Arts & Culture

Victory in Europe Day celebrations: Stolen treasures still concern the world community

The year was 1945. Springtime, both in April and May, was awhirl with wartime action. Most critically, ultimate victory over German forces appeared close on the horizon.

First, the Allies had a monumental task before them to stop items looted by the Nazis such as precious artworks and other portable valuables from being transported out of pillaged countries, such as occupied France and Italy.

Manatee County Public Libraries have WWII victory works in formats such as books, films, eBooks and online resources, including historical databases.

What words can describe these losses to Europe’s oppressed and war ravaged communities, families and individuals? Those same words about family treasures taken by the Nazis, such as stolen artwork during the holocaust or, more simply, stolen art can be key search terms to unlock history databases at the Manatee County Public Library System.

Try the two-word search terms war profiteering in the World History Collection or stolen art in the History Reference Center. One likely result may be a full-color Time magazine article about Hollywood’s The Monuments Men. Find the book or movie on DVD at the library.

If you want to take it from the top, see how our WWII Supreme Allied Commander prohibited allied war booty looting in the biography “Eisenhower in War and Peace” by Jean Edward Smith.

Robert Edsel gave the world “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves” but that was not the only work. Check out Edsel’s “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis” and more such as “The Rape of Europa,” DVD or streaming on Hoopla depicting the heroic WW II Monuments Men.

Another action-packed film about stolen French treasures and museum items is “John Frankenheimer’s The Train” (DVD) starring Burt Lancaster. A romantic novel from waning days before the Nazi surrender in Italy is “The Girl from Venice” by Martin Cruz Smith.

Victory in Europe Day finds Giulia, a young Jewish woman fighting fascism alongside a working-class fisherman named Cenzo, afloat outside Venice. This sweet novel pairs with Don and Petie Kladstrup’s “Wine and War: the French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure” which treats stolen potable, portable, and perishable produce of France: rare wines and champagne.

London's Art Loss Register, with its artwork database, said it has helped recover more than $25 million in art since it was founded in 1991. Read in 1995 Christian Science Monitor “Etceteras”

Rewarding research and reading about WWII in springtime 1945 is found in “Hitler’s Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis and the Looting of Europe’s Treasures” by Susan Ronald. This account of Hildebrand and his son Cornelius examines why $1.35 billion in disappeared stolen art was found in the younger Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2013.

Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. You can access the library via the Internet: