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 Nazi restitution,The Monuments Men ,George Clooney
The Forgotten Heroes That Saved Europe From Nazi Cultural Devastation - ArtLyst Article image

The Forgotten Heroes That Saved Europe From Nazi Cultural Devastation

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The Monuments Men is a story about the forgotten heroes who saved Europe from cultural devastation during World War II. It is now the subject of a new George Clooney directed film, set for release in December. It brings to life the tale  of a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service in the newly created Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, or MFAA. Most had expertise as museum directors, curators, art scholars and educators, artists, architects, and archivists. Their job description was simple: to save as much of the culture of Europe as they could in time of combat during WW II .

These men and women not only had the vision to understand the grave threat to the greatest cultural and artistic achievements of civilization, but then joined the front lines to do something about it. The Monuments Men had a mandate from President Roosevelt and the support of General Eisenhower, but no vehicles, gasoline, typewriters, or authority.

In a race against time to save the world’s greatest cultural treasures from destruction at the hands of Nazi fanatics, each man gathered scraps and hints to construct his own treasure map using records recovered from bombed cathedrals and museums, the secret notes and journals of Rose Valland, a French museum employee who secretly tracked Nazi plunder through the rail yards of Paris, and even a tip from a dentist during a root canal.

These unlikely heroes, mostly middle-aged family men, walked away from successful careers into the epicenter of the war, risking—and some losing—their lives. Like other members of the Greatest Generation, they embodied the courageous spirit that enabled the best of humanity to defeat the worst.

Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox have backed The Monuments Men, a Smokehouse production directed by and starring George Clooney, which is now in post production in Berlin, Germany. The action-thriller is written by Clooney & Grant Heslov, based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter. Clooney and Heslov also produce the film through their Smokehouse Productions. It is their first production since winning the Academy Award for Best Picture for their work on Argo. Barbara A. Hall is executive producer. The Monuments Men is a co-production with Germany's Siebente Babelsberg Film GmbH, a subsidiary of Studio Babelsberg AG. Charlie Woebcken, Christoph Fisser and Henning Molfenter serve as co-producers. Sony Pictures will release the film domestically, with Twentieth Century Fox handling international territories. The all-star cast includes Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and John Goodman.

Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men focuses on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. It would be an impossible mission: with the art trapped behind enemy lines, and with the German army under orders to destroy everything as the Reich fell, how could these guys – seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, all more familiar with Michelangelo than the M-1 – possibly hope to succeed? But as the Monuments Men, as they were called, found themselves in a race against time to avoid the destruction of 1000 years of culture, they would risk their lives to protect and defend mankind's greatest achievements. Clooney's crew on The Monuments Men includes director of photography Phedon Papamichael, ASC, Oscar nominated production designer Jim Bissell, Academy Award -winning editor Stephen Mirrione, A.C.E., costume designer Louise Frogley, and five-time Oscar nominated composer Alexandre Desplat. The Monuments Men continues filming in Germany and the United Kingdom through the end of June. It is scheduled for domestic release on December 18, 2013.

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