Thursday, November 7, 2013

1,500 Nazi-Looted Art Works Recovered and The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
Hardcover edition; also available in
Kindle editionabridged audiobook 
CD and paperback edition.
Book Review by
Sharon Powers.

   I find this week's post about The Monuments Men tantalizing just from examining the cover. How can anyone not be intrigued by allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and best of all, a treasure hunt--the greatest one in history? The treasure hunt alone would have sucked me in. I for one, couldn't resist...and then, I saw the trailer for the movie with the same name as the book and literally ran for my Kindle to read the book.

THE BOOK: The book tells the the real life saga of a very little known group of men dubbed The Monuments Men. The Monuments Men were comprised of soldiers serving during World War II. The highly specialized group was needed because Hitler had just pulled off the "greatest theft in history:" by the end of the war some five million cultural and art objects had disappeared  [Kindle Loc. 96]. The Monuments Men didn't take prisoners, they just took back looted art.

  Unlikely heroes...average age? Try forty--the oldest Monuments Man was sixty-six (and a veteran of WW I) with only a few Monuments Men in their twenties. Most were men with expertise as " directors, curators, art scholars, and educators, artists, architects and archivists" [Kindle Loc. 208.], not young, brash and muscled young men out to save the world. As author Robert M. Edsel explains, most of these men were married and had families they left behind, as well as lucrative and accomplished careers. They were to a man, all volunteers.

from a museum at Karlsrühe. Author Robert M. Edsel stated
that no one seemed interested that the 19-year old soldier
(Ettlinger) was "...a German Jew who had grown up three
blocks from that museum, and by chance had descended
seven hundred feet into a mine to behold, for the first time,
a painting he had always heard about, but never had the 
right to see." [Kindle Ed. Loc. 6249 of 7152]

    Robert M. Edsel relates many exciting stories about the events of those war years. He tells the story of Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger, a German Jew who fled his home town of Karlsrühe, Germany with his parents in 1938 and who settled in Newark, New Jersey. After high school, and once in the army, he found his way to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA) in 1945. When Ettlinger finally returned to Karlsrühe it was as a Monuments Man in search of . . ."his grand- father's beloved art collection." [Kindle Loc. 319]
Harry Ettlinger

    Stories abound throughout Edsel's book, everything from George Stout's struggles to get the unit created, near misses in preventing a theft or destruction of art, stories about Rose Valland and the French Resistance, Hitler's wanton destruction of "degenerate" (Jewish and modern) art and books, Hitler's "...pillaging of personal property; the arrest, detention, and systematic annihilation of millions of human beings; to the willful and vengeful destruction of great cities."
The Bruges Madonna by

The Bruges Madonna 
by Michelangelo, recovered.

     Edsel also tells the stories about how many of the looters were apprehended, how numerous works of art recovered, and sadly, how some of the art was lost forever. Edsel relates heart-rending stories of the liberation of the death and work camps, and Hitler's attempts to keep the allied troops from reclaiming the art. Edsel shows the courage and dedication of the Monuments Men in their attempt to recover the art and the danger they faced when they went into the art repositories only to find bombs, nitro glycerin and dynamite staged to go off...putting at risk the art they sought to recover and the very lives of the men themselves.
Soldiers with Jan Vermeer's,
The Astronomer at the
Altaussee salt mine
in Austria (1945).

A SHORT LIST OF SOME CULTURAL OBJECTS LOOTEDThe Bruges Madonna by Michelangelo, the Bayeux Tapestry, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (the Ghent Alterpiece), Jan Vermeer's The Astronomer, Beethoven's original manuscript of the Sixth Symphony, the mortal remains of Frederick the Great and Fieldmarschall von Hindenburg, da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine, Rembrandt's Landscape with the Good Samaritan, Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, Albrecht Durer's original woodcuts of the Apocalypse series of 1498, books and photographs from the library of Fredrick the Great, The Hungarian Crown Jewels, and more.

Ghent Alterpiece : Monument's Man, Daniel J. Kern and art
restorer, Karl Sieber, examine panels of Jan van Eyck's
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. (1945)
See the full Ghent Alterpiece below in color.

    In one town alone the destruction of cultural artifacts was staggering: Saint-Lo's ancient architecture was destroyed along with " astonishing collection of ceramics, numerous private art collections" and priceless illuminated manuscripts that had been brought to Saint-Lo for safekeeping.


This painting by Matisse was recovered along with the other 1,500 paintings and works of art. Other artists in the group include Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Marc Chagall.
This video is courtesy of YouTube:


     Although the sheer number of facts Robert Edsel relates in this book are staggering, he brings a poignant and personal element to each story. He relates the everyday courage and dedication of the men and women who worked to save the

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also called The Ghent Alterpiece. 
George Stout: Lt. Commander
George Leslie Stout received
the Bronze Star Medal and the
Army Commendation Medal for
his service as a Monuments
Man, especially for work in re-
covering art from Altaussee
salt mine.

culture of many countries, and in doing so, The Monuments Men and other unsung heroes of World War II get a little of the credit they deserved so many years ago.

    The book is thought-provoking and even now, as I am drafting this post for my blog, I want to go back and read the story again, to look at the book anew, from a fresh perspective and absorb the wonderment of the stories all over again. These men were truly amazing and my hat's off to Robert Edsel for bringing us this wonderful story. My verdict? Buy the book and read it.

     As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this book is coming to the big screen. The title is the same as the book, The Monuments Men. George Clooney, just having completed a huge success with his new movie, Gravity, starring himself and Sandra Bullock, is not only a star in this picture, but the director as well.

The Monuments Men feature film, a Smokehouse Production,
will be Directed by (and starring) George Clooney; other cast
members will include Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett,
Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Hugh Bonneville.
     I've located a trailer for you to enjoy, below. I hope you like watching it as much as I have. Apparently, Cate Blanchett has been cast in the role of Rose Valland, Matt Damon as James Rorimer and John Goodman as Garfield; George Clooney, of course will  claim the roll of George Stout. The feature film is set for domestic release on February 7, 2014. I for one, am planning on going to see it.

My rating for this book.
Other reviews:
3.87 out of 5 Stars: Barnes & Noble (70 Reviewers)
3.83 out of 5 Stars: Goodreads (2,821 Reviewers)
4.3 out of 5 Stars: Amazon (171 Reviewers)

White Rose.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. If you did, please comment and share. My best to you, until my next posting.

Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading!

_____________________________________________ - The Monument's Men by Robert M. Edsel, hardcover edition; -  The Monument's Men by Robert M. Edsel, Kindle Ed.; - The Monument's Men by Robert M. Edsel, paperback ed.;  - The Monument's Men by Robert M. Edsel, abridged audiobook CD; - The Monuments Men Feature Film (Article); - Harry Ettlinger with Rembrandt; - The Bruges Madonna by Michaelangelo; - The Bruges Madonna, recovered; - NBC News; - The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (The Ghent Altarpiece); - Chartres Cathedral; - Soldiers with Jan Vermeer's, The Astronomer at Alt Aussee Saltmine, Austria (1945); - George Stout; - Monuments Men Dale V. Ford and Harry Etlinger with the looted Rembrandt's Self Portrait from a museum in Karlsruhe; - My rating for this book: 4 stars; - Barnes & Noble Ratings;