Cardinal regrets confusion caused by Nazi term
19 September 2007, Berlin (AFP) - A German archbishop who caused outrage by describing modern art as "degenerate" in a bitter reminder of the Nazi era on Wednesday said he regretted the "misunderstanding" caused by his choice of words.
19 September 2007
Berlin (AFP) - A German archbishop who caused outrage by describing modern art as "degenerate" in a bitter reminder of the Nazi era on Wednesday said he regretted the "misunderstanding" caused by his choice of words.
"I expressly regret that this term gave rise to misunderstanding when what I said was taken out of context in a partial quotation," Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne, wrote in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
Meisner said in a sermon in Cologne Cathedral last Friday that art which had no link to religion was "entartete Kunst", the standard term employed by the Nazis in their persecution of artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.
"When culture becomes disconnected from religion, from the worship of God, religion becomes ritualism and the culture becomes degenerate," he said in a sermon marking the opening of an exhibition of medieval and modern art from the diocese's collection.
In his newspaper article, the prominent cleric said the term had been abused by Adolf Hitler's regime and that he had meant to use it in its proper sense of signifying art that denies the existence of God.
"Societies and entire cultures, who drive God from their midst and replace Him with man as the measure of good and evil, of true and false, of success and failure, are in fact turning on themselves and showing themselves to be inhuman," he wrote.
He said it is in this context that he "used the ideologically loaded term 'entartete'" to warn that people become perverted and their culture meaningless when they reject God.
It is taboo in Germany to praise or justify Third Reich ideology and Meisner came under fire from artists, politicians and the country's Jewish community at the weekend for borrowing the notorious expression from the Nazis.
Renowned Cologne-based painter Gerhard Richter said the cardinal had made a serious error of judgement, while the Central Council of Jews called him a "notoriously incendiary" figure.
The cardinal in 1999 compared over-the-counter abortion pills with the Zyklon B gas used by the Nazis in the Auschwitz death camp.
Subject: German news