Dec 31, 12
Read in December, 2012
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, including masterpieces from Germanys own museums, storing millions of items in more than 1,000 repositories (salt mines, castles, abbeys) in Germany alone. By the end of the war there was a footrace to keep these priceless pieces from being destroyed by fanatical Nazis bent on blowing up anything that the Allies might want, as well as protecting them from the advancing Russian troops who were suspected of wanting to haul it all off to Russia as payment for what that country had suffered. Some pieces have never been found, either lost in fires and bombings or today gracing a wall in a private home or palace. This is a very well written book, the people are extremely well drawn, and it makes you shed tears to know that this was the only war to have such a unit dedicated to preserving these parts of civilization. Some 15,000 items were looted from the National Museum of Iraq after the U.S. arrived in Baghdad. the U.S. military is trying to recover these but without any of the luck and skill of the men and women in WWII.