The Spoils of World War II; The American Military's Role in the Stealing Europe's Treasures

The Spoils of World War II; The American Military's Role in the Stealing Europe's Treasures

by Kenneth D. Alford

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alford reveals in detail the extent to which the U.S. Army of occupation pillaged the defeated German people of their private possessions and public treasures after WWII. Paintings and statuary, jewelry, silverware and china, furniture and all manner of items from private homes were stolen by marauding GIs and their officers. Much museum art, which had been hidden in castles, monasteries and mine shafts was officially confiscated by American military authorities, but then was guarded so haphazardly that insider thieves, including general officers named here, took what they wanted. Alford also describes the work of the army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archival Section and Criminal Investigation Division in apprehending looters. Unlike Lynn Nicholas's superb The Rape of Europa (Nonfiction Forecasts, Mar. 21), this survey is repetitious and somewhat nave in its amazement over the scope of temptation unresisted. Photos. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Alford presents the offensive story of the American military forces who, as liberators, became plunderers-from staff officers all the way up to generals in the top command. German forces had requisitioned priceless art treasures, porcelain, furniture, and vast wealth they ultimately amassed in storehouses found by American troops at the end of the war. Greed had already taken over by then; the many mansions along the route to liberation were looted and everything of value removed and sent home. The accounts of military thefts and courtroom hearings are not pleasant, especially the sordid saga of a con man who falsified his army record to become an officer. Alford has been a World War II archivist for 30 years and knows his subject extremely well. Historians and some libraries will be interested in the looting of Europe, both by Germans and Americans; for scholars and specialists generally.-Ralph DeLucia, Willoughby Wallace Lib., Branford, Ct.
Donna Seaman
Looting and pillaging have always been an integral part of war, and World War II was no exception. In "The Rape of Europa" , Lynn Nicholas chronicled the Nazis' systematic theft and destruction of the art treasures of Europe and Russia; now we learn about the astonishing amount of war booty the Americans shipped home. Alford's quest for information documenting the U.S. Army's flagrant looting began by pure chance when he came across a misfiled document. He then spent the next 13 years amassing evidence, both written and anecdotal, about the theft not only of art works, but of all kinds of valuable weapons, jewelry, cameras, motorcycles, laboratory equipment, the furnishings of private homes, the inventory of businesses, and the holdings of libraries, museums, and universities. His research yielded some galvanizing tales of unbridled greed and diabolical subterfuge; indeed, it appears that American enlisted men, officers, and even nurses grabbed whatever valuables they could get their hands on "without shame or hesitation" all across Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Alford presents each case in great and often dramatic detail, from the commandeering of a train filled with gold to the plundering of priceless paintings and jewels from castles and private collections. Eye-opening, to say the least.

Product Details

Carol Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.35(h) x 1.25(d)

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