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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis Hardcover – May 6, 2013
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Alongside the Allies’ push north against the Nazis, there was another war fought in WWII Italy, a battle to preserve the country’s rich cultural contribution to Western civilization. With Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic The Last Supper nearly demolished by a bomb, protecting the nation’s art became an urgent task, requiring hundreds of paintings and sculpture to be hidden throughout the country (Michelangelo’s David was entombed in brick). The group assigned to save the art in Italy was made up of 40 American and British “Monuments Men.” Edsel (who has trod this ground before, in The Monuments Men, 2009) clearly presents the war in Italy as a battle not just to occupy the land but also to preserve the country’s culture. In urgent and precise prose, he puts the reader in the cockpit, the foxhole, and the cramped offices of those charged with saving the artwork. Most of the pilfering and destruction of art treasures was done by the Nazis, of course, but Edsel points out that the Allies were not blameless, either. This is a must-read for WWII buffs and anyone interested in the fight for art history. --Bridget Thoreson
“Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“Saving Italy is an astonishing account of a little known American effort to save Italy’s vast store of priceless monuments and art during World War II. While American warriors were fighting the length of the country, other Americans were courageously working alongside to preserve the irreplaceable best of Italy’s culture. Read it and be proud of those who were on their own front lines of a cruel war.”
- Tom Brokaw
“Revealing…. That the Monuments Men were able to do as much as they did, amid a war with more urgent priorities is remarkable….”
- Hugh Eakin, The Wall Street Journal
“Robert Edsel has written a captivating, and at times hair-raising, book on the audacious Allied effort during World War II to save the priceless art treasurers in Italy. It is impossible to imagine what Western civilization would be today without these cultural masterpieces. Edsel has written a gripping, heroic story of the Monuments Men who saved them from certain destruction.”
- Susan Eisenhower
“Saving Italy is a teeming work…by an author passionate about his subject.”
- Matthew Price, Newsday
“Edsel’s recovery of the history of the Monuments Men makes for a remarkable and fascinating story. As more recent conflicts have shown, the havoc that war can wreak upon our artistic heritage has unfortunately not diminished and there are important lessons in this book for policy makers and all who care about the preservation of the world’s artistic legacy for future generations.”
- Timothy Potts, Director, the J. Paul Getty Museum
“As Robert Edsel shows us in this valuable book, the artistic patrimony of the western world was a hostage to Hitler’s legions in 1945. Saving Italy rescues an unlikely troop of American heroes from obscurity, chronicling the exploits of a band of art professors working for the U.S. military as they saved Tuscany’s masterworks, museums and cathedrals from oblivion as Nazi Germany’s southern flank crumbled.”
- James D. Hornfischer, bestselling author of Neptune’s Inferno
“Robert Edsel weaves a suspenseful tale worthy of an Indiana Jones plot. He pulls you into a dangerous web of intrigue in which the Vatican, top German SS generals, American OSS operatives and Italian officials are entwined in top-secret negotiations to end the war. A must read for any WWII history enthusiast.”
- Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, President/CEO, The National WWII Museum
“An amazing story, superbly told. The narrative and research are exceptionally well done. Edsel has done a great service not only to tell the story of the Monuments Men and the work they did in Italy but also to remind mankind what the Germans did. I believe that Saving Italy is a major contribution to the history of World War II.”
- Carlo D’Este, bestselling author of Patton: A Genius For War
“Eventually the deranged plots of the Nazis called forth a new breed of adversary, their college degrees in art and antiquities hardly imposing yet suddenly critical, their extraordinary confrontation with evil quickly proving capable, in this inspired account, of recasting the war in Italy into a barn-burner of a history.”
- Hugh Ambrose, bestselling author of The Pacific
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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis
Saving Italy and The Monument Men explain how a small select group of art professionals worked with the Allied military to both minimize damage to art treasures as well as recover those taken by the Axis powers. Both books explain the extrordinary success of this small MFAA group spanning from 1943 through 1946.
It should be recognized that the story still is not over as there are still thousands of art pieces that are still missing or not returned to their original owners.
If like World War 2 stories and have an interest in art, I highly recommend both books by the same author. If you choose to read both books, I would recommend reading Saving Italy first as it actually precedes The Monument Men on a WW2 timeline, even though the author wrote them in reverse sequence. Methods developed and determined to be successful in Italy were put in place before the D-day invasion of western Europe.
Both books are highly readable. I recommend using your favorite search engine and Wikipedia to look up the artwork as you read these books, which will add to your appreciation. Btw, the author did include maps in Saving Italy, which helped a lot.
I highly recommend both books.
Edsel mentions many fascinating characters who I hope to meet again in future WWII reading. (Don Guido Anelli -The Flying Priest, OSS director Donavon, Pope Pious XII and his advisor Montini, Cardinal Dalla Costa, and Karl Wolff to name a few)