The Nazi Attitude Towards Art: Censorship, Propaganda, and Persecution

1. Introduction

The Nazis in Germany were against modern art and expressionism on the grounds that it was degenerate and poorly executed as an excuse for the general hate that they held against this form of art. They believed that art should be realistic and representational, not something that was abstract or unidentifiable. The Nazis also used their power to censor any art that they found to be offensive or threatening to their ideology. This essay will explore the reasons why the Nazis were against modern art, expressionism, and the Jews, as well as how they used censorship and propaganda to control the art scene in Germany.

2. The Nazis and Modern Art

The Nazis were against modern art because they believed it was degenerate and un-German. They thought that artists who created such work were lazy and did not have any talent. The Nazis also felt that modern art was a Jewish conspiracy to undermine German culture. To support their claim, they pointed to the fact that many of the leading artists who created modern art were Jews. The Nazis also argued that modern art was not truly art because it did not represent reality, but rather was just a bunch of random lines and shapes.

To further their campaign against modern art, the Nazis organised an exhibition in 1937 called “Degenerate Art”. The exhibition displayed works of art that the Nazis deemed to be degenerate, including works by Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Paul Klee. The exhibition was designed to show the German people how degenerate and dangerous modern art could be.

3. The Nazis and Expressionism

The Nazis were also against expressionism, which they saw as a dark and depressing form of art that did not reflect the positive values of Nazi ideology. Instead, they preferred art that portrayed happy scenes of German life or heroic stories from Nazi history. Expressionist artists such as Max Beckmann and Ernst Kirchner were forced to flee Germany or go into hiding to avoid being persecuted by the Nazis.

4. The Nazis and the Jews

The Nazis’ hatred of modern art and expressionism was closely connected to their hatred of the Jews. Many of the leading artists in these fields were Jewish, and the Nazis used this as an excuse to persecute them. They also argued that Jewish artists were trying to spread their own cultural values through their work, which threatened German culture. As a result, Jewish artists were banned from creating or exhibiting their work in Germany. Those who remained in Germany were forced to sign a declaration promising not to produce any more “degenerate” art.

5. The Nazi Administration and Censorship

In addition to persecuting Jewish artists, the Nazi regime also put strict controls on what type of art could be created and exhibited in Germany. They set up a government agency called the Reich Chambers of Fine Arts (Reichskammer der bildenden Kunste) which had complete control over the arts in Germany. This agency oversaw all aspects of the arts, including architecture, painting, sculpture, music, theatre, film, and literature. They ensured that only “acceptable” works of art were produced and exhibited in Germany.

6. Nazi Propaganda and Free Speech

While the Nazi regime did censor many works of art, they also used art as a tool for propaganda. They understood the power of art to influence people’s emotions and thoughts, and they used it to promote their own ideology. The Nazis used art to portray themselves as strong and heroic, while painting their enemies as weak and degenerate. They also used art to glorify the German people and the values of the Nazi Party.

7. Conclusion

The Nazis were clearly opposed to modern art and expressionism, and they used their power to censor and persecute artists who created such work. However, they also understood the power of art to influence people’s thoughts and emotions, and they used it as a tool for propaganda. In the end, the Nazi regime’s attitude towards art was complex and contradictory.


The Nazis believed that art should be used as a propaganda tool to further their political agenda and to promote their ideal of Aryan supremacy. They believed that "degenerate" art, which included anything that was abstract or expressive, had no place in German society.

The Nazis had a profound impact on the art world during their reign. They closed down museums and galleries that exhibited "degenerate" art, and they held exhibitions of "acceptable" art that glorified the Nazi regime. Many artists were forced to conform to the Nazi ideal or risk being persecuted.

There were some dissenters who refused to conform to the Nazi ideal of art, but they were few and far between. Most artists either went along with the Nazis or kept quiet about their views.

Artwork that was deemed "degenerate" by the Nazis was often destroyed or confiscated. Some of it was sold at auction, but much of it was simply lost or forgotten over time.