Last night I attended a program at the Pritzker Military Library. The program was called “Saving Italy” based on the title of Robert Edsel’s newest book, about the U.S. Army Monuments Men and Women who served during World War II to preserve, repair, locate and retrieve stolen works of art by the Nazis. Edsel spoke for over an hour about his book, what happened in Italy during World War II, his foundation and the honoring of these important men and women.
Edsel founded the Monuments Men Foundation several years ago to help honor those men and women who served and gave their lives to protect cultural heritage all over Europe and North Africa. Another mission of the foundation is to help locate items taken from Europe during the war to help facilitate the return to their rightful owners. He said thousands of works of art, musical scores, church bells, and other items are still missing. Even today the foundation is helping to locate and return items.
The presentation was very interesting and I cannot wait to read his new book which I bought last night.
The evening was not over when Edsel’s presentation was finished. A World War II veteran and his family were in attendance. This veteran had served in Italy, around Naples specifically at one point in the war. His unit came across over a hundred crates of books taken from the University of Naples. As was common in war, soldiers of all countries, picked up items and took them home. This soldier took home several old books. Last night these were handed over to the custody of Robert Edsel and his Monuments Men Foundation after having confirmation that these books did indeed belong to the University of Naples. The foundation has researchers in the U.S. and Europe who work together to confirm that pieces located or turned into the foundation are authentic and figure out where they belong.It was very exciting to see these old books dating back to the 1300s sitting on a table at the Pritzker. The genealogist and historian in me wished I could have looked through them. I love old books and documents.
Il Console Generale Adriano Monti was in attendance and gave as brief speech after the daughter of the veteran gave a short speech about these items.
If you are in the Chicago area and have an interest in military history, check out the Pritzker Library’s programs and collection. If you are a member, they do participate in inter-library loan all over the country. Their staff is exceptional in both helpfulness and knowledge. It has become one of my favorite places to go in the city. It also doesn’t hurt it sits at the corner of Monroe and Michigan Avenue overlooking the Art Institute and Millennium Park and all the beautiful flowers, trees, and water that is visible from that vantage point.