December 01, 2009
"Monuments Men": Saving Historic Structures in Wartime
The Huffington Post
Robert M. Edsel
If you enjoy rejection, criticism, small-minded thinking, and antiques (e.g., the book business), becoming an author is for you! Why then pursue it? In my case, I am driven by my passion to tell the story of a group of men and women -- museum directors, curators, art historians, artists and librarians -- who volunteered for service during World War II to save the greatest structures (hence the moniker "Monuments Men") and other priceless works of art from the destruction of the war and theft by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. With an average age of 40 years, most with accomplished careers and families, they had everything to lose and they knew it. Still, they wanted to serve.
I first discovered the story quite by accident while living in Florence, Italy. Standing on the Ponte Vecchio bridge one day, the only one of six not destroyed by the Nazis as they fled the city in August, 1944, I wondered aloud, "With Europe's cities so devastated by the war, how did so many famous structures and so much of its irreplaceable art survive the most destructive conflict in history? Who were the people that saved it?"