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The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War [Paperback]

Lynn H. Nicholas
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

From Library Journal

First-time author Nicholas presents a poorly written survey of the traffic in art under the Nazi regime, first in Germany and then in occupied Europe. She has a great deal of information, but it is not presented clearly or consistently. Nicholas has worked extensively with original documents and secondary works to reconstruct the German confiscation of art across the Continent, not just from Jews but from individuals and institutions in every country. Part cultural policy, part individual cupidity-especially by Goering-part egomania (Hitler's plans for a great museum in Linz), the "rape of Europe" makes for an engrossing story, but it is beyond the author's powers to deal with this story at more than an anecdotal level. While more limited in scope, firsthand accounts like Craig Smyth's Repatriation of Art from the Collecting Point in Munich After World War II (Abner Schram, 1988) are preferable. Pass on this.
Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The world is still trying to fathom the enormity of the violence perpetrated by the Nazis. While the unending horror of the Holocaust continues to shock and baffle us, other facets of this unprecedented attempt at ethnic and cultural annihilation are still being revealed. One such facet consists of the mind-boggling facts about the Germans' wholesale pillaging of the art treasures of Europe. Nicholas painstakingly reconstructs the entire art debacle, relating one improbable but fully documented tale after another of systematic confiscation, outright theft, shameful deal-making, and fiendish destruction. The flip side to these atrocities is a litany of heroic efforts by curators, art historians, and many others to conceal, preserve, and protect the art of their land. Nicholas chronicles dozens of risky and dramatic struggles to keep the treasures of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, France, Russia, and Italy out of the hands of their mad conquerors. While thousands upon thousands of precious paintings, sculptures, medieval manuscripts, and other invaluable objects were torn from churches, homes, libraries, and museums and shipped to Germany, hundreds more were frantically buried, camouflaged, or stashed in basements, country estates, salt mines, or quarry tunnels. Nicholas is in full command of a daunting amount of detailed information. She eloquently and efficiently introduces a huge cast of characters and artworks and manages to cover both the terrifying war years and the curatorial and logistical nightmare of their aftermath, when the Allies' overworked "Monument men" labored against all odds and in spite of many controversies to return recovered masterpieces to their rightful owners. Nicholas, a first-time author, has constructed a momentous and riveting work. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A sprawling, vivid look at the fate of Europe's artworks during WW II. ``Never,'' states Nicholas in her admirably accomplished first book, ``had works of art been so important to a political movement and never had they been moved about on such a vast scale....'' Charting this unprecedented movement, Nicholas begins with the Nazis' twofold ``purification'' effort to ban ``degenerate'' culture and to scour public and private collections of enemy lands and races for nobly Germanic art. Backed always by astonishing statistics, the author recounts not only the brutal pursuit of both goals in western continental Europe and the even harsher, racially motivated pillage of Russian and Polish art treasures, but also the baffling exceptions to rules: the modernist ``garbage'' (Goebbels) imported into Germany and auctioned for hard foreign currency; the Jewish experts in Nordic art made ``Honorary Aryans''; the hands of Jewish women kissed by Goering in his quest for favorite canvases. As a former researcher at Washington's National Gallery who made a childhood visit through the devastated Germany of 1948, Nicholas is well equipped to elucidate the technicalities and vivify the chaos of wartime Europe's emergency storage sites, their improvised safety and climate controls, the economics and legalities of the art trade and postwar reclamations, and America's interests during and after the war in custodianship, reparation politics, and efforts to protect its own collections. Nonetheless, Nicholas does not, so to speak, lose the big picture, duly prefacing each country-by-country account with background history of the war. One interesting Cold War issue she considers is the politically sensitive return to newly Communist countries of plundered religious relics. The book abounds in poignant and bizarre details, from masterpieces traded for everything from human lives to ``8 kilograms of millet,'' to Chinese bronzes found holding manure in East German pigsties. Nicholas restores harrowing political contexts to ``safe,'' pristinely displayed museum masterpieces. (87 b&w illustrations and 3 maps) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Nicholas knows the art world as well as any military historian knows his battlefield.... Her work deserves the widest reading."--New York Times Book Review

"At once fascinating and horrifying [with] a strong element of spine-chilling suspense."- Los Angeles Times

"Intriguing..suspenseful...a sensational story of moral courage and greatness of character in the face of pure evil." -Houston Chronicle

"Impressively detailed and well-told...full of moving and fateful stories of escape, intrigue, betrayal, and sacrifice."-San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Lynn H. Nicholas was born in New London. Connecticut.  She was educated in the United States, England, and Spain, and received her B.A. from Oxford University. After her return to the United States she worked for several years at the National Gallery of Art.  While living in Belgium in the early 1980s, she began research for this book, her first.  Ms. Nicholas and her husband live in Washington, D.C.

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