jeudi 27 février 2014

The Monuments Men Book Inspires The Movie

By Krystal Branch

You have probably heard about the big-budget movie but may not have thought about the Monuments Men book that inspired the film. Both are based on true events. The author of the book released in 2009, Robert Edsel, has also written a sequel entitled Saving Italy. Although the Allied group of real life heroes was disbanded in 1951, the effort to retrieve stolen art objects continues to this day.

Robert Edsel has dedicated his personal fortune and his time in recent years to bringing attention to the World War II effort to return looted art to its rightful owners. He has produced a documentary, written a best-seller and its sequel, and founded a non-profit organization to educate and engage the public. It's a fact that many stolen treasures are still missing, and that others are still being discovered and returned.

His first best-seller tells of a group of soldiers and non-military people who became part of an Army unit commissioned to protect Europe's important buildings from aerial bombing. This effort meant going behind enemy lines for undercover investigations of Nazi plans and other dangerous work. The brave men and women were museum officials, art historians, architects, and other scholars who left families and careers behind to risk their lives in an attempt to preserve western culture.

Espionage was of course a part of this dangerous work. Two members of the unit were killed in the effort, which quickly expanded to include art recovery. Over five million valuable objects were taken from Nazi hoards or their supporters and later returned to their owners. The unit continued its work after the War ended, being finally disbanded in 1951.

Millions of art treasures are still missing, as shown by the recent discovery of over 1,400 of them in a Munich apartment. The hoarder inherited them from his father, an art dealer who was given 'degenerate' pieces to dispose of by the Nazis. The man claims they are rightfully his, and legalities may drag on for years.

Edsel has devoted his personal fortune and his time to finding more lost masterpieces. He recently spotted two paintings on the 'still missing' list in a Texas museum. They were taken from the Rothschild family during the War. However, the documentation on the paintings is not available. Perhaps they were returned to the family and later sold legally or perhaps they are still stolen objects.

The Foundation continues to locate missing objects, some of which may have come to America with servicemen who looked at them as souvenirs. Recently two books, over 400 years old, were returned by the veteran who had brought them home. Edsel hopes that more people will examine the contents of their homes now that the subject has been dramatized by a major Hollywood film.

The engrossing book is an account of heroism that really happened as the world suffered through World War II. Espionage, daring, secret missions, and exciting discoveries were all part of the story. By the way, keep an eye out for the Raphael and the Van Gogh that are still missing, if you want to help get treasures back to those who once owned them.

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