Dallas man brings "The Monument Men" story to light - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Dallas man brings "The Monument Men" story to light

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The new movie "The Monuments Men" chronicles the group of men and women who worked to prevent artwork from being destroyed during World War II.

The movie came to life because of some North Texas art lovers.

Two of the Monuments Men are connected to Dallas, including one of the directors of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Robert Edsel is the driving force of The Monuments Men Foundation, inside a converted warehouse in Dallas' design district.

"There are hundreds of thousands of works of art and cultural treasures still missing," said Edsel.

Edsel made his fortune in the oil business, pioneering horizontal drilling. When he turned 40 years old, he was looking for a new challenge. He found it while studying art in Florence, Italy.

"I wondered how the most destructive conflict in history, a war that cost 65 million lives, how so many of the works of art survived and who are the people who saved it," said Edsel.

President Roosevelt actually established a corps of academics, the Monuments Men. The group included museum directors, curators, architects, educators, etc. There were 350 of them from 13 countries embedded throughout the Army. Two of the Monuments Men would die in combat.

"At the end of the war, when the fighting was over, their job was just beginning. The greatest theft in history had become the greatest treasure hunt in history," said Edsel.

Edsel's fascination with the Monuments Men would lead to three books and Hollywood's attention.

George Clooney has assembled an all-star cast and filmed the story based on Robert Edsel's book of the same name.

Some of what was stolen is still waiting to be discovered in places the Nazis hid it.

However, much of it was taken out of Europe by soldiers and others displaced by the fighting.    

Edsel's message to everyone: "We're in a race against time, to encourage people to look at these things. If it's an old musty document and your father was in WWII, don't throw it away. Contact the Monuments Men Foundation."

He said there is nothing that reaches more people around the world then a feature film. He hopes the movie will raise worldwide awareness and encourage people to contact the foundation to help get precious items of history back where they belong.

Only five of the Monuments Men group are still alive. Four of the men are American and a woman is in Great Britain.

Robert Edsel is working with lawmakers trying to award all the Monuments Men and women Congressional Medals of Honor.

The film opens February 7th.

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