“Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies,
society,even when perfect, is but a jungle.
This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.” Albert Camus
For those individuals who have a difficult time understanding the importance of art, one only has to look to the past to determine its value – not only for art’s sake, but rather its historical preservation of a society’s culture. With its domestic release on February 7, 2014, the film entitled The Monuments Men highlights not only the goal to save mankind’s greatest achievements, but also the risks that more than 350 men and women took in order to avoid the reckless destruction by the German regime.
The movie is based on the true story of a group of men – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians – whose duty it was to rescue artistic masterpieces in areas that had fallen under the control of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. This mission impossible was captured in the book penned by author, Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. This unlikely combination of cultural soldiers were tasked with saving the soul of the world – the enduring artistic endeavors which make a society what it is at its very core. The allied saviors recovered and protected more than 5 million works and 1,000 years of cultural significance before they could be destroyed by Hitler and his troops.
After significant intelligence and inside research, the vast amount of art destined for Hitler’s museum was a repository located just east of Salzburg, Austria in the salt mines of Altaussee. Within the tunnels of the mines, the following works of art were found: 6,755 paintings, 1039 prints, 230 drawings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture and objets d’art. Some of these included such masterpieces such as Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece and a Michelangelo Madonna and Child sculpture.
Castle Neuschwanstein, the key Nazi repository for artwork taken from France.
Vermeer’s “The Astronomer” found in the Altaussee mine
While these men were more familiar with great works of art rather than guns or guidons, it is because of the acts of these selfless and heroic individuals that we can continue to admire incredible works of art and learn about the rich and varied history of the world in which we live. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people” – and their art. This is the MONUMENTS Message.
Sources Cited: Wipedia; www.monumentsmen.com; Huffington Post
If you enjoyed this article please consider sharing it!