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Film and talk: The Rape of Europa

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Spring 1945: at Schloss Neuschwanstein in southern Bavaria, Allied troops safeguard art stolen from French Jews during the war.

For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. And once they were defeated heroic young art historians and curators from America and across Europe fought back, mounting a miraculous campaign that would rescue and return millions of art works that had been displaced by the war. Joan Allen narrates The Rape of Europa, the 2007 documentary that chronicles a battle over the very survival of centuries of western culture.  It is being shown at the Little Theater at the Berkshire Museum on Sunday afternoon. 

More than sixty years later, the legacy of this outrage continues to play out as the heirs of looted collectors attempt to recover major works of art, conservators work to repair battle damage, and nations fight over the fate of the ill-gotten spoils of war.  The documentary takes the audience on an epic journey through seven countries and into the whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and violence that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe.  To illustrate the currency of the issues it covers, the film begins and ends with the recent story of artist Gustav Klimt’s famed Gold Portrait, stolen from Viennese Jews in 1938, and now the most expensive painting ever sold

Following the film, Sarah Lees, associate curator of European paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, will lead a discussion about this extraordinary episode in history and the questions it still raisies, such as, can a culture survive if it’s art disappears? And is it moral to risk the lives of soldiers to save mere things, even if those things are Titians and Rembrandts? 

The Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum
39 South Street (Route 7), Pittsfield; 413.443.7171
Sunday 1:30
Admission: $10; $5/members

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