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Hitler's Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis, and the Looting of Europe's Treasures

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The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at around $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was - he didn't have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at around $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was - he didn't have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not exist. He had been hard-wired into a life of shadows and secrecy by his own father long before he had inherited his art collection built on the spoliation of museums and Jews during Hitler's Third Reich. The ensuing media frenzy unleashed international calls for restitution, unsettled international relations, and rocked the art world. Ronald reveals in this stranger-than-fiction-tale how Hildebrand Gurlitt succeeded in looting in the name of the Third Reich, duping the Monuments Men and the Nazis alike. As an "official dealer" for Hitler and Goebbels, Hildebrand Gurlitt became one of the Third Reich's most prolific art looters. Yet he stole from Hitler too, allegedly to save modern art. This is the untold story of Hildebrand Gurlitt, who stole more than art-he stole lives, too.


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The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at around $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was - he didn't have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not The world was stunned when eighty-year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar in November 2013 on the discovery of over 1,400 artworks in his 1,076 square-foot Munich apartment, valued at around $1.35 billion. Gurlitt became known as a man who never was - he didn't have a bank account, never paid tax, never received social security. He simply did not exist. He had been hard-wired into a life of shadows and secrecy by his own father long before he had inherited his art collection built on the spoliation of museums and Jews during Hitler's Third Reich. The ensuing media frenzy unleashed international calls for restitution, unsettled international relations, and rocked the art world. Ronald reveals in this stranger-than-fiction-tale how Hildebrand Gurlitt succeeded in looting in the name of the Third Reich, duping the Monuments Men and the Nazis alike. As an "official dealer" for Hitler and Goebbels, Hildebrand Gurlitt became one of the Third Reich's most prolific art looters. Yet he stole from Hitler too, allegedly to save modern art. This is the untold story of Hildebrand Gurlitt, who stole more than art-he stole lives, too.

30 review for Hitler's Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis, and the Looting of Europe's Treasures

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    Hildebrand Gurlitt is likely not a name familiar alongside those of the infamous villains of Nazi Germany. He should be though as he looted 1500 pieces of priceless art from the Nazi’s victims, valued at over $1 billion (USD) at 2015 values. Yet his crimes weren’t uncovered until 2013 when his son auctioned a painting, long after his father’s death, which led to the discovery of almost the entire collection in the son’s apartment, hidden from view for over 6 decades. In his heyday, Hildebrand il Hildebrand Gurlitt is likely not a name familiar alongside those of the infamous villains of Nazi Germany. He should be though as he looted 1500 pieces of priceless art from the Nazi’s victims, valued at over $1 billion (USD) at 2015 values. Yet his crimes weren’t uncovered until 2013 when his son auctioned a painting, long after his father’s death, which led to the discovery of almost the entire collection in the son’s apartment, hidden from view for over 6 decades. In his heyday, Hildebrand illicitly covered his tracks as one of four official Nazi government art dealers in the international art trade in the 1930s through 1945. His career as an renowned expert in modern art, led to becoming an art dealer for the elite in German society including representing Hitler, Bormann, Goering, and Speer as they looted art from the European countries Germany conquered. The victims were mostly Jewish families and enemies of the state whose collections were either confiscated or sometimes bought an unscrupulously purchased largely through extortion. Others were stripped from museums under the guise (in Germany) that the works were Germanic enough or in conquered countries if the work was originally German in origin. All were the result of wartime plunder, orchestrated by Gurlitt. After “purchasing” works for the Nazi elite and his private clients what was left was available for Gurlitt to buy. Prior to the start of World War 2 and even during the War itself, Gurlitt sold works in international art shows illicitly to get hard currency for the German government’s war effort, even though Germany was legally prohibited from doing this, but Gurlitt was a master at money laundering to make it possible. Stunningly among his important clients, were American collectors, even while the US was a German opponent in the War. Gurlitt always contended he was saving these masterpieces, but he never acknowledged that the pieces were actually plundered off the backs of luckless victims of the Nazi scourge. Susan Ronald’s book, Hitler’s Art Thief, is a very interesting account of this little known aspect of World War 2 history. She tends to go a little overboard, in my opinion in recounting German history in the early 20th century as she tells the Gurlitt family history. I think this could have been minimized to make the book more readable. I found the current tale of Gurlitt’s demise in 1956 to be glossed over a little too much. And would have liked to have known a little more of what the few families to have claimed their looted art thought of having it restored to them in the 21st century. Hildebrand Gurlitt seemed to me to be a narcissist whose only interest was the beauty of art, with no concern for pain felt by those families from whom he ripped priceless classics to claim as his own. He represented the true heartless evil of the time. Sadly justice was never realized as even when the works were found, most families were no longer around to claim them, or they had no idea such works existed any longer. They were the victims of ruthless plunder — all for Gurlitt’s gain.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Have you read “Monuments Men”? In November 2013, eighty year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar when more than 1,400 works of art – valued at over $1.3 billion dollars – were discovered in his Munich apartment. Gurlitt became known as the man who never was. He didn’t have a bank account, he never received a state pension, he never used the country’s health insurance, he didn’t pay taxes, and his apartment was still in the name of his long-deceased mother. This book look Have you read “Monuments Men”? In November 2013, eighty year old Cornelius Gurlitt became an international media superstar when more than 1,400 works of art – valued at over $1.3 billion dollars – were discovered in his Munich apartment. Gurlitt became known as the man who never was. He didn’t have a bank account, he never received a state pension, he never used the country’s health insurance, he didn’t pay taxes, and his apartment was still in the name of his long-deceased mother. This book looks at the theft of art in Nazi Germany from the point of view of Hitler’s “main” art thief, Hildebrand Gurlitt. He succeeded in looting in the name of the Third Reich and duped not only the Monuments Men, but the Nazis and Hitler [himself], as well. Some interesting points: Art is intended to unite people of disparate backgrounds in a combined cultural heritage that transcends national boundaries. It takes many forms – literature, music, dance, fine art, film, and more. It connects our souls. The wholesale theft of art from museums, private individuals, libraries, and archives was highly calculated and well organized by the criminal regime of the Third Reich. The purpose of this thievery was to fund the war for Hitler and the Third Reich. The author shows the foundation for World War II in chapter 10. I found this section to be very interesting. The information regarding acceptable forms of payment in 1923 was intriguing – checks and credit cards were no longer accepted. People demanded to be paid in movable values – food or cigarettes, usually for everyday exchanges, and jewelry, rare books, or fine art for more expensive purchases – like automobiles. Another interesting point was that Hitler appeared to be a rule follower. The only problem was that if he didn’t like a rule or he disagreed with it, he simply had it changed to reflect his wants. In his speeches and writings, Hitler spread his beliefs in racial "purity" and in the superiority of the "Germanic race"—what he called an Aryan "master race." He pronounced that his race must remain pure in order to one day take over the world. He believed the same was true for German artwork. He declared, “Even before the turn of the century, an element began to intrude into our art which … could be regarded as entirely foreign and unknown. The cornerstone of Hitler’s campaign to win the hearts of the German people centered on the emotional. He believed that only art – in whatever form – could touch the German people’s souls. Gurlitt was the first museum director to become a victim of Nazi ideology concerning modern art. Whether it was through the support he had received from other museum director or some introductions or assistance … had provided behind the scenes, he was appointed at long last as director of the Hamburg Kunstverein. The whole history surrounding his “dream” to save Germany was engrossing, especially in relation to what was considered good art vs. deplorable or offensive paintings. In regards to art, since the Nazis no longer wanted Expressionist art, Hildebrand Gurlitt immediately saw the benefit of “saving modern art.” Museum directors who wanted to keep their jobs were in a quandary. To survive, they knew exhibitions deploring modern art were essential. Most interesting were the auction houses that were owned by Jews that were mysteriously allowed to stay in operation. These included Lepke and Graupe. From March 1933, it became impossible for any auction house to sell works by Jewish artists. Jewish private collections, like Rothschild and Ephrussi, were also plundered. I am amazed by the number of works of art that “escaped” to Switzerland. Impending war inevitably led to the squirreling-away of art treasures throughout Europe. It was fascinating to see where European nations hid their most treasured works. I learned a lot about the Occupied Zone vs Free Zone, in France. During WWII, Gurlitt developed a strong hide and donned blinkers to the horrors that surrounded him. He ignored his part in stealing riches from tortured men and women forced to sell their treasures for the price of mere trinkets, and often in an attempt to extend their lives. Gurlitt’s corruption began in childhood with the misguided principle that he came from a family that knew best how to safeguard art for art’s sake. I was floored to learn that he did a stint working as a German Monuments Man in Belgium during WWI. During this time, he also gave lectures on the superiority of German art. What he never admitted was that once he had begun to act as dealer for Kurt Kirchbach, in the mid-1920’s, he’d felt the exhilaration of power. With power came the craving to greedily nurture it. Towards the end of the war and after, Gurlitt reveled in the system that he … had set up, which protected his cherished invisibility. Information for why the Altaussee salt mine was chosen as a safe hidey hole for the evacuation for all the art acquired by Hitler and Linz was interesting – “The beauty of the salt mine was that it had been in operation for centuries and its deep horizons afforded a uniquely perfect atmosphere, with a balanced acidity in the air, a constant temperature of seven degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit), and a steady humidity of 63 percent. I loved reading about America’s Monuments Men from this perspective! The information shared about Gurlitt’s preparation for post-Nazi life was intriguing, especially the supposition for how Cornelius and Benita would have seen the preparations. It is amazing that Gurlitt was never caught for his crimes. I believe he lucked out that the chief interrogator, First Lieutenant Dwight McKay, knew very little about art and the art world – he was literally learning on the job. I don’t know that McKay knew all of the right questions to ask to get at the specific point / truth to discover where the looted art was. The subsequent investigations, over the years, were engrossing. Even the professionals, who knew what they were looking for, still could not quite maneuver / manipulate the process to get the answers they wanted / needed. It was pure luck that Cornelius got caught with the goods that his father had obtained more than 70 years earlier. They say a criminal will always make a mistake; he will always trip himself up. This seems to be what happened, in this case. For me, the most bizarre aspect of this book was how Cornelius (Hildebrand’s son) was able to live not only under the radar, but completely off the grid, and for so long. Most interesting.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    Overall the book was interesting but definitely one for readers who love detail. Personally I found the amount of detail bogged the story down and I wound up skimming the pages at times. The book is basically in three parts. The first is a lot about the rise of the Nazi party and the background of the Gurlitt family. The second part is about the looting, buying, hiding and selling of the art works during WW2. I was surprised how many auctions and export permits were issued (many falsely). It see Overall the book was interesting but definitely one for readers who love detail. Personally I found the amount of detail bogged the story down and I wound up skimming the pages at times. The book is basically in three parts. The first is a lot about the rise of the Nazi party and the background of the Gurlitt family. The second part is about the looting, buying, hiding and selling of the art works during WW2. I was surprised how many auctions and export permits were issued (many falsely). It seems a lot of the art went to Spain, Portugal, South America, the United States and especially Switzerland. On May 29, 1944 a shipment of 391 artworks arrived in Manhattan. I had no idea that shipments of this magnitude were happening in the middle of the war. The final part was about what happened to the art after WW2, this was the briefest and most disappointing. Mind you the book was written shortly after Cornelius Gurlitt's' stash of artwork was discovered.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mr Shahabi

    The incident is a far enough reason for any to get a grab of this book, but this is not written in a History Book fashion nor a Story, but rather like a Police Investigation Report! Boring and dull to the max, REALLY MAX as for the amount of ART History that is inside? That's correct, but the amount of information does not justify how poor the book performed. The incident is a far enough reason for any to get a grab of this book, but this is not written in a History Book fashion nor a Story, but rather like a Police Investigation Report! Boring and dull to the max, REALLY MAX as for the amount of ART History that is inside? That's correct, but the amount of information does not justify how poor the book performed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Plain and simple: The worst book I read in 2019! What could have been a very interesting story was a incoherent compilation of name after name after name. I fought through the book always hoping to sometimes, somewhere find a central theme but there simply was none. To be honest: I simply cannot tell you in any way, what Susan Ronald tried to achive with this book. Bringing you nearer the history of looting art in the Third Reich? Fail! Introducing one of the main characters of Hitler's art looti Plain and simple: The worst book I read in 2019! What could have been a very interesting story was a incoherent compilation of name after name after name. I fought through the book always hoping to sometimes, somewhere find a central theme but there simply was none. To be honest: I simply cannot tell you in any way, what Susan Ronald tried to achive with this book. Bringing you nearer the history of looting art in the Third Reich? Fail! Introducing one of the main characters of Hitler's art looting? Fail! Therefore: An absolute non-recomondation!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Another sad result of War. (what is it good for--absolutely nothing) Perhaps I would have rated it higher if I read rather than listened, it was hard to keep names straight without seeing them in print so I was sometimes confused and I found it took a while at each listening to adjust to and process the narrator's voice. This is a sad reckoning of one of the many disastrous results of people thinking they are better than or deserve more than their neighbor. Why can't we all just get along. Quotes: t Another sad result of War. (what is it good for--absolutely nothing) Perhaps I would have rated it higher if I read rather than listened, it was hard to keep names straight without seeing them in print so I was sometimes confused and I found it took a while at each listening to adjust to and process the narrator's voice. This is a sad reckoning of one of the many disastrous results of people thinking they are better than or deserve more than their neighbor. Why can't we all just get along. Quotes: the hippocracy of the German Art world during the war- tried to keep artists and galleries alive by showing their modern(current) art as 'exhibitions of shame' and 'images of cultural Bolshevism' " Evil thrives on misery and Hitler was absolutely blooming. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 Germany as well as the rest of the world was plunged into deep depression." Beware

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    This subject seemed like it should fascinate me, but perhaps a documentary or a short article would better meet my needs. Ronald's book is incredibly detailed and I got bogged down in early 20th century European geopolitical history, and a much-too-long list of German names, places, and organizations. By chapter 5, I realized I was no longer even trying to take in all the facts being thrown my way and, more importantly, wasn't enjoying the book. Abandoned without a rating, as I don't think I rea This subject seemed like it should fascinate me, but perhaps a documentary or a short article would better meet my needs. Ronald's book is incredibly detailed and I got bogged down in early 20th century European geopolitical history, and a much-too-long list of German names, places, and organizations. By chapter 5, I realized I was no longer even trying to take in all the facts being thrown my way and, more importantly, wasn't enjoying the book. Abandoned without a rating, as I don't think I read enough to give it a fair critique. It just wasn't for me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John McDonald

    "Rich preys make true men thieves." Wm. Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in the 1930s when Germany suffered an economic Depression that devastated industrial production and personal consumption. Of equal significance, the bill tendered to Germany for war Reparations had come due in the amount of 132Billion Gold Marks, a sum Ronald describes as "crippling [which would] . . . strangle the very breath from the Weimar Republic, even before it was born [and "Rich preys make true men thieves." Wm. Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power in the 1930s when Germany suffered an economic Depression that devastated industrial production and personal consumption. Of equal significance, the bill tendered to Germany for war Reparations had come due in the amount of 132Billion Gold Marks, a sum Ronald describes as "crippling [which would] . . . strangle the very breath from the Weimar Republic, even before it was born [and] resuscitate the Right and give strength to Friecorps [the band of paramilitary thugs that would set the standard for political brutality that the SS, Gestapo, and the SA]. " Germany's economic predicament fueled the virulent antisemitism espoused by Hitler and embraced by Himmler, Goring, Goebbels, and later Reinhard Heidrich, perhaps the coldest, most diabolical of Himmler's operatives. When the Enabling Act and other racial laws designed to implement the purification of the German people by denying citizenship to Jews, depriving them of the benefit of and protection of the laws and due process of law, and forbidding them to own property in their own right, the German Reichsmark (RM) essentially had become valueless on overseas currency exchanges while unrestrained inflation roared internally. Germany was doomed to communities of starving people, non-existent consumer demand, and the inability to sell what products it did make. It could not conduct trade in foreign markets because the RM was valueless, while bankers and lenders refused to lend because those lenders lost all confidence in German ability to repay in the face of its huge war reparations bill then due, payable, and being demanded to be repaid by Britain, Franch, and America. Inflation raged. Bread was priced out of reach of virtually every German. The need to acquire foreign exchange, therefore, was essential because only foreign exchange--in the face of the devastation wrung down upon the RM--would allow the Nazi government to fuel the post War industrial and consumer boom it required to stabilize the society and the government. Hitler and his cabal of thugs and enforcers were left to this task. It became policy and law that the most efficient way to do this was to confiscate property owned by Jews, and, to the extent that it served no usefulness to the personal tastes of the Nazis and Nazi thieves like Hitler, Goebbels, Goring, and their agents, "degenerate" (Jewish, Romani, homosexual) property, especially "degenerate art" could be sold to foreign connoisseurs and museums in France, Britain, and yes, the United States. For art dealers like Hildebrand Gurlitt, the occupational call of a lifetime rang out. Not only would he and the art connoisseurs now serve as advisors to prominent Nazi officials, businessmen, and bankers, they would become collectors of some of the greatest arts held in collections of prominent German and French Jews--Rothschilds among them. They also could support Nazi antisemitism while earning substantial commissions and brokering fees on both ends of the acquisition and sale transactions. Jewish collectors rarely were compensated for their art stolen from them. Nevertheless, a value would be assigned once the work came into possession of the dealers, and the ultimate buyer would pay brokerage fees based on the front and back end values of the trade. It was nothing short of a gold mine for men who lacked even the slightest degree of morality about what they engaged--theft, fencing, resale, and money laundering. The "buyers" of this art were able to purchase normally unavailable art at knock down prices, often paid for by the government, but the dealers and brokers received fees based on full value most of the time. Hitler himself had decided that he, a failed and incompetent poseur of an artist, would construct his own Hitler Museum in Linz (which reminded me of an early version of the Presidential Libraries in America--what will happen when it's Trump turn to enjoy this perk-floor after floor o MAGA hats and Trump-Pence campaign signs?) and the dealers help service this concocted function. The scheme devised constituted perhaps the largest, most open Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations activity conducted in the open with the protection of the laws of Nazi Germany and the sometimes subtle consent of Nazi officials. The theft of art from collections owned by Jewish business people and citizens found its justification in the virulent antisemitism practiced by Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, and Goring, although it must be said that, while Goring used the race laws to justify his considerable appetite for theft, he was aided and abetted by his enormous appetites for splendor and ostentation that infected every aspect of his work, every pore of his existence. Jewish artists, too, were not exempt, either. The antisemitic justification for enacting laws requiring that Jewish art and property revert to the Reich without just compensation was a justification of legal convenience, the syllogism of which went something like this: Germany must return to its pure racial Aryan heritage. Involvement of Jews in any aspect of the German culture infects this purity, whether it derives from ancestry, marriage, success in business, and the ownership of wealth acquired by successful pursuits in business, law, medicine, or any other professional, business, or occupational pursuit, or by inheritance. Permitting Jews to own property, personal wealth, business, or banking enterprises is encourage the pollution of Aryan German purity and hence must be discouraged and denied by the confiscation of property from Jews--all Jews, not simply the richest among. This German philosophy was so simple in its syllogism and so vile in what it permitted that once practiced, it could not be stopped. Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Mischling, acquired thousands of pieces of confiscated "degenerate" art, sculpture, drawings, and property owned by Jews but maintained his separation from Nazism his entire life. It really until 2013 when his son Cornelius, then in his 80s, was given a customs check by a Eurozone customs officer, that the secretion of this stolen art began to unravel and a few heirs began to have their claims for restitution satisfied. The author, who worked for an investment bank, was well situated to tell this story and she did her research, too. She tells of her personal experience while working for the investment bank, of catching sight of a Louis Gurlitt artwork in the vault of a Swiss bank, but when she questioned the bank officer who accompanied her on her inventory preparation for a client was spirited away quickly with no answer to her question. Indeed, it confirmed to her what Monuments Men and lawyers representing the families of Jewish claimants knew but might not be able to offer specific proof: that banking institutions (and museums) in and out of Germany, including Switzerland, France, and America) were silent conspirators. Ronald's story ends around 2014 when Cornelius Gurlitt's died but his hidden cache of art, stored in a decrepit Salzburg residence owned by Gurlitt, later was discovered. Her story remains uncompleted but what is known is that this discovery opened the curtains on a post-war humiliation endured by Jews whose parents and ancestors had perished in the concentration camps only after their property had been stolen by the Nazis and the Nazi agents like Hildebrand Gurlitt. This story and the shame of it all continues.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Francis

    For me, “Hitler’s Art Thief”—a hybrid of art history and WWII history—was a book that struggled to justify its existence. Ronald uses the 2013 discovery of priceless artworks in a Munich apartment as the fulcrum of this story about yet another component of Hitler’s Master Plan: the acquiring of certain kinds of art and the purging of others kinds of art. Just as Hitler idealized racial purity, so did he idealize a kind of artistic purity, believing that the proper German art collections would fu For me, “Hitler’s Art Thief”—a hybrid of art history and WWII history—was a book that struggled to justify its existence. Ronald uses the 2013 discovery of priceless artworks in a Munich apartment as the fulcrum of this story about yet another component of Hitler’s Master Plan: the acquiring of certain kinds of art and the purging of others kinds of art. Just as Hitler idealized racial purity, so did he idealize a kind of artistic purity, believing that the proper German art collections would further affirm German superiority. Enticing. So what’s not to like? Well, while the synopsis is intriguing, the execution is a letdown. What I mean by ‘struggling to justify its existence’ is that the story being told really didn’t require this much detail, i.e., a feeling of bureaucracy pervades the narrative. It seems that in order to balloon this story to 320 pp., Ronald threw in copious minutiae, making the actual reading experience a slog… It cannot be denied that “Hitler’s Art Thief” is an impressive bit of research, but its entertainment value is nil.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Hitler's Art Thief is a detailed history of Cornelius Gurlitt and the massive collection of art that his father illegally obtained during the Nazi Era. It is amazing that much of this story did not come to light until recently. It took me a little while to get through this book as it was a little dry in sections and is the sort of book you need to be in the right frame of mind for, but overall very interesting. Hitler's Art Thief is a detailed history of Cornelius Gurlitt and the massive collection of art that his father illegally obtained during the Nazi Era. It is amazing that much of this story did not come to light until recently. It took me a little while to get through this book as it was a little dry in sections and is the sort of book you need to be in the right frame of mind for, but overall very interesting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    ingrid

    This book was gripping all the way through. I found it fascinating and horrible all at the same time. A kind of grisly true life thriller. The evil men do, including art dealers. Starts before WW I, covers many famous Nazis, famous artworks, WW II, the aftermath, etc. etc. The focus is on Hildebrand Gurlitt, notorious Nazi art dealer, and then his son, Cornelius. A treasure trove of stashed art works worth a billion dollars was discovered in Cornelius' Munich apt. about 1-2 years ago. This book was gripping all the way through. I found it fascinating and horrible all at the same time. A kind of grisly true life thriller. The evil men do, including art dealers. Starts before WW I, covers many famous Nazis, famous artworks, WW II, the aftermath, etc. etc. The focus is on Hildebrand Gurlitt, notorious Nazi art dealer, and then his son, Cornelius. A treasure trove of stashed art works worth a billion dollars was discovered in Cornelius' Munich apt. about 1-2 years ago.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    After reading about fifty pages, I could no longer deal with this book. I found the beginning to be quite boring and it never changed for me. Too bad. I really thought that the subject matter would have been more interesting, but there's too many extemporaneous details that I don't believe are needed. After reading about fifty pages, I could no longer deal with this book. I found the beginning to be quite boring and it never changed for me. Too bad. I really thought that the subject matter would have been more interesting, but there's too many extemporaneous details that I don't believe are needed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Mogee

    If you're a fan of history and you have even a slight interest in art, this is a great book. It is very detail oriented, and can be a little slow at times, but the story is fascinating. Although we may never know the extent of the looting that took place - and it may never be found - it's good to know that the art wasn't all destroyed. If you're a fan of history and you have even a slight interest in art, this is a great book. It is very detail oriented, and can be a little slow at times, but the story is fascinating. Although we may never know the extent of the looting that took place - and it may never be found - it's good to know that the art wasn't all destroyed.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dconner

    It took some slogging through to read this book, but it is very good for details and the overall explanation. The book implied that Hitler was a want-to-be artist, so to steal all of that fine art in Europe was sort of a revenge. Also it brought up that the Nazis' labeled art as degenerative if it wasn't classical art, etc. It took some slogging through to read this book, but it is very good for details and the overall explanation. The book implied that Hitler was a want-to-be artist, so to steal all of that fine art in Europe was sort of a revenge. Also it brought up that the Nazis' labeled art as degenerative if it wasn't classical art, etc.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Brinkmann

    Very good book. Well-researched and rather well-written. Easy to read with short chapters that move along quickly. The author skillfully switches back and forth between German history and the biography of Hildebrand Gurlitt. She tells the stories of the artists and art dealers inside Germany, which are stories not often told (and certainly not told from the US-as-the-hero perspective of books like Monuments Men). She is not entirely sympathetic with Gurlitt, but she helps you see the more comple Very good book. Well-researched and rather well-written. Easy to read with short chapters that move along quickly. The author skillfully switches back and forth between German history and the biography of Hildebrand Gurlitt. She tells the stories of the artists and art dealers inside Germany, which are stories not often told (and certainly not told from the US-as-the-hero perspective of books like Monuments Men). She is not entirely sympathetic with Gurlitt, but she helps you see the more complex perspective of a partly-Jewish man and his family in Germany from the early 1900s-1950s. My one particular criticism of this book is that there are times when the author veers away from telling the known facts of the history (that is, the parts of the story that can be verified by multiple sources and reliable sources) and indulges in her own unsupported conspiracy theories. Although I recognize that anyone who researches this time period must inevitably encounter things that make one's eyebrows furrow in confusion, the author needs to decide if she's writing a history (in which case, leave that crap out or mention it without indulging in conspiracy theories) or if she's writing a conspiracy theory (in which case, don't pretend that you're writing a scholarly work of history). These instances where the author is self-indulgent are few (four or five instances scattered throughout 32 chapters), but they happen often enough to be annoying. It's the kind of thing an editor should have caught and said, "No, this doesn't belong in this book," or "Restrict this to the prologue." If these things had been restricted to the prologue or an afterword, I wouldn't even mention the issue. Other than this complaint, the book is very informative and interesting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

    I love lost art stories... this is not exactly a lost art story. The title suggests that Hildebrand Gurlitt looted art for Hitler, but there's very little to suggest in this meticulously detailed book, that Hildebrand actually met Hitler, or was looting on his command - but rather, that he took advantage of the Nazi regime's "rules" at the time to do so on his own volition. He had been involved in the art world for years, and much of what he collected (and truthfully, may have saved from destruc I love lost art stories... this is not exactly a lost art story. The title suggests that Hildebrand Gurlitt looted art for Hitler, but there's very little to suggest in this meticulously detailed book, that Hildebrand actually met Hitler, or was looting on his command - but rather, that he took advantage of the Nazi regime's "rules" at the time to do so on his own volition. He had been involved in the art world for years, and much of what he collected (and truthfully, may have saved from destruction) was modern art, much of which was condemned. This book is a fairly involved account of German life between World Word I and II, the political climate, and Hitler's rise to power. It's somewhat easy to see how in such a bleakly painted picture, how many may have looked to Hitler to be the savior of Germany (hindsight, of course, paints a very different reality). I found the names and places and art dealers and political machinations and shenanigans a bit hard to follow at times - I just couldn't build the mental map needed to understand how they all related. And honestly, I felt that very little was said about Cornelius, the son who was the one actually found with all the art, and more on is death - that it felt like an enormous build up, to no real climatic end. Perhaps intended, in that it's not actually a surprise, but I would have liked to read more about the post war years, and about Cornelius. I will say, the comments at the end do make you wonder if he may have more art squirreled away somewhere yet to be found.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Halliday

    I am not a fan of history books unless they are marvelously written and spiked with surprising tidbits. This book, which is decidedly a history book and not an art book, was selected as a read by my art book-club so I plowed through, frankly skimming after the first half of the book. The banal writing and the excess of irrelevant information were grueling to plod through. Time and again author Ronald dangles a bit of potentially intriguing information that is never again explained. One person in I am not a fan of history books unless they are marvelously written and spiked with surprising tidbits. This book, which is decidedly a history book and not an art book, was selected as a read by my art book-club so I plowed through, frankly skimming after the first half of the book. The banal writing and the excess of irrelevant information were grueling to plod through. Time and again author Ronald dangles a bit of potentially intriguing information that is never again explained. One person in my art book club said that it's as if Ronald knows so much, and she just has to tell it all. Although Ronald repeats thoughts about the importance of art, her knowledge or appreciation of art or artists is omitted. We learn nothing about the artists involved with the stunning Gurlitt art looting. A biography that centered on Cornelius Gurlitt III, the hapless octogenarian who acquired this bonanza of thousands of artworks and documents, would have been an infinitely more interesting book. The conclusion of the book was the only section that gave me some interest. I appreciate the author's exhaustive attempt to elucidate this astounding find of looted artwork, but I don't recommend reading the book. I found much more interesting material about the Gurlitt case from magazine articles and museum videos.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Giovanna Walker

    Such a shame. A HARD slog. Firstly the amount of research done for this book is amazing, comprehensive. Kudos to the author. It was such a brain dump of information about how Germany got to WW1 & WW2, so MUCH historical detail - it could have been much less. I have read better books on the subject. Whilst I totally agree context is very important, heck, it shouldn't put you to sleep. I persevered for 100 pages, then skimmed, then didn't bother. I wanted to read about the looting of the art, but Such a shame. A HARD slog. Firstly the amount of research done for this book is amazing, comprehensive. Kudos to the author. It was such a brain dump of information about how Germany got to WW1 & WW2, so MUCH historical detail - it could have been much less. I have read better books on the subject. Whilst I totally agree context is very important, heck, it shouldn't put you to sleep. I persevered for 100 pages, then skimmed, then didn't bother. I wanted to read about the looting of the art, but it was so convoluted - I didn't want to read about a history of the 2 WW's. She does have access to some of the family correspondence which is enlightening, and gives insight into the state of mind of the family, however I just COULDN'T get into this. It felt like the art was an aside throughout. And also too macro.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    This was a meticulously researched book that will appeal to readers who love all the details on a subject. I enjoyed this book as it’s on a topic I’m fascinated by (art crime & art looting during WWII) but I did find the writing quite dense and at times it was too bogged down with the minute detail. The story of Cornelius Gurlitt and the paintings discovered in his apartment in 2013 is super interesting but I felt the author spent more time on his father and how he collected/looted the art and n This was a meticulously researched book that will appeal to readers who love all the details on a subject. I enjoyed this book as it’s on a topic I’m fascinated by (art crime & art looting during WWII) but I did find the writing quite dense and at times it was too bogged down with the minute detail. The story of Cornelius Gurlitt and the paintings discovered in his apartment in 2013 is super interesting but I felt the author spent more time on his father and how he collected/looted the art and not enough time on Cornelius and how the discovery of the collection in 2013 was handled. I think there could have been a better balance between both stories. But overall, an interesting book from Susan Ronald.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    I don't like putting books down and Susan Ronald is obviously a very intelligent person, but for such an incredible story this book was a slog to get through. My blame would be with the publishers who would of had the final say on the editing of the book. Incredibly well researched and I can't even imagine the amount of work the author put in, but there had to be a better way to tell this story. If anything I feel the author tried to cram too much in, it never flowed, name after name introduced I don't like putting books down and Susan Ronald is obviously a very intelligent person, but for such an incredible story this book was a slog to get through. My blame would be with the publishers who would of had the final say on the editing of the book. Incredibly well researched and I can't even imagine the amount of work the author put in, but there had to be a better way to tell this story. If anything I feel the author tried to cram too much in, it never flowed, name after name introduced every few paragraphs. Very difficult read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kanisha DiCicco

    If you don't enjoy knowing very minute details about history, you probably won't enjoy Susan Ronald's writing. There's a lot of military history and general WWI and WWII that I actually enjoyed reading. It's one of those books where you can't let yourself get caught up in all of the names and places because you WILL get lost. I found it to be an interesting read but I do wish there was more art history involved in the story. If you don't enjoy knowing very minute details about history, you probably won't enjoy Susan Ronald's writing. There's a lot of military history and general WWI and WWII that I actually enjoyed reading. It's one of those books where you can't let yourself get caught up in all of the names and places because you WILL get lost. I found it to be an interesting read but I do wish there was more art history involved in the story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura Raines

    I'm one of the people who was stunned by the news of this cache of art works discovered in Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment in 2013, so this topic interested me. It is meticulously researched, and at times overwhelming with the details. I'm sorry to say that so many answers to questions about the Gurlitts remain unanswered and so many of these lost art works have yet to find their way back home. I'm one of the people who was stunned by the news of this cache of art works discovered in Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment in 2013, so this topic interested me. It is meticulously researched, and at times overwhelming with the details. I'm sorry to say that so many answers to questions about the Gurlitts remain unanswered and so many of these lost art works have yet to find their way back home.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pan Ellington

    fascinating account of both one man's and the nazi party's, in general, loot of european art as it rose to power and through the second world war. this read marks my first foray into german history that now begs my own questions about my grandmother's motives to emigrate to the us... this was another of bird's, i wish i could have learned more about the subjects she studied in art school... fascinating account of both one man's and the nazi party's, in general, loot of european art as it rose to power and through the second world war. this read marks my first foray into german history that now begs my own questions about my grandmother's motives to emigrate to the us... this was another of bird's, i wish i could have learned more about the subjects she studied in art school...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Well-written, interesting and easy to follow. It's more than just about Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was one of the most successful art dealers who participated in the Nazis' looting of art collections, while at the same time enriching himself and keeping many paintings. The book also follows Adolph Hitler from 1905 as it explores Gurlitt's actions. Well-written, interesting and easy to follow. It's more than just about Hildebrand Gurlitt, who was one of the most successful art dealers who participated in the Nazis' looting of art collections, while at the same time enriching himself and keeping many paintings. The book also follows Adolph Hitler from 1905 as it explores Gurlitt's actions.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    I've started this book three times. I've found the first chapters to be too bogged down with details to to make this anything more than a drudgery academic type book that if you don't annotate, you'll be lost before long. This story could have been cut down by a third and it would be far more enjoyable. I've started this book three times. I've found the first chapters to be too bogged down with details to to make this anything more than a drudgery academic type book that if you don't annotate, you'll be lost before long. This story could have been cut down by a third and it would be far more enjoyable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Madelaine

    A somewhat interesting aspect of the Nazi regime I did not know much about, but probably could have been better. There are WAY too many names to remember, dates and transaction prices are thrown out with the expectation that you can follow the ever changing currency conversions and evolving timeline, and finally (and least importantly) I listened to the audiobook version and hated the reader.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Kobus

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Impossible to keep on top of all the names and acronyms, sometimes several new names/page and I didn't have a clue who they were, glossary of names would be good. Interesting learning about the significance of art during the war. Impossible to keep on top of all the names and acronyms, sometimes several new names/page and I didn't have a clue who they were, glossary of names would be good. Interesting learning about the significance of art during the war.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis teamed up with art experts to rob Europe's Jews of priceless art, often via forced sales. Susan Ronald chronicles one man's extraordinary career of thievery in her book. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis teamed up with art experts to rob Europe's Jews of priceless art, often via forced sales. Susan Ronald chronicles one man's extraordinary career of thievery in her book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    J

    It took a while to plow through this one - not as interesting as I thought it would be, but there was a lot of art history in there which made it worthwhile.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Best for its detailed and disturbing account of German life between the wars.

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