Scrapbookpages Blog

April 17, 2010

entartete Kunst (degenerate art)

I’ve been doing some research on the locations of Eisenhower’s camps for the German soldiers who surrendered at the end of World War II.  One of these camps was at Sinzig in the vicinity of Remagen, a city on the west bank of the Rhine river.  Remagen is famous as the location of the Ludendorff bridge, which was the bridge where American troops first crossed the Rhine.  The bridge eventually collapsed, and today only the towers are left as a reminder. At the site of the Remagen bridge, there is a piece of artwork that Hitler would have called “entartete Kunst,” which, in English, means “degenerate art.”

Modern art at the site of the Remagen bridge

The photo above shows a modern sculpture which would have been banned by Hitler in the Third Reich.  Putting such art at the site which was a turning point in Germany’s loss of the war is like rubbing salt into a wound.  It is unnecessary “piling on.”  Leave the German people some pride, for pity’s sake.

The towers at the Ludendorff bridge are still standing

There is a time and place for everything.  In my opinion, the site of the Remagen bridge is not the place for modern art; it is a historic site where the German people fought and died, during World War II, for what they believed in.  Whether or not we agree with German ideology during the Third Reich, I don’t think that historic World War II sites in Germany are the proper place for modern art.  It would be like putting Nazi art at a historic site for the American revolution in America.

Cover of book for entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937

In 1937, the Nazis put up an art exhibition in Munich, in which they showed modern art, but for the purpose of showing it as degenerate.  Hitler believed that modern art was influenced by the Jews, and that it was un-German.  He was an artist and amateur architect himself, and he favored traditional art and architecture.

Today, the term “entartete Kunst” is used with great pride in Germany because the German people want to distance themselves from the Third Reich and everything that it represented.

The photo below shows modern art on a church in Berlin.  In my opinion, this is an example of using modern art in a  totally inappropriate way.  This is a church, built in traditional style, that was bombed in World War II; the church was restored and this artwork was added.

Modern Art on a restored church in Berlin

The memorial sites of the concentration camps feature “degenerate art” as a symbol of victory over the Nazis. The Buchenwald memorial site has an art museum which features what Hitler would have considered the most deplorable examples of “entartete Kunst.”  One room in the art gallery is devoted to the work of Artist Jozef Szajna who enlarged photographs of Buchenwald inmates and then pasted these photos on huge cardboard cutouts, as shown in the photographs below.

Artwork in Buchenwald Museum

Artwork done by a Buchenwald survivor

German soldiers look at artwork in Buchenwald museum

German soldiers are required to visit a concentration camp memorial site, just like the German school children are required to be indoctrinated.  The photo above is one of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen.  This is what happens when  a country loses a war.  Imagine if America had lost World War II and we were all required to make a trip to a museum to view Hitler’s traditional paintings.

Protestant Church at Dachau has no right angles

Modern Art in courtyard of Protestant Church at Dachau memorial site

The Protestant Church at the Dachau memorial site was built without any right angles, as a protest against the order and discipline of the Nazis.  An exception was made for the artwork in the courtyard of the church, which is shown in the photo directly above. The photo below shows the altar inside the church with a modern square shaped cross on the wall.  To me, this display of modern art in a church at Dachau is appropriate; it celebrates the victory of the prisoners over the Nazis and their culture.

Altar and modern cross on wall of Dachau church

Sculpture at Zeppelin field in Nürnberg

The photo above shows modern art in front of a Museum at the Zeppelin field in Nürnberg.  Another example of the victors rubbing it in by putting “degenerate art” at a place where the Nazis once demonstrated their power.

The two photos below show the clash of cultures in Germany. The top photo shows traditional architecture, while the second photo illustrates the modern architecture of the Jewish Museum; these two buildings are side by side in the city of Berlin, Germany.

Traditional building in Berlin represents German culture

Jewish Museum in Berlin represents “entartete Kunst”

The ultra modern Jewish Museum building in Berlin, designed by Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, is intended to be in the form of a deconstructed Star of David, as though it has been hit by lightning. The only windows are the angular slits that you see on the sides of the building. The surface of the building is covered with polished metal facing. There is no door into the exhibits; entry is through a tunnel from the Baroque building next door.

The contrast between the old building and the new modern one illustrates the vast difference in thinking between the Nazis and the Jews. Hitler would have called the Jewish museum building “degenerate” architecture.

The memorial site at the former Dachau concentration camp is the appropriate place for “degenerate art,” such as the International Monument, shown in the photo below.

International monument at Dachau memorial site