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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

SE speaker brings recognition to Monuments Men

Saving+Italy+author+Robert+Edsel+takes+a+moment+to+autograph+a+student%E2%80%99s+copy+of+the+book+before+speaking+on+SE+Campus+Sept.+25.+Edsel+spoke+to+the+full+house+sharing+his+stories+of+living+in+Florence%2C+Italy%2C+and+his+inspiration+for+the+book.+Photo+by+Alex+Kang%2FThe+Collegian
Saving Italy author Robert Edsel takes a moment to autograph a student’s copy of the book before speaking on SE Campus Sept. 25. Edsel spoke to the full house sharing his stories of living in Florence, Italy, and his inspiration for the book. Photo by Alex Kang/The Collegian

By Raquel Diaz/reporter

Saving Italy author Robert Edsel takes a moment to autograph a student’s copy of the book before speaking on SE Campus Sept. 25. Edsel spoke to the full house sharing his stories of living in Florence, Italy, and his inspiration for the book.  Photo by Alex Kang/The Collegian
Saving Italy author Robert Edsel takes a moment to autograph a student’s copy of the book before speaking on SE Campus Sept. 25. Edsel spoke to the full house sharing his stories of living in Florence, Italy, and his inspiration for the book. Photo by Alex Kang/The Collegian
Robert Edsel  Photo by Alex Kang/The Collegian
Robert Edsel Photo by Alex Kang/The Collegian

The people often overlooked in history classes are the “Monuments Men,” men and women who sacrificed their lives to protect some of the greatest masterpieces known to man, a guest speaker told SE students Sept. 25.

Speaking to a full house in the C.A. Roberson Theatre, Robert Edsel, author of Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis asked all veterans to stand and be applauded for their service.

“I tell my story simply about these ordinary men who did extraordinary things,” he said.

Edsel shared personal letters and drawings World War II soldiers had written to their wives and children. They were apologizing for missing birthdays and first steps, but they were called for a special assignment that they themselves had no idea what they were in for, Edsel said.

SE student Edward Martinez said he was drawn to Edsel’s presentation.

“Right away, I was intrigued, and he caught my attention,” Martinez said. “Anything about overlooked history will be interesting to me.”

While living in Florence, Italy, Edsel said he had an “Aha!” moment when he realized he had been unaware of who returned many stolen and missing works of art taken by the Nazis during World War II. He also wondered who protected paintings and statues that were too big or heavy to move and asked himself, “Where did they put them?”

“In 1997, I became curious and never stopped thinking about it,” he said. “I had found what I was passionate about.”

He looked into the situation and discovered many people didn’t know the answer either.

“Is art worth more than a life?” he asked.

Edsel then asked if a person had a chance, would they save the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel? 

“Would you protect a cultural monument,” he asked, “because they can’t protect themselves.”

With centuries of history, Edsel wondered if a person would help another nation preserve their monuments. He answered, saying that is what the Monuments Men did.

Their legacy is rich and all but lost, Edsel said. He has pushed for the Monuments Men to be recognized and appreciated for the service they did.

From George W. Bush to Hillary Clinton, these men and women were awarded and honored by many with awards and prestige.

Their story inspired a new movie that hits theaters Dec. 18. With a script based on Edsel’s bestselling book, George Clooney directed The Monuments Men, which includes Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Bill Murray.

As he worked with Clooney, Edsel said he could not believe his story in paper was now coming to life.

“I want people to know the great legacy of the Monuments Men and women,” he said.

SE student Cecilia Diaz was glad she attended the presentation.

“To see a person so passionate about what they do inspires others,” she said. “Robert Edsel opened eyes to a hidden history that we didn’t even know our country had.”

Even though people have already accomplished so much in their lives, it’s never too late to start something that they have always been passionate about, Edsel said.

“I enjoyed his speech,” SE student Ibrahim Ghali said. “We need to have more people with that determination and curiosity in this world.”

Edsel is looking forward to the recognition the film will bring to the situation of missing treasures.

“I believe this film will change that by not only bringing visibility to these missing cultural treasures, but by engaging the public to help us in the search for these belongings of others,” he said. “It’s an honor for me to tell these heroes’ story.”

A nonprofit Monuments Men Foundation has been established to honor the service of the men and women from 13 different nations who protected monuments and other cultural treasures from the destruction of World War II and to continue to help them return the missing pieces to complete their mission.

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