A conversation with Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

The stories of our lives are painted on canvas, sculpted in marble, and remembered in song. They are embodied in our art and architecture. During times of war, people fight to protect their way of life, their culture, and their history. During World War I, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis perpetrated the greatest theft in history looting millionsof worksofart and cultural objects from private collections, museums, churches, and libraries in Eastern and Western Europe. In an eftort to counter Nazi propaganda and demonstrate an unprecedented respect for the culture of others, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the creation of a new kind of soldier, one charged with saving, not destroying. Today, we know this group of volunteers- initially American and British museum directors and curators, art historians and educators, and architects and artists – as the Monuments Men and Women.


Founder and chairman of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation. Mr. Edsel is an American humanitarian, businessman, and #1 NYT bestselling author of four books on this subject. Among his published works are “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History”, which George Clooney made into a movie. The book has been published in more than 30 languages.

Mr. Edsel is a tireless advocate for the preservation of art His work continues to raise public awareness about the importance of protecting and safeguarding our shared cultural heritage. Over the past fifteen years, the Monuments Men and Women Foundation has located and returned some forty works of art and cultural objects, some priceless, to museums, archives, and libraries in the United States and Europe. Mr. Edsel has received numerous national and international awards for his work, a testament to the power of one person, armed with an idea. to change the world. In 2007, President George W. Bush honored the Monuments Men and Women Foundation with the National Humanities Medal, our nation’s highest honor for excellence in the humanities.

Mr. Edsel began his business career exploring for oil and gas. In 1991, his company, Gemini Exploration, pioneered the use of horizontal drilling. Following his sale of the company in 1995, he began studying art and architecture, which over the next few years lead him to ask a fateful question: “How did so many monuments and works of art survive the most destructive war in history, and who were the people that saved them?”