The Nazis called it “Degenerate Art”, works that didn’t conform to their taste for Germanic propaganda. Anything too experimental, anything too avantgarde, anything too Jewish, got locked away or destroyed.
Before they did that, however, they held the art up to public ridicule at a 1937 exhibition called Degenerate Art. Thousands of Germans went to this exhibition, although it’s hard to say how many came to lap up Nazi propaganda and how many came for a last look at works they assumed they’d never see again. The photo above shows Hitler visiting the exhibition. Notice how the paintings are hung at angles and angry graffiti is scrawled all around them.
Now a treasure trove of art long thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis is on display at Berlin’s Neues Museum. Eleven sculptures that were part of the Degenerate Art exhibit were found in a rubble-filled cellar on Königstrasse in Berlin. Like most of the city, this street was hit hard in the war and when new buildings were put up, they were built on the rubble of previous buildings. Archaeologists excavating ahead of a new subway line discovered the art.
It’s unclear how these sculptures survived. One theory is that someone who loved beauty more than Hitler hid them away in an apartment that was later destroyed. All the sculptures are fire damaged and some had to be pieced back together, yet this has only added to their dignity. The German magazine Der Spiegel has an excellent photo gallery of the sculptures.
[Photo courtesy Tyrenius via Wikimedia Commons]