Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

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The treasures of Quedlinburg . . . the Trojan gold . . . the Amber Room. These fabled objects are only the tiny summit of an immense mountain of artifacts - artistic, religious, historic - that were sold, confiscated, stolen, dismembered, defaced, destroyed, or buried as Europe succumbed first to the greed and fury of the Nazis and then to the ravages of war. Now, in a riveting account brimming with tales of courage and sacrifice, of venality and beastliness, Lynn H. Nicholas meticulously reconstructs the full ...
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The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War

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Overview

The treasures of Quedlinburg . . . the Trojan gold . . . the Amber Room. These fabled objects are only the tiny summit of an immense mountain of artifacts - artistic, religious, historic - that were sold, confiscated, stolen, dismembered, defaced, destroyed, or buried as Europe succumbed first to the greed and fury of the Nazis and then to the ravages of war. Now, in a riveting account brimming with tales of courage and sacrifice, of venality and beastliness, Lynn H. Nicholas meticulously reconstructs the full story of this act of cultural rape and its aftermath. In doing so, she offers a new perspective on the history of the Third Reich and of World War II. From the day Hitler came to power, art was a matter of highest priority to the Reich. He and other Nazis (especially Hermann Goering) were ravenous collectors, stopping at nothing to acquire paintings and sculpture, as well as coins, books, tapestries, jewels, furniture - everything. Their insatiable appetite (feared by the museum directors who sent their collections into hiding as war loomed) whipped the international art market into a frenzy of often sleazy dealing. When the German occupation of Poland, France, the Low Countries, and finally Italy began, a colossal wave of organized and casual pillage stripped entire countries of their heritage as works of art were subjected to confiscation, wanton destruction, concealment in damp mines, and perilous transport across combat zones. Meanwhile, in Washington and London curators and scholars campaigned energetically to convince President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and, most importantly, General Dwight Eisenhower to add the protection of art and edifices to the Allied invasion agenda. The landings in Italy and France, and the ultimate victory of the Allies, brought a dedicated corps of "Monuments officers" to the ravaged continent. On the front lines or immediately behind, they shored up bombed churches, cleaned the vandalized buildi

The fabulous objects recovered since the end of World War II are only a fraction of the immense treasures that were sold, confiscated, stolen, destroyed, hidden, and buried as Europe was overrun by the Nazis. Now Nicholas reconstructs the pillage and details the campaigns to restore the treasures. Illustrations and maps.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this NBCC winner, first-time author Nichols documents Nazi Germany's attempt to cleanse Europe of its ``degenerate'' art and the Allies' effort to preserve the continent's cultural treasures. (May)
Library Journal
First-time author Nicholas presents a poorly written survey of the traffic in art under the Nazi regime, first in Germany and then in occupied Europe. She has a great deal of information, but it is not presented clearly or consistently. Nicholas has worked extensively with original documents and secondary works to reconstruct the German confiscation of art across the Continent, not just from Jews but from individuals and institutions in every country. Part cultural policy, part individual cupidity-especially by Goering-part egomania (Hitler's plans for a great museum in Linz), the ``rape of Europe'' makes for an engrossing story, but it is beyond the author's powers to deal with this story at more than an anecdotal level. While more limited in scope, firsthand accounts like Craig Smyth's Repatriation of Art from the Collecting Point in Munich After World War II (Abner Schram, 1988) are preferable. Pass on this.-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
Donna Seaman
The world is still trying to fathom the enormity of the violence perpetrated by the Nazis. While the unending horror of the Holocaust continues to shock and baffle us, other facets of this unprecedented attempt at ethnic and cultural annihilation are still being revealed. One such facet consists of the mind-boggling facts about the Germans' wholesale pillaging of the art treasures of Europe. Nicholas painstakingly reconstructs the entire art debacle, relating one improbable but fully documented tale after another of systematic confiscation, outright theft, shameful deal-making, and fiendish destruction. The flip side to these atrocities is a litany of heroic efforts by curators, art historians, and many others to conceal, preserve, and protect the art of their land. Nicholas chronicles dozens of risky and dramatic struggles to keep the treasures of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, France, Russia, and Italy out of the hands of their mad conquerors. While thousands upon thousands of precious paintings, sculptures, medieval manuscripts, and other invaluable objects were torn from churches, homes, libraries, and museums and shipped to Germany, hundreds more were frantically buried, camouflaged, or stashed in basements, country estates, salt mines, or quarry tunnels. Nicholas is in full command of a daunting amount of detailed information. She eloquently and efficiently introduces a huge cast of characters and artworks and manages to cover both the terrifying war years and the curatorial and logistical nightmare of their aftermath, when the Allies' overworked "Monument men" labored against all odds and in spite of many controversies to return recovered masterpieces to their rightful owners. Nicholas, a first-time author, has constructed a momentous and riveting work.
From the Publisher
"Nicholas knows the art world as well as any military historian knows his battlefield.... Her work deserves the widest reading."—New York Times Book Review

"At once fascinating and horrifying [with] a strong element of spine-chilling suspense."- Los Angeles Times

"Intriguing..suspenseful...a sensational story of moral courage and greatness of character in the face of pure evil." -Houston Chronicle

"Impressively detailed and well-told...full of moving and fateful stories of escape, intrigue, betrayal, and sacrifice."-San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679400691
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/12/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 498
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn H. Nicholas was born in New London. Connecticut.  She was educated in the United States, England, and Spain, and received her B.A. from Oxford University. After her return to the United States she worked for several years at the National Gallery of Art.  While living in Belgium in the early 1980s, she began research for this book, her first.  Ms. Nicholas and her husband live in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I Prologue: They Had Four Years: Germany Before the War: The Nazi Art Purges 3
II Period of Adjustment: The Nazi Collectors Organize; Austria Provides, Europe Hides 27
III Eastern Orientations: Poland, 1939-1945 57
IV Lives and Property: Invasion of the West; The Nazi Art Machine in Holland 81
V Lenity and Cruelty: Occupied France: Protection and Confiscation 115
VI Business and Pleasure: France: The Art Market Flourishes; Nazi Kultur Withers 153
VII Plus ca change: The Invasion of the Soviet Union 185
VIII Inch by Inch: The Launching of the Allied Protection Effort 203
IX The Red-Hot Rake: Italy, 1943-1945 229
X Touch and Go: The Allies Take Over: Northern Europe, 1944-1945 273
XI Ashes and Darkness: Treasure Hunts in the Ruined Reich, 1945 327
XII Mixed Motives: The Temptation of Germany's Homeless Collections 369
XIII The Art of the Possible: Fifty Years of Restitution and Recovery 407
Notes 445
Bibliography 467
Index 477
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Great

    I found a couple sections a bit dry, but overall a fantastic, very interesting read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Nicholas weaves history into an easy read that is a compelling p

    Nicholas weaves history into an easy read that is a compelling page turner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 14, 2014

    well researched, well written, fascinating

    This book is a detailed account of how Hitler, Goering, unscrupulous and greedy art dealers and the Nazi's managed to steal and/or destroy much of the art work, furniture, rugs, tapestries, jewelry etc in Europe while they fought to conquer everything in site…It is absolutely fascinating. She writes about the dedicated 'monuments men' who fought for the return of all 'stolen' artwork to their original owners… even those of Germany… although many would have liked to use the German treasures as restitution for the war… the book would be enhanced by photos but a computer or other device to check on that each painting etc looked like worked fine… I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a lover of art or history…. it is definitely look at WW II from a very different and also horrifying perspective.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Splashwhisker

    The pretty misty grey she-cat padded off of Shadowclan territory when she sniffed two scents.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 23, 2011

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    Posted April 19, 2011

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    Posted May 2, 2014

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    Posted January 15, 2012

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    Posted May 18, 2013

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