In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.
Usually I wait to post a review until after we discuss at book club, so that I can write a bit about what we all thought. But I read this a while ago and book club isn’t until later this week, so I decided to just get this written and posted now.
I LOVED it! I know I have a bad habit of saying that with all caps in my review. But it’s true! I really loved it. It is full of so much information. One thing I do want to say though is that there’s a lot of quick references to battles and other things going on during the war. If you are not down on your WWII history, you might get confused and not really know the timeline as well. So if you don’t know a lot about the war, maybe keep Google open or read up on wikipedia or something.
The men who became the Monuments Men were not your typical soldiers. Sure, they all signed up for for the army or the navy. But most of them were scholars back home. They worked in studios or in museums. But then they risked their lives (and some lost their lives), to protect artwork and cultures and to get everything back to wherever it was stolen from. It was so sad to read about things like precious illuminated manuscripts that were destroyed during bombings. We will never get those back.
Also, can you believe that the Nazis stored so much artwork-paintings by people like Rembrandt!-in wet mines?! A lot of paintings especially had to be restored because they had sustained some water damage.
The saddest part is how much the Nazis took from Jewish families. Some families were able to flee before they were sent to camps, and the Nazis took everything from their homes, but we know that so many were not lucky enough to get away. And there were just trains full of these peoples possessions.
It’s sickening to think about how so much cultural heritage, so many monuments, beautiful old buildings, paintings, books, etc. were lost during the war. It’s humbling to think of how much was able to be saved. It makes you appreciate everything more. It makes me want to go back to France, to La Rochelle, and really appreciate how untouched the old port and city center were. Because so many towns and cities lost their historical buildings and downtowns. And of course they lost so many people.
I highly recommend this book if you love WWII history and are interested in art preservation. It is nonfiction, but it reads more like fiction because it’s so fast paced.
Have you read this book? I’m not sure I want to see the movie. My boyfriend saw it and came home and point blank told me I wouldn’t like it.