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Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History [Paperback]

Robert M. Edsel
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

3 Jun 2010

From 1943 to 1951, 350 or so men and women from thirteen Allied nations served as the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives section (MFAA) of the Allied armed forces: the eyes, ears and hands of the first and most ambitious effort in history to preserve the world's cultural heritage in times of war. They were known simply as Monuments Men. But during the thick of the fighting in Europe, from D-Day to V-E Day, when Germany surrendered, there were only sixty-five Monuments Men in the forward operating area. Sixty-five men to cover thousands of square miles, save hundreds of damaged buildings and find millions of cultural items before the Nazis could destroy them forever.

Monuments Men is the story of eight of these men in the forward operating theatre: America's top art conservator; an up-and-coming young museum curator; a sculptor; a straight-arrow architect; a gay New York cultural impresario; and an infantry private with no prior knowledge of or appreciation for art, but first-hand experience as a victim of the Nazi regime.

They built their own treasure maps from scraps and hints: the diary of a Louvre curator who secretly tracked Nazi plunder through the Paris rail yards; records recovered from bombed out cathedrals and museums; overheard conversations; a tip from a dentist while getting a root canal. They started off moving in different directions, but ended up heading for the same place at the same time: the Alps near the German-Austrian border in the last two weeks of the war, where the great treasure caches of the Nazis were stored: the artwork of Paris, stolen mostly from Jewish collectors and dealers; masterworks from the museums of Naples and Florence; and the greatest prize of all, Hitler's personal hoard of masterpieces, looted from the most important art collections and museums in Europe and hidden deep within a working salt mine - a mine the Nazis had every intention of destroying before it fell into Allied hands.

How does the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History end? As is often the case, history is often more extraordinary than fiction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (3 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848091036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848091030
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 205,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"After World War Two I served as a British member of the 'Monuments' section in Germany. Our task, I believe, was truly important - we were restoring to Europe evidence of its own civilization, which the War seemed virtually to have destroyed - and I was lucky to have had a chance to participate. It is excellent that Mr Edsel has now recorded this remarkable episode, and I am grateful to him for devoting so much energy to telling the stories of those involved" (Anne Olivier Bell)

"In the great storytelling tradition of my longtime friend, Stephen Ambrose, Monuments Men is a marvelous addition to the many great books on World War II and is a reminder that we fought to save western civilization as well as our freedom. Robert Edsel's brilliant work tells the story of how a small unit of American soldiers raced across the front lines in Europe to rescue the art treasures of western culture that had been stolen by the Nazis. Edsel's book is a thriller, in the style of Indiana Jones, but in this case it's all fact and great history. I read the book from cover to cover - couldn't put it down!" (Dr. Gordon 'Nick' Mueller, CEO/President and co-founder of the National World War II Museum)

"Highly Readable . . . a remarkable history" (Washington Post)

"Engaging and inspiring" (Publishers Weekly)

Book Description

World War II was not just the most destructive conflict in humanity - it was also the greatest theft in history: property, culture and heritage were all stolen. The Monuments Men were the people who tried to stop it.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story 23 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a story that demands a major audience. Hitler's war placed in jeopardy much of the world's greatest artwork, and this tells the story of what happened to parts of that art and how efforts were made by the Allies to avoid damaging it and to reclaim stolen art for its true owners.

If it were for the subject matter alone, this book would get five stars. Unluckily the story has been told from an almost exclusively American perspective, as if auditioning for a Hollywood screenplay. Americans' actions are described in an irritatingly folksy way, including many comments from their papers showing their national bigotry (e.g. saying that Roosevelt stood almost alone against the Nazis), while their British colleagues are almost ignored. This may be down to the facts that the author is American and that his admittedly extensive research relies heavily on Americans' memoirs. Perhaps equivalent British sources don't exist?

Read it for the incredible events contained within and for the passion for art that the author convincingly conveys to the reader, but forgive the style and remember that the Americans weren't the only people involved.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading (just) 10 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating story badly told.
Meandering across a vast array of information, moments of real excitement exploded by deathly prose compounded by repetition and imputed thought and speech. An important record but a bad historical novel!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but poorly written 30 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The story of the brave and dedicated people striving to preserve Art is amazing. Unfortunately it is poorly written , has a disjointed story line, and is far too long.

I wanted to follow the stories of all the monument people as they had taken on such an important job, with few resources, but I found I was distracted by the lack of cohesion and storytelling skills.

The book is worth reading as the events undertaken are impressive, but be prepared to be tolerant of the author's poor skill.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity 27 Dec 2010
A really good story which deserves to be well writen. Sadly this is not the case....Edsel's style (if that is what it is) is to put together...not in chronolgical order...a disjointed account of these US soldiers at the end of WW2.The English is truly appalling, with badly constructed sentences, which are often repeated in different chapters of the book.Chapters are often only a few paragraphs long.I really objected to the, probably fabricated, innermost thoughts of this group of men....why is it necessary to include such speculation?
A missed oppurtunity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Monuments Men" by Robert M. Edsel is story about the Monuments Men, less-known people that risked their lives near or behind lines of Nazi Germany to prevent from destruction many precious works of art.
Due to those brave American and British museum directors, curators and art historians numerous culturally important objects and things were preserved and this book tells their story from the perspective of six of those brave men.

The events portrayed in book are happening last year of the WW II when Monuments Man followed advancing Allied forces from the West, after the D-day and invasion to Italy took place, while they try desperately and with minimum support, sometime even without understanding, to perform their valuable job.

There are many interesting individual cases that were mentioned in the book, like painstakingly following the trail of the art pieces that were stolen from the Louvre while the Nazi regime was in charge, or supervising extraction of stolen paintings and other artwork from the salt mines where they were stored by Nazis.
Through the book a motive of "love of art" will be mentioned many times, a syntagm that was used by Nazis as an explanation why so many art pieces were stolen from the museums and other places.

It was great to read how art can unite people, even from the opposing sides in WW II like in the case with one German expert in art who helped the French Louvre manager to reduce the consequences of the museum looting to the minimum possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The true story behind the lies of the film! 7 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this because I'd heard some of the complaints about the movie, especially the mis-representation of the British involvement and people involved. This is the book on which the film was (very loosely) based and having read this I can see why some people are upset about the shameful way some real people are portrayed on screen. I can see why the long and complex story of the real teams had to be compressed and made more exciting for a movie, but the producers should have presented it as complete fiction with fictional characters, instead they pretended that this gives a realistic portrayal. Although this does get a little bit dry and dull in places (which I tended to skip-read) it is well written and gives a very different account of the events and personalities involved. If you wonder how so much of European art and architecture survived the Second World War, this is well worth reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fascinating book that revealed a piece of history that I knew nothing about. Well worth reading
Published 7 days ago by Chris Ranthony
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A good book illustrating a little known aspect of WW11
Published 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Andrew
A well researched and well written, telling the real story rather than the film version. An amazing true story which made me want to find out more.
Published 24 days ago by A. Stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I found this book both informative and enjoyable to read. I have learnt a lot from its content, especially the roles played by many individuals drafted from their otherwise... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Karen S. Carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of bravery, adventure and humanity
I loved the way Robert Edsel brought the Monuments men and women to life. This is a fascinating story of how art was saved. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Anne Marie Southall
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent resource and reference. An interesting history chapter which has been well written.
Published 1 month ago by Robyn T. Crimmin
5.0 out of 5 stars Get the Book - Forget the Film
100 times better than the film
Published 1 month ago by Dingley daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a thums up for the boys
Published 1 month ago by Al Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Hilary Salmons
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very enjoyable
Published 1 month ago by tony Swain
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