Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rape of Europa by Lorena Pfaender

The documentary, “The Rape of Europa” shows how the fate of Europe’s treasures in the Third Reich during the Second World War was decided mainly by Nazi plunder of looted art as well as their appropriation, storage, concealment, destruction and smuggling. The Allies worked to preserve as much culture as possible from being destroyed and forever being lost. This was not easily done for one could not anticipate which historical monuments and masterpieces would be targeted. Even historical rich cities such as Florence, which one believed would remain completely unharmed, were bombed and countless priceless objects were effected. All one could do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Museums were constantly relocating their treasures, trying to stay one step ahead of the bombings. Through precautionary planning the regular accounts of impending destruction of Europe did not completely demolish the entire cultural background that built Europe’s history.
The documentary, which successfully shows the course most pieces of art in Europe took during that time period, creates a great appreciation for the art that remains nowadays, knowing how these masterworks were nearly destroyed if not for the actions of several brave individuals. By showing the grand efforts of individuals such as the Monuments Men, curators and other citizens, questions such as the lengths individuals should go to protect artworks arose. Should people die in trying to protect these works? When everyone and everything is dying around one, do artworks remain a priority? These questions had to be pondered by each region separately at the time and the decisions that were made really show how important culture is to the individual regions based on their efforts of preservation.
            The information presented in The Rape of Europa does not only provide an insight to the past but remains very much present. The generation of the war still remains with us and the conflicts and emotions considering the war and the art during the war are far from dealt with. Much of the lost art, which has not been victimized by the war, is still turning up in the most remote places of Europe. The art which we find ourselves lucky to possess creates heated conflicts, for the puzzle of to whom the art rightfully belongs to remains unsolved. The film successfully portrays the devastating repercussions of the war, which creates enough motives for it to hopefully never happen again.

            The film is slightly biased for it portrays the Germans as the sole destroyer of European culture and although the Germans do portray the villains and are accountable for most lost art, the actions of art dealers in the rest of Europe during this troubled time are also questionable. Although the allies were using destruction as a mean of defense, they too took infrastructure and hundreds of cultural monuments down in their mission of justice. This prompts another controversial question on how the Nazis could have been planning museums and worrying about the survival of art, while they were simultaneously killing innocent people and destroying valuable infrastructure left and right. 

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