365 Days of Art: June 30 – Hitler Authorizes Degenerate Art Exhibition; Commission Created to Confiscate More Artwork

A Nazi storage room, holding confiscated "degenerate" works of art. Works by Van Gogh, Picasso, and Cezanne face us.

June 30, 1937

Hitler signs an order authorizing the Degenerate Art Exhibition, and Joseph Goebbels accordindgly creates a commission to oversee the confiscation from museums and private art collections any remaining artworks that are deemed modern, subversive, or otherwise contrary to the German spirit. This is an extension of Nazi policy to persecute Jews and incite hatred of the “perverse Jewish spirit” among German citizens.

Over 5,000 works are seized, including 1,052 by Emil Nolde, 639 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and 508 by Max Beckmann, as well as smaller numbers of works by artists like Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

Can you imagine having 1,052, or 508 of your life’s work taken away? That is devastating.

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