writings: the diaries
of otto dix
Back in Berlin. Billiards with Beuys. I need my
billiards fix.  I havent played in two weeks. He
asks about Paris. Paris was great. But I could
never live there. I have thought about this.  I
am not the expatriate type. I am too German.
Beuys is the same.  He loves Spain.  But he
is too German.

My game is improving. Now he only spots me
25 balls. My goal is to one day beat him even
up. We plays for 3 hours and go for coffee.

He fills me in. There was a book burning. A
book burning? True story. When was the last
time a country burned books?

There is some sort of Nazi student group that
calls itself____________that organized this
function. But it is clearly Goebbels who is
behind this. It occurred in front of the
University--always a good place to burn books.
The books were by various Jewish or Marxist or
other marginal types they have a beef with  
real or imagined. With some of these people
they are wasting their time. The books are
unreadable to begin with.

I wonder what the Nazis would make of Henry

I said to Beuys: next it will be paintings. We will
have to start spraying the canvas with asbestos.

Beuys says: first you burn books--then people.

This is true.  Now I am laughing. I am thinking
of Beuys  with those fat sculptures!

He says: whats so funny?

I was thinking of your fat sculptures! What a
fire those babies would make!

I am laughing like a hyena.

Yesterday the Olympics began.

This is exciting. I have been  looking forward to
this event. And the feeling is contagious.
Everyone has Olympic fever. There is a lively
buzz to the city. The mood is festive.  Its a little
like Christmas. Everyone is on their good
behaviour.  They are a little more conscious of
the need to demonstrate some decent
manners. In two weeks it will all be over and
they will revert to their naturally  repulsive
ways. But for now at least we can enjoy the

Mother Ey is here for the games. She has an
idea for a show with an Olympic theme. I like
this idea. Sports has always been a popular
theme in the arts. I have always said that a
great athlete is an artist. And the reason is this:
he does it for the pleasure of the doing. Also: it
gives pleasure to others. In New York We saw a
great fight painting by George Bellows--a

This year they have added a new event  the
triple jump. Who dreams up these ideas? This is
a dumb event. You run for 20 meters, then hop
on one leg for 20 meters--like an ostrich--and
the climax is to launch yourself into space like a
kangaroo. The athletes look like Charlie Chaplin
performing this event. There is no element of
grace here.

They could have intstalled my idea:  the giant
stair climb. This is the event that has
everything. Its a test of speed,  endurance,
psychology.  There is strategy, There is danger.
There is a strong visual element. It functions as
a piece of sculpture. It would make a brilliant
symbol for the games. Its  a basic "A" shape
structure 300 feet high  maybe 400 ft.  You go
up one side and down the other. There are 800
or 900 steps. There would be variations  here  
in the height of riser and depth of tread. This
would alter the rhythms of the climb and add
another dimension to the event. You could
easily lose your concentration and sense of
balance and take a tumble. Its a narrow
apparatus and there there are no handrails.
One mis step and over you go on the side and
take this horrible plunge to your death. I love
this idea.

I should work up a proposal. The Nazis are
always impressed by scale.

We have a house guest for the games  Vera.
She has cousins participating in the games.
Members of the Italian team.  One swims, the
other is an equestrian. She looks good. She
always looks good.

Billy Wilder is in town. He is here to scout the
games. He is toying with the idea of doing a
film. Two people meet while throwing the
javelin, etc.

Mostly he goes to parties. The top Nazi brass
are dueling with each other to see who can
throw the most conspicuous party. The major
hosts are Goring, Goebbels and Ribbontrop.
These are intimate affairs of 1500 people. 2000
showed up at the Goebbels party. This occurred
at his country estate--the island in the
Wannsee district. The island was festooned with
lanterns and guest were ferried over on
gondolas.  There were three orchestras. Most of
the guests were film people. There was pussy,
pussy, pussy. Billy was there. He says: you
have to give these socialists credit. They know
how to live.

By the way  who is paying for all this? The
same person who always pays: the German
working stiff.  The German working stiff will be
glad to know that everyone is having a good

Billy had a brief chat with Goebbels. This is a
conversation I would have enjoyed hearing.  
With some of the Nazis the anti-Semitism is
largely a front. Its there for the benefit of
Hitler. This isnt the case with Goebbels. He is
rabid on this subject. His latest scheme  is to
round them all up and ship them off to
Madagascar  an island off the east African coast.

But the Nazis are on their good behavior for two
weeks. There is an intense public relations
campaign due to all the foreign press on hand.
All signs of anti/semitism have disappeared.
Several Jews have even been installed on the
German team.

Gorings affair was on a smaller scale  only
1500. Billy was at this one as well.  Goring was
in form. Goring is always in form. The only time
he isnt in form is when he is getting his ass
shredded by Hitler.

Goring is like Henry Miller: he enjoys life.  He is
his own best friend.

Billy attended this function also. He is intrigued
by Goring.  He wants to do a film. For the same
reason I want to paint him. There is no need to
dramatize or exaggerate. Everything is already

Goring and Goebbels are like night and day.
They share one thing in common: a taste for
fancy living.

We decided to give a party of our own.  We
dont have a mark  but you can always throw a
party. There was Felix, Billy, Beuys, Mother Ey,
Hans and Eva, Vera, Al Speer and Marguerite,
my parents, and assorted friends and family

Billy Wilder brought a woman named Leni
Reifenstahl. Leni R is a director.  She is doing a
film on the Olympics.  She is tight with Hitler.
There is a rumor that she was involved with
Hitler at some point. Maybe we can finally nail
down the one testicle story  and  the neice
peeing on his face.

The party was a success. There was music,
food, dancing. Martha is a good hostess. Her
secret is to make sure she enjoys herself. She
is like Goring. She is her own best friend. She
gets everyone organized and then they are on
their own.

I made an announcement: no politics. This is
easier said than done. These are Germans. Its
like asking a crab not to talk about pubic hair.

But we managed to avoid violence.

The one moment of vile behavior that occured
was due to yours truly. I put a move on Vera.
It was entirely due to alcohol.

It happened in this way.  The party was going
full blast and I was dancing with Vera and I got
a hard on. I cornered her in the hall outside my
daughters bedroom and I had one arm around
her waist and my dick was hard, hard, hard and
I looked into this face and feeling of
helplessness  or hopelessness  occurred and I
tried a kiss which she neatly ducked and she
said: no, Otto.

She either said: no, Otto or Otto,  no.

The Olympics continue.

I have been to several events. I like the
strength events. I like watching big people
perform amazing feats of strength  the
weightlifters, the shot put, the hammer throw,
the tug of war. I also like the javelin toss and
the discus  and the fights.

My mother liked the fights. This was a sensitive
soul without a violent bone in her body. Yet
there was something about a couple of goons
thrashing each other to a bloody lump that
served to transform this saintly woman into a
howling animal.

My favorite event is weightlifting  especially the
superheavies.I am fascinated by this sport. My
theory is that it is 90% psychological. You can
see it in their face. They stand there looking
down at this barbell with two or three hundred
kilos of iron  in the form of these massive discs
attatched to either end. An interior dialogue
seems to be occurring that goes something
like: I cant lift this motherfucker.  There is no

You can lift this motherfucker!

I cant!

You can!

There was an article in the paper that described
a typical meal for one of these men  the
Russian Vorchikov.  He is the current worlds
champ in the super heavy division.  He weighs
205 kilos.  12,000 calories a day are required
by this man to overcome malnutrition.

This is his diet: Breakfast: 12 eggs, two
chickens, 3 quarts of orange juice. Mid morning
snack: spaghetti and meatballs.

Lunch: fried ham, steak, vegetable stew.

Mid afternoon snack: burritos, pies and ice

Dinner: Spare ribs,  lobster, a rice and bean

Mid evening snack: 2 cakes

Maybe I will do a painting of this man.  I have a
photograph of him setting the world record.

Billy and I go for lunch.

Billy looks good.  He has made the jump to
directing. His lovelife is the same.  He got
married and divorced. Now he has a
housekeeper. He says this is the answer. Its
paradise. He gets along so well with this
woman. She is a latina  from El Salvador.
She mothers him.  But she doesnt nag. This is
the difference. There are no arguments. She
knows what needs to be done and she does it.

We have lunch and shoot some pool. I whip out
my cue. He gives me a narrow look.

He says: you have your own cue?

Thats right.

We play a few games. I kick his ass.  Its a
slaughter.  I am merciless. An hour of this is
enough. Billy is a poor loser. He is ready to
blow an  artery.

He says: lets take a walk

We walk.

He says: this is what I miss. Walking. City life.
People on the street going into and out of stores
on foot.  You cant do this in Los Angeles. All you
do is drive. You live in your car. You drive,
drive, drive.

I remember.

I asked if he missed Germany.

I dont miss getting my ass kicked.  And now I
would be getting it kicked twice as hard--for a
being a Jew  and a writer.

We are in the Friedrechstrasse district. I am
curious about something  the whore house of
Frau Weber. We  walk along  the
Friedrechstrasse. The house is still there. But
Frau Weber  and her girls are not. The building
is a medical clinic. The Nazis have been
cracking down on prostitution.

Billy says: They are judicious in their choice of
enemies: Jews, writers and whores.

The games are over.

I am sorry to see this. Everyone is sorry. It was
an uplifting event. Hitler is a little glum. His
master race theory took a few blows.  The
German team performed less heroically than
predicted. They won 7 medals  4 gold.  The
hated Americans--esp the hated American
schvarzes--did well. They won 14 medals  7

Billy Wilder is gone. Vera has returned to
Frankfurt. We had some laffs. Now its back to

Reality occurred in the form of the Entartete Kunst
show installed by the Nazis in Munich in 1937.
Entartete Kunst is typically translated into English as
Degenerate Art. But this is not too  exact. In German
the word derives from biology. It applies  to a plant or
animal that has so altered or mutated from its genetic
design that it establishes itself as a different species.

There were two shows occurring in Munich at this
time: the Entartete Kunst  show and a more elaborate
project  "Art of the  German People"  organized to
celebrate the inauguration of a new  museum  the
House of German Art.  This was a project inspired by
Hitler himself. He had laid the cornerstone for the
building. The architect was Paul Troost --a colleague
of Tessenow who was Albert Speers professor.

It was Goebbels idea to kick off both shows at the
same time in the same city  and on the same street  
the one building across from the other. The idea was
to more conveniently  hammer into the collective
German skull a particular kind of art acceptable to the
Regime  and of another particular kind that was not so
acceptable.  it was not only less acceptable  it could
be viewed as treason.

The works for both shows were selected by Adolph
Zeilgler--Hitlers art stooge--recently installed in the
post of chief of the Reich Chamber of Visual Arts.

The Degenerate Art  show was kicked off via a
rousing speech by Adolph Zeigler in which the
following remarks were delivered:

"It is not the mission of art to wallow in filth for     filths
sake, to paint the human being only in a state of
putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of
motherhood or to represent deformed idiots as
representatives of manly strength."

For some of the artists under attack here this signaled
the end--a final insult to drive the last nail in the coffin
of German Expressionist art.

Beckmann fled to Holland and never returned to
Germany. Meidner went to Holland and then England.
Kokoshka went to Prague. Kirchner,  a tortured soul
with a precarious grip on reality even when his
paintings were selling,  waited two years and
committed suicide.

Of those that remained a few were singled out by the
Nazis for  punitive measures.  Nolde and Dix found
themselves both included here. Nolde  was forbidden
to paint. Dix was told he could paint but landscapes
only. No portraits. He said at this time: the
painting of landscapes is already a form of exile.

I am in Munich.

I want to see this Degenerate Art Show in
which I play a featured role. Martha is in Berlin.
She failed to see the point of this trip. It can
only serve to enrage me further. Maybe she is
right. She is definitely right.  But here I am.

This show is attracting a lot of attention  much
more than the Art of the German People exhibit
across the street  curated by Hitler.  What a
piece of garbage this show is.  If Hitler
ever tires of political life there is a career
waiting for him as a writer of romance novels.
His  taste in art reveals him as the peasant he
is. Everything must be heroic, grand, masterful,

But this Degenerate Art show is getting a lot of
ink. Its either the notoriety  or maybe people
just find the work more interesting.

The venue for this show is an old cosmetics
factory. This is a fine space.  Its big, open,
flooded with light. The light is gorgeous.

A huge banner has been draped across the front
to signify the exhibit. Its similar in design to the
posters that have been slapped up all over the
city to advertise the show. It features the same
drawing  of this cretinous head with the flat
modeling and primitive features of a mask. Its
all nose and lips.  The nose is a zucchini, the lips
are like meat. Actually its not a bad drawing.  It
has energy.  Its either a Jew or Negro  or
combination of both.

The point being made is crude. Its crude, dull,
obvious. But this is the Nazi style--the style of
the gutter.  The appeal is always to the mob.  

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity.
But this could be an exception. I fail to see  a
way of capitalizing on this event. I cannot get a
teaching job and now there is a rumor we may
even be forbidden paint.

I enter.

The exhibit begins with a piece of sculpture--a
crucifixion. If you are a sculptor you have to do
a crucifixion.

The sculptor is Barlach.  I have heard of this
man but I have never seen this  piece.

The material is wood. The greatest crucifixion is
the Grunevald painting in the Ristoven in
Amsterdam. But this Barlach isnt bad.  Its
powerful work.  There is suffering here.

He has drawn the legs up in a particular way
that produces an intense dynamic.  The figure
seems to be ready to pounce on the viewer  or
jump away from. He has hacked the ribs out in
a brutal way that suggest heavy ropes wound
up about the trunk of the figure. There is a
crushing effect. Also the fingers  spread  in a
broken, tortured way to intensify the agony.

Its a brilliant work.

My question is this: what is the beef here?
Hitler has been having some well publicized
problems with the church that he has made
serious efforts to straighten out. Yet here he
chooses to humiliate and vilify a man of strong
religious convictions.

Here is more sculpture.  A large female nude of
Lembruch. Ive seen this piece. Its a beautiful
piece. The woman is kneeling I have the same
question  which is: what is the problem here? I
fail to see anything but a beautiful woman in a
beautiful pose sculpted in a beautiful way.

There is also this: Lembruck is dead. He died in
1922--15years ago. But  this doesnt exempt
him.  They hound even the dead.

On to the paintings.

The paintings have been hung in a particular
way  in the most insulting way possible.  They
are too high or too low.  They are badly lit.
They are crowded together or crooked this and
that way.

Scrawled upon the walls in a crude way  graffiti
style   are a collection of cracks and vicious
remarks intended to vilify and debase the work  
in case anyone fails to get the point.

In this way Corinth is labeled an art dwarf,
Meidner is an artistic mutant and yours truly is
a cultural mongoloid.

Kirchener is a pimp. Poor K. I met him once.  
He had just been released from the sanitarium.
He had a nervous breakdown. He is the
nervous breakdown type. He showed me a
drawing done under the influence of Morphine.
It was 4000 lines going in different directions.

He said: what do you think

I said: its 4000 lines going in different directions

Here is a woodcut by Felixmuller  of a child
taking its first steps being guided by the
mother.  I remember this piece. The only word
for it is charming. It is  charming, it is sweet, it
is beautiful. Its as subversive as a flower.

Here is an Otto Dix.

Here is another.  There are six Dix.  This man
has problems. I agree. He is a twisted human
being.  But they are only paintings. Plus  I paint
what I see.  If a I see a man who looks like a
frog--in Herr Kranskes case, for example  the
venetian blind distribution King  then this is
what I paint  a frog. Herr Krankse didnt object.
He liked the painting (the wife hated the

No. The point is this: this is my work. Its what I
do.  You take away the work and there is
nothing.  Its a form of murder.

Also I fought in the war. I spent 4 years living
in a hole in the ground dodging mortars and
suffering a chronic case of the shits--no toilet
paper.  Now they are telling me that via my
work I have in some way betrayed my country.

Beuys said it the other day:  now we are all
the acrobat
by max beckmann
by lovis corinth
by the shore
ernst kirchner
the art dealer
by otto dix
billy wilder
*installment 15: the olympics and the
degenerate art show
the critic max hermann-neisse
by ludwig meidner
next month: war