The Mousy Museum Lady Who Documented Nazi Crimes


Earlier this week, Bavarian authorities confirmed that in 2012 a German art dealer’s son was found with 1400 art works confiscated during World War II. The pieces, including some by Chagall and Matisse, are valued at over $1 billion.

Wondering how so much artwork could be lost for so long?

The 2006 documentary The Rape of Europa did, too. The film, which details the Nazi plundering of Europe’s fine art and the Allies’ concurrent efforts to save what they could, contains incredible footage and stirring, memorable stories. In one sequence, volunteers pack up the entire contents of the Louvre and send it off to be hidden in castles and bunkers. Most striking, is the story of Rose Valland, a seemingly unassuming museum employee who secretly documented nearly every piece of pillaged artwork in Paris, and its provenance, risking her life in the process.

The Rape of Europa illustrates the insane lengths Nazis went to hide the stolen art and the various efforts to salvage them, from the US army unit devoted to saving antiquities, to partisans sheltering works in their homes.

Many suspect that Nazi art storehouses remain. This week’s news suggests they could appear at any time.

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