CONWAY — Looted Nazi art is making the headlines these days due to hoards of recently uncovered masterpieces, an upcoming movie, "The Monuments Men," and books like "The Altarpiece" by Lauren Fogle Boyd. White Birch Books will be hosting an author event with Boyd, a Boston area author and historian, on her harrowing and heartwarming story about love, art and humanity — in a Europe devastated by war and atrocity. The author event with Boyd takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the bookstore.
"The Altarpiece," which is Boyd's first novel, is centered on one of the pieces craved by the Nazis, the Ghent Altarpiece. During World War II, Hitler waged a campaign on "degenerate art" that he deemed "un-German and intolerable." Modern artworks by modern masters including Paul Klee, Marc Chagall and Ernst Kirchner were pillaged by the Nazis from museums and private galleries of Jewish collectors and dealers, as well as other famous works. According to the Jewish Claims Conference, the Nazis seized an estimated 650,000 artworks and religious items from Jews and other victims. Some of this artwork is still being found after decades of being hidden or lost. In November of last year, 1,500 pieces where recovered in Munich with an estimated value of $1.35 billion.
Boyd's book combines historical fiction with a cross-Atlantic romance, and is perfectly timed for all the recent interest. In the suffocating atmosphere of the Third Reich, art becomes a political issue. When the renowned modern artist Dietrich Junger is condemned by Hitler's puritanical artistic purge, his daughter Anke finds herself abandoned by the two men she loved most. One is dead; one has fled. An expert on the object of Nazi obsession, the medieval Ghent Altarpiece, Anke is threatened by those desperate to loot Europe's great treasures. She must walk a tightrope between her desire to rebel and her instinct to survive. Erik Brossler, a young Jewish art historian, is the man who fled — immigrating to America with his parents just in time. Erik is haunted by the loss of Anke and the imminent danger for Europe's priceless art. When America enters the war, Erik's new journey takes him right into the heart of the inferno, brings him to the breaking point and returns to him the great love of his life.
Boyd is a medievalist professor of history who teaches history at UMass Lowell. She has written a non-fiction book, Colonial Marblehead: From Rogues to Revolutionaries. Dr. Boyd did her bachelor's in journalism at the American University in Washington, D.C. and her master's in medieval studies and her Ph.D. in history at Royal Holloway, University of London. She lives in Marblehead, Mass., with her family.
White Birch Books is located in North Conway Village just south of the park, across from TD Banknorth. For more information about the event, or to reserve a copy of The Altarpiece, call White Birch Books at 356-3200 or visit www.whitebirchbooks.com or wwww.facebook.com/whitebirchbooks.