Dallas' Robert M. Edsel -- St. Mark's and SMU grad, collegiate tennis star, oil man, writer, filmmaker and all-around busy, busy man -- was in Washington, D.C., yesterday to make a significant presentation to the National Archives: two albums of photographs documenting the art looted by the Nazis in France during World War II. Reports The New York Times this morning, the two "leather-bound volumes ... are filled with pictures of mostly 18th-century French art," and were used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials.
Edsel -- founder of Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, which continues to pay tribute to the 345 men and women charged during the way with tracking down "more than 5 million artistic and cultural items stolen by Hitler and the Nazi" -- is donating the albums to the National Archives, where they will join nearly 40 other such catalogs of art stolen by Hitler for his private collection. He bought them recently for an undisclosed sum and has made some images from the catalog available on the Monuments Men's Web site.
The timing of the donation is particularly fortuitous, as Edsel's documentary on this very subject, The Rape of Europa, will finally open locally next Friday at the Angelika Film Center in Mockingbird Station. Says Edsel in his announcement, "With the increasing pace and visibility of restitution claims, and important discoveries such as the ‘Hitler Albums,’ that story is finally becoming more widely known." And it's becoming more widely known, for the most part, because of one man from Dallas spending his own fortune to tell it. --Robert Wilonsky