Before and during World War II, when Germany was marching across the continent and bringing terror to civilians and military leaders alike, they had a list of things they wanted. Specific things. Art things. Hitler, who had started out trying to get into art school, considered himself a lover of art and an artist, and as such, he wanted to get certain pieces and keep them in a new museum, in his former hometown of Linz, Austria. It would be called Gemaldegalerie Linz, but soon, it became known as the Fuhrermuseum – of course nicknamed after the Fuhrer himself, Hitler. The problem was, where would he get all these masterpieces to put in this amazing museum? Most of them were already in other museums and private collections. So it was determined that as Germany and the Nazis went into areas and occupied them, they would work from a list and gather as many of the pieces Hitler wanted as possible. And so it began.
Thousands of pieces of priceless artwork, including the Mona Lisa, and important works of cultural importance for many areas were stolen and then moved, often hidden to be retrieved later for the museum.
However, as the tide of the war turned, and Hitler and Nazis were fighting a defensive battle rather than an offensive one, they were forced to move things several times. Many people knew about these thefts and when new areas were taken back over by the allied, a small group of dedicated art historians, museum curators, and others were determined to find these stolen treasures and return them to their original owners. Little did they know the huge undertaking they were about to embark upon.
The Greatest Treasure Hunt In History by Robert M. Edsel is a meticulous recounting of the adventures, risks, and down right dangerous situations these Monuments Men (as they were later dubbed) faced in their race to save some of the world’s most precious work from war torn lands.
Recommended for serious history junkies and for 8th grade and up only because of the complexity of the story.