INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—As the Nazis marched through Europe during World War II, Hitler seized famous artworks he liked and destroyed those he didn’t. A group of civilians called “Monuments Men” made it their job to protect these cultural treasures from destruction and return stolen and protected pieces to their rightful homes after the war. These men and women are the focus of the 2012 Jordan H. and Joan R. Leibman Forum on the Legal and Business Environment of Art, a joint project of the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, Herron School of Art and Design and the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Author Robert M. Edsel, co-producer of the documentary The Rape of Europa and president of The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, will be the presenter at the forum. The event will take place in the Basile Auditorium of Herron’s Eskenazi Hall, 735 W. New York St., on November 7 at 6:30 p.m. with a reception and book signing immediately following. Arrive early for the best seating.
Edsel is passionate about his subject, a force of American and British men and women known as The Monuments Men. These volunteers risked their lives to thwart Hitler’s plunder of European art treasures. His intent was to keep what he pleased and destroy the “degenerate” remainder.
The Monuments Men Foundation received the National Humanities Medal, the highest honor given in the U.S. to individuals and groups working in the humanities field. President George W. Bush and Bruce Cole, Ph.D., a trustee of Indiana University who was then-chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, presented the medal during a 2007 White House ceremony.
George Clooney recently announced that he would direct and star in the film version of Edsel’s book The Monuments Men.
Herron will offer a free screening of The Rape of Europa two weeks before Edsel’s lecture in the Basile Auditorium on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. The Arthur M. Glick JCC, located at 6701 Hoover Road, also will screen The Rape of Europa in the Laikin Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. This screening is also free and open to the public.
Information about art plundered by the Nazis continues to resurface. Repatriation and restoration work related to treasures stolen during WWII is expected to continue for decades, as the fates of many works have yet to be discovered. “Hundreds of thousands of cultural items still are missing,” said Edsel. “I encourage all veterans and their families to look in their attics and basements for any forgotten wartime items, as they may hold clues to help unravel this unsolved mystery. The Monuments Men set the standard for protection of culture during armed conflict. We honor their legacy by completing their mission.”
It was common for Allied soldiers to take “souvenirs,” as well. Just last year, the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington returned a painting to a Berlin museum more than 60 years after its disappearance. Flagellation of Christ, a 15th-century altarpiece panel, was among more than a dozen paintings looted by Russian and British soldiers from the Jagdschloss Grunewald Museum in the summer of 1945. The IU Art Museum acquired the painting in 1985 as a gift from former IU President Herman B Wells, who had purchased the work in good faith from a London art gallery in 1967.