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Showing 1-10 of 2,008 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 2,302 reviews
on March 7, 2010
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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on June 27, 2016
So I live in a house that has connection to a Monument Man in Minnesota, so I thought it behooved me to read the book that made the Monument Men famous.

The book pretty much ensures that a reader will both understand the logistical difficulties (no actual unit, no access to transportation, constantly having to ask other military personnel for help), the danger (booby-trapped caches of loot, dank salt mines filled with art and explosives, German soldier ambush), and the heroic nature of the Monument Men's job (especially those who worked in Germany and had to reconcile risk to life and limb to save cultural heritage sites like Aachen Cathedral after touring devastating places like Dachau).

What an incredible job they did. What incredible people who believed so passionately in art that they would endure war conditions to attempt to save what the Nazis looted or destroyed.

A pleasant surprise for me was learning about the handful of Monument Men the book focuses on through both biography and letters. I particularly enjoyed learning about Lincoln Kirstein (my name doppelganger) who I thought mostly of as a ballet guy, but who turned out to be more of a Renaissance man in his abilities and proclivities than I had understood. But the others focused on this book (Rorimer, Ettlinger, Posey, Stout, etc) also come alive in their individuality, their specialities, and their connections to Europeans and family back home.

Of course, I couldn't help feeling like the author maybe presented the Monuments Men in their best possible light. George Stout is almost saint-like in his expertise, desire to save German monuments, and empathy for the victims of war.

And at times, for me (who is not a World War II history buff or veteran) the dwelling on various troop movements and battles was a bit much. I yearned for more descriptions of the actual finding of the artwork, but that could be a bit of a personal preference.

Quite interesting look at World War II that's definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the movie. Certainly gives some perspective to some of the movie characters.
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VINE VOICEon May 28, 2015
The history of World War II contains many dimensions that continue to be discovered or revisited. Robert M. Edsel writes of the 350 men and women that helped to retrieve and save the most historic pieces of artwork created in art history from Hitler and the Nazis. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is their story and shows from 1943-1951. But their attempts to preserve the past first came about within the actual buildings that housed these works, churches, museums, and other monuments that became prone to damage during the war. And thereafter during the war, it was their responsibility to locate the five million movable works and cultural artifacts that were stolen by the Nazis, which included works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Donatello and the pieces that were the highlight of Edsel’s book, the Ghent Altar pieces, Bayeaux Tapestry, and painting of Mother and Child. For students of art appreciation, to see how history intertwines with art beyond H.W. Janson’s History of Art, Edsel widens the perspective and understanding.

Edsel covers much ground in the hunt to uncover the pieces of art that occurred in France, Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. He does a good job to outline each of the important individuals that were a part of the Monuments Men, which ranged from established and distinguishable persons that were experts in their field of museum and historical preservation and they came from all over the world. Deanne Keller and Frederick Hart and George Stout, Rose Valland, and Robert Posey from America, John Bryan Ward-Perkins from England, and the hundreds involved. And their training such as Stout’s focused on understanding raw materials, degradation and cause of deterioration, and preparation to prevent deterioration and damage, which would be beneficial once he delved in the race against time to save the artworks. Stout applied preservation and conservation and scientific principles to paintings and visual art. However, the Monuments were a different unit from the rest of the forces that served in Europe due to their backgrounds and the resources that they were and were not provided, they served as only advisors and could not impose any orders on any official or rank, and they had limited access to vehicles, offices, support staff, and any back up plans. In essence, they were a unique group in the war.

After reading the Monuments Men, one may have a better appreciation for this part of history. The format of the book provided a great scope of information and visual presentation, which alternated between stories of the Monuments and the origins and the events related to the Third Reich plans and up to the discovery of the artworks. For the Kindle edition, maps may have been helpful and the photographs may have been dispersed within each chapter rather than at the end of the book.
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on June 4, 2014
I definitely wanted to read this before I finally see the movie and this book is a great read. Lots of interesting info in this. I looked up the various art pieces on line as I read so I could see color pictures and some background on them which added a lot to the reading experience. It starts a bit slowly as the background and history on each man and the unit as a whole is laid out but stick with it, it picks up steam and pulls you into the experience fully. Wish someone in the US Army had considered the experience in WW II when they invaded Baghdad so that protection details would have been set up around the museums and zoos to avoid the looting and slaughter that occurred.
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on April 27, 2014
Mr.Edsel brings to life the mission these distinguished men began that continues today. He does an admirable job of synthesizing sources in many languages from many countries. Mr. Edsel does an especially fine job of describing the vagaries of determining the truth of events from his rich bibliography, and from the events his book describes. This book could be used as an introduction to historiography. I especially appreciate the final chapters in which he describes what becomes of the key players after the war and the part t h at ties current events to the story.
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on March 11, 2014
The book tells, in much greater, detail, the story of these remarkable people who saved a great many of the art works stoled during WWII or in the path of of destruction. This is a non-fiction book so is a bit drier than the movie; but reading about the details after seeing the people brought to life in the movie gave me a sense of having a fuller picture.
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on April 6, 2015
For anyone with a love of Europe and it's rich history - a look at how close we came to losing that history and the remarkable men who through determination and improvisation did not let that happen. Narrated in a documentary style drawing on letters, the story is fast paced and flows well.
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on March 21, 2014
I haven't see the movie yet, but what a tragedy is revealed in this book. Hitler was the kind of monster that the world prays will never rise to power again. There have been numerous books written about the evils suffered by the Jewish people at the hand of Hitler, and "The Monuments Men" reveals the truth about Hitler and the Nazi's greed to possess ancient art works with little care as to whether or not the arts were properly preserved. The worst crime of World War II was the devastation against the Jewish people, as well as the loss of many soldiers' lives as they fought to end World War. Little was known about Hitler's obsession to steal the ancients arts and paintings for himself and his new world. Thankfully, Robert M. Edsel wrote this story about the men who devoted their military time and lives to recovering the arts. This book reveals many facts of which I was unaware.
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on February 15, 2014
I read this before I saw the Movie. Enjoyed both. Been blessed to have seen a lot of the art mentioned in the story. Thank God for these wonderful, dedicated men that saved the culture for so many. Book was so well written.
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on December 30, 2014
Saw the movie and figured the book would be better---NOT !! It's like reading a textbook---DULL !!! There are just a few pictures---not at all what I was expecting. No more pictures in the book than what was in the movie.
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