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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
German press wary of art show
Friedrich Christian Flick and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder opened the show

Germany's papers report extensively on the opening in Berlin of a controversial exhibition featuring artworks bought by the grandson of a top German industrialist who worked for the Nazis.

At the opening, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder defended the decision by Friedrich Christian Flick to put the works on show, saying that art should not be used to deal with German history.

But critics argue that the fortune Mr Flick inherited from his grandfather is "blood money", tainted by the fate of the tens of thousands of slave labourers used in the Flick armaments factories during World War II.

Like it or not, morality prevails over aesthetics
Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Berlin's left-wing tageszeitung certainly sees it that way. "Chancellor washes Flick heir clean" is its disapproving headline.

Morality and aesthetics

Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says it is impossible to view the exhibition without being aware of the past - "Like it or not, morality prevails over aesthetics."

The paper is critical of the way the exhibition is presented.

"It is supposed to be about art, and only about art... there is no reference to the darkest chapter in the history of the Flick dynasty."

"There is only one solution," the paper continues. "Flick has paid nothing into the compensation fund for the slave labourers - now he should at least donate a considerable amount of his art collection to the city of Berlin."

The time has now come for Germany to step out of the spell of the past
Die Welt

The centre-right paper Die Welt takes a different line.

Its editorial praises Chancellor Schroeder for sending out what it sees as a "historic, political signal".

"This is the conviction that the time has now come for Germany to step out of the spell of the past."

The paper argues that the crimes of the Nazi era should no longer deny present and future generations of Germans the freedom to make political and moral decisions.

"Some of the opponents of the show give the impression they are fighting a final battle... that the name of Flick can never be connected with anything good.

"But this battle is on the way to being consigned to history."

'Shadow of the past'

Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel also looks at the extent of Germany's responsibility for the Nazi era, but comes to a different conclusion.

Schroeder's words would be more convincing if he also demanded the same respect for the victims and their doubts
Der Tagesspiegel

The attempts of re-unified Germany to step out of the "shadow of the past" cause nothing but "mistrust amongst the survivors of the holocaust".

"Schroeder stresses that Flick deserves respect," the paper continues.

"His words would be more convincing if he also demanded the same respect for the victims and their doubts."

The Berliner Zeitung noticed one significant oddity about the news conference for the show.

"Art was supposed to be king, and everything seemed perfect," it says.

But the paper's reporter notes that journalists had to wear yellow badges so the organisers could identify them - a symbol with immediate connotations of the yellow star Jews had to wear during the Hitler period.

"So we all sat there with the bright yellow badges," the reporter continues, "and listened to a discussion about the Germans and the Nazi period. A macabre image."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The press in Germany
24 Aug 04  |  Europe
Row over Nazi art display
30 Mar 03  |  Arts

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