• Germany's news in English
 

'Degenerate' sculptures found beneath Berlin

Published: 08 Nov 2010 14:24 GMT+01:00

The bronze and ceramic sculptures are remarkably well-preserved, though the metal has taken on a heavy patina after spending more than six decades underground and suffering the heat of the fire that destroyed the building where they were stored, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation said in a statement on Monday.

“This find is unique,” said state archaeology director and head of Berlin’s Museum of Prehistory and Early History Matthias Wemhoff. “Never before have artworks with this background been found during a dig."

The Nazi party banned and confiscated what it called entartete Kunst, or “degenerate art” from both private collectors and museums, culminating the action in a Munich exhibition of the same name in 1937.

Click here for a gallery of the dig’s history.

Several of the classic modernist pieces found among the ruined foundations of a building were shown at this exhibition, the statement said.

Archaeologists at the dig just a short walk from the city’s famous Alexanderplatz square had been focussing on finding traces of mediaeval Berlin. It was during this phase that workers uncovered the first peculiar metal object in January 2010, which was only identified as an artwork after experts cleaned it at the early history museum.

A few weeks later historians determined that it was the likeness of actress Anni Mewes created by Edwin Scharff between 1917 and 1921.

Then in August archaeologists found more sculptures in the northwester corner of a cellar. Three more were found in October.

"The find of art defamed by the Nazis as degenerate points to the darkest chapter of German history, for which Berlin has and takes on a special responsibility," the city's Mayor Klaus Wowereit said in the statement. "Even as these artworks present themselves to us the history of the last 60 years has been burned into them. That is unique."

Based on their location inside the buildings foundations, experts believe the sculptures were not actually stored there, but fell through from floor above when the building burned during the war.

They have determined that the works were taken from museums in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Breslau, Karlsruhe, Munich and beyond, then stored in the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in central Berlin. But experts remain uncertain how the art came to building at Königstraße 50.

But among the building’s former residents lived one person who may have been involved, the statement said.

The late Erhard Oewerdieck (1893-1977), a tax advisor and escrow agent who rented an office on the fourth floor, is known to have helped Jewish citizens, for which he and his wife Charlotte were honoured by Yad Vashem after the war.

But his safe full of documents, which was also found among the sculptures, did not reveal any information on the artworks.

Research continues in hopes of learning more about how the works came to be in the building.

In the meantime, the bronze sculptures by Edwin Scharff, Otto Baum, Marg Moll, Gustav Heinrich Wolff, Naum Slutzky and Karl Knappe, along with remnants of ceramic sculptures by Freundlich and Emy Roeder, and three other unidentified works will go on display at the Neues Museum on Tuesday.

According to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, because the works were an archaeological find, they belong to the city of Berlin.

Archaeologists have been examining the layers beneath Berlin’s city centre near Alexanderplatz since October 2009 in tandem with construction for the long-awaited U5 metro line between there and the Brandenburg Gate.

The Local/ka

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:18 November 8, 2010 by William Thirteen
thanks righter, I'll remember to check them out the next time i am in Düsseldorf! Tagesspiegel has a few pics from the exhibition at the Neues here

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/mediacenter/fotostrecken/berlin/ausgrabungen-am-roten-rathaus/1973674.html
17:53 November 8, 2010 by maxbrando
I am appalled that the Berlin officials believe that they can steal this art just as the Nazis stole it, The rightful owners are the descendants of the creators of this art. The claim that this is an archealogical find is nonsense. For any art that has been hidden - above or below ground - belongs to its owners or descendants.
12:27 November 9, 2010 by Snidely70448
Way to go. The Berlin officials are carrying on the traditions of the Nazis. We must have continuity.
15:02 November 9, 2010 by loveencounterflow
seen the other way, an asset is also a liability. that archeological finds do not simply belong to whomever excavated (or looted) them is reasonable. any line drawn between what is "contemporary" (and thus just "buried in the ground", but not "historical") and what is "old" can only be arbitrary. also, it is not clear that the artists' descendants are inheritors of the pieces: they would have to be legally valid heirs; also, it is conceivable that works of art had lawfully changed owners before, as artists normally make a living by selling their art. so imagine with the wealth of finds on this very spot we should build a museum that protects the ruins, puts the artwork on display as they were intended to, and adds documentation. artwork that once was on display or belong to the museums mentions can still permanently or temporarily be shown there as a leihgabe or dauerleihgabe, which is what a lot of museums do. anyhow, just shouting thief will no do here; questions of ownership that involve the 3rd Reich are notoriously hairy.
22:32 November 12, 2010 by DrGideonPolya
Great news that these works have been discovered. Of course, the descendants of the owners of the art remain the legal owners of he art but this view must be tempered by recognition that such works are also part of the national and indeed world heritage and as such should be properly preserved and publicly displayed (the more so because of their categorization by the Nazis as "degenerate art").

The Nazis also classified portraits of members of my family by the great Czech painter Oskar Kokoschka as "degenerate art". These portraits, which survived the Nazi era and are housed in major galleries, included those of my Austro-Hungarian great-great-uncle Leopold Hirsch ("Vater Hirsch", "Father Hirsch", 1909) and of his sons the famous actor and Buddhist Ernst Reinhold nee Hirsch) ("Der Trancespieler", "The Trance Player", 1909) and the expressionist artist Felix Albrecht Harta nee Hirsch ("Felix Albrecht Harta", 1909) (for details see "Die fruhen Portrats von Oskar Kokoschka" by Else Lowitzer-Honig, University of Vienna ).

Wonderful to see such important works re-surface. As the English poet John Keats put it in his poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (1819):

"O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede

Of marble men and maidens overwrought,

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
10:07 November 16, 2010 by Taffthedigger
Perhaps we should repatriate every Roman coin that is discovered to the Italians? Every Seax to the Saxons? Why not empty all of our museums and repatriate everything. Anything less would just be perpetuating theft, right, maxbrando?

I guess that what are saying is that archaeologists such as myself all the way up to various Landesampter fur Denkmalplege are also criminals since it is standard practice for archaeological finds to go to the state for analysis, conservation and either storage in an archive (accessible to the public I add) or eventual display. Or is it just because there is a connection to those brown goosestepping swine?
Today's headlines
Migrant wounded in German police shooting
Photo: DPA

Migrant wounded in German police shooting

A Guinean migrant who caused a brawl in a home for asylum seekers in Germany was shot and seriously wounded by police, local media reported. READ  

July asylum applications hit 'all-time record'
An asylum seeker reception centre in Trier. Photo: DPA

July asylum applications hit 'all-time record'

More people applied for asylum in Germany in July than in any previous month on record, the Ministry for Immigration and Refugees announced on Friday. READ  

This Week in History
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after WWII
Germans fleeing from eastern Europe after the Second World War. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 1,000s of Germans massacred after WWII

Seventy years ago on Friday, a munitions depot exploded in the Czechoslovakian town of Ústí nad Labem. For the thousands of Sudeten Germans who lived in the town, the event was a death sentence. READ  

Minister seeks to rid laws of 'Nazi language'
In the center, Nazi lawyer Roland Freisler, who wrote laws that are partially still in existence today. Photo: German Federal Archive / Wikimedia Commons.

Minister seeks to rid laws of 'Nazi language'

Germany has made great efforts to purge legal system of remnants of Adolf Hitler's regime, but some laws still bear traces of the Nazi past. The Justice Minister wants to change this. READ  

Treason investigation of Netzpolitik halted
Netzpolitik published documents outlining the internal spy agency BfV's spy programmes and budget. Photo: DPA

Treason investigation of Netzpolitik halted

Update: Federal prosecutors announced on Friday they are suspending investigations of treason against 'digital rights' website Netzpolitik for 'the greater good' of upholding freedom of the press. READ  

Newborn baby found in Munich airport toilets
Munich Airport. Photo: DPA

Newborn baby found in Munich airport toilets

A newborn baby was found in a toilet in Munich airport on Thursday. Police so far have no clue as to who or where the mother is. READ  

Brit arrested in Munich for meth smuggling
Photo: BVZ/Zoll

Brit arrested in Munich for meth smuggling

A 50-year-old British woman is being held in custody in Munich on suspicion of attempting to smuggle two kilos of crystal meth out of Munich airport disguised as sweets. READ  

Start-up helps new Berliners slash red tape
Hate waiting in line at the Bürgeramt? There's a company that lets you pay to get the perfect appointment. Photo: DPA.

Start-up helps new Berliners slash red tape

Why waste time jumping through the hoops of German bureaucracy when you can pay someone else to take the hassle off your hands? A new Berlin company is offering to do just that - and it's got city officials fuming in the process. READ  

Michael Jackson shrine may have to beat it
A fan visits the makeshift Michael Jackson memorial in Munich. Photo: DPA.

Michael Jackson shrine may have to beat it

A memorial set up in Germany by some of Michael Jackson's most ardent fans the day after his sudden 2009 death has come under threat in a strangely emotional turf war. READ  

Ai Weiwei in Germany as UK slammed over visa
Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei arrived at Munich airport on Thursday, greeted by his son and son's mother, filmmaker Wang Fen. Photo: DPA.

Ai Weiwei in Germany as UK slammed over visa

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei arrived in Munich on Thursday on his first overseas trip since he was arrested nearly four years ago, after Britain denied him a six-month visa because he did not declare a supposed "criminal conviction" on his application. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,196
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd