The Gallery of Miracles and Madness: Insanity, Art and Hitler’s first Mass-Murder Programme

30 Sep 2021

 / 7pm BST / 11am PDT
 / Free
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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.