Out of all of the books that are written in the world, one of the most popular topics has to be World War II. Whether you're looking for biographies of famous generals, stories from just a particular country, exploits of one branch of the military,Nazi atrocities, Pacific POW camps, the amount of books and the details they go into are staggering. I have read several books on the topic. Though I have to be careful to space them out between other books or else my already vivid nightmares taken a very scary turn. There is only one book that I have found,so far, that has so wonderfully told a true (!) story about 2 topics that interest me so much: World War II and art.
I can not emphasize enough that "Monuments Men" is a true story. Keep that in mind while I weave the magical summary for you:
World War II is in it's last year ; death, destruction, bombs and terror are still spreading across Europe. A small group of men and women (only about 345) from around the world are recruited to the newly minted Monument,Fine Arts, and Archives division. The intimidating task given to these men and women is twofold: recover art that the Nazis have stolen (usually from museums or private collections) and try to prevent the destruction of cultural monuments (historical buildings, churches, etc). What makes this group of people even more impressive is that they were not soldiers. They were historians, museum curators, archivists, artists,sculptures and art restorers.They found themselves in an overwhelming position usually with little manpower or resources. They even faced ridicule from their own people at time (Why risk your life for a few smudges of paint or an old building? Especially if they were German, the people who are trying to kill you as you are trying to protect their cultural heritage.) They recovered huge caches of art: sometimes hidden away, sometimes proudly displayed in huge Nazi estates. Herman Goering, that fat bastard, was particularly proud of the art collection that he had looted and pillaged from across the continent. The book follows a small group of these men as they travel around the continent in a desperate bid to save it's heritage and cultural important places.
The MFAA were amazingly successful.However there are some monuments, artworks, and pieces of cultural history that have been lost, seemingly forever. The book details the frustrations and triumphs that the group experienced.
If you are a keen observer (or spend time on the internet) this story might already sound familiar to you. It's because it's going to be a movie. Some small, little known indie actors will be some of the stars: George Clooney,Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (good looking Frenchmen). The release date is right before Christmas, December 18th. Which means you have a little more than a month to get thee to a library or bookstore so you can get this one read BEFORE you see the movie. (Or after, but the important thing is that you read it.) Also, I need a date to see this with me when it comes out because the husband is not interested...
When I think about all of the wars and battles that have been fought in Europe I'm amazed at the beautiful structures that still remain. I mean, Notre Dame has seen a lot of action. Likewise St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, St Basil's in Moscow and so many other historical buildings.
REAL WORLD APPLICATION! In a case of fortuitous timing check out the news story that broke this morning about 1,500 looted pieces that were found in a mansion in Munich.