Spitting on Incapables, Madmen, and Cheats: The NSDAP’s War on Degenerate Art

  • Abstract:

    In the months and years after World War I, a tremendous amount of anti-war art emerged from the Weimar Republic. Avant-garde artists such as Otto Dix, Georg Grosz, and Max Beckmann, to name a few, established their art as critical commentary on the negative value of war to a civilized society. However, as the interwar period evolved, the rise of the NSDAP in Germany allowed them to critique the value and significance of what they called “cultural bolshevism,” believing that it was of little value to the psyche of the Nazi vision of the new German state. Hence once Adolf Hilter and the NSDAP achieved power, they institute a systematic program to cleanse Germany of “degenerate art.” In its place, the NSDAP established a state run system to produce strong national art that represent the “truth” about Germany and its people. Drawing on paintings from the period 1918-1945, combined with primary source documents from various Weimar artists and their guilds, juxaposted against official documents from the NSDAP, I explain how the NSDAP used all assets of the State to use art as a vehicle to advance NSDAP propaganda for their political and military programs. My research provides critical insights into how the NSDAP used art as a tool to manufacture public support for their war effort. Furthermore, my paper explores the question how an artificial truth can become manufactured and perpetuated.