School art from Nazi era shows children's view of Third Reich

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Punch and Judy are depicted as brutal sadists; the words scrawled on an army lorry by a schoolboy warn the British Prime Minister: "Chamberlain we're coming." Such stirring images are just two of a collection of more than 500 drawings and paintings of Nazi school children's art on show in Munich's Art Pavilion.

After lying unseen in the archives of the city's schools for more than 60 years, the pictures have been put on public show.

The exhibition is the first in post-war German history to illustrate in detail what adolescent school pupils chose or were ordered to draw in the Third Reich while they attended art classes at Munich grammar schools during the 1930s and early 1940s.

Brigitte Zubor, an art historian from Munich university who organised the exhibition, spent months combing art archives of 26 of the city's schools to come up with the exhibits. She said: "They combine an extraordinary mixture of works that display rigid attention to detail and others which simply legitimise the crimes of the Nazi regime."

The works include dozens of bombastic and frequently naive pastel drawings of aircraft dropping bombs on buildings, of steel-helmeted stormtroopers fighting their way across rivers and a lino cut of a German U-boat slipping through a moonlit sea.

One pupil exhibits his early acceptance of Nazi indoctrination by writing the propaganda slogan: "Better to have fought and died in honour than to lose freedom and soul" across the top of a battle scene.

Excerpts from a Nazi art magazine,Munich Mosaic, feature alongside the drawings and provide an insight into art teaching of the era: "Bombs explode, whole islands disappear, the sterns of ships fly into the air. Fantasy, the child's second soul, is mobilised," reads a quote from the magazine. Other paintings depict a Swastika flying alongside an Italian flag to celebrate Mussolini's visit to Germany but there are also drawings of skulls and corpses.

A 15-year-old boy's painting of a German army truck roaring down an autobahn dated late 1939 bears the words: "The Polish eagle is no longer flying." It also warns the British: "Chamberlain, we're coming."

Another work, at first seemingly innocent, is a watercolour portrayal of Punch and Judy. It contains a disturbing undertone on closer inspection.

Punch stands opposite a dishevelled figure hanging from a gallows and fires at him from close range. A group of children watch the show and heartily applaud the execution.

The show also contains scores of obsessively detailed paintings of flowers and lacework exhibits completed by schoolgirls. Nazi school propaganda material states that attention to careful and accurate artwork is "intended to promote inner cleanliness among pupils".