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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

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At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of Am At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.


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At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of Am At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.

30 review for The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    It’s odd how you think your opinion of a bunch of murderous assholes couldn’t sink any lower, and then you read something like this that makes you realize that they were even worse than you thought. Nazis weren’t just xenophobic bullies who institutionalized mass murder, they were also thieves. They were probably lousy tippers, too. During World War II a handful of art experts in the Allied military forces took on the challenge of trying to protect the cultural treasures of Europe. As the war ra It’s odd how you think your opinion of a bunch of murderous assholes couldn’t sink any lower, and then you read something like this that makes you realize that they were even worse than you thought. Nazis weren’t just xenophobic bullies who institutionalized mass murder, they were also thieves. They were probably lousy tippers, too. During World War II a handful of art experts in the Allied military forces took on the challenge of trying to protect the cultural treasures of Europe. As the war raged, these guys did their best to save historical buildings and art from the general destruction going on around them. They also tried to track down and recover what the Nazis had stolen. Hitler and his pals took advantage of the war to pull the biggest art heist in history, and this included looting the culture of countries they invaded as well as stealing the private collections of people they killed or imprisoned. This is one of those stories that I knew the basics of but hadn’t realized the scale of the crimes committed, and I knew nothing about the men who tried to mitigate the damage. The Nazis literally stole trainloads worth of art and stashed away so much that it required massive logistical efforts just to get it all recorded and returned after the war. What’s more shocking than that is how few resources were initially dedicated to the preservation effort. Eisenhower issued a general order instructing his troops to avoid damaging anything of cultural significance unless there was a military necessity, but only a handful of Monuments Men were scattered around Europe and they had no official support staff or supply sources. Simply getting transportation was often difficult or impossible. One of the men was briefly arrested as a suspected German spy when a zealous MP soldier refused to believe that anyone carrying out such a large and important mission would be wandering around by himself. Even though there weren’t many of them and they had to improvise constantly, the Monuments Men did manage to save countless pieces of art including helping to track down huge stolen stockpiles that the Nazis had stashed away in mines and other hidey-holes. It was dangerous work and a couple of them were killed in action while trying to carry out their mission. It’s an interesting and important story that gave me a new appreciation of some of history’s forgotten heroes so why only 3 stars? I dunno. This is a weird one. I can’t point to anything of significance. The writing is fine, and the research seems solid. There’s enough detail pointed out about the people involved to give you a sense of their character and make you appreciate their struggles. I was planning on seeing the movie version, but then came the ‘meh’ reviews for it so that killed my interest in the film and may have dampened my enthusiasm for the book. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, and I don’t regret learning the story, but for some reason it never hit that next level where I couldn’t wait to read more while I was in the middle of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brady

    Though it's a fascinating bit of history, largely overlooked, this book felt like a chore to get through. There's a plodding to the writing, and a lot of repetitiveness. Repetitiveness throughout. Repeating himself in different ways, as though to pad out the book. Repeat. Also, it feels like there are a lot of shortcuts in the narrative instead of character development. A few of the Monuments Men emerge with full personalities, but more often the reader is told things like "this brilliantly matc Though it's a fascinating bit of history, largely overlooked, this book felt like a chore to get through. There's a plodding to the writing, and a lot of repetitiveness. Repetitiveness throughout. Repeating himself in different ways, as though to pad out the book. Repeat. Also, it feels like there are a lot of shortcuts in the narrative instead of character development. A few of the Monuments Men emerge with full personalities, but more often the reader is told things like "this brilliantly matched duo" of two Monuments Men with wildly different approaches to life, to art, to the military were so interesting, but without any evidence whatsoever to back up the description. And the villainous Nazis are literally described as villainous - something the reader is already primed to expect, of course, but without any new light shed on it. Descriptions of Goring and his fate routinely end with some variation of him being called a greedy fool. This is not new information or interesting information. Readers should be able to draw their own conclusions about the personalities, valorous or treacherous, without the author needing to explicitly tell us that at the end of each paragraph. It's either lazy writing or a distrust of our ability to connect the dots. And then there are some laughably written lines that took me out of the intrigue and heroism entirely. Here's one: "They had lined up the metal filings of their own destinies like so many dastardly magnets." Worth the read to expose yourself to the work of the Monuments Men on a very general level, but beyond that a disappointment.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Baldacci

    A handful of art warriors take on the Third Reich in this story chock-full of both intrigue and culture. Read it before the movie (starring George Clooney) comes out.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    3 stars: 2 stars for the writing, which is tedious, and 4+ for the fascinating WWII history this book relates. The story of the Nazis' wholesale looting of the private and public art treasures of Europe during WWII and the efforts of the Monuments Men, with the aid of some others, to track down and return those treasures, is a significant story that I believe was largely unknown until this book (and the movie based upon it) came out, and for this the authors deserve a great deal of credit. The o 3 stars: 2 stars for the writing, which is tedious, and 4+ for the fascinating WWII history this book relates. The story of the Nazis' wholesale looting of the private and public art treasures of Europe during WWII and the efforts of the Monuments Men, with the aid of some others, to track down and return those treasures, is a significant story that I believe was largely unknown until this book (and the movie based upon it) came out, and for this the authors deserve a great deal of credit. The original research and the careful interviews with surviving people who were part of these events are impressive. Unfortunately, I found the writing on the plodding and pedestrian side, though occasionally a story of losing or finding some fascinating artwork would shine through the murk like a jewel. Also, for some reason the authors chose to invent some dialogue for some of their stories, in order to spice up their tale, I guess. (I only wish it had worked better.) The characterization of most of the Monuments Men is flat. Most of them remained little more than names to me, with indistinguishable personalities. Only Rose Valland, a Frenchwoman who risked her life to work with the Nazis in Paris and kept copies of records regarding where French art was being taken by them, became a real person to me. I was wondering if this might be one of those rare cases where the movie is actually be better than the book, but a quick check of Rotten Tomatoes disproved that idea; apparently the critical consensus is that the movie suffers from pretty much the same issues as the book. Too bad. I originally rated this 3 1/2 stars (because I was so much nicer back in my early review-writing days) and debated with myself for quite a while whether to round my rating up or down. I actually had it at 4 stars for a couple of hours, but then it occurred to me that it was a bad sign when I realized that the last 70 pages of the ebook were just pictures, and my reaction was pure relief. So 3 stars it is. It's worth reading if you're interested in these events from a historical point of view, invented conversations notwithstanding, and if you're not looking to be particularly engaged by the writing style.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carl Brookins

    Not a mystery, and not fiction, but the story rooted in the fog of war and the number of questions still unanswered reads like the best mystery fiction. Not a thriller, but full of thrilling, death-defying action, a book written with passion and fire, if not the most meticulous attention to structure and detail, this cautionary tale should be part of the required reading at the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy. It should also be read by every national politician who contempla Not a mystery, and not fiction, but the story rooted in the fog of war and the number of questions still unanswered reads like the best mystery fiction. Not a thriller, but full of thrilling, death-defying action, a book written with passion and fire, if not the most meticulous attention to structure and detail, this cautionary tale should be part of the required reading at the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy. It should also be read by every national politician who contemplates sending invading armies to foreign lands. Beginning in 1938 and lasting until the final days of World War II, Nazi conquerors in Europe and North Africa, began methodical and illegal acquisition of both public and private cultural works of art in the nations under their control. By the millions, paintings, sculptures, tapestries furniture and prints were collected, logged and shipped to Germany. Some pieces went to Hitler, others to Goring, Borman, Himmler and other party officials. The owners, many wealthy members of the Jewish middle class, after watching their belongings plundered, were themselves shipped off to labor and concentration camps. In 1943 a small group of ordinary men were recruited by the American government in anticipation of the western invasion of Europe These men, active in the cultural affairs of the United States, formed the Monuments , Fine Arts and Archives section. With no resources other than what they could scrounge, the FAA were given a single mission: locate, assess and protect the cultural heritage of the European continent. They often worked at the very edges of the battle lines. Through persuasion, persistence and high commitment, the members of MFAA and the small number of European supporters they were able to attract, were victorious in saving many buildings and large works of immovable culture from destruction by bombing and other effects of the war. MFAA men went ashore in the early waves at Normandy and traveled with the armies. They experienced the hardships of front-line activity and two of the members died as a result of combat. Throughout they stayed true to their mission, protecting cultural monuments and following tortuous trails of records and information gleaned in endless interrogations of Nazi party members involved in the theft and shipping of vast numbers of art and cultural items to secret hideouts in castles like Neuschwanstein and the salt mines of Merkers. A great many pieces perhaps thousands of significant Impressionist and other paintings along with other art are still missing. Some will continue to be located and returned to the descendents of rightful owners, some of the art is lost forever. This story of the MFAA, mostly lost in time, needs to be retold for history does repeat itself. In 2002 invading American military allowed looters to nearly destroy the thousand years old collection that was held by the Baghdad National Museum. There is now a project to locate and return missing artifacts. Had this story of the MFAA been preserved and properly recorded, there might have been the proper actions taken to protect the collections in Iraq. The Monuments Men is a fascinating story that needs to be retold.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    In the movie version of this book, there is an early scene with all of the big-name actors playing the Monuments Men being briefed about their mission to save art from the Nazis during World War II. George Clooney reminds them that Hitler was rejected from art school, and shows a picture of a painting that Hitler had made. One actor says, "That's not bad." Matt Damon retorts: "It's not good." The same could be said for this book: It's not terrible, but it's not good. The history is interesting bu In the movie version of this book, there is an early scene with all of the big-name actors playing the Monuments Men being briefed about their mission to save art from the Nazis during World War II. George Clooney reminds them that Hitler was rejected from art school, and shows a picture of a painting that Hitler had made. One actor says, "That's not bad." Matt Damon retorts: "It's not good." The same could be said for this book: It's not terrible, but it's not good. The history is interesting but the writing is grating. Edsel relies heavily on cliches, and he invented swaths of unnecessary dialogue. Few of the characters stood out; they all jumbled together in their stories. The book also suffers from trying to cover too much. In addition to following a group of men wandering all over Europe trying to track down stolen art, Edsel also included military movements and battle scenes. (In the introduction, Edsel admits he cut out an entire section about the group's work in Italy, so the book might have been even longer than 512 pages.) Midway through I considered abandoning it and giving it 2 stars, but I pushed on because I was curious about the stolen artwork. There is some good research here, which is why I bumped up my rating to 3 stars. However, if you have read any history books by Hampton Sides, David McCullough or Nathaniel Philbrick, you know what good narrative nonfiction reads like, and Monuments Men feels clunky and weak in comparison. Recommended only for hardcore history buffs, or those who are good at skimming.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    You could argue, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree, that there’s no work of art—not the Mona Lisa, not David, not some weird shapes Picasso projectile vomited onto a canvas and somehow convinced people were meaningful—worth more than a human life, let alone 50 million (or considerably more, depending on which data you’re using) lives. So, at first blush, the story of some past-their-prime art historians and preservationists tramping around battlefields trying to save a few paintings and sculpt You could argue, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree, that there’s no work of art—not the Mona Lisa, not David, not some weird shapes Picasso projectile vomited onto a canvas and somehow convinced people were meaningful—worth more than a human life, let alone 50 million (or considerably more, depending on which data you’re using) lives. So, at first blush, the story of some past-their-prime art historians and preservationists tramping around battlefields trying to save a few paintings and sculptures in the midst of a desperate effort by the combined Allied forces to stop a genocidal madman from the terrifyingly systematic extermination of an entire ethnoreligious group seems quaint at best, trite at worst. Nonetheless, Edsel’s often gripping account of those efforts not only ennobles the story of the men and women who risked their lives for the sake of saving cultural artifacts in World War II, but makes a compelling case that their contributions may, on a historical level, prove to be nearly as significant as any other soldier’s effort to save lives. The book’s most riveting stories chronicle the discovery of impossibly vast secret caches of priceless treasures hidden in dramatic locations like salt mines, and, by and large, those accounts are as exciting as you might reasonably expect (though I can’t help but feel that they could have been a bit punchier…I mean, it’s really not that hard to make a concept like “Nazi gold” interesting; even today, a headline containing those words stands a reasonable chance of blowing “Trump collusion” off the front page, though if you put those quote marks in a different place (e.g., “blowing Trump” collusion), that’s a whole different story and probably permanently pinned to the front page). Where it falls a bit short is everything else, especially the author’s penchant for making up dialogue that is neither particularly informative nor sharply written. It’s ostensibly based on historical records and letter exchanges, but, in most instances, a simply summary of the information exchanged would have proven more effective. Allow me to demonstrate with an example* from my own life: Me: “I need a new shirt.” My buddy Randy: “Cool.” Me: “I just mean like a t-shirt. Not a dress shirt. I have a lot of those.” Randy: “Cool.” Me: “Do you think they have some on sale somewhere?” Randy: “Probably.” Me: “Maybe I’ll get one today.” Randy: “Okay.” Me: “Maybe a blue one?” Randy: “Sure.” Me: “I’m hungry—do you want to get lunch first?” Randy: “Yeah.” Alternatively, this scene could have been conveyed as follows: “Sean needed a new t-shirt and decided to buy a blue one, but decided he would have lunch with his friend Randy first.” That’s just much easier for everyone involved, and it doesn’t make poor Randy look like as much of a monosyllabic idiot as he is. On balance, though, this is a solidly entertaining narrative of an underreported and fascinating piece of World War II history and rightfully deserves a spot in the reading queue of WWII buffs, art history aficionados, and people who prefer scholarly dudes painstakingly wrapping paintings by Dutch masters in bubble wrap to anything that involves the words “blowing” and “Trump.” We’ll round up from 3.5 stars. (*I don’t actually know anyone named Randy, and this never actually happened. I do, however, own several blue t-shirts.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    This was a frustrating book to read. The historical content was fascinating - art treasures taken by Nazis from churches and museums in occupied territory for "protection" or, worse, such treasures "acquired" from Jews who were arrested or forced to flee from the front lines of the holocaust. The subject of the book was the hunt for those treasures and their safe return to their rightful owners, if possible, or at least their country of origin. With that story to tell, The Monuments Men should h This was a frustrating book to read. The historical content was fascinating - art treasures taken by Nazis from churches and museums in occupied territory for "protection" or, worse, such treasures "acquired" from Jews who were arrested or forced to flee from the front lines of the holocaust. The subject of the book was the hunt for those treasures and their safe return to their rightful owners, if possible, or at least their country of origin. With that story to tell, The Monuments Men should have been better than it was. Unfortunately, Robert M. Edsel seemed to want to write a novel on this subject rather than a historical account. We are forewarned in his "Author's Note" that he has "taken the liberty of creating dialogue for continuity." Too much liberty seems to have been taken. Often, instead of telling us what happened - what was found, where, by whom - what were the clues that led to the discovery - what was done upon discovery, etc. - Edsel painted portraits of the characters in his historical fiction. He described what these individuals saw, felt, and thought, in detail that only a fiction writer could know. He also transcribed conversations throughout, which would have been impossible to record without the aid of a courtroom stenographer. "For continuity," I suppose. But all that "liberty" and all that "continuity" was distracting. And it took up so much space that far too few facts about what happened were contained within 426 pages of principal text. I did like the book though. Because the nuggets of information buried within were so fascinating . . . from Adolf Hitler's grand plans to rebuild his hometown of Linz, Austria, as a cultural center; to the steps taken by French citizens to delay the transit of looted art and treasure to Germany or to record, at least, where it all went - from the travels of Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna to Jan Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece to a Rembrandt self portrait to the discoveries of enormous depositories of art and treasure stored in castles and mines throughout Germany during the war. There is interesting, awesome stuff here but I was left wanting more. More substance, less story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    History has always been my first love and this book was a well written joy for me to read. All I can say is that if you've seen the movie starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, this book is much better. Most of the men picked to be Monuments Men were in their 40s, and very well educated and even prominent in knowing what they needed to save as far as paintings, sculpture and even buildings. The Nazis not only put the Jews in concentration camps, they stole everything they had that might be of a History has always been my first love and this book was a well written joy for me to read. All I can say is that if you've seen the movie starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, this book is much better. Most of the men picked to be Monuments Men were in their 40s, and very well educated and even prominent in knowing what they needed to save as far as paintings, sculpture and even buildings. The Nazis not only put the Jews in concentration camps, they stole everything they had that might be of any value, including the gold fillings in their teeth. They were greedy pigs. The Nazis looted Western Europe. It was the job of the Monuments Men to save and return to the rightful owners anything it was possible for them to save. Reading about the thievery left me nauseated. For the most part they had no idea of how magnificent the art was, only that they wanted it. Their avarice is disgusting. A lot of marvellous pieces of art were irretrievably lost forever. The Monuments Men were true heroes and many of them received medals for what they did. The Mona Lisa would be just a memory if not for them. They retrieved centuries of the culture of Europe. I highly recommend this book. I do want to warn that the concentration camps are toured to the extent that General Patton is mentioned as vomiting behind the sheds and General Eisenhower saying that this all needed to be filmed so no one could say that this did not happen. Of course we all know that despite this there are still people who say it never happened.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ronan Drew

    To think I almost didn't read this five-star book because I plan to see the movie! That would have been a terrible mistake. The movie is based "loosely" on the book. Very loosely indeed. Robert M Edsel's The Monuments Men is a nonfiction account of a group of mostly American art historians, museum curators, and one very special art conservationist from Harvard's Fogg Museum, George Stout. To give you an idea of the stature of these men in the art world, after the war they went on to become the he To think I almost didn't read this five-star book because I plan to see the movie! That would have been a terrible mistake. The movie is based "loosely" on the book. Very loosely indeed. Robert M Edsel's The Monuments Men is a nonfiction account of a group of mostly American art historians, museum curators, and one very special art conservationist from Harvard's Fogg Museum, George Stout. To give you an idea of the stature of these men in the art world, after the war they went on to become the heads of New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner, The National Gallery, The Frick, The Fogg, The Yale University Art Gallery, The Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Dallas, Toledo, Brooklyn, and Worster Art Galleries, and the Library of Congress. One of them was Lincoln Kirstein, who with Balanchine created the New York City Ballet. Theirs was a particularly difficult job. Just a few men, most of them in their 40s and much too old for army service in the middle of a vicious war. Kirstein lost 45 pounds during his six weeks of basic training with men half his age. But he and the others tracked down and protected our Western art heritage from the rapacious Germans, especially Hitler and Goring, who stole millions of art objects from the countries they conquered and from the particularly fine collections of Jewish families like the Rothchilds and Seligmanns. The story really began in 1943 Leptis Magna with Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler of the Royal Artillery. The British North African Army had reached the ruins of the great city of the Emperor Serverus. The British had held the area earlier until they were pushed back into Egypt by Rommel. When the Italians reached the area they published a story of British destruction of the site, smashed statues, empty columns, collapsing structures, graffiti on the museum walls. The accusations were false. The place had been collapsing on its own for 2000 years and the columns were empty because the Italians had taken the statues themselves. The graffiti was not on museum walls and it was just inches away from the graffiti the Italians had left in the area. But the British had no way of countering the Italian claims of Allied destruction. They had no archaeologists or historians in North Africa. Now the British were back in Leptis Magnis and they really were destroying the site. Trucks and tanks were routed over the paving stones of the ruins of the old city and Wheeler was appalled. He went to the Civil Affairs officers and pointed out they really were destroying the site this time, the most complete Roman ruin in all Africa. "Never heard of it," said the officer. Wheeler tried to explain the importance of the site. "Are you a historian?" asked the officer. "I'm an archaeologist," Wheeler replied, "Director of the London Museum." "Then do something about it, Director." With the help of a colleague from the London Museum, Wheeler rerouted traffic, photographed the site, posted guards, and organized repairs. And the men respected their attempts to preserve the site. Throughout the story of The Monuments Men the art conservators and historians and curators found that if they told the troops about the towns and regions they were fighting for the men became increasingly curious and wanted to know more. Lincoln Kirstein wrote histories of the cities of Metz, Nancy, and Achen which were read eagerly by the troops. It was hard work. One man would be attached to an entire Army and with a rank of lieutenant and no transportation, no typewriter, no paper even, they were trying to alert the men with sufficiently high rank to do something to preserve what they found after the battles in eastern France and Belgium. Time and again they arrived to discover the Germans had just days before taken monumentally important art objects such as Michaelangelo's Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece of Van Eyck. Taken them east into Germany to protect them from the uncivilized American barbarians. I didn't think I was going to be impressed with what I thought was a military history with a patina of art laid on. But of course the book was not that at all. You do have to know which British or American, or for that matter, Soviet army is where because the men assigned to the American groups were responsible for the area taken by the soldiers. Meanwhile, back in liberated Paris 2nd Lieutenand James Rorimer was learning from the head of French Museums, who had been part of the Resistance, what had been taken by whom and when. And that a volunteer assistant at the Jeu de Paume named Rose Valland had repeatedly risked her life throughout the occupation spying on the Germans, keeping elaborate notes, photographs, and copies of receipts for art work that was chosen by Goring during more than 20 trips to the museum and sent to his house outside Berlin and to Hitler. Much of this art was from the collections of the Jewish families of Paris and it was because of Valland's work that so many of these works were returned to the owners after the war. As Germany crumbled it became a race for the monuments men to reach the hiding places in central and southern part of the country where most of the stolen art was stored. The largest deposit of art was in a salt mine in Altausse which was in danger of being completely destroyed at the command of Hitler at the end of the war. In addition, this was part of the area that was going to be under the control of the Russians. The art recovered by the British and Americans was returned, all of it, to the country or individual who had owned it before the war, including those pieces taken from German churches and museums and stored for safekeeping. The Soviets were stealing everything they could get their hands on and were so careless with the caches of art they found that hundreds of important paintings were destroyed by rioting and fire. The movie is a movie. There's apparently a totally fictitious love story, and the characters do not carry the names of the men who did the things the actors portray in the film. Reviews haven't been that great, but I'm looking forward to seeing George Clooney, Matt Damon, Hugh Bonneville, Bill Murray, and John Goodman portray the heroic monuments men.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I did see the movie recently and while I applaud Clooney's attempt to interest the general audiences for a forgotten but spectacular piece of WWII, the movie felt like the highlights of a story that would perhaps have benefited far better with a tv series. In the opening of the book the writer tells about the bit where he left out the Italy based part of the story due to the size of the book, I do hope that story gets its own publication one day. One thing I am the likes of Clooney grateful for i I did see the movie recently and while I applaud Clooney's attempt to interest the general audiences for a forgotten but spectacular piece of WWII, the movie felt like the highlights of a story that would perhaps have benefited far better with a tv series. In the opening of the book the writer tells about the bit where he left out the Italy based part of the story due to the size of the book, I do hope that story gets its own publication one day. One thing I am the likes of Clooney grateful for is pointing out an interesting book and I'll be interested to read it this year. Lets talk about the book then, it is a fascinating largely forgotten story within a very well published WWII history. Why it is forgotten does never becomes quite clear to me when reading this story. It is a story about a group of people from within the art scene that seem to convince the US government that the saving of arts and culture of Europe is like saving our past absolutely necessary in order to establish our past. But even after the convincing of the US high command they never ever get the credit they are due and their story is relegated to the underworld of annals of the history of WWII. While this book is supposed to be a celebration of the original Monuments men it falls short in doing that. Yes the book gives them the spotlight they were overdue but due to the enormity of the story to book never has a smooth storyline and like Clooneys movie seems to jump all over the place. The truth be told several episodes in this book would be worthy of a book on their own merits, but would never attract to large an audience to warrant a publication of their own. That gives the book its fragmented feeling, there is so much to tell and share and the book really tries to that the whole as a sum does not measure up to what the story is worthy enough to tell. The story is told in a 436 pages as the rest are notes and such. A brilliant story that should be told in at more leisure pace with far more details and photo's to tell the fascinating story of recovery and theft. And as always the conclusion at the end is inescapable how perverse were the Nazi's in their quest for power and wealth. You cannot escape their foul greed all under the guise of making the world a better place for people while at the same time destroying history and people for a certain image they kinda liked. The aftermath of the Altaussee is depressing and not only for the fact of how the Austrian government never actively searched for the truth but kind of stuck with the version that suited their purpose. Which overall seems to be a picture of post WWII Europe and Asia. And while Hitler might have been an art lover his cronies were most certainly not, and in that way nearly took a lot of art almost to their graves as their Empire crumbled to bits. I would love to read some of these stories in a smaller dose and more detailed, I would love to know about their work in Italy, worthy of a book in itself. Also the Russian drive and confiscating of art stolen by the Third Reich might offer a brilliant book. I do hope that Clooneys movie did open up the chance of seeing such tales in print or even reprint of some books mentioned in the last part of the book. One major annoyance remains the map on page 69 where some dumbhead has placed St Pieterberg in the province of Utrecht/North Holland while it in fact belongs to the City of Maastricht. I should know that been in the underground caverns and passages in the "mountain" so often and walking my dog on top of it. My rating of the book has more to do with the content of the book than the actual writing which would get a 3 star rating while its historical content is easily worth a five star rating which averages in a four star. A brilliant start for seeking out less published chapters of WWII. Well worth your while and money.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tom Emory Jr.

    BEWARE THE AUDIO -- Stopped before the end of the second of six audio CDs. The reader, Jeremy Davidson, in addition to a failure to correctly pronounce the names of well-known people and places, thinks he's Olivier with his accents. His British accent is irritating but his German accent really put me over the wall. The audio version is abridged and, even though I was not through the second CD, I could sense the gaps and cuts to the text. I plan to read the book. It's a good enough story to devote BEWARE THE AUDIO -- Stopped before the end of the second of six audio CDs. The reader, Jeremy Davidson, in addition to a failure to correctly pronounce the names of well-known people and places, thinks he's Olivier with his accents. His British accent is irritating but his German accent really put me over the wall. The audio version is abridged and, even though I was not through the second CD, I could sense the gaps and cuts to the text. I plan to read the book. It's a good enough story to devote my time and interest, and the author has a good touch with his subject characters.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Brozyna

    As a veteran of tedious art history classes and a WWII history buff, I was excited to read this book. It details the Allied efforts to track down and reclaim the great art stolen by the Nazis in Europe. The men of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section rode in on the heals of the liberating forces, often arriving while a city was still under enemy fire. They sought out known artworks, protected what was left behind by the retreating Germans (mostly monuments and buildings), and used dete As a veteran of tedious art history classes and a WWII history buff, I was excited to read this book. It details the Allied efforts to track down and reclaim the great art stolen by the Nazis in Europe. The men of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section rode in on the heals of the liberating forces, often arriving while a city was still under enemy fire. They sought out known artworks, protected what was left behind by the retreating Germans (mostly monuments and buildings), and used detective work to track down looted art. The volume of stolen works was truly staggering and the Allied recovery effort no less impressive. Edsel's book is a very engaging read, but it suffers from an odd quirk. The author invented lines of dialogue for the real-life characters, much like a historical novel. So, if he knew that two men actually met, he would create a discussion to recreate the scene. Sometimes this was mixed with quotes that were known to have been said. Although this approach made the chapters perhaps more enjoyable for the reader, I think it's something best left to fiction.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    If you’ve paid any attention to the publicity for the star-studded movie adaptation of this book, then you already know a little about the mission of the Monuments Men. They were a group of artists, curators, and scholars commissioned by the Allies to save great works of art from Nazi looting. Going in to the book, I had mixed feelings about the mission. I understand art is important, but not as important as human lives. Six million Jews were being gassed, burnt, starved and worked to death in t If you’ve paid any attention to the publicity for the star-studded movie adaptation of this book, then you already know a little about the mission of the Monuments Men. They were a group of artists, curators, and scholars commissioned by the Allies to save great works of art from Nazi looting. Going in to the book, I had mixed feelings about the mission. I understand art is important, but not as important as human lives. Six million Jews were being gassed, burnt, starved and worked to death in the concentration camps, and though Allied bombing of the train tracks to the camps could have slowed down the genocide, it wasn’t done. Meanwhile, there was a special commission of people to recover art. That sounds like skewed priorities to me. Though the book didn’t entirely change my mind on that point, it certainly made me admire the Monuments Men and their mission much more. For one thing, the Nazis’ looting of art was a war crime on almost as massive a scale as the Holocaust itself. Just as there was mass murder, there was mass theft. Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures of the piles of Holocaust victims’ shoes and glasses taken from them just before they were murdered. Well, just as the Nazis were interested in appropriating objects of ordinary value, you’d better believe they were interested in treasured works of art. Remember: Hitler fancied himself an artist. He’d applied and been rejected from art school as a young man. The book itself is fast-paced and exciting. The author draws from the personal stories of the Monuments Men (and one Monuments Woman, Rose Valland), including some letters home from the front. That puts the people front and center, which is how history comes to life. My favorite anecdote, which I’m sure won’t be included in the movie, is a Jewish one. After the liberation of a forced labor camp, the survivors wanted to daaven (pray). Monuments Man Walker Hancock, played by John Goodman in the movie, was able to provide them with a rescued Torah scroll. The introduction of this book promises it will be a story about World War II you don’t already know, and for me, that was absolutely true. All my mixed feelings aside, it’s an excellent book that showcases the dedication and bravery of a group of unsung. . . dare I call them heroes? The Monuments Men will never match Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sandler, or Oskar Schindler for me. But the world is better off for what they did, and I’m glad they’re getting (mostly) posthumous recognition. I can hardly wait to see the movie! Stolen Shoes Stolen Art

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I finally finished this book! I started reading a physical copy in April of last year and have picked it up every now and then since, but I decided to finish it for a challenge I'm completing. I knew I would never finish reading the physical copy in time and decided to go with the audiobook. I really wanted to give this book more than three stars because there is a lot of great information in this story, but while I loved the information, the book was so hard to get through. I think that is why I finally finished this book! I started reading a physical copy in April of last year and have picked it up every now and then since, but I decided to finish it for a challenge I'm completing. I knew I would never finish reading the physical copy in time and decided to go with the audiobook. I really wanted to give this book more than three stars because there is a lot of great information in this story, but while I loved the information, the book was so hard to get through. I think that is why I had such a difficult time reading more than a chapter of the physical copy at any one time. It was most definitely an information dense read. Five stars for learning about the men and women who protected the arts during World War II, but three stars overall simply for the difficulty of making it to the end. On a side note, nonfiction is not my preferred genre. It may be much more enjoyable to someone who is used to reading historical accounts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I almost never read non-fiction, and even then, I never read historical non-fiction, so take my review with a grain of salt. I'm pretty sure I am adding a star just because I learned so much about WWII through this very specific lens of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives officers -- aka the Monuments Men. I considered listing a few facts I learned while reading, but they make me sound so ignorant I couldn't bear to type them all out. One anecdotal light-bulb-went-off-in-my-head moment I will I almost never read non-fiction, and even then, I never read historical non-fiction, so take my review with a grain of salt. I'm pretty sure I am adding a star just because I learned so much about WWII through this very specific lens of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives officers -- aka the Monuments Men. I considered listing a few facts I learned while reading, but they make me sound so ignorant I couldn't bear to type them all out. One anecdotal light-bulb-went-off-in-my-head moment I will share -- when German officer Erwin Rommel was mentioned in passing, and I immediately said to myself, "that is why my uncle's German Shepherd was named Rommel!" Literally every person I mentioned this to afterward said something like this "Yeah, you didn't know who the Desert Fox was?" or "Yeah, he was the African tank commander that tried to assassinate Hitler." One interesting thing I noticed about this kind of historical writing is that there is almost no dialogue, as every comment made by one of the Monuments Men comes straight from a source, mostly letters to loved ones back home and military correspondences. This was both a positive and a negative, as it gave me great faith in the historical accuracy of what I was reading, but made the text dry and detached at points. I had decided to read this after seeing the movie trailer (I am a fanatic about reading the book before I see the movie), and will update further after I see it, though I will note now that I glanced at the film's IMDB page to see which actor was playing which character, only to find they are playing fictitious versions, not the actual men featured in the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    This is a difficult review to write. I liked the book; well written and, to me, interesting. Unfortunately, I don't think many readers will find it very entertaining. It certainly wasn't a page turner and the fact that it's been made into a movie with a rather large stellar cast has me wondering. The problem both with the book and its movie is the fact that these men worked almost always alone and sporadically in two man teams. Their primary task was to keep Allied armies from destroying Europea This is a difficult review to write. I liked the book; well written and, to me, interesting. Unfortunately, I don't think many readers will find it very entertaining. It certainly wasn't a page turner and the fact that it's been made into a movie with a rather large stellar cast has me wondering. The problem both with the book and its movie is the fact that these men worked almost always alone and sporadically in two man teams. Their primary task was to keep Allied armies from destroying European monuments and repairing those that were damaged. What I suspect will be the focus of the movie, however, is the hunt for treasures looted and hidden by the Nazis. While this was a significant part of their job and part of the book it was hardly the bulk of what they did. However, finding this loot is what made the news and what their claim to fame turned out to be. But the fact seems to be that thanks to German fascination with record keeping they didn't have a very hard time learning where these things were only getting there before they could be destroyed or damaged. In this pursuit the Monuments Men were usually completely at the mercy of the war gods and luck. Consequently, the story really lacked any serious drama or mystery. The book simply tells the story of a group of men that through individual initiative did the best they could to save Europe's cultural artifacts. This story certainly needs to be told and these men deserve the recognition thus far denied them but don't read this book looking for an action packed thriller set in WWII.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was thrilled to read this part of WWII history that, thanks to Robert Edsel, is finally being giving some long overdue attention. When I was a student in Paris in 1980, I was aware of Hitler's Nero Decree, particularly for Paris, yet the Germans who had lived there for the 4 years of occupation loved the city so much that they disobeyed and refused to burn the city. However, I didn't know that my favorite museum, the Jeu de Paume, in which I spent hours, was once a transitory through which all l I was thrilled to read this part of WWII history that, thanks to Robert Edsel, is finally being giving some long overdue attention. When I was a student in Paris in 1980, I was aware of Hitler's Nero Decree, particularly for Paris, yet the Germans who had lived there for the 4 years of occupation loved the city so much that they disobeyed and refused to burn the city. However, I didn't know that my favorite museum, the Jeu de Paume, in which I spent hours, was once a transitory through which all looted French art treasures passed through on their way to Nazi Germany. Little did I know when staying at St. Lo on a tour of Normandy, that the town was a hiding place for French treasures that were completely demolished during WWII. Little did I know when I was gazing at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre that she was once stolen and stashed away in a Salt Mine deep below Nazi Germany. I thought I was well versed in history and art history, but this small yet essential piece I had not known. Thank you Mr. Edsel for bringing to light a piece of history that is so important that without it, I may not have had a Paris to study in. This story is so essential and I deeply appreciate the knowledge I gained in reading it. The movie, though another important vehicle in getting this story out, was a mere cartoon representation of the remarkable story of the Monuments Men. Again, thank you Robert Edsel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ilze Folkmane

    At this particular point in history, it is quite an occasion to come upon such a huge, unbelievable story that one has never heard of before, as is the case with Edsel's "The Monuments Men". It is clear that this book has been long in the making and that the author has done a mind-boggling amount of research, which is precisely and clearly reflected in the book. Even I, who understand almost nothing of art, was humbled by the story and the work of its main heroes. However, I could not care less f At this particular point in history, it is quite an occasion to come upon such a huge, unbelievable story that one has never heard of before, as is the case with Edsel's "The Monuments Men". It is clear that this book has been long in the making and that the author has done a mind-boggling amount of research, which is precisely and clearly reflected in the book. Even I, who understand almost nothing of art, was humbled by the story and the work of its main heroes. However, I could not care less for Edsel's writing style and, to be honest, for the most part it ruined the story for me. The sentences are short, choppy and more often than not filled with clichés (especially the fictional dialogues and inner thoughts of the Monuments Men). Also, the book is very repetitive and never really moves forward, but rather retells the same information over and over again, trying to force on the plot some intrigues and mysteries, which never really work out. Moreover, Edsel writes with great sense of patriotism and pathos, which I did not particularly like (especially, the pathos. Seriously. Sometimes it made me want to throw the book away). Anyway, I think I would have been glad to read a long article on the theme, not an almost 500 pages long book, though I guess that my utter lack of knowledge concerning art might be at fault here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    I said it before and I will say it again: this book needs a better editor. I like some of the stories but so many of them are repetitive. And I am not interested in reading letters from these men to their wives. Who cares? Give me details on the art saving stuff! God, the movie sucks. These scenes never happened: - no French member. So The Artist wouldn't have died in the arms of Mr. Flintstone - romance thingy between Valland and Jason Bourne's character - Lord Grantham did not die in a stupid I said it before and I will say it again: this book needs a better editor. I like some of the stories but so many of them are repetitive. And I am not interested in reading letters from these men to their wives. Who cares? Give me details on the art saving stuff! God, the movie sucks. These scenes never happened: - no French member. So The Artist wouldn't have died in the arms of Mr. Flintstone - romance thingy between Valland and Jason Bourne's character - Lord Grantham did not die in a stupid way - it was an explosion - the SS guy confessed before being asked. And HE told the Monuments Men about Altausse. - no prisoners of war eavesdropping stunt, no silly Canadian French, no singing of Christmas song in the Ardennes, no finding the Bruges Madonna in the last minute.... gosh so MANY silly made up scenes made for cheap dramatic effect! I hate you George Clooney and your screenwriter! Ok done ranting. I think there are many useful and interesting bits of information in this book but it was a tedious read so one has to be very, very patient.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    This was a slog. A one-sentence summary (which might read "The untold true story of how Allied soldiers saved the treasures of Western culture stolen by Nazis") sounds fantastic, but the book is incredibly bogged down in unnecessary details and constant repetition of simple facts and personality traits. The final sections are genuinely exciting, and if I ever get back to Paris I'll have a deeper appreciation for much of what's in the Louvre, but there must be a better way to have arrived at this This was a slog. A one-sentence summary (which might read "The untold true story of how Allied soldiers saved the treasures of Western culture stolen by Nazis") sounds fantastic, but the book is incredibly bogged down in unnecessary details and constant repetition of simple facts and personality traits. The final sections are genuinely exciting, and if I ever get back to Paris I'll have a deeper appreciation for much of what's in the Louvre, but there must be a better way to have arrived at this conclusion for myself. There's formatting issues too. For example, the pictures at the end would have been extremely useful if embedded throughout the book when relevant. Instead I was left to constantly stop reading and look up what these pieces of art were, since I had no idea the pictures were compiled later in the book. I've never been so excited to realize that the last 10% of a book was citations. That meant I could stop reading sooner than expected.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    A few years ago, on a trip to St. Louis, Missouri and I toured their well-known art museum. I noted a number of paintings on loan by a Jewish family that stated the paintings were returned to the family by the Monument Men. I said to myself I need to read the book. Finally, I just did. From 1939 to the end of World War II, the Nazis Army seized priceless paintings, sculptures, tapestries and other artworks from museum, palaces, cathedrals and private homes. The Nazi plundered everything and carte A few years ago, on a trip to St. Louis, Missouri and I toured their well-known art museum. I noted a number of paintings on loan by a Jewish family that stated the paintings were returned to the family by the Monument Men. I said to myself I need to read the book. Finally, I just did. From 1939 to the end of World War II, the Nazis Army seized priceless paintings, sculptures, tapestries and other artworks from museum, palaces, cathedrals and private homes. The Nazi plundered everything and carted it off to Germany. The Allied Forces created a group called the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Art and Archives) Division. This group consisted of men and women who were curators, archivists, art historians and artist. Their job was to find and return the art to its owners. The book is well written and researched. Edsel examined family letters and records, museum and church archives and even the Nazi archives. The book got off to a slow start but the ending was much more interesting. Sometimes it read like a detective story. I found the repetitiveness very annoying. I found the story interesting but the way the book was written just did not grab me as I felt it should. It is a hard thing to explain. I am only going to give this book a three rating instead of a four because the author never managed to obtain that something to make the book great. The book was 468 pages. I read the e-book on my Kindle app for my iPad.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    War is hell, and there are many wonderful books that describe that hell really well. This non-fiction book looks at World War 2 from a different perspective: the preservation of art and culture during times of war. There is so much I did not know about the men and women who helped preserve historic buildings and great art during WW2. On my travels through Europe, it never even occurred to me to wonder how all the marvels I was looking at survived wartime. I found this book educational, informati War is hell, and there are many wonderful books that describe that hell really well. This non-fiction book looks at World War 2 from a different perspective: the preservation of art and culture during times of war. There is so much I did not know about the men and women who helped preserve historic buildings and great art during WW2. On my travels through Europe, it never even occurred to me to wonder how all the marvels I was looking at survived wartime. I found this book educational, informative, moving and inspiring, and am so grateful for the courageous men and women who did this work. The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Jeremy Davidson, but I think this book would work better in print or ebook. The action takes place on several fronts, and there are letters, memos, diary entries, etc, and the audio also has no maps, which would better help set the scene. If you are a history or WW2 buff, or even interested in art, I would highly recommend you give this book a try.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I could say a lot about this book- that despite the fascinating subject the author wrote it perhaps a bit dry, that the subject is very near and dear to my heart, that at time I was confused as to where they were working within the chronological context of the war, that I was so happy a historian finally included a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, etc. Instead I want to do something a bit different, because I really want you to appreciate what happen instead of focusing just on th I could say a lot about this book- that despite the fascinating subject the author wrote it perhaps a bit dry, that the subject is very near and dear to my heart, that at time I was confused as to where they were working within the chronological context of the war, that I was so happy a historian finally included a dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, etc. Instead I want to do something a bit different, because I really want you to appreciate what happen instead of focusing just on the book. These are some of the works that the world almost lost forever, works that would have forever disappeared from our communal history: Van Eyck's The Ghent Altarpiece Vermeer's Astronomer Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges And even whole buildings, like the beautiful Neuschwanstein We almost lost these things, and thousands and thousands more priceless relics that tie us not only to our history, but together as a people of a world that is growing. So I want you to take a moment and thank these guys, that risked their lives to save this beautiful pieces: James J. Rorimer Rose Valland George Stout and Harry Ettlinger, a German Jew who had grown up next to some of these amazing works but never had the right to go see them, but who had the privilege to help rescue them after enlisting in the American army. So what do I really want you to do here? I want you to appreciate what was lost and what was found. Take a moment today to look at something beautiful. To help you, here are some great links: Google lets you virtually walk around several great libraries, and you can zoom in on the pictures View the Ghent Altarpiece in 100 billion pixels- you can actually see the individual brush strokes Read about ongoing conservation projects! Monuments Men Foundation

  25. 4 out of 5

    Darkpool

    So interesting. A bit slow to begin with as the background leading up to the need for the protection of Western Europe's cultural heritage during WWII. The bulk of this book follows the monuments men following the Normandy landing as the Allies swept across the western countries of Europe and into Germany. The narration is chronological, so we have frequent jumps between location and people, so the list of the main players at the front of the book was invaluable for helping get the different peo So interesting. A bit slow to begin with as the background leading up to the need for the protection of Western Europe's cultural heritage during WWII. The bulk of this book follows the monuments men following the Normandy landing as the Allies swept across the western countries of Europe and into Germany. The narration is chronological, so we have frequent jumps between location and people, so the list of the main players at the front of the book was invaluable for helping get the different people straight in my head. The inclusion of letters home helped greatly in understanding the character of the monuments men, and the conditions they were working in. There are many surprises, and indeed some shocks as we travel Eastward. I'd never really paid much attention to the detail of what happened in the fighting part of WWII, so this book gave me a much improved understanding of this also. Utterly shocked by the idea of the Nero Decree, and what Hitler was prepared to do to Germany when he realised he couldn't win.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Pribus

    Very thoroughly researched and completely new information to me -- the small group of men who strove to protect and recover works of art that were plundered, stolen and "removed for safekeeping" by the Nazis during WWII. I listened to it and while the reader did adopt some accents, he really just read the book rather than performing it. Some sections were inclined to be a bit, well, long on detail, but overall a very interesting book with staggering statistics. Thousands of art works and historic Very thoroughly researched and completely new information to me -- the small group of men who strove to protect and recover works of art that were plundered, stolen and "removed for safekeeping" by the Nazis during WWII. I listened to it and while the reader did adopt some accents, he really just read the book rather than performing it. Some sections were inclined to be a bit, well, long on detail, but overall a very interesting book with staggering statistics. Thousands of art works and historic objects that were looted and removed to Germany and Austria -- much stored in immense salt mines. In one, there were 40,000 (not a typo) cases of things -- painting, sculpture, altars, photographs, china, silver, clocks, church relics, entire stained glass windows. At the end, the author describes the lives of the main characters from after the war until their deaths -- a very interesting compilation.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    I really have no reason to write a review, but I have something that I would like to get off my chest. Nonfiction historical books are not my cup of tea. This book, especially. The whole book felt like I was reading out of my history textbook. There were some bits where it was story, but most of it was just dates and stuff. It was like, "George Stout took a sip from his canteen and gazed off into the distance. In his peripheral vision, he spotted a crumbling cathedral off the side of the road. No I really have no reason to write a review, but I have something that I would like to get off my chest. Nonfiction historical books are not my cup of tea. This book, especially. The whole book felt like I was reading out of my history textbook. There were some bits where it was story, but most of it was just dates and stuff. It was like, "George Stout took a sip from his canteen and gazed off into the distance. In his peripheral vision, he spotted a crumbling cathedral off the side of the road. Now let me tell you when that cathedral was built, how it was built, every historical person that walked through it, and how it has to do with Adolf Hitler." It was a serious chore for me to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Best

    I read this book after I saw the movie. Or maybe before, who even remembers? And I totally get why someone wanted to make this into a movie, because it's just absolutely fascinating. But, the real drawback of the movie is what makes the book so good: the scale of this endeavor was unreal. The book succeeds where the movie couldn't--it accurately captures how many events were happening, sometimes simultaneously, to help the men tasked with saving art succeed. The books' breadth is impressive, and I read this book after I saw the movie. Or maybe before, who even remembers? And I totally get why someone wanted to make this into a movie, because it's just absolutely fascinating. But, the real drawback of the movie is what makes the book so good: the scale of this endeavor was unreal. The book succeeds where the movie couldn't--it accurately captures how many events were happening, sometimes simultaneously, to help the men tasked with saving art succeed. The books' breadth is impressive, and it's well-written, well-researched, and truly emotional. Well worth your time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    ZaBeth Marsh

    I wanted to read this book before I saw the new George Clooney movie “The Monuments Men.” I have a thing about reading the books that movies are based on. But honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. I was expecting this book to be a history lesson that I needed to hear but would be happy when it was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Robert M. Edsel and Brett Witter make history come alive in truly gripping stories about some of the world’s most valuable artworks during one of the w I wanted to read this book before I saw the new George Clooney movie “The Monuments Men.” I have a thing about reading the books that movies are based on. But honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. I was expecting this book to be a history lesson that I needed to hear but would be happy when it was over. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Robert M. Edsel and Brett Witter make history come alive in truly gripping stories about some of the world’s most valuable artworks during one of the world most horrific time periods. Edsel introduces us to some true heroes of World War II that have almost gone unheard of by the general public. This book reads likes a popular spy novel so at the end of every chapter I had to stop and remind myself that this was all real. Edsel conveniently starts the novel with pictures and biographies of the real-life Monuments Men mentioned in the book, and I found myself referring back to these pages so that each chapter was grounded in reality. While I was reading I flagged numerous pages so that I could look up the famous artwork these heroes saved. And for that alone, I can thank the Monuments Men (and the women supporting them) for exposing me to artwork that I would never have seen in my life. I found myself not just glancing at the artwork, but reading up on the history and origin of pieces that interested me. This is the ripple effect of the work of the Monuments Men which will go on forever. I recommend that everyone read this book. And I’d vote that every high school student have to read it as a combined lesson in History, English and Art. (Footnote: After all my bragging about this book my husband tried to read it. He felt it was the slow historical log I had originally feared it would be. So I think your like or dislike of The Monuments Men will depend on your enthusiasm. This isn’t an action adventure page-turner book. It is more introspective about what went on during the war.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Fascinating subject covered in a clumsy narrative. A dozen or so Art aficionados are tasked with preserving the cultural and artistic history of Europe, and by the way, World War 2 just happens to be in progress. Initially the Monuments Men are faced with a problem too big to even know where to start, but they have some help, General Eisenhower does give them full moral support, though not much in logistics, so they have some hope of taking a bite of a great big pie. Initially the book has the fe Fascinating subject covered in a clumsy narrative. A dozen or so Art aficionados are tasked with preserving the cultural and artistic history of Europe, and by the way, World War 2 just happens to be in progress. Initially the Monuments Men are faced with a problem too big to even know where to start, but they have some help, General Eisenhower does give them full moral support, though not much in logistics, so they have some hope of taking a bite of a great big pie. Initially the book has the feel of a series of short stories glued together with what’s going on in the war at the time. As the Allies invade Europe, their initial goal is to keep Allied soldiers from using historic sites as barracks or latrines or looting them, which is not so glamorous a role, as about all the Monuments Men can do is plead and put up signs saying ‘Keep out’. The Nazis are thoroughly chastised for their plundering of the various artworks, which they do at a an often staggering, organized pace. The moral conundrum is somewhat ignored. The author does briefly note that Louvre would not be the Louvre if it was not filled with looted artifacts from France’s glory days, but does not mention that behind the British Monuments Men, the museums of London are full of works absconded in the hey days of the Empire. Things get more interesting as the Allies drive into Germany and the Monuments Men try to deal with massive caches of art works that are found in almost every cellar, cave, nook and cranny. I’d suggest this book as an intro to this interesting subject, and perhaps that will lead us to a better telling.

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