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.
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.
"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