In July of 1937, Hitler's Nazi party mounted an exhibition of confiscated art, called Entartete Kunst meaning Degenerate Art. Especially hard hit was the modern art division of the Berlin National Gallery, which lost 136 paintings, 28 sculptures, and 324 drawings. It showcased and made a mockery of the work of contemporary artists such as Max Beckman, Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, and many others. The exhibition was intended to show the public the insanity, atrocity, and corruption of the modern art movement. Artists included in the show, many of whom are now recognized as modern masters, were depicted as demented, and deranged. The exhibit opened in Munich and then traveled to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria.
In each installation, the works were poorly hung and surrounded by graffiti and hand written labels mocking the artists and their creations. On May 31, 1938, the seizure without compensation of degenerate art was legalized ex post facto. At the same time, avant-garde artists living in Germany were forbidden to paint. To obtain foreign currency, four German art dealers were appointed to find foreign customers for some of the degenerate art. Most of the remainder was sent to a gallery in Lucerne for international sale. From 1937 until 1940 over four million people throughout Germany and Austria viewed the exhibit.
Hitler used the attack on art to further German anti-Semitic feelings. The seized works were charged with "degeneracy", and confiscated to "purify" German culture. Discarded as "degenerate" German expressionism has found its place once again in the art world. Connoisseurs have bought up works tossed aside by the Germans.
A German commented, "The Nazis, in spite of themselves, gave us a chance to become acquainted with the cr " eme of modern art, all in one place.".