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

10 Comments »

  1. I just could not go away your web site before suggesting that I extremely
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    Comment by csr racing — February 24, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

  2. […] Note that the article above mentions that “Nazis destroyed art that they considered degenerate.”  I blogged about degenerate art at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/entartete-kunst-degenerate-art/ […]

    Pingback by My answer to a review of The Monuments Men, made by another blogger | Scrapbookpages Blog — February 19, 2014 @ 10:55 am

  3. you just have to get used to modern art to appreciate the beauty of it ,-’

    Comment by Catnip Cat — December 2, 2010 @ 8:09 am

  4. I visited an exhibition of Entartete Kunst in the Deutsches Historisches Museum here in Berlin in the early 90s, and if I had been honest with myself, I would have admitted to myself that I found it awful. But I wasn’t. I had been trained to equate everything traditionally German with the Nazis: German = Nazis. And Nazis = bad and wrong.

    In recent years, I have recovered from this desire to conform. I noticed I quite like the Pre-Raphaelites, and naive art, and most children’s books illustrations, even unashamedly un-intellectual, conventional, “typically German” works like the ones of Fritz Baumgarten. I no longer believe I should make an effort and “appreciate” “art”. I enjoy what a child would enjoy.

    But it took me 20 years to get to this point — to realize that art should inspire and elevate, not intimidate, revolt, and provoke. OMG maybe this is something Hitler and I would agree on!

    Comment by Rachel — November 15, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

  5. [...] The German people of today love everything that is anti-Nazi, including the art that Hitler didn’t like.  I previously blogged about what Hitler called entartete Kunst or “degenerate art” and you can read it here. [...]

    Pingback by “Degenerate art” making a comeback in Germany « Scrapbookpages Blog — November 9, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  6. I agree with your assessment that modern art(?) (which is mostly ugly political constructions rather than Art)is inappropriately used all over Germany as a way to “blot out” the Third Reich legacy.

    The worst offense is the extremely ugly and depressing “Memorial to the Destruction of the Jews” or whatever it’s overblown name is, that sits on a massive site very close to the gloriously beautiful Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin. What a crime they got away with there! I read recently that some of the “blocks” are showing signs of deterioration — too bad it won’t be allowed to just deteriorate. That would be a great symbolic statement. The Jewish Museum is a horror too. Everything they build conveys a spirit of anti-life.

    I went to the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg to see the grandstand there (what’s left of it), and saw how they direct people to the Documentation Center in the unfinished Party headquarters building designed by Albert Speer – all sites that had anything to do with Adolf Hitler have or are called Documentation Centers so you will be sure to get the approved version of events. You must not be allowed to like what you see! They are really disinformation museums. That’s where you see busloads of those people who wear the little beanies on their heads and manage to hold expressions that combine both distress and gloating. They also seem to convey a kind of ownership of the place.

    Thanks for showing some empathy by imagining our soldiers being required to visit anti-American propaganda at museums put up by those who defeated us in a war. Someday, that might actually be the case for the USA. What goes around, comes around, you know.

    Comment by sceptic — April 18, 2010 @ 7:43 am

    • By the time that the Wannsee conference was held in January 1942, there were only 130,800 Jews left in Germany, out of an original 585,000 in 1933. It was only after the Wannsee Conference that the Jews were deported to camps, but 10,000 remained in Germany for one reason or another. After the camps were liberated, 60,000 Jews came back to Germany. That leaves only 60,800 German Jews that could have died in the camps. Yet Germany has a 5.5 acre monument in the shadow of the capitol dome in honor of the Jews who died. By any standard, that is a bit excessive. The monument is a symbol of the power that the Jews have over Germany.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 18, 2010 @ 9:12 am

      • I’d like to add that real Third Reich art can still be seen “as it was” at the Olympic Stadium (built for the 1936 world games) in the outskirts of Berlin. This stadium and grounds is still used and appears ot be kept up just as it was from the Nazi time. Around the stadium, you can see the original, very large sculptures of male figures, one with a horse, by Arno Breker, Hitler’s favorite sculptor.

        These statues are modern looking, but nothing like the ugly entartete art of the anti-Nazis. I could hardly believe they were still there, since the new regime has gotten rid of most everything else. This was one of the most satisfying places I visited.

        It might also be mentioned that monuments to Communism and particular communist leaders remain where they are in Berlin and other former East German cities, but no trace of the National Socialist time. That is outlawed, but not the communist history.

        The message is that communism was/is not evil.

        Comment by sceptic — April 19, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  7. The American POW camp for German soldiers was at Sinzig not Remagen. If interested in the battle for the Ludendorff Bridge. I recommend my book, “Once Upon A Time In War: The 99th Division in World War II,” published by the Univ. of Oklahoma Press. See reviews on Amazon. Robert E. Humphrey Sacramento, CA

    Comment by robert e. humphrey — April 17, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    • Thanks for the information. I have made a correction to my blog post.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 17, 2010 @ 3:51 pm


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