Nazi Degenerate Art Finds New Home at The Station Nazi Degenerate Art Finds New Home at the Station

Anthony Leon: When you hear the word degenerate, art doesn’t usually come to mind. However, that’s the term Hitler and the Nazis used to describe the paintings here on display at the Station in Syracuse.

Peter Svoboda: This must have driven them crazy.

Leon: Curator Peter Svoboda believes art can be a powerful expression of the times, so he says look no further than World War II.

Svoboda: World War II was the biggest thing that ever happened and you can learn so much about the people and how the world operates by studying World War II.

Leon: During the original Degenerate Art Show in 1937, these works were put on display as a means to show the German people what bad art looks like. However, today, they’re on display as a means of celebration, with this one artist saying “If I perish, don’t let my works die; show them to the public.”

So far, the exhibit has received positive reactions from the Jewish community, which came as a surprise to Svoboda, given Nazi Germany and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Svoboda: I was fearful that we might have protestors, but so far we’ve only had supporters.

Leon: Although there are only six Jewish artists featured in the show, the dark truth is…

Svoboda: There was a lot of murder.

Leon: Hitler didn’t discriminate.

Svoboda: All the art was confiscated. Most of it was destroyed. Most of the artists were sent to concentration camps and many of them were killed.

Leon: If people want to learn more, Svoboda says they should consider joining “The Historians” group at the Station.

Reporting in Syracuse, I’m Anthony Leon for NCC News.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) The Station in Syracuse is featuring art that can provide more insight as to why the German people followed Adolf Hitler.

Most of the artwork on display is from the original Degenerate Art Show in 1937. Compared to the Exhibition of Great German Art, the Degenerate Art Show promoted what Hitler and the Nazis thought were immoral German values during that time. 

When people visit the exhibit, curator Peter Svoboda wants them to understand what modern art looks like, what happened to the artists, and what happened to the German people. Svoboda explains that especially with the German people, they followed Hitler because they thought he was magical given the outcome of World War I.

“The one thing I want people to realize is that, that could happen anywhere and maybe parts of that are happening here, right now,” Svoboda says.

So far, the exhibit’s reception has been mostly positive from the Jewish community, which is surprising to Svoboda given the show’s Nazi Germany background and the current Israel-Hamas war.

“We got a surprisingly positive reaction from the Jewish community,” Svoboda says. “I was a little concerned with that because when you start talking about Nazis… people get their hair up.”


Six Jewish artists were featured, but many more were subsequently arrested and killed due to their art being deemed immoral by the Nazis.
The Degenerate Art Show featured a self-portrait by Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum. The Nazis arrested Nussbaum because his paintings depicted people who were suffering in concentration camps.
© 2023 Anthony Leon

Although the exhibit primarily showcases German artists, artwork from six Jewish artists are also featured. In other words, when it came to bad art, Hitler and the Nazis didn’t discriminate.

“Art can serve a lot of different purposes. Everything from inspiring and getting people to appreciate beauty, to also making a powerful statement about the times,” Svoboda says.

If people want to learn more about World War II and Nazi Germany, Svoboda says they should consider joining “The Historians” group at the Station.

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