THE gottbegnadeten list
In a bid to build Nazi culture, a list of very special artists was drawn up
In the wake of the Degenerate Art exhibition Hitler and Goebbels were determined to see Nazi culture blossom and grow. In 1944 a record entitled the ‘Gottbegnadeten’ list – or ‘God-gifted’ list – was drawn up, featuring artists, musicians, actors, authors and other creatives that were considered national treasures. Among these prized figures were composer Richard Strauss, Nobel Prizewinning writer Gerhart Hauptmann and actor Heinz Rühmann.
The honour meant that a letter was sent to the recipient, but is also guaranteed that the recipient was exempt from military mobilisation; these figures’ contributions to culture were deemed more valuable than they could be in war.
Arno Breker was one such artist who found himself on the Godgifted list. Championed as one of the greatest sculptors of the Third Reich, Breker had created sculptures for the 1936 Olympic Games, as well as creating two bronze sculptures to stand outside the Reich Chancellery. Exempt from military service, Breker was appointed the official sculptor of the Nazi Party and was gifted a studio, as well as almost 50 assistants.
By the time the Third Reich crumbled, Breker’s reputation had spread far and wide. Identified as a ‘fellow traveller’ of the Nazi Party than necessarily a Nazi himself, Breker was fined and left to continue his life in Düsseldorf. Over the next few decades he was commissioned by several wealthy and powerful patrons, including the King of Morocco. In 1985 a museum devoted to Breker’s works opened in Nörvenich, Germany. He died in 1991 still a celebrated German artist, but many of his list-mates died in relative obscurity, their talent irrevocably tarnished by their relationships with the Nazis.
Sculptor Arno Breker at work in the 1930s