WHY AN ARTICLE ON NAZI ART? The 1985 German art exhibition at the Royal Academy, London [German Art of the Twentieth Century: Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985] excluded Nazi material because its existence proved an embarrassment to the organisers simplistic thesis that the essence of Germanic culture was the good style of Expressionism. (The Nazis, presumably, were not Germans!) As a result of the Academy's presentation, Emil Nolde emerged as one of modern art's heroic victims of Nazi persecution, this in spite of the fact that he was an anti-Semite and card-carrying member of the Nazi party! History is much more complex than the Royal Academy is willing to recognize. There is nothing exceptional in the Academy's mental gymnastics. Virtually every history of twentieth century art ignores the visual artefacts of the Nazi period. Exclusion is justified on the grounds that (a) Nazi material culture is not art; (b) or, if it is art, it is bad art or kitsch, or propaganda. (The assumption is that propaganda and art are mutually exclusive categories.) This is in spite of the fact that these emblems and images appealed to millions of Germans (hence, they must have had some visual power) and the fact that this material still continues to fascinate many people including Pop musicians [such as Bryan Ferry], film-makers,

fashion designers, etc. (as the title of Susan Sontag's famous essay Fascinating Fascism [1974] indicates). See also the article on Nazi chic

Fascinating fascism - Advert for film Salon Kitty (1976). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------If art history is to be taken seriously as a historical discipline, then it cannot simply omit such an important epoch from its survey exhibitions and books. Nor can it be considered a mature discipline unless it is willing to discuss those expressions of human culture which it finds alien or distasteful. The terrible fact to be confronted about the Nazis is that they were human beings. Another reason for studying Nazi art critically is the resurgence of fascist and racist attitudes and behaviour in Europe. British racist propaganda and hate mail

uses the same kind of vile caricatures as did the Nazis. Knowledge of Nazi ideas is thus important in educating people about the dangers of racism. Another valuable lesson to be gleaned from the study of Nazi art, is that art is not necessarily a good in itself - everything depends upon questions such as Good for whom? Serving whose interests? Serving what purpose?

Neo-Nazi activities in North London, late 1970s. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In 1937 two exhibitions of art were held in Munich: firstly, an exhibition of officially approved German art which glorified the ideals of National Socialism and

secondly, an exhibition of so-called degenerate art which exemplified everything the National Socialists detested. The two Munich exhibitions represented the yes and no of art in Nazi Germany. I shall return to these two exhibitions towards the end of this article but before then I hope to demonstrate the way in which art that is, painting, sculpture, architecture, films, cartoons, symbols, all media were subject to the dominant ideology of National Socialism, hence the title of this article - TOTAL KULTUR. Behind the surface appearance of every artwork is a set of ideas, assumptions and values. We cannot understand an artwork unless we are familiar with that set of ideas. To fully understand the meaning of the art produced in Germany in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s it is necessary to examine the doctrines of National Socialism. These doctrines can be called ideology in that they were a false picture of the real conditions of existence; however, an ideology can be false but still possess coherence, it can still possess a logical structure. And we shall find that once a person accepted, uncritically, the initial premises of National Socialism - which in fact were few in number, then the extermination of millions of Jews and others which may now seem a lunatic or arbitrary act - becomes a perfectly logical and rational conclusion to Nazi policy.

RACIAL THEORIES At the centre of National Socialism were racial ideas. Their doctrine can be summed up by the equation: BLOOD = RACE = PEOPLE + LAND = GERMANY. The point of departure of National Socialist doctrine does not lie in the state but in the

Volk (that is, folk or people) ..... the German Volk. The community of people, sustained by a community of will and a community consciousness of honour of the racially homogenous German people, constitutes political unity. This community is not only spiritual but real. The real bond is the common blood. The community of blood creates Volkish-political unity of the thrust of the will against the surrounding world ..... Its end is the preservation and promotion of a community of living beings who are physically and psychologically alike. This preservation is first and foremost concerned with racial stock and thereby permits the free development of all the energies dormant in this race. (Hitler) Note the emphasis on community. The Nazis claimed to end the class divisions of society and the cultural divisions (such as that between intellectuals and the people). However, the Nazis did not believe that the different races of mankind were equal, on the contrary, they believed that there were superior and inferior races and that Nature supported the victory of the stronger over the weaker. Also, they believed that interbreeding between the races produced a pollution of racial purity (they cited the spurious example that in the animal kingdom different species do not interbreed). One of the world's superior races was the Aryan: In this world human culture and civilization are inseparably bound up with the existence of the Aryan. His dying off or his decline would again lower upon this earth the dark veils of a time without culture. (Hitler) Thus, the ultimate value for the Nazis was their belief in culture, the culture of their race was set above that of all other races. All the horrors of their regime were committed in the name of culture. Some races were denied any

culture at all: The Jewish people ..... is without any true culture.

HOW DO YOU RECOGNISE AN ARYAN? Hans Günter, a racial theorist serving the Nazis, explained how one could recognise an Aryan: If an illustrator, painter or sculptor wants to represent the image of a bold, goal-determined, resolute person, or of a noble superior and heroic human being, man or woman, he will in most cases create an image which more or less approximates the image of the Nordic race. Actually, one could conceivably designate willpower, a definite faculty of judgement rooted in a coolly deliberating sense of reality, the impulse to truthfulness, an inclination to knightly justice, as the repeatedly striking physical features of Nordic men. Such features can be intensified in individuals within the Nordic race to a pronouncedly heroic disposition, to a transcendent leadership in statesmanship or creativity in technology, science and art.

The Aryan ideal - sculptures by Arno Breker

The Aryan reality - Goering with Hitler --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------What really matters in the portrayal of the naked human form and the Nordic racial type is the manifestation - the exposure in the true sense - of an animate beauty, the discovering and fashioning of an elemental, godlike humanity. Only then does it become an effective means of educating our nation in moral strength, folkish greatness and, last but not least, resurrected racial beauty. (Das Schwarze Korps)

Josef Thorak at work in his studio. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In the sculptures of male nudes by such artists as Arno Breker and Josef Thorak the Aryan ideal is embodied: muscle bound superheroes based on classical carvings. In the image from the New Volk Calender of 1938 showing a man, woman and child the ideal Aryan family is depicted. Racial theorists gave precise specifications as to the facial features and body shapes of these figures, even though the actual leaders of the German Volk did not resemble these ideal types in any way. However, it was intended that these types would be developed by selective breeding.

Arno Breker, The Army, 1939. Bronze outside the new Reich Chancellery, Berlin ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Breker was born in 1900 and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf. He worked in Paris from 1925 to 1933. In 1938 he produced designs for the heroic statuary for Albert Speer's new Reich Chancellery building in Berlin. After the war he was put on trial as a Nazi collaborator and fined about £12. In 1971 he was visited by reporters from the Sunday Times. They found that he lived in a large house set in a quarter of an acre of ground with its own swimming pool. Breker was unrepentant about the years he spent serving the Nazis and apparently made a

good living producing statuary for patrons such as the King of Morocco. Besides his noble nudes, Breker has produced a series of bronze portrait heads of artist friends Maillol, Cocteau, Ezra Pound - which are more realistic and indebted to the work of Rodin.

MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ARTIST Albert Speer, in his autobiography Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970), is frank about why he served Hitler: During the twenty years I spent in Spandau prison I often asked myself what would I have done if I had recognized Hitler's real face and the true nature of the regime he had established. The answer was banal and dispiriting: my position as Hitler's architect had soon become indispensable to me. Not yet thirty, I saw before me the most exciting prospects an architect can dream of .... I felt myself to be Hitler's architect. Political events did not concern me. My job was merely to provide impressive backdrops for such events. Speer also describes the way in which the Nazi state was organised so that compartmentalism, specialisation and blind obedience to orders prevented anyone, apart from Hitler, having an overall picture of events. Nevertheless, not all artists complied with the Nazi regime. During the Nazis rise to power artists such as Grosz, Dix and Heartfield criticised them but after 1933, the year in which the Nazis took power in Germany, artists opposing the regime had to emigrate, to commit suicide or to undertake an inner emigration. In 1941 the popular film actor Joachim Gottschalk, who was married to a Jewess

and had a daughter, killed both himself, wife and child, rather than obey the Gestapo's orders that his wife must leave him and be sent to the concentration camps in thc East. This incident caused something of a scandal in Berlin.

WOMEN So far we have been looking primarily at male figures. What was the ideal Aryan woman? The Nazi attitude towards women was that of the mid-nineteenth century bourgeoise: man the master, woman's place was in the home caring for the children. Women's emancipation was disapproved of and the Nazis disliked intelligent women. career women and politically active women. Blond hair and blue eyes were characteristics looked upon with favour. Simplicity was preferred cosmetics and fashion were frowned upon - but some degree of prettiness and beauty care was expected.

Arno Breker sculpture of ideal Ayran woman being admired by actor Gustav Stuhrk ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In 1938 the Honour cross of the German mother was instituted: the most important service a woman in Nazi Germany could perform was bearing children (seven was mentioned as a good number); sons were preferred so that they could become soldiers. The German woman was expected to be as healthy and fit as her men folk, so consequently, great stress was laid on rhythmics, gymnastics and sport. Entry to the professions was restricted: there was a quota system so that female students at university did not exceed 10% of the student population. Although paintings depicting women show that they were revered, they seem to be placed on a pedestal to be admired voyeuristically, to be judged as in a beauty competition. The reverse side of this coin is that the full potential of women was suppressed in Nazi Germany except in the rare instance of Leni Riefenstahl, the film maker. Amongst the academic-style painters who specialised in idealised portrayals of women were Ivo Saliger and Adolf Ziegler. The latter's skill at capturing detail earned him the nickname ‘Master of the pubic hair’. His painting of the allegorical subject The Four Elements (fire, water, earth, air) was a favourite work of Hitler's and occupied a place of honour over Hitler's mantelpiece.

It is interesting to note that in Nazi painting the emphasis was on representational similitude (no abstract art was possible, nor even figurative art in which painterly technique was foregrounded; the painters always used art to disguise art, that is to hide the means of production). Subject matter was similarly safe and generally optimistic in character. That is to say, artists were not permitted to citicise the regime or to point out any of its problems. (If one so much as repeated an atrocity story one quickly found oneself the victim of an atrocity.) When we look at paintings we must consider not only what they include but also what they leave out, and it is precisely the dark underbelly of Nazi Germany which is repressed in Nazi art. Despite the ideal of woman as a paragon of purity and the womb of the racial resurrection, an erotic, near pornographic element appeared in many depictions of female nudes. See for example, Paul Padua's Leda and the Swan. (Note also the popularity of classical themes in Nazi painting.)

Paul Padua, Leda and the Swan. ------------------------------------------------------------------------The Nazi leadership argued that they were not puritans and had nothing to do with old fashioned morality; several of them were womanisers; Hitler thought the soldiers back from the filth of the Russian front needed to forget that experience by imbibing in female beauty.

OLYMPIA AND THE CULT OF PHYSICAL FITNESS The film Olympia was released in 1938 in two parts each lasting two hours. It was a documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Leni Riefenstahl. This film glorified Ancient Greece, Greek architecture, and the beauty of the nude body. It recorded Hitler's presence at the games and the whole occasion was a propaganda opportunity for the Nazis. Hitler was upset by the victories of the black American athlete - Jessie Owens - and argued that such primitive races should be excluded from future games because they represented unfair competition. Although the Nazis claimed that Olympia was not an official propaganda film, as one critic wrote: it was outspokenly fascistic in character ..... it celebrates sport as an heroic, superhuman feat, a kind of ritual. The narration resounds with the words like fight and conquest. It establishes the ideals of strength, beauty, hygiene, fittest of the

species, the need for endurance and the will to win which were to be demanded of the whole German nation a few years later. Nazism was anti-intellectual; original, independent thought was not encouraged whereas physical education was because .... Physical education is education in community. By demanding obedience, coordination, chivalrous conduct, a comradely and manly spirit from lads in the classroom, in the section and in the squad, without regard to person, it trains them in the virtues which constitute the foundation of the Volk community ... Physical education develops and forms the body and soul, as the carriers of racial heritage, through physical exercises rooted in Volkdom. To purify and strengthen the Aryan race the Nazis encouraged physical education and planned to introduce selective breeding; these were positive measures. There were also negative measures, that is, the removal of diseased progeny. The German people were mentally prepared for such developments by the film I Accuse (1941) directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner. The central character is a woman suffering from an incurable disease. She pleads with her husband to release her from further misery. He kills her and is accused of murder but is acquitted and, at the end of the film, he speaks out against the representatives of outmoded opinion and antiquated law. In other words, this film presented a favourable account of the practice of euthanasia in the guise of a debate on the subject. While in the film the woman requested her own death, in Nazi Germany the victims of the euthanasia programme had no say over their own fate: Between the outbreak of war and 24 August 1941 some one hundred thousand German men, women and children were killed by a group of doctors ..... under the direction of Dr Werner Heyde, professor of

neurology and psychiatry at the University of Wiirzburg. A variety of means were used, including lethal injections, starvation, carbon monoxide and Cyclon B gas. The selection was based on the law of 14 July 1933, designed to prevent the propogation of congenitally diseased progeny and on the law of 15 September 1935 for the protection of German blood and honour ..... The victims included certified alcholics, congenital criminals, inmates of lunatic asylums and incurables of all ages.

THE LAND AND THE PEASANTRY In the ideology of Nazism the land of Germany and the German peasantry occupied a special place of honour. The principal advocate of the selective breeding concept (on the analogy of animal husbandry) was Richard Walter Darré, an Argentinian who studied agronomy in Germany, became a Nazi, and in 1933 was appointed Germany's Minister of Agriculture. In his 1929 book The Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race, Darré forwarded the theory that the earliest German tribes could be divided into two types: settlers and nomads. It was the settlers who provided Europe with warriors and aristocrats via the peasantry, whereas the nomads were the source of other races, the Semitic, gypsies and tradesman, with no fixed roots, and since they were always mobile they had scant respect for property; hence, they fostered communism. In his second book, the race and the land were presented as the source of the best Nordic stock; this became known as the blood and soil doctrine. Emphasis on the peasantry and the countryside was accompanied by criticism of the cities: The metropolis is a dreadful thing. The metropolis is a confusion of old and new. The

metropolis is conflict, brutal conflict. Everything good should be left outside of big cities ..... Where urbanism meets the peasantry, the spirit of the peasantry is ruined ..... it is the cities which attract the nomads and foreigners, Jews and negroes, and this encourages interbreeding of races and causes the dreaded pollution of the purity of the Nordic bloodstream.

Oskar Martin-Amorbach, The Sower, (1937) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Set against the background of these theories it is difficult to see depictions of farmer's households and work on the land as entirely innocent, innocuous scenes. These works must also be seen as part of a programme for a nationalistic style of

art: Style comes from the people. It is our nature to love our native land. There can be no true culture that is international. True culture comes only from the maternal womb of a nation. (Professor Tessenow) There is an implicit criticism of modern art in this statement because internationalism was a key theme of modernism.

LEADER CULT So far we have considered the character of the Volk, but how was this community to be governed? In the early 1930s, intellectuals lecturing in universities were preparing the ground for the coming of a messiah: Someone will have to come along who thinks very simply. Thinking today has become too complicated. An uncultured man, a peasant as it were, would solve everything much more easily merely because he would still be unspoiled. He would also have strength to carry out his simple ideas. (Professor Tessenow ). The leader in his person united both state and V olk; he was the living embodiment of the ideology and, through the state, the executor of actions necessary to safeguard the innermost purpose of the race. (George L. Mosse, (ed) Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich, [London: W. H. Allen, 1966] page 319). The leader's power was not considered a tyranny because it rested on racial similarity between the leader and thc Volk. Hitler thought that he became dictator primarily through an act of will, and he was convinced of his mission: Above all, a man who feels it his duty at such an hour to assume the leadership of his people is neither responsible to the laws of parliamentary usage or to a particular democratic conception, but soley to the mission placed upon him. And anyone who interferes with

this mission is an enemy of the people. There was a romantic love-hate relationship between the leader and the led, in one of his speeches Hitler said to the assembled host: That you have found me and that you have believed in me, this is what has given your life a new meaning, a new task. That I have found you, this is what has made my life and my struggle possible. (Quoted in Ernst Nolte, Three Faces of Fascism, [NY: Mentor, 1965]), page 385.) At the same time there was a sadistic/ masochistic relationship between the leader and the led: .... what they (the masses) want is the victory of the stronger and the annihilation or unconditional surrender of the weaker..... Like a woman ..... who will submit to a strong man rather than dominate a weakling, thus the masses love the ruler rather than the suppliant..... give them liberal freedoms and they feel at a loss and deserted. (quoted in Erich Fromm, The Fear of Freedom, [London: Routledge, 1941], page 192) Goebbels, in his 1929 novel Michael, uses the analogy of the artist: the masses for the leader are ..... nothing more than stone is for the sculptor ..... that is, simply a material to be shaped.

HITLER Who was this leader? He was a failed artist called Adolf Hitler (1889-1945, born in Austria ) His father was a minor civil servant. Although his school record was poor Hitler aspired to be an artist. However, he was rejected by the Academy on the grounds that his drawing was not good enough. He was told that he should consider becoming an architect but was rejected once more in 1908 by the Academy because he lacked a school leaving certificate. In 1909-10 he lived in a doss house, sold the

odd watercolour and did low-level commercial art for local shops. Despite his poverty and unemployment he did not develop any sympathy for the working class. In 1914-18 war Hitler was a corporal who gained the iron cross for bravery. Hitler once explained to his generals that the hardest decision of his life had been the choice of a political career rather than an architectural career - but did he cease to be an architect? Was he not presented as the master builder of the German nation? Was it more exciting for an artist to work with flesh and blood rather than with stone? In any case, once he became dictator he could plan and build architecture on a scale which he could never have achieved as an architect working for others. The deciding factor in his choice, Hitler said, was his gift for public speaking, that is oratory, hence Hitler did not renounce art for politics, he placed the ancient art of rhetoric in the service of politics. (He had been impressed by a novel by Bernhard Kellerman called Der Tunnel (1913) [adapted for film in 1915 and 1933] in which an agitator rouses the masses with fiery speeches.) Hitler used to give his watercolours away as a sign of favour. He gave one to Speer whose judgement was ..... it is executed in an extremely precise, patient and pedantic style. No personal impulses can be felt in it; not a stroke of any verve. But it is not only the brush strokes that lack all character; by its choice of subject, the flat colours, the conventional perspective, the picture seems a candid witness to this early period of Hitler. All his watercolours from the same time have this quality, and even the watercolours done while he was an orderly in the first world war lack distinctiveness. (Albert Speer, page 174). From time to time Hitler's watercolours are bought and sold in the auction rooms of London and New York.

Hitler had to remain a bachelor and had to keep his mistress's existence a secret because his bride was the German people: at all marriages in the Third Reich a copy of Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf was presented to the happy couple.(This earned Hitler millions of Deutschmarks. ) For many years Speer idolised Hitler and thought of him as a hero of ancient myth who could undertake successfully the wildest undertakings; consequently, he had installed in the new Chancellery bas-reliefs portraying the legend of Hercules. Fritz Erler's 1939 painting The Leader embodies the cult of the leader. In it Hitler stands alone, slightly off centre, silhouetted against the darkness of a giant sculpture representing the new Germany - an archetypal Aryan holding an Imperial eagle in one hand and a sword in the other. Harold Rosenberg, the American art critic, has acidly described Hitler as part generalisimo, part apocalyptic chauffer. We, the audience who look at the picture, occupy the position of the worshipping

Volk. Hitler intimidates us with his steadfast gaze and severe expression, he dominates us because our eyelevel is situated at the level of his belt, like children we look up to our father. Like a god or vampire on earth his body casts no shadow. Blocks of stone and building implements at his feet signal his interest in architecture; furthermore, they indicate metaphorically, that he is the master builder of the German nation. The painting is thoroughly academic in conception, execution and style. As Harold

Rosenberg points out, the affinity between the academy and totalitarianism lies in a common wish to transcend the modern world.


The drive towards the purity of Aryan blood was dogged by the fear of contamination by foreign blood and foreign ideas which the Nazis believed would cause chaos ..... epochs of catastrophe (Alfred Rosenberg). The contamination which the Nazis abhorred above all was that of Jewish blood and they instituted a Reich citizenship law to exclude Jews from the German nation: Only he who is a racial comrade can be a citizen. Only one who is of German blood, no matter what his religious faith. Therefore no Jew can live in Germany only as a guest and is subject to special legislation for foreigners. (Walthar Buch declared, The Jew is not a human being. He is an appearance of putrescence. ) Once the Nazis seized power they introduced gradually, step by step, laws and pogroms designed to deprive Jews of their citizenship, their property, their synagogues, their freedom to work, to travel, to send their children to school, and finally, their lives. How did artists contribute to the persecution of the Jews? There were four major anti-Semitic films produced at the request of Goebbels the Minister of Propaganda. In Jew Suss (September 1940) directed by Veit Harlan (who claimed that he made the film under the threat that if he didn't he would be shot), the story concerns a real historical character of the 17th and 18th centuries who was a money lender and tax collecter for a German Duke; Suss was eventually hanged in 1738. The Nazi film was a travesty of the actual history: Suss was presented as a rapist and as a torturer besides being a money lender. The film was designed to generate the most intense feelings of outrage and hatred towards Jews. One report declared: The impact of the film on adolescents was enormous ..... in Vienna an old Jewish man was

trampled to death by a Hitler youth band which had just seen the film. It was no coincidence that three anti-Semitic films were premiered in 1940: they were part of the final solution of the Jewish question which was then beginning. Even after the war, Jew Suss continued to serve an anti-Semitic function: in the 1960s prints of it were shown in Arab countries as part of anti-Israeli propaganda.

Poster for The Eternal Jew (1940). ----------------------------------------------------------------------------Another film The Wandering Jew or The Eternal Jew, directed by Dr Fritz Hippler, which appeared in November 1940, has been described as the most evil film ever made. It purported to be a documentary and showed filthy ghettos followed by images of a crawling mass of black flies; the nomadic character of the Jews was equated visually with the movement of a milling army of rats. The Jewish religion was attacked by means of a sequence showing the slaughter of a cow in gory detail.

The terrible irony of this film is that the bestial conditions in which the Jews were filmed had been created by the Nazis themselves. Some scenes of Jews were so harrowing that they were deleted because the film-makers were affraid that sympathy concerning the plight of the Jews would be aroused. Goebbels ordered all units of the SS to see this film which was clearly intended to stiffen the resolve of the SS and to provide a justification for their extermination programmes. The SS prided themselves on their ability never to show pity for their victims.

Anti-Semitic caricatures abounded in Nazi Germany, especially in the pages of the vicious racist weekly newspaper Der Stürmer (1923-45) edited by Julius Streicher. Sinister caricatures also appeared in illustrated books aimed at children such as Do not Trust a Fox in a Green Pasture or Take the Word of a Jew, by Elvira Bauer (Nuremberg: Stürmer Verlag, 1936); it was reprinted seven times and sold 100,000

copies. In the illustration above three black-clothed Jews are compared to three black crows by means of a visual similie.

PROPAGANDA To be a leader means to be able to move masses ..... (Hitler). This ability includes a mastery of the techniques of propaganda. Two whole chapters of Mein Kampf were devoted to an exposition of the ground rules of mass persuasion: ..... appeal to the broad masses not to intellectuals - appeal to people's feelings not their reason - repeat the same idea over and over again - tell lies, the bigger the better - never hesitate never retreat - be fanatical, the more extreme the better, this frightens off weaklings and attracts the strong - use the spoken word rather than the written word for greater emotional impact - speak to audiences in the evening because they are more open to suggestion at this time of the day ..... One of the regime's major propaganda successes was the film Triumph of the Will directed by Leni Riefenstahl and commissioned by Hitler as a documentary record of the 1934 Nuremberg rally. This film was a celebration of the Fuhrer and his mission as the saviour of Germany.

USE OF THE PRESS In a secret speech to newspaper men in 1938 Hitler gloated about the way he had used articles in the German press to intimidate the leadership in Czechoslovakia and how he had been able to assess, on a day to day basis, the results of his propaganda via the Czech telephone conversations which were being tapped. As a result, Czechoslovakia fell into his hands without a war. Hitler exulted: ..... by

means of propaganda in the service of the idea, we have obtained ten million human beings with over 100,000 square kilometres of land. That is something magnificent. He went on to tell the press that they could only be powerful as an instrument of his leadership, never criticising or arguing with the leader, always highlighting the positive achievements of the regime rather than its negative features. In liberal, pluralistic societies the press was weak and held in contempt because the papers contradicted one another - this just caused the public to be confused.

Poster showing a radio dominating the masses, “The whole of Germany hears the Führer with the Volksempfänger.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------USE OF RADIO In 1933 a cheap, uniform radio set (Volksempfänger) was designed and by 1939 three and a half million sets had been sold. In 1939 seventy percent of German households contained a wireless - this was the highest percentage in the world at that time. Loudspeakers were introduced into the streets and into the factories; therefore, listening was often compulsory. Goebbels, who was appointed minister for propaganda in 1933, believed that broadcasting was more effective than newspapers because it was essentially authoritarian and therefore a suitable spiritual weapon of the totalitarian state. Marshall McLuhan argues that the radio revived the ancient experience of kinship webs of deep tribal involvement an almost instant reversal of individualism into collectivism. (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, [NY: McGraw Hill, 1964], page 324.) In 1933, fifty political speeches by Hitler were transmitted but they were not so effective as his rally speeches because Hitler missed the direct rapport with a live audience. Radio was used as a propaganda weapon more successfully when directed towards foreign countries.

SYMBOLS: THE EAGLE The combination of the Eagle with a swastika in an oak leaf garland constituted the official emblem of the Third Reich. The eagle is a bird of prey which has been used as a symbol of power and victory for centuries: it appeared on the standards of the Roman legions, it was the emblem of the Czars of Russia, Napoleon, Imperial

Germany, as well as the United States of America. Hitler was very rarely original in what he did, his talent lay in taking hold of existing stereotypes and endowing them with new meanings. In this case he took over the National emblem of Imperial Germany and linked it with the symbol of his party. The eagle was also chosen as the emblem of the Luftwaffe (naturally enough) and the painting called On Guard by M. N. Keiser (1940) shows two eagles guarding a rock surrounded by stormy seas (the Luftwaffe guarding the rock of Germany whilst surrounded by enemies on all sides. There is a phallic shaped rock on the right - the Fuhrer?)


The swastika, or Hakenkreuz (literally the hooked cross), was a symbol of crucial importance to National Socialism and it proved to be one of the most effective emblems in the history of the world. Again it was a symbol which Hitler took over:

it was already being used as a symbol for anti-Semitism by various racist groups in Austria and Germany. Hitler recognised that. .... an effective insignia can give the first stimulus towards interest in a movement for hundreds of thousands ..... therefore he commissioned designs for the swastika flag and selected one by Frederick Krohn, a dentist, who was an ex-member of the Thule society and who was writing a monograph on the swastika. The swastika - the word is sanskrit for good fortune and well being - is an ancient device which is to be found in numerous cultures including the Incas, Nordic, Trojan, Roman, Buddhist and even Jewish culture. According to Danish scholars it was the sign of the Nordic God of War Thor. The device has various connotations: a whirligig, a wheeling cross, the wheel of the sun (hence the cycle of life), the four winds, the supreme deity. In India the direction in which the hooks faced was significant: Clockwise = masculine, out towards the world; anti-clockwise = feminine, leading inwards towards the mind. The colours of the flag were not arbitrary. They were in fact the colours of Germany's national flag from 1867 to 1919. Again, Hitler incorporated the values of tradition into his new order. For Hitler the formal components of the flag had precise significations ..... As National Socialists, we see our programme in our flag. In red we see the social idea of movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan men, and, by the same token, the victory of creative work which as such always has been anti-Semitic ..... (quoted in Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, [Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1975], page 132). In his book on the mass psychology of fascism Wilhelm

Reich claims that the success of the swastika as a device was in part due to an unconscious symbolism - that is, the swastika is two interlocking figures; hence, an abstracted version of sexual intercourse. (Reich, page 135.) What the example of the swastika also illustrates is the fact that signs do not have meanings which are fixed for all time. The meaning of a sign can change according to the way in which it is used, meaning is in use. Hitler took a sign which stood for light and well-being and by his use of it turned it into a sign for cruelty, evil and darkness.

PARAMILITARY STYLE The use of flags, banners, uniforms and parades gave the Nazi regime an overall paramilitary style. While such a style is not enough in itself to indicate fascism, fascism was distinguished by the ability to transform this style typically and to make it the hallmark of the whole party and, ultimately, of the whole population. (Nolte, page 369-370).

Ranks of Nazi troops goose stepping.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Siegfried Kracauer wrote a famous essay on the phenomenon of ‘The Mass Ornament’ (originally published in 1927) in which the modern fondness for regimentation, repetition, pattern and synchronised movement is illustrated by the stage performances of the Tiller Girls (and later exemplified in films such as Triumph of the Will and the 1930s’ Hollywood musicals by Busby Berkeley) and explained it by reference to the influence of mechanisation and assembly lines in factories and offices, which in turn reflected the rationality of the capitalist economic system. (There is a shot in Triumph of the Will in which a line of goosestepping storm troopers wheels into view just like a line of high-kicking chorus girls.)


Once the Nazis had secured political control they could afford to reflect on the growth of the party and its early struggles. One of the earliest Nazi feature films Hitlerjunge Quex by Hans Steinhoff (1933) tells the story of a heroic boy Quex (Mercury), or Heini, whose parents are communists. Quex is attracted to the Hitler youth: their healthy outdoor activities, their order and discipline, their neat uniforms, their songs and banners. Eventually Quex becomes a Hitler youth and a

martyr when he is killed by communists whilst distributing leaflets in a red slum district of Berlin. This film represented the struggle for the German soul between National Socialism and Communism. In 1933, the battle was won by the Nazis: all communist opposition was suppressed and the SA established a series of torture chambers and prison camps which later were to become the extermination camps.

THE SA: STURM ABTEILUNG (STORM TROOPERS) This body of men were originally formed to act as a defence squad at Nazi meetings in the 1920s. The brown-shirted SA was composed of ex-soldiers, criminals, and the unemployed. Violence and terror were weapons which Hitler used quite self-consciously to defeat rival political factions and to attract new recruits. By 1934 the SA numbered over two million men but by that time the SA and its leadership had become an embarrassment to Hitler, especially the head of the SA (the notorious homosexual Ernst Rohm). So, in June 1934 the leadership of the SA - three to five thousand men - were murdered by the SS (Hitler's personal bodyguard) on Hitler's direct orders. Paintings by Elk Eber show the bandaged SA (indicating their battle scars) marching in the streets or getting themselves ready for action. Note the iron jaws, the firm set of the lips, the fearless determined gaze towards the task to be done (however unpleasant), and the clenched fists.

Elk Eber, So was the SA. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Below is a painting by Professor Ferdinand Staeger entitled Political Front Impressions of the Party’s day of Honour, Nuremberg, 1936 in which the SS and SA are depicted marching in tandom. This is one of the few Nazi paintings that demonstrates some degree of compositional originality and formal drama due to the low viewpoint - which, in fact, places the viewer in a shallow grave!

NUREMBERG RALLIES For loyal party members theatrical spectacles were produced which provided a quasi-mystical or religious experience for the participants. These events were carefully organised and stage managed. Speer was one of the chief designers and architects involved in the rallies. For one rally, which took place at night, Speer provided a display of light made from 130 searchlights directed towards the night sky. Even foreign observers were stupified by the effects produced, for example, the British ambassador described the luminescent architecture as solemn and beautiful, like being in a cathedral. Lyrical descriptions that recall experiences at the Nuremberg rallies testify to the emotional character of these mass spectacles which

were equivalent to Wembley cup finals with their scarves and singing.

ARCHITECTURE Hitler and Speer jointly built monumental public buildings and planned many more including the wholesale redevelopment of the centre of Berlin ..... Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity. Ultimately all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture, he would philosophise ..... Great architecture would serve to remind a nation of past glory during its periods of weakness, hence it was essential for all monuments to be imposing in size and built of permanent materials. Speer developed a theory of ruin value, that is, he used special materials so that his buildings would resemble Roman ruins when their turn came to decay. In his autobiography Speer acknowledges that his work resembles the sets for Cecil B. De Mille's Hollywood film epics, that it had a fantastic quality, a cruel element the very expression of tyranny (page, 230-231). All monuments which Hitler planned were to be larger in size than anything comparable in the world, the purpose of this architecture was to overwhelm the spectator with a sense of awe at the might and power of Germany.

Interior of the new Reich Chancellery and its architect Albert Speer ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------As Speer remarks, These monuments were an assertion of his (Hitler's) claim to world domination long before he dared to voice any such intention even to his closest associates ..... today it strikes me as rather sinister that in the midst of peacetime while continually proclaiming his desire for international reconciliation, he was planning buildings expressive of an imperial glory which could be won only by war ..... (page 122). Architecture as an early warning system? (This suggests employing architects as spies). Hitler was totally uninterested in housing for the workers or other social functions of architecture. Functional modern buildings were permitted providing they were for factories or offices.

FOLK ARCHITECTURE Besides monumental public buildings, Nazi architects also constructed youth hostels, farmhouses and surburban housing in a variety of regional folk styles. this was part of the anti-urbanism of National Socialism, the blood and soil doctrine. Hitler's aim in attacking Poland and Russia was to acquire, by conquest, vast stretches of farmland, which once cleared of Polish aristocrats, Jews and intellectuals, could be settled by Nordic Germans who would farm the land while living in model farmhouses protected by trees. The indigenous population was to be retained in a slave condition as a cheap source of labour. This was not a flight of fancy, the extermination part of the scheme was executed, but it turned out that the Germans who lived in the West had no desire to leave their homes to settle in the East. Conventional studies of Nazi architecture tend to ignore the types of buildings which exemplified the regime's true significance, that is, the concentration/ extermination camps and gas chambers. The inner meaning of Nazism was death. Mass industrial methods employed to achieve a maximum murder rate.

The true essence of Nazi architecture and design. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

AUTOBAHN Roads might be considered as civil engineering projects of social use, but in Nazi Germany even the new road system (whose building was supervised by Fritz Todt) had to reflect the dominant political ideology ..... The new road of Adolf Hitler, the Autobahn, is in keeping with the essence of our National Socialism. We wish to fix our goal far ahead of us, we want to achieve our aims directly and in a straight line. We build bridges over crossroads; unnecessary connections are alien to us. We do not create switchbacks; we create for ourselves a road that leads only forwards, since we need a road which permits us to maintain a speed that suits us. (Todt) The roads were seen as the embodiment of the unity and authority of the new Reich, a power binding the Volk together. Their purpose was to integrate all aspects of German life

by linking cities together as well as cities and the rural areas; they also served important military purposes.


Although Nazi monumental architecture was predominantly neo-classical in style it was also influenced to some extent by modernist architecture. Paul Ludwig Troost, the architect of the House of German Art was, for example, ..... a minor participant in the progressive historicist movement of the pre-war period and his use of Limestone surfacing material and the dominant classical colonnade ..... reflected a desire to match the masonry styles of the past but.. ... the museum's blocky masses

and flat surfaces, free of all ornament save minimal base and cornice projections, and the horizontal orientation of the building, proclaimed its debt to the radical modern architecture of the 1920s. (Barbara Miller Lane, Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918-1945, [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968], page 191.) This building had a special importance in Nazi architectural propaganda because it was the first of Hitler's own buildings and also it was a showcase for Nazi painting and sculpture. 1t was therefore consistently described in the press and in party publications as Hitler's work ..... it served as a symbol.. ... of the artistic creativity of the new regime. (Lane, page 212.) Hitler laid the foundation stone in 1933 with a silver hammer specially designed by Troost - it broke when Hitler used it! (An ominous sign.) Greek culture, that is to say that of the Doric era, was thought by the Germans to be the peak of European culture; hence, it established an ideal which the Nazis sought to emulate. The Official German Art Exhibition in Munich was opened by Hitler in July 1937. Hitler's speech was interesting because (as Ian Dunlop points out) it expresses in emotional and vituperative language what many people secretly think about modern art. In the speech Hitler laid down the criteria for good German art: Art based on people not time; good German art can only be made by racial pure German people. What does it mean to be German? To be German means to be logical and also, above all, to be true ..... Hitler also expressed the belief that great art is not the achievement of a collective but of gifted individuals and he predicts in the realm of art the highest value of a personality as an individual will make a triumphant reappearance. But for most of the speech Hitler attacked the

Degenerate art being shown, simultaneously, in another building: All those catchwords: 'inner experience,' 'strong state of mind,' 'forceful will,' 'emotions pregnant with the future,' 'heroic attitude,' 'meaningful empathy,' 'experienced order of the times,' 'original primitivism,' etc. - all these dumb, mendacious excuses, this claptrap or jabbering will no longer be accepted as excuses or even recommendations for worthless, integrally unskilled products. Whether or not anybody has a strong will or an inner experience, he will have to prove through his work, and not through gibberish. And anyhow, we are all much more interested in quality than in so-called will ..... I have observed among the pictures submitted here, quite a few paintings which make one actually come to the conclusion that the eye shows things differently to certain human beings than the way they really are, that is, that there really are men who see the present population of our nation as rotten cretins; who, on principle, see meadows blue, skies green, clouds sulphur yellow, and so on, or, as they say, experience them as such. I do not want to enter into an argument here about the question of whether the persons concerned really do or do not see or feel in such a way; but in the name of the German people, I want to forbid these pitiful misfortunates who quite obviously suffer from an eye disease, to try vehemently to foist these products of their misinterpretation upon the age we live in, or even wish to present them as 'ART'. No, here there are only two possibilities: Either these so-called 'artists' really see things this way and therefore believe in what they depict; then we would have to examine their eyesight-deformation to see if it is the product of a mechanical failure or of inheritance. In the first case, these unfortunates can only be pitied; in the second case, they would be the object of great

interest to the Ministry of Interior of the Reich which would then have to take up the question of whether further inheritance of such gruesome malfunctioning of the eyes cannot at least be checked. If, on the other hand, they themselves do not believe in the reality of such impressions but try to harass the nation with this humbug for other reasons, then such an attempt falls within the jurisdiction of the penal law. This House, in any case, has neither been planned, nor was built for the works of this kind of incompetent or art criminal ..... But far more important is the fact that the labour performed here on this spot for four and a half years, the maximum achievements demanded here of thousands of workers, were not intended to serve the purpose of exhibiting the production of men who, to top it off, were lazy enough to dirty a canvas with colour droppings in the firm hope that, through the daring advertisement of their products as the lightning birth of genius, they could not fail to produce the needed impression and qualifications for their acceptance .. No, I say. The diligence of the builder of this House and the diligence of his collaborators must be equaled by the diligence of those who want to be represented in this House. Beyond this, I am not the least bit interested in whether or not these 'also-rans' of the art world will cackle among themselves about the eggs they have laid, thereby giving to each other their expert opinion. (Adolf Hitler) The Exhibition of Degenerate Art was held in the annexes of the Archaelogical Institute, Munich, in July 1937. It attracted 187,160 visitors - 25,000 a day! Works included were largely selected by Professor Adolf Ziegler. His authorisation from Hitler and Goebbels ordered him to select works of decadent art in the sphere of painting and sculpture since 1910 from those owned by the German state, provincial

and municipal authorities. In two weeks Ziegler and his party collected 700 works

Poster for Degenerate art exhibition, Munich. --------------------------------------------------------------------------from museums throughout the country. Some 113 artists were represented in the show including Kandinsky, Klee, Marc, Corinth, Kirchner, Kokoschka, Nolde, Dix, Schlemmer, Beckmann, Ernst, Schwitters, plus a Gauguin, a Picasso, a Mondrian and a Chagall. Expressionism predominated, Bauhaus had isolated examples, New Objectivity was in strength. The first room was labelled ‘Sponsored by the centre for the insolent mockey of religious experience‘. The exhibition was divided into nine sections: 1: Works distorting colour and form. 2: Works involving religion. 3: Graphics preaching political anarchy and the class war. 4: Work undermining military virtue and willingness to serve. 5: Work depicting humanity as degenerate.

6: Work making tribal art its ideal. 7: Work which showed the connection between degeneracy and mental degeneracy. 8: Jewish artists. 9: Utter madness. (This was the largest section!)

The hanging was deliberately poor to make the works seem crude and incoherent (and, ironically, this made the show seem like a Dada exhibition). Additional captions appeared, for example, to Kirchner's Peasants at Midday was added "German Peasants as Seen by the Yids." Some Nazis were embarrassed about the inclusion of Frans Marc because he had fought for his country and had

died at Verdun. More visitors came to the Degenerate Art Show than went to the official show. However, visitors who lingered and appeared to be appreciating the works were moved on by vigilant guards. After the show the purge of museums continued. Certain artists were forbidden to paint or were forced into exile. Some works in the show were sold in Zurich to raise foreign currency, some were burnt by the Berlin fire brigade.

EXPRESSIONISM The fact that Hitler rejected most varieties of modern art does not mean that all modern art was alien to Nazism. Consider, for example, the case of Expressionism. The German Expressionist painter Emile Nolde 1867-1956 (an eighty-nine year lifespan) came from farming stock and he believed the blood and soil doctrine. He joined the Nazi party and he believed that his work was genuinely nationalistic and Nordic in character, therefore, he was upset when he found himself branded a degenerate artist. Expressionism, many thought, would be acceptable to National Socialism because it was essentially German; medieval German art was expressionistic - it was Nordic, marked a return to the primitive, it also lost some of its best people in the first world war, it spoke in the name of youth, it was linked with Italian futurism which was part of Mussolini's fascism.

Emil Nolde, Self-Portrait, 1917. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi spokesman on art, opposed Expressionism because it lacked Volkish elements, because it favoured internationalism, because it was morbid rather than healthy, because it favoured distortion rather than naturalistic depictions of reality. However, Speer hung Nolde watercolours in his new buildings but since, in the Third Reich, the leader was the ultimate arbiter of taste when Hitler said get rid of them, they were removed. The irrationalism of Expressionism is seen by some critics as part of the soil which nourished National Socialism.

ARTISTIC OPPOSITION TO THE NAZIS As a representative of the implacable political and artistic opposition to Nazism, I will single out the work of John Heartfield who used the radical technique of

photomontage to expose the horrors of the Nazi regime in a manner which has never been surpassed. Heartfield's Montages were published on the cover of the


weekly AIZ (up to a half million circulation). His savage images stung the Nazis and in 1933 when they came to power Heartfield had to flee to Czechoslovakia as the SA occupied his home, for he, as were so many others, was on the Nazis' wanted list. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This article is based on a lecture I gave for many years in British art colleges in the 1970s and 1980s, and is a revised version of an article that was first published in the British magazine AND: Journal of Art and Art Education, no 9, 1986, pp. 3-9. Since this article was published many more books and articles have been published on the

subjects it addresses and many images have appeared on the web, e.g. see

John A. Walker is a painter and art historian. He is the author the book Art in the Age of Mass Media, 3rd edn (London & Sterling VA: Pluto Press, 2001) and the book

review about the film-maker Leni Riefenstahl 'Can art be evil? Portrait of a Nazi Propagandist', The Art Book, vol 15, no 1, February 2008, pp. 5-6. He is also an editorial advisor for the website: ""></a>

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