February 03, 2010
An Eye for Art, A Mind for Murder
If Adolf Hitler hadn’t been crazy for art, history might be different.
That’s just one of the eye-widening revelations I got from Robert Edsel when we met recently at the National World War II Museum. Edsel, who lives in Dallas, became independently wealthy in the oil and gas exploration business, then dedicated himself to the study of art. He became especially fascinated by the paintings the Nazis stole from the nations they conquered during World War II, and from the Jews they’d put to death or caused to flee from Europe.
Edsel, author of “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” said you can look all you want, but you won’t find wartime photos of Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery or any of the other big allied generals out of uniform, engaged in extraneous activities. “Prosecuting the war,” as Edsel put it, was their only job, their only interest.