Robert M. Edsel’s The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a terrific book regarding a part of World War II history that few are aware of. One of Hitler’s goals was to amass great art for his personal collection, and to built a museum and a cathedral in Linz, Austria. What Edsel calls a “backwater of factories and smoke” would become, in Hitler’s vision, a cultural center to rival anything Europe had ever seen, and in no small part, to vindicate Hitler’s rejection from the Academy of Fine Art Vienna.
In addition, Herman Göring, Nazi Reichsmarschall, also wanted to create a personal collection of fine art, silver, and household items.
And thus, they plundered Europe.
While destroying “degenerate” art (such as Picasso’s and that of Jewish artists), the Nazis took hold of whatever they wished…and they wished for a lot. Göring literally stole train loads of art and furnishings. Michaelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, the only sculpture of his to reside outside of Italy at the time, was unceremoniously dumped onto mattresses to be secreted away. The Bayeux Tapestry, a 224-foot long medieval work, dating from the 1070s, not only an art piece but a historical document, was hunted by Göring. After being moved to the Louvre for safe-keeping by the French, it was (as were thousands of other art pieces) crated up and hidden by the Nazis. (more…)