In 1933, Nazi students at more than 30 German universities pillaged libraries in search of books they considered to be "un-German." Among the writings thrown into the flames were political texts, literature, and even art books by or about such noted figures as Marc Chagall.
If a painter is a Jew and paints life, how is he to keep Jewish elements out of his work! But if he is a good painter, his painting will contain a great deal more. The Jewish content will be there, of course, but his art will aim at universal relevance.
—Marc Chagall, 1933
Which of Marc Chagall's Works were Burned?
Monographs about Chagall
Who was Marc Chagall?
Artist Marc Chagall (1887–1985) was born to a Hasidic Jewish family in Vitebsk, Russia. Many of his works include broad, rich colors and imagery of Russian and Jewish provincial life. After Chagall and his family settled in Paris in 1923, his works gained popularity within Europe. However, Chagall's Jewish subject matter and non-realistic style made him an outcast to the Nazis, who burned monographs about his work during the book burnings of 1933. The Nazis also confiscated his works from various museums and displayed many of them in a "Degenerate Art" exhibition in Munich in 1937. Fearing persecution upon the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, Chagall fled with his family to New York. He returned to France in 1948.
Critical Thinking Questions
- How did the German public react to the book burnings? What were some of the reactions outside of Germany?
- Why do oppressive regimes promote or support censorship and book burning? How might this be a warning sign of mass atrocity?