30 Sep 2021/ 7pm BST / 11am PDT
At the end of the first world war, the German doctor Hans Prinzhorn began building a collection of art by psychiatric patients. The raw and powerful art would inspire a generation of modernist greats, including: Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali and André Breton. However, by the 1930s Prinzhorn’s artist-patients and their creations had attracted the attention of Hitler.
Famously rejected from art school, Adolf Hitler saw modernism’s interest in madness as a threat. Once in power, he ordered modernist art to be stripped from German galleries and publicly shamed alongside examples of Prinzhorn’s collection, in exhibitions of ‘degenerate’ art.
This was the curtain-raiser to a programme of mass-killing against ‘degenerate’ humans. By 1941, 70,000 psychiatric patients had been exterminated in a campaign that served as a prototype for the Final Solution.
Charlie joins Libreria to discuss this astonishing story of a culture war that paved the way for Hitler’s first mass-murder programme.
About the author:
Charlie English is a former journalist for The Guardian. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the author of books, The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu and The Snow Tourist.