365 Days of Art: March 20 – Nazis Destroy Approximately 5,000 Artworks in Bonfire

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

March 20, 1939

Under orders from Hitler, the Berlin Fire Department burned 1,004 paintings and sculptures and 3,825 watercolors, drawings and prints in a massive bonfire in its courtyard.

These 5,000 artworks had been seized from galleries and museums across Germany over the previous several years, in a purge of anything that wasn’t deemed to display classic German ideals, values, and craftsmanship. Dada, Expressionist, and Cubist works featured prominently in the round-up.

Seven hundred of these artworks had been displayed at the “Degenerate Art Exhibit” in Munich in 1937, which will be covered later this year.

This leaves a pit in my stomach.