The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel


I picked up this book in a sale at the library. It seemed like it might be pretty fun. Well, as much fun as you can have in a war. Nazis steal treasure (from pretty much everywhere) and Allied soldiers get a wiggle on and go after it. The narrative starts prior to World War II with members of the art community saying that war is bad for art and that we should remember that if fighting ever happens again. It followed the stories of a couple of museum people and some art conservators. One of them actually writes out a plan on how to preserve monuments and art during wartime. Then, World War II breaks out, the Allied forces have some pretty disastrous PR following the destruction of some monuments and so decide that maybe they should do something to preserve the cultural heritage of Europe. This turns out to be a great idea because Hitler is obsessed with art and has his surrogates all over Europe cataloging and seizing all kinds of property.

So, this book follows six of the folks assigned to Monuments duty during World War II. The bulk of the narrative focused on the recovery of the Ghent altarpiece, the art at Neuschwanstein Castle and all of the art that was stored at the salt mine at Altausee. It was really interesting hearing about all of these pieces of art. It was also interesting hearing about the storage, transportation and care of the art. (Spoiler Alert: pieces often didn’t get the treat they deserved.)

I’m not going to lie to you, some of this book was a little boring. But, overall I’m glad that I read it.

So, if you’re interested in war, treasure hunting and the Allied forces defeating the Nazis, you may want to pick this up.