Subscribe to Art + Ideas:

“Protecting cultural heritage, like protecting civilians directly, had strategic import.”
How does the presence of a cultural heritage site on the battlefield change wartime decision making? In 1944, as Allied generals postponed an attack on an Axis stronghold—located at the culturally important Catholic abbey Monte Cassino—they had to consider the potential for loss of life, the cultural significance of the abbey, the negative propaganda they would face for attacking a religious site, and the possible strategic alternatives to an all-out attack. Political scientists Ron E. Hassner and Scott D. Sagan make the case that the presence of cultural heritage sites is always an important consideration for troops in both offensive and defensive positions—even in cases where those sites are ultimately destroyed.

In this episode, hosted by former Getty President Jim Cuno, Hassner and Sagan discuss battles from WWII through the current war in Ukraine to explore how politicians and military officials think about cultural heritage sites during times of war.

Ron E. Hassner is Chancellor’s Professor of Political Science and Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S. G. Munro Professor of Political Science and senior fellow and codirector at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University. Hassner and Sagan are contributors to the recent publication Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities, edited by Jim Cuno and Thomas G. Weiss and available free of charge from Getty Publications.

Black and white photograph of an old damaged church missing its roof

Private Paul Oglesby of the US 30th Infantry Regiment stands amid the bomb-blasted remains of the roof of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the southern Apennine town of Acerno, Italy, September 1943. Image: Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 531181

More to explore:
Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, former president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art + Ideas. I am your host for a three-episode series on the need to protect cultural heritage during times of war and mass atrocities.
SCOTT SAGAN: Protecting cultural heritage, like protecting civi...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

Logo for Art Plus Ideas podcast
This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
See all posts in this series »