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

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Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

The real story behind the major motion picture The Monuments Men. The cast of characters includes Hitler and Goering, Gertrude Stein and Marc Chagall--not to mention works by artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso. And the story told in this superbly researched and suspenseful book is that of the Third Reich's war on European culture and the Allies' desperate effort to preserve it.

From the Nazi purges of "Degenerate Art" and Goering's shopping sprees in occupied Paris to the perilous journey of the Mona Lisa from Paris and the painstaking reclamation of the priceless treasures of liberated Italy, The Rape of Europa is a sweeping narrative of greed, philistinism, and heroism that combines superlative scholarship with a compelling drama.
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About 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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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Dec 22, 2009
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Pages
512
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ISBN
9780307739728
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / Business Aspects
History / Military / World War II
History / Modern / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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To be a child in mid-twentieth-century Europe was to be not a person but an object, available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Very soon after Adolf Hitler came to power, policies of eugenic selection and euthanasia began to weed ill or disabled children out of the New Order by poison, gas, and starvation. Defect-free “good blood” children were subjected to an “education” based on racism, propaganda, and the glorification of the Führer, and were deliberately deprived of free time that would allow independent thought or action.

Once the war began, “Nordic”-looking children were kidnapped from families in the conquered lands and subjected to “Germanization.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of “bad blood” children—Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians(were separated from their families and condemned to forced migration, slave labor, sadistic experiments, starvation, and mass execution. At the end of the war, uprooted children of every origin wandered the bombed-out cities and countryside, some having been taken from home at such a young age that they did not know where they had come from or even their own names. Millions surged into and out of DP camps, exploited by political and religious groups, while the Allies and the fledgling United Nations tried mightily to put families back together and to find new homes for the orphans.

All the riveting narrative skill and impeccable scholarship that distinguished Lynn Nicholas’s first book, The Rape of Europa (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction), are present in her study of these terrible crimes against humanity. To research this story she has delved into the governmental and military archives of many nations, and has interviewed countless individuals. She shows the relationship of the deadly Nazi policies to the brutal tactics used in the USSR in the 1930s and to their rehearsal in the Spanish Civil War, and vividly describes the abject failure of Hitler’s campaign to plant Germanizing colonies in the conquered nations. She gives us the stories of survivors of ghastly war-spawned famines(in Greece and Russia in the 1940s, Holland in the “Hunger Winter” of 1945, and Berlin in the Airlift year of 1949(and of British, French, and Dutch children who were evacuated to the countryside; boys and girls sent alone from Europe to England on the Kindertransports; the teenaged soldiers of the Reich; the small veterans of the quarries, the factories, and the camps as well as those who survived in lonely hiding.

In Cruel World Lynn Nicholas shows us clearly, and with passionate empathy for the innocent victims, the crimes against children that inevitably result when ideology overwhelms humanity. This powerful book, as it recounts the waking nightmare that enmeshed the lives of Europe’s boys and girls, bears witness to our own responsibility to the children of the twenty-first century.
In 1943, while the world was convulsed by war, a few visionaries -- in the private sector and in the military -- committed to protect Europe's cultural heritage from the indiscriminate ravages of World War II.

In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officers—a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists—to ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed "the Venus Fixers" by bemused troops.

Working on the front lines in conditions of great deprivation and danger, these unlikely soldiers stripped the great galleries of their incomparable holdings and sent them into safety by any means they could. They worked with skeptical army strategists to make sure air raids didn't take out the heart of an ancient city, and patched up Renaissance palazzi and ancient churches whose lead roofs were sometimes melted away by the savagery of the attacks. Sometimes they failed. But to an astonishing degree, they succeeded, and anyone who marvels at Italy's artistic riches today is witnessing their handiwork.

In the course of her research, Brey gained unprecedented access to private archives and primary sources, and the result is a book at once thorough and grandly entertaining—a revelatory take on a little-known chapter of World War II history. The Venus Fixers is an adventure story with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli landscape as its backdrop.

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