The Nazi Party leadership's interest in art arose early on, and art confiscations began by 1938. The Nazis wanted to rid Germany of art created during the Weimar Republic, the period of 1924-1930, when Germany was a leading European cultural center, especially in the fields of art, cinema, and literature. Weimar decadence aroused Nazi anger, and Hitler began closing art schools in 1933. Soon after their rise to power in 1933, the Nazis purged so-called “degenerate art” from German public institutions. Artworks deemed degenerate by the Nazis included modern French and German artists in the areas of cubism, expressionism, and impressionism. Approximately sixteen thousand pieces were removed, and by 1938 the Nazi Party declared that all German art museums were purified. State-sponsored exhibitions of this art followed the Nazi purges, clarifying to Germans which types of modern art were now unacceptable in the new German Reich. Soon after, an auction of 126 degenerate artworks took place in 1939 at the Fischer Gallerie in Lucerne, Switzerland, in order to increase revenues for the party. The auctioned paintings by modern masters, many previously purged from German public institutions, included works by van Gogh and Matisse. Hitler wanted new cultural and artistic creativity to arise in Germany, with the “folk-related” and “race-conscious” arts of Nazi culture replacing what he called the “Jewish decadence” of the Weimar Republic. According to the Nazis, acceptable and desirable art included Old Flemish and Dutch masters; medieval and Renaissance German art-works; Italian Renaissance and baroque pieces; eighteenth-century French artworks; and nineteenth-century German realist painters depicting the German Volk culture. Art looting that had begun on an ideological basis became an organized government policy. For Nazi officers seeking social status and promotion within the party, collecting and giving art confirmed one's dedication to promoting Nazi racial ideologies in the Reich. It was a way to emulate Hitler and Goring. Yet some top Nazis deviated from this model. For example, Joseph Goebbles, Reich minister for propaganda, collected artworks by German expressionists, and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop acquired impressionist paintings by Manet. The first official rounds of Nazi confiscations began in Austria after the 1938 Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into the German Reich. Art confiscations in Poland began in 1939. Shortly thereafter, Nazi bureaucratic agencies were established in the newly occupied territories and charged with confiscating art. For example, the collections of Vienna's prominent Jewish families were the first to be taken by the Nazis, and Jews who did not plan to leave “Greater German” were required to register their personal property with the local police. Artworks soon paid for exit visas and taxes. Many who were persecuted by the Nazis or who were political opponents did attempt to flee Germany in the mid 1930s. When the Nazis banned the exportation of paper money, wealthy emigres began to turn their investments into art. Because the Nazis lacked a useable foreign currency, artworks were often used as an alternative to money. Art, thus, became cash for black marketers, Nazis and non-Nazis, and for victims of Nazism who used it as a safe liquid asset.