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 Paul Klee.
It seems unworthy of me to undertake anything against such crude attacks. For even if it were true that I am a Jew and came from Galicia that would not affect my values as a person or my achievement by an iota.
—Paul Klee, letter to his wife, April 6, 1933
Monographs about Klee
From 1921, German-Swiss painter and graphic artist Paul Klee (1879–1940) taught at the Bauhaus—the school of art, architecture, and design founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. In 1931, shortly before the Bauhaus closed under Nazi pressure, Klee moved to Düsseldorf to teach at the Düsseldorf Academy. The Nazis deemed his art "degenerate," and monographs about Klee were banished and burned.
Seventeen of Klee's paintings were later displayed at the Nazi "Degenerate Art" exhibition in Munich in 1937. Klee himself had left Germany in 1933 and settled in Bern, Switzerland.
Critical Thinking Questions
- Why were books about particular artists burned?
- 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?