'Deviant' Art Thought Destroyed By The Nazis Is Found

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View of German artist Marg Moll's sculpture 'Female Dancer' (around 1930), during a press preview of so-called 'Degenerate Art' at Berlin's Neues Museum November 8, 2010. The sculpture is one of 11 pieces found in 2010 during archaeological excavations near the city's town hall (Rote Rathaus). At first believed to be ancient works, it was later found out that the sculptures had toured Germany as part of the Nazi-sponsored 1937 exhibition of 'Degenrate Art'.

Sculptures that the Third Reich seized from art museums were dug up in Berlin during an excavation for a subway. The pieces are some of 15,000 the Nazi's declared 'degenerate.'

Sculptures long thought lost have been unearthed in Berlin. The bronze and terracotta pieces were seized by the Nazis as 'degenerate' art and were assumed to have been destroyed. They were discovered as during excavation in front of Berlin's town hall. Archaeologists had expected to find 13th century artifacts when they discovered the first piece in January. How the sculptures were saved is unknown. During the war a normal office building occupied the site, reports the Guardian.

But historians are researching the theory that the sculptures were salvaged by Erhard Oewerdieck, a stockbroker who had rented office space on the fourth floor in 1941.

Oewerdieck and his wife Charlotte helped Jewish citizens escape from the city during the war, for which the couple were later honoured by Israel.

Fire destroyed the building following a bombing raid.

Some 15,000 pieces of art were collected by the Nazi's because they were "entartet," deviant, or degenerate. I wrote to NPR's Eric Westervelt about the show, as he has done a few stories in the past couple of days about modern day Germany's relationship with its Nazi past. One on how ordinary Germans were enraptured by Hitler and one on how the German Foreign Ministry tried to whitewash its involvement with the Holocaust. He wrote back:

As much as Germans want to move on – and have confronted, however haltingly, their past, the legacy of the Third Reich still palpably hangs over the region. Archeologists found a mass grave of Jews in Romania the other day, killed by pro-Nazi Romanian troops, more than 100 men women and children.

That we're still uncovering details of the scope of the horror that was the Nazi regime boggles the mind. Numbers so big they become meaningless, and you can only say a culture, a people, a world was lost. And as historian Simone Erpel told Eric, "Not only one man, not only the SS, not only some perpetrators, but the whole society [took] part to stabilize this regime and make it possible."

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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