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Before You See “Monuments Men,” The Film

9780679756866_p0_v2_s260x420There’s at least one thing to know before you see how Hollywood, i.e. George Clooney, renders the story of the Monuments men and women who in the last days of World War II and soon thereafter saved so many precious works of art that Hitler had seized: I am sure that by now you know that the movie opens on Feb. 7.  It will be how so many people learn about what we know about them.

Clooney’s movie credits the book of Robert M. Edsel — and to my knowledge, as shown in the credits on IMDB, makes no mention of Lynn H. Nicholas, who in 1994 had published The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.” That’s the book — the research — to which we owe the story of the Monuments men. Edsel credited Nicholas in his own book on the monuments crew, published in 2009. But not the movie.

So I was pleased to read The Wall Street Journal this morning, and to see a piece by Nicholas headlined What the Monuments Men Wrought. It recaps the tale and provides some anecdotes of her initial reports, and ends graciously this way:

During these interviews I was surprised at how interested each Monuments Man was in what the others had done—assuming, as most do, that they had worked closely together. But, in fact, they almost never saw one another in the field, nor were they able to communicate on a regular basis. So they were fascinated by the details of the various missions of their colleagues. I am sure that those who are no longer with us would be delighted by this cinematic re-creation of their exploits. Can’t wait to see it myself.



  1. Did you know that there is at least one Monuments Man still living, and that she is a woman. She is Anne Olivier Bell, later editor of Virginia Woolf’s diaries.

  2. Josh Reynolds says:

    During the ’70’s and ’80’s I had the pleasure of knowing Bob Koch at Princeton Univ. who was one of the monuments men. He worked in Germany bringing together all that he could which had both been stolen by the Nazis and by U.S. service men who ravaged as many buildings and private homes as our national nemesis had done (this from his own lips). Edsel Ford had interviewed Bob in ’09 just prior to his passing in 2011 and from what I understand from Mr. Ford’s office his contribution was substantial.

    During his time at Princeton where after starting as a lecture assistant to Wolf Stechow he worked his way up to a full professorship in Northern European Renaissance paintings specializing in floral symbolism in early works. During this time he published the Joachim Patinir catalogue raisonne and solved many thorny questions of attribution and symbolism for American & Canadian museums. Bob had a great sense of humor along with a nervous tick which supplied his students with a nickname for his class, the Koch-Watch. He was loved by many and is missed by many. He was truly from a generation apart. RIP Bob.

  3. K Robert Koch says:

    Wow Josh, such a wonderful comment! Thank you. Bob is my father’s uncle and I was named for him. He moved in with us and we took care of him the last three years of his life. Up until his dying day, he was a class act and a genuinely good natured guy. We loved him dearly and miss his laugh and his knowledge and stories. Our house is still covered in priceless artwork and wonderful memories. Thanks again for your wonderful comment. KRK

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