“Secrets du Louvre” is Bernard Rappa’s special blend of fiction and non-fiction. The self-proclaimed history buff has a particular fascination with WWII and a strong appreciation for art, culminating in his first novel about the trade in stolen art during the war. Rappa’s imagination runs wild as he contemplates the mystery of how precious art was stolen and sometimes recovered by the heroes of his tale.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
A. I grew up in Rockford, Illinois, in a pretty tough neighborhood, but I had a pretty solid background. I grew up in a very familiar Italian family with Swedish values. I went to college in Chicago, that’s where I met my wife. I served a bit in the US Army, then worked at 3M most of my life, but am now retired and live in Grant.
Q. Can you give us a brief overview of your book “Secrets du Louvre?
A. The story started in my head over the years and I have personally been to the Louvre several times. I’m also a bit of a WWII historian. I took a great interest in it because I remember exactly where I was when the war ended. I was only 7 years old. I became very interested in what happened to all those stolen goods from the Jewish people and also to different museums that the Nazis looted. If you can believe it, the Nazis brought 40-42 trains back to Berlin full of treasures from private collections and popular museums to be in a museum that Hitler wanted to create himself. My book therefore focuses on this stolen art.
Q. Who are some of the characters in the book?
A. There is Hans Müller, who is Jewish. He’s a master art repairer who basically becomes contracted to Hermann Göring, who was a real person, to take care of all that stolen art and fix it. In return, Göring would help Müller and his family get out of Germany. The book is fiction but there are real people in it, and, I mean, it’s all possible. It could have happened, but the main character is fictional. I also have another character from Austin, Minnesota who is also fictional. He’s a retired CIA agent hired by a sleazy French art dealer to investigate where all these lost treasures come from and who’s behind the schemes. He has a car accident while doing his investigative work.
Q. What made you decide to write this novel?
A. Well, it was on my to-do list when I retired. I started writing a book in my late 40s, but it was never finished. This will be my first published book, and I’m already working on the sequel. When I started traveling to different countries, I visited some of these WWII sites like the Holocaust museum, and it’s very emotional to go to something like that. We visited places like Normandy Beach and I thought of all the veterans who died there. You know, I also have a personal motivation, because I served, but I was never involved in the war.
Q. Who might be interested in a book like this?
A. People who are interested in the trade in stolen art or the CIA or mysteries like that. I think nurses might be interested in it, because of the nurses who helped treat soldiers during the war. But anyone interested in the history of World War II would find the book interesting.
Q. Where can people find your book?
A. Starting April 1, the book will be available for purchase at area bookstores, including Lake Country Booksellers in White Bear Lake and Valley Bookseller in Stillwater. The book will also be available on Amazon.
— Compiled by Corinne Stremmel