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

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  47,793 ratings  ·  3,748 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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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  47,793 ratings  ·  3,748 reviews

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Start your review of The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Jan 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
David Baldacci
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
3 stars: 2 stars for the writing, which is tedious, and 4+ for the fascinating WWII 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 the movie based upon it) came out, and for this the authors deserve a great deal of credit. The o ...more
Carl Brookins
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it
In the movie version of this book, there is an early scene with all of the big-name actors playing the Monuments Men being briefed about their mission to save art from the Nazis during World War II. George Clooney reminds them that Hitler was rejected from art school, and shows a picture of a painting that Hitler had made. One actor says, "That's not bad." Matt Damon retorts: "It's not good."

The same could be said for this book: It's not terrible, but it's not good.

The history is interesting bu
Sean Gibson
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
You could argue, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree, that there’s no work of art—not the Mona Lisa, not David, not some weird shapes Picasso projectile vomited onto a canvas and somehow convinced people were meaningful—worth more than a human life, let alone 50 million (or considerably more, depending on which data you’re using) lives. So, at first blush, the story of some past-their-prime art historians and preservationists tramping around battlefields trying to save a few paintings and sculpt ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Bryan Alkire
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Mediocre history. I really wanted to like this one since I was encouraged to read it. I ended up disappointed. The idea was interesting and I enjoyed the bits about the art itself, but didn’t like much else. The organization drove me nuts. I don’t like long quotations in text and that’s what I got in virtually every chapter. I found the chapters too episodic and it never quite came together, as if there were too many main characters in a novel. Frankly, I didn’t care all that much about the men ...more
Tom Emory Jr.
Mar 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Begins with the bar mitzvah of Harry Ettlinger in the synagogue of Karlsruhe. It was to be the last bar mitzvah ever held there as a few days later it was burned to the ground during Kristallnacht. Harry and his family manage to get out of Germany just in time. Later Harry will become one of the monuments men. The book then introduces us to several other men employed to protect monuments of cultural importance and track down the art stolen by the Nazis. I enjoyed following these men through semi ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
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
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of history
Recommended to Mark by: George Clooney and friends
Shelves: war, 2015, wwii, history
I did see the movie recently and while I applaud Clooney's attempt to interest the general audiences for a forgotten but spectacular piece of WWII, the movie felt like the highlights of a story that would perhaps have benefited far better with a tv series. In the opening of the book the writer tells about the bit where he left out the Italy based part of the story due to the size of the book, I do hope that story gets its own publication one day.
One thing I am the likes of Clooney grateful for i
Diane S ☔
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019
Thoughts soon.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book a fascinating look at a little known part of World War Two. They (including women, too) were a dedicated bunch of art lovers/experts who tracked down the artwork looted by the greedy Nazis. This volume just deals with their activities in Northern Europe, and it's incredible how much they accomplished. I know little about art, but I appreciated their efforts. Great story about a great group. ...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
A few years ago, on a trip to St. Louis, Missouri and I toured their well-known art museum. I noted a number of paintings on loan by a Jewish family that stated the paintings were returned to the family by the Monument Men. I said to myself I need to read the book. Finally, I just did.

From 1939 to the end of World War II, the Nazis Army seized priceless paintings, sculptures, tapestries and other artworks from museum, palaces, cathedrals and private homes. The Nazi plundered everything and carte
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
I finally finished this book! I started reading a physical copy in April of last year and have picked it up every now and then since, but I decided to finish it for a challenge I'm completing. I knew I would never finish reading the physical copy in time and decided to go with the audiobook.

I really wanted to give this book more than three stars because there is a lot of great information in this story, but while I loved the information, the book was so hard to get through. I think that is why
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, non-fiction
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
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Lynn Pribus
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 basically 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 ob
Feb 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
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
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
Valerie Best
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, nonfiction
I read this book after I saw the movie. Or maybe before, who even remembers? And I totally get why someone wanted to make this into a movie, because it's just absolutely fascinating. But, the real drawback of the movie is what makes the book so good: the scale of this endeavor was unreal. The book succeeds where the movie couldn't--it accurately captures how many events were happening, sometimes simultaneously, to help the men tasked with saving art succeed.

The books' breadth is impressive, and
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
ZaBeth  Marsh
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
Ilze Folkmane
Feb 18, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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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

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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.” 19 likes
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