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Degenerates: Art and the Nazis

As the fascinating story about the discovery of a vast horde of art masterpieces in Munich broke this week, I was struck by its relevance to the novel I'm working on now.

TO EAT THE WORLD is a New York-set thriller, featuring a cabal of Nazi bankers using their control of the art world - through plundered art works - to set off a chain of events and take over the US economy. The Munich discovery, with all its unanswered questions (eg: why has it taken a year and a half to make the find public?), adds a delicious slice of timely truth to my literary cocktail.

As you can learn from the BBC report embedded above, it's believed that the Nazis seized about 16,000 pieces of art from Jewish owners and art galleries as they conquered Europe. It is truly ironic that the Nazis labelled much the art 'degenerate' - art by greats like Picasso, Chagall, Dix and Beckmann - seizing and hiding it so as to protect public morals while Hitler and his cronies set about dismantling the very concept of morals, classifying certain types of people as animals and foisting the ultimate horror on Europe.

Painting by Marc Chagall, seized in Munich
How many art galleries built their collections on the Nazis' spoils? How many art dealers built their fortunes on the misery - and extermination - of others? Do we still consider Nazi ideas of degeneracy as valid when considering 'modern art'?

Perhaps it is time, given the scale of the crimes against humanity and art committed by the Nazis, for a genuine re-examination of what values modern art holds? Can we continue merrily along the same path and consider what emerges from Munich as simply filling in the gaps in art history? Or must we start asking deeper questions?

Who, exactly, are the degenerates?

  1. 1.
    having lost the physical, mental, or moral qualities considered normal and desirable; showing evidence of decline.
    "a degenerate form of a higher civilization"
    synonyms:debaseddegradedcorrupt, corrupted, vitiated, bastardimpure
    Source: Google Search

TO EAT THE WORLD by Gary J Byrnes, coming soon to all ebook stores. For release date news, stay tuned to and join me at Google+ here.

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