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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hitler's Bad Taste Lives On




WEIMAR, Germany -- Long kept from public view, more than 100 paintings collected by Hitler are on display, offering an intriguing glimpse of the art he believed should adorn the 1,000-year Reich planned by the Nazis.


The works - paeans to the German warrior and hymns to an idealized womanhood - seem in many cases stunningly banal. The Allied victory clearly saved Europe from drowning in a sea of wooded German landscapes and mythologized German peasants surrounded by fawning sheep.


"Hitler's is by far the worst collection of paintings I have ever put on show,'' said Achim Preiss, the curator. "They are really shockingly boring. But of the 120 works, perhaps 90 have not been seen in Germany since 1945, and they are critical to our understanding of Nazi rule.''


But rather than laying the past to rest, the Weimar exhibit at the Gauforum, called "Rise and Fall of the Modern,'' has suggested that German history remains explosive and deeply divisive. Preiss' decision to twin the Nazi art with the art of Germany's other modern dictatorship - that of Erich Honecker's Communist East German government - has aroused a storm of protest.


Many easterners perceive a deliberate provocation in the jumbled way the works of the Communist era have been installed, and in the decision to juxtapose these idealized images with photographs of a dismal Communist reality.


The former East German Culture Minister, Klaus Hopcke, declared, "Preiss is a clueless idiot.'' Wolfgang Mattheuer, a painter from the eastern town of Leipzig, called the exhibition "an expression of the West German victor's mentality.''


Some local critics even compared the presentation of Communist art to Hitler's exhibition of "decadent'' paintings in Munich in 1937, which included works by Otto Dix, Max Ernst and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Several East German artists, including Neo Rauch and Hans-Hendrik Grimmling, have withdrawn their work from the Weimar show.