Ten Nazi-confiscated sculptures that were recently discovered in the basement of a burnt-down Berlin building are going on display in the city’s Neues Museum. The items were part of a collection of 15,000-20,000 pieces of what the Nazis called ‘degenerate’ art and ascribed to ‘decadent’ Jewish artists. However, there are only two Jewish artists among those who created the works on display.
The sculptures, mostly bronzes, were found by a coincidence: workers digging away for a subway train project encountered a small statue, and then ten more. “We hadn’t expected this confrontation with this period of time, with these samples of “degenerate” art – it is a minor miracle,” Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit said at a press conference on Monday. “It is unique.” He added that it “shows a lot about the dark times of the city.”
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler believed Jews were responsible for corrupting the morals of German society. Works of art considered “degenerate” were confiscated, exhibited before the public, then sold for cash, destroyed, or stolen by Nazi officials who fancied them.
It is still not clear whom the newly discovered art works belong to. According to a member of the archaeological team looking into the finds, the works may have been purchased by a resident of the building under which they were found, at Königstrasse 50. Der Spiegel reported that this person may have been Erhard Oewerdieck, a government official who was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel for helping Jews escape the Holocaust during World War II. It is possible that he bought the art works in order to save them. City officials are contacting his next of kin to find out if this was so.