‘Nazis carried out a racial purge of modern art’

AMERICAN-born historian Charles Dellheim has written a 653-page book, largely due to a Manchester connection.

Belonging and Betrayal — How Jews Made the Art World Modern (Brandeis University Press) tells the gripping stories behind Holocaust stolen art; of how individual Jewish entrepreneurs managed to penetrate and become influential in the field of collecting modern art — a fact obnoxious to Hitler and his Nazis, who hated modern art as much as they hated the Jews.

Charles, the son of a Jewish German refugee, told me that Hitler wanted to be an artist, but was unable to get into an art academy because he couldn’t draw faces.

Charles said: “That was really symbolic of Hitler not seeing human beings as individuals.”

He continued: “Just as the Nazis wanted to dominate political territory in Europe, in 1940 Hitler wanted to build a great art museum in his Austrian hometown Linz.

“Art becomes one of the contested realms. For the Nazis modern art is suspect, considered degenerate.

“But for Jews, modern art had been easier to enter. If you wanted to buy a Picasso and you had the opportunity and the discernment to do so, it was quite inexpensive. A professional hierarchy had not gelled. There were not the same kind of discriminatory barriers.

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