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Degenerate Art

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Why were treasures of modern art buried under Berlin?

And why is this modern art now in a museum devoted to the ancient past?

The Neues Museum specializes in archeological treasures.  But recently, the curators made an exception to the rule.

In January of 2010, less than a kilometer from the museum, excavation began for a new subway station. 

One morning, a worker noticed something unusual in the dirt.  Within days the pit became an archeological site. The finds that emerged were not ancient artifacts, but important treasures… of modern art.

Today they are in the Neues Museum:  11 startling sculptures by respected European artists of the 20th Century.

But these statues were not always celebrated.  In fact, they were reviled… by Adolf Hitler.

In 1937 he ordered the confiscation of works of modern art from galleries and artists’ studios across Germany.  Under his direction, Nazi propagandists mounted an art exhibition called “Degenerate Art.” Loyal Germans were expected to line up to view the art with derision. It was part of Hitler’s plan to unify the German people through hate.

The 11 sculptures now in the museum were part of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition.

What were they doing buried under Berlin? And why are they now displayed in a museum dedicated to ancient treasures?


All is revealed in Museum Secrets: On Berlin’s Museum Island.

Further Questions

Hitler didn’t like modern music either.  Many works now considered masterpieces were banned by the Third Reich as “Degenerate Music.” 

The composers of this music were ostracized.  If they were lucky they were allowed to flee Germany.  The unlucky ones were killed.

We invite you to enjoy a recent concert of banned music by some musicians who are very aware of what happened in the past:  Degenerate Music Concert.  We can’t help but think that their feelings about history have added a special intensity to this performance.


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