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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History | [Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter]

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
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Publisher's Summary

At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the Western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: "degenerate" works he despised.

In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. Focusing on the 11-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.

©2009 Robert M. Edsel; (P)2009 Macmillan Audio

What the Critics Say

"The story is both engaging and inspiring. In the midst of a total war, armies systematically sought to mitigate cultural loss." (Publishers Weekly)

"[Narrator Jeremy Davidson] varies the pacing effectively, based on the nature of the text. He speeds up slightly during exciting action-filled sequences. He reads letters and documents with a flatter tone, making it easy for listeners to discern when the document stops and the author's words resume. He also gives a slight but not intrusive or cartoonish British accent to quotations by Britishers." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (703 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Paul Bennett Seattle, WA United States 03-13-10
    Paul Bennett Seattle, WA United States 03-13-10 Member Since 2008

    Paul

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    "Fine book, adequate narration"

    I enjoyed this book but found the narrator's attempts at foreign accents jarring. I'd like to see Audible vet narrators on their ability to do foreign accents before they hire them to read books that require foreign accents.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie Crownsville, MD, United States 10-16-12
    Connie Crownsville, MD, United States 10-16-12 Member Since 2006
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    "LOVED IT!"

    How is it possible that 67 years later, we are still reading new (and interesting) facts about World War II? This is a wonderful story and I kept a list of works of art discussed throughout the book to google. It reminded me of the beauty of works by Vermeer and others and I found the book an art history class as well as a story of brave men and women who risked their lives to save what they loved most - art.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 12-22-09
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 12-22-09 Member Since 2005
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    "Interesting listen"

    I met Bret Witter at a book convention, and after speaking with him decided to listen to this book. While parts of the book are very interesting, overall it is somewhat disjointed. It is more like a string of stories and adventures, rather than a novel. If you have an interest in WWII, as I do, then you would probably enjoy this, but it may be one of those books that is better to read than to listen to. I did find the book at Borders, and was able to see the art objects that the author describes as well as trace the paths of the Monuments Men. (One more reason to read, rather than listen to this one.)

    25 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 02-16-14
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 02-16-14 Member Since 2006

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

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    "Been to a Museum? Thank these People!"

    If you have ever been to or wanted to visit any of the great museums of the world, then you should read this and marvel!

    It's a great book, but the real marvel is that we have never heard of this endeavor before. There are many stories of inspiration from WWII, and I think this ranks with the very best of them! It's the story of how we nearly lost most of the great and irreplaceable treasures of Western culture - and why that would have been a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude.

    Of course, so many people died too. And, understandably perhaps, that story has been the focus of most books and movies about WWII. This book acknowledges that, but it also asks an important question about the role of art in the identity of nations.

    Is any work of art worth a human life? Should military decisions include an attempt to preserve important cultural sites and works of art? These are questions well worth our consideration and "The Monuments Men" offers a terrific argument about why the answer should be "yes"! It was important in the past and should be in the future.

    This book is fascinating! These people and their mission make for a "you couldn't make these things up", true and suspenseful story. The narrator does a great job.

    I'll never again visit a museum without thinking about this book and the movie made from it. I know the movie didn't get great reviews, but it did bring to light a fantastic and hopeful story. Those who like books about history and/or art will enjoy both the filmed and audio versions.

    This is important stuff!

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Constance New York, NY, United States 02-05-14
    Constance New York, NY, United States 02-05-14 Member Since 2006
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    "Excellent book marred by narration"
    What did you love best about The Monuments Men?

    As a lover of art, culture and history, I found this a fascinating account of the heroes and villains involved in the fate of European art, architecture, books and other cultural treasures during the final stages of World War II in Western Europe.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The are so many..an American example: James Rorimer..the "bull dog" former curator of the Cloisters in NY..although a lowly private, he daringly challenged senior officers of his own army when necessary to protect art treasures..Rose Valland, the mousy employee of Jeu de Paume who spied on the Germans and kept meticulous records of their thefts..There were also unsung heroes on the German side who secretly worked to thwart the Nazi agenda of theft and destruction.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Jeremy Davidson?

    Yes, if it does not involve the pronunciation of French names, or dialogue spoken by non- Americans. For example, he pronounces the last name of Rose Valland, a key character, as if it were spelled "Vailland"..very off-putting if you speak French. He also constantly mispronounces the names of even we'll-known French places. Even worse, his attempts at speaking with a French, German or British accent in the direct quotes were goofy and extremely distracting.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes..if I had had the time, in order to find out the fate of the individual characters and works of art.


    Any additional comments?

    I highly recommend both this book, which focuses on the Monuments Men's efforts in North Western Europe, and "Saving Italy" by the same author. The latter book also benefits from the excellent narration of Edoardo Ballerini, a bilingual reader with perfect American and Italian accents: names are pronounced correctly (he even does a pretty good job with the German names.) Also, unlike Davidson, Ballerini does not inflict different accents on the non American characters, so one can concentrate of the content of the dialogues without unnecessary distraction.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Lake Forest, IL, United States 01-10-14
    Carol Lake Forest, IL, United States 01-10-14 Member Since 2010

    Can't stop listening

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    "Read BEFORE the movie"

    As an art lover and someone who lived in Europe many years ago, I had only heard whispers of these stories, random crumbs about Nazi art thefts of some of my most beloved masterpieces, but I never knew the extent of the theft or that the art and architecture I have spent my life learning about came so close to being lost, completely, before I was born. This was a revelation, and well told. I am left with a burning desire to thank the heroes of this story and to hope that the movie offers a fitting memorial to their mission. This is the kind of book I want everyone to read, certain that lives will be enriched knowing this worthy story, and certain that it will be closer to the truth than any film can offer. Read first before the movie has some fun with it.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Blake Annapolis, MD, United States 06-09-12
    Blake Annapolis, MD, United States 06-09-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Plodding Book that Never Finds a Narrative"

    As much as I wanted this book to be a glimpse of a little known aspect of World War II, it instead left me searching to see if a better book on the subject has been written. The authors throw in far too many uninteresting characters and stories, ending up with a plodding book that avoids getting interesting until the very end. The book doesn't shed any light on who in command supporting the effort and allocating personnel to the task of art preservation. The authors includes letters home from the people involved verbatim without trying to spin into them into the narrative. This is unfortunately a very weak effort at a possibly interesting story. But it will take a better writer to answer that question.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 04-26-12
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 04-26-12 Member Since 2010
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    "American Exceptionalism at its finest…."

    This book is another excellent reminder of the many sacrifices that this nation has made without asking for a single thing in return. In the history of the world this kind of effort to willingly sacrifice life and limb to protect and locate the cultural treasures (of our friends and enemies alike) is unprecedented. The book was very interesting, though like some of the other reviewers; I thought it started out a tad slow. Since you don’t have the physical book (which shows pictures of many of the works of art referenced), I would suggest writing down the names of the ones that interest you and then googling the images when near a computer. The pieces referenced are a “who’s who” in terms of the European masters—truly amazing.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik WICHITA, KS, United States 02-04-14
    Erik WICHITA, KS, United States 02-04-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Not every soldier in WWII needs a book about them"
    What disappointed you about The Monuments Men?

    The book starts off great. There's a great buildup describing the main characters, what their mission is, who the villains are, what the scenes will be....but then nothing comes together. The 10 main characters all have great back stories, and I was led to believe that they'd all come together to undo some big evil plan of Rosenberg's...but no, nothing. The way Ettlinger's back story was set up, I thought he'd play a huge part in the book, but no, he gets drafted, then pulled from his unit before going to the front, sits around for four months doing absolutely nothing, does some translation work for the MFAA, finds his grandpa's painting, then goes home. What?!? All this buildup for that??? So far as I can tell, the 10 main characters are never even in the same room together. They barely meet, and when they do, it's for a matter of days, maybe a week, then they're off running around like a chicken with its head cut off. That's how the story line of the book goes to, if you can say there is a story line. There's no plot. There's no antagonist. There's no theme. There's no drama. There's no buildup. There's no climax and there's no resolution. The book is just a hodgepodge of random, disjointed stories with WWII going on in the background. Why should I care that a Christmas package of fruit cake arrived in March instead of at Christmas? Why should I care that Rose Valland can't trust anyone and won't give up the information she'd been collecting for 3 years? I don't know. The monuments men follow the front line, going to churches, castles and caves finding and saving artwork that was either stolen or stored for protection. They constantly complain about being understaffed and under-supplied, but no one ever does anything about it. No one seemed to care about the monuments men during the War, after the war, or even up till today. Also, this book is full of historical inaccuracies. Churchill most certainly did not insist on a cross-channel invasion of Europe after fighting had ceased in North Africa. He wanted to go for the soft underbelly of Europe - Italy. Ike, Marshall and FDR were the ones wanting to invade northern Europe right away. If you're interested in WWII history, this book is not for you. Maybe if you're in to art history, you'll find something of interest here, but I doubt it. Is art worth a life? I don't know, but reading this book didn't do anything to answer that question for me.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter again?

    Probably not. There are blatant historical errors in his research and he didn't do a good job of writing a coherent story.


    Did Jeremy Davidson do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    I don't know. He's got a good voice, but with so many characters, even the best narrator would have a hard time differentiating them all. I couldn't keep track of who was who and where everyone was and what they were doing and why they were doing it. But, on a whole, the narration was okay. His accents sounded forced, fake and it was hard to understand what he was saying with an accent.


    What character would you cut from The Monuments Men?

    I don't know....all of them? After getting through the whole book, I still wasn't sure who was who. I just finished it a few hours ago and I can't even tell you who was in charge of the MFAA. They were really quite forgettable.


    Any additional comments?

    Skip this book. I've heard that the Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas is much better and reads like a thriller.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan United States 01-29-14
    Susan United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2004

    Love historical fiction, mystery, suspense, and good meaty books.

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    "Fascinating"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Monuments Men to be better than the print version?

    I enjoyed listening to this book and finding out about these unsung heroes and their tremendous contributions to our world.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Monuments Men?

    Too many to mention.


    Which character – as performed by Jeremy Davidson – was your favorite?

    Tie between George Stout and Rose Valande.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The can do attitude when faced with few resources and the total commitment to a daunting assignment.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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