Friday, October 17, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN: FORGOTTEN HISTORY



The Monrovia Public Library owns the DVD of The Monuments Men, the movie starring George Clooney, which brought attention to a little known group of World War II art experts. Prior to and during WW II, cultural artifacts and architecture were not only stolen and destroyed by the Nazis, but also threatened by battles. It was the job of the monuments men to protect European art. Fictionalized, the movie focuses just on a few men, but there were actually more than 300 men and women in the armed forces who were assigned the task of saving artistic treasures.
 
The movie is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert Edsel. It tells the forgotten story of the art historians, choreographers, artists, architects, museum leaders and professors who abandoned their careers to join this special unit of the allied forces. More than just a history, the book describes the clever efforts of a devoted band that operated by the seat of their pants, with little support, in a race against time and destruction. The book is a page-turner.

The January 2014 Smithsonian magazine, which the library owns, has a terrific article on the Monuments Men. You can also read the article on the Smithsonian Magazine website

There have been many books written on the topic of how the Nazis stole artwork from Jewish families. One of the most interesting is Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft and the Quest for Justice by Melissa Muller. The author chronicles 15 families who lost their art collections and how their heirs continue to search for the pieces. What makes the book so compelling is how family and art history mix with the tragedy of war. Includes great illustrations and family photos.

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