The Rape of Europa (book)

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The Rape of Europa
The Rape of Europa Cover.jpg
Paperback book cover
AuthorLynn H. Nicholas
CountryUnited States
SubjectArt theft, World War II in Europe, art conservation
Publication date
Media typePrint
ISBN0-679-40069-9 (Knopf edition), 0-679-75686-8 (Vintage Edition)

The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War is a book by Lynn H. Nicholas and a subsequent documentary film.[1] The book explores the Nazi plunder of looted art treasures from occupied countries and the consequences. It covers a range of associated activities: Nazi appropriation and storage, patriotic concealment and smuggling during World War II, discoveries by the Allies, and the extraordinary tasks of preserving, tracking, and returning by the American Monuments officers and their colleagues.[2] Nicholas was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by France.[3]

Despite the regular accounts of impending destruction of art works, Nicholas also recounts a veneration for art on the part of people of all sides of the conflict, and what amounts to desperate and sometimes heroic activity. The villains, unsurprisingly, are often the Nazis, particularly Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring; however, the activities of Western art dealers are often questionable, as well.


The book is chronological, starting with scattered events in the decade before World War II. During this time, the Nazis used their influence and money to acquire artwork, while dealers and the public at large were anticipating war. Discussion of Nazi occupation starts in the third chapter. The middle of the book discusses Nazi plundering during the war, as well as Soviet efforts to safeguard their treasures. Midway through the book, the role of American and Allied organizations is introduced, including the frustratingly tentative planning and lack of resources they faced. The book follows the path of liberation as the Allies push back the Axis, while missing art is searched for and recovered art conserved. The book concludes with chapters about post war activities: resolving problems of ownership, coordinating the return of stolen art, and attempting to collect what was yet missing. Philosophically intriguing are issues of who ultimately owns works of art. Since this last phase of recovery and restitution is ongoing, this book has a bearing on current activities.


The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction in 1994.


The Rape of Europa
Theatrical poster
Directed byRichard Berge
Bonni Cohen
Nicole Newnham
Produced byRichard Berge
Bonni Cohen
Nicole Newnham
Robert M. Edsel (co-producer)
Written byRichard Berge
Bonni Cohen
Nicole Newnham
Narrated byJoan Allen
CinematographyJon Shenk
Edited byJosh Peterson
Distributed byMenemsha Films
Release date
  • November 12, 2007 (2007-11-12)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box officeUS$425,000

It was adapted for a film of the same name released in 2006. It was made for 1.3 million USD, with half underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the remainder underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts, several other foundations, and one private investor.[4]

Among the featured vignettes in the film is Jewish refugee Maria Altmann, who in 2006 restituted Gustav Klimt's masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.[5][6] Altmann was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the 2015 film Woman in Gold.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "On the Trail of Lost Art: A Conversation with Lynn H. Nicholas". Humanities, September/October 2000, Volume 22/Number 3. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  2. ^ Nicholas, Lynn H. (May 1995) [1994]. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York City: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-679-40069-1. OCLC 32531154.
  3. ^ Nicholas awarded Légion d'Honneur
  4. ^ Stewart, Anna (2007-12-07). "The Rape of Europa: Oscar Documentary Shortlist". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links[edit]