The job of the soldiers who served with the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Allied Forces in WWII was to “mitigate combat damage, primarily to structures—churches, museums, and other important monuments.”
Because Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring were obsessed with collecting (read: stealing) fine art, the primary job of the MFAA became rooting out hidden caches of art before the Nazis destroyed them in the event of a Nazi defeat.
I found it difficult to engage with the first third of the book, background stories of a large roster. Because they were all working independently— their stories seldom converged—there was too many bits to sift through. It wasn’t until Paris, and the entry of the great heroine Rose Valland, that I found myself gripped by the narrative. From that point, the book is perfectly paced, and the thrill of the chase raised my pulse. It is a cracking good story!
Tucked into the story was a gem—the only one like it— from Capt Walker Hancock.
The eyes have one continual feast. It is late in the spring. Flowering trees are everywhere and the charm of the romantic little towns and the fairy tale castled countryside is enhanced by all this freshness. And in the midst of it all—thousands of homeless foreigners wandering about in pathetic droves, Germans in uniform …. Children who are friendly, older ones who hate you, crimes continually in the foreground of life. Plenty, misery, recriminations, sympathy. All such an exaggerated picture of the man-made way of life in a God-made world. If it all doesn’t prove the necessity of Heaven, I don’t know what it means. I believe that all this loveliness showing through rubble and wreck are just foreshadowings of the joys we were made for.
For fun, the magnificent George Stout, after receiving a package three months late:
It is amazing how the world can change during the life span of a fruitcake.
Because one curious door opens many others, I’m now interested in reading: