Saving Italy by Robert M. Edsel
The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis

71%

11 Critic Reviews

Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Monuments Men



"An astonishing account of a little-known American effort to save Italy's…art during World War II."—Tom Brokaw


When Hitler’s armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind’s greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire.

On the eve of the Allied invasion, General Dwight Eisenhower empowered a new kind of soldier to protect these historic riches. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes—artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt—embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli. With the German army retreating up the Italian peninsula, orders came from the highest levels of the Nazi government to transport truckloads of art north across the border into the Reich. Standing in the way was General Karl Wolff, a top-level Nazi officer. As German forces blew up the magnificent bridges of Florence, General Wolff commandeered the great collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace, later risking his life to negotiate a secret Nazi surrender with American spymaster Allen Dulles.


Brilliantly researched and vividly written, the New York Times bestselling Saving Italy brings readers from Milan and the near destruction of The Last Supper to the inner sanctum of the Vatican and behind closed doors with the preeminent Allied and Axis leaders: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Churchill; Hitler, Göring, and Himmler.


An unforgettable story of epic thievery and political intrigue, Saving Italy is a testament to heroism on behalf of art, culture, and history.

 

About Robert M. Edsel

See more books from this Author
Robert Edsel began his career in the oil and gas exploration business. In 1996 he moved to Europe to pursue his interests in the arts. Settling in Florence seeing some of the great works, he wondered how all of the monuments and art treasures survived the devastation of World War II. During the ensuing years, he devoted himself to finding the answer. In the process, he commissioned major research that has resulted in this book. Robert also coproduced the related documentary film, The Rape of Europa, and cowrote Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic history of an art heist of epic proportions and the Allied rescue effort. The author lives in Dallas. Bret Witter cowrote the bestseller Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (Grand Central, 2008). He lives in Louisville, KY.
 
Published May 6, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 497 pages
Genres: History, War, Arts & Photography, Travel, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Apr 13 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Saving Italy
All: 11 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Good
on Feb 26 2013

Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Mar 18 2013

...fascinating, fast-paced story, and military and art historians, as well as fans of adventurous nonfiction, will appreciate this well-written and informative reminder that war threatens not only the generations who fight it, but also the artistic triumphs of those who came before.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by HUGH EAKIN on May 17 2013

One of the awkward lessons of Mr. Edsel's revealing history is that defending cultural heritage and combating tyranny may not be obvious bedfellows. That the Monuments Men were able to do as much as they did, amid a war with more urgent priorities, is remarkable...

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Hugh Eakin on May 17 2013

A merit of this approach is that it shows individual actors on both sides differing with their side's overall military strategy—and in some cases preventing or mitigating even worse outcomes.

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Dallas News

Above average
Reviewed by Bill Marvel on May 11 2013

It is not so much the loss of treasure that we mourn when a library is burned or a museum bombed, though that can be considerable. We mourn the loss of history, culture, memory. Of time itself. This is a book about that loss and its recovery, by a man who has become more than an expert.

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Macleans

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica Allen on May 09 2013

Edsel is careful to balance the art-related heroics and anecdotes with accounts of the devastation of Italian cities—and lives. There’s plenty to cover, and at times the text can be hard to follow.

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The Spectator

Below average
Reviewed by Andro Linklater on Jul 20 2013

Not only does Edsel fail to give due weight to the universal urge to protect such works, he never really understands the atavistic nature of war that is its opposite.

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Literary Review

Above average
on Jun 25 2014

Edsel is judicious and even-handed in his assessment of the Nazi record in relation to Italian art treasures and his estimation of the enduringly controversial Karl Wolff...

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The Weekly Standard

Good
Reviewed by Bruce Cole on Feb 10 2014

Saving Italy focuses more on salvation than destruction, as it skillfully brings the Monuments Men to life by vividly narrating the often-perilous work of several soldiers...

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Rick Librarian

Good
Reviewed by ricklibrarian on Aug 13 2013

Saving Italy is filled with fascinating characters, including dueling American art experts Deane Keller and Fred Hartt, conflicted Nazi S.S. Commander General Karl Wolf, and the unflappable American spymaster Allen Dulles.

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History Today

Below average
Reviewed by Richard Bosworth on Jul 15 2013

Edsel’s book is more a cheerful portrait of the rescue of what is self-evidently wonderful at the centre of ‘human civilization’ than a sceptical historian’s probing. Saving Italy will be enjoyed by those who like their history soft and pretty (with a hint of menace from the bad guys). It will appeal less to the more critical reader.

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Reader Rating for Saving Italy
81%

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