- File Size: 1756 KB
- Print Length: 97 pages
- Publisher: LAUREL PUBLISHING, LLC (October 30, 2013)
- Publication Date: October 30, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00GBMOHIW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,452 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum Kindle Edition
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in saving so much of the art which Western Civilization considers the basis of our culture. For several months before the Germans invaded France, many of the Louvre employees lived in its basement frantically crating all manner of artworks which were then sent to various chateaux.
When the Germans arrived in Paris, they focused on the Louvre as well as art dealers and Jewish art collectors. Rose, being a quiet, unprepossessing woman blended into the Louvre woodwork, committing to memory the various locations the Germans chose to store the art.
Long story short, she was able to guide a group known now as "The Monuments Men" to these places, thus rescuing the many hidden, irreplaceable pieces of art.
As an adjunct to this book, I also recommend "The Rape of Europa" and "The Monuments Men", both of which emphasize the high priority the Allies placed on saving our collective art history.
It is very timely considering the large trove of art works that has just been discovered in Germany. Reading this book and some of the names that have recently appeared in the papers makes it quite timely.
It gives one am insight into the looting and confiscation of art that is still under a cloud regarding who really owns it, some of it hanging in museums and hidden as in the recently discovered situation in Germany.
Rose Valland is not someone people think of when they talk about World War II in Europe. There are heroes who are instantly familiar when discussing that conflict--Eisenhower, Patton, and Churchill to name a few. However, Rose Valland is not one of them. And yet, If I told you that this woman, a curator at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris at the time of the Nazi occupation, was almost single-handedly responsible for the prevention of the destruction of what art historians consider Western art and was the rescuer of French cultural riches from the hands of Hitler's henchmen, wouldn't you wonder why she was not elevated to a loftier position in the minds of French Resistance historians and historians of World War II in general.
That's the conundrum. And Corinne Bouchoux in her 2006 book, reprinted in 2013, about Valland entitled Rose Valland: Resistance at the Museum attempts to answer it and to provide us with what is known about her life before, during, and after the Nazi subjugation of Paris from May 10, 1940, to August 25, 1944. Does she succeed? Yes and no.
In the "yes" column, Bouchoux is adept at giving us all of the facts that she could uncover, considering that Valland was secretive and prickly about revealing information concerning her personal life, although she did write a less-than-detailed autobiography in 1961 about her activities at the Jeu de Paume during the war that was republished in 1997. A famous member of the World War II French Resistance, Lucie Aubrac, characterized Valland as: "an enigma in search of a solution."
Bouchoux states unequivocally about Villand: "Thanks to her untiring efforts, 1,400 crates [of art] were returned to the Jeu de Paume Museum by the end of 1945....Valland secretly documented information about the [Nazi] looted collections, their provenance, and, when she was able, their destination in [Third] Reich territory. Thanks to this `inventory,' the Nazi hideouts in Germany were spared from bombings and other attacks by the Western Allies at the end of the war...She witnessed the shipment to the Reich of 4,174 crates, containing over 20,000 works of art...she never wavered, even accepting the at times harsh interrogations by the Germans."
Toward the end of the Nazi occupation in 1944, "Valland's main objectives were to protect the masterpieces stored at the Jeu de Paume Museum from air raids and to prevent the last train [containing 148 crates] filled with impressionist and modern art from leaving for Germany. Once Paris was liberated, Valland studied the...archives and prepared for the post-war recovery missions." Most of France's cultural treasures and heritage were saved by Villand working with France's director of national museums Jacques Jaujard and the French National Museums' administration. She spent eight years in Germany after the war searching for stolen art works housed by the Nazis in over 500 locations so that restitution could be made. Jaujard, her immediate supervisor at the Jeu de Paume, ensured that after the war Valland was awarded the Legion of Honor and the medal of the Resistance.
What Bouchoux fails to do, the "no" column, is to give us a succinct narrative, at times digging into the procedures of bureaucratic committees that could have and should have been weeded out by an editor. Unfortunately, the book reads like a doctoral dissertation periodically thus interrupting the flow of the storyline.
My recommendation is to read this book if you are interested in this chapter of World War II history or have been fascinated by The Rape of Europa (both book and documentary) and by The Monuments Men (the book, not the movie) by Robert Edsel in which Rose Valland gets her long-overdue praise. Edsel translated Bouchoux's book into English. It was only in 2005 that Valland got the adulation from the Louvre and other museums in France which she so richly deserved. In this story, you will learn about her obsessively courageous acts during the war and her zealous sleuthing for looted art in Germany after the war, all because of her passion to save the art for its rightful owners and for posterity and for civilization.
Ultimately, Valland's courage and decency and successes shine through, but there are times, thankfully not many, when you have to wade through the French civil service bureaucracy to uncover her compelling story. As Bouchoux states near the end of her book: "It was Valland's love of art that pushed her to put her life in danger during the German occupation of France. Whatever her flaws, her potential errors, and her personality traits may have been, she never sought recognition and fame." Valland dedicated her autobiography to: "Those who fought during the last world war to save some of the beauty in the world." And her legacy continues. Investigators are still using her comprehensive notes to trace and restore works of art to their rightful owners.
Bouchoux's writing is uneven, she is a politician and social scientist, and it has of course, been translated from the French. A more skilled writer and a cultural historian might do a better job.
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