Rape of Europe, The: How Art Treasures Survived Hitler’s Theft and WWII

One of the year’s most successful documentaries, The Rape of Europe, based on Lynn H. Nicholas’s landmark book, tells the story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during the Third Reich and World War II.

Joan Allen narrates this breathtaking chronicle about the battle over the very survival of centuries of western culture.

In a journey through 7 countries, The Rape of Europa takes the audience into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. But young art professionals as well as ordinary heroes, from truck drivers to department store clerks, fought back with an extraordinary effort to safeguard, rescue and return the millions of lost, hidden and stolen treasures.

“The Rape of Europa” begins and ends with the story of artist Gustav Klimt’s famed Gold Portrait, stolen from Viennese Jews in 1938 and now the most expensive painting ever sold. Today, more than sixty years later, the legacy of this tragic history continues to play out as families of looted collectors recover major works of art, conservators repair battle damage, and nations fight over the fate of ill-gotten spoils of war.

According to U.S. estimates, the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the known artworks in Europe. While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art-the last, forgotten victims of the war-survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.