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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History Hardcover – Unabridged, September 3, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

WWII was the most destructive war in history and caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items remain missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe's great art, and they were called the Monuments Men. (Coincidentally or not, this book appears only briefly after Ilaria Dagnini Brey's The Venus Fixers: The Untold Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy's Art During World War II, Reviews, June 1.) Edsel has presented their achievements in documentaries and photographs. He and Witter (coauthor of the bestselling Dewey) are no less successful here. Focusing on the organization's role in northwest Europe, they describe the Monuments Men from their initial mission to limit combat damage to structures and artifacts to their changed focus of locating missing items. Most had been stolen by the Nazis. In southern Germany alone, over a thousand caches emerged, containing everything from church bells to insect collections. The story is both engaging and inspiring. In the midst of a total war, armies systematically sought to mitigate cultural loss. (Sept. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"After World War Two I served as a British member of the 'Monuments' section in Germany. Our task, I believe, was truly important - we were restoring to Europe evidence of its own civilization, which the War seemed virtually to have destroyed - and I was lucky to have had a chance to participate. It is excellent that Mr Edsel has now recorded this remarkable episode, and I am grateful to him for devoting so much energy to telling the stories of those involved." -- Anne Olivier Bell "Highly Readable ... a remarkable history" Washington Post "Engaging and inspiring" Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Center Street (September 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599951495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599951492
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,849 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is an amazing story very well written.
celtic carver
I recommend this book to anyone interested in art, war, history, Hitler...well written and good read.
Sarah G. Baker
A great account of the men and women who save European art and culture during World War II.
Mr. Techno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

199 of 207 people found the following review helpful By EJ on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I had written this review when I was only 25% of the way through this book, I would have given it 2 stars. The beginning of the book can only be described as plodding and in my opinion was not very well constructed. However, I hung in there and the payoff came in the remainder of the book.

The book describes an overlooked group of men and women who served during WWII to save priceless buildings and works of arts in Europe. It also describes the internal conflicts of these folks who wondered, for example, if the German people deserved the return of their Nazi-stolen art. The efforts of these dedicated service-men and -women were, naturally enough, largely overshadowed by the inarguably more important discoveries at the end of WWII, such as the truths revealed by the liberation of the concentration camps. This book is thus a wonderful contribution to an overlooked history of the time.

The end of the book describes the discovery of hidden German repositories of art; the volume and quality of art found in these hiding places is absolutely staggering. I had the pleasure of seeing Michelangelo's flawless Madonna when I was in Bruges and was riveted by her WWII story, which was not described in any detail in the materials given out by the museums there.

In summary: stick with it. The book had some problems with flow, especially in the beginning, but the payoff of the middle and ending was worth it.
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277 of 297 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on September 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most devastating damage and acts of looting of art objects in the annals of history took place during World War Two.These were perpetrated by the Nazi hordes ,carefully directed by the Fuhrer himself.The Nazi army was perpetually pillaging the finest art in Europe.The vain Goering and Alfred Rosenberg were among the main culprits involved in those brutal crimes against the human creative talent.
Fortunately,there was a Western Allied effort to mitigate combat damage, primarily to structures-churches,museums, and other various monuments.In the course of those brutal years, particularly during 1943-1944,the Allies paid much more attention to finding and protecting cultural items which were stolen from their owners,many of which were Jews.The bosses of the Third Reich transported more than five million cultural objects to many sites in Germany, where they hid them , hoping that one day they would not only be the masters of the world, but also the masters of art.
More than 350 men and women served as Monuments People.This number was culled from thirteen nations.In the end, only a handful of them were active and this book is their story.It was the responsibility of this group to save as much of the European culture as it could.
Mt. Edsel has been living in Florence ,Italy, in the 1990s when he wondered how so many of Europe's monuments and other works of art could have survived this unprecedented orgy of destruction.Thus, he set out to conduct a very careful process of extremely meticulous research which led him ultimately to interview those soldiers who have risked and dedicated their lives pursuing this mission.Many of them were art curators,scholars, educators, architects and archivists in their early forties.
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249 of 270 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Even before the first shots of World War II were fired in September 1939, Adolf Hitler was dreaming of transforming his hometown of Linz into a kind of Nazi cultural capital, and his political aides were helping him earmark works of art from around Europe that could be added to his collection. Unlike today's avid collectors, however, Hitler opted to obtain his works via looting, confiscation or as a kind of trade for the owner's survival, safety or escape from the Nazi regime. The fight to retrieve this art and return it to its former owner goes on to this day; the Amber Room is still missing from the Tsarist palaces of St. Petersburg, while works by Klimt have only recently been returned to the families of their original owners.

That's the backdrop against which Robert Edsel (and his writer, Brett Witter) craft their story of the adventures of six very different "Monuments Men", a motley crew of artists, curators and other types who landed on the beaches of Normandy in the wake of D-Day and, hitchiking from one town to another, battled to protect, rescue and, later, retrieve lost masterpieces. The material in the book is compelling, but the way in which it's delivered and presented falls short, which astonished me given the sheer drama of the quixotic adventures of the monuments men. Part of the problem are the ultra-short chapters (sometimes only three or four pages), which just gave me a chance to immerse myself in what one of the monuments men was up to before it jumped, sometimes both geographically and thematically, to another chapter dealing with something else. I ended up feeling dizzy and distracted.

I also struggled with two elements in the writing of the book.
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125 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Camp Curmudgeon on October 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
The author's clumsy, repetitive style makes "Monuments Men" unreadable. Try the brilliant "The Rape Of Europa" by Lynn H. Nicholas, which includes vastly more information about the art, the Nazi's systematic plundering and the story of the Monuments Men. Plus it reads like a thriller!
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