Monday, November 24, 2008

"The Rape of Europa" -- Nazi plunder of European art

Tonight PBS rebroadcast a documentary “The Rape of Europa,” (117 min) (website, originally produced by Oregon PBS, with platform theatrical distribution (in Landmark Theaters) by Menemsha Films, directed by Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen.

The film traces the Nazi plunder and theft of artwork throughout the conquered areas in Europe and Russia, and its recovery, including care in targeted bombings.

The film shows Adolf Hitler’s drawings at age 18, when he was not accepted into an art school in Vienna. The drawings were considered “adequate” but unexceptional. Hitler did not like abstract art, and wanted the “purification” of Nazi Germany to include destruction of “subversive” modern art. Hitler believed that those who had rejected him were Jews.

Some of these drawings can be viewed at the U.S. Army Center for Military History in Washington DC.

I remember when drawing filmstrips at age 11, I wanted to make my own colors “natural”. But I would draw snow-laced mountains as blue when usually they are grayish brown.

Hitler wanted to build a huge monument to art in Linz, Austria (subtitle of Mozart’s Symphony 36), with architecture that resembled ancient Rome.

Hitler destroyed most of the art in Poland during the 1939 Blitzkrieg, and damaged the Royal Palace in Warsaw, but preserved the paintings in Krakow, including Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Rafael (the last of which never was found). I visited both Krakow and Warsaw myself in 1999 and remember the Royal Palace.

Much of the art in the Louvre in Paris (which I visited in 2001) had been sent to chateaux in the south of France. This included the Mona Lisa. In Ninth Grade, I remember writing a short story “Who Stole the Mona Lisa?”

Hitler also plundered Florence and Pisa.

After the War, the Nazi Party Headquarters in Munich had been left unharmed and was to be a major collecting point for recovering material from Hitler’s collection, as was Wiesbaden. Hitler and Goering had personal collections.

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