Workers digging for a new metro line near Alexanderplatz in Berlin have unearthed a slew of important Nazi-era bronze and ceramic sculptures. “Never before have artworks with this background been found during a dig,” wrote Matthias Wemhoff, the head of Berlin’s Museum of Prehistory and Early History, and Germany’s chief archaeologist.
The statues represent “entartete Kunst” or “degenerate art,” the label Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels gave to all “un-German” artwork, much of it created by Jews. The find includes works by Marg Moll and Otto Baum, who were mocked during the 1937 Entartete Kunst show, the culmination of a propaganda campaign to turn working-class Germans against cultural elites. Entartete Kunst included 5,000 works confiscated from museums and private collectors that were paraded across Germany with virulent labels such as “revelation of the Jewish racial soul.” When the show ended, the works disappeared. So did many of the artists: Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner all fled during or after the show.
Officials believe the works became buried after the building they were stored in, the propaganda ministry, burned down. The art is now on display at the Neues Museum. This time, it’s shown with respect.