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Curl Up With A Gripping Read About History With The Monuments Men Book

By: John Denvert

History is much more than a bunch of names, places, events and dates. For each event in the past, there are countless stories of people, both ordinary and exceptional, who had a role to play. The Monuments Men book tells one of these stories and makes history come alive at the same time.

The author of the non-fiction work is Robert Edsel. Edsel used to make his money as head of the oil company he had started. After he sold his company for quite a bit of money in the 1990s, he moved to Florence, Italy with his family. Admiring the city's great art treasures, he started wondering how these sculptures and paintings survived World War II, which had devastated most of Europe. Then he embarked on a quest and found an amazing answer.

During World War II, as Hitler's army advanced across Europe, they looted and pillaged the towns and cities they occupied. This program had actually started several years before, when Hitler became the German Chancellor. In the Third Reich, only certain types of art were deemed as having artistic merit. Any piece that didn't meet the standards was to be sold or even destroyed, while the Nazis simply confiscated any art treasures that Hitler could display in his planned art museum.

The Allied Forces realized that countless treasures could be lost forever and they set up the MFAA, which stands for Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives. This organization consisted of military personnel as well as volunteers such as art historians and museum directors. The members of the MFAA, also known as the Monuments Men, came from thirteen different countries but most were American.

The organization had two main tasks. One was to prevent the destruction of cultural and artistic treasures as the Allied armies advanced through Europe. The other was to track down the items that the Nazis had already stolen and were hiding in secret caches all over the continent. By the time the organization was disbanded in 1946, they had recovered over five million pieces. This is especially impressive considering the lack of resources they had at their disposal.

One Monuments Man, or rather Woman, was responsible for much of the information that made the MFAA's task easier. She was Rose Valland, an art historian from France. During the Nazis' occupation of her country, she worked at the museum in Paris that the Nazis took over and used as a headquarters from where to send stolen items to Germany. She secretly recorded details of the items that were brought to the museum, where these items had come from and where they were being sent to.

Cate Blanchett's character in the movie is based on Rose Valland. Valland's story is told in a separate book that would make a wonderful companion to Edsel's book about the MFAA. Edsel also wrote several other books on the subject, including a riveting one about how Italian treasures such as Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' was saved from being destroyed.

To find books about the work of the Monuments Men, simply ask your local librarian. Another option is to browse bookstores. Even easier though is to order them online.

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