Kathleen's Reviews > The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
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May 21, 10

Read in May, 2010

Art tied up with history--not so much art history, but the fascinating story of the recovery of European art stolen by the Nazis by a relatively few but very dedicated group of curators, architects, sculptors and art professors from America and England. They follow the Allied armies into France soon after D-Day in Normandy, and some are actually killed in action. The two art works Edsel showcases are the Bruges Madonna by Michelangelo and the Ghent Altarpiece, both found hidden with thousands of other artworks in salt mines in southern Germany after Hitler's suicide. There's a marvelous Frenchwoman, Rose Valland, who stayed at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, which the Nazis used as the loading point as they shipped (mostly by rail) the artworks back to Germany. She listened, recorded details at home, and tipped off some of the French Resistance. They completely overlooked her, and she was the key to the recovery of most of the art. Some has never been found. The Monuments Men in the U.S. became heads of most of the major American museums from Boston to New York to San Francisco, and they were humble men dedicated to the preservation of Western art--"heroes of civilization." Good story but a little disjointed of necessity as the author goes back and forth from the Third Army to the Seventh. There's good subplot about Harry Ettlinger, whose Jewish family barely escapes Germany a day after his bar mitzvah. As an American just out of high school, he comes back as a translator, becomes one of the monuments men, and recovers his deceased grandfather's small collection of art.
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