I have always thought World War II was about saving lives. Monuments Men made me realize that that war was also about saving history and society. This was accomplished by a small group of soldiers from several countries that made up the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section or MFAA. They worked to save architecture and art from being destroyed or lost by Hitler and the fighting forces around the world. As part of the 14 books made into movies in 2014 challenge, I chose to read this book and then go see the movie.
The book itself tells a powerful story that is part historical and part treasure hunt. It does move slowly and you have to constantly recall which character is which (there are ten major people not including various Nazis who play major roles). For history buffs or those who enjoy reading about World War II, this book is a must. It may not be for those who enjoy a lighter genre. It will give you a new appreciation for all the sacrifices made by many service men and women as well as those in the occupied countries. You will also find yourself with a new appreciation for art — especially art that you can view in museums across Europe today. You may also weep for those paintings, sculptures and modern pieces that were destroyed or lost during that time period.
As for the movie, it does a great job in describing what the MFAA did and the feelings involved. However, it does not really do the book or history justice. While reading, I wondered how they were going to create a screenplay with so much material. The movie might be a good one to take a grandparent or older friend to see (there were a lot of grey heads in our theater) but history buffs should stick with the book.
What did this book have to do with my faith? Many pieces of artwork stolen or procured by the Nazis was religious in nature. Some of the pieces came right out of churches. But even when the subjects were secular, the book makes you think about the creativity that God gives each one of us. What a gift is our wonderful history — is it not God-given? And the gift of being able to appreciate past artists and cultures is something that we can see in a museum or just walking down the street. God not only has given us nature to praise God for but also our art and our architecture. Next time you find yourself in a museum, give thanks for the artists and the beauty that God has given us to appreciate even there.
I recommend this book for history and biography readers.