"The Rape of Europa" ~ review by Sally Hammel
I was not aware of the loss of (and then the return of) artwork during WWII before this weekend and then I watched both "The Monuments Men" and "The Rape of Europa" one after the other. It will be difficult to not review both films at the same time as the subject matter is the same in both, but "The Monuments Men" is obviously a Hollywood movie and "The Rape of Europa" is a documentary that goes way more into depth about who, where, what, and when these things disappeared and reappeared. "The Rape of Europa" has an historical perspective while "The Monuments Men" is more romantic. I find myself THANKING GOD that someone cared enough to preserve the artwork of Europe during WWII. I'm pretty sure that, had I been alive during that time and living in Europe, artwork would not have been foremost in my thoughts. I also thank God that I have never had to live with bombs going off around me and having my life and the lives of my loved ones threatened constantly. I can't believe that it never occurred to me that all that beautiful artwork was in such eminent danger during WWII while those bombs were being dropped all around it. I'm sure that I am not the only one who's ignorance of this subject will take them by surprise as we view these movies in this class.
Everyone knows what a terrible human being Hitler was and about the terrible acts against humanity that he inflicted, but after watching these movies I have come to realize how far he would go... He wasn't going to be happy with just destroying people and their lives ~ he wanted to destroy all evidence of their existence by destroying their culture and history too. Through old black & white, archival pictures from the 1940s and interviews with descendants of Hitler's victims, PBS writer/director/producers Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, and Nicole Newnham showed us how the Nazi's race-based morality wanted to dehumanize their victims by wiping all traces of their existence off the face of the earth. Hitler wanted to erase people AND their memories from the history of the world. Thank God that he didn't succeed! The Germans wrought havoc in Europe and systematically looted masterpieces of many forms of art but they thought they were going to win the war, so they kept them, so they could fill Hitler's "Acropolis" in Lintz and the homes of Nazi elites such as Guering. They planned to destroy everything before the allies had a chance to save them but because of a few people these pieces were saved and returned to their rightful owners whenever that was possible.
Germany DID destroy much of Europe in the 6 years of WWII. 50 million people died and the world lost much of it's most beautiful pieces of artwork, but many pieces were also saved and, even though many of us don't even know the effort involved in saving these masterpieces, I know that the world is grateful!!!!