UU’s Movies That Matter Features Documentary on the Greatest Art Theft in History, Dec 15

A blend of art and the history of World War II will be featured in a free screening of Rape of Europa on December 15 at 7 pm at the UU Fellowship in Ephraim. Marty Lash, columnist of Advocate Arts and Music, will host the documentary.

Joan Allen narrates this film that chronicles 12 years of the Nazis’ pillaging works of art throughout Europe and the international effort to locate, protect and return millions of valuable treasures. The film traces the story of art lovers and everyday heroes who tried to thwart the looting Nazis and reveals how experts from Europe and the United States are working to recover priceless works of art missing or hidden for decades.

Who knew that Hitler actually aspired to be an artist?  The film tells the story of Hitler’s plans to acquire all of the great artworks of Europe while systematically destroying the countries from which he would steal them. He did manage to accumulate quite a massive collection, a collection that included thousands of paintings from Italy, France, and even Russia. Mixed in are millions of dollars worth of plundered art from the private collections of wealthy Jews in Germany and beyond, including the Rothschild’s.

The heroes of this story are the “monuments men,” a group of Army officers and enlisted men who were entrusted with the task of finding and returning as much of the plundered treasures as possible.  One officer interviewed even mentioned that at the time he still was unaware of what Hitler had done to the Jewish population of Europe, but that everyone was aware of how he had looted the continent’s museums… a chilling observation, indeed.

Much of what was taken has been returned and restored, but the darker side of the story is the missing art that has not yet been found or that has not yet been returned to the rightful owners (usually prominent Jewish families). A few countries, particularly Austria, are still fighting to keep what they have in their state museums from the suffering descendents of the art’s rightful owners. The story is still unfolding.

Movies That Matter is a project of the UU Fellowship’s Social Responsibility Committee bringing films with a message to the Door community. The films are shown at 7 pm on the third Tuesday each month at 10341 Hwy. 42, Ephraim. There is no charge and the public is welcome. For more information, visit www.uufdc.org.

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