Germany’s Nazi Sculptures: Why Are They Still On Display?

Spandau Citadel Exhibit Nazi Sculptures Rediscovered In Dramatic Raid

Spandau Citadel, a former Renaissance fortress turned museum, has added two bronze sculptures, commissioned by Adolf Hitler from the artist Josef Thorak, to its permanent collection. Dubbed “Wandering Horses” (or “Schreitende Pferde”, in German), the sculptures were initially in the garden of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, to show Hitler’s attempt to transform Berlin into a world-renowned imperial capital.

The museum has decided to exhibit one of the colossal twins upon its arrival, so that visitors can witness the restoration process. The sculptures were rediscovered in 2015, after the police successfully raided a German underground art-trading network.

Josef Thorak, the sculptor, was born in Vienna and transferred to the Berlin Art Academy in 1915. After finishing his studies, he became dedicated to the construction of large, monumental works and eventually earned multiple commissions from the Nazi regime. His works, along with the induction of sculptures, aimed to symbolize the supposed strength and glory of the German Empire during Hitler’s rule.

The museum’s website states that the purpose of exhibiting the sculptures is to illustrate how “the respective state powers wanted to shape the urban landscape of Berlin” through the monuments they commissioned. Its aim is to also become a study center for art that is considered ‘toxic’.

However, the exhibition of Nazi sculptures has been controversial. Last year, the Munich Art Gallery was questioned for exhibiting a painting Hitler’s painter Adolf Ziegler. Prominent artist, Georg Baselitz, has also questioned the display, claiming it is “scandalous” and “unbearable”.

Several Nazi sculptures are still present in public spaces, such as the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Before the 2006 World Cup, activists called for the removal of the sculptures, but the city refused. This has raised questions about how Nazi art should to be dealt with.

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