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The Rape of Europa is a slick, well shot, well directed, interesting,
highly informative and still entertaining documentary from the
directorial triumvirate of Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham and Richard
Berge. The documentary uses the book by Lynn H. Nicholas of the same
name as a kind of runway for its exploration of the Nazi's systematic
plundering of Europe's art. The film incorporates interviews, voice
over narration. vintage footage photos and documents that all work
cooperatively in making this documentary work in every respect. The
film takes its viewers on an in depth journey of the subject through
seven European countries, most notably France, Italy, Poland and
The film sheds light on Hitler's own personal art career, from his rejection of Vienna's art Academy to his plans to amass the world's largest art collection in his ideal city. Interesting and relatively unknown facts are uncovered that relate Hitler's art career to his actions as dictator. Hitler's antisemitism, as one interview subject suggests, was likely fueled by his rejection from Vienna's art Academy as the academy's panel was largely Jewish. Hitler also created a "hit-list" of famous works he wanted for his collection, most of which directly correspond to his invasion of various European countries. Art collecting was a highly important pastime among Nazi officials for a variety of reasons, as discussed largely with Herman Goering and Hitler himself who had amassed enormous, unparalleled personal collections, largely through theft.
Another highly interesting portion of the film shows the perilous and miraculous journey many of these works underwent. As a Nazi invasion loomed, hundreds of people, in France's world famous Louvre for example, gathered and worked tirelessly, packing the priceless art and transferring it to castles throughout the French countryside. The daughter of the man entrusted with the Mona Lisa is interviewed in the film.
The film examines the seventy-year plus struggle to restore and reclaim these stolen masterpieces, many of which remain unaccounted for. The allied position of fighting while simultaneously trying to maintain the hostage art is also discussed in detail, as well as the Allied efforts to return the art after it was repossessed. The film is a must-see for art or WWII historians as well as those simply interested.
I have just returned from this film and am another satisfied customer. It always feels a bit strange going to the cinema to see a documentary, but docs always turn out to be so much better and more fulfilling than the blockbusters. A real whirlwind of emotions, the Rape of Europa is something in which everyone living in the western world has a stake. The destructive force of war on human beings and those things which are crucial to our humanity, our art, is put into a perspective that is about as balanced as we can hope to get. Many positive things I would say have already been said, so I will offer one criticism: the city of Dresden, once called the "Florence on the Elbe," was not mentioned in the film. As perhaps the worst bombed city of the war, and a city which had no military value whatsoever but was of incalculable worth culturally, I felt this was a major omission. Of course, the film covered an amazing amount of ground, and the Dresden bombing remains a touchy subject for many, so I can comprehend the constraints of time and the need to avoid charged tangents. However, as someone who has lived in that city (many parts of which remained ruins until only recently), I still would have liked to have heard it mentioned. That said, the film was wonderful on a whole. If only everything they showed in the cinemas were half as good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a good movie and it is biased. It is trying to tie the looting
of art to holocaust. That is very wrong. Nazi ideology was wrong,
inhumane and evil. Nazis took anything they wanted because they
believed they owned Europe. Hitler was not a bad painter; he was
against modern art. I have been painting for 39 years and I can assure
you he is much better than many artists who are accepted into art
schools at the time and today as well as some my students. His art is
very much illustrative not lyric in the sense of story telling. In a
few of his work that I have seen he has hold perspective and dimension
well in place more than I can about a lot of paintings that are in the
museums. He loved art and his vision was that he owns Europe and
Germans are master race so he is going to take it all and make a very
large museum. The reference of Hitler became anti-Semitic because he
was rejected at art school is just childish. Hitler became anti-Semitic
mainly because he believed Jews are responsible for Germany's defeat in
WWI. He formed his Anti-Semitism in later years after his rejection and
there is no reference of such in Mein Kampf, (one of the most $%^&ed up
books I have ever read in regards to editing and scatter of subject in
4 languages including German). Holocaust was horrible; so was the loss
of 23.5 million people of USSR. It also tried to portray USSR soldiers
as looters by taking the art back. The efforts of people like Leonid
Folinsky, the Soviet artist that discovered the Raphael's Madonna and
Rembrandts, Rubens, etc. in salt mines in east Germany area and managed
to pull them out of the water is not mentioned other than they were
sent to loot for USSR. It ignored the fact that if Nazi's took and
destroyed so much of USSR's art then if after the war USSR keeps some
of the German art it is just a payment. It almost implies that Hitler's
atrocities should be wiped off with the end of Nazi party and Germans
should not have to pay any damage into the equation. Obviously every
Jewish art dealer descendant (or Holocaust victim) should get all his
or her art back. Obviously it helps the fact that as soon as they get
it back they can sell it to likely end up in an American museum. . What
about the descendants of the art in USSR? While I appreciate the
efforts of Americans who did the saving of the artifacts I do not think
they were the only ones. Many natives of France, Holland, Austria and
other countries helped the underground networks with efforts to save
the artifacts and their efforts were downed a little with exception of
one. The use of some new footage of the WWII is refreshing. I did not
see much reference to the art in Holland or Belgium.
I dislike the title of the movie as "Rape of Europe" as a Nazi "thing". Napoleon did nice job of raping the Europe himself; where do you think all the Italian and Spanish art in Louvers comes from? How about rape of Egypt, Persia, Greece, ... England obviously did not rape India or any of its sub kingdoms! What about rape of Iraq as recent as 2003? 58 years after WWII! I think they were on the level about the bombing of Monte casino but the firebombing of Dresden was played down a lot, considering the loss of the art there.
War is a horrible part of human history and taking booty has always been a part of it. Nazi ideology was wrong, inhumane and evil but taking art works and valuables was not their invention. The part that talks about how they had lists of artwork upfront and before hand due to their "evil" minds... That is just the naive talk of the talker. Germans are born with a list of to do's. Anybody that has spent a little time learning German and their people would know it. Everything is always calculated and documented! They even documented the holocaust themselves with very extreme precise records.
As everyone in America retreats to their suburban mansions and the computer screens, it is a great experience to go out to the movies and see a film of real social import. If you love history and art, like I do, you certainly do not want to miss this film. The brutal effects of Nazi destruction never goes away, it keeps on coming, like a nightmare from the 20th century that we are all dreaming about. This film demonstrates the innate power of art. It shows, through a deep examination of the looting of Europe's treasures, what these works really meant to the countries who had them. And it reveals the utterly strange connection between the life of Hitler, failed art student, and the hellish destruction he unleashed on the world. In this season of filmic dreck at the mall, this strong documentary is definitely worth seeking out.
Greetings again from the darkness. Watching the 2014 release of The
Monuments Men inspired me to re-watch this fascinating documentary on
the same subject. Thanks to the interviews of real life Monuments Men
like Harry Ettlinger, Kenneth Lindsay, Charles Parkhurst and Bernard
Taper, we better understand the overwhelming mission these folks were
on, and how even today, some battles wage on over the rightful owners
To drive home the point that there is more at stake than just pride, the case of Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" is studied. Adele's niece continued her litigation against Austria until a court finally awarded her the painting (and 3 others). She sold "Adele" for $135 million to a collector. So clearly the cause is not just for mother country. Economics play a huge role. Regardless, the more interesting portion of the story is the relentless pursuit of stolen artwork, artifacts, furniture and collectibles, and the attempts to return them to the rightful owners. That, combined with the devastating architecture destruction brought on by WWII, really make it a bittersweet story.
The breathtaking photographs and archival film footage provide a clear understanding of the breadth of destruction. Seeing the before and after of the Monte Cassino monastery is just crushing. Gaining perspective on the damaged frescoes, some dating to 1360, when Pisa's Camposanto was bombed drives home the significance of culture and history. Seeing the aftermath of the bombing of Florence's iconic bridges brings tears to the eyes. The most impressive piece is that so much of Europe has been rebuilt in the past 7 decades. Maybe that goes to answer the question of whether a human life is worth protecting art. People survive and find a way ... even if Rafael's "Portrait of a Young Man" is still missing.
This is based on the book by the Lynn Nicholas, and the film does a terrific job of presenting how the war impacted Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Poland. It's also tough to reconcile, as one of the Monuments Men attempts, the idea that the Nazis were so careful with the stolen artwork while simultaneously exterminating so many Jewish people. Maybe things would have been different if a young Adolph Hitler had been accepted to art school.
The Rape of Europa is a fascinating documentary that tells of the story
of the theft, destruction, and in some cases saving of art during World
War II. Narrated by Joan Allen the film takes you through the Nazi
plundering of paintings in Poland, France and other countries
(especially by Nazi art collectors like Hitler and Goering) to the
efforts by citizenry to save museum pieces in Paris and Leningrad, to
the unfortunate destruction of Renaissance architectural wonders during
allied bombings in Italy and the German army demolishing various
important Russian structures in the east. It also goes into efforts
that are still going on to track down pieces since missing, and tells
of the work to give back personal effects to families of Jews, items
the Nazis stole without thinking twice from people they considered
All this is told with a delicate balancing act, reminding the viewer of the far greater tragedy of the war: the tens of millions of lives lost, most of them civilians. The misfortune of art during the war is not even close to that level of tragedy, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. Art is part of one's culture and means a lot to great number of people. This is a story that deserves to be told, and though maybe this documentary goes in a few too many directions I found it quite interesting to see this perspective of the War that people rarely talk about.
"There are a hundred thousand men born to live and die who will not be
as valuable to the world as one canvas." Sherwood Anderson
The Nazis disposed of more than 6 million Jews; we may never know how many works of art they plundered from the great museums and private residences of Europe, but it's safe to estimate those works in the millions as well. The estimable documentary Rape of Europa gives a sometimes beautiful account of the loss at the hands of Adolph Hitler, a failed artist with a dream of building a world-class monument in his Austrian hometown of Linz, and his sybaritic lieutenant, Hermann Goering.
The atrocities are counterbalanced by the heroic efforts of Europeans and American Monuments Men to save the works, the former spiriting the art away to alpine hideouts and the latter helping allied bombers avoid museums and scrupulously cataloging the returning pieces. The transportation of the fragile Winged Victory from the Louvre to the countryside is more exciting than any modern CGI masterpiece.
Almost as an afterthought, the film shows the incomprehensible destruction of churches and homes whose ancient architectures are cultural museums themselves. I had forgotten the extent of the damage inflicted by both the Germans and the Allies on medieval cities.
In a tone of reverence, a bit like the understatement of Night and Fog, narrator Joan Allen recounts the horror of Nazis carelessly trucking away priceless masterpieces during invasions and bombing bridges and museums vindictively as they retreat. Meanwhile an obscure clerk is heroically marking down the transactions so that 60 years later works can be returned to their rightful owners.
Gustav Klimt's "Gold Portrait of Frau Bloch-Bauer," which opens the documentary, eventually is returned to its rightful owners and later fetches $135 million at auction. Such a transaction is a crass vindication of the atrocities, but such symbolism is all we may have left to remind us, as this documentary so incisively does, that demons roamed the earth stealing the soul out of whole civilizations.
"The Rape of Europa" is a documentary film about the Nazis' concerted,
organized, and methodical theft of the art patrimony of Europe during
the Second World War, and the film tilts heavily toward the Nazis'
theft of art from Jewish collections. Ultimately, this emphasis on the
anti-Jewishness of the Nazi program is the film's weakness. While the
documentary appears to shine a light on the loathsome Nazis, there is
also a detectable anti-German subtext to the film and, in particular,
the Austrians come in for muted scorn.
No one can come to the defense of the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler, so why do some people continue to go out of their way to slander him as a "bad artist." Let's be honest here, that disturbed man was without a doubt a better artist/painter than 99.9 percent of all of us reading this IMDb forum. Has anyone ever heard of Winston Churchill being described as a "bad painter?" To slap the "bad artist" tag on Hitler comes across as mere propaganda, and propaganda always casts doubt on the ultimate truth of a work of non-fiction. There is a also a noticeable tone of artistic condescension in this film, especially in interview segments with author Lynn H. Nicholas.
The film touches on the controversy surrounding Gustav Klimt's portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Bloch-Bauer herself wanted the portrait to go to the Austrian State Gallery upon the death of her husband, but when he fled Austria the Nazis apparently confiscated the painting. While the painting did eventually make its way to the Austrian State Gallery after the war, it was decided in the 1990's to remove the painting from the that gallery and award it to Bloch-Bauer's remaining relatives. They subsequently sold this family heirloom for something in the neighborhood of 100 million dollars. So much for honoring Block-Bauer's bequest. One might get the impression that the whole affair was not about truth or justice or rightful ownership, but about money.
This film would be a good primer for those who have heard relatively little about the destruction wrought on Europe and its culture by World War II. However, there must be hundreds of other documentary films that touch on the subject in a better way. I found Joan Allen's narration to be particularly weak, her lightweight voice lacking the authority required in a serious documentary film. She's certainly no Alexander Scourby.
I do not think that anyone anywhere can adequately convey the hell on earth that was the Second World War. This narrowly focused film only confirms that view.
Loosely centered on the well-known theft, from public and private collections, of great artworks and cultural artifacts by the Nazis, the Soviets, and common criminals during World War II and their removal in part to secret storage locations in Germany, Austria, and Russia, this documentary also touches on halting Allied war efforts to avoid the destruction of national heritage sites in Italy, still on-going restoration efforts after the war, issues of cultural patrimony (e.g., "Who owns, or should own, this stuff? The world? The nations from which it was plundered? The nations which suffered during wartime, won the war, and now claim it as restitution? Innocent purchasers for value? Religious communities? Descendents of long-dead wealthy collectors and benefactors who left it in place when they evacuated their homes?"), and the tens of thousands of artworks still unaccounted for. Hitler and Goering were collectors as well as thieves. Is it possible that the act of collecting is itself not totally above suspicion? Any of these minor themes, and others, would have made for an interesting documentary in itself. As it is, the documentary we see will please most history buffs and art fans. The historical footage is excellent -- Hitler was always Hitler, but pompous Goering surrendering his handgun momentarily showed fear -- the contemporary interviews of wartime survivors and art historians add flavor and insight, and the images of lost and found artworks are alternately chilling and thrilling. This film is accessible to an audience that may barely recognize the names da Vinci and Matisse. It tells something of the same story as "The Train" (1964) without the same level of fictional excitement.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How much is a life worth? How much is a great cultural work of art
worth? It's impossible to assign a value to either, except to say they
both are invaluable. The Rape of Europa is a fine, fascinating
documentary about the German plunder of significant art during WWII,
organized as meticulously as the Germans organized the murder of
millions of human beings. This film illustrates and explains the
wholesale looting on a vast scale of easily a fifth of Europe's
significant cultural treasures. And where these treasures were
considered a part of Jewish or Slavic culture, they were destroyed.
While the Nazi leaders were psychopathic, racist thugs, it's important to remember that their crimes were made possible by all those German men and women, mostly not Nazis, who worked each day at making stealing and killing possible, then returned to their homes to play with their children, eat their braised rabbit, make love to their spouses and then start the next day again. One can't plead ignorance when one is filling a syringe with poison in a mental institution, or attaching explosives to a beautiful Renaissance bridge, or typing an order for more pencils while smelling the near-by crematoriums at work. This is the banality of evil that makes widespread evil possible.
Hitler was fascinated by art. He considered himself an artist of the first rank. As German dictator, he was determined to bring to Germany all the great art of Europe. He had plans for a huge art museum at Linz, his childhood home. He determined what was good art and was not art (modern art was Jewish art, in his view, and should be destroyed). With German thoroughness, his minions drew up of lists of cultural treasures, raided public and private museums in occupied countries, destroyed what they disapproved up, and organized incredible amounts of transport to bring this art into Germany. All the while, taking their cue from Hitler and Goering, Nazi functionaries and German Army officer suddenly became passionate art collectors. All they had to do was take what they wanted. German bureaucrats knew what they were after even as German troops invaded a country. For Slavic countries like Poland, it was a matter more of destroying a culture than taking the art. When German soldiers were at the front in need of clothes, ammunition and supplies, when gasoline was always in short supply, thousands of boxcars were filled with looted art and sent by special trains back to Germany, continuing even as the war was almost over.
When Allied bombing began in earnest and when the invasion of Italy began, it became clear that, while the Allies did not know the extent of German looting, widespread destruction of Europe's cultural heritage by the Allies should be avoided where possible. Thanks to Dwight Eisenhower, a small group of young American artists, curators and art historians were recruited to join the Army and identify and try to preserve what they could as the fighting moved forward. These men, called the monuments men, are the heroes of this story. There were fewer than four hundred of them doing a risky job with few resources and not much clout. They performed incredible feats of preservation, working to save great art and return it from where it was looted. If the first half of The Rape of Europa is shocking, even after so many years have passed, the second half is almost redeeming. For these men, several of whom are interviewed, their work was clearly intensely satisfying. They were saving an essential part of what makes us civilized.
The Rape of Europa covers a great deal of ground, perhaps too much, but it all is fascinating. Probably separate documentaries could be made about the immense effort it has been taking to make museums today return works of art they possess to the descendants of those who once owned the art...or to the young German who now has undertaken to return looted Torah crowns to the Jewish descendants...or the huge work during the war of museum curators and staff to pack and hide their museums' art from the Germans...or to the middle-aged, unremarkable French woman who was able to secretly keep lists of individual works of art and their destinations that the Germans were sending out of Paris...or the behavior of the German armies in Italy who destroyed without rational reason great historical buildings and bridges as they retreated north...or all that art the Soviets looted from Germany which now sits in the thousands in the basements of Russian museums.
What separates humanity from other animals is that we create art...and that we are so easily led to destroy the art we create, as well as to kill vast numbers of our brothers and sisters.
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