Monday, August 02, 2010

"The Rape of Europa" on PBS

Last night I stayed up to watch a documentary on PBS that I randomly put on, not really planning to stay with it.

However, I quickly became enthralled & horrified by the story of the irreversible effect of World War II on the cultural legacy of Europe. I'm fairly knowledgeable about WWII & history in general, but the mind is like a fractal that can always be fascinated by more detailed information on a given topic.

The title of the film, "The Rape of Europa" refers to a few things. Appropriately, it was the subject of a famous Titian painting derived from the super-freaky classical Greek myth. It also literally describes the cultural desecration of the European continent through the widespread brutality of the war.

Despite my awareness of the massive Nazi looting & allied bombings during that hellish time, this program really gave me a deeper perspective on the effect of all war on people and their culture. WWII just happened to be the most massive example in a long history of humans fighting & plundering.

The immense scale of the destruction is what is hard to wrap your head around. So many lives & families wiped out, so much art that celebrates beauty cruelly stolen, so much of people's work destroyed. If you have any kind of conscious or an appreciation for art, watching parts of this will make you sick. One Jewish survivor talked about being put into a work camp & sorting the trainloads of Nazi-confiscated items after his family was dead. He came across his own family's belongings and was shocked. He kept a few photographs of his parents that he could hide, but even these were taken again and destroyed when he was moved to another camp. As he put it, his 'family memory was wiped out'.

Such human devastation is hard to fathom on an individual, but when it's multiplied by millions... it's beyond reason.

Perhaps a few million years from now humans won't even exist and all this sentiment about our precious little lives & fragile creations will be for nothing. Perhaps people are just like ants or like pawns on a chessboard to be helplessly manipulated in a dance of chaos and creation. To have that mindset however, is to deny the immediacy of our shared social experience and the natural human feeling of compassion with a love for life. In that case, you would have to be some kind of inhuman monster, like Dick Cheney.

Speaking of evil bastards, the amount of stolen property that Reich Marshal Hermann Goering aquired just for himself was obscene. The amount of effort that when into moving all of Europe's artwork around between the Nazis & Allies was totally crazy.

I thought this was an amazing film & would recommend it to anyone interested in art, history, and the jarring effects of war.

No comments: