Nazi artist was anti-Semitic: why Emil Nolde still belongs to Germany

:Emil Nolde belongs to Germany

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  • Gotz Aly

    Gotz Aly

A sculpture by Nazi artist Emil Nolde. Gtz Aly says that the painter belongs to Germany despite anti-Semitism.

A sculpture by Nazi artist Emil Nolde. Gtz Aly says that the painter belongs to Germany despite anti-Semitism.


AFP / Tobias Schwarz

Emil Nolde is rightly honored as a great painter. If our Chancellor really does not want to see him in her office anymore because of his anti-Semitism, she should stop immediately to make a pilgrimage to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth every year. Judging by Richard Wagner, Nolde was an anti-Semitic nothingness. Original sound, Wagner, anno 1850: “The Jew reigns, and will reign as long as money remains in power.” In the shape of the composers Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Giacomo Meyerbeer, the Jews, according to Wagner, were “completely foreign elements” and in the “teeming life of worms” over the already “decomposed” body of German musical art. In doing so, they oriented their taste in the “cheeky absent-mindedness and indifference of a Jewish community in the synagogue during their musically performed worship”. As far as the brilliant composer Wagner.

For years I have advocated that the historical blemish of Germany, the Germans and their representatives not be taken out of the cultural memory. Liberal-Stalinists, such as Benedikt Erenz of the time in the case of Ernst Moritz Arndt, cultivate this compulsory cleaning passionately. Thus they favor forgetting, not wanting to explain. Of course, Wagner operas should be performed. But you could always print on the tickets that he was a leading German anti-Semite. Wagner-Heroinnen in Berlin-Friedenau frame the Cosimaplatz: Elsa, Isolde, Eva, Brnnhilde, Ortrud and Kundrystrae. These street names should stay! Sadly, all the women here are reminiscent of a man who has not been guilty as an anti-Semite alone. In addition, he made the belief in “fantasy products rather than reality knowledge” popular, the death-hungry “aesthetic sensation” in place of pragmatic rationalism. Thus he contributed to the philosophical foundations of the Nazi revolution, as the conservative historian Siegfried A. Kaehler wrote in 1944 to Friedrich Meinecke.

That is why Richard Wagner and Emil Nolde belong to Germany. Let’s not forget her! The same applies to Ferdinand Sauerbruch, Caroline von Humboldt, Martin and Katharina Luther, Friedrich List, Wilhelm von Bode, Franz Mehring, Peter Christian Beuth, Achim von Arnim, Freiherr vom Stein and hundreds others. The German anti-Semitism fed not just from the bogs, but from the middle of German society, often promoted by men and women who have rendered outstanding services to the arts, science and politics. That’s the problem. But what did Angela Merkel find so appealing about the dark, wild image of “surf” and the contrasting garden painting? Presumably, she unconsciously followed the West German Nolde rapture of the 1960s, which I remember well: The self-inflicted terrible past was then imagined as a natural collapse of a “German catastrophe” – dissolved and forgotten in the flourishing, peaceful summer of the economic miracle – from Merkel’s later point of view : of the unitary miracle.

The question remains: Which and whose pictures do you hang up now, Chancellor?