As I write this, it’s Wednesday afternoon, the power is out in our office, and we have all retreated to brighter sites waiting for it to come on again so we can get this paper out.
Coincidentally, Chanukah will begin in a few hours, and the power outage – due to a howling storm – cannot put a damper on this festival. The electricity may be out, but we still have candlepower to bring us light in a dark season.
Meanwhile, as if we needed a reminder of the darkness in this world (but also a reminder that it does not always last), the morning’s New York Times ran a front-page story updating the find earlier this year of a treasure trove of sculpture confiscated by the Nazis as “degenerate art” – aka modern art. The Nazis – whose fÃ¼hrer, you may remember, was an undistinguished watercolorist – exhibited such works, including paintings and graphics, as objects to be derided. And yet, among the artists whose work was confiscated were such masters as Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, and Edvard Munch. Many were Jewish or had Jewish connections or patrons, which no doubt added to the contempt for their work.
The Nazis sold a number of the confiscated works abroad, for foreign currency. Other works were destroyed, and still others – like many of their makers and owners – disappeared.
Eleven sculptures surfaced, literally, at a building site in Berlin in January, and are now on exhibit at the Neues Museum there.
The Times provided photos, and there are more online at various sites. The sculptures are breathtaking, both for what they are and what has been done to them. They live – not just as objects to be admired but as witnesses to the viciousness and stupidity of the people who condemned them.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a photo of one piece the Times describes most poignantly: “[Otto] Freundlich’s ‘Head,’ from 1925, a work made of glazed terracotta, gnarled like an old olive tree, loses little of its power for being broken. The Nazis â€¦ seized the artist and sent him to Majdanek, the concentration camp in Poland, where he was murdered the day he arrived.”
The lights are back on, the menorah has been lit, and the paper will get out as planned.
Dear readers, we wish you a happy, light-filled Chanukah.