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Cultural Expression in Nazi Germany. Degenerate Art ( entartete Kunst). Degenerate: An immoral or corrupt person . Art: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination In Nazi Germany this term was used to describe artwork that was un-German or Jewish .

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degenerate art entartete kunst
Degenerate Art (entartete Kunst)
  • Degenerate:
  • An immoral or corrupt person.
  • Art:
  • The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination
  • In Nazi Germany this term was used to describe artwork that was un-German or Jewish.
an orgy of hate
An orgy of hate
  • The world of the 1920s was like a boiling cauldron. We did not see those who fed the flames. However, we did feel the growing heat and watched the violent seething. There were speakers and preachers on every street corner. Sounds of hate could be heard everywhere. There was universal hatred: hatred of Jews, Junkers (Prussian landowners), capitalists, Communists, militarists, homeowners, workers, the Reichswehr, the Allied Control Commission, corporations and politicians. A real orgy of hate was brewing, and behind it all the weak Republic was scarcely discernible. An explosion was imminent.
  • The world in Germany was unstable, virtually cracking, although it appeared to be happy and gay. People were deceived and believed that the joyousness had depth. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I am writing this because I was a minute part of this chaos; I was the splinter that was miraculously saved when the wood went up in the flames of the new barbarism.
  • - Grosz, A Little Yes and a Big No
kathe kollwitz
Kathe Kollwitz
  • Kathe Kollwitz's imagery is marked by poverty stricken, sickly women who are barely able to care for or nourish their children. Kollwitz's art resounds with compassion as she makes appeals on behalf of the working poor, the suffering and the sick. Her work serves as an indictment of the social conditions in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • Kathe Kollwitz became the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy but because of her beliefs, and her art, she was expelled from the academy in 1933. Harassed by the Nazi regime, Kollwitz's home was bombed in 1943. She was forbidden to exhibit, and her art was classified as "degenerate." Despite these events, Kollwitz remained in Berlin unlike artists such as Max Beckman and George Grosz who fled the country.

‘Self Portrait, 1924’

modernism images of despair
Modernism: Images of Despair

modernism images of despair1
Modernism: Images of Despair

What descriptive words come to mind when you view these artworks?

What themes are explored in these artworks?

What events and conditions of the 1910s and 1920s might have inspired this type of art?

Why do you think Hitler would have found this artwork ‘degenerate’? How did it clash with the type of Germany that he was trying to promote?

hitler the artist
Hitler: The Artist
  • "Of course it is possible that Hitler's rejection from the Vienna Academy of Art was something that helped shape his character and turn him into the monster he became.” – Richard Westbrook-BrookesSome have speculated that Hitler's rejection from art college helped shape his character in later years. He believed that it was a Jewish professor who had rejected his application to study at the academy.
  • "They look quite typical of an aspiring student hoping to get into art school - tentative and not very certain about his perspective when he's using pencil and pen, making basic errors by getting the top and the bottom of a candlestick wrong in relation to each other and so on.
  • "And he doesn't yet have much in the way of technical skill, but it's not so bad that one can't imagine him learning - especially when he's bolder with the charcoal or black chalk.” – Michael Liversidge

hitler the artist1
Hitler: The Artist
  • Failure and resentment informed his aesthetic outlook and his loathing of Modernism related also to his hatred of the Jews and of Communism, although the pet phrase "culture-Bolshevism" to damn experimental art was ironical in view of the startlingly brutal and retrogade cultural regime which Stalin was imposing in Russia.
  • Not that there was anything new in an enthusiasm for "healthy" and "positive" art, or the belief that "Art which merely portrays misery is a sin against the German people" - Kaiser Wilhelm II's words, not Hitler's - but the Nazis took it much further.
  • Much of the Reich's official art was mere kitsch, and its architecture was vulgarly and oppressively grandiose, endless monuments to the fallen and, in Hitler's morbid doodlings, still huger monuments to those who would one day die for the fatherland.
  • Some artists went into exile, either involuntarily or because they would not serve the regime, but far more did not. There were musicians who divorced Jewish spouses to keep their jobs, while great names like Strauss, Pfitzner and Furtwängler chose to endorse the regime.

leni riefenstahl
Leni Riefenstahl
  • LENI RIEFENSTAHL was born in Berlin in 1902. She studied painting and started her artistic career as a dancer.
  • An injury of the knee put an end to her sensational career. After that, she became famous as an actress, a film director, a film producer and a film reporter. She became world-renowned as an actress in the films.
  • Her greatest success she made with the documentary film ‘Triumph des Willens’ named after the Reich Party Congress 1934 in Nuremberg. However, at the end of the war this film destroyed Leni Riefenstahl's career, for now it had no longer been recognized as a piece of art but been condemned as a National Socialist propaganda film.
  • She would later claim that she had no experience of politics. The film she said ‘showed what was happening in front of our eyes… It is history. A purely historical film’.

triumph of the will
Triumph of the Will
  • What do the images in this film/documentary show?
  • What impression do they give of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party and German life?
  • How is music used and what impact does it have on the audience?
  • Do you consider this to be art, propaganda or history? Why?

triumph of the will1
Triumph of the Will
  • Read pages 96 to 102 and respond to questions 1, 2 and 3.
the mad square exhibition
The Mad Square Exhibition

degenerate art exhibition munich 1937
Degenerate Art Exhibition, Munich 1937

Hitler and the Nazi’s removed all of the

Degenerate Art’ from the galleries and museums and

created a ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition to ridicule modernist artworks.