In August 1939, curators at the Louvre nestled the world's most famous painting into a special red-velvet-lined case and spirited her away to the Loire Valley. Thus began the biggest evacuation of art and antiquities in history. As the Germans neared Paris in 1940, the French raced to move the masterpieces still further south, then again and again during the war, crisscrossing the southwest of France. At times Mona Lisa slept at the bedside of curators who were painfully aware of their heavy responsibility.
Throughout the German occupation, the Louvre's staff fought to keep the priceless treasures out of the hands of Hitler and his henchmen and to keep the Louvre palace safe, many of them risking their jobs and their lives to protect the country's artistic heritage.
Originally aired 8/25/14.