Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monuments Men


Two weekends ago, my grandparents took me to see Monuments Men.  Yes, my grandparents and I still have dates together.  There are some things from childhood I refuse to relinquish, and this is one of them.  ;)

Around the holidays, I first saw the previews for Monuments Men.  I was excited to see a World War II movie that didn't appear to be full of blood, guts, gore, and depressing themes.  I study WWII in depth frequently, and have for years, and while all of those elements are very much a reality of this war, sometimes I need to be reminded that good comes out of evil.  Monuments Men succeeded in doing just that.  Oh, and it's a safe movie for older kids!  There's some era-appropriate foul language, but no kissing, no affairs, no gore, and lots of light moments that had me giggling several times.

This is a true story of 345 men and women, American, British, French, and others, tasked to find the art stolen by the Nazis before the Allied forces entered a city and accidentally destroyed it by bombing a building in efforts to chase out Nazis.   The film focus on 6 of these men and one women, and the story is beautifully interwoven.  I'm still waiting on the library list to get the book the tells the full story, but here's what I know about the film that is true:

In the last year of the war, museum curators, historians, and architects were brought together by the military to save the great art works of Europe.  Many at the time thought it was a stupid ploy, doomed from the beginning, and not worth it's weight in the budget of the war.  Yet many realized that if the works stolen by the Nazis weren't recovered, or worse, were destroyed either through the Nero Decree or Allied bombs, history, culture, and the basis of much of modern society would be lost forever.

See, Hitler was an artist, and honestly, a decent one at that.  He firmly believed his denial into art school was because a group of Jews were on the selection committee, and they had it out for him.  This was one of many instances Hitler created in his mind to fuel his hatred and antisemitism that grew into the Holocaust.  We also know that Hitler was obsessive in ways that defy most definitions of OCD.  In his conquest of Europe, he not only wanted the land, people, and natural resources, but all the art too.  Hitler wanted to create a museum to showcase greatness in artistic developments through the ages.  As he conquered a town, the art was ransacked out of homes and museums, documented, and stored away.  All Jews lost their art, and many other private citizens did too.  Sadly, many modern pieces, those created by Jews, and other 'inferior' works were destroyed immediately.  Personally, my heart aches at all the greatness lost.

What the Allies didn't know was where Hitler was storing these works while development of the great museum was underway.  These Monuments Men took on the responsibility of gaining the trust of locals in various towns the Allies were reclaiming and find the art hidden away.  There truly was a rush to beat the Russians to it.  The Russians wanted to keep the art as retribution payment for all the lives they'd lost fighting the Nazis.  The other Allied nations wanted to return the art to their rightful owners.  Russia essentially 're-stole' countless pieces that are still being uncovered today.  As the Allies found pieces, they took the carefully kept records of the Nazis and returned as many pieces to the rightful church, synagogue, museum, or private owner.

These men and women saved a huge chunk of culture.  Honestly, they also saved a lasting testament to how many chose to show their worship of the One True King.  I'm grateful for their sacrifice, diligence, and efforts in trying to restore what could have never been replaced.  For a change, Hollywood did it right in the way they chose to honor the Monuments Men

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