A: Art Worth Dying For – Review of Edsel’s “Monuments Men” – Part I

Monuments Men.jpg

AAdolf 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 In this remarkable literary feat, Edsel manages to produce a plethora of historical documents and events with remarkable accuracy and attention to detail, while still keeping readers engaged with his compelling writing style.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.

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14 thoughts on “A: Art Worth Dying For – Review of Edsel’s “Monuments Men” – Part I

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Joanne! I really do highly recommend the book – hearing of priceless art being hauled towards Germany by the trainload is enough to make you feel sick, but the stories of the Monuments Men are inspirational. If you enjoy history, this one is worth it!

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  1. Awesome. Thanks for the stop-by today. I take a similar view of the relationship between art and truth. When I look a piece of my own work that’s almost finished, one of the questions I ask is: Am I being honest.

    I know we have to be careful about how we make judgments about truth, but some forms of dishonesty are easy to spot; and when I’m sure that’s what I’m looking at I try to point it out.

    Did you know that a huge stash of art that was seized by the Nazis was recently discovered? I don’t have the link, but I read the story only a day or two ago.

    best wishes for the challenge.

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    1. I absolutely agree that our art should reflect Truth…and I had no idea about the Nazi stash that was recently discovered! If you come across the link, let me know – I’d love to read up on that!

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      1. It was so recent, you might be able to search for it on google news.

        I saw it on facebook. The son of someone who was involved in the seizures of the art kept it all these years. If it pops back up in my feed, I’ll snag it for you. It was an impressive collection, purchased for almost nothing from Jews who thought that selling it would help them get out.

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