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February 19, 2014

My answer to a review of The Monuments Men, made by another blogger

Filed under: Germany, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:36 am

This morning, a comment was made, at 4:20 in the morning, on one of my previous blog posts, by “jenski katie” who did a review of The Monuments Men movie on her own blog at at

Scene from the movie The Monuments Men

Scene from the movie The Monuments Men

This quote is from jenski katie’s review of the movie The Monuments Men:

… As most of these artifacts were for Hitler’s own collection and in some cases they were bestowed to his best officers. The monuments men had to face a lot of difficulties from their forces as well. Whenever they tried to convince the raiding regiment to change their course of attack and hence avoid the unnecessary damage to the artifacts that might come in way they almost always refused to do so. Germans are planning to destroy these relics from history as much as 1000 years old meanwhile the monuments men do not agree with them and they must save the artifacts at all costs. The clock is ticking and the situation is getting worse. Will the monuments men be able to stand their ground?

The Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece

I did my own review of the movie on Feb. 8th on my blog.  In my review, I said several times that the movie is hard to understand, unless you have read the book, on which the movie is based.  The book is The Monuments Men, Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, And The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel. This quote is from pages 150 and 151 of Edsel’s book:

Hitler knew it was impossible to steal renowned masterpieces on the scale of the Ghent Altarpiece without drawing the condemnation of the world.  While he had the conqueror’s mentality — he believed he was entitled to the spoils of war, and he was determined to have them — Hitler and the Nazis had gone to great lengths to establish new laws and procedures to “legalize” the looting activities that would follow. This included forcing the conquered countries to give him certain works as a term of their surrender. […] In 1940, Hitler […] had commissioned an inventory, later known as the Kümmel Report […]. The inventory listed every work of art in the Western world […] that rightly belonged to Germany. […] …this included every work [of art] taken from Germany since 1500… […] The Ghent Altarpiece was a touchstone and defining emblem of Belgian culture, but to the Nazis it was Germanic enough to belong to them. Even more important, six of the side panels (painted on both sides, representing fourteen scenes) of the Ghent Altarpiece had been owned by the German state prior to 1919.  The Germans had been forced under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to give the panels to Belgium as war reparations.

The movie The Monuments Men begins with a picture of the Ghent Altarpiece on the screen.  At that point, it would have been very helpful to explain that part of the Ghent Altarpiece had been owned by the German people for centuries, until Germany was forced to give 6 panels of the Altarpiece to Belgium as war reparations after World War I. But it was not only art treasures that the Germans lost through the Treaty of Versailles, which was forced upon Germany after World War I.  The German people also lost more than half of their country, which was given to Poland and other countries.  The Treaty of Versailles, which was forced upon the Germans, was what led to World War II, so it would have been helpful to mention this at the start of the movie. Instead The Monuments Men movie is all about how the Nazis stole all of the art in Europe and were planning to destroy it.  This movie is not a documentary, but a fictional movie for the masses.

This article, which you can read in full here, agrees with my opinion of the movie, and tells the true story of The Monuments men:

According to Karlsgodt, the depiction of Hitler’s Nero Decree is “oversimplified.” The decree was issued on March 19, 1945 as an attempt to prevent Allied forces from using resources against the Reich during the war. In it, Hitler ordered that “all military, transportation, communications, industrial, and food supply facilities” be destroyed, but it didn’t explicitly include art. In the movie, however, when Stokes reads the decree aloud, he lists “archives and art” among the things set to be destroyed. This, Karlsgodt points out, “enables the plot to move forward,” so that our heroes are “racing against the Germans who are set now to destroy the art if Hitler can’t have it.”

In actuality, Hitler’s will specified that his art go to German museums, “strong evidence” that he didn’t want that art destroyed. Karlsgodt also finds it highly improbable that the Monuments Men even knew about the decree during their mission. “The systematic destruction [as seen in the film] being carried out as a result of the Nero Decree never happened,” she says. “Nazis destroyed art that they considered degenerate, like Cubist, Surrealist, Expressionist paintings, and we know that they burned several thousand—at least—paintings that they thought were actually toxic to the German spirit… [But] they didn’t destroy the art they valued.” (This included Germanic art, and the Ghent Altarpiece depicted in the film, which Hitler considered to be an example of “Aryan genius.”)

Note that the article above mentions that “Nazis destroyed art that they considered degenerate.”  I blogged about degenerate art at