The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War Paperback – Apr 25 1995
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Every few months you'll read a newspaper story of the discovery of some long-lost art treasure hidden away in a German basement or a Russian attic: a Cranach, a Holbein, even, not long ago, a da Vinci. Such treasures ended up far from the museums and churches in which they once hung, taken as war loot by Allied and Axis soldiers alike. Thousands of important pieces have never been recovered. Lynn Nicholas offers an astonishingly good account of the wholesale ravaging of European art during World War II, of how teams of international experts have worked to recover lost masterpieces in the war's aftermath and of how governments "are still negotiating the restitution of objects held by their respective nations." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this NBCC winner, first-time author Nichols documents Nazi Germany's attempt to cleanse Europe of its "degenerate" art and the Allies' effort to preserve the continent's cultural treasures.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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It may sound like a bizarre comparison, but the "Grinch" of Dr. Seuss fame came to mind while reading. The fictional character like his Nazi counterparts attempted to wipe out a culture by taking everything. The list of names of Artists includes every Master that ever painted, sculpted, drew, or any artisan who created a work of beauty. Nothing was overlooked; imagine having to return over 5,000 bells stolen from all over Europe. Yes, bells, as I said they took everything.
The book has some great photographs. There is a photo of one of the Goering residences and the Art he had stolen. It may sound bizarre but it looks like a bad yard sale. Any taste he had was in his mouth. It's quite a feat to amass priceless objects, and then display them in such a way and in such numbers, that the result is a garage sale. The picture also illustrates what the whole theft was about, the desire to have stuff, all the stuff you could steal.Read more ›
But the underlying Nazi menace is only a part of the suspenseful undertone in this book. The various heart-wrenching stories of the brave souls who tried to protect and salvage the many works of art (on both sides surprisingly) are what give this account a real kick. To me the accounts on the Soviet front were especially remarkable.
My only complaint is that since I am not, as I suspect the majority of the readers are not, art historians, the significance of many of these works directly mentioned is lost. I would like to have seen more pictures of the art work in question. (I have uncovered a documentary in the works based on this book which might allieviate some of this problem, but until then...)
For those interested in the history of World War II and who might have exhausted the typical military accounts, I highly recommend this alternate angle into Nazi repression and its effect on those who lived through it. Heck, I recommend this for anyone who enjoys history.
*** The appropriation of great works of art may not be a crime equal to the holocaust of human lives, but we can begin to grasp the progression of tyranny in stolen property and the systematic imposition on everyday lives. It is a story that doesn't have complete resolution. Even today, works of art remain missing or await return to their rightful owners. Many treasures were destroyed, however, and will never return. It is a haunting echo of other, more heinous war crimes.
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