On Wednesday, March 1, Scripps Associated Students (SAS) joined Statue Action Group in calling for the removal of a sculpture by Georg Kolbe in Tiernan Field House (TFH), Scripps College’s health and wellness center, because of the artist’s Nazi ties.
Georg Kolbe (1877-1947) was a German artist whose work was admired by the likes of Adolf Hitler and other Nazis. Nazi appreciation of Kolbe’s work landed him on the Gottbegnadeten list, which named Germany’s “top artists” representing Aryan ideals during WWII.
Due to the artist’s Nazi affiliations, student and faculty organizers wrote a letter to Scripps president Suzanne Keen that formally requested for the Scripps administration to remove this statue from public view.
Lily Dunkin SC ’24 and Scripps ceramics professor Jasmine Baetz wrote the letter in collaboration with support from affinity group leaders, SAS representatives and Tiernan employees. The letter has garnered 215 signatures from students, alumni, faculty and parents, including signatures from Scripps affinity groups and student leaders.
Aviva Maxon SC ’24, president of Kehillah, Scripps’ Jewish affinity group, hopes that the letter may inspire a larger conversation between students and administration about more effectively caring for the Scripps community.
“I think that this is an opportunity for [administration] to listen to students and do something good. That being said, the struggle we are in mirrors those of the last 90 years of Scripps,” Maxon said to TSL via email. “I am hopeful that admin will listen to us and see the value of student-led change in making our campus better.”
Although Kolbe’s sculpture at Scripps of a slender nude woman is named “Young Woman” and is said to have been created in 1925, SAS discovered an identical sculpture by Kolbe named “Lauschende.” This sculpture was included in the Third Reich’s 1942 Great German Art Exhibition, where art symbolizing Nazi culture was sold.
“I would like the college to be more aware and thoughtful in the art that is bought and displayed around campus,” Maxon said. “In an even bigger sense, I would like the college to take substantial steps towards making campus a safe and welcoming environment for Jewish students.”
Students like Dunkin and Arianne Ohara PZ ’25 have called attention to Kolbe’s controversial history and demanded that the statue be taken down.
“So much harm has been caused by this sculpture and it’s so representative of anti-semitism throughout history,” Dunkin said. “It’s also I think really emblematic of the toxic white femininity that we have on Scripps campus.”
Many students’ hopes for action extend beyond removing the statue. Dunkin explained that Scripps administration must acknowledge the harm it has caused and commit to not making any money off of the sculpture following its removal.
She added that the Scripps community must take generative action and replace the statue with a piece of art that directly addresses the harm caused by “Young Woman.”
“I really hope that the students that have been affected by this, the Jewish students on campus, the Black students on campus, the queer students on campus [and] anyone who’s had any sort of negative visceral reaction to the sculpture, I hope that they’re able to find closure,” Dunkin said. “I hope that we, as a school, represent them in a way that we’re proud of.”
Wolfgang Brauneis, a German art historian, will share more information on Kolbe’s and other similar artists’ work in a presentation on April 5 in the Hampton Room at Scripps.
Scripps’ Office of the President did not respond to an immediate request for comment.