In The Netherlands, we have just come off of our two day 'festival' of World War II remembrance day and liberation day. These are held annually on May 4 and 5, respectively, to honour the victims of WWII and subsequent wars and to celebrate the freedom we currently have here. It reminded me of a story I once heard about the workers of the Louvre, France, that I would like to share with you today.

In 1939/1940, knowing that France was falling into the hands of the Germans, the workers of the Louvre took action. All 400,000 works were evacuated and sent to the south of France. In secret they transported the priceless paintings and statues to wealthy families in Vichy where they would remain for five years, only returning at the end of the war. The quick action of the workers without a doubt saved the masterpieces from becoming part of the over 5 million works that were looted by the Nazis during the war. There were pictures made during the project and some were preserved and released.

The Nike-Winged Victory is evacuated from the Louvre in a truck that usually
carries stage scenery, unidentified photographer, 1939.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace on the move towards transport.

In the autumn of 1939, the The Aphrodite of Milos was packed for removal
from the Louvre in anticipation of the outbreak of war. During World War II,
the statue was sheltered safely in the Château de Valençay, along with the
Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo's 'Slaves'.
 Priceless paintings packed tightly together for transport.
Empty frames...
...and empty hallways.

The transport vans.

Return of the works at the Louvre Museum after WWII (1945). 

This is Rose Valland, one of the heroes of Nazi-Occupied France. An employee of
 the Louvre, she kept records of the art stolen by Nazi officers- what was taken,
from where, and by who. She was instrumental in the postwar return of countless stolen
pieces, and one of the most decorated women in French history.
Without the work of the men and women that worked tirelessly to save these artifacts, we would be without them today. That is a frightening and shocking thought, isn't it? World War II was devestating on people, art, the economy, the landscape, cities and the history of mankind and it is incredibly important that we remember this. That we remember that war is not something to be cheered on or desired, that war is a remedy of last resort and desperation. Tha war costs us everything, including our humanity. But there are upsides, small little lights in very dark times: heroes, victories, acts of kindness and selfishness that make a difference. These people made a difference and we have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their tireless and dangerous labour to this day.