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Special exhibition: Showing the Unspeakable. Artists as Warners and Witnesses 1914-1945

From 1 May to 27 September 2015

Special exhibition: Showing the Unspeakable. Artists as Warners and Witnesses 1914-1945 (Photo: Jens Weber)

The first special exhibition at the Munich Documentation Centre looks at the history of Nazism as reflected in art. It shows selected artworks produced between 1914 and 1945 that directly addressed Nazism. Whereas in the permanent exhibition events are portrayed from the objective, sober viewpoint of the historian, the special exhibition presents the subjective viewpoints of artists who experienced the rise of Nazism, the regime of terror and the collapse of the regime first-hand as critical witnesses and warners. 

The violence unleashed by the First World War, which many artists experienced personally when they were called up to serve at the front, produced drastic images of the horrors of war. During the unstable years of the Weimar Republic, avant-garde artists responded to the rise of Nazism with a sharp eye and a satirical pen. This was a time of biting caricatures and expressive, in some cases prophetic, political commentaries.

Under the pressure exerted by the regime and the threat of sanctions, more subtle forms of expression had to be found for the criticism and revulsion that artists felt towards the Nazi rulers. Terror, torture and suffering and the dehumanising violence of the concentration camps found artistic expression in disturbing sketches.

The exhibition shows 120 works of leading and less well-known artists, most of them drawings, but also paintings and sculptures. The exhibits include works by the great German Expressionists such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz and Felix Nussbaum alongside drawings by lesser known artists, such as Heinrich Ehmsen and Lea and Hans Grundig.

A large number of the works have been lent by the private collector Gerd Gruber from the Luther City of Wittenberg.

See also