Published on August 31st, 2009 | by Chris1
The Rape of Europa (2006)
During WWII, one of the concerns of the Allied high command was how to protect the priceless artifacts of world culture present in Europe from the ravages of war.
The Rape of Europa chronicles these efforts, and more interestingly, delves into the world of the Nazi preoccupation with pillaging and hoarding these works of art.
The first part of the film explores how the Nazis, particularly the upper echelon including Hitler and Goering, went on a quest to capture and hoard the classical masters' work. "To the victors go the spoils" was their motto, and they took everything they could get their hands on, either by outright theft or through complicity of the parties they conquered and killed.
The second part follows the efforts of the Allied "Monuments Men" as they followed the invasion into Italy through the end of the war. Through interviews and footage, we see the toll that the devastation took on irreplaceable pieces of history, such as the monastery at Monte Cassino, and the Campsanto at Piza. There is a brief bit near the end exploring the Russian connection as well, although it doesn't go into nearly the detail as the previous two sections.
I will say that the film takes a bit of a "surprised" view towards the actions of the Nazis, and even the Russians. I don't really see it as shocking at all, given the history of warfare over the centuries, the attitude of the conquering invaders taking what they can.... I think it was just accepted as par for the course. A damn shame, to be sure, but expected. Maybe not to the extent as might have been done in previous wars, due to the efficiency that modern transportation allowed, but expected anyway.
I think also that it does a fine job at showcasing one of the rarely discussed outcomes of war, which is the destruction of history. As the man says in Raiders of the Lost Ark (I know, I know) "this is history." And faced with the nearly unavoidable destruction of buildings, paintings, statues, etc. for which there is no replacement, its certainly admirable that somebody was trying to "look out for" it all.
As a documentary I have to give it high marks, just because it is presented so well, and in such a manner as to fully outline the problem at hand. From the legal difficulties sometimes present in determining who actually owns these pieces, to the ending where bits of Jewish religious artifacts are slowly being returned "to service" after their owners simply don't exist anymore.... its certainly an eye-opener, and a thought-provoker.
The focus of The Rape of Europa is mainly on the art and architecture, but also touched on is the conflict between saving these artifacts, and saving the lives of the men fighting around them. I was glad to see that viewpoint included.
I viewed The Rape of Europa via Netflix streaming and my handy Roku player, and the video and audio were superb, even on my big lcd. The future rules.
Here's a trailer if you're so interested:
Summary: I have to give it high marks, just because it is presented so well, and in such a manner as to fully outline the problem at hand. From the legal difficulties sometimes present in determining who actually owns these pieces, to the ending where bits of Jewish religious artifacts are slowly being returned "to service" after their owners simply don't exist anymore.... its certainly an eye-opener, and a thought-provoker.