On July 20, 1937, the exhibition “Entartete Kunst” was held by the Nazis in Munich, Germany. The term “Entartete Kunst”, which means degenerate art, is put into quotation marks, since it describes pieces of art by Jewish or Communist artists, which were forbidden because of an “Ungerman” character. The Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen will open an exhibition on July 19 that will show artworks by artisans, which were not part of the after-war German cultural memory.
The exhibition in Munich 1937 was the climax of different measures by the Nazi regime to defame artists, whose works were disaccord with the national socialists’ ideas, for instance Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall or Pablo Picasso. Vanishing the works of unwanted artists started with the book burning in May 1933 in Berlin and many other German and Austrian cities. Painters and musicians were persecuted due to their “degenerate art/music”, as a result of this, music like Swing and Jazz were also banned and defamed in the public life. Over 700 objects from 120 artists were shown in the Munich exhibition, more than 20 000 works of art were taken and robbed from different museums and private persons all over Germany. It even became a touring exhibition through Germany, to show this “decline of culture”. As a result, many artists lived in an “inner emigration”, they stayed in Germany but were opposed to the regime. The persecution also took away the future of many artists, since they could not build up a reputation in Post-war Germany.
Not all paintings were displayed in Munich. Some artworks were taken into private property by Nazi leaders, other pieces of art were auctioned in 1939, to get money for World War II. More than 5000 paintings, drawings and aquarelles were burned by the Berlin firefighters – according the official version, due to “practice purposes”.
Eighty years later, the Center for Persecuted Arts shows over 200 paintings by forgotten artists, to illustrate how they were repressed from cultural memory. The main focus of the exhibition is the revision of those artists, and to put them into the focus of German society again. The paintings were acquired by the museum with financial resources from the Federal Government via the Commissioner for Culture and the Media. This exhibition shows, how important it is to remember this time of history, and also make aware of the consequences for the involved individuals. The persecution of dissidents was practiced in the time of the Nazi regime, but it is necessary to make aware, that something like political persecution can still happen everywhere.