Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The banality of evil" (Hannah Arendt)

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by Ekaterina Levina


I’ve been reading a book “The Rape of Europa” by Lynn H. Nicholas for a while, on and off, about the fate of Europe’s art treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. It’s not the easiest book to read despite the fast-paced dramatic story. Even without actual descriptions of the horrors of the war, they are always behind the scene.

I came across of an interesting fact about Hermann Goering.

Goering considered himself “the last Renaissance man” and was a greedy art collector. He amassed a great deal of paintings, jewels and objects d’art. Very few of them were of unquestioned attribution.

In his collection of Old Masters Goering had a favorite Vermeer “Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery”. This painting was a part of “a little nest egg in case of emergency” in a personal baggage of Frau Goering, his wife, when Goering decided to send his family and his collection away fearing the Red Army in January 1945. It took two of Goering’s special trains with additional eleven extra boxcars to move only the most valuable things from his collection.

Unknown to Goering, his prized “Vermeer” was a fake. Despite having all the great art treasures around him, Goering loved the most a fake painting with a moralistic subject.

Here he was, Hermann Goering, the Reich Marshal of the Greater German Reich, Hitler's chosen successor, an incredibly powerful man of his time, so rich and so… banal.



Goering’s favorite Vermeer “Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery”, a fake.

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