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The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  5,188 Ratings  ·  187 Reviews
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
The cast of characters includes Hitler and Goering, Gertrude Stein and Marc Chagall--not to mention works by artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso. And the story told in this superbly researched and suspenseful book is that of the Third Reich's war on European culture and the Allies' desperate effort to preserve it
Hardcover, 498 pages
Published April 12th 1994 by Knopf (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 18, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Lynn Nichols,

I'm very sorry that I have had to give up on your informative, well-researched, and extensively annotated book. I'm sure that if I'd finished it, it would have been awesome, so I'm going to go ahead and give it five stars anyway.

You see, Netflix has this great new feature where you can download movies and watch them immediately. I'm going to watch the documentary instead. Yes, I normally prefer to read the book, but in this case I'm going to make an exception.

Oh, and another re
I finished reading this book almost exactly a year ago. And in the year that has since passed, I have attempted to wrap my head around everything meticulously laid out in the 450 pages of tiny black print that make up this book. I find that I grapple with the knowledge I gained here more often than I could have possibly imagined. You know how people use solar eclipses to glance directly at the sun? Well, I have found that it is through this book that I have started to honestly fathom the horrifi ...more
John and Kris
Feb 23, 2009 John and Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the enlightening Rape of Europa; it is now on my All-Time Favorites shelf for the following reasons:

1) For posing the question: Ultimately, what is art worth? Is it worth human life?

2) It was different look at the historic events of Europe in the 1930’s and 1940’s all while adding to my disgust, disbelief, and hatred of the Nazis. As a Band of Brothers character says: “The Nazis appear to be bad, very bad.”

3) I am fascinated by art and know almost nothing about its history, sty
May 14, 2009 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, art-history
I have read "Rescuing Da Vinci" and also seen the DVD "The Rape of Europa", so I am now reading the original book that was the catalyst for the book and DVD. Lynn Nicholas is interviewed in the DVD and I decided to read her book and learn more.

******** after reading the book *********

Having read "Rescuing Da Vinci" and having watched the DVD "The Rape of Europa", I thought I would read the book that started it all. Lynn Nicholas, who is interviewed extensively on the DVD, wrote this book to docu
Nov 24, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pia Zadora
Shelves: european-history, art
It seems like a lot of readers found this unattractively dense and fact-packed, but I thoroughly enjoyed it - as much as one can enjoy a book largely about the looting of art treasures from Jews and other war victims. Nicholas meticulously researched her subject for years, combing through institutional archives and privately held papers and interviewing various surviving owners of the looted collections. It's a fascinating story, full of villains and heroes, one that hasn't ended yet; there are ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Dec 05, 2010 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it really liked it
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: art lovers group here at GR
Shelves: art-history, nazis
This one has some interesting choices in structure, and reads a little as if Nicholas were suffering from "I did all this research, so you're going to read about it!" syndrome. But very, very interesting.

All about the passions aroused by art in wartime. How to protect? How to find (by thief or otherwise)? To whom to return it?

Also I love the factoid learned here that Hitler was reading a biography of Ghengis Khan during the sack of Warsaw.
Mar 05, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World War II was, for a few, a historic opportunity to loot and pillage. And the theft of artwork, along with other forms of national treasure, was perfected and institutionalized on the grandest scale by the Nazis. Hitler was of course involved, but Goering was considerably more preoccupied. He stole, traded, and hoarded an enormous quantity of valuables (paintings, sculptures, tapestries, precious metals, gems, ceremonial objects, rare books, furniture, you name it) to fill his cavernous estat ...more
Nov 21, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i almost forgot that historical non-fiction can be a total tear-jerker. i got a little misty-eyed here and there when the author accounted for both allied and axis measures to protect art during the cultural holocaust of the 2nd ww. emotions aside, i admire how well-researched this book is, so hats off to lynn nicholas. if you have any interest or inclination toward this subject/era, its a good way to learn more about the 2nd ww esp. if you prefer an art history/cultural approach to the subject. ...more
Mar 05, 2011 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Art was very fashionable in the new regime. In October 1933, only months after becoming Chancellor, Hitler laid the cornerstone of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, his first major public building project. Only later did the fact that the ceremonial hammer broke in his hands assume significance."

The Rape of Europa is a culmination of years worth of research about the systematic theft of Europe's greatest art treasures during World War II. The author, Lynn H. Nicholas, successfully takes
Jun 17, 2008 Erik rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it does often read like a laundry list of people, events, and places in art world of war-torn Europe during the late 30’s and 40’s, I will say I was in awe of Nicholas’s research into this often-ignored area of WWII history. His ability to explain human motivation and exploitation of artistic works of art in extreme minutiae is second to none. The description of the great mass of refuges from Belgium and the Netherlands who descended into France before the latter's fall – along with mas ...more
Sep 03, 2016 Darla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Another rating quandary...LH's research is astounding, her attention to detail unparalleled.; unfortunately it made my brain go into overload and I couldn't keep track of everything (anything?). I found the post WW2 debates on what to do with everything most interesting. It is fascinating to think of art still to be found. Bottom line, my rating is more to do with my attention span and less to do with the quality of writing.
Mar 17, 2016 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author chronicles both the theft of European art works by the Nazis and then the collection, storage return of the same works to their rightful owners at the end of the second world war.

The scale of the thefts and the the illicit dealing in artworks is mind boggling. It seems that the Nazis left no stone unturned in their search for works of art which suited the racial bias - never mind the destruction of the so called "decadent" works. Not only paintings, drawings, sculpture were stolen an
Cori Sherman North
Favorite bit, page 194-5: [in Leningrad]
"The guardians and their families would live for two long years in the basement below. Despite the cold and the terrible food, being museum people, they soon organized exhibitions from their holdings to maintain morale and to pass the long months of waiting."
Excellent history, and the documentary film made from this is So different, people should both read and watch!
Jun 11, 2008 Leila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book about the looting of art in Europe during WWII. I enjoyed reading this book because the subject matter is very interesting. However, it is very dense and filled with hundreds of names, places, dates, and details. If you're interested in art history and conservation, then this book is perfect for you!
Feb 20, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative, though it does tend to drag. All in all it's written very well and researched comprehensively; in my opinion this is the definitive work on WWII art plunder. If the topic is of interest to you, you're likely to enjoy reading the book.
Liz De Coster
Aug 07, 2008 Liz De Coster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Really, really enjoyed this book. I found the chapters on illicit art trading in Holland, art dealing in the Vichy government, and the last three chapters on the resolution of the war and after to be especially engrossing.
Feb 16, 2016 Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible history of the Nazi's extreme efforts to destroy any art they deemed degenerate and accompanied by the efforts of Hitler and Goering's minions to obtain by whatever means they could priceless art they deemed Germanic for their own collections as well as for the greater glory of Nazi Germany. The book documents the extraordinary efforts, successful and futile to save the cultural artifacts of the countries overrun by the Nazi, including the obliteration of the Polish culture as well ...more
Apr 05, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Nicholas, Lynn. THE RAPE OF EUROPA: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. (1994). ****. This is a meticulously researched and documented study of the less-than-legal and outright theft of art works by members of the German Third Reich before and during the period its dominance of conquered countries. These include such diverse works as the treasures of Quedlinburg, the Trojan Gold, and the Amber Room at Catherine’s Palace. This is a dense book that attempts ...more
This book was assigned summer reading when I was in high school. I was in the IB program, and we were going to discuss this book extensively in my social studies class. I hated it. It seemed so tedious and just packed through with boring facts. This is what happened to work of art A; this is what happened to work of art B; this is what happened to work of art C... On and on. So I didn't read much of it. I sort of skimmed. Really it probably couldn't even be called skimming. I was really afraid I ...more
G Hodges
Apr 28, 2012 G Hodges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good grief. For those of you who don't like or understand Art, you may want to read this to learn about the absolute passion it engenders. I was disgusted by the greed and art-lust of the Nazis and Allies before and during the war. And then I was stunned by the complications of 'repatriating' the art works. The greed and art-lust reared it's ugly head in new and profound ways.

As to the book itself, it was very dense. Well written, but dense. You have to have a real interest in the topic. If you
Apr 03, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ncholas provides the backstory to the less dense and detailed story of the rescue of European art provided by The Monuments Men. She begins with the Nazi strategy, formulated in the 1930s, to both purge European culture of "degenerate"art (art by Jews and the works of the Impressionists) and acquire an extensive collection of major works for Hitler's planned art museum in Linz, Austria. Nicholas also tracks the competition for acquisition of major works between Hitler and Goering and the art tra ...more
May 01, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I debated long and hard the rating of this book. Lynn Nicholas' THE RAPE OF EUROPA (ISBN 978-0679756866, trade paperback, $18.00) details the activities of the Nazis from Hitler to frontline troops in taking the art of France, Belgium, Poland, Holland and other countries before and during WWII.

The first part of the book was nearly a theft-by-purchase-by-trade description of how each valuable painting and sculpture, plus books, household goods and more, ended up in Germany and Austria. I felt as
Feb 15, 2016 Kerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rightly, when we think of war, we think about the human cost and displacement that occurs. But cultural heritage suffers too, with artworks and manuscripts at risk of destruction and loss. In the incredible upheavels of WWII, art traded hands (either legitimately or under duress), was transported and hidden in less-than-ideal conditions, or simply destroyed. Those who understood the importance of artwork fell into three camps: those who wanted to use it for their own gain and those who wanted to ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Genna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii-non-fiction
An epic chronicling the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazi Party against the art, history, and culture of Europe. Nicholas has painstakingly recorded with impeccable detail the looting of museums, confiscation of personal collections of Jewish citizens and fleeing refugees, and the burning and systematic destruction of countless works and artifacts deemed "degenerate" by Hitler and his Nazi underlings. The Rape of Europa simultaneously highlights the triumphant resistance efforts and qu ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a detailed account of how Hitler, Goering, unscrupulous and greedy art dealers and the Nazi's managed to steal and/or destroy much of the art work, furniture, rugs, tapestries, jewelry etc in Europe while they fought to conquer everything in site…It is absolutely fascinating. She writes about the dedicated 'monuments men' who fought for the return of all 'stolen' artwork to their original owners… even those of Germany… although many would have liked to use the German treasures as re ...more
This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read and will lead to more with the same themes.
I knew, of course, the Nazis of Hitler's Third Reich had stolen, seized and destroyed artwork throughout the conquered and allied parts of Europe, but never knew to what extent. This book lists art works found and lost in its highly researched, but easily read pages. It is a sickening story of greed as the Nazi hierarchy, and nearly everyone else with the chance, stole Europe's public and priv
Jeannie and Louis Rigod
This book is an excellent text book of the period of the Second World War and the treasures that were stolen during the same. I got weary with all the names thrown in that the Author assumes the reader knows. I was reading this book to learn more about Art and the book failed in this respect. I finally finished the book. It is an excellent reference book but not too readable to me.
Pak Sun Ng
Highly appealing topic. Very extensive facts. Recommended for really interested readers or academics.

A thorough, highly detailed account on the movement, confiscation, and recovery of European masterworks before, during, and after World War II. Amazingly well-researched, the overall narrative is insightful and organized. The reader follows famous works of art and prominent figures in the art world as Nazi Germany rises to prominence and uses art as a tool for bargaining power, political legitimacy and domestic/international propaganda. Art plays a major role in Nazi rhetoric and principles.
Megan Wohler
I'm sad to say, as another reviewer has mentioned, I did not make it very far in the book.
I took a great interest in the movie Monument Men and wanted to read more about the history surrounding the art "rape" of Europe. What I learned from my reading was very interesting, but just two chapters in to my reading, I gave up.
There are many different names of people, artists, places mentioned one after the other and I frequently found myself terribly lost and distracted.
The story was terribly hard
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From Random House:

Lynn H. Nicholas was born in New London, CT, and educated in the U.S., England, and Spain. The Rape of Europa, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, has been translated into eight languages. It inspired an international movement to locate and repatriate works of art and other property confiscated and stolen by individuals and governments before and during World War II
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