SIIt is astonishing that nearly 70 years after World War II there are still little known stories of that conflict and its aftermath still to be told. The Nazi’s pillaging of Europe and the long lasting effects of the most destructive war in Europe’s history has many angles and generations that followed the “Greatest Generation” are still very much interested in this recent history that shaped the world in which we live . One under-told story of the war is the effect the Nazi’s alliance with Italy and occupation of other countries had on the world’s collective cultural heritage.

Perhaps nowhere on earth are there more treasures of art than in Florence, and Hitler had his eye on this rich booty. How hundreds of priceless artworks were moved from, hidden, and ultimately repatriated to Florence is a fascinating story and the subject of the wonderful new book Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel.

About Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel: “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.”

This book brings together so many interesting streams of history. It is the story of the effect of the war on great works of art, and it is the story of the amazing people who dedicated their lives to saving the treasures of mankind. Truly a story the needs to be told and shared and Mr. Edsel has given us a well-researched and document account of this great effort.

Sadly, war has caused the loss of many great pieces of world heritage over the years, from frescoes and paintings to buildings and other grand creations. It continues today in places like Syria, where ancient treasures and sites are being lost daily. Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis is a history lesson from which we could stand to learn.

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.