14europa-600THE RAPE OF EUROPA (2006) | Saturday, February 22 & Sunday, February 23 at Noon | Buy Tickets

Ten things about the brilliant documentary, The Rape of Europa, that looks at how art influenced strategy during World War II and how the ramifications of stolen artworks continues to be an issue today. 

1) The documentary is based on a book by Lynn H. Nicholas called The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.

2) The scene in which they detail the evacuation of the Louvre includes very nerve-wracking footage of Winged Victory being transported down those many, many stairs. I still wonder if they’ll make it or not each time I watch it.

3) The Monuments Men were often called “Venus Fixers” by the troops.

Degenerate Art exhibition4) In 1937 the Nazi’s “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich ignited museums across Europe to plan to protect their works of art in the face of pending war. Lists are made of important works and unassuming sites/routes are fixed.

5) From PBS: “According to U.S. estimates, the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the known artworks in Europe. While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art—the last, forgotten victims of the war—survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.”

6) It’s surprisingly how much of the seizing of artworks was not only about cultural control or destroying that culture but also about Nazis reclaiming ownership. It is said that by the end of the war, Hitler’s private art collection totaled more than 6,000 pieces. Fellow Nazi Hermann Goering’s private collection exceeded 2,000 pieces.


7) The 10 year battle between Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann and the Austrian government regarding the Gustav Klimts stolen from her family is a provocative exploration of issues that are still very relevant today.


8) The artwork was eventually returned to Altmann. In 2006 Ronald Lauder purchased the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer for 135 million dollars after Altmann put it up for auction. It’s on view in New York.

9) The salt mines in Altausee (Austria) served as a repository for thousands of artworks stolen by the Nazis and planned for Hitler’s museum. When allied troops approached the salt mines in 1945, Gauleiter August Eigruber gave orders to blow it up but Hitler countermanded the order. The footage in the documentary of the Monuments Men holding paintings by Vermeer and Michelangelo, hidden and dusty in the salt mine, is astounding. 

10) And finally, here is picture of a guard at the Louvre standing by an empty picture frame. It’s incredibly haunting because it visualizes a possible world without art.