The Harvard Magazine

Robert Edsel

Among its crimes against humanity, Nazi Germany may have stolen more than five million cultural objects from the countries it conquered, including thousands of the world’s greatest artistic masterpieces. As the American and British armies and their allies began pushing back onto the Continent, an unusual front-line military unit with too few men and too little equipment accompanied them—members of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA). The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, by Robert M. Edsel, with Bret Witter, narrates the background, actions, and achievements of these soldiers.

Their initial responsibility was to mitigate combat damage, primarily to structures—churches, museums, and other important monuments. As the war progressed and the German border was breached, their focus shifted to locating movable works of art and other cultural items stolen or otherwise missing.

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