The Monuments Men Book Now A Major Motion Picture

By Krystal Branch

You have probably heard about the big-budget movie but may not have thought about the Monuments Men book that inspired the film. Both are based on true events. The author of the book released in 2009, Robert Edsel, has also written a sequel entitled Saving Italy. Although the Allied group of real life heroes was disbanded in 1951, the effort to retrieve stolen art objects continues to this day.

Robert Edsel wrote the best-seller book and a sequel, Saving Italy. He has also produced a documentary and founded a non-profit organization to continue the effort to find stolen art and return it to its rightful owners. He hopes to educate the public and raise awareness of the fact that many valuable items are still unaccounted for.

The book is the story of a group of art historians, museum curators, architects, and soldiers who made up a force sanctioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Well-known actors represent the World War I veteran, the ballet director, the art conservation expert, and the other scholars who left their families and risked the dangers of combat to preserve western culture.

The mission soon expanded to cover paintings, sculpture, and other art as well. Two of the unit were killed in action, but the group succeeded in recovering over five million valuable objects from Nazi collections or supporters. The group was formed in 1943 and continued its efforts for eight years.

Recent news shows the relevance of this subject today. In a Munich apartment, officials discovered more than 1400 valuable works of art which may be on lists of stolen objects. The German recluse who hoarded these treasures is the son of an art dealer commissioned by the Nazis to sell art deemed 'degenerate' by Hitler. He is asking for the return of the objects seized recently, claiming they are his by inheritance.

Robert Edsel himself spotted two listed paintings in a Dallas museum. They did turn out to be the paintings cataloged by the Nazis as objects taken from the Rothschild family. The documentation on the paintings is missing, however; they may have been returned to their rightful owner and later sold legally.

Edsel's foundation continues to support the return of valuables, sometimes taken home by soldiers as souvenirs. Recently a veteran returned two rare and extremely old books he had in his home. The Hollywood movie may encourage others to examine the things they have that may fit in this category.

The engrossing book is an account of heroism that really happened as the world suffered through World War II. Espionage, daring, secret missions, and exciting discoveries were all part of the story. By the way, keep an eye out for the Raphael and the Van Gogh that are still missing, if you want to help get treasures back to those who once owned them.

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