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Thursday, 11 October 2018 05:02

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

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HAMLET - "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey. 

I am an avid reader of historical fiction. I love books placed in a real place and time but with new and developed fictional characters. I also love genuine history, real stories about real people doing amazing things. That’s what The Monuments Men is all about.

During the reign of Adolf Hitler in Germany while he was attempting to conquer the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. 

 The Fuehrer had begun cataloging the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised. Some he planned to save and display in his own museum as well. 

In a race against time, and behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. 

This book focuses on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this captivating account follows six of the Monuments Men and their incredible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis. 

I knew the basics of this story when I started the book but I did not realize the scale of the crime committed nor did I understand how far these allied forces had to go to mitigate the damage. The Nazis took trainloads of art and hid it away. Logistical efforts on a massive scale were required to not only record what art had been stolen but also get it returned after the war. 

In the beginning, these Monuments Men were given very little assistance from the government and even getting transportation often proved extremely difficult. Because of these difficulties the Monuments Men became masters of improvisation. 

The Monuments Men managed to save countless pieces of art from destruction and helped to track down quite large stockpiles that the Nazis had stashed away. It was dangerous work and lives were lost in the process. 

This book is an important read. It gives the reader a wider scope of what WWII and the Nazi Regime was like. The attempt of Hitler to take away a history he did not like says a lot about him. The fight to prevent him from doing so says a lot about the rest of us. 

An interesting note of North Carolina's role in art preservation: In a preventative effort, in case of attack in the United States, some pieces of artwork were even hidden away at the Biltmore Estate.

Last modified on Thursday, 11 October 2018 08:21
Stephanie Thornsbury

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