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Slides from "Special Project Monumental Art" Turned over to Freie Universität

Slides Long Believed to Be Lost Now Turned over to "Degenerate Art" Research Group at Art History Institute for Initial Evaluation

№ 19/2009 from Jan 27, 2009

Pfarrkirche St. Clemens, Schwarzrheindorf (1151 geweiht), romanische Wandmalereien
Parish Church of St. Clement, Schwarzrheindorf (consecrated 1151), Romanesque wall paintings Image Credit: Nils Hansen, München
Romanische Wandmalerei in der Pfarrkirche St. Clemens, Schwarzrheindorf (1151 geweiht).
Romanesque wall paintings in the Parish Church of St. Clement, Schwarzrheindorf (consecrated 1151) Image Credit: Nils Hansen, München

About 1000 slides of monumental buildings that were taken between 1943 and 1945 have been turned over to the "Degenerate Art" group at the Art History Institute of Freie Universität Berlin. The slides from the estate of the art dealer Bernard A. Böhmer were recently discovered in Finland. The research group is currently working on a publication on Bernhard A. Böhmer.

The "Special Project Monumental Art" was a large-scale photo campaign ordered by Adolf Hitler in 1943. Given the imminent destruction by bombing during World War II, all significant decoration of the entire Reich territory was to be photographically documented. Almost all the prominent German photographers were involved in the campaign.

At least 500 buildings were to be photographed from a variety of perspectives; up to 600,000 shots were expected. How many were actually taken, is unclear. The major campaign inevitably ended in April, 1945, shortly before the capitulation of the German Reich. So far, 40,000 slides have been rediscovered. They form a unique documentation of the Central European wall and ceiling paintings of the 9th to 20th centuries.

A portion of the slides was supposed to be kept by the art dealer, Bernard A. Böhmer, in the former studio of the sculptor Ernst Barlach, who died in 1938. Böhmer was one of the few art dealers authorized to sell abroad against foreign currencies works of art from German museums that in 1937 had been defamed as "degenerate" and confiscated. At the begining of May, 1945, as the Red Army was invading, Böhmer committed suicide. Barlach's studio was cleared out by the Russian military and used as a car repair shop. Since then, there has been no trace of the missing color slides stored there.

Just recently, almost 1000 slides have re-surfaced in Finland. The local historian and Barlach specialist, Ulrich Schirow, turned over the colored slides to the "Degenerate Art" research group of the Art History Institute of Freie Universität. This group has long been researching Bernard A. Böhmer and is currently preparing a publication. After a preliminary evaluation, the slides will be passed on to the Central Institute for Art History in Munich, where the other parts of the collection rediscovered so far are being stored. Those slides previously found are already available in an image database.

Contact:

  • Freie Universität Berlin, Art History Institute, "Degenerate Art" Group
    Koserstr. 20, 14195 Berlin

Publications:

  • Meike Hoffmann (Ed.): Ein Händler „entarteter“ Kunst. Bernhard A. Böhmer und sein Nachlass, Schriften der Forschungsstelle „Entartete Kunst“, vol. 3, Akademie-Verlag Berlin (in press, 2009)
  • Christian Fuhrmeister, et al. (Ed.): „Führerauftrag Monumentalmalerei“. Eine Fotokampagne 1943-1945, Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte, vol. 18, Cologne 2006