I recently finished reading The Monuments Men. It's tells the story of the men (and at least a few women) who were charged with saving the monuments, fine arts, and archives of Europe from the destruction of WWII, and the thieving hands of the Nazis. A bunch of middle aged men running around Europe saving art. I loved it! (Just to be clear, it is non-fiction.) I gave it 5 stars on goodreads. I don't normally give out 5 stars, but this book completely deserved it. Here's my goodreads review, for interested parties:
absolutely loved this book. It took me a while to get into it. The
first few chapters I had a hard time keeping track of all the people,
but by the end of the book I was enthralled. I couldn't wait for the
war to end, and for the treasures of Europe to be found. I feel like
the cause of the Monuments Men was deeply important, and I'm so glad to
have learned more about it."
I had to post this on the blog, because there are a couple of passages of the book that I want to remember. I actually bookmarked a couple of pages as I was reading the book, which I NEVER DO. This is how good it is. I think I would even read it again. Which, again, I NEVER DO.
First, this lovely passage:
"To save the culture of your allies is a small thing. To cherish the culture of your enemy, to risk your life and the life of other men to save it, to give it all back to them as soon as the battle was won . . . it was unheard of, but that is exactly what . . . the Monuments Men intended to do."
That, right there, is what this book is all about. Beautiful, isn't it?
The other thing I wanted to remember was the reaction of Eisenhower, Patton, and other American generals to their visit to Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American troops. Which had nothing to do with the Monuments Men, really, but everything to do with the war.
"Ohrdruf wasn't a death camp, like Auschwitz, but a place where human beings were systematically worked to death. Several survivors, shrunken to mere skeletons, pulled themselves up on shriveled legs and saluted the generals as they passed. The generals walked on in stony silence, their lips drawn tight. Several members of their staff, all of them hardened by war, openly wept. The hard-nosed Patton, "Old Blood and Guts," ducked behind a building and threw up.
"Every American soldier, Eisenhower insisted, every man and woman not on the front lines, must see this. 'We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.'"
Brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.
Finally, the pictures in this book are beautiful. Photographs of people and places and art. I think my favorite is a picture of the Aachen Cathedral, obviously once a place of splendor, now shattered and reduced to rubble. It's harrowing.
I seriously love this book, and can't recommend it highly enough. The first bit is a challenge to get through, but it is so worth it to push through so you can get to the good stuff.
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