56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
What an adventure I just returned from. Saving Italy puts you right back into the Italy of WWII and the threat war meant to the art and monuments of the country. Written from the perspective of the Monuments Men, the Allied art historians who volunteered for service to help saving and protecting whatever they could, as they joined the armies on their way up the Italian peninsula., this book is full of fascinating first hand experiences, combined with historical facts about places and Italian, German and Allied characters involved in the protection (or not) of the cultural heritage of this treasure trove of a country. And on top of that, Robert Edsel compellingly tells the story of how the war in Italy was brought to an early end through secret negotiations between the US Secret Services (OSS) and an SS-General who was in charge of some of the most important works of art Italy owns, the treasures from the Uffizi in Florence. What their fate was, and how Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" in Milan made it through - barely so - you might want to read yourself. Absolutely fascinating! Ollie Hill
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2013
I couldn’t put it down! Saving Italy is a page turner with a compelling narrative that often keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat with suspense. The drawings that Monuments Man Deane Keller sent home to his young son offer a revealing insight into the man’s mixed emotions about his eagerness to help save the treasures of a country he loved in the midst of war, coupled with the loneliness and isolation he felt being separated from the family he adored. The passion and impulsiveness of Monuments Man Fred Hartt help the thrilling adventure of Saving Italy come alive. Edsel does a great job bringing out the very human side of his complex characters, including a little known Nazi General, Karl Wolff. The book is well-researched with many author interviews noted, but is presented in a way that reads more like an espionage novel. I highly recommend Saving Italy not just to those who love art or WWII History, but to anyone looking for an inspiring story about the human spirit and the sacrifices people make to follow their passion, risking their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Five stars doesn't seem like enough!
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
This is an amazing story about a part of WWII history that I was not familiar with. The author did a great job researching and writing this compelling narrative about a "new kind of soldier" empowered to protect rather than destroy. I have read many books about the war but can't remember one that included so many rich details. The characters practically leap off the page. The story is fast-paced, reading more like fiction. As a reader I felt like I was almost part of the adventure. One of the most interesting plots in Saving Italy involves a secret Nazi surrender of Italy in which the art work is held hostage while an SS General negotiates with American spies. I was surprised and riveted by these details. Overall, this is an exciting read and I would highly recommend it. (And I can't wait to see the Clooney movie based on the author's last book, The Monuments Men.)
Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2013
What an amazing story! My father lived in Italy during WWII and I never spoke with him when he was alive about how it was in Italy during the war. Many cities experienced much destruction, including Naples, Milan, Florence and Monte Cassino. In 1980 I saw DaVinci's fresco The Last Supper and there were photos of the destruction of the church where the fresco was. Did not dawn on me that it was allied bombs which blew up the church but the bombing was of the train yards right near the church. Even in a brutal war men realized the importance of these masterpieces, men on both sides of the war. The story that is told is incredible and I am surprised it took this long to get this story out there. I see where a movie is being made on this subject and will be released in December. Interwoven in the story is the German surrender in Italy and how complicated it was, the Germans just could not surrender that easy. Also did not know all the bridges in Florence were blown up by the Germans (rebuilt after the war) except for the Ponte Vecchio (which Hitler loved that bridge). The bombing of the abbey in Monte Cassino, allied forces had no choice but to bomb it. All the men searching for these masterpieces, college professors, museum curators, what a story. Thank you Robert Edsel for writing this story.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2013
This book is a followup to author Robert Edsel's earlier work The Monument Men, which told the story of a small group of scholar-soldiers dedicated to saving the cultural treasures of countries embroiled in World War II. Most of the secrets of the great art heists were revealed in that book, although this book too has valuable aspects. One of them is to read the book not only for its art history, but also for its detailed rendering of the military campaigns that took place.
The consensus among historians today, a camp exemplified by the great historian Frederick Taylor, is that Hitler had total total control of the German military high command. One of the interesting side debates in Edsel's new book Saving Italy, is how fractured the German leadership really was. For example, we learn that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, along with several of his adjutants, were fervent anti-Nazis who didn't merely stand on principle, but actively acted to undermine Hitler's plans at least with regard to the Italian campaign. Canaris, author Edsel maintains, warned the Italians at very high levels of Hitler's hatred of Pope Pius XII, and his desire to raid the Vatican and capture not only documents, but the Pontiff as well.
But whereas Eisenhower gave specific instructions that the great cathedral in Cologne Germany was to be spared the effects of high altitude bombing, in Italy, Pope Pious at the outset received only general assurances from FDR regarding Rome's holy places. Author Edsel's book makes clear that limiting the destruction would be on a best efforts basis. He also details a rift between American commanders who preferred precision bombing, and their British counterparts who preferred mass bombing so as to include civilian terror of the type delivered against England itself from September 1940 through May of 1941. Mass bombing would risk the loss of more artwork, but it would satisfy the British desire for revenge. Churches and shrines were indeed bombed, and part of the intrigue of Edsel's book lies in telling the story of how close the world came to losing priceless work including Da Vinci's The Last Supper.
Also part of the story of Edsel's book are the motivations for the systematic and mass scale art looting and theft conducted by both Hitler and Goring; Hitler's thefts conducted to justify his ideas of racial purity and his stance against what he believed was sheer decadence. Goring on the other hand gorged himself on art masterpieces as a matter of lust and pure greed; there was never enough great art to satiate his limitless desire for luxury.
The famous photograph of Eisenhower inspecting stolen art work at the Merkers salt mine in Germany is missing from this history, but there are other pictures that give an indication of just how extensive the artwork heist was.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2014
Robert Edsel's book is a completely wasted opportunity. I read "The Monuments Men" and generally enjoyed that book, perhaps because he had another writer working with him. This follow-up, which tells the story of the Monuments Men in Italy, is painstakingly researched but it is dry, boring, and doesn't focus enough on Deane Keller and Fred Hartt. I thought I would learn much more from reading this book, but he didn't add too much. If you're looking for a book to read about the fate of Italy's art during World War II, read Lynn Nicholas' definitive "The Rape of Europa." It has an excellent section on Italy and puts this story into context.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
There are many stories about how Europe survived the leveling massacre of art and literature and architecture and human beings as lead by Hitler and the Nazi regime, but few will touch the hearts of art lovers as deeply as will this account written by Robert M Edsel. Though at times lugubriously over written and wordy the story is, all the same, astonishingly moving. It is a work difficult to summarize in a review, but a few of the facts must be made stated. The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies was established in 1943, and the 400 service members in the MFAA were for the most part art historians and museum personnel - the Monuments Men. In anticipation of the Allied invasion, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower issued a statement to the Allied Army during the summer of 1944, regarding the protection of art treasures: `Shortly we will be fighting our way across the continent of Europe in battles designed to preserve our civilization. Inevitably, in the path of our advance will be found historical monuments and cultural centers that symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve. It is the responsibility of every commander to protect and respect these symbols whenever possible.'
The entire collection of the Uffizi Museum, the museums of Paris, and the treasures of dozens of churches were stripped by the Nazis. The Germans hid the contents of occupied Europe's museums--tens of thousands of masterpieces--for use after the war. Many were stored in secret underground storage facilities, like the salt mine that was converted into a hi-tech art warehouse in the Austrian Alps at Alt Aussee, which contained 12,000 of the most important works that were destined for Hitler's Linz museum. The Monuments Men accompanied the Allied armies to locate jeopardized art and monuments that may be damaged or stolen in the chaos of war, and then preserve them as best they could in the field. Their story is one of intrigue, espionage and heroism, with the survival or destruction of the greatest treasures of human civilization hanging in the balance.
Accompanied by photographs that help to break the dense writing of the author, the book serves as a salute to the Monuments Men, likely without whom the treasures of the past would have been lost. This book belongs in the libraries of all art collectors and students of art history as a reminder of what could have happened, but didn't. Grady Harp, July 13
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2014
In his extraordinary book, "Monuments Men", Robert M. Edsel explains that the effort to save the Museum Quality Paintings and Art Objects the Nazi's were pilfering during the occupation of Italy was so complex and of such a large scale that it had to be written separately from the story of their work in Europe.
If you enjoyed "Monuments Men", you will love "Saving Italy." While the goals were the same for both the European and Italian Monuments Men, the situation was different in Italy requiring different detective skills and rescue planning techniques from those used in Europe. Readers may enjoy learning about the role The Vatican played in this determined effort to get the Art back where it belonged or protect it from being looted in the first place. Readers may be saddened by the destruction of many irreplaceable architectural treasures which were destroyed by the Nazis just out of pure spite as they were losing the war.
This is another great read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2013
I was drawn to this book after reading a review of it in the paper. I ended up purchasing the entire set of Edsel's books on this topic, all of which were excellent. Saving Italy was particularly powerful as I have traveled to Italy and seen first hand some of the treasures that would have been unavailable had this intervention not taken place. It is amazing given the demands of WWII that we were wise and committed enough to initiate such an undertaking. The photo's were great, the stories the same, both of the intervening specialists from the Allies and the local folks determined to save their treasures. Most of whom were amazingly creative and successful in securing their art. It also added a new depth of understanding of the greed and ruthlessness of the Nazi forces even with an alleged ally, organization is not always for good it seems.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2013
As a lifetime student of Italian art and culture it was a fascinating read! I have been privileged to view many of these priceless art works and am eternally thankful to all the brave men and women that risked their lives to save them! This book revels so many behind the scenes stories of WW2 and will be a eye opening account how close the world came to losing forever the very foundation of the great Italian masters!