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Database of denegerate artwork seized by the Nazis

Berlin’s Free University has gone live with a database documenting more than 21,000 works of art which were seized by the Nazis in 1937 for being “degenerate”.

The Web site, the result of eight years of research by art historians at the university, includes works by Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, Marc Chagall, Max Beckmann, Wassily Kandinsky and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. It gives details of the museums they were seized from and their current location, in cases where it is known and where the work wasn’t destroyed.

“We are hoping that this will yield more information about the fate of some of the art, perhaps from private collections and archives,” Meike Hoffmann, one of the scholars involved in the project, told a news conference in Berlin yesterday. “We also want to draw attention to and document the wonderful collections of modern art the German museums had in the 1930s.”

As well as looting hundreds of thousands of artworks from private Jewish collectors, the Nazis seized thousands of modern works from German museums. Their aim was to rid the museums of art they saw as contrary to Aryan ideals, and instead promote regime-approved artists such as the sculptor Arno Breker.

In 1937, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels staged the exhibition “Degenerate Art,” which first opened in Munich, where it attracted more than 2 million people before moving on to other German and Austrian cities. Paintings were hung crowded together, some with no frames, alongside racist slogans denigrating the artists for “insulting German womanhood” and revealing “sick minds.”

[Full story] [View the website (translated from German)]

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