Adolf Hitler is widely known for his relentless pursuit of a worldwide German Empire and the atrocious acts he committed against the Jewish race. What most people don’t know about Hitler was that he viewed himself as an artist, plotting to plunder the world’s greatest artistic treasures in order to establish the world’s greatest collection of art right in the heart of Germany.
Robert Edsel reveals this side of Hitler’s reign of terror in his New York Times bestseller, The Monuments Men. In this remarkable literary feat, Edsel manages to produce a plethora of historical documents and events with remarkable accuracy and attention to detail, while still keeping readers engaged with his compelling writing style.
Edsel reveals that as a sixteen-year-old youth, Adolf Hitler was an aspiring painter who was denied – twice – to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (in 1907 and 1908). While first touring Italy with Mussolini, Hitler was fascinated with the museums and art collections of Rome. He recognized that art symbolized a people’s identity and ability to exercise freedom of thought, and understood that if he owned the world’s greatest artistic achievements, that he could build not only a successful military campaign, but a true empire – one that would rival Rome itself.
Fortunately, there were honorable men who had the courage to stand in Hitler’s way and fight to protect the world’s greatest artistic achievements from theft or, in some cases, from utter destruction. Enter the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section), a special task force appointed by the Allied Forces to protect and restore these treasures. Their efforts preserved many of the world’s wonders that we treasure today, and their stories are inspiring.
What did Adolf Hitler and the Monuments Men have in common? They understood that art matters. Art is important. Art symbolizes more than mere creativity – it symbolizes the freedom of the human spirit. And art is worth fighting for.
As contemporary artists, may these truths about art inspire us and refresh our spirits. What Hitler used to promote terror, may we use to promote truth – for the good of all mankind.