The Rape of Europa (2006)


The story of Nazi Germany’s plundering of Europe’s great works of art during World War II and Allied efforts to minimise the damage.



The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War is a 1994 book by Lynn H. Nicholas and a 2006 documentary film.

The book explores the Nazi plunder of looted art treasures from occupied countries and the consequences. It covers a range of associated activities: Nazi appropriation and storage, patriotic concealment and smuggling during World War II, discoveries by the Allies, and the extraordinary tasks of preserving, tracking, and returning by the American Monuments officers and their colleagues. Nicholas was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by France.

Despite the regular accounts of impending destruction of art works, Nicholas also recounts a veneration for art on the part of people of all sides of the conflict, and what amounts to desperate and sometimes heroic activity. The villains, unsurprisingly, are often the Nazis, particularly Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring; the activities of Western art dealers are often questionable, as well.


The book is chronological, starting with scattered events in the decade before World War II. During this time, the Nazis used their influence and money to acquire artwork, while dealers and the public at large were anticipating war. Discussion of Nazi occupation starts in the third chapter. The middle of the book discusses Nazi plundering during the war, as well as Soviet efforts to safeguard their treasures. Midway through the book, the role of American and Allied organisations is introduced, including the frustratingly tentative planning and lack of resources they faced. The book follows the path of liberation as the Allies push back the Axis, while missing art is searched for and recovered art conserved. The book concludes with chapters about post war activities: resolving problems of ownership, coordinating the return of stolen art, and attempting to collect what was yet missing. Philosophically intriguing are issues of who ultimately owns works of art. Since this last phase of recovery and restitution is ongoing, this book has a bearing on current activities.


The Rape of Europa was adapted for a 2006 film of the same name. It was made for US$1.3 million, with half underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the remainder underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts, several other foundations, and one private investor.

Among the featured vignettes in the film is Jewish refugee Maria Altmann, who in 2006 restituted Gustav Klimt’s 1907 masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Altmann was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the 2015 film Woman in Gold.

Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham, and Bonni Cohen were nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay for The Rape of Europa.

Production & Filming Details

  • Narrator(s):
    • Joan Allen.
  • Director(s):
    • Richard Berge.
    • Bonni Cohen.
    • Nicole Newnham.
  • Producer(s):
    • Sergei Beck … field producer.
    • Richard Berge … producer.
    • Bonni Cohen … executive producer / producer.
    • David Davis … executive producer: Oregon Public Broadcasting.
    • Linda Davis … associate producer (as Linda Davis Garkow).
    • Robert M. Edsel … co-producer.
    • Jannat Gargi … Imaging Producer.
    • Alexander Kandaurov … field producer.
    • Uschi Koch-Bagli … field producer.
    • Monica Lam … associate producer.
    • Manon Lichtenberg … field producer.
    • Daniel McKinney … associate producer.
    • Nicole Newnham … producer.
    • Maria Cecilia Piti … field producer.
    • Sabine Ranft … associate producer.
    • Victoria Riccabona … field producer.
    • Camille Servan-Schreiber … field producer.
    • Jon Shenk … producer: Actual Films.
    • Caria Tomczykowska … field producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Richard Berge … (written by).
    • Bonni Cohen … (written by).
    • Jon Else … (additional writer).
    • Nicole Newnham … (written by).
    • Lynn Nicholas … (book) (as Lynn H. Nicholas).
  • Music:
    • Marco D’Ambrosio.
  • Cinematography:
    • Jon Shenk … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Josh Peterson.
  • Production:
    • Actual Films.
    • Agon Arts and Entertainent.
    • Oregon Public Broadcasting.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Menemsha Films (2007) (USA) (theatrical).
  • Release Date: 12 November 2006 (Boston Jewish Film Festival, US).
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 117 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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