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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  21,398 ratings  ·  2,389 reviews
At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of Am
Hardcover, 473 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Center Street (first published August 20th 2009)
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It’s odd how you think your opinion of a bunch of murderous assholes couldn’t sink any lower, and then you read something like this that makes you realize that they were even worse than you thought. Nazis weren’t just xenophobic bullies who institutionalized mass murder, they were also thieves. They were probably lousy tippers, too.

During World War II a handful of art experts in the Allied military forces took on the challenge of trying to protect the cultural treasures of Europe. As the war ra
Though it's a fascinating bit of history, largely overlooked, this book felt like a chore to get through. There's a plodding to the writing, and a lot of repetitiveness. Repetitiveness throughout. Repeating himself in different ways, as though to pad out the book. Repeat.

Also, it feels like there are a lot of shortcuts in the narrative instead of character development. A few of the Monuments Men emerge with full personalities, but more often the reader is told things like "this brilliantly matc
Carl Brookins
Not a mystery, and not fiction, but the story rooted in the fog of war and the number of questions still unanswered reads like the best mystery fiction. Not a thriller, but full of thrilling, death-defying action, a book written with passion and fire, if not the most meticulous attention to structure and detail, this cautionary tale should be part of the required reading at the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy.
It should also be read by every national politician who contempla
This was a frustrating book to read. The historical content was fascinating - art treasures taken by Nazis from churches and museums in occupied territory for "protection" or, worse, such treasures "acquired" from Jews who were arrested or forced to flee from the front lines of the holocaust. The subject of the book was the hunt for those treasures and their safe return to their rightful owners, if possible, or at least their country of origin. With that story to tell, The Monuments Men should h ...more
David Baldacci
A handful of art warriors take on the Third Reich in this story chock-full of both intrigue and culture. Read it before the movie (starring George Clooney) comes out.
Tom Emory Jr.
BEWARE THE AUDIO -- Stopped before the end of the second of six audio CDs. The reader, Jeremy Davidson, in addition to a failure to correctly pronounce the names of well-known people and places, thinks he's Olivier with his accents. His British accent is irritating but his German accent really put me over the wall.

The audio version is abridged and, even though I was not through the second CD, I could sense the gaps and cuts to the text.

I plan to read the book. It's a good enough story to devote
Mary Ronan Drew
To think I almost didn't read this five-star book because I plan to see the movie!

That would have been a terrible mistake. The movie is based "loosely" on the book. Very loosely indeed. Robert M Edsel's The Monuments Men is a nonfiction account of a group of mostly American art historians, museum curators, and one very special art conservationist from Harvard's Fogg Museum, George Stout. To give you an idea of the stature of these men in the art world, after the war they went on to become the he
Andrew Brozyna
As a veteran of tedious art history classes and a WWII history buff, I was excited to read this book. It details the Allied efforts to track down and reclaim the great art stolen by the Nazis in Europe. The men of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section rode in on the heals of the liberating forces, often arriving while a city was still under enemy fire. They sought out known artworks, protected what was left behind by the retreating Germans (mostly monuments and buildings), and used dete ...more
Kressel Housman
If you’ve paid any attention to the publicity for the star-studded movie adaptation of this book, then you already know a little about the mission of the Monuments Men. They were a group of artists, curators, and scholars commissioned by the Allies to save great works of art from Nazi looting. Going in to the book, I had mixed feelings about the mission. I understand art is important, but not as important as human lives. Six million Jews were being gassed, burnt, starved and worked to death in t ...more
Mar 18, 2014 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Shelves: non-fiction
I almost never read non-fiction, and even then, I never read historical non-fiction, so take my review with a grain of salt. I'm pretty sure I am adding a star just because I learned so much about WWII through this very specific lens of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives officers -- aka the Monuments Men.

I considered listing a few facts I learned while reading, but they make me sound so ignorant I couldn't bear to type them all out. One anecdotal light-bulb-went-off-in-my-head moment I will
I was thrilled to read this part of WWII history that, thanks to Robert Edsel, is finally being giving some long overdue attention.

When I was a student in Paris in 1980, I was aware of Hitler's Nero Decree, particularly for Paris, yet the Germans who had lived there for the 4 years of occupation loved the city so much that they disobeyed and refused to burn the city.

However, I didn't know that my favorite museum, the Jeu de Paume, in which I spent hours, was once a transitory through which all l
David Eppenstein
This is a difficult review to write. I liked the book; well written and, to me, interesting. Unfortunately, I don't think many readers will find it very entertaining. It certainly wasn't a page turner and the fact that it's been made into a movie with a rather large stellar cast has me wondering. The problem both with the book and its movie is the fact that these men worked almost always alone and sporadically in two man teams. Their primary task was to keep Allied armies from destroying Europea ...more
Ilze Folkmane
At this particular point in history, it is quite an occasion to come upon such a huge, unbelievable story that one has never heard of before, as is the case with Edsel's "The Monuments Men". It is clear that this book has been long in the making and that the author has done a mind-boggling amount of research, which is precisely and clearly reflected in the book. Even I, who understand almost nothing of art, was humbled by the story and the work of its main heroes.
However, I could not care less f
I said it before and I will say it again: this book needs a better editor. I like some of the stories but so many of them are repetitive. And I am not interested in reading letters from these men to their wives. Who cares? Give me details on the art saving stuff!

God, the movie sucks.
These scenes never happened:
- no French member. So The Artist wouldn't have died in the arms of Mr. Flintstone
- romance thingy between Valland and Jason Bourne's character
- Lord Grantham did not die in a stupid
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
So interesting. A bit slow to begin with as the background leading up to the need for the protection of Western Europe's cultural heritage during WWII. The bulk of this book follows the monuments men following the Normandy landing as the Allies swept across the western countries of Europe and into Germany. The narration is chronological, so we have frequent jumps between location and people, so the list of the main players at the front of the book was invaluable for helping get the different peo ...more
This was a slog. A one-sentence summary (which might read "The untold true story of how Allied soldiers saved the treasures of Western culture stolen by Nazis") sounds fantastic, but the book is incredibly bogged down in unnecessary details and constant repetition of simple facts and personality traits. The final sections are genuinely exciting, and if I ever get back to Paris I'll have a deeper appreciation for much of what's in the Louvre, but there must be a better way to have arrived at this ...more
Lynn Pribus
Very thoroughly researched and completely new information to me -- the small group of men who strove to protect and recover works of art that were plundered, stolen and "removed for safekeeping" by the Nazis during WWII.

I listened to it and while the reader did adopt some accents, he really just read the book rather than performing it. Some sections were inclined to be a bit, well, long on detail, but overall a very interesting book with staggering statistics.

Thousands of art works and historic
3 1/2 stars: 2 1/2 stars for the writing and 4+ for the history this book relates. The story of the Nazis' wholesale looting of the private and public art treasures of Europe during WWII and the efforts of the Monuments Men, with the aid of some others, to track down and return those treasures, is a significant story that I believe was largely unknown until this book (and more recently the movie) came out, and for this the authors deserve a great deal of credit. Quite a bit of original research ...more
I wanted to read this book before I saw the new George Clooney movie “The Monuments Men.” I have a thing about reading the books that movies are based on. But honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. I was expecting this book to be a history lesson that I needed to hear but would be happy when it was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Robert M. Edsel and Brett Witter make history come alive in truly gripping stories about some of the world’s most valuable artworks during one of the w
Elizabeth A
War is hell, and there are many wonderful books that describe that hell really well. This non-fiction book looks at World War 2 from a different perspective: the preservation of art and culture during times of war.

There is so much I did not know about the men and women who helped preserve historic buildings and great art during WW2. On my travels through Europe, it never even occurred to me to wonder how all the marvels I was looking at survived wartime. I found this book educational, informati
Apr 06, 2014 Mahlon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mahlon by: Katemc
Monuments Men is a wonderful tribute to the vision and sacrifice of the men of the MFAA. Working along with museum curators whose collections had been looted, their mission was two-fold, to prevent damage to monuments still standing, and to find and return those European cultural treasures looted by the Nazi's during WWII.

Given the sheer scope of the story, Edsel wrote the best book he could. However, due to the sheer number of people, countries, and works of art involved, as well as the wide-ra
I could say a lot about this book- that despite the fascinating subject the author wrote it perhaps a bit dry, that the subject is very near and dear to my heart, that at time I was confused as to where they were working within the chronological context of the war, that I was so happy a historian finally included a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, etc. Instead I want to do something a bit different, because I really want you to appreciate what happen instead of focusing just on th ...more
Nancy (NE)
An absolutely fascinating read about the disjointed group of men assigned with the task of preserving and restoring art, most of which was either destroyed in bombings or confiscated by the Nazi's during WWII. Many of these items were either 'appropriated' illegally from Jewish families or cultural treasures taken in conquest. These were hidden, often stored inappropriately in ways that were damaging, but they were fastidiously cataloged. In Hitler's last days, many Nazi fanatics took it upon th ...more
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher. "The Monuments Men" uses letters written by the Monuments Men and other documents to tell the story why the MFAA section was created and what eight of those men encountered while doing work in Normandy, France and in Germany.

The author assumes the reader doesn't know much about WWII and so fills in the details about the war occurring around them as we learn where they went and what they found and did there. The first part is mainly about
I heard the Author on Relevant Radio's Morning Air show. It sounded good, so when I spotted this at the local B&N I bought it.

Starts off a little slow, but sort of grows on one. I've read all kinds of histories of WWII, and I knew that there had been some kind of organization that did something with art works, but I never before knew any details.

It was interesting to get to know a little bit more about some of the individuals involved, although I think the aut
Mike Russo
This book has a hell of a good story -- the Nazi looting of Europe's art was a fascinating crime, showing off Hitler's and Goebbels' pretensions, ruthlessness, and organizational genius, and the Allied effort to track all of that stolen art to the remote castles and hidden mines where it was concealed, not to mention the work to conserve the art and retrace its steps even as World War II continued to rage, was pretty damn impressive. The men and women who spearheaded the effort were also an appe ...more
John Frazier
This is yet another amazing example of what makes World War II so fascinating to me almost 70 years after its conclusion. I had never adequately considered the effects of that war (or any other) on its participants' historical culture, past and art until this book, and I'm glad author Robert Edsel has enlightened me not only to the extent to which a handful of men went to preserve a continent's art history but, conversely, the extremes to which the Nazis went in plundering countries, individuals ...more
As great museums like the Metropolitan or the Chicago Art Institute have in recent years worked to return artwork from their collections that was looted during WWII, I've wondered how they might have acquired these in the first place. This book tells you, in jaw dropping detail. It describes the small group of U.S. military men and women tasked by Eisenhower to try to protect Europe's art, architecture, historic places, from war. The Nazis carted off everything they could get their hands on, inc ...more
I love to learn about things I have been totally ignorant about. I was aware that the Nazi’s in WWII pillaged of all Jewish people’s possessions, especially their art work. However, I did NOT know that at the same time Hitler systematically looted all the major Allied Museums in his pursuit to create his own master Museum in honor of himself. Not only that, I did NOT know that President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower were cognizant of all the important monuments, relics, cathedrals, and artifa ...more
Jason Reeser
Robert Edsel and Bret Witter have done a great job of bringing the story of the Monuments Men back from historical obscurity. I can easily admit to the fact that even though I consider myself a major World War II history buff, and a lover of classical art, I was unaware of these men. It is sad to think that Walker Hancock, James Rorimer, and George Stout have been largely forgotten. Edsel and Witter are to be congratulated for unearthing their story and bringing it to light.

I first heard of the
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  • Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft
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  • Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa
  • Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World
  • Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
  • The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
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  • The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau
Robert M. Edsel is the best-selling author of Saving Italy, The Monuments Men and Rescuing da Vinci and co-producer of the award-winning documentary film The Rape of Europa. Edsel is also the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and a trustee at the National WWII Museum. After living in Florence for five years, he now resides in Dalla ...more
More about Robert M. Edsel...
Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis Rescuing Da Vinci Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection

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“There are fights that you may lose without losing your honor; what makes you lose your honor is not to fight.
-Jaques Jaujard”
“The thought came back to him, as it often did: To save the culture of your allies is a small thing. To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won … it was unheard of, but that was exactly what Walker Hancock and the other Monuments Men intended to do.” 10 likes
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