEIR COMMENTS AND OBSERVATIONS, OR TO SHARE SOME CONNECTION THEY HAVE TO THIS GREAT STORY.  We want to hear from you often.  The blog has been incorporated into our new web design to make it easy to read and participate in this story and all the events that continue to unfold each day, especially as we march towards the launch of the new book.  We have created a Facebook Fan page for those that follow Facebook with a prominent link to make it easy to participate….and Twitter for those that are connected to this new and rapidly unfolding medium.  New entries and content from me, every day, and lots of photos as I travel and continue with research for my next book!

So please visit and motor your way around.  We’re excited to present to you this historic and currently unfolding story using all the modern tools of communication available to us!!!  And don’t forget…we want your participation and involvement so please share your comments and reactions with us.

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