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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.

Espionage was of course a part of this dangerous work. Two members of the unit were killed in the effort, which quickly expanded to include art recovery. Over five million valuable objects were taken from Nazi hoards or their supporters and later returned to their owners. The unit continued its work after the War ended, being finally disbanded in 1951.

The fact that many items remain hidden was highlighted by the recent discovery of more than 1400 valuable objects in a Munich apartment. The man who hoarded these treasures claims they are rightfully his by inheritance. His father was an art dealer commissioned by Hitler to dispose of art considered 'degenerate'.

Edsel himself made an exciting discovery, finding two missing masterpieces in a Dallas museum. However, although the paintings were once seized from the Rothschild family, they may have been returned and later sold. The documentation of transfer has not yet been found, so rightful ownership is unclear.

Edsel's Monuments Men Foundation continues to reach out to the public in this restoration effort. Many servicemen brought home souvenirs from Europe, and among these may be some of the missing objects. Recently a veteran returned two books, both over 400 years old, to the Foundation. Hopefully others with World War II souvenirs in their attics will check out the list of missing objects to see if they might have one or more in their home.

The book, like the movie, tells the true story of brave men and women who risked their lives to save cultural treasure and history. The movie does also, but without the depth of detail and truth found in the book. To learn more, read this historic account and visit the website of Edsel's foundation. Maybe you can help locate the missing Van Gogh and Raphael.

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