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Author of ‘The Monuments Men’ Speaks at BC

Photog of Robert Edsell

by Corley Tweedy ’14

On March 19, Robert Edsel visited Bridgewater College to share his story with the campus community. Edsel is the author of several popular historical nonfiction books, including The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, which was recently made into a film starring such notable actors as George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon.

The Monuments Men chronicles the journey of a group of men and women dedicated to saving art during World War II. During the war, Hitler ordered the confiscation of hundreds of thousands of works of art, many to be relocated to his new museum in Linz, Austria. These works were taken from places such as the Uffizi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, and many other notable galleries and family homes all over Europe.

The Monuments Men were men and women from America and Europe, from all walks of life. Many were highly educated scholars and artists from Ivy League institutions who became officers when the war broke out. Others were laborers, farmers, and white collar workers from across the world. These men and women collaborated and are responsible for the find of over five million confiscated works – paintings, sculptures, jewelry, furniture, etc. These works were found hastily stashed in salt mines, abandoned castles and homes, and caves all over Europe.

Edsel became interested in art and architecture while living in Florence, and has dedicated his life to the question, "Is art worth a life?" Over his career, Edsel has interviewed seventeen Monuments Men, whom he always asks his question. The overarching answer has been "no." Edsel explained that Dwight Eisenhower charged these men and women: life is more important than saving a work, but do not use that as an excuse not to try. And try they did.

In addition to The Monuments Men, Edsel has written Rescuing DaVinci and Saving Italy. He is also the chairman of the board of the Monuments Men Foundation, which is dedicated to continuing to find WWII artifacts and seeking to see the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to the remaining living Monuments Men.

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