Stealing Culture: Hitler’s Passion for Art
It’s called The Rape of Europa, and I’m not talking about the famous painting by Titian (1562). This historic story began as a best-selling book by author Lynn H. Nichols and was published in 1994. PBS produced an extraordinary two-hour documentary in 2008 based on the book. In fact Nichols is featured as a major commentator in this masterful exploration of the most monumental culture theft in human history; the wholesale theft of Europe’s cultural and artistic treasures by the Nazi regime in World War II.
Previously I’ve seen another documentary telling of the extraordinary efforts of the Monuments Men, those professional artists and art historians who over saw the return of these same priceless treasures to their rightful owners. What sets The Rape of Europa apart is the incredible in-depth look at Hitler’s thinking and justification for this horrible crime, the means and methods used by Nazi soldiers in these thefts, and the callous regard by Hitler’s inner circle regarding the “collecting” of art. Not only do you come to understand the “how”, but the “why”.
This is a riveting, engaging look at a very dark episode in world art history, the displacement, and sometime loss of cultural treasures, and the impact such removal has on the people of the nations being robbed. This is historic documentary at its very best.
From the official PBS website;
THE RAPE OF EUROPA tells the epic story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and World War II. In a journey through seven countries, the film takes viewers into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history.
The Rape of Europa is a “must see” for anyone concerned with the question of the power of art in culture and society. If anything, beyond the crime, this story demonstrates the deeply seated affection nations have for their cultural heritage, and how its presence and potential loss threatens national and social identity and integrity.
Never let anyone say that art is superfluous. This remarkable story proves otherwise. If nothing else can be said, our value of something is often found only when it is taken from us.
Check it out from the library, buy the DVD, but see The Rape of Europa. You’ll never look at art or art history the same way again.
For more fascinating information you can see the official PBS website, or the official Europa website. Both are filled with in-depth, interactive materials of this unprecedented episode of cultural history.
Lastly, here’s a link to the production company, Menemsha Films of Venice, CA., where you can read reviews, see production photographs and more.
Look. Listen. Become More.