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Nazi policies and practices affected works of art, artists, and collectors in myriad ways in the years before and during World War II (1939–45). 

Upon taking power in Germany in 1933, the regime established cultural policies that cast much twentieth-century art as un-German and “degenerate,” a term that carried negative racial, physical, and mental connotations. State museums purged avant-garde art. Important living artists were expelled from professional associations, and their public works confiscated and destroyed. The Nazis also created “shame exhibitions,” the pinnacle of which was the infamous 1937 exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in Munich.

Nazi practices also impacted historical artworks. In some cases, museums sought to acquire works by German old masters at the expense of other types of art. Policies of “Aryanization” led to the forced transfer of Jewish-owned property and businesses in Germany and in the countries annexed or occupied during the war. The Nazis targeted prominent dealers and art collectors across Europe. This systematic looting was carried out alongside the atrocities of the Holocaust. Even now, decades after World War II, many works of art remain lost or have not been returned to their rightful owners.

There are seven works of art in this section.