Read an Excerpt
Rose Valland is one of the greatest and yet unknown heroines of World War II. After risking her life spying on the Nazis, day after day for four long years, Rose lived to fulfill her destiny: locating and returning tens of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of France. Yet her remarkable story, like much of her personal life, has remained unknown to the broad public… until now.
"Rose Valland is one of the greatest and yet unknown heroines of World War II. After risking her life spying on the Nazis, day after day for four long years, Rose lived to fulfill her destiny: locating and returning tens of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of France. Yet her remarkable story, like much of her personal life, has remained unknown to the broad public… until now.
This book, written by French Senator Corinne Bouchoux, was originally published in France in 2006. Ms. Bouchoux’s interest goes far beyond the wartime service of Rose Valland by delving into her personal life and post-war work to provide important insights about this fascinating and determined woman.
Her research also proved helpful in confirming my understanding of the intense relationship between Rose Valland and the man who shared her wartime destiny, Monuments officer Lt. James Rorimer.
The absence of books about Rose Valland in the English language has, until now, left us wondering how this ordinary woman mustered such courage to do extraordinary things even when, after the war, many in her own country simply wanted the story of Nazi looting to fade away and with it, Rose Valland’s contribution to history. It has therefore been an honor to translate and publish Corinne Bouchoux’s book and make it available to a much larger audience." - adapted from the book's forward written by Robert M. Edsel, author of The Monuments Men
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When Hitler’s armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind’s greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire.
On the eve of the Allied invasion, General Dwight Eisenhower empowered a new kind of soldier to protect these historic riches. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes—artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt—embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli.
With the German army retreating up the Italian peninsula, orders came from the highest levels of the Nazi government to transport truckloads of art north across the border into the Reich. Standing in the way was General Karl Wolff, a top-level Nazi officer. As German forces blew up the magnificent bridges of Florence, General Wolff commandeered the great collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace, later risking his life to negotiate a secret Nazi surrender with American spymaster Allen Dulles.
Wall Street Journal
On April 24, amid the heavy fighting of the Syrian civil war, Aleppo's thousand-year-old minaret—a graceful rectilinear tower without parallel in Islamic architecture—was destroyed. Such cultural obliteration is far from unusual on the modern battlefield. As long ago as the Franco-Prussian war, Strasbourg's Museum of Fine Arts, a building housing important medieval manuscripts and Roman artifacts, burned down after indiscriminate Prussian shelling. More recently, the Mostar Bridge, that unique work of Ottoman engineering that had stood since the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, was intentionally blown apart by Croatian tank fire.
It was in World War II, however, that threats to cultural heritage became a central fact of war. Even before the conflict began, the Nazis had destroyed hundreds of historic synagogues with brutal abandon. The Allies, with their reliance on air power, ended up reducing to rubble numerous medieval buildings and churches in Italy, France and Germany. Above all were the art-looting operations by which the Germans and the Soviets methodically plundered hundreds of masterpieces from the territories they conquered. Among the enduring ironies of these totalitarian dictatorships was the extent to which the most destructive forces on the continent also coveted its artistic heritage.
Robert M. Edsel, a businessman turned art sleuth, has spent much of the past 15 years studying the fate of artworks displaced during World War II. His 2009 book, "The Monuments Men," focused on the special Allied units that were deployed late in the war to protect and recover art. (It is soon to be a movie directed by and starring George Clooney.) "Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures From the Nazis" is his detailed retelling of the Allied re-conquest of Italy (1943-45) from the vantage point of the Monuments Men and their efforts to "minimize damage to Europe's single greatest concentration of art, architecture, and history from the ravages of a world war."
Italy's treasures were at great risk during much of the latter half of the war. The retreating Germans detonated nearly all of Florence's historic bridges over the Arno, including the 16th-century Ponte Santa Trinita, considered one of the world's most elegant. There were some glaring episodes of looting, as well as more official actions to remove art collections further north to keep them under Nazi control. Upon entering a city, Allied forces often had to determine first where art had been hidden by the Italians and then whether the Germans had beat them to those hiding places.
Edsel (The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, 2009, etc.) continues his work chronicling the small band of artists and art historians who tracked down and saved Europe’s artistic heritage, this time focusing on Italy.
During World War II, Hitler and Göring led the greatest looting operation of the 20th century. Nazi Germany justified its practice of absorbing art treasures of Western Europe and Russia as spoils of war—but Italy was an ally. After the destruction of Naples by the fleeing Germans, the leader of the Kunstschutz, the “art protection” unit, was ordered to Italy to guard her works of art. Instead, art was removed from carefully arranged hiding places in the countryside and taken to the north for “protection.” The author focuses on the work of art professor Dean Keller and art historian Fred Hartt of the American Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section. These two men, who had overwhelming passion for Italy and her enormous artistic heritage, chased into cities before the fires of war had barely cooled, designating which areas were to be protected until secured. It was only through Keller’s work with a team of army engineers, fresco specialists and Italian military that we are able today to see the frescoes of Pisa’s Camposanto, blown off the walls by Allied bombs. Both men worked their way up the peninsula from Sicily, but their concentration was in Tuscany. Curiously enough, they were aided by Gen. Karl Wolff, the SS leader in Italy—whether it was his love of art or self-protection as the end of the war loomed is a matter for debate.
Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures.
Alongside the Allies’ push north against the Nazis, there was another war fought in WWII Italy, a battle to preserve the country’s rich cultural contribution to Western civilization. With Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic TheLast Supper nearly demolished by a bomb, protecting the nation’s art became an urgent task, requiring hundreds of paintings and sculpture to be hidden throughout the country (Michelangelo’s David was entombed in brick). The group assigned to save the art in Italy was made up of 40 American and British “Monuments Men.” Edsel (who has trod this ground before, in The Monuments Men, 2009) clearly presents the war in Italy as a battle not just to occupy the land but also to preserve the country’s culture. In urgent and precise prose, he puts the reader in the cockpit, the foxhole, and the cramped offices of those charged with saving the artwork. Most of the pilfering and destruction of art treasures was done by the Nazis, of course, but Edsel points out that the Allies were not blameless, either. This is a must-read for WWII buffs and anyone interested in the fight for art history.
Dallas Morning News
Among the tragic victims of war — the dead, the maimed, the dispossessed — the fate of works of art would seem to be our least concern. Is a single painting worth a man’s life? How many archaeological sites have been obliterated, how many museums looted while whole towns and villages perished?
Yet somehow we do care. It is not so much the loss of treasure that we mourn when a library is burned or a museum bombed, though that can be considerable. We mourn the loss of history, culture, memory. Of time itself.
This is a book about that loss and its recovery, by a man who has become more than an expert. Dallas native Robert Edsel made a fortune on oil and gas exploration and in the late 1990s retired to Florence, Italy, where he became intrigued by the story of the treasures looted and lost during World War II. Since then he has dedicated a considerable part of his fortune to telling that story in books and film (Rescuing Da Vinci, The Monuments Men) and creating a foundation to search out those treasures and return them to their rightful owners.
In this thrilling new history, Edsel (The Monuments Men) describes the valiant Allied efforts to safeguard the great cultural treasures of an Italy knee-deep in the violence of WWII. The story focuses on three groups: the British and American scholars who form the Allies’ Monuments, Fine Art and Archive (MFAA) team tasked with finding and protecting priceless stolen artworks; the Vatican clergy and museum directors responsible for the safety of their own collections; and the Nazi leaders who coveted Italy’s Titians, da Vincis, and Botticellis. The cast of colorful characters includes an “introverted, sensitive” Yale art professor, a conflicted former archaeologist turned SS officer, and a Tuscan “Superintendent of Monuments and Galleries” whose job it was to get the great artworks out of Florence (where they risked being destroyed by Allied bombings) and into the countryside. Edsel has compiled an astonishing amount of primary research from European and American sources to tell this fascinating, fast-paced story, and military and art historians, as well as fans of adventurous nonfiction, will appreciate this well-written and informative reminder that war threatens not only the generations who fight it, but also the artistic triumphs of those who came before. 60 illus. & maps. Agent: Michelle Weiner, Creative Artists Agency. (May)
“Saving Italy is an astonishing account of a little known American effort to save Italy’s vast store of priceless monuments and art during World War II. While American warriors were fighting the length of the country, other Americans were courageously working alongside to preserve the irreplaceable best of Italy’s culture. Read it and be proud of those
who were on their own front lines of a cruel war.”
“An amazing story, superbly told. The narrative and research are exceptionally well done. Edsel has done a great service not only to tell the story of the Monuments Men and the work they did in Italy but also to remind mankind what the Germans did. I believe that Saving Italy is a major contribution to the history of World War II.”
Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller
“Robert Edsel weaves a suspenseful tale worthy of an Indiana Jones plot.
He pulls you into a dangerous web of intrigue in which the Vatican, top German SS generals, American OSS operatives and Italian officials are entwined in top-secret negotiations to end the war. A must read for any WWII history enthusiast.”
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"The Monuments Men," Directed by and Starring George Clooney.
Berlin, Ger., March 5, 2013 - Sony Pictures
– Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox announced today that The Monuments Men
, a Smokehouse production directed by and starring George Clooney, has started production in Berlin, Germany. The action-thriller is written by Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Clooney and Heslov also produce the film through their Smokehouse Productions. It is their first production since winning the Academy Award® for Best Picture for their work on Argo
. Barbara A. Hall is executive producer. The Monuments Men
is a co-production with Germany's Siebente Babelsberg Film GmbH, a subsidiary of Studio Babelsberg AG. Charlie Woebcken, Christoph Fisser and Henning Molfenter serve as co-producers. Sony Pictures will release the film domestically, with Twentieth Century Fox handling international territories.
The all-star cast includes Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and John Goodman.
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Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men
focuses on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements.
Clooney's crew on The Monuments Men
includes director of photography Phedon Papamichael, ASC, Oscar®-nominated production designer Jim Bissell, Academy Award®-winning editor Stephen Mirrione, A.C.E., costume designer Louise Frogley, and five-time Oscar® nominated composer Alexandre Desplat.
The Monuments Men
continues filming in Germany and the United Kingdom through the end of June 2013. It is scheduled for domestic release on February 7, 2014.
"What Clooney has crafted in The Monuments Men
is a movie about aspiration, about culture at risk, about things worth fighting for. I'd call that timely and well worth a salute." - Rolling Stone Magazine
About Sony Pictures
Entertainment Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; a global channel network; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of entertainment in 159 countries. For additional information, go to http://www.sonypictures.com/.
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Twentieth Century Fox International is a unit of 20th Century Fox Film, a division of News Corporation. One of the world's largest producers and distributors of motion pictures, 20th Century Fox Film produces, acquires and distributes motion pictures throughout the world. These motion pictures are produced, acquired or distributed by the following units of 20th Century Fox Film: Twentieth Century Fox, 20th Century Fox International, Fox 2000 Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox International Productions, and Twentieth Century Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios. Additional information can be found at http://www.foxmovies.com.
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The Monuments Men were a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, or MFAA. Most had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job description was simple: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could during combat.
These men not only had the vision to understand the grave threat to the greatest cultural and artistic achievements of civilization, but then joined the front lines to do something about it.
The Monuments Men had a mandate from President Roosevelt and the support of General Eisenhower, but no vehicles, gasoline, typewriters, or authority.
In a race against time to save the world’s greatest cultural treasures from destruction at the hands of Nazi fanatics, each man gathered scraps and hints to construct his own treasure map using records recovered from bombed cathedrals and museums, the secret notes and journals of Rose Valland, a French museum employee who secretly tracked Nazi plunder through the rail yards of Paris, and even a tip from a dentist during a root canal.
These unlikely heroes, mostly middle-aged family men, walked away from successful careers into the epicenter of the war, risking—and some losing—their lives. Like other members of the Greatest Generation, they embodied the courageous spirit that enabled the best of humanity to
defeat the worst.
This is their story. Soon to be a feature film from Sony Pictures.
Wall Street Journal
The way Robert Edsel tells the story, it all began in 1997 on the Ponte Vecchio. He'd recently sold his oil-and-gas exploration business for $37 million, and moved to Florence with no grand plan except to find a grand passion.
"I'd always been interested in art and architecture, but I'd never had any courses. And I thought, 'Well, I'm in Florence and there are all these art-history professors, so I should go around and learn about the subject.' I was reading about 10 books a week because I had the time," said Mr. Edsel, 56, who's tall and lean (a former nationally ranked tennis player, he still logs regular court time with his good friend Rod Laver) and has a shock of white hair that he keeps futilely shoving back from his forehead. But what you mostly notice is the intensity. That and the apologetically long answers to any and all questions.
At one point in his tutorial, Mr. Edsel became immersed in "The Rape of Europa," a chronicle of the Nazis' looting and theft. "I remember standing on the Ponte Vecchio. I knew I wasn't a World War II historian, but I knew enough to know that Europe had been beaten to pieces," he said, sitting at a conference table in his downtown office here. "So if the continent was in shambles, how did all these works of art survive? They didn't have legs. They didn't go hide on their own. So I started asking people in Florence, and they all said 'that's an amazing question.'"
The onetime oil man has been drilling for answers ever since, first with "Rescuing Da Vinci" (2006), a book of photographs, and then with "The Monuments Men" (2009), an account of a special Allied force—museum directors, curators and conservators—who risked their lives to keep the world's masterpieces from falling into enemy hands.
A film adaptation of "Monuments Men," co-written, produced and directed by George Clooney, who also stars with Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett, is due out in December; Mr. Edsel is confident that the movie will give a nice lift to the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, the nonprofit he established half a dozen years ago to safeguard the legacy of his "protagonists" and to help complete their mission of returning stolen treasures to their owners.
And now Mr. Edsel has a new book, "Saving Italy," a companion volume of sorts to "The Monuments Men." His original plan was to tell both stories between a single set of covers, "but when I was writing 'Monuments Men' and it got to 500, 600, 700 pages it was clear that something had to go.
Read more ...
The Washington Post
We tend in these permissive times to embrace an expansive and often sentimental definition of heroism, in the process elevating to heroic status men and women whose actions, however admirable, remarkable and courageous, fall short of the self-sacrificial. Were the Allied (mostly American) soldiers who rescued works of art stolen by the Nazis before and during World War II really heroes, as Robert M. Edsel claims in "The Monuments Men," or were they good men -- aided by one resourceful, determined French woman -- who were simply, in the best sense of the phrase, just doing their jobs?"
As part of his twisted vision of the future, Adolf Hitler planned to construct the world's finest museum — the eponymous Führermuseum — in his hometown of Linz, Austria. By stocking it with the world's greatest works of art, he hoped to showcase the superiority of Aryan artists over their supposedly "degenerate" Jewish counterparts. Within months of invading Poland in 1939, Nazi troops began seizing selected pieces — including paintings by Raphael, Rembrandt and Vermeer — from churches, museums and private art collections. The artworks were then hidden in mines and remote castles for safekeeping until the war ended. This gripping history of the soldiers who worked during the war to track down and save imperiled masterworks of European art seized by the Nazi’s, is very good reading. Edsel’s account takes the more general tale told in Lynn Nicholas’ excellent The Rape of Europa and makes it more personal and dramatic. A fascinating topic and well told to boot.
Now cut to John Olbrantz, Hallie Ford's director. He read "The Monuments Men" last Christmas after his wife gave him the book, and he started thinking about Hallie Ford's own connection to a Monuments Man: Mark Sponenburgh, whose name stands above a major gallery of the museum.
Sponenburgh landed in France with the Army's 9th Engineer Battalion in 1944. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and his unit saved a key bridge at Remagen so Allied troops could enter Germany.
After Hitler fell, Sponenburgh was transferred to the Monuments Men.
"He led the first convoy of looted treasures from the Alt Aussee salt mine in Austria to a collecting point in Munich," said Olbrantz .
Sponenburgh went on to a distinguished post-war career teaching art at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. After his retirement, he donated his art collection to Willamette University.
"The Hallie Ford Museum of Art would not exist if not for Mark Sponenburgh and his wonderful gift of European, Asian and American art in 1990," said Olbrantz.
WWII was the most destructive war in history and caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items remain missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe's great art, and they were called the Monuments Men. (Coincidentally or not, this book appears only briefly after Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers: The Untold Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II, Reviews, June 1.) Edsel has presented their achievements in documentaries and photographs. He and Witter (coauthor of the bestselling Dewey) are no less successful here. Focusing on the organization's role in northwest Europe, they describe the Monuments Men from their initial mission to limit combat damage to structures and artifacts to their changed focus of locating missing items. Most had been stolen by the Nazis. In southern Germany alone, over a thousand caches emerged, containing everything from church bells to insect collections. The story is both engaging and inspiring. In the midst of a total war, armies systematically sought to mitigate cultural loss.
Their initial responsibility was to mitigate combat damage, primarily to structures—churches, museums, and other important monuments. As the war progressed and the German border was breached, their focus shifted to locating movable works of art and other cultural items stolen or otherwise missing. Harvard alumni played important roles in creating and staffing the MFAA, among them Paul Sachs ’00, director of the Fogg Art Museum, Mason Hammond ’25 (future Pope professor of the Latin language and literature), Lincoln Kirstein ’30 (future founder of the New York City Ballet), and James Rorimer ’27 (future director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). But the hero of this new work is George Stout, A.M. ’29, formerly lecturer on design and conservator at the Fogg. These excerpts from throughout the book (reprinted with permission) focus on his nearly forgotten role.
Dallas Morning News
Edsel says the book gives readers a more personal glimpse into the lives
of the Monuments Men than his past projects. Edsel co-produced a documentary on the subject, The Rape of Europa, which he says offers a scholarly telling of the story. "It does explain about how the Monuments Men were created, but it tells stories about these figures in academic terms," he says. "You have to tell the story in a way that people can
connect with it."
As part of his twisted vision of the future, Adolf Hitler planned to construct the world's finest museum — the eponymous Führermuseum — in his hometown of Linz, Austria. By stocking it with the world's greatest works of art, he hoped to showcase the superiority of Aryan artists over their supposedly "degenerate" Jewish counterparts. Within months of invading Poland in 1939, Nazi troops began seizing selected pieces — including paintings by Raphael, Rembrandt and Vermeer — from churches, museums and private art collections. The artworks were then hidden in mines and remote castles for safekeeping until the war ended.
Monuments Men's discoveries included five rail cars containing 148 crates of stolen paintings. In some of the crates were the holdings of the major art dealers of Paris seized by a special German "cultural conservation program." Two of France's greatest treasures — the Bayeux Tapestry and Da Vinci's Mona Lisa — remained in France during the war, preserved by French museum officials. But, in Hitler's view of the future, they would become treasures of the great German empire. The world's outstanding culture center would be the Fuhrer-museum in Linz, his Austrian hometown, which had became part of the Third Reich when his troops marched into Austria in 1938.
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Read an Excerpt
Rescuing Da Vinci uses 460 photographs to tell the
"untold story of the 'Monuments Men'" and their
discovery of more than 1,000 repositories filled with millions of items including paintings, sculptures,
furniture, archives and other treasures stolen
during WWII by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
Rescuing Da Vinci includes photographs of Hitler designing the Führer Museum, along with photographs of the extraordinary measures taken by museum officials in Europe to protect their masterpieces from the Nazis' planned looting. Ultimately, Hitler and the Nazis' unprecedented theft of Europe gave way to the greatest treasure hunt in history, the search for art and other treasures valued at more than a billion dollars!
The Allies created a special force known as Monuments, Fine Art and Archives Section comprised of museum directors, curators and art historians- men and women from more than 13 nations who spent more than six years locating, rescuing and then returning these treasures to the countries from which they were stolen. Efforts to locate and return missing artwork continue to this day.
The Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Edsel has collected hundreds of photographs documenting the extent of the Nazis' looting and the Allies' efforts to protect or rescue art treasures. We see Goering's private museum of stolen masterpieces, American soldiers recovering Leonardo's "Lady With an Ermine" and Rembrandt's rolled-up "Night Watch" being transported across Holland to safety. Particularly memorable is a photograph of the massive "Winged Victory" sculpture in the Louvre being lowered down the museum steps with ropes and pulleys before to its evacuation in advance of the Nazi invasion. One shudders with gratitude -- for the fact that the piece survived the war and for a book that reminds us of what is at stake when the enemies of civilization seize power."
The Chicago Tribune
"Rescuing Da Vinci by Robert M. Edsel...is a crime story, writ so large it covers a continent. It gathers together, for the first time, nearly 500 photos documenting the Nazi theft of tens of thousands of artworks from European museums and private collections. And it details the immense, painstaking, though little-recognized, efforts of Allied armies to recover and return these precious items."
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World War II was not just the most destructive conflict in humanity, it was also the greatest theft in history: lives, families, communities, property, culture and heritage were all stolen.
The Rape of Europa Collector's Edition includes the award-winning documentary film, The Rape of Europa, based on the book by Lynn Nicholas, and narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Joan Allen. It also features interviews with key figures including the Monuments Men and other war heroes, victims of the Nazis thefts, and prominent cultural figures including Major Corine Wegener (retired), a modern day Monuments woman who served in Iraq.
The Rape of Europa Collector's Edition addresses the questions of our time about the role of art in defining culture, and our shared responsibility to protect it. Included are Charlie Rose's interviews with author Lynn Nicholas and Robert M. Edsel, co-producer of The Rape of Europa and author of the companion book, Rescuing Da Vinci. The collectors edition includes 7 hours of additional footage.
The Washington Post
How Adolf Hitler could slaughter millions, yet also revere art -- humankind's most crystalline celebration of beauty, truth and its own spiritual essence -- is the central conundrum at the heart of "The Rape of Europa."
Based on Lynn Nicholas's book of the same name, it details how the Nazis systematically stole, repatriated and collected the paintings and other art objects of Jews and other victims across Europe. It also draws our attention to the central irony of Hitler's beginnings as a failed artist in Austria before he decided to paint his name in blood instead. He was a fanatical collector, and his ultimate dream was to create a city of art museums and monuments in Linz, Austria, which would enshrine his legacy. He was still obsessing about its plans in his final moments.
The documentary, directed by Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham and Richard Berge, spills over with those and other fascinating facts and testimony: the way, for instance, the staff of the Hermitage museum in (what was then) Leningrad, Russia, prepared to spirit away their staggering number of treasures from the advancing Third Reich, or Maria Altman's legal battles to reclaim the famous Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was originally stolen by the Nazis. But as we progress ever deeper into the two-hour movie, "Europa" starts to lose its tight focus and becomes a cinematic cataloguing of events across seven countries. Given the moral imperative at the heart of the movie, however, perhaps more is more.
The New York Times
The issues raised by “The Rape of Europa,” a documentary about the Nazi pillaging of art and the Allied effort to return it, can’t be conveniently consigned to the dustbin of history. This story is still playing out, contentiously and emotionally, as art is recovered and heirs sue for restitution. (The case of Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, familiar to many New Yorkers, opens and closes the movie.)
“The Rape of Europa” covers endlessly interesting material: the central role art played for the Nazis; the arriviste connoisseurship of Hitler and Goering; the Germans’ different treatment of cities like Krakow (spared for its Germanic art) and Warsaw (almost obliterated for its Slavic art and sensibility). It also raises endlessly interesting questions: Should soldiers’ lives be risked to save historic sites and artwork? Can a culture survive if its art is wiped out?
"The Rape of Europa," an engrossing film based on Lynn Nicholas' 1995 book of the same name, offers a fascinating new perspective on an era that sometimes seems as if it has no more secrets. The documentary, directed by Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham and Richard Berge, tells the story of the Nazis' cultural scavenging with remarkable archival material, newly shot footage and interviews. In city after city across the Soviet Union, Poland, Holland and France, elite troops entered with itemized lists of masterworks to impound for Hitler's vast private collection or to be shipped back to museums in Germany.
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Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection is the first biography to focus on Goering’s personal collection, providing the first opportunity since the war to look at the collection as a whole and evaluate its place within art collecting and politics.
The Most Comprehensive Picture of the Goering Collection to Date
A must for serious students, art historians, curators and other scholars, this carefully documented volume is critical to the clarification of provenances of the objects featured and brings to light pictures whose histories and whereabouts have been hidden for decades.
Based on seven years of exhaustive research by leading art historian and curator Nancy Yeide of the National Gallery of Art, this book draws on inventories, correspondence, memoranda, and post-war investigations by both the Allies and the German government to provide the most complete picture ever created of Goering’s art collection.
About the Author
The head of the Department of Curatorial Records at The National Gallery of Art since 1990, Nancy Yeide has been involved in World War Two-era provenance for the last decade. As an internationally recognized expert on the history of art collecting in the 19th and 20th centuries, she has taken a leading role in conducting provenance research on works in the Gallery’s collection and has spoken and written widely on the subject.
In 2001, she co-authored the American Association of Museum’s Guide to Provenance Research, helping to set and define national standards of provenance.
Yeide was awarded the prestigious Ailsa Mellon Bruce Sabbatical Curatorial Fellow for 2002-2003, during which time she researched the art collection of Reichsmarschall Hermann for her catalogue raisonné Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection.
Yeide’s work has also appeared in such distinguished publications such as Apollo, Archives of American Art Journal and Museum News. She holds a Master of Arts from American University and serves on a number of professional advisory panels as well as frequently lecturing on a variety of topics and universities and museums around the world. Ms. Yeide and her husband Harry, a foreign affairs analyst and author of World War II military history, live in Maryland.
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