The phrase “culture wars” gets thrown around rather casually in the no-think zones of cable commentary and talk radio. But 20th-century history shows that using art and culture to define and demonize one’s “enemies” can have deadly consequences. The documentary “The Rape of Europa” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) offers harrowing evidence that World War II was very much a “culture war” and that its impact on world civilization is still being felt.
The film offers a brief background on Hitler’s history as a frustrated painter and his strong feelings about the difference between “traditional” art and the modern trends that he considered “degenerate.” Once in power, he and his underlings created an extensive wish list of art objects that he sought to plunder from soon-to-be vanquished countries.
The film shows how German occupying forces methodically stole art from every nation they conquered. They also set out to destroy the art of their cultural enemies and racial “inferiors,” dynamiting castles in Poland, shelling museums in Russia, and eradicating all evidence of Jewish life in occupied territories.
“Europa” also follows contemporary efforts to retrieve stolen art. We see a Utah museum relinquish a painting to its rightful owner. But one archivist estimates that more that 50,000 objects and artifacts have vanished, retreated into a black market, or been sold to unsuspecting buyers. And that figure is from Poland alone.
• On a related note, “Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler” (9 p.m., History) recalls the cabal of German generals led by Claus von Stauffenberg, who tried to kill the dictator on July 20, 1944. Seen as traitors at the time, von Stauffenberg and his confederates have long fascinated Germans as they sort out their own feelings about their nation’s past. This story will be the subject of a forthcoming motion picture starring Tom Cruise.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Chuck searches for a leader on “Chuck” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Night proves disturbing for Cameron on “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (8 p.m., Fox).
• On two repeats of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” (Travel): Ireland (7 p.m.), Ghana (9 p.m.).
• Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen star in the 2002 fantasy “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (7 p.m., Spike).
• An eclipse sparks a power shortage on “Heroes” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Chicken farming foments a fight on “Samantha Who?” (8:30 p.m., ABC)
• Horatio runs interference between the police and a serial killer on “CSI: Miami” (9 p.m., CBS)
• Shirley gets a Thanksgiving dressing down on “Boston Legal” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
• Trace Adkins performs on “Indoors Out” (9 p.m., DIY).
• Nicole Kidman, Simon Baker and Kanye West appear on “Late Show with David Letterman” (10:35 p.m., CBS)
• Jay Leno hosts Ron Howard and the Jonas Brothers on “The Tonight Show” (10:35 p.m., NBC)
A pro-Nazi scientist (John Carradine) tries to raise an army of undead soldiers in the 1943 shocker “Revenge of the Zombies” (2 p.m., TCM).