Errol Morrisâs fascinating, rambling seven-part New York Times essay on the Nazi-era art forger Hans van Meegeren has wrapped up, but it has given birth to a postscript that is fascinating (and rambling) in its own right. Van Meederen was a Dutchman whose Vermeer forgeries made him a wealthy man âin the atmosphere of crooked dealings and deception of Amsterdam after the invasionâ by Germany, Morris wrote. The con artist even sold a painting to Hermann GĂ¶ring, and for this he was arrested as a collaborator after the warâto which he replied that he was a forger, and had fooled a Nazi war criminal.
Morrisâ postscript, like the earlier installations of his essay, uses all this as a jumping off point to ponder questions of authenticity (could a robot produce a Vermeer?) and aesthetics (what would the canon of important art look like if the Nazis had won the war?). But then it moves, as though inexorably, from these thoughts on art, to questions of Nazi collaboration, and finally to Morrisâs own representation throughout his essay of the Holocaust in the Netherlandsâwhich was the subject, he writes, of many of the 700-odd comments he received. Like some corollary to Godwinâs Law, it seems that, however far-reaching the subject matter, the Holocaust dominates the topics around it. In a postscript to the postscript, Morris acknowledges this himself, quoting something his wife once observed in a different context: âHitler is not a spice. When you put Hitler in the soup. It becomes Hitler-soup.â
Bamboozling Ourselves [NYT]