The Rape of Europa
In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt approved a group of museum curators and art specialists as “The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and
in War Areas,” a group of men who became known as the Monuments Men. Historic Monuments
Even this early in the war, it was clear that the Nazis were systematically looting museums and art collections throughout
Europe. Millions of people met their death during the
Nazi era, both in war and in extermination camps, but they weren’t the only
victims of this horror. It’s estimated
that 20 percent of all known art in Europe at
the beginning of Hitler’s rise was stolen by the Nazis.
Much of this stolen art was shipped to
Germany and leading
Nazis, including Goering, built huge collections of pieces taken from Europe’s
Jews as well as museums and private collections all across Europe.
Not only Western Europe; pieces from The Hermitage, one of Russia’s premiere museums, also
disappeared. One treasure that has never
been found or recovered is Catherine the Great’s Amber
Room from the ,
a room whose walls were constructed completely of amber. Summer Palace
The Monuments Men wrapped up their work on December 31, 1948 but recovery has continued for the past 60-odd years.
In 2006, one of the most stunning pieces, Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Ada Bloch-Bauer” was finally returned to the sole surviving family member of the Viennese family who lost it to the Nazis in 1938. Also, in February 2006, the Dutch government returned 202 old master paintings to the heir of an art dealer whose collections was forcibly sold to the Nazis in 1940.
And less than two years ago, The Associated Press reported, “A panel has recommended that seven paintings by Austrian artists contained in a prestigious Vienna art collection be returned because they were either seized by the Nazis or given up against the will of their Jewish owners.” – Associated Press story, Nov. 23, 2010.
The Nazi-hunter Henry Blomberg, in Edited for Death, came to this world of looted art several years after the end of the war and for him the quest was personal. His family in
was one of the hundreds of thousands Jewish families
to lose their lives and possessions to the Nazi onslaught. As the sole survivor
of his family, it’s his search for a lost da Vinci drawing that leads him to
help unravel both an act of cowardice and an act of heroism that propelled a
young GI to the height of political power in the United States.
These shadowy causalities of the war and the Nazi’s greed have been documented in a movie about the Monument Men and their search for treasures—“The Rape of Europa”.
Although not all stolen pieces will never be found, by keeping the story of Nazi theft green, even 60 or 70 years later some of the art may be returned to its rightful owners.
For further information on the Monuments Men and stolen art go to http://www.rapeofeuropa.com/
Visit Michele Drier's website at www.micheledrier.com
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