If you love art and history you can’t find a more engaging and engrossing film than the well-crafted, Rape of Europa. This movie will leave you angry, sad, frustrated and fascinated. The story begins and concludes with the provenance of Gustav Klimt’s, Gold Portrait, and the debatable question of ownership.
The painting was originally bequeathed to an Austrian museum but was preemptively stolen from Viennese Jews by the Nazis. The painting was eventually returned to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauerand and was sold at auction for a staggering 135 million dollars.
The documentary takes viewers on an emotional ride by revealing the horrific pillaging and destruction of some of the world’s finest art and architecture during the Nazi regime. Adolf Hitler was a student and admirer of art. However, he was rejected from art school by a Jewish panel and it is hypothesized that this could have been the seed from which his hatred of Jews grew. How different would the world have be had he been accepted to art school?
Spanning twelve years and covering seven countries, the film is a moving testament to the sacrifices and heroism of everyday people to preserve their artistic and cultural heritage. “Which is more valuable a painting or a human life?” is a recurring question throughout the film. Indeed, it is the sacrificing, selfless general public that banned together to remove and rescue the great artworks of Europe from museums and hide them in abandoned buildings, castles and rural barns. And miraculously, the millions of pieces were returned after the war.
Even sixty years after the end of WWII the fierce debate continues over the authentic ownership of many of the ill-gotten works of art, and the question of appropriate repatriation from the spoils of war rages on. This film dramatically depicts the legacy of the Third Reich, Hitler’s obsession with making Germany the center of art and culture and the merciless looting and rape of Europe. A must see documentary.