Gustav Mahler – die arische Jude

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
please note: this blog is not intended to approve, condone or encourage any of the beliefs and/or ideologies described herein.
As a young man, when he was still living with his first – and possibly only friend – Gutsl Kubizek, Adolf Hitler would sit enthralled in the Wiener Hofoper as the Jew, Gutav Mahler, conducted the Operas of Hitler’s favourite composer, the vigorously anti-Semitic Richard Wagner.
According to ‘Mein Kampf’, at this time Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite – and yet – he had many Jewish friends, sold his paintings to Jewish dealers and art collectors, and didn’t seem to notice that his favourite conductor was a Jew.
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Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation.

Gustav Mahler 

He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then the Austrian Empire.
His family later moved to nearby Iglau, where Mahler grew up.
While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect.
Born in humble circumstances, Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age.
After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Wiener Hofoper).
Mahler’s innovative productions, and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner.
Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.
Mahler’s œuvre is relatively small.
For much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor, but he devoted as much time as he could to his compositions, faithfully reserving his summer months for intense periods of creative concentration, supplemented as time permitted during his active concert seasons with the tasks of editing and orchestrating his expansive works.
Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. Most of his twelve symphonic scores are very large-scale works, often employing vocal soloists and choruses in addition to augmented orchestral forces.
These works were often controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3, and the triumphant première of his Eighth Symphony in 1910.

Family Background

The Mahler family came from eastern Bohemia and were of humble circumstances; the composer’s grandmother had been a street pedlar.
Bohemia was then part of the Austrian Empire; the Mahler family belonged to a German-speaking minority among Bohemians, and was also Jewish.
From this background the future composer developed early on a permanent sense of exile, “always an intruder, never welcomed“.
Bernhard Mahler, the pedlar’s son, and the composer’s father, elevated himself to the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie by becoming a coachman and later an innkeeper.
He bought a modest house in the village of Kalischt, on a straight line roughly halfway between Prague in Bohemia and Brno in Moravia.
Bernhard’s wife Marie gave birth to the first of the couple’s 14 children, a son Isidor, who died in infancy. Two years later, on 7 July 1860, their second son, Gustav, was born.


Stadtwappen Iglau

In December 1860, Bernhard Mahler moved with his wife and infant son to the town of Iglau, 25 km to the south-east, where he built up a distillery and tavern business.

Iglau is a city situated on the river Igel, on the historical border between Moravia and Bohemia.
Among the principal buildings are the early Gothic churches of St. Jacob, Friars Minor church of Our Lady and Dominican church of Holy Cross, the Baroque church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Municipal Hall and a number of municipal houses containing Gothic and Renaissance details.
There is also a Jewish cemetery, containing some remarkable monuments including the tombstone of the parents of Gustav Mahler.

The family grew rapidly, but of the 12 children born to the family in Iglau only six survived infancy.
Iglau was then a thriving commercial town of 20,000 people where Gustav was introduced to music through street songs, dance tunes, folk melodies, and the trumpet calls and marches of the local military band.
Many of these elements would later contribute, in some measure, to his mature musical vocabulary.
When he was four years old, Gustav discovered his grandparents’ piano and took to it immediately.
He developed his performing skills sufficiently to be considered a local ‘Wunderkind‘ (child prodigy) and gave his first public performance at the town theatre when he was ten years old.
Although Gustav loved making music, his school reports from the Iglau Gymnasium portrayed him as absent-minded and unreliable in academic work.
In 1871, in the hope of improving the boy’s results, his father sent him to the New Town Gymnasium in Prague, but Gustav was unhappy there and soon returned to Iglau.
In 1874 he suffered a bitter personal loss when his younger brother Ernst died after a long illness.
(Adolf Hitler also lost a beloved younger brother (Edmund) in his childhood.)
Mahler sought to express his feelings in music: with the help of a friend, Josef Steiner, he began work on an opera, ‘Herzog Ernst von Schwaben’ (“Duke Ernest of Swabia”) as a memorial to his lost brother.
Neither the music nor the libretto of this work has survived.

Student Days

k.k. Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst

Bernhard Mahler was supportive of his son’s ambitions for a music career, and agreed that the boy should try for a place at the Kaiserlich und Königlich Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (Vienna Conservatory).

Julius Epstein

The young Mahler was auditioned by the renowned pianist Julius Epstein, and accepted for 1875–76.
He made good progress in his piano studies with Epstein and won prizes at the end of each of his first two years.
For his final year, 1877–78, he concentrated on composition and harmony under Robert Fuchs and Franz Krenn.
Few of Mahler’s student compositions have survived; most were abandoned when he became dissatisfied with them.
He destroyed a symphonic movement prepared for an end-of-term competition, after its scornful rejection by the autocratic director Joseph Hellmesberger on the grounds of copying errors.

Hitler and Brukner

Mahler may have gained his first conducting experience with the Conservatory’s student orchestra, in rehearsals and performances, although it appears that his main role in this orchestra was as a percussionist.
Mahler was influenced by Richard Wagner during his student days, and later became a leading interpreter of Wagner’s operas
Among Mahler’s fellow students at the Conservatory was the future song composer Hugo Wolf, with whom he formed a close friendship.
Wolf was unable to submit to the strict disciplines of the Conservatory and was expelled.
Mahler, while sometimes rebellious, avoided the same fate only by writing a penitent letter to Hellmesberger.
He attended occasional lectures by Anton Bruckner and, though never formally his pupil, was influenced by him.
(Anton Brukner was one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite composers.)

Richard Wagner
Anton Bruckner

On 16 December 1877, he attended the disastrous première of Bruckner’s Third Symphony, at which the composer was shouted down, and most of the audience walked out.
Mahler and other sympathetic students later prepared a piano version of the symphony, which they presented to Bruckner.
Along with many music students of his generation, Mahler fell under the spell of Richard Wagner, though his chief interest was the sound of the music, rather than the staging.
It is not known whether he saw any of Wagner’s operas during his student years.
Mahler left the Conservatory in 1878 with a diploma, but without the prestigious silver medal given for outstanding achievement.
He then enrolled at the University of Vienna (he had, at Bernhard’s insistence, sat and with difficulty passed the “matura”, or entrance examination) and followed courses which reflected his developing interests in literature and philosophy.
After leaving the University in 1879, Mahler made some money as a piano teacher, continued to compose, and in 1880 finished a dramatic cantata, ‘Das klagende Lied’ (“The Song of Lamentation”).

Arthur Schopenhauer
Siegfried Lipiner

This, his first substantial composition, shows traces of Wagnerian and Brucknerian influences, yet includes many original musical elements.
Its first performance was delayed until 1901, when it was presented in a revised, shortened form.
Mahler developed interests in German philosophy, and was introduced by his friend Siegfried Lipiner to the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustav Fechner and Hermann Lotze.
These thinkers continued to influence Mahler and his music long after his student days were over.

Early Conducting Career – First Appointments

Gustav Mahler

In the summer of 1880, Mahler took his first professional conducting job, in a small wooden theatre in the spa town of Bad Hall, south of Linz.
In 1881, he was engaged at the Landestheater in Laibach, where the small but resourceful company was prepared to attempt more ambitious works.
Here, Mahler conducted his first full-scale opera, Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’, one of more than 50 that he presented during his time in Laibach.
After completing his six-month engagement, Mahler returned to Vienna and worked part-time as chorus-master at the Vienna Carltheater.
In January 1883, Mahler became conductor at a run-down theatre in Olmütz.
He later wrote: “From the moment I crossed the threshold of the Olmütz theatre I felt like one awaiting the wrath of God.
Despite poor relations with the orchestra – (a common problem for Mahler), Mahler brought five new operas to the theatre, including Bizet’s ‘Carmen’.

Königliche Theater in Kassel

After a week’s trial at the Königliche Theater in Kassel (Royal Theatre in the Hessian town of Kassel), Mahler became the theatre’s “Musical and Choral Director” from August 1883.
The title concealed the reality that Mahler was subordinate to the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Wilhelm Treiber, who disliked him, and set out to make his life miserable.
Despite the unpleasant atmosphere, Mahler had moments of success at Kassel.

Joseph Victor von Scheffel
Carl Maria von Weber

He directed a performance of one of his his favourite operas, Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’, and, on 23 June 1884, conducted his own incidental music to Joseph Victor von Scheffel’s play ‘Der Trompeter von Säkkinge’n (“The Trumpeter of Säkkingen”), the first professional public performance of a Mahler work.
An ardent, but ultimately unfulfilled, love affair with soprano Johanna Richter led Mahler to write a series of love poems which became the text of his great song cycle ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ (“Songs of a Wayfarer”).
In January 1884, the distinguished conductor Hans von Bülow brought the Meiningen Court Orchestra to Kassel and gave two concerts.

Hans von Bülow

Hoping to escape from his job in the theatre, Mahler unsuccessfully sought a post as Bülow’s permanent assistant, however, in the following year his efforts to find new employment resulted in a six-year contract with the prestigious Leipzig Opera, to begin in 1886.
Unwilling to remain in Kassel for another year, Mahler resigned in July 1885, and through good fortune was offered a standby appointment as an assistant conductor at the Neues Deutsches Theater (New German Theatre) in Prague.

Prague and Leipzig

In Prague, the emergence of Czech National Revival had increased the popularity and importance of the new Czech National Theatre, and had led to a downturn in the Neues Deutsches Theater’s fortunes.
Mahler’s task was to help arrest this decline by offering high-quality productions of German opera.


He had early success presenting works by Mozart and Wagner, composers with whom he would be particularly associated for the rest of his career, but his individualistic and increasingly autocratic conducting style led to friction, and a falling out with his more experienced fellow-conductor, Ludwig Slansky.

Neues Stadttheater in Leipzig

In April 1886, Mahler left Prague to take up his post at the Neues Stadttheater in Leipzig, where rivalry with his senior colleague Arthur Nikisch began at once.

Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’

This was primarily over how the two should share conducting duties for the theatre’s new production of Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’.
Nikisch’s illness, in January 1887, meant that Mahler took charge of the whole cycle, and scored a resounding public success.
This did not win him popularity with the orchestra, who resented his dictatorial manner and heavy rehearsal schedules.
In Leipzig, Mahler befriended Carl von Weber, grandson of the composer, and agreed to prepare a performing version of Carl Maria von Weber’s unfinished opera ‘Die drei Pintos’ (“The Three Pintos”).


Mahler transcribed and orchestrated the existing musical sketches, used parts of other Weber works, and added some composition of his own.

The première at the Stadttheater, in January 1888, was an important occasion at which Tchaikovsky was present, as were the heads of various opera houses.
The work was well-received; its success did much to raise Mahler’s public profile, and brought him financial rewards.
His involvement with the Weber family was complicated by a romantic attachment to Carl von Weber’s wife Marion which, though intense on both sides, ultimately came to nothing.

Peter Cornelius
Im Walde – ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’
Schwind von Moritz

At around this time Mahler discovered the German folk-poem collection ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”), which would dominate much of his compositional output for the following 12 years.
In May 1888, Mahler’s new-found financial security enabled him to resign his Leipzig position after a dispute with the Stadttheater’s chief stage manager.
Without a post, Mahler returned to Prague to work on a revival of ‘Die drei Pintos’ and a production of Peter Cornelius’s ‘Der Barbier von Bagdad’.
This short stay ended unhappily, with Mahler’s dismissal after an outburst during rehearsals.
However, through the efforts of an old Viennese friend, Guido Adler, Mahler’s name went forward as a potential director of the Royal Hungarian Opera in Budapest.
He was interviewed, made a good impression, and was offered the post from October 1888.

Apprentice Composer

In the early years of Mahler’s conducting career, composing was a spare time activity.
Between his Laibach and Olmütz appointments he worked on settings of verses by Richard Leander and Tirso de Molina, later collected as Volume I of ‘Lieder und Gesänge’ (“Songs and Airs”).
Mahler’s first orchestral song cycle, ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’, composed at Kassel, was based on his own verses, although the first poem, “Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht” (“When my love becomes a bride”) closely follows the text of a ‘Wunderhorn’ poem.
The airs for the second and fourth songs of the cycle were incorporated into the First Symphony, which Mahler finished in 1888, at the height of his relationship with Marion von Weber.
The intensity of Mahler’s feelings are reflected in the music, which originally was written as a five-movement symphonic poem with a descriptive programme.
One of these movements, the “Blumine”, later discarded, was based on a passage from his earlier work ‘Der Trompeter von Säckingen’.
After completing the symphonic poem, Mahler composed a 20-minute funeral march, or ‘Totenfeier’ (Celebrations of Death), which later became the first movement of his Second Symphony.
There has been frequent speculation about lost or destroyed works from Mahler’s early years.
The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg believed that the First Symphony was too mature to be a first symphonic work (almost certainly correct), and must have had predecessors.
In 1938, Mengelberg revealed the existence of the so-called “Dresden archive”, a series of manuscripts in the possession of the widowed Marion von Weber.
The archive was almost certainly destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945; and there is the strong possibility that some important manuscripts, either early symphonies or parts of early symphonies, were to be found in Dresden.

Royal Opera Budapest

On arriving in Budapest in October 1888, Mahler encountered a cultural conflict between conservative Hungarian nationalists who favoured a policy of Magyarisation, and progressives who wanted to maintain and develop the country’s Austro-German cultural traditions.
In the opera house a dominant conservative caucus, led by the music director Sándor Erkel, had maintained a limited repertory of historical and folklore opera.
By the time that Mahler began his duties, the progressive camp had gained ascendancy following the appointment of the liberal-minded Ferenc von Beniczky as intendant.
Aware of the delicate situation, Mahler moved cautiously; he delayed his first appearance on the conductor’s stand until January 1889, when he conducted Hungarian language (?) performances of ‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’, however, his early successes faded when plans to stage the remainder of the ‘Ring Cycle’ and other German operas were frustrated by a renascent conservative faction which favoured a more traditional “Hungarian” programme.
In search of non-German operas to extend the repertory, Mahler visited Italy where among the works he discovered was Pietro Mascagni’s recent sensation ‘Cavalleria rusticana’.
In February 1889, Bernhard Mahler died; this was followed later in the year by the deaths both of Mahler’s sister Leopoldine and his mother.
Mahler himself suffered poor health, with attacks of haemorrhoids and migraine and a recurrent septic throat.
Shortly after these family and health setbacks the première of the First Symphony, in Budapest on 21 November 1889, was a disappointment.
The critic August Beer’s lengthy newspaper review indicates that enthusiasm after the early movements degenerated into “audible opposition” after the Finale.
Mahler was particularly distressed by the negative comments from his Vienna Conservatory contemporary, Viktor von Herzfeld, who had remarked that Mahler, like many conductors before him, had proved not to be a composer.
In 1891, Hungary’s move to the political right was reflected in the opera house when Beniczky was replaced as intendant by Géza Zichy, a conservative aristocrat determined to assume artistic control over Mahler’s head.
Mahler began negotiating with the director of the Hamburg Stadttheater; in May 1891, having agreed to a contract there, he resigned his Budapest post.
His final Budapest triumph was a performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ which won him praise from Brahms, who was present.
(Brahms’ and Mahler’s attitudes to each other’s music were generally negative, but in one of his last concerts with the New York Philharmonic shortly before his death Mahler conducted a performance of Brahms’ Third Symphony that his concertmaster Theodore Spiering said he would never forget.)
During his Budapest years Mahler’s compositional output had been limited to the ‘Wunderhorn’ song settings that became Volumes II and III of ‘Lieder und Gesänge’, and amendments to the First Symphony.

Hamburg Stadttheater

Mahler’s Hamburg post was as chief conductor, subordinate to the director, Bernhard Pohl (known as Pollini) who retained overall artistic control.
Pollini was prepared to give Mahler considerable leeway if the conductor could provide commercial as well as artistic success.
This Mahler did in his first season, when he conducted Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ for the first time and gave acclaimed performances of the same composer’s ‘Tannhäuser’ and ‘Siegfried’.
Another triumph was the German premiere of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’, in the presence of the composer, who called Mahler’s conducting “astounding“.
Mahler’s demanding rehearsal schedules led to predictable resentment from the singers and orchestra with whom the conductor “inspired hatred and respect in almost equal measure.
He found support, however, from Hans von Bülow, who was in Hamburg as director of the city’s subscription concerts.
Bülow, who had spurned Mahler’s approaches in Kassel, had come to admire the younger man’s conducting style, and on Bülow’s death in 1894 Mahler took over the direction of the concerts.
In the summer of 1892 Mahler took the Hamburg singers to London to participate in a six-week season of German opera – his only visit to Britain.
His conducting of ‘Tristan’ enthralled the young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who “staggered home in a daze and could not sleep for two nights“, however, Mahler refused further such invitations as he was anxious to reserve his summers for composing.
In 1893 he acquired a retreat at Steinbach, on the banks of Lake Attersee in Upper Austria, and established a pattern that persisted for the rest of his life; summers would henceforth be dedicated to composition, at Steinbach or its successor retreats.
Now firmly under the influence of the ‘Wunderhorn’ folk-poem collection, Mahler produced a stream of song settings at Steinbach, and composed his Second and Third Symphonies there.[43]

‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’: Alte deutsche Lieder (The Boy’s Magic Horn: Old German Songs) is a collection of German folk poems and songs edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, and published in Heidelberg, in the Grand Duchy of Baden.
The book was published in three editions: the first in 1805 followed by two more volumes in 1808.
The collection was an important source of idealized folklore in the Romantic nationalism of the 19th century. ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ became widely popular across the German-speaking world; Goethe, one of the most influential writers of the time, declared that ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ “has its place in every household”.
Arnim and Brentano, like other early 19th-century song collectors, such as the Englishman Thomas Percy, freely modified the poems in their collection.
The editors, both poets themselves, invented some of their own poems.
Some poems were modified to fit poetic meter, to conform to then-modern German spelling, or otherwise to conform more closely to an idealized, Romantic “folk style” (naturpoesie).

Performances of Mahler works were still comparatively rare.
On 27 October 1893, at Hamburg’s Ludwig Konzerthaus, Mahler conducted a revised version of his First Symphony; still in its original five-movement form, it was presented as a ‘Tondichtung’ (tone poem) under the descriptive name “Der Titan”.
This concert also introduced several recent ‘Wunderhorn’ settings.
Mahler achieved his first relative success as a composer when the Second Symphony was well-received on its première in Berlin, under his own baton, on 13 December 1895.
Mahler’s future conducting assistant Bruno Walter, who was present, said that “one may date Mahler’s rise to fame as a composer from that day.”
That same year Mahler’s private life was disrupted by the suicide of his younger brother Otto.

Otto Mahler (18 June 1873 – 6 February 1895) was a Bohemian-Austrian musician and composer who committed suicide at the age of twenty-one.
The twelfth child of Bernard and Marie Mahler, Otto was born in Jihlava and resembled his elder brother Gustav Mahler in displaying a special talent for music at an early age.
Otto was a talented student. He appears to have been less diligent than his brother had been, however. After a few successful terms studying harmony and counterpoint with Anton Bruckner and piano with Ernst Ludwig, his marks declined, and the annual report for his first year shows that for some reason he took no final examination in composition. From that point on his academic performance was increasingly poor, and in April 1892, Otto Mahler left the Conservatory without a diploma.
With the help of his brother, Otto was able to find minor musical posts in provincial towns. He seldom stayed long in any place, however. In the autumn of 1893, he took on a position as choirmaster and second conductor of the Leipzig Opera. After moving to a position in Bremen, he returned to Vienna.

It was in Vienna on 6 February 1895, that Otto shot himself with a revolver while in the house of his and Mahler’s friend Nina Hoffmann-Matscheko. According to Gustav’s widow Alma, Otto’s suicide-note stated that life no longer pleased him, so he ‘handed back his ticket’.

At the Stadttheater Mahler introduced numerous new operas: Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’, Humperdinck’s ‘Hänsel und Gretel’, and works by Smetana, however, he was forced to resign his post with the subscription concerts after poor financial returns and an ill-received interpretation of his re-scored Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Mahler had made it clear that his ultimate goal was an appointment in Vienna, and from 1895 onward was manoeuvring, with the help of influential friends, to secure the directorship of the Vienna Hofoper.
He overcame the bar that existed against the appointment of a Jew to this post by converting to Roman Catholicism in February 1897.
Despite this event, however, Mahler has been described as a lifelong agnostic, or at best a Pantheist or Deist
Two months later the ‘Aryan’ Mahler was appointed to the Hofoper, provisionally as a staff conductor with the title of Kapellmeister.

Hofoper Director

As he waited for the Austrian Kaiser’s confirmation of his directorship, Mahler shared duties as a resident conductor with Joseph Hellmesberger Jr (son of the former conservatory director) and Hans Richter, an internationally renowned interpreter of Wagner, and the conductor of the original ‘Ring Cycle’ at Bayreuth in 1876.
Director Wilhelm Jahn had not consulted Richter about Mahler’s appointment; Mahler, sensitive to the situation, wrote Richter a complimentary letter expressing unswerving admiration for the older conductor. Subsequently the two were rarely in agreement, but kept their divisions private.
Vienna, the imperial Habsburg capital, had recently elected an anti-Semitic conservative mayor, Karl Lueger, who had once proclaimed: “I myself decide who is a Jew and who isn’t.
In such a volatile political atmosphere Mahler needed an early demonstration of his German cultural credentials.
He made his initial mark in May 1897 with much-praised performances of Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (The Magic Flute).
Shortly after the ‘Zauberflöte’ triumph, Mahler was forced to take sick leave for several weeks, during which he was nursed by his sister Justine and his long-time companion, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner.
Mahler returned to Vienna in early August to prepare for Vienna’s first uncut version of the Ring cycle.
This performance took place on 24–27 August, attracting critical praise and public enthusiasm. Mahler’s friend Hugo Wolf told Bauer-Lechner that “for the first time I have heard the Ring as I have always dreamed of hearing it while reading the score.”
On 8 October Mahler was formally appointed to succeed Jahn as the Hofoper’s director.
His first production in his new office was Smetana’s Czech nationalist opera ‘Dalibor’, with a reconstituted finale that left the hero Dalibor alive.
This production caused anger among the more extreme Viennese German nationalists, who accused Mahler of “fraternising with the anti-dynastic, inferior Czech nation“.
During Mahler’s tenure a total of 33 new operas were introduced to the Hofoper; a further 55 were new or totally revamped productions, however, a proposal to stage Richard Strauss’s controversial opera ‘Salome’ in 1905 was (not surprisingly) rejected by the Viennese censors.

Alfred Roller
Alfred Roller – ‘Tristan und Isolde’

Early in 1902 Mahler met Alfred Roller, an artist and designer associated with the Wiener Secession movement.
A year later, Mahler appointed him chief stage designer to the Hofoper, where Roller’s début was a magnificent new production of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.
The collaboration between Mahler and Roller created more than 20 celebrated productions of, among other operas, Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’, Gluck’s ‘Iphigénie en Aulide’ and Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’.
In the Figaro production, Mahler offended some purists by adding and composing a short recitative scene to Act III.
In spite of numerous theatrical triumphs, Mahler’s Vienna years were rarely smooth; his battles with singers and the house administration continued on and off for the whole of his tenure.
While Mahler’s methods improved standards, his histrionic and dictatorial conducting style was resented by orchestra members and singers alike.
In December 1903 Mahler faced a revolt by stage-hands, whose demands for better conditions he rejected in the belief that extremists were manipulating his staff.
By that time he was at odds with the opera house’s administration over the amount of time he was spending on his own music, and was preparing to leave.
Early in 1907 he began discussions with Heinrich Conried, director of the New York Metropolitan Opera, and in June signed a contract, on very favourable terms, for four seasons’ conducting in New York.
At the end of the summer he submitted his resignation to the Hofoper, and on 15 October 1907 conducted ‘Fidelio’, his 648th and final performance there.
During his ten years in Vienna Mahler had brought new life to the opera house and cleared its debts, but had won few friends  – it was said that he treated his musicians in the way a lion tamer treated his animals.
His departing message to the company, which he pinned to a notice board, was later torn down and scattered over the floor.
After conducting the Hofoper orchestra in a farewell concert performance of his Second Symphony on 24 November, Mahler left Vienna for New York in early December.

Marriage and Family

During his second season in Vienna, Mahler acquired a spacious modern apartment on the Auenbruggerstrasse, and built a summer villa on land he had acquired next to his new composing studio at Maiernigg.
In November 1901, he met Alma Schindler, the stepdaughter of painter Carl Moll, at a social gathering that included the theatre director Max Burckhard.
Alma was not initially keen to meet Mahler, on account of “the scandals about him and every young woman who aspired to sing in opera“.
The two engaged in a lively disagreement about a ballet by Alexander von Zemlinsky (Alma was one of Zemlinsky’s pupils), but agreed to meet at the Hofoper the following day.
This meeting led to a rapid courtship; Mahler and Alma were married at a private ceremony on 9 March 1902.
Alma was by then pregnant with her first child, a daughter Maria Anna, who was born on 3 November 1902. A second daughter, Anna, was born in 1904.
Friends of the couple were surprised by the marriage and dubious of its wisdom.
Mahler’s family considered Alma to be flirtatious, unreliable, and too fond of seeing young men fall for her charms.
Mahler was by nature moody and authoritarian – Natalie Bauer-Lechner, his earlier partner, said that living with him was “like being on a boat that is ceaselessly rocked to and fro by the waves“.
Alma soon became resentful that, on Mahler’s insistence that there could only be one composer in the family, she had given up her music studies.
She wrote in her diary: “How hard it is to be so mercilessly deprived of … things closest to one’s heart“.
Mahler’s requirement that their married life be organised around his creative activities imposed strains, and precipitated rebellion on Alma’s part; the marriage was nevertheless marked at times by expressions of considerable passion, particularly from Mahler.
In the summer of 1907 Mahler, exhausted from the effects of the campaign against him in Vienna, took his family to Maiernigg.
Soon after their arrival both daughters fell ill with scarlet fever and diphtheria.
Anna recovered, but after a fortnight’s struggle Maria died on 12 July.
Immediately following this devastating loss, Mahler learned that his heart was defective, a diagnosis subsequently confirmed by a Vienna specialist, who ordered a curtailment of all forms of vigorous exercise.
The extent to which Mahler’s condition disabled him is unclear; Alma wrote of it as a virtual death sentence, though Mahler himself, in a letter written to her on 30 August 1907, said that he would be able to live a normal life, apart from avoiding over-fatigue.
The illness was, however, a further depressing factor; at the end of the summer the villa at Maiernigg was closed, and never revisited.

Last Years – 1908 -11

Mahler made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 1 January 1908, when he conducted Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ in the cut version still standard in New York, though long since superseded in Vienna.
In a busy first season Mahler’s performances were widely praised, especially his ‘Fidelio’ on 20 March 1908, in which he insisted on using replicas being made of Roller’s Vienna sets.
On his return to Austria for the summer of 1908, Mahler established himself in the third and last of his composing studios, in the pine forests close to Toblach in Tyrol.
Here, using a text by Hans Bethge based on ancient Chinese poems, he composed ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ (“The Song of the Earth”).
Despite the symphonic nature of the work, Mahler refused to number it, hoping thereby to escape the “curse of the Ninth Symphony” that he believed had affected fellow-composers Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner.
On 19 September 1908 the première of the Seventh Symphony, in Prague, was deemed by Alma Mahler a critical rather than a popular success.

Arturo Toscanini

For its 1908–09 season the Metropolitan management brought in the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini to share duties with Mahler, who made only 19 appearances in the entire season.
One of these was a much-praised performance of Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’ on 19 February 1909.
In the early part of the season Mahler conducted three concerts with the New York Symphony Orchestra.
This renewed experience of orchestral conducting inspired him to resign his position with the opera house and accept the conductor-ship of the re-formed New York Philharmonic.
He continued to make occasional guest appearances at the Met, his last performance being Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Queen of Spades’ on 5 March 1910.
Back in Europe for the summer of 1909, Mahler worked on his Ninth Symphony and made a conducting tour of the Netherlands.
The 1909–10 New York Philharmonic season was long and taxing; Mahler rehearsed and conducted 46 concerts, but his programmes were often too demanding for popular tastes.
His own First Symphony, given its American début on 16 December 1909, was one of the pieces that failed with critics and public, and the season ended with heavy financial losses.
The highlight of Mahler’s 1910 summer was the first performance of the stupendous Eighth Symphony ‘Sinfonie der Tausendat’ in Munich on 12 September, the last of his works to be premièred in his lifetime.

Walter Gropius
Sigmund Freud

The occasion was a triumph – “easily Mahler’s biggest lifetime success“, – but was overshadowed by the composer’s discovery, before the event, that Alma had begun an affair with the young architect Walter Gropius.
Greatly distressed, Mahler sought advice from Sigmund Freud, and appeared to gain some comfort from his meeting with the psychoanalyst. Alma agreed to remain with Mahler, although the relationship with Gropius continued surreptitiously.
In a gesture of love, Mahler foolishly dedicated his Eighth Symphony to her.

Illness and Death

In spite of the emotional distractions, during the summer of 1910 Mahler worked on his Tenth Symphony, completing the Adagio and drafting four more movements.
He and Alma returned to New York in November 1910, where Mahler threw himself into a busy Philharmonic season of concerts and tours.
Around Christmas 1910 he began suffering from a sore throat, which persisted.
On 21 February 1911, with a temperature of 40 °C (104 °F), Mahler insisted on fulfilling an engagement at Carnegie Hall, with a program of mainly new Italian music, including the world premiere of Busoni’s ‘Berceuse élégiaque’.
This was Mahler’s last concert.
After weeks confined to bed he was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis, a disease to which sufferers from defective heart valves were particularly prone, and for which the survival rate in pre-antibiotic days was almost zero.
Mahler did not give up hope; he talked of resuming the concert season, and took a keen interest when one of Alma’s compositions was sung at a public recital by the soprano Frances Alda, on 3 March.
On 8 April the Mahler family and a permanent nurse left New York on board SS Amerika bound for Europe.
They reached Paris ten days later, where Mahler entered a clinic at Neuilly, but there was no improvement; on 11 May he was taken by train to the Lŏw sanatorium in Vienna, where he died on 18 May.
On 22 May 1911 Mahler was buried in the Grinzing cemetery, as he had requested.
Alma, on doctors’ orders, was absent, but among the mourners at a relatively pomp-free funeral were Arnold Schoenberg (whose wreath described Mahler as “the holy Gustav Mahler” ?), Bruno Walter, Alfred Roller, the Secessionist painter Gustav Klimt, and representatives from many of the great European opera houses.
Alma Mahler survived her husband by more than 50 years, dying in 1964.
Unsurprisingly, she married Walter Gropius in 1915, and then divorced him five years later, and married the writer Franz Werfel in 1929.
The composer’s daughter Anna Mahler became a well-known sculptor; she died in 1988.

The Music

Deryck Cooke

Deryck Cooke divided Mahler’s composing life into three distinct phases: a long “first period”, extending from ‘Das klagende Lied’ in 1880 to the end of the ‘Wunderhorn’ phase in 1901; a “middle period” of more concentrated composition ending with Mahler’s departure for New York in 1907; and a brief “late period” of elegiac works before his death in 1911.
The main works of the first period are the first four symphonies, the ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ song cycle, and various song collections in which the ‘Wunderhorn’ songs predominate.
In this period songs and symphonies are closely related, and the symphonic works are programmatic.
Mahler initially gave the first three symphonies full descriptive programmes.
The middle period comprises a triptych of purely instrumental symphonies (the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh), the ‘Rückert’ songs and the ‘Kindertotenlieder’ (Songs for Dead Children), two final ‘Wunderhorn’ settings and, in some reckonings, Mahler’s last great affirmative statement, the choral Eighth Symphony.
Cooke, more correctly, believes that the Eighth stands on its own, between the middle and final periods.
Mahler had by now abandoned all explicit programmes and descriptive titles; he wanted to write so-called “absolute” music that spoke for itself.
Cooke refers to “a new granite-like hardness of orchestration” in the middle-period symphonies, while the songs have lost most of their folk character, and cease to fertilise the symphonies as explicitly as before.
The works of the brief final period – ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ (Song of the Earth), the Ninth and (incomplete) Tenth Symphonies – are expressions of personal experience, as Mahler faced death.
Each of the pieces ends quietly, signifying that aspiration has now given way to resignation.
Cooke considers these works to be a farewell to life.
None of these final works was performed in Mahler’s lifetime.


The union of song and symphonic form in Mahler’s music is, in Cooke’s view, organic; “his songs flower naturally into symphonic movements, being already symphonic in cast.
To Sibelius, Mahler expressed the belief that “The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.
True to this belief, Mahler drew material from many sources into his songs and symphonic works: bird calls and cow-bells to evoke nature and the countryside, bugle fanfares, street melodies and country dances to summon the lost world of his childhood.
Life’s struggles are represented in contrasting moods: the yearning for fulfilment by soaring melodies and chromatic harmony, suffering and despair by discord, distortion and grotesquerie.
The range of musical moods, Cooke maintains, comes from Mahler’s “amazing orchestration” which, in the writer’s view, “speaks for itself“.
In addition there are specific features which are basic to Mahler’s style: extremes of volume, the use of off-stage ensembles, unconventional arrangement of orchestral forces, and frequent recourse to popular music and dance forms such as the ländler and the waltz.
The supposed ‘Jewish’ elements in Mahler’s works are attempts by Jewish commentators and their supporters to corral Mahler into the Jewish cultural ghetto.
In fact the so-called ‘Jewish’ elements are simply examples of popular Central European music of the time, included usually to indicate reminiscences of the composers youthful experiences.
A technical device much used by Mahler is that of “progressive tonality“, which Deryck Cooke describes as “the procedure of resolving a symphonic conflict in a different key from that in which it was stated”, and which is often used “to symbolise the gradual ascendancy of a certain value by progress from one key to another over the whole course of a symphony“.
Mahler first employed the device in an early song, ‘Erinnerung’ (“Memory”), and thereafter used it freely in his symphonies.
For example, the predominant key of the First Symphony is D major; at the beginning of the Finale, the “conflict” movement, the key switches to F minor, and only after a lengthy battle gets back to D, near the end.
The Second Symphony begins in C minor and ends in E flat.
The movements of the Fifth Symphony progress successively from C-sharp minor to A minor, then D major, F major and finally to D major.
The Sixth Symphony, unusually for Mahler, begins and ends in the same key, A minor, signifying that in this case the conflict is unresolved.


Freud – Wien Träumende – Vienna Dreaming

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014


Sigmund Freud

Psychology’s most famous figure is also one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century.

Sigmund Freud’s work and theories helped shape our views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy.

Other major thinkers have contributed work that grew out of Freud’s legacy, while others developed new theories out of opposition to his ideas.

Sigmund Freud – (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis.

Freud qualified as a doctor of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881, and then carried out research into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy at the Vienna General Hospital.

He was appointed a university lecturer in neuropathology in 1885 and became a professor in 1902.

In creating psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association (in which patients report their thoughts without reservation and in whichever order they spontaneously occur) and discovered transference (the process in which patients displace onto their analysts feelings derived from their childhood attachments), establishing its central role in the analytic process

Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the ‘Oedipus Complex’ as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory.

His analysis of his own and his patients’ dreams as wish-fulfilments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the mechanisms of repression as well as for elaboration of his theory of the unconscious as an agency disruptive of conscious states of mind.

Freud postulated the existence of libido, an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested, and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive (Thanatos), the source of repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt.

In his later work Freud drew on psychoanalytic theory to develop a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.
Freud’s work has suffused contemporary thought and popular culture to the extent that in 1939 W. H. Auden wrote, in a poem dedicated to him: “to us he is no more a person / now but a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives”.

Early Life and Education

Freud was born to Jewish Galician parents in the town of Freiberg in Mähren, in the Austrian Empire, the first of their eight children.

His father, Jacob Freud (1815–1896), a wool merchant, had two sons, Emanuel (1833–1914) and Philipp (1836–1911), from his first marriage. Jacob’s family were Hasidic Jews, and though Jacob himself had moved away from the tradition, he came to be known for his Torah study.
He and Freud’s mother, Amalia (née Nathansohn), 20 years her husband’s junior and his third wife, were married by Rabbi Isaac Noah Mannheimer on 29 July 1855.
They were struggling financially and living in a rented room, in a locksmith’s house at Schlossergasse 117 when their son Sigmund was born.
He was born with a caul, which his mother saw as a positive omen for the boy’s future.
In 1859 the Freud family left Freiberg.
Freud’s half brothers emigrated to Manchester, England, parting him from the “inseparable” playmate of his early childhood, Emanuel’s son, John. Jacob Freud took his wife and two children (Freud’s sister, Anna, was born in 1858; a brother, Julius, had died in infancy) firstly to Leipzig and then in 1860 to Vienna where four sisters (Rosa, Marie, Adolfine and Paula) and a brother (Alexander) were born.
In 1865, the nine-year-old Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school.
He proved an outstanding pupil and graduated from the Matura in 1873 with honors.
He loved literature and was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life, and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology was partly derived from Shakespeare’s plays.
Freud entered the University of Vienna at age 17.
He had planned to study law, but joined the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy under Franz Brentano, physiology under Ernst Brücke, and zoology under Darwinist professor Carl Claus.
In 1876 Freud spent four weeks at Claus’s zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs.
He graduated with an MD in 1881.

Early Career and Marriage

Freud was born to Jewish Galician parents in the town of Freiberg in Mähren, in the Austrian Empire, the first of their eight children.
His father, Jacob Freud (1815–1896), a wool merchant, had two sons, Emanuel (1833–1914) and Philipp (1836–1911), from his first marriage.
Jacob’s family were Hasidic Jews, and though Jacob himself had moved away from the tradition, he came to be known for his Torah study.
He and Freud’s mother, Amalia (née Nathansohn), 20 years her husband’s junior and his third wife, were married by Rabbi Isaac Noah Mannheimer on 29 July 1855.
They were struggling financially and living in a rented room, in a locksmith’s house at Schlossergasse 117 when their son Sigmund was born.
He was born with a caul, which his mother saw as a positive omen for the boy’s future. In 1859 the Freud family left Freiberg.
Freud’s half brothers emigrated to Manchester, England, parting him from the “inseparable” playmate of his early childhood, Emanuel’s son, John.
Jacob Freud took his wife and two children (Freud’s sister, Anna, was born in 1858; a brother, Julius, had died in infancy) firstly to Leipzig and then in 1860 to Vienna where four sisters (Rosa, Marie, Adolfine and Paula) and a brother (Alexander) were born.
In 1865, the nine-year-old Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school.
He proved an outstanding pupil and graduated from the Matura in 1873 with honors.
He loved literature and was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life, and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology was partly derived from Shakespeare’s plays.
Freud entered the University of Vienna at age 17.
He had planned to study law, but joined the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy under Franz Brentano, physiology under Ernst Brücke, and zoology under Darwinist professor Carl Claus.
In 1876 Freud spent four weeks at Claus’s zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs.
He graduated with an MD in 1881.

Charles Darwin
Ex Libris – Sigmund Freud

Freud had greatly admired his philosophy tutor, Brentano, who was known for his theories of perception and introspection, as well as Theodor Lipps who was one of the main contemporary theorists of the concepts of the unconscious and empathy.

Brentano discussed the possible existence of the unconscious mind in his 1874 book Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint.
Although Brentano denied the existence of the unconscious, his discussion of it probably helped introduce Freud to the concept.

Eduard von Hartmann

Freud owned and made use of Charles Darwin’s major evolutionary writings, and was also influenced by Eduard von Hartmann’s ‘The Philosophy of the Unconscious’.

He read Friedrich Nietzsche as a student, and analogies between his work and that of Nietzsche were pointed out almost as soon as he developed a following.
In 1900, the year of Nietzsche’s death, Freud bought his collected works; he told his friend, Fliess, that he hoped to find in Nietzsche’s works “the words for much that remains mute in me.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.
Nietzsche’s key ideas include the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, the Will to Power, the “death of God”, the Übermensch and eternal recurrence. One of the key tenets of his philosophy is the concept of “life-affirmation,” which embraces the realities of the world we live now in over the idea of a world beyond. It further champions the creative powers of the individual to strive beyond social, cultural, and moral contexts. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, and his influence remains substantial, particularly in the continental philosophical schools of existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism. His ideas of individual overcoming and transcendence beyond structure and context have had a profound impact on late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century thinkers, who have used these concepts as points of departure in the development of their philosophies.

His interest in philosophy declined after he had decided on a career in neurology and psychiatry.

Sigmund Freud – A Life in Photos
Development of Psychoanalysis

In October 1885, Freud went to Paris on a fellowship to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, a renowned neurologist who was conducting scientific research into hypnosis.
He was later to recall the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in neurology research.

Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière

Charcot specialized in the study of hysteria and susceptibility to hypnosis, which he frequently demonstrated with patients on stage in front of an audience.

Once he had set up in private practice in 1886, Freud began using hypnosis in his clinical work. 
He adopted the approach of his friend and collaborator, Josef Breuer, in a use of hypnosis which was different from the French methods he had studied in that it did not use suggestion. 

Josef Breuer (January 15, 1842 – June 20, 1925) was a distinguished Austrian physician who made key discoveries in neurophysiology, and whose work in the 1880s with a patient known as Anna O. developed the talking cure (cathartic method) and laid the foundation to psychoanalysis as developed by his protégé Sigmund Freud.
Breuer is perhaps best known for his work in the 1880s with Anna O. (the pseudonym of Bertha Pappenheim), a woman suffering from “paralysis of her limbs, and anaesthesias, as well as disturbances of vision and speech.” Breuer observed that her symptoms reduced or disappeared after she described them to him. Anna O. humorously called this procedure chimney sweeping. She also coined the more serious appellation for this form of therapy, talking cure. Breuer later referred to it as the “cathartic method”.
Breuer was then a mentor to the young Sigmund Freud, and had helped set him up in medical practice. Ernest Jones recalled, “Freud was greatly interested in hearing of the case of Anna O, which made a deep impression on him”; and in his 1909 Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Freud generously pointed out, “I was a student and working for my final examinations at the time when  Breuer, first (in 1880-2) made use of this procedure. Never before had anyone removed a hysterical symptom by such a method.”

The treatment of one particular patient of Breuer’s proved to be transformative for Freud’s clinical practice.
Described as ‘Anna O‘, she was invited to talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis (she would coin the phrase “talking cure” for her treatment).
In the course of talking in this way, these symptoms became reduced in severity as she retrieved memories of traumatic incidents associated with their onset.
This led Freud to eventually establish in the course of his clinical practice that a more consistent and effective pattern of symptom relief could be achieved, without recourse to hypnosis, by encouraging patients to talk freely about whatever ideas or memories occurred to them.

In addition to this procedure, which he called “free association“, Freud found that patient’s dreams could be fruitfully analysed to reveal the complex structuring of unconscious material, and to demonstrate the psychic action of repression which underlay symptom formation.
By 1896, Freud had abandoned hypnosis, and was using the term “psychoanalysis” to refer to his new clinical method and the theories on which it was based.

Freud’s development of these new theories took place during a period in which he experienced heart irregularities, disturbing dreams and periods of depression, a “neurasthenia” which he linked to the death of his father in 1896, and which prompted a “self-analysis” of his own dreams and memories of childhood.
His explorations of his feelings of hostility to his father and rivalrous jealousy over his mother’s affections led him to a fundamental revision of his theory of the origin of the neuroses.
On the basis of his early clinical work, Freud had postulated that unconscious memories of sexual molestation in early childhood were a necessary precondition for the psychoneuroses (hysteria and obsessional neurosis), a formulation now known as ‘Freud’s seduction theory‘.
In the light of his self-analysis, Freud abandoned the theory that every neurosis can be traced back to the effects of infantile sexual abuse, now arguing that infantile sexual scenarios still had a causative function, but it did not matter whether they were real or imagined, and that in either case they became pathogenic only when acting as repressed memories.

Oedipus Complex ?

This transition from the ‘theory of infantile sexual trauma‘ as a general explanation of how all neuroses originate to one that presupposes an autonomous infantile sexuality provided the basis for Freud’s subsequent formulation of the theory of the ‘Oedipus Complex’.

Freud described the evolution of his clinical method and set out his theory of the ‘psychogenetic origins of hysteria‘, demonstrated in a number of case histories, in ‘Studies on Hysteria’ published in 1895 (co-authored with Josef Breuer).
In 1889 Freud published ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ in which, following a critical review of existing theory, Freud gives detailed interpretations of his own and his patients dreams in terms of wish-fulfilments made subject to the repression and censorship of the “dream work”. 
He then sets out the theoretical model of mental structure (the unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious) on which this account is based.
An abridged version, ‘On Dreams’, was published in 1901.
In works which would win him a more general readership, Freud applied his theories outside the clinical setting in ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ (1901), and ‘Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious’ (1905).
In ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’, published in 1905, Freud elaborates his theory of infantile sexuality, describing its “polymorphous perverse” forms, and the functioning of the “drives”, to which it gives rise, in the formation of sexual identity.
The same year he published ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora)’ which became one of his more famous and controversial case studies.
Early Followers

Freud spent most of his life in Vienna.
From 1891 until 1938, he and his family lived in an apartment at Berggasse 19 near the Innere Stadt or historical quarter of Vienna.

Universität Wien

As a docent of the University of Vienna, Freud, since the mid-1880s, had been delivering lectures on his theories to small audiences every Saturday evening at the lecture hall of the university’s psychiatric clinic.

He gave lectures in the university every year from 1886 to 1919.
His work generated a considerable degree of interest from a small group of Viennese physicians.
From the autumn of 1902 and shortly after his promotion to the honorific title of Außerordentlicher Professor, a small group of followers formed around him, meeting at his apartment every Wednesday afternoon, to discuss issues relating to psychology and neuropathology.
This group was called the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft, and it marked the beginnings of the worldwide psychoanalytic movement.
This discussion group was founded around Freud at the suggestion of the physician Wilhelm Stekel.
Wilhelm Stekel 

Wilhelm Stekel (March 18, 1868 – June 25, 1940) was an Austrian physician and psychologist, who became one of Sigmund Freud’s earliest followers, and was once described as “Freud’s most distinguished pupil. ‘Stekel may be accorded the honour, together with Freud, of having founded the first psycho-analytic society‘. He later had a falling-out with Freud. His works are translated and published in many languages.

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing 

Stekel had studied medicine at the University of Vienna under Richard von Krafft-Ebing.

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (14 August 1840 – 22 December 1902) was an Austro–German psychiatrist and author of the foundational work ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’.
Krafft-Ebing, born in Mannheim, Germany, studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, where he specialized in psychiatry. He later practised in psychiatric asylums. After leaving his work in asylums, he pursued a career in psychiatry, forensics, and hypnosis.

His conversion to psychoanalysis is variously attributed to his successful treatment by Freud for a sexual problem, or as a result of his reading ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, to which he subsequently gave a positive review in the Viennese daily newspaper’ Neues Wiener Tagblatt’.
The other three original members whom Freud invited to attend, Alfred Adler, Max Kahane, and Rudolf Reitler, were also physicians.
Both Kahane and Reitler were childhood friends of Freud.
Kahane had attended the same secondary school and both he and Reitler went to university with Freud.
They had kept abreast of Freud’s developing ideas through their attendance at his Saturday evening lectures.
In 1901, Kahane, who first introduced Stekel to Freud’s work, had opened an out-patient psychotherapy institute of which he was the director in Bauernmarkt, in Vienna.
In the same year, his medical textbook,’ Outline of Internal Medicine for Students and Practicing Physicians’ was published.
In it, he provided an outline of Freud’s psychoanalytic method.
Kahane broke with Freud in 1907 for unknown reasons, and in 1923 committed suicide.
Reitler was the director of an establishment providing thermal cures in Dorotheergasse which had been founded in 1901.
He died prematurely in 1917.
Adler, regarded as the most formidable intellect among the early Freudian circle who, in 1898, had written a health manual for the tailoring trade.
He was particularly interested in the potential social impact of psychiatry.
Max Graf, a Viennese musicologist and father of “Little Hans”, who had first encountered Freud in 1900, and joined the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft soon after its initial inception, described the ritual and atmosphere of the early meetings of the society:
The gatherings followed a definite ritual.
First one of the members would present a paper.
Then, black coffee and cakes were served; cigar and cigarettes were on the table and were consumed in great quantities.
After a social quarter of an hour, the discussion would begin.
The last and decisive word was always spoken by Freud himself.
There was the atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room.
Freud himself was its new prophet, who made the heretofore prevailing methods of psychological investigation appear superficial.
By 1906, the group had grown to sixteen members, including Otto Rank, who was employed as the group’s paid secretary.
Also in that year Freud began correspondence with Jung who was then an assistant to Eugen Bleuler at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zürich.
In March 1907 Jung and Ludwig Binswanger, also a Swiss psychiatrist, travelled to Vienna to visit Freud and attend the discussion group.
Thereafter they established a small psychoanalytic group in Zürich.
In 1908, reflecting its growing institutional status, the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft was renamed the Wiener Psychoanalytischen Vereinigung.
In 1911, the first women members were admitted to the Society.
Tatiana Rosenthal and Sabina Spielrein were both Russian psychiatrists, and graduates of the Zürich University medical school.
Prior to the completion of her studies, Spielrein had been a patient of Jung at the Burghölzli and the clinical and personal details of their relationship became the subject of an extensive correspondence between Freud and Jung.
Both women would go on to make important contributions to the work of Russian Psychoanalytic Society which was founded in 1910.
Freud’s early followers met together formally for the first time at the Hotel Bristol, Salzburg on 27 April 1908.
This meeting, which was retrospectively deemed to be the first Internationalen Psychoanalytischen Kongress, was convened at the suggestion of Ernest Jones, then a London based neurologist, who had discovered Freud’s writings and begun applying psychoanalytic methods in his clinical work.
Jones had met Jung at a conference the previous year and they met up again in Zürich to organize the Kongress.
There were, as Jones records, “forty-two present, half of whom were or became practicing analysts”.
In addition to Jones and the Viennese and Zürich contingents accompanying Freud and Jung, also present and notable for their subsequent importance in the psychoanalytic movement were Abraham and Max Eitingon from Berlin, Sándor Ferenczi from Budapest and the New York based Abraham Brill.
Important decisions were taken at the Kongress with a view to advancing the impact of Freud’s work.
A journal, the ‘Jahrbuch fur psychoanlytische und psychopathologishe Forschungen’, was launched in 1909 under the editorship of Jung.
This was followed in 1910 by the monthly ‘Zentralblatt fur Psychoanalyse’ edited by Adler and Stekel, in 1911 by ‘Imago’, a journal devoted to the application of psychoanalysis to the field of cultural and literary studies edited by Rank and in 1913 by the ‘Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse’, also edited by Rank.
Plans for an Internationale Vereinigung der Psychoanalytikers were put in place, and these were implemented at the Nürnberg Congress of 1910, where Jung was elected, with Freud’s support, as its first president.
Freud turned to Brill and Jones to further his ambition to spread the psychoanalytic cause in the English-speaking world.
Both were invited to Vienna following the Salzburg Congress and a division of labour was agreed with Brill given the translation rights for Freud’s works, and Jones, who was to take up a post at Toronto University later in the year, tasked with establishing a platform for Freudian ideas in North American academic and medical life.
Jones’s advocacy prepared the way for Freud’s visit to the United States, accompanied by Jung and Ferenczi, in September 1909 at the invitation of Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, where he gave five lectures on psychoanalysis.
When the ocean liner George Washington arrived in New York, Freud is rumoured to have remarked to Jung, “They don’t realize that we are bringing them the plague.”
The event, at which Freud was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, marked the first public recognition of Freud’s work and attracted widespread media interest.
Freud’s audience included the distinguished neurologist and psychiatrist James Jackson Putnam, Professor of Diseases of the Nervous System at Harvard, who invited Freud to his country retreat, where they held extensive discussions over a period of four days.
Putnam’s subsequent public endorsement of Freud’s work represented a significant breakthrough for the psychoanalytic cause in the United States.
When Putnam and Jones organised the founding of the American Psychoanalytic Association in May 1911 they were elected president and secretary respectively.
Brill founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society the same year.
His translations of Freud’s work began to appear from 1909.
Early Work
Freud entered private practice in neurology for financial reasons, receiving his M.D. degree in 1881 at the age of 25.
Amongst his principal concerns in the 1880s was the anatomy of the brain, specifically the medulla oblongata.
He intervened in the important debates about aphasia with his monograph of 1891, ‘Zur Auffassung der Aphasien’, in which he coined the term agnosia, and counselled against a too locationist view of the explanation of neurological deficits.
Like his contemporary Eugen Bleuler, he emphasized brain function rather than brain structure.
Freud was also an early researcher in the field of cerebral palsy, which was then known as “cerebral paralysis”.
He published several medical papers on the topic, and showed that the disease existed long before other researchers of the period began to notice and study it.
He also suggested that William Little, the man who first identified cerebral palsy, was wrong about lack of oxygen during birth being a cause.
Instead, he suggested that complications in birth were only a symptom.
Freud hoped that his research would provide a solid scientific basis for his therapeutic technique.
The goal of Freudian therapy, or psychoanalysis, was to bring repressed thoughts and feelings into consciousness in order to free the patient from suffering repetitive distorted emotions.
Classically, the bringing of unconscious thoughts and feelings to consciousness is brought about by encouraging a patient to talk about dreams and engage in free association, in which patients report their thoughts without reservation and make no attempt to concentrate while doing so.
Another important element of psychoanalysis is transference, the process by which patients displace onto their analysts feelings and ideas which derive from previous figures in their lives. 
Transference was first seen as a regrettable phenomenon that interfered with the recovery of repressed memories, and disturbed patients’ objectivity, but by 1912, Freud had come to see it as an essential part of the therapeutic process.
The origin of Freud’s early work with psychoanalysis can be linked to Josef Breuer.
Freud credited Breuer with opening the way to the discovery of the psychoanalytical method by his treatment of the case of Anna O.
In November 1880, Breuer was called in to treat a highly intelligent 21-year-old woman (Bertha Pappenheim) for a persistent cough that he diagnosed as hysterical.
He found that while nursing her dying father, she had developed a number of transitory symptoms, including visual disorders and paralysis and contractures of limbs, which he also diagnosed as hysterical.
Breuer began to see his patient almost every day as the symptoms increased and became more persistent, and observed that she entered states of absence.
He found that when, with his encouragement, she told fantasy stories in her evening states of absence her condition improved, and most of her symptoms had disappeared by April 1881. 
However, following the death of her father in that month her condition deteriorated again. 
Breuer recorded that some of the symptoms eventually remitted spontaneously, and that full recovery was achieved by inducing her to recall events that had precipitated the occurrence of a specific symptom.
In the years immediately following Breuer’s treatment, Anna O. spent three short periods in sanatoria with the diagnosis “hysteria” with “somatic symptoms”, and some authors have challenged Breuer’s published account of a cure.

Freud’s Major Theories

According to Freud, the mind can be divided into three different levels:
The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of.
This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally.
A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness.
Freud called this the preconscious.

In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the conscious mind consists of everything inside of our awareness. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about in a rational way.
The conscious mind includes such things as the sensations, perceptions, memories, feeling and fantasies inside of our current awareness. Closely allied with the conscious mind is the preconscious, which includes the things that we are not thinking of at the moment but which we can easily draw into conscious awareness.
Things that the conscious mind wants to keep hidden from awareness are repressed into the unconscious mind. While we are unaware of these feelings, thoughts, urges and emotions, Freud believed that the unconscious mind could still have an influence on our behavior.Freud often used the metaphor of an iceberg to describe the two major aspects of human personality. The tip of the iceberg that extends above the water represents the conscious mind. As you can see in the image at the right, the conscious mind is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Beneath the water is the much larger bulk of the iceberg, which represents the unconscious.
While the conscious and preconscious are important, Freud believed that they were far less vital than the unconscious. The things that are hidden from awareness, he believed, exerted the greatest influence over our personalities and behaviors
The preconscious mind is the part of the mind that represents ordinary memory.
While we are not consciously aware of this information at any given time, we can retrieve it and pull it into consciousness when needed.

In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the preconscious mind is a part of the mind that corresponds to ordinary memory. These memories are not conscious, but we can retrieve them to conscious awareness at any time.
While these memories are not part of your immediate awareness, they can be quickly brought into awareness through conscious effort. For example, if you were asked what television show you watched last night or what you had for breakfast this morning, you would be pulling that information out of your preconscious.

A helpful way to think of the preconscious is that it acts as a sort of gatekeeper between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. It allows only certain pieces of information to pass through and enter conscious awareness.

The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. 

According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
Freud likened these three levels of mind to an iceberg.
The top of the iceberg that you can see above the water represents the conscious mind.
The part of the iceberg that is submerged below the water but is still visible is the preconscious. 
The bulk of the iceberg lies unseen beneath the waterline and represents the unconscious.
Each person also possesses a certain amount of psychological energy that forms the three basic structures of personality: the id, the ego, and the superego. These three structures have different roles and operate at different levels of the mind. In the next article in this series, learn more about the functions of each of these structures.
According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, personality is composed of three elements.
These three elements of personality – known as the id, the ego and the superego – work together to create complex human behaviours.

The Id

Das Es – the id – is the only component of personality that is present from birth.
This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious, and includes of the instinctive and primitive behaviours.
According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality.
The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs.

The pleasure principle is the instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs. Specifically, the pleasure principle is the driving force guiding the id.

If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension.
The id is very important early in life, because it ensures that an infant’s needs are met.
However, immediately satisfying these needs is not always realistic or even possible.
If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings.
This sort of behaviour would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable.
According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the primary process, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.
According to Freud the id is unconscious by definition:
It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the Dreamwork, and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations…. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.
In the id:
contrary impulses exist side by side, without cancelling each other out…. There is nothing in the id that could be compared with negation … nothing in the id which corresponds to the idea of time.
Developmentally, the id precedes the ego; i.e. the psychic apparatus begins, at birth, as an undifferentiated id, part of which then develops into a structured ego.
Thus, the id:
contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution — above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organization, and which find a first psychical expression here (in the id) in forms unknown to us.”
The id:
knows no judgements of value: no good and evil, no morality…. Instinctual cathexes seeking discharge – that, in our view, is all there is in the id.”
It is regarded as: “the great reservoir of libido“, the instinctive drive to create – the life instincts that are crucial to pleasurable survival.
Alongside the life instincts came the ‘death instinct‘ – Thanatos – which Freud articulated relatively late in his career in “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state.”
For Freud, “the death instinct would thus seem to express itself – though probably only in part – as an instinct of destruction directed against the external world and other organisms”through aggression.
Freud considered that “the id, the whole person … originally includes all the instinctual impulses … the destructive instinct as well.” as ‘Eros’, or the ‘life instinct‘.

The Ego

The ego (Das Ich), is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality.
According to Freud, the ego develops from the id, and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world.
The ego functions in both the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.
The ego operates based on the ‘reality principle’, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways.

The reality principle is the ability of the mind to assess the reality of the external world, and to act upon it accordingly, as opposed to acting on the pleasure principle.
Rebellion against the constraints of the reality principle, in favour of a belief in infantile omnipotence, appears as a feature of all neurotic behaviour.
Psychosis can be seen as the result of the suspension of the reality principle, while sleep and dreaming offer a ‘normal’ everyday example of its decommissioning.
The reality principle increases its scope in the wake of puberty, expanding the range and maturity of the choices the individual makes.
A further change in the reality principle from adolescence to adulthood can be a critical transition in its consolidation; but the impact of certain traumatic experiences may prove to be detrimental from within the unconscious. In the new reality principle, the individual must find themselves to be represented as a strong presence within their own mind and making reasoned decisions, instead of being merely perceived. It is the culmination of the way in which an adolescent learns to experience oneself in the context of their external reality.

The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses.
In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification – the ego will eventually allow the behaviour, but only in the appropriate time and place.
The ego also discharges tension created by unmet impulses through the secondary process, in which the ego tries to find an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id’s primary process.
The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world…. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions … in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces.
Still worse, “it serves three severe masters … the external world, the super-ego and the id.
Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the id and super-ego.
Its main concern is with the individual’s safety and allows some of the id’s desires to be expressed, but only when consequences of these actions are marginal.
Thus the ego, driven by the id, confined by the super-ego, repulsed by reality, struggles … [in] bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it,” and readily “breaks out in anxiety — realistic anxiety regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the super-ego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id.
It has to do its best to suit all three, thus is constantly feeling hemmed by the danger of causing discontent on two other sides.
It is said, however, that the ego seems to be more loyal to the id, preferring to gloss over the finer details of reality to minimize conflicts while pretending to have a regard for reality.
But the super-ego is constantly watching every one of the ego’s moves and punishes it with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inferiority.
To overcome this the ego employs defence mechanisms.
The defence mechanisms are not done so directly or consciously.
They lessen the tension by covering up our impulses that are threatening.
Ego defence mechanisms are often used by the ego when id behaviour conflicts with reality and either society’s morals, norms, and taboos or the individual’s expectations as a result of the internalization of these morals, norms, and their taboos.
Denial, displacement, internationalisation, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, and sublimation were the ‘defence mechanisms’ Freud identified, however, his daughter Anna Freud clarified and identified the concepts of undoing, suppression, dissociation, idealization, identification, introjection, inversion, somatisation, splitting, and substitution.

The Superego

The last component of personality to develop is the superego (Das Über-Ich).
The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society – our sense of right and wrong.
The superego provides guidelines for making judgments.
According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five.
There are two parts of the superego:
The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for good behaviours.
These behaviours include those which are approved of by parental and other authority figures. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value and accomplishment.
The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society.
These behaviours are often forbidden, and lead to bad consequences, punishments or feelings of guilt and remorse.
The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behaviour.
It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id, and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles.
The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious.
Freud’s theory implies that the super-ego is a symbolic internalisation of the father figure, and cultural regulations.
The super-ego tends to stand in opposition to the desires of the id because of their conflicting objectives, and its aggressiveness towards the ego.
The super-ego acts as the conscience, maintaining our sense of morality and proscription from taboos.
The super-ego and the ego are the product of two key factors: the state of helplessness of the child and the Oedipus complex.
Its formation takes place during the dissolution of the ‘Oedipus Complex’, and is formed by an identification with and internalisation of the father figure after the little boy cannot successfully hold the mother as a love-object out of fear of castration.
The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on – in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt.”
In Sigmund Freud’s work ‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ (1930), he also discusses the concept of a “cultural super-ego“.
Freud suggested that the demands of the super-ego “coincide with the precepts of the prevailing cultural super-ego. At this point the two processes, that of the cultural development of the group and that of the cultural development of the individual, are, as it were, always interlocked.
Ethics are a central element in the demands of the cultural super-ego, but Freud (as analytic moralist) protested against what he called “the unpsychological proceedings of the cultural super-ego … the ethical demands of the cultural super-ego. It does not trouble itself enough about the facts of the mental constitution of human beings.

The terms “id”, “ego”, and “super-ego” are not Freud’s own. They are latinisations by his translator James Strachey. Freud himself wrote of “das Es,” “das Ich,” and “das Über-Ich” – respectively, “the It”, “the I”, and the “Over-I” –  thus to the German reader, Freud’s original terms are more or less self-explanatory. Freud borrowed the term “das Es” from Georg Groddeck, a German physician to whose unconventional ideas Freud was much attracted (Groddeck’s translators render the term in English as “the It”). The word ego is taken directly from Latin, where it is the nominative of the first person singular personal pronoun and is translated as “I myself” to express emphasis.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychic processes that provide the ego with relief from the state of psychic conflict between the intruding id, the threatening superego and the powerful influences emanating from the external reality.
Due to these forces in the mind opposing and battling against each other, anxiety signals an internal danger.
These mechanisms come into play to enable the ego to reach compromise solutions to problems that it is unable to solve, by letting some component of the unwelcome mental contents emerge into consciousness in a disguised form.
How efficiently these mechanisms are to strengthen the ego, and to what extent they further different forms of compromise formations that may turn out to be psychoneurotic symptoms, depends on how successfully the ego reaches a higher or lesser degree of integration of these conflicting forces in the mind.
The more the ego is blocked in its development for being entangled in its earlier conflicts (fixations), clinging to archaic modes of functioning, the greater is the possibility of succumbing to these forces.
Anna Freud, in ‘The Ego and The Mechanisms of Defence’ (1946), formulates the hypothesis that what the ego fears most is the return to a previous stage of fusion with the id, in case repression fails or instincts are too intense.
In order to ensure the maintenance of the level of organization achieved, the ego has to protect itself from the invasion of instinctual demands (drives) of the id, and from the return of the repressed contents.
In fact, in the chapter “The Ego’s Dependent Relations”, in ‘The Id and the Ego’ (1923), Freud says: “psychoanalysis is the instrument to enable the ego to achieve a progressive conquest of the id“.
Psychoanalysis aims at transforming greater amounts of what once belonged to the id into acceptable possessions of the ego, along with its main purpose of turning unconscious contents into conscious ones.
Thus, the mind can find solutions that were previously unattainable to the immature ego.
The Major Defense Mechanisms:

1. Repression – the withdrawal from consciousness of an unwanted idea, affect, or desire by pushing it into the unconscious part of the mind.
2. Reaction formation – the fixation in consciousness of an idea, affect, or desire that is opposite to a feared unconscious impulse.
3. Projection – unwanted feelings are attributed to another person.
4. Regression – a return to forms of gratification belonging to earlier phases, due to conflicts arising at more developed stages.
5. Rationalization – the substitution of the true, but threatening cause of behavior for a safe and reasonable explanation.
6. Denial – the conscious refusal to perceive disturbing facts. It deprives the individual of the necessary awareness to cope with external challenges and the employment of adequate strategies for survival as well.
7. Displacement- the redirection of an urge onto a substitute outlet.
8. Undoing – is achieved through an act, which goal is the cancellation of a prior unpleasant experience.
9. Introjection – intimately related to identification, aims at solving some emotional difficulty of the individual by means of taking into his personality characteristics of someone else.
10. Sublimation – part of the energy invested in sexual impulses is shifted to the pursuit of socially valuable achievements, such as artistic or scientific endeavors.

Seduction Theory

In the early 1890s, Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his “pressure technique” and his newly developed analytic technique of interpretation and reconstruction.
According to Freud’s later accounts of this period, as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse.
He believed these stories, which he used as the basis for his ‘seduction theory‘, but then he came to believe that they were fantasies.
He explained these at first as having the function of “fending off” memories of infantile masturbation, but in later years he wrote that they represented Oedipal fantasies, stemming from innate drives that are sexual and destructive in nature.
Another version of events focuses on Freud’s proposing that unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse were at the root of the psychoneuroses in letters to Fliess in October 1895, before he reported that he had actually discovered such abuse among his patients.
In the first half of 1896, Freud published three papers, which led to his ‘seduction theory‘, stating that he had uncovered, in all of his current patients, deeply repressed memories of sexual abuse in early childhood.
In these papers, Freud recorded that his patients were not consciously aware of these memories, and must therefore be present as unconscious memories if they were to result in hysterical symptoms or obsessional neurosis.
The patients were subjected to considerable pressure to “reproduce” infantile sexual abuse “scenes” that Freud was convinced had been repressed into the unconscious.
Patients were generally unconvinced that their experiences of Freud’s clinical procedure indicated actual sexual abuse.
He reported that even after a supposed “reproduction” of sexual scenes the patients assured him emphatically of their disbelief.
As well as his pressure technique, Freud’s clinical procedures involved analytic inference and the symbolic interpretation of symptoms to trace back to memories of infantile sexual abuse.
His claim of one hundred percent confirmation of his theory only served to reinforce previously expressed reservations from his colleagues about the validity of findings obtained through his suggestive techniques.
Freud subsequently showed inconsistency as to whether his seduction theory was still compatible with his later findings.

The Unconscious

The concept of the unconscious was central to Freud’s account of the mind.
Freud believed that while poets and thinkers had long known of the existence of the unconscious, he had ensured that it received scientific recognition in the field of psychology, however, the concept made an informal appearance in Freud’s writings.
The unconscious was first introduced in connection with the phenomenon of repression, to explain what happens to ideas that are repressed.
Freud stated explicitly that the concept of the unconscious was based on the theory of repression.
He postulated a cycle in which ideas are repressed, but remain in the mind, removed from consciousness yet operative, then reappear in consciousness under certain circumstances. 
The postulate was based upon the investigation of cases of traumatic hysteria, which revealed cases where the behaviour of patients could not be explained without reference to ideas or thoughts of which they had no awareness.
This fact, combined with the observation that such behaviour could be artificially induced by hypnosis, in which ideas were inserted into people’s minds, suggested that ideas were operative in the original cases, even though their subjects knew nothing of them.
Freud, like Josef Breuer, found the hypothesis that hysterical manifestations were generated by ideas to be not only warranted, but given in observation.
Disagreement between them arose, however, when they attempted to give causal explanations of their data: Breuer favored a hypothesis of hypnoid states, while Freud postulated the mechanism of defense (see above).
Freud originally allowed that repression might be a conscious process, but by the time he wrote his second paper on the “Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” (1896), he apparently believed that repression, which he referred to as “the psychical mechanism of (unconscious) defense“, occurred on an unconscious level.
Freud further developed his theories about the unconscious in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1899) and in ‘Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious’ (1905), where he dealt with condensation and displacement as inherent characteristics of unconscious mental activity. 
Freud presented his first systematic statement of his hypotheses about unconscious mental processes in 1912, in response to an invitation from the London Society of Psychical Research to contribute to its Proceedings.
In 1915, Freud expanded that statement into a more ambitious metapsychological paper, entitled “The Unconscious”.
In both these papers, when Freud tried to distinguish between his conception of the unconscious and those that pre-dated psychoanalysis, he found it in his postulation of ideas that are simultaneously latent and operative.

‘Die Traumdeutung’

The Nightmare
Johann Heinrich Füssli

The ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ introduces Freud’s theory of the unconscious (see above) with respect to dream interpretation, and also first discusses what would later become the theory of the ‘Oedipus Complex’ – (see below).
Freud revised the book at least eight times and, in the third edition, added an extensive section which treated dream symbolism very literally, following the influence of Wilhelm Stekel.
Freud said of this work, “Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.”
The initial print run of the book was very low – it took many years to sell out the first 600 copies. However, the work gained popularity as Freud did, and seven more editions were printed in his lifetime.
The text was translated from German into English by A. A. Brill, an American Freudian psychoanalyst, and later in an authorized translation by James Strachey, who was British. 
Because the book is very long and complex, Freud wrote an abridged version called ‘On Dreams’, which was published in 1901 as part of Lowenfeld and Kurella’s ‘Grenzfragen des Nerven und Seelenlebens’.
It was re-published in 1911 in slightly larger form as a book.
Freud spent the summer of 1895 at manor Belle Vue, near Grinzing in Austria, where he began the inception of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’.
In a 1900 letter to Wilhelm Fliess, he wrote in commemoration of the place:
Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: ‘In this house on July 24th, 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigm. Freud’ ? At the moment I see little prospect of it.” – Freud in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess, June 12th, 1900

Overview of ‘Die Traumdeutung’

The Bee Sting
Salvador Dali

Dreams, in Freud’s view, are all forms of “wish fulfillment” – attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, whether something recent or something from the recesses of the past (later in ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, Freud would discuss dreams which do not appear to be wish-fulfilment).
Because the information in the unconscious is in an unruly and often disturbing form, a “censor” in the preconscious will not allow it to pass unaltered into the conscious.
During dreams, the preconscious is more lax in this duty than in waking hours, but is still attentive: as such, the unconscious must distort and warp the meaning of its information to make it through the censorship.
As such, images in dreams are often not what they appear to be, according to Freud, and need deeper interpretation if they are to inform on the structures of the unconscious.
Freud used to mention the dreams as “The Royal Road to the Unconscious“.
He proposed the ‘phenomenon of condensation‘; (see below) the idea that one simple symbol or image presented in a person’s dream may have multiple meanings.
For this very reason, Freud tried to focus on details during psychoanalysis and asked his patients about things they could even think trivial (i.e. while a patient was describing an experience in their dream, Freud could ask him/her: “was there any sign upon the walls ? What was it ?”).
As Freud was focusing upon the biologic drives of the individual (a fact that alienated him from several colleagues of his like Breuer, Jung and Adler), he stated that when we observe a hollow object in our dreams, like a box or a cave, this is a symbol of a womb, while an elongated object is a symbol for penis – or more correctly the phallus.
Due to these statements, Freud attracted much criticism from those who believed him a “sexist” or “misanthrope“, as he was alleged to have overemphasised the role of instinct, as though he believed people were “wild beasts“.


The first edition begins:
In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there exists a psychological technique by which dreams may be interpreted and that upon the application of this method every dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state. I shall furthermore endeavor to explain the processes which give rise to the strangeness and obscurity of the dream, and to discover through them the psychic forces, which operate whether in combination or opposition, to produce the dream. This accomplished by investigation will terminate as it will reach the point where the problem of the dream meets broader problems, the solution of which must be attempted through other material.”
Freud begins his book in the first chapter titled “The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dream” by reviewing different scientific views on dream interpretation, which he finds interesting but not adequate.
He then makes his argument by describing a number of dreams which he claims illustrate his theory.
Freud describes three main types of dreams: 1. Direct prophecies received in the dream (chrematismos, oraculum); 2. The foretelling of a future event (orama, visio) 3. The symbolic dream, which requires interpretation (Interpretation of Dreams 5).
Much of Freud’s sources for analysis are in literature.
Many of his most important dreams are his own – his method is inaugurated with an analysis of his dream “Irma’s injection” – but many also come from patient case studies.

Theory of Dreams

In the psychodynamic perspective, the transferring of unconscious thoughts into consciousness is called ‘dreamwork‘.
In dreams, there are two different types of content, the manifest and latent content.
The latent content is the underlying, unconscious feelings and thoughts.
The manifest content is made up of a combination of the latent thoughts, and it is what is actually being seen in the dream.
According to Carl Jung’s principle of compensation, the reason that there is latent content in dreams is because the unconscious is making up for the limitations of the conscious mind.
Since the conscious mind cannot be aware of all things at once, the latent content allows for these hidden away thoughts to be unlocked.
Psychoanalysts use the knowledge of the process of dreamwork to analyse dreams.
In other words, the clinician will study the manifest content to understand what the latent content is trying to say.


To be able to understand dreamwork fully, a person needs to understand how the mind transfers the latent thoughts to manifest.
The first step is called condensation, and it is the combining of different unconscious thought into one.
The combining of the unconscious thoughts makes it easier for the mind to express them in the dream.
The step of condensation has two sub-steps, day residues and censorship.
Day residues are left over daily issues that bring up some unconscious thought.
The mind then displays this thought through a similar situation from the day.
Before the unconscious thoughts can be displayed they are censored.
Since many unconscious thoughts do not follow the moral code of society, the mind changes them to be more respectful.
This is done so that it does not cause the dreamer anxiety and therefore wake them up.
It is also due to censorship that multiple unconscious thoughts are combined, since it is hard to just have one slip through.
After condensation, another step in the formation of dreams is displacement.
This is where the dream directs feelings or desires onto an unrelated subject.
This is similar to the practice of transference, which is a common technique used in psychoanalysis.
Another step in the formation of dreams is symbolism.
Objects or situations in dreams, actually represent something else, commonly an unconscious thought or desire.
The fourth, and final step in formation is secondary revision.
In this step, all the thoughts are put together and are made coherent.
Also another point of this step is to make the dream relate to the dreamer.
These four steps put together make up dreamwork.

Der Ödipus-Komplex

The term ‘Oedipus Complex’ denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrates upon a child’s desire to sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex (e.g. males attracted to their mothers, whereas females are attracted to their fathers).

Oedipus and the Sphinx
Gustave Moreau
Frederic Leighton

Freud believed that the Oedipus complex is a desire for the parent in both males and females; 
Freud deprecated the term “Electra complex”, which was introduced by Carl Gustav Jung in regard to the Oedipus complex manifested in young girls.
The Oedipus complex occurs in the third – phallic stage (ages 3–6) – of the five psycho-sexual development stages: (i) the oral, (ii) the anal, (iii) the phallic, (iv) the latent, and (v) the genital – in which the source of libidinal pleasure is in a different erogenous zone of the infant’s body.
In classical psychoanalytic theory, child’s identification with the same-sex parent is the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex, a key psychological experience that is necessary for the development of a mature sexual role and identity.
Freud further proposed that boys and girls experience the complexes differently: boys in a form of castration anxiety, girls in a form of penis envy; and that unsuccessful resolution of the complexes might lead to neurosis and/or paedophilia.
Men and women who are fixated in the Oedipal stage of their psychosexual development might be considered “mother-fixated” and “father-fixated”.
In adult life this can lead to a choice of a sexual partner who resembles one’s parent.

Background to Der Ödipus-Komplex

Oedipus refers to a 5th-century BC Greek mythlogic character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother, Jocasta.
A play based on the myth, ‘Oedipus Rex’, was written by Sophocles, ca. 429 BC.
Modern productions of Sophocles’ play were staged in Paris and Vienna in the 19th century and were phenomenally successful in the 1880s and 1890s. which Freud attended.
In his book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ – (see above), he proposed that an Oedipal desire is a universal, psychological phenomenon innate (phylogenetic) to human beings, and the cause of much unconscious guilt.
He based this on his analysis of his feelings attending the play, his anecdotal observations of neurotic or normal children, and on the fact that the ‘Oedipus Rex’ play was effective on both ancient and modern audiences (he also claimed the play Hamlet was effective for the same reason).
Freud described the man Oedipus:
‘His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours – because the Oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so.’

The Theory of Der Ödipus-Komplex

Oedipus and the Sphinx

In psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex occurs during the phallic stage of psycho-sexual development (age 3–6 years), when also occurs the formation of the libido and the ego; yet it might manifest itself at an earlier age.
In the phallic stage, a boy’s decisive psycho-sexual experience is the Oedipus complex – his son-father competition for possession of mother.
It is in this third stage of psycho-sexual development that the child’s genitalia are his or her primary erogenous zone; thus, when children become aware of their bodies, the bodies of other children, and the bodies of their parents, they gratify physical curiosity by undressing and exploring themselves, each other, and their genitals, so learning the anatomic differences between “male” and “female”, and the gender differences between “boy” and “girl”.

Psychosexual Infantilism

Despite mother being the parent who primarily gratifies the child’s desires, the child begins forming a discrete sexual identity – “boy”, “girl” – that alters the dynamics of the parent and child relationship; the parents become objects of infantile libidinal energy.
The boy directs his libido (sexual desire) upon his mother, and directs jealousy and emotional rivalry against his father – because it is he who sleeps with his mother.

Moreover, to facilitate union with mother, the boy’s id wants to kill father (as did Oedipus), but the pragmatic ego, based upon the reality principle, knows that the father is the stronger of the two males competing to possess the one female.
Nonetheless, the boy remains ambivalent about his father’s place in the family, which is manifested as fear of castration by the physically greater father; the fear is an irrational, subconscious manifestation of the infantile id.

Psycho-logic Defence

In both sexes, defence mechanisms provide transitory resolutions of the conflict between the drives of the id and the drives of the ego.
The first defence mechanism is repression, the blocking of memories, emotional impulses, and ideas from the conscious mind; yet its action does not resolve the id–ego conflict.
The second defence mechanism is identification, by which the child incorporates, to his or her (super)ego, the personality characteristics of the same-sex parent; in so adapting, the boy diminishes his castration anxiety, because his likeness to father protects him from father’s wrath in their maternal rivalry; by so adapting, the girl facilitates identifying with mother, who understands that, in being females, neither of them possesses a penis, and thus are not antagonists.


Unresolved son–father competition for the psycho-sexual possession mother might result in a phallic stage fixation, conducive to a boy becoming an aggressive, over-ambitious, vain man. Therefore, the satisfactory parental handling and resolution of the Oedipus complex are most important in developing the male infantile super-ego, because, by identifying with a parent, the boy internalizes Morality, thereby, he chooses to comply with societal rules, rather than reflexively complying in fear of punishment.

to be continued

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Nürnberg – Architecture and Spectacle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg – Architecture and Spectacle

No city in the Third Reich was as important symbolically as Nürnberg – the official site of the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag.

The rallies, held in Nürnberg on two occasions during the 1920s and on an annual basis throughout much of the 1930s, were a series of gigantic, theatrically staged celebrations of unity and power.
Triumph des Willens
Leni Riefenstahl
Extensively covered in the media, and vividly captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s classic film, ‘Triumph des Willens’, the rallies captured the attention of the world, leaving both Germans and non-Germans alike suspended in a state of fascination and admiration.

Triumph des Willens
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

1934 – The 6th Party Congress was held in Nuremberg, September 5-10, 1934. Initially it did not have a theme. Later it was labelled the “Rally of Unity and Strength” (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), “Rally of Power” (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or “Rally of Will” (Reichsparteitag des Willens).
‘Triumph des Willens’ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.

Even today the city of Nürnberg continues to live on in the memory of Germans ‘as the symbolic place of National Socialist rule.‘”
Geographers exploring the linkages between spectacle, identity and place have often approached landscapes as texts to be read.
More recently, scholars have emphasized the ways in which these landscapes serve as a type of stage for human action.
Whereas the metaphor of the text implies a rather passive role for landscape, the idea of landscape as a stage, and an emphasis on the role of performance, recognize a greater degree of dynamism and interaction between people and place. 
This notion of landscape as theatre could be further extended, not solely as the backdrop in which the action takes place but as actively constituting the action.
The stage acts more than as the context for the performance; it is the performance itself.

The Nürnberg Party Rallies were political spectacles designed to generate public support for the National Socialist regime through the performance of an annual ritual, characterized by a high degree of mass pageantry.
To be effective, spectacles of this kind are often situated in landscapes endowed with a history capable of evoking a particularly powerful sense of national pride and belonging.
Nürnberg served well this requirement.

Nürnberg Kaiserstallung
Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The city had a long, romantic history and contained many historic features of architectural and cultural importance.

Nürnberg was thus in many ways already a national symbol.
What remained was to convert it into a participatory landscape, in which spectacle and architecture might combine to legitimate and glorify the regime, enhance the personal charisma of Adolf Hitler and imbue among the masses a strong sense of National Socialist community and purpose.
The theatrical aspects of the rallies depended greatly on their venue.
In this sense, the rally agenda coincided with another preoccupation of the National Socialists and their leader: the idea that German cities typically lacked the kind of symbolic spaces and architecture necessary to galvanize a strong sense of community and purpose.
Mein Kampf

In ‘Mein Kampf‘, Hitler lamented that the inevitable result of this deficiency was ‘a desolation whose practical effect is the total indifference of the big-city dweller to the destiny of his city‘.
The Third Reich, therefore, chose to embark on an ambitious building programme that would refashion German cities with new monumental spaces and structures intended to focus Germans on the glory of their country as well as on the goals and values of National Socialism.
Architecture, in particular, was seen as a powerful expression of national greatness.

This article explores the interactions of spectacle, architecture and place embodied in the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
We focus first on the official rally grounds located just outside the city.
Here we examine the ways in which a carefully calculated use of space and architecture effectively created a world of ritual ceremony and rhetoric capable of generating an almost phantasmal sense of mass fascination and awe among participants and observers.
Our analysis, however, also leads us into the city centre, since the rallies were anything but confined to the rally grounds on the city’s edge.

Old Nürnberg

As the ‘City of the Party Rallies‘, Nürnberg’s historic centre was a fundamental but often-overlooked part of the celebrations.

In particular, the National Socialist building programme sought to restore, improve and preserve the city’s central environs simultaneously to remind the nation of the city’s historic greatness and to enhance the city’s suitability as a stirring venue for rally activities and ceremonies.
In the end we hope to emphasize the connectedness between what might be called the ‘old’ Nürnberg of the Middle Ages and the ‘new‘ Nuremberg of the 1930s.
The authorities, both party and civic, apparently saw no inconsistency in the goals of restoring, cleansing and preserving a historic city-scape in the town centre while simultaneously constructing a thoroughly modern and forward-looking rally site outside the city.
The seeming incongruity of the two endeavours was reconciled by a desire to build a sense of German pride that connected the new and glorious vision of a National Socialist future with a romantically inspiring symbol of Germany’s national past.
We also wish to emphasize the interdependence between these carefully contrived landscapes and the emotional response of the multitudes that witnessed or performed the spectacles staged upon or within them.
In other words, what makes the Nürnberg rallies perhaps unique is their unprecedented capacity to fuse spectacle, architecture and space into a single participatory experience.

The Rally Grounds

Nürnberg was not the first city to host the Party Rallies.
The first rally took place in Munich, the birthplace of the party, in 1923.
Because Hitler was banned from public speaking in Bavaria following his failed putsch, the second rally in 1926 took place in Weimar.

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag – 1927

After the Bavarian ban was lifted in 1927, Nürnberg came under consideration as a site for the third and possibly future rallies, but the choice was hardly a foregone conclusion.
For one thing, Nürnberg had never been a stronghold of National Socialist political support.
The city was actually considered a ‘red’ stronghold of the Social Democrats.
Moreover, the municipal government initially seemed lukewarm to the idea of turning over the city’s public buildings and grounds to the National Socialist celebrations.
On the other hand, the city was an attractive site because of its symbolic association with German history, art and culture stemming from its days as an imperial city during the Middle Ages; because of its relatively accessible location in central Germany; and because it possessed public facilities and grounds capable of providing adequate meeting space.

Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich. It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.
Nürnberg was probably founded around the turn of the 11th century, according to the first documentary mention of the city in 1050, as the location of an Imperial castle between the East Franks and the Bavarian March of the Nordgau.

Wappen des Königreichs Bayern
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is often referred to as having been the ‘unofficial capital’ of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly because Imperial Diet (Reichstag) and courts met at Festung Nürnberg  The Diets of Nürnberg were an important part of the administrative structure of the empire.
The cultural flowering of Nuremberg, in the 15th and 16th centuries, made it the centre of the German Renaissance.
At the Imperial diet in 1803, the independence of Nuremberg was affirmed, but on the signing of the Confederation of the Rhine on 12 July 1806, it was agreed to hand the city over to Bavaria from 8 September
In 1817, the city was incorporated into the district of Rezatkreis (named for the Franconian Rezat river.

In the end, Nürnberg was chosen for the Reichsparteitag.
Successful rallies were held there in 1927 and 1929; and in 1933 Hitler declared at the opening of the city’s third rally that Nürnberg would henceforth be the permanent locale.

1927 – The 3rd Party Congress (“Day of Awakening”) was held on August 20, 1927. The propaganda film ‘Eine Symphonie des Kampfwillens’ was made at this rally.

The rallies were then held in Nürnberg each September until suspended by the outbreak of war in 1939.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The early rallies of 1927 and 1929 were marked by improvisation, not only in the planning of scheduled events but also in the use of the city’s spaces and public facilities.
Beginning with the 1933 rally, however, a far more elaborate staging of events and venues evolved.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The rallies soon developed into carefully orchestrated and predictable affairs that lasted eight full days, attended by as many as a quarter of a million people.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The ritual began on the first day with the Führer’s dramatic arrival in Nürnberg  followed by a day of march-pasts and cultural events.
Succeeding days were devoted exclusively to the Labour Service, the ideal of community, political leadership, the Hitler Youth and the Storm Troopers.
The final day belonged entirely to the military.
As the events became more elaborated and standardized, so too did the determination to stage the largest and most important of them in a monumental complex of newly constructed arenas, stadia and meeting halls befitting a Reich that was destined to last a thousand years. 
The ‘Rally Grounds’ complex that eventually took shape was located just south-east of the city. 
This area had already been set aside in the late nineteenth century as a pleasure and recreation ground.

Dutzendteich Lake

The foci of the area’s pre-rally development were the Dutzendteich Lake, with its lakeside cafe, and the nearby Luitpold Grove.
The latter was a landscaped pleasure park originally developed as the venue for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.
In 1928 a memorial to the dead of the First World War was constructed on the north-east side of the park.
The National Socialists, who used the park during the 1927 and 1929 rallies, viewed this open space and particularly its war memorial, which recalled the martyrdom of Germany’s First World War soldiers and the humiliation of the Versailles Peace, as a particularly emotive setting for rally events.

Reichsparteitagsgelände – Nürnberg

The extensive recreational area to the south-east of the city also contained a zoo, a number of sporting fields, a public swimming pool and a municipal stadium with a capacity of 50000. Incorporating all of these existing sites and facilities and more, the official Rally Grounds covered an immense area of 16.5 square kilometres.
A special public corporation (Zweckverband Reichsparteitag Nurnberg) created in 1935 partnered the city of Nürnberg  the state of Bavaria, the Reich and the NSDAP to oversee the development of the grounds.
With the intense backing of Hitler, the project enjoyed priority status for financial and material resources from the beginning.
Between rallies, the grounds became a place of feverish construction, earning the sobriquet ‘the world’s largest building site’.

Luitpold Grove and First World War necropolis

In all there were six major components to the complex, some of which were never completed. 
The first of these was the Luitpold Grove and its First World War necropolis, which became the complex’s most hallowed ceremonial ground.
This facility was completely reworked for the rallies.
The former landscaped pleasure park was levelled, flanked by massive stone grandstands and transformed into the Luitpold Arena.

Luitpold Arena

The resulting formalized space served as the stage for one of the most moving moments of the rally schedule.

On the seventh day of the proceedings, the massed ranks of more than 150 000 SA and SS Storm Troopers filled the floor of the arena.

Hitler and his entourage then passed solemnly between the ranks along a granite path leading straight to the steps of the war memorial, where the Fürhrer would pay his respects to the nation’s and the party’s martyred dead.

Connected to the Luitpold Arena was the Luitpold Hall, a meeting hall with a capacity of 16000 redesigned and enlarged from a structure built for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.
A second, and equally pivotal, ceremonial space was the Zeppelin Field.
Built between 1934 and 1936, this squareish, stadium-like facility was a radical transformation of what had once been an amateur sports field named after Count Zeppelin, the German airship pioneer, who used it briefly for experimental flights in 1909.


The new facility’s most impressive feature was the Tribune.
This grandiose stone structure, which ran the full length of one side of the field, was the work of the young architect Albert Speer, whom Hitler also commissioned to oversee a master plan for the Rally Grounds complex.


Speer’s Tribune took the form of a long grandstand-like structure, flanked at each end with massive ‘book-end’ pylons, and dignified by a colonnaded screen behind the seating, topped by a giant swastika set in an oak leaf wreath.

A small, squareish podium, or Führer’s rostrum, jutting out from a raised platform at the centre of the structure, allowed Hitler to review the Labour Service battalions and youth groups, and military demonstrations staged by the armed forces.
Two other massive outdoor facilities were planned and begun, although neither was ever completed due to the outbreak of war.


One was the March Field (Marzfeld), the construction of which was prompted in part by the realization that the Zeppelin Field was probably too small to hold the enlarged rallies of the future.
This new arena, which was begun in 1938 on what had been a parade and exercise area for the army, was intended to hold half a million.

Deutsch Stadium

The other was the Deutsch Stadium which was to be a truly colossal affair, with a seating capacity of 405 000 – far more than any other sports stadium in the world.
Indeed, Hitler believed that the completed stadium would become the permanent site for the Olympic Games, which by his decree would henceforth be known as the Germanic World Festival.

Deutsch Stadium

The immense horseshoe-shaped stadium was to be built entirely of stone (enough to severely strain the granite-cutting capacity of the Reich for many years) and magnificently fronted at its open end by a propylaeum and columned courtyard
The structure was also to be adorned on high with gigantic spread-winged eagles, Grecian urns, and 25-metre high equestrian statues.
The cornerstone was laid in 1937, but little of the stadium was ever completed.
The other mega structure of the Rally Grounds was the Congress Hall.


Designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff in 1934, it was an immense auditorium designed to hold 50,000 Party Congress delegates on its main floor, with room for another 2,400 on its main stage.
This building was situated picturesquely along the north shore of the Dutzendteich Lake. 
Construction was begun in 1935.
Most of the building’s outer shell was completed, but the interior was never finished.
A host of other structures and facilities rounded out the Rally Grounds ensemble.
These included a multi-winged barracks for the SS, built between 1937 and 1939 on the western edge of the grounds; the old municipal stadium, which continued to be used for parades and Hitler Youth events; a number of permanent camps on the southern and eastern peripheries that housed participants belonging to various organized groups, such as the SA, the SS, the Labour Service, the Hitler Youth, the Strength through Joy and the Young Women’s organizations.
The largest of these camps, known as the Langwasser, was spacious enough to accommodate more than 200 000 people.
In addition, two railway stations served the grounds, one near the camps and the other just to the east of the Zeppelin Field.
A power station and water tower provided the camps with basic services.

The rallies were political spectacle extraordinaire.
They drew heavily on a tradition of national festivities and public celebrations in Germany dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, but were consciously designed to employ every conceivable tool that could transport crowds into a state in which they subconsciously surrendered themselves en-masse to the high drama and mystical euphoria of the moment. 
The result was indeed thought of as a Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total work of art’.

Richard Wagner

A Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form or total artwork) is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word which has come to be accepted as a term in aesthetics.

The term was first used by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff in an essay in 1827. The German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in two 1849 essays. It is unclear whether Wagner knew of Trahndorff’s essay. The word has become particularly associated with Wagner’s aesthetic ideals.

Hitler Jugend Trommler

To accomplish this the proceedings relied heavily on the stirring and anticipatory effects of martial music, trumpeted fanfares and thundering drums; on the visually exhilarating effects of massed blocks of uniformed marching men and women, phalanxes of flags and standards, and the surreal effects cast by thousands of flickering torches; and on the ecstatic effects of spell-bindingly oratory and mass proclamations of loyalty.
One of the most spectacular examples of the highly choreographed proceedings took place in the Zeppelin Field.
On the evening of the fifth day, the so-called ‘day of the political leaders’, the review field, which held as many as 100 000, and the surrounding stands, which held as many as 150 000 more, were filled to capacity.

Lichtdom – Cathedral of Light

As darkness fell anticipation ran high among the closely packed, torch-lit crowd.
At a precise moment, spotlights illuminated Hitler’s entrance to the field.
As the Führer then strode across the field to mount the podium in front of the Tribune, 150 powerful searchlights around the perimeter of the field suddenly shot their long beams into the sky to envelope the proceedings in a ghostly ‘Cathedral of Light’.
As Hitler prepared to harangue the crowd from his podium, excitement culminated amongst the assembled multitude with the exhilarating sight of tens of thousands of swastika flags and gleaming silver standards rushing forward in waves through the crowds, rousing the faithful into a sort of ‘sacred’ fervour.’
The evening ended with the mass singing of the national anthem.
This meticulously orchestrated emotional scene, artfully caught on film by Leni Riefenstahl and shown around the world, best exemplified the spellbinding and almost sacral atmosphere that characterized the rallies.
To be ultimately successful, however, all of this required a perfect venue just the right use of space and architecture.
Careful attention to the use of space and spatial layout therefore loomed large in the design of all rally facilities.
Hitler himself had strong views on the utility of space for the manipulation of a crowd’s attention and mood.

Rectangular spaces were deemed most effective, especially when they could be precisely defined on all sides by surrounding stands and stages, and seemingly isolated from the rest of the world by encircling displays of flags, banners and statuary, or – as in the case of the night rallies in the Zeppelin Field – by walls of light set against the dark sky.
Clear lines of sight and direction were also important, as demonstrated by the layout of the ‘granite path’ that bisected the Luitpold Arena as it led to the steps of the War Memorial, or in the focal position of the Fuhrer’s rostrum at the centre of the Zeppelin Field Tribune and at the end of a main axis emanating from the entrance in the middle of the stands directly across the way.
Size was also important.
Rally facilities needed very large capacities so that the crowds in the stands along with the standing or marching participants massed on the field or auditorium floor could create an impression of immense human strength and solidarity.

Thus, impressive as the mass ceremonies in the Luitpold Arena and Zeppelin Field may have been, an immediate need was felt for even larger facilities, such as the March Field and German Stadium.
The spatial layout of the entire grounds was also the subject of meticulous planning.
A master plan, replete with a scale model mock-up, was in place by 1935.
A central axis or ‘Great Road’ ran for two kilometres in a north-westerly direction from the centre of Hitler’s reviewing stand on the March Field to a great square just outside the Congress Hall. 

Reichsparteitagsgelände – Nürnberg

Designed to be 80 metres wide and paved with 60 000 gigantic square slabs of granite, the Great Road created a grand processional way capable of conveying great columns of parading troops and rally goers.
Once completed in 1939, the Great Road strictly aligned with the newer facilities – the March Field, the German Stadium, the Congress Hall and the various residence camps.
The older facilities, whose location and orientation could not be changed, related somewhat awkwardly, but not at angles that placed them at great variance to the thrust of the axis.
In a rather obvious attempt to link the Rally Grounds to the ‘historic’ greatness of the host city, the Great Road aligned directly with Nuremberg’s old imperial festung (fortress), which dominated the old city’s distant skyline.

Equally important was the use of architecture.
Hitler considered himself an aficionado of architectural history and technique; he considered himself a master builder, and dreamed of leaving a lasting physical imprint on German cities and landscapes.

He understood the power of monumental building and spent countless hours fussing over architectural plans of various projects, among which the Rally Grounds held special importance. 
The designs of rally buildings and arenas had to satisfy multiple goals.
Their primary purpose was to under-gird the ritual spectacle of the various rally events; but these edifices were also meant to impress and instruct in the sense that the heroic ideals and scale of the National Socialist movement should be evident in their form and style.
They were also built to endure as an eternal testament to the power and grandeur of the Third Reich.
In Nazi Germany, the need to impress and instruct was an imperative that usually translated architecturally into gigantism.
Speer classified the buildings for the Rally Grounds as ‘assembly architecture’, the purpose of which was to awe and inspire masses of people.
Structures were therefore designed to overwhelm the senses by their sheer size.
The plan for the German Stadium, for example, was so immense that spectators in the upper stands would have been hard pressed to observe the action on the field below without the aid of field glasses.
The entrance pylons, portals and galleries of all of the facilities were typically far larger than life-the better to diminish those who passed through them.
Thus, the vast lobbies that were to run beneath the seats of the German Stadium were designed to tower, cathedral-like, over the spaces they enclosed, while immense columns, pylons, statuary, emblems and symbols adorned the exteriors of stadia and buildings alike.
The monumental dimensions of the Rally Grounds structures were a simple but effective means of impressing on the masses the extraordinary largeness and all-embracing character of National Socialist life.
The projects personally commissioned and supervised by Hitler, which include Speer’s designs for the Party Rally Grounds reflect Hitler’s taste for neo-classical forms.

Schinkel – Altes Museum

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing features of Late Baroque. In its purest form it is a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome and the architecture of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Neue Wache – Schinkel

In form, Neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts.
Neoclassical architecture tends to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of light and shade are more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs are flatter and tend to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels. Its clearly articulated individual features are isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves.

Pergamon Altar 

Speer’s design for the Zeppelin Field Tribune bears clear similarities to the Pergamon Altar of Hellenistic Greece, just as the German Stadium resembles the stadium of Herodes Atticus in Athens.

Reconstruction of the Colosseum – Rome

There are also rather obvious similarities between the Colosseum in Rome and the Congress Hall, the design of which underwent changes inspired by Hitler’s 1938 visit to Rome.
Hitler and his architects were clearly attracted to the idea of using the architectural forms of a heroic classical past, particularly those of ancient Greece, as a means of legitimizing and grounding their vision of the present and future.
In fact, however, the work done by Speer on the Rally Grounds went beyond the standard neo-classical mould, for his buildings also incorporated a certain modern abstract formalism derived from the Art Deco style of the 1920s.
Many of the buildings thus were noteworthy for their employment of cubic mass, emphasis on right angles, great flat surfaces and solid angular decoration.

The end result was a sort of abstract or modernized neo-classicism that managed to seem heroic, solid and forward-looking all at the same time – an theme that was highly compatible with the political style of  National Socialism, which so often strived to bring together carefully selected attributes of the old and the new.
The final imperative was the command to endure.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer reports that ‘Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity‘, adding: ‘Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture.’
Speer produced two recommendations that Hitler strongly endorsed.

Congress Hall

First, monumental buildings should feature time-honoured and natural materials that express a ‘bridge of tradition‘ to future generations, rather than modern and anonymous materials. 
Second, monumental structures should be built to last so that, after thousands of years, a set of aesthetically acceptable ruins might remain, like those of the Greeks and Romans, as a testament to future generations.

Congress Hall

Consequently, the buildings of the Rally Grounds utilized ideologically acceptable and permanent materials like granite and marble whenever possible, and this also allowed at least some construction to continue during the war years, as iron, steel and concrete became increasingly reserved for weapons production.
The spectacle of the rallies thus unfolded, in part, within an ensemble of buildings and stadia designed both spatially and architecturally to enhance the involvement of rally participants and observers, to heighten the propaganda value of the rallies, and to leave a permanent record in stone that would impress and instruct long after its builders were gone.
The grounds were intended to become a sacred place – a site of cult-like celebration of strength and unity under National Socialism.
In the words of regime spokesperson Otto Dietrich, speaking at the 1935 rally, ‘This sacred site of the Party Rally Grounds with its unique concepts of architecture and use of space will be the highest symbol of National Socialist life and National Socialist culture, in it the unique style of German National Socialism will find its strongest expression.

The City


In 1937 Germany’s flagship art and architectural journal lavishly featured the new rally buildings as ‘a monument of pride‘.
Given the high visibility afforded to the rallies by the regime’s propaganda apparatus and the monumental nature of its architecture, it is not surprising that scholars have remained largely fixated on the Rally Grounds.
Yet this narrow focus overlooks another component of the National Socialist building programme that developed within Nürnberg’s medieval walls, in parallel with the new rally structures.
Nürnberg was chosen as the location for the annual rallies partially because of its historical symbolism.
The city’s historic centre accordingly became an additional focal point for rally activities.
In many ways, Nürnberg’s historic centre served as an extension of the official rally grounds. 
And like the existing facilities at the Luitpold Arena or the Zeppelin Field, Nürnberg’s historic squares, buildings and fortifications also required systematic reworking to reinforce the regime’s political objectives.
As planning and construction proceeded on the Rally Grounds, local party officials with the support of the national leadership aggressively launched a broad campaign to restore, preserve and improve Nürnberg’s historic centre.
The preservation campaign within Nürnberg’s medieval walls was intended both to create a ‘monument of pride‘ that would remind the nation of its past greatness and, like the new Rally Grounds, to signal the onset of a new and glorious age.
Although scholars have produced countless volumes analysing the urban planning policies and architectural styles favoured by the Third Reich, historical preservation has only recently emerged as a subject of interest.
Reflecting this relative inattention paid to historical preservation, those who have explored the structures and symbolism of the rallies have tended to minimize the role of projects undertaken in Nürnberg’s historic centre in creating an appropriate atmosphere for the rallies.
Yet Nuremberg’s historic centre was not a mere footnote to the massive spectacles on the Rally Grounds, but rather a constituent element in efforts to project and legitimize the National Socialist regime’s authority and legitimacy.
NSDAP officials embarked on a purposeful program to adapt Nürnberg s centre to a specific vision of history that would buttress the NSDAP’s political authority, and its self-image as chief steward and pinnacle of German cultural and historical greatness.

Mayor Willy Liebel

These efforts, led by Mayor Willy Liebel, were implemented by a small cadre of professional architects, preservationists and urban planners sympathetic to the regime’s apparent commitment to preserving and restoring Germany’s historical monuments.
According to municipal preservationist Julius Lincke: The reawakening of the German spirit has also reawakened the sense of German history everywhere.
The remaining monuments to the existence and achievements of the German Volk, that had often sunken down to mere sites for a few summer tourists, have again become relics of the German Volk, for whose preservation everything must be done.
In general, historical preservation in Nürnberg focused on three main themes.
The first involved the restoration of historical structures, while the second focused on removing the ‘building sins‘ of previous generations in an attempt to ‘cleanse‘, ‘purify‘ or otherwise aesthetically improve Nürnberg’s historical image.
Building sins‘ in this context usually referred to commercial buildings featuring modernist designs built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Thirdly, preservation projects served to symbolize the NSDAP’s desired close connections with specific aspects of German medieval history.
Although wide-ranging, these three themes helped re-frame the past and present so that the NSDAP, under Hitler’s leadership, appeared as an inevitable historical culmination that would reconcile the German nation’s cultural greatness with modernity, and save the nation from racial and cultural degeneration.

Adolf Hitler – Albert Speer
and Willy Liebel

Indeed, Mayor Liebel declared that ‘the National Socialist city administration considers it as one of its most important tasks, to preserve the countless beauties of the old town and to free it from the defacements that it was partially exposed to in recent decades‘.
In order to demonstrate the party’s commitment to this cause, Liebel ordered work to begin immediately on the ‘restoration of architectural and artistic monuments threatened by decay, the purification of disturbing advertising and architectural disfigurements from the image of the old town, and the renovation of the old town‘.
Given the dual importance of Nürnberg’s main market square, as both the city’s historical centre and site of several parades and activities during the annual rallies, local leaders decided to focus their initial efforts here.

They began by renaming the square, originally called the ‘Hauptmarkt’, to ‘Adolf-Hitler-Platz’, but it was soon evident that they would not be satisfied with mere semantic changes.

Adolf-Hitler-Platz – Nürnberg
Adolf-Hitler-Platz – Nürnberg

During late 1933 and early 1934, more substantive measures were undertaken to have a redesigned and improved ‘Adolf-Hitler-Platz’ complete for the 1934 rallies.
The centrepiece of the effort was the renovation of the Telegraph Building.
Heinrich Hohn, a staff member of the German National Museum in Nürnberg  singled out this neo-gothic building, built in the 1870s, as an ‘unbearable foreign body‘ that disturbed the square’s medieval charm.
Although cost considerations prevented its complete demolition, the Telegraph Building received a dramatic facelift.
The building’s new simplified façade and pitched roof aimed to complement neighbouring structures and create a more orderly aesthetic, while new murals added to the façade provided an unmistakable message.
In addition to targeting modern architecture, officials worked to realign windows and doors to harmonize the façades of buildings surrounding the square to conform to National Socialist visual and ideological preferences.

Nürnberg Kaiserburg

While the municipal administration concentrated on re-framing Nürnberg’s main square, the Bavarian president, Ludwig Siebert, and the Zweckverband financed the restoration of Nürnberg’s Kaiserburg (imperial castle – or Festung) under the justification that it ‘served the representative purposes of the state‘.
The festung, set at the north-western corner of the city’s medieval fortifications, represented a potent symbol of medieval Germany’s political and cultural greatness.

Nürnberg – Kaiserburg

Although much of its historic exterior remained intact, the interior had undergone significant modifications during the nineteenth century.
Like the redesigned ‘Adolf-Hitler-platz’, restoration work inside the festung aimed for a ‘thorough cleansing‘ of nineteenth century additions.
The restorations strived for a rather simple, modest and orderly appearance intended to revive the festung’s ‘pure and unadulterated state‘.
The overall effect was to return the festung to its ‘original monumental character and its powerful dignity‘.

Hitler Youth leaders Hostel

Later projects converted portions of the festung complex into an immense youth hostel with facilities for Hitler Youth leaders.
The local administration hoped that the newly renovated hostel would immerse youths in the experience of the party rallies, optimistically proclaiming that ‘thousands of German boys and girls will pass through the hostel and take something of the spirit of greatness that prevails in it into their future life‘.
Nürnberg also conducted a ‘cleansing‘ of its medieval fortifications.
Local officials ordered vegetation stripped from the ramparts, refuse cleared, dilapidated sections of wall repaired and new footpaths laid out along the moats and trenches to create unobstructed views of Nürnberg’s military heritage.
The extensive restoration work on the festung and fortifications simultaneously demonstrated the regime’s dedication to preserving historical monuments, accentuated the martial aspects of Nürnberg’s historical architecture, and integrated these medieval relics into an orderly and disciplined urban landscape.

Holy Spirit Hospital – Nürnberg
Rathaus – Nürnberg

Most other municipal historic buildings also underwent some degree of restoration during the Third Reich, including the Rathaus (town hall), the Holy Spirit Hospital and many of the town’s churches. Although the NSDAP had limited legal authority over the rights of property owners, local officials were able to pressure many home-owners into making aesthetic changes.
Historic preservation efforts focused on giving homes and businesses an ‘Old German‘ look by exposing half-timbering, as well as removing obtrusive signs of commerce and modern architectural forms like flat roofs.
Referring to the latter structure, a local administrative report celebrated how ‘one of the ugliest homes in the old town has today become one of the most beautiful’.
By 1941, the administration claimed that municipal funds were partially responsible for the restoration of approximately 400 buildings.

Nürnberg Synagogue
Nürnberg Synagogue

Although local officials used strong rhetoric when describing all preservation projects, their criticisms of Nürnberg’s Synagogue were especially virulent.
Like other structures targeted for removal, the synagogue was built in a late nineteenth century historicist style, making it doubly objectionable to National Socialist ideologues.
Walter Brugmann, a local architectural consultant, had already identified this ‘Moorish-style‘ synagogue as a ‘building sin‘ in 1934.
The building’s perceived ‘foreign‘ architectural style was compounded by its seemingly disproportionate size.

Walter Brugmann

Brugmann suggested a new porch as a partial remedy, but officials chose a more radical solution.
The National Socialist building programme in Nürnberg’s historic centre clearly intended to do more than just preserve historical architecture.
It intersected in practice, rhetoric and goals with several basic tenets of National Socialist ideology.
First, the programme allowed the regime to demonstrate its support for preserving Germany’s historical treasures, a goal with significant support among middle- and upper-class Germans. 

Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Preserving historical structures, especially those that dated to the Middle Ages, also connected the Third Reich with the perceived golden age of the Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Holy Roman Empire).
To suggest this narrative, officials and preservationists attacked, in both rhetoric and practice, the material reminders of the period separating this golden past from the glorious present and future.
By erasing the physical traces of this perceived downfall from the urban landscape a closer symbolic connection between medieval and National Socialist Germany was created.
The monumental nature of Nürnberg’s urban fabric could thus represent the ideals of a traditional and cohesive community that coincided with National Socialist calls for order, obedience and sacrifice.
Nürnberg is the best preserved large city of the German Middle Ages,’ art historian Friedrich Kriegbaum proclaimed,
Like hardly any other city, it is a grandiose self-portrayal of urban communal will in built form.’
Finally, the use of biological metaphors in urban planning and preservation discourse reflected the regime’s concern with race.
The programme to ‘cleanse‘ Nuremberg’s urban landscape of undue ‘foreign‘ and commercial influences buttressed efforts to construct a racially pure nation.
Germany’s urban areas, like the nation itself, were viewed as threatened by foreign contaminants that had to be purged before Germany could reach its full potential.
Looking back at the first years of the campaign, Brugmann noted with satisfaction that the ‘city wall and ditches, the castle, the churches, the patrician and burgher homes were preserved in a perfectly professional manner and the alleys of old Nuremberg were decisively cleansed of excessive “commercialism”.’
While such themes were common in preservation and urban planning throughout the Third Reich, Nürnberg’s role as the site of the annual rallies added a special impetus and visibility to these efforts.
As Brugmann took pains to emphasize,
‘Nürnberg, fully conscious of this high distinction and honour, endeavours to give this new purpose an adequate frame by preserving and restoring the matchless beauty of its ancient scenery, by erecting new buildings, widening its streets, and by making other improvements.’

The ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ Nürnberg

Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
‘Old’ and ‘New’ Nürnberg

We have so far reviewed the general course of the National Socialist building programme both within Nürnberg’s medieval walls and on the rally grounds located a short distance outside.
The latter foresaw the construction of mammoth, modernized neo-classical structures, while the other focused on reworking relatively small details thought to contrast with Nuremberg’s medieval heritage.
Although seemingly irreconcilable in style, form and scale, these two projects were seen as complementary.
Viewing them in isolation provides only a partial and somewhat misleading view of Nürnberg’s practical and symbolic role in National Socilaist Germany.

Fleischbruecke – Old Nürnberg

These were not separate projects, but intimately intertwined as necessary elements of the regime’s programme to create and project images of historical greatness, current political legitimacy and promises of future grandeur.
Friedrich Bock, a local library director, succinctly laid out this historical trajectory in his 1938 book ‘Nürnberg  from the city of the Imperial Diets to the city of the Party Rallies’.
Bock constructed a narrative that painted medieval Nürnberg in glowing terms.
This golden age was, however, followed by a period of neglect and cultural decline, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The National Socilaist seizure of power in 1933 marked a rebirth.
The Third Reich has again brought great honour to the city,‘ Bock explained; ‘it has again become, like during the height of the Middle Ages, one of the capitals of the Reich and, as in the proud imperial times, its name will be named together with the leaders of the Reich.’
For Bock, the Rally Grounds and improvements to the city centre symbolized Nürnberg’s renewal and rejuvenation.
In this way it is possible‘, Bock reasoned, ‘to organically connect the old city of the Imperial Diets with the new city of the Party Rallies through the centuries.’

Indeed, after the annexation of Austria in 1938, Hitler ordered the crown jewels and regalia of the old Holy Roman Empire returned from Vienna to Nürnberg for permanent display. 
Nürnberg thus signified a resurrection of past national greatness under the leadership of the NSDAP.

Adolf Hitler views the Reichskleinodien in Nürnberg

The Imperial Regalia are the only completely preserved regalia from the Middle Ages. During the late Middle Ages, the word Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) had many variations in the Latin language. The regalia were either named in Latin: insignia imperialia, regalia insignia, insignia imperalis capellae quae regalia dicuntur and other similar words.
Nürnberger Kleinodien (roughly translated Nürnberg jewels), named after the town of Nürnberg where the regalia were kept from 1424 to 1796. This part comprised the Imperial Crown, parts of the coronation vestments, the Imperial Orb (a globus cruciger), the Imperial Sceptre, the Imperial Sword, the Ceremonial Sword, the Imperial Cross, the Holy Lance (‘Spear of Dstiny’), and other reliquiaries.
Today they are kept at the Schatzkammer Treasury in the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria.


Carl Sabo’s book developed these same connections between the city’s past and present:
For centuries Nürnberg as city of the gleaming Imperial Diets of the German emperors and kings stood in the centre of German history. With the designation as the city of the party rallies by the Fuihrer, Nuremberg is today placed anew in the centre of German happenings. The gates of the city will be stone witnesses to these new glory days for the future.’
Introducing the book, Mayor Liebel hoped visitors, whether during the rallies or some other time of year, would feel this same impression. ‘What of a visit to Nürnberg makes the deepest expression‘, Liebel explained, ‘is the inner connection between the venerated past and the living and proud present.’
Party officials made a special effort to reinforce this message for young Germans.
Gottlieb Schwemmer, a government building official, authored an easy-reading political history for young Germans.
After a cursory overview of Nürnberg’s early history, Schwemmer described the nineteenth century as a period of cultural decline triggered by capitalism.
The city’s recent resurgence under National Socilaist leadership was gradually correcting these past mistakes.
The city, that remained true to the symbols of the old empire as no other’, Schwemmer argued, ‘is also above all others determined to have the greatest monuments in its enchanted setting, on which the reflection of the coming epoch already rests.’
Through the combination of its old medieval centre and the new rally complex, Nürnberg would become an eternal symbol of German, and more specifically National Socialist, achievements. 
Another book, by Werner Dittschlag, made a similar point for German girls.
Dittschlag began by comparing the tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with Nürnberg 
Like a fairy-tale princess, Nürnberg had originally been a beautiful, vibrant city but was forced to endure an anguished slumber during the nineteenth century.
Once Hitler woke Nuremberg, ‘the old spirit of heroic deeds and loyalty returned within its walls…. Nuremberg is once again a “centre point of the Reich”, the Third Reich.
The book details the role of women and girls in the rallies, and concludes by describing the massive structures planned for future rallies.
Beyond the pomp of rally activities, these new structures and Nürnberg’s medieval centre were destined to form an impressive new whole.
As Dittschlag explained: ‘Every German girl and every German boy will burn with desire to see the old and the new Nuremberg.
Connections between these two Nürnbergs were necessary to legitimate National Socialism as the natural heir to Germany’s proud history.
A girls’ magazine produced by the party visually encapsulated this message for its readers.
The cover features an eagle, long a symbol of Germany, surveying past and current symbols of German greatness.
A drawing of the Zeppelin Field fills the foreground, while the silhouette of Nuremberg’s castle and fortifications provides a shadowy backdrop.
Schwemmer had been keen to point out to his readers that the entire rally complex ‘served as a counterbalance to the distant imperial castle which welcomes one into Nürnberg’s landscape image‘.

Nürnberg – Reichsparteitag 1937

But efforts to forge connections between the rallies andNürnberg’s medieval past often went beyond mere verbal assertions.
As we have seen, the Great Road, the broad central axis of the rally grounds, was purposely aligned with Nürnberg’s imperial festung, several kilometres to the north.
The cover of a special issue of ‘Die neue Linie’, featuring the 1938 party rallies, offers a simplified representation of this relationship.
Indeed, connecting the rally grounds with the symbols of medieval Nürnberg was central to the iconography of the rallies.

Nürnberg – Reichsparteitag 1937 – Poster

The official poster from the 1937 rallies, for example, juxtaposed Nürnberg festung with searchlights from the rally grounds.
The performative nature of the rallies also worked to highlight the conceptual message inherent in the National Socilaist building programme in Nürnberg.
In many ways, the most dramatic performances of the rallies featured enormous parades of the various party organizations.
It is no coincidence that many of these parade routes actually connected Nürnberg’s imperial festung, Adolf-Hitler-Platz and the new Rally Grounds.
These repeated spectacles of mass parades symbolically and literally constructed linkages between the medieval Holy Roman Empire and Hitler’s Third Reich.
This trajectory was further enshrined in Leni Riefenstahl’s ground-breaking film of the 1934 rallies, ‘Triumph of the Will’.

The film’s opening sequences couple footage of Hitler’s triumphal entry into old Nürnberg with lingering shots of Nürnberg’s historic buildings.

Another long scene toward the end of ‘Triumph’ complements coverage of Hitler reviewing a parade from the Adolf-Hitler-Platz with lavish views of old Nürnberg streetscapes.
The National Socilaist building programme reworked Nürnberg’s historical centre to represent, convey and historicize the National Socilaist movement and its ideology.
Together with the massive new structures planned for the rallies,Nürnberg’s historical centre helped portray the Third Reich as the culmination of past historical greatness and the redeemer of a truly German national culture.
There were certainly other places where the National Socilaist leaders planned to redesign cities around mammoth new structures, most famously their plans completely to redesign Berlin into the capital, Germania.
There were also numerous programmes to preserve historical buildings, especially in smaller towns like Rothenburg.
Nürnberg, in comparison, was the only place where the regime aggressively pursued both objectives.
It seemed only fitting that, as one popular guidebook declared of Nürnberg  ‘the old stronghold of the German imperial idea of the Middle Ages is today the stronghold of the new Reich‘. 
While numerous rulers, governments and political movements have constructed grandiose monuments and staged lavish ceremonies, few such efforts can rival the impact of the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
The rallies awed millions of contemporary Germans, as well as countless foreign observers. 
Indeed, Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’ won awards in Germany, Italy and even the Grand Prize at the Paris International Film Festival in 1937.
And even 60 years after the collapse of Hitler’s Reich, these images of unity and power continue to fascinate.
Yet, given the repeated use of politicized monuments and spectacles by numerous regimes throughout history, the reasons why the Nuremberg rallies in particular should have such a lasting legacy remain somewhat obscure.
Many contemporary observers and later scholars credited the sheer size of the rallies.
While the rallies were certainly massive, we believe that a greater awareness of the calculated use of place, space and architecture can lead to a more nuanced understanding of the intense emotional response generated by the rallies and the reasons the rallies achieved nearly iconographic status for later generations.
As a 1938 issue of ‘Die neue Linie’ explained: ‘From the first Imperial Diets, that took place in the thirteenth century, to the Party Rallies, the destiny of the city resolutely followed this mission like a pre-planned parade route.’ This calculated utilization of architecture, spectacle and place helped link the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Nürnberg to project and legitimize a vision of past, present and future.

Festliches Nürnberg

Festliches Nürnberg

‘Festliches Nürnberg’ (Festive Nuremberg) is a short 1937 film chronicling the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag in Germany in 1936 and 1937.
The film was directed by Hans Weidemann.
The film runs in colour for 21 minutes (although the downloadable version at the Internet archive is monochrome only, and has no English translation of the commentary), containing footage of the 8th and 9th Nürnberg Rallies.
Particularly notable scenes of both the rally and the film are images of Albert Speer’s lighting techniques during the 9th Nuremberg rally on 10 September 1937, in which he positioned 134 searchlights circling the Zeppelin field on which the rally was taking place.

‘Lichtdom’ (Cathedral of Light)

The beams of these spotlights, forming the ‘Lichtdom’ (Cathedral of Light), merged into the general glow at an estimated height of 20,000 feet.
The film is relatively short at only about 21 minutes compared with the longer ‘Triumph des Willens’ and ‘Der Sieg des Glaubens’ made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1933 and 1934 respectively (see above). It adopts the same style with many scenes of marching SS men and Wehrmacht soldiers, as well as navy personnel and flying aircraft overhead.
With some prescience, scenes of soldiers parading in tanks and other vehicles (with guns firing) assume great prominence.
The film concludes with sequences of folk dances and gymnastic displays, followed by a torchlight parade and a brief speech from Hitler.
Since the formation of the NSDAP in 1923, annual rallies had taken place at Nürnberg  mainly orchestrated by the ‘minister for public enlightenment’ Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The NSDAP also called upon architect Albert Speer to create a number of spectacles to inspire the German population.
The 8th and 9th of these rallies were known as the ‘Reichsparteitag der Ehre’ (Rally of Honor) and the ‘Reichsparteitag der Arbeit’ (Rally of Labor) respectively for 1937 and 1938. 

The film followed the much longer Riefenstahl films of 1933 and 1934, and the reason for the smaller movie is not known, indeed, many of the film sequences follow Riefenstahl quite closely, such as the introduction using aerial shots of the city of Nuremberg.
The score uses Richard Wagner’s ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ for musical accompaniment. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Film im Dritten Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
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National Socialism created an elaborate system of propaganda, which made use of the new technologies of the 20th century, including cinema.
The National Socialists courted the masses by the means of slogans that were aimed directly at the instincts and emotions of the people.
It is therefore not surprising that the government of the Third Reich valued film as a propaganda instrument of enormous power.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels 

The interest that Adolf Hitler and his Propaganda Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels took in film was not only the result of a personal fascination.

The instrumentalization of film for propaganda had been planned by the National Socialist German Workers Party as early as 1930, (three years before they gained power), when the party first established a film department.
Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, who appointed himself “Patron of the German film”, assumed, accurately, that a national cinema which was entertaining and put the government in a glamorous light would be a more effective propaganda instrument than a national cinema in which the NSDAP and their policy would have been ubiquitous.
The main goal of the National Socialist film policy was to promote a certain form of escapism, which was designed to distract the population and to keep everybody in good spirits; Dr Goebbels indeed blamed defeat in World War I on the failure to sustain the morale of the people – a view which was also held by Adolf Hitler, as he explained in ‘Mein Kampf’.
The open propaganda was reserved for films like ‘Der Sieg des Glaubens’ (Victory of Faith) and ‘Triumph des Willen’s (Triumph of the Will), records of the Nürnberg rallies, and newsreels.
There are some examples of German feature films from the Third Reich that deal with the NSDAP, or with party organizations such as the Sturmabteilung, Hitler Youth or the National Labour Service, one notable example being ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’ – a film) about the Hitler Youth.
Another example is the anti-semitic feature film ‘Jud Süß’ (Jew Suss).
The propaganda films that refer directly to Nazi politics amounted to less than a sixth of the whole national film production, which mainly consisted of light entertainment films, although it is those propaganda films that are much more well known today, such as ‘Triumph des Willens’ .
The authorities and NSDAP departments in charge of film policy were the film department of the Ministry of Propaganda, the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), the Reichsfilmkammer (Reich Chamber of Film), and the Reichspropagandaleitung (film department of the Party Propaganda Department).
A system of “award” was used to encourage self-censorship; awarded for such things as “kulturellen Wert” (cultural value) or “Wert dem Volk” (value to the people), they remitted part of the heavy taxes on films.
Up to a third of the films in the Third Reich received such awards.
The Reichsfilmkammer
The Reichsfilmkammer (RFK; Film Chamber of the Reich) was a public corporation based in Berlin that regulated the film industry in National Socialist Germany between 1933 and 1945.
Everyone in the German Reich who wanted to work on films in any capacity had to be a member; lack of membership meant in effect a ban on employment.
Reichskulturkammer RKK

The predecessor of the Reichsfilmkammer was the Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirtschaft (SPIO) (“Film Industry Summit Organisation”).

The Reichsfilmkammer was established on the basis of the Gesetz über die Errichtung einer vorläufigen Filmkammer (“Law for the Establishment of a Temporary Film Chamber”) of 14 July 1933.
Under the Reichskulturkammergesetz (“Law of the Reich Culture Chamber”) of 22 September 1933 the Film Chamber was integrated as a subdivision of the newly founded Reichskulturkammer RKK (“Culture Chamber of the Reich”).
The establishment of the Reichsfilmkammer was preceded by an ordinance of the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), which prohibited Jews and foreigners from any participation in the German film industry.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbles

To co-ordinate film to the goals of propaganda (Gleichschaltung), the NDAP subordinated the entire film industry and administration under Dr Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, and gradually nationalized film production and distribution.

Gleichschaltung (“coordination”, “bringing into line”), is a National Socialist term for the process by which the NSDAP successively established a system of overall control and coordination over all aspects of society. 
Among the goals of this policy were to bring about adherence to a specific doctrine and way of thinking and to control as many aspects of life as possible.
A state-run professional school for politically reliable film-makers (Deutsche Filmakademie Babelsberg) was founded, and membership of an official professional organization (Reichsfilmkammer) was made mandatory for all actors, film-makers, distributors etc.
The censorship that had already been established during World War I and the Weimar Republic was maintained, with a National Film Dramaturgist (Reichsfilmdramaturg) checking all manuscripts and screenplays at the very first stages of production.
Film criticism was prohibited, and a national film award established.
A film bank (Filmkreditbank GmbH) was established to provide low-interest loans for the production of politically welcome films, and such films also received tax benefits.
Film Production
In the mid-1930s, the German film industry suffered the most severe crisis it had ever faced.
There were multiple reasons for this crisis.
Firstly, many of the most capable actors and film-makers had left the country after the rise to power of the Nazi government; others had been banned by the new Reichsfilmkammer.
These people left a gap that the film industry.
Secondly, the remaining actors and film-makers seized the opportunity to demand higher salaries, which considerably increased production budgets.
Consequently, it became more and more difficult to recover production costs.
Thirdly, the export of German films dramatically dropped due to international boycotts.
In 1933, exports had covered 44% of film production costs; by 1937, this figure had dropped to a mere 7%.
More and more production companies went bankrupt.
The number of companies dropped from 114 (1933–35) to 79 (1936–38) to 38 (1939–41).
This did not necessarily lead to a decrease in the number of new films, as surviving production companies became more prolific, producing many more films.

Adolf Hitler and Dr Goebbles visit UFA Studios

The consolidation of the film industry was undoubtedly beneficial for the government of the Tird Reich.

On the one hand, an ailing and unprofitable film industry would not have been of much use for the propaganda requirements.
And on the other hand, a small number of big film production companies were easier to control than a multitude of small ones.
Dr Goebbels went even further and directed a holding company – Cautio Treuhand GmbH – to buy up the stock majorities of the remaining film production companies.
In 1937, the Cautio acquired the largest German production company, Ufa, and in 1942 merged this company with the remaining companies – Terra Film, Tobis, Bavaria Film, Wien-Film and Berlin-Film – into the so-called “Ufi-Group”.
Universum Film AG
Universum Film AG – Logo

Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, was a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945.

UFA was created during November 1917 in Berlin as a government-owned producer of World War I propaganda and public service films.
It was created through the consolidation of most of Germany’s commercial film companies, including Nordisk and Decla. Decla’s former owner, Erich Pommer, served as producer for the 1920 film ‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’, which was not only the best example of German Expressionism and an enormously influential film, but also a commercial success.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’

‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ is a 1920 German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential films of the German Expressionist movement and is often considered to be one of the greatest horror movies of the silent era in film. The film used stylized sets, with abstract, jagged buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats. To add to this strange style, the actors used an unrealistic technique that exhibited “jerky” and dance-like movements. This movie is cited as having introduced the ‘twist’ ending in cinema.

Pressured by the US film industry, in late 1921 UFA was merged with Decla-Bioscop, “with government, industrial and banking support” and a near-monopoly in an industry that produced around 600 films each year and attracted a million customers every day.
In the silent movie years, when films were easier to adapt for foreign markets, UFA began developing an international reputation and posed serious competition to Hollywood.
During the Weimar years the studio produced and exported an enormous, accomplished, and inventive body of work.

Der Blaue Engel

Famous directors based at UFA included Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau; under chief producer Erich Pommer the company created landmark films such as ‘Dr. Mabuse’ (1922), ‘Metropolis’ (1927), and Marlene Dietrich’s first talkie, ‘Der Blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel) (1930).

UFA was also the studio of the ‘Bergfilm’, a uniquely German genre that glorified and romanticized mountain climbing, downhill skiing, and avalanche-dodging.
The ‘Bergfilm’ genre was primarily the creation of director Arnold Fanck, and examples like ‘Der Heilige Berg’ (The Holy Mountain) (1926) and ‘Weiß Ekstase’ (White Ecstasy) (1931) are notable for the appearance of Austrian skiing legend Hannes Schneider and a young Leni Riefenstahl.
The flying ace Ernst Udet also appeared in several of the films.

Alfred Hugenberg

The studio over-extended itself financially during the late 1920s, partly as a result of the expensive production of ‘Metropolis’, and was taken over by the press baron, former Krupp manager, and DNVP leader Alfred Hugenberg in March 1927.

Once it became clear in the late 1920s that sound film had taken off, UFA rapidly switched its production away from silent film and added soundtracks to films already being made such as Melody of the Heart. In spite of this the first German sound film was produced by its smaller rival Tobis.[2] UFA had previously been able to export its silent films around the world. Because of the new language barrier in the sound age, major films were often made with versions in several languages as happened with the expensive musicals The Three from the Filling Station (1930), Monte Carlo Madnes (1931) and The Congress Dances (1931). UFA particularly targeted the British, French and American markets.

UFA-Palast am Zoo – Berlin

During the same year, UFA opened the UFA-Palast am Zoo theatre in Berlin.

National conservative Hugenberg in the course of the “Machtergreifung ” on 30 January 1933 became Reich Minister of Economy in Hitler’s cabinet.
He resigned in June, but the company nevertheless became a compliant producer of National Socialist propaganda films, supervised by Hugenberg’s cabinet colleague Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
His Ministry essentially controlled the content of UFA films.
With one stroke, the entire German film industry had been practically nationalized, however, German film-making preserved its character as a private industry.
Although Dr Goebbels founded the Filmkreditbank GmbH in order to fund the industry, the funds came from private investors.
Thus, there were no government subsidies to the film industry in the Third Reich.
Because of this, the industry was forced to remain profitable – and to produce films that met the expectations of the audience.
Film Distribution
A concentration also took place in the distribution field.
In 1942, the Ufa-owned Deutsche Filmvertriebs GmbH (DFV) took the place of all companies so far remaining.
For the export of films to foreign countries special companies had been established such as the Cinéma Film AG.
Since the days of the Weimar Republic, there had also existed an extensive system of educational film hire services which was extended under the National Socialist administration.
In 1943, there were 37 regional services and 12,042 city services.
In parallel, the Reichspropagandaleitung ran its own network of educational film hire services which included 32 Gaue, 171 district, and 22,357 local services.
All film hire services had extensive film collections as well as rental 16 mm film projectors available that made it possible to show films in any class or lecture room and at any group meeting of the Hitler Youth.
Apart from the Ufa-owned theatre chain, the cinemas were not nationalized.
The majority of the 5,506 theatres that existed in 1939 within the so-called Altreich (the “Old Reich”, i.e., Germany without Austria and the Sudetenland) were small companies run by private owners, however, a large number of rules and regulations issued by the Reichsfilmkammer limited the entrepreneurial freedom of the cinemas considerably.
For instance, it was mandatory to include a documentary and a newsreel in every film programme.
By a law of 1933 (the Gesetz über die Vorführung ausländischer Bildstreifen vom 23. Juni 1933) the government was also entitled to prohibit the presentation of foreign films.

UFA-Palast am Zoo – Berlin

An import quota for foreign films had been set during the Weimar Republic, and during World War II, the import of films from certain foreign countries was completely prohibited. For example, from 1941 onwards, the presentation of American films became illegal.

In order to boost the propaganda effect, the Nazis supported film shows in large cinemas with large audiences where the feeling of being part of the crowd was so overwhelming for the individual spectator that critical film perception had little chance.
Film shows also took place in military barracks and factories.
The Hitler Youth arranged special film programmes (Jugendfilmstunden) where newsreels and propaganda films were shown. In order to supply even rural and remote areas with film shows, the Party Propaganda Department (Reichspropagandaleitung) operated 300 film trucks and two film trains that carried all the necessary equipment for showing films in, for example, village inns.
The dislike that Goebbels and other film politicians had for individual, more private film viewing was probably one of the reasons why they did not make any effort to develop television – at that time a technique that was ready to be applied – as a new mass media.
Film propaganda had the highest priority in Germany even under the severe conditions of the last years of World War II.
While schools and playhouses stopped working in 1944, cinemas continued to operate until the very end of the war
In Berlin for instance, anti-aircraft units were posted specially to protect the local cinemas in 1944.
Star System
There always had been film stars in Germany, but a star system comparable to the star system in Hollywood did not yet exist.
Female Film Stars of the third Reich
Dr Goebbles and Adolf Hitler
Zarah Leander

In order to improve the image of the Third Reich, Dr Goebbels made great efforts to form a star system. 

The best-known example is the Swedish actress Zarah Leander who was hired in 1937 by the Ufa and became the most prominent and highest-paid German film star in only a few years.
The publicity campaign for Leander was run by the press office of the Ufa, which concealed her past as a film actress already well known in Sweden and put their money right away on her charisma as a singer with an exceptionally deep voice.
The Ufa press office provided the newspapers with detailed instructions on how the new star would have to be presented, and even the actress herself had to follow detailed instructions whenever she appeared in public.
This kind of star publicity had not existed in Germany before.

Olga Tschechowa
Lil Dagover

High politicians such as Adolf Hitler, Dr Goebbels, and Hermann Göring appeared in public flanked by popular German film actors.

The female stars in particular were supposed to lend some glamour to the male-dominated NSDAP events. Adolf Hitler’s preferred dinner partners were the actresses Olga Tschechowa and Lil Dagover, and from 1935, Hermann Göring was married to the popular actress Emmy Sonnemann.
The relationships of Dr Goebbels to several female film stars are also well known.
Magda Goebbels left a screening of the film ‘Die Reise nach Tilsit’, because it seemed to her too close a telling of her husband’s relationship with Lida Baarova, which had resulted in the actress being sent back to her native Czechoslovakia.

Lida Baarova,

Personal proximity to the political leaders became a determining factor for the career success of film actors An informal system of listings decided how frequently an actor would be cast.

The five categories extended from “to cast at all costs even without a vacancy” (for instance Zarah Leander, Lil Dagover, Heinz Rühmann) to “casting under no circumstances welcome”.
How crucial the film stars were for the image of the National Socialist government is also evident from the tax benefits that Hitler decreed in 1938 for prominent film actors and directors.
From that time on, they could deduct 40% of their income as professional expenses.

Richard Strauss
Arno Breker

In 1944 Dr Joseph Goebbels made a now famous list of “irreplaceable artists” called the ‘Gottbegnadeten list’ with people such as Arno Breker, Richard Strauss and Johannes Heesters.

During World War II German film stars supported the war effort by performing for the troops or by collecting money for the Winterhilfswerk (Winter Relief Organization).
Although most of the male stars were exempted from military service, some – such as the popular Heinz Rühmann – participated in the war as soldiers, often accompanied by newsreel film crews.

Hitlerjunge Quex

The films ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’ and ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ also glorified those had died in the struggle to seize power; ‘Quex’ was based on a novel that sold over 200,000 copies over two years.

Hitlerjunge Quex is a 1932 German propaganda novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus. 
The 1933 movie ‘Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend’ was based on the novel, and was described by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as the “first large-scale” transmission of National Socialist ideology using the medium of cinema.

Hitlerjunge Quex

Both the book and the movie, like ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ and ‘Hans Westmar’ (see above), both released the same year, fictionalized and glorified death in the service of the NSDAP and Hitler.

Hitlerjungen marschieren
von Herbert Norkus ‘Grab der
NSDAP Kongress in Nürnberg
The novel Der Hitlerjunge Quex was written by Karl Aloys Schenzinger between May and September 1932.
It was first published in  NSDP party newspaper ‘Völkischer Beobachter’, and as a book in December 1932.
Both novel and movie are based on the real story of Herbert Norkus’ life. Norkus, a Hitler Youth member, died from injuries suffered when chased and confronted by Communist youths in the night of 23 / 24 January 1932 in the Beusselkietz neighbourhood of Moabit, Berlin.
While the murder was condemned by the press, the Communists started a counter-propaganda offensive, describing the incident as an accidental result of Communist self-defense during a NSDAP attack.
By January 1934 the film had been viewed by a million people.

Hans Westmar

Hans Westmar- ‘Einer von vielen’
Hanns Heinz Ewers
‘Hans Westmar. Einer von vielen. Ein deutsches Schicksal aus dem Jahre 1929’ (Hans Westmar. One of many.
A German Fate from the Year 1929) was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films commissioned by the Third Reich shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating the ‘Kampfzeit’ – a ‘mythologised’ history of their period in opposition, struggling to gain power. 
The film is a fictionalized life of the famous National Socialist martyr Horst Wessel.

Horst Ludwig Wessel

Horst Ludwig Wessel (October 9, 1907 – February 23, 1930) was a German National Socialist activist and an SA-Sturmführer who was made a posthumous hero of the NSDAP following his violent death in 1930. He was the author of the lyrics to the song “Die Fahne hoch” (“The Flag On High”), usually known as ‘Horst-Wessel-Lied’ (“the Horst Wessel Song”), which became the Party anthem and, de facto, Germany’s co-national anthem from 1933 to 1945. His death also resulted in his becoming the “patron” for the Luftwaffe’s 26th Destroyer Wing and the 18th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division during World War II.

The film was based on a novel, personally commissioned by Adolf Hitler from his close friend Hanns Heinz Ewers.
It was among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades.
His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting “the real battle.”

Leni Riefenstahl

“Leni” Riefenstahl

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl (22 August 1902 – 8 September 2003) was a German film director, photographer, actress and dancer widely known for directing the propaganda film ‘Triumph des Willens’.

‘Triumph des Willens’ gave Riefenstahl instant and lasting international fame.
She directed eight films, two of which received significant coverage outside Germany, and many film histories cite the aesthetics as outstanding.
Riefenstahl took dancing lessons and attended dance academies from an early age, and began her career as an interpretive dancer.
After injuring her knee while performing in Prague, she saw a film about mountains ‘Der Berg des Schicksals, (1924) and became fascinated with the possibilities of this sort of film.
She went to the Alps to meet the film’s director, Arnold Fanck, hoping to secure the lead in his next project, but instead, Riefenstahl met Luis Trenker who had starred in Fanck’s films, who wrote to the director about her.
Der heilige Berg

Riefenstahl went on to star in many of Fanck’s mountain films as an athletic and adventurous young woman.

She became an accomplished mountaineer, and learned film-making techniques.

‘Der heilige Berg’ (The Holy Mountain) is a 1926 German UFA mountain film directed by Arnold Fanck and starring Leni Riefenstahl, Luis Trenker and Frida Richard. It was the future filmmaker Riefenstahl’s first screen appearance as an actress. The film cost 1.5 million reichsmarks to produce, and was released during the 1926 Christmas season.

Riefenstahl went on to have a prolific career as an actress in silent films.
Her last acting role before becoming a director was the 1933 production of the Arnold Fanck-directed, ‘SOS Eisberg’.
One of her fans at this time was Adolf Hitler.
Riefenstahl accompanied Fanck to the 1928 Olympic Games in St. Moritz, where she became interested in athletic photography and filming.
When presented with the opportunity to direct ‘Das Blaue Licht’ (The Blue Light) (1932), she took it. Breaking from Fanck’s style of setting realistic stories in fairytale mountain settings, Riefenstahl filmed ‘Das Blaue Licht’ as a romantic, wholly mystical tale which she thought of as more fitting to the terrain.

Leni Riefenstahl
Das blaue Licht

‘Das blaue Licht’ is a black-and-white 1932 film written and directed by Leni Riefenstahl and Béla Balázs, with uncredited scripting by Carl Mayer.
A young woman, Junta (Riefenstahl), lives apart from her village and, for her solitude and strangeness, is considered to be a witch; when she comes to the village for one reason or another, the townsfolk chase her away. They feel that she may in some way be responsible for the deaths of several young men of the village, who have felt compelled, one by one, to climb the local mountain (and fall to their deaths) on nights when the moon is full. Junta lives largely in solitude (except for the company of a young shepherd boy) in the tranquillity of the mountains surrounding the village. She is simple and innocent, but also seems something of a mystic. On full moon nights, a crack in a prominent local mountain admits the moon’s light and illuminates a grotto filled with beautiful crystals. This place of indescribable beauty, glowing with magical blue light, is a sacred space for Junta. The glowing blue light, shining from afar, to the village below, is also what has attracted the village’s young men, none of whom ever reached it before falling off the mountain’s treacherous slope.

Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl

A man from the city, a painter, travelling through the village, falls in love with Junta. All is pleasant and good and very chaste, until the next full moon night, when the man sees Junta climbing up the mountain. He follows her, actually reaching the beautiful grotto, and finds Junta in a state of ecstasy among the crystals.
Perceiving these thousands of crystals to be a source of immense wealth for Junta and the villagers, the man immediately runs down to inform the townsfolk and tells them of the correct route to reach the grotto. Junta does not realize that he is doing this, until the next day, when she finds some of her crystals on the path to the village, as well as some dropped tools. Rushing up to the grotto, she finds it completely barren of crystals: all have been taken by the greedy villagers. Meanwhile, the villagers and the painter are celebrating. Junta is totally devastated at this violation of the sacred grotto and of her trust in the outsider and falls to her death.

She co-wrote, directed and starred in the film, and produced it under the banner of her own company, Leni Riefenstahl Productions.
‘Das Blaue Licht’ won the Silver Medal at the Venice Biennale and played to full audiences all over Europe.
Der Sieg des Glaubens
Der Sieg des Glaubens
Der Sieg des Glaubens

Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith) (1933) is the first propaganda film directed by Leni Riefenstahl.
Her film recounts the Fifth Party Rally of the NDAP, which occurred in Nürnberg from 30 August to 3 September 1933.

Its form is very similar to her later and much expanded version of the 1934 rally, known as ‘Triumph des Willens’.
It is a visual record of the rally and not much else, having no analytical content, so cannot claim “documentary” status.
It is pure propaganda for the NSDAP, who funded and promoted the film.
The film celebrates the “victory” of the NSDAP in achieving power with Hitler assuming the role of Chancellor of Germany in February 1933.
Triumph des Willens

Triumph des Willens
Triumph des Willens

‘Triumph des Willens’ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl.

It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters.
The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Party leaders at the Congress, interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops.
Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles.

Triumph des Willens – Final Scene
The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.
‘Triumph des Willens’ was released in 1935 and became an example of propaganda in film history.
Riefenstahl’s techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned ‘Triumph des Willens’ recognition as one of the greatest films in history.
Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries.
The film was popular in the Third Reich, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day.



‘Olympia’ is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany.

The film was released in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil – Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Olympia 2. Teil – Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty).

It was the first documentary feature film of the Olympic Games ever made.
Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were ground-breaking at the time, were employed – including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like.
The techniques employed almost universally admired, and the film appears on many lists of the greatest films of all-time, including Time magazine’s “All-Time 100 Movies.”
Olympia set the precedent for future films documenting and glorifying the Olympic Games, particularly the Summer Games.
The 1936 Summer Olympics torch relay was devised by the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem for these Olympic Games in Berlin.
Riefenstahl later staged the torch relay for this film, as with competitive events of the Games.

Jud Süß

‘Jud Süß’ is a German propaganda film produced in 1940 by Terra Filmkunst at the behest of Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The movie was directed by Veit Harlan, who wrote the screenplay with Eberhard Wolfgang Möller and Ludwig Metzger.
The leading roles were played by Ferdinand Marian and Harlan’s wife Kristina Söderbaum; Werner Krauss and Heinrich George played key supporting roles.
Although the film’s budget of 2 million Reichsmarks was considered high for films of that era, the box-office receipts of 6.5 million Reichsmarks made it a financial success.
Heinrich Himmler, Reich Führer SS, urged members of the SS and police to watch the movie.
Although some have dismissed the film as simply propaganda, others have pointed to Harlan’s talent as a director as one of the significant contributing factors to the film’s box-office success.
‘Jud Süß’
Together with ‘Die Rothschilds’ and ‘Der ewige Jude’, the film remains one of the most frequently discussed examples of the use of film to further the National Socialist racial philosophy.
The film is based on historical events.
Joseph Süß Oppenheimer was an 18th century Court Jew in the employ of Duke Karl Alexander of Württemberg in Stuttgart.
As a financial advisor for Duke Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg, he also gained a prominent position as a court Jew and held the reins of the finances in his duchy.
In the process, he made a number of enemies who stated, among other things, that he was involved with local gambling houses.
When Karl Alexander died suddenly, Oppenheimer was arrested and accused of various crimes, including fraud, embezzlement, treason, lecherous relations with the court ladies and accepting bribes.
After a heavily publicized trial he was sentenced to death.
Joseph Süß Oppenheimer was led to the gallows on 4 February 1738.
The film premièred at the Venice Film Festival on 8 September 1940 and received rave reviews, earning the top award.
‘Jud Süß’ was a great box-office success in Germany and abroad.
It ranked sixth out of the thirty most popular German films of the war years.
Within the Third Reich, it was the number one film of the 1939–1940 season, viewed by audiences totalling over twenty million at a time when the population of Germany was some seventy million.
Der ewige Jude
‘Der ewige Jude’
‘Der ewige Jude’ (1940) is a German propaganda film, presented as a documentary.
The film’s title in German is the German term for the character of the “Wandering Jew” in medieval folklore. 
At the insistence of Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the film was directed by Fritz Hippler.
The screenplay is credited to Eberhard Taubert.
The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with materials filmed shortly after the German occupation of Poland.
At this time Poland’s Jewish population was about three million, roughly ten percent of the total population. 
Actor Harry Giese (1903–1991) narrated.
In 1937, a special wing of the Propaganda Ministry put on an art exhibition in Munich titled ‘Der ewige Jude’. 
It followed this up with the publication of a book consisting of 265 photographs, each with a caption describing the degeneracy of the Jewish race.
Adolf Hitler expressed his frustration and anger at the mixed response from the German media and insisted that propaganda should be expressed in such a way that the German people themselves would develop ann aversion with regard to the Jews.
In response to Hitler’s reprimand, Dr Goebbels launched a campaign against the Jews.
He ordered each film studio to make an anti-Jewish film.
In the case of ‘Der ewige Jude’ Dr Goebbels conceived of a film that would communicate to the German people the same message that had been the theme of the 1937 Munich exhibition.
Although Dr Goebbels did not generally take an active role in the production of particular films, he elected to do so in the case of major propaganda films such as ‘Der ewige Jude’.
Throughout the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, Dr Goebbels devoted “constant attention” to the production of ‘Der ewige Jude’.
The footage that Hippler shot in the Jewish ghettos of Lodz, Warsaw, Cracow and Lublin in German occupied Poland was the only footage shot specifically for the purpose of the film.
At the beginning of the film, animated text informs the audience that this “documentary footage” shows Jews in their original state “before they put on the mask of civilized Europeans.”
Hippler advertised the film as being a factual documentary consisting of pictures of real Jews with nothing faked or simulated.
Aside from the footage shot in Poland, the rest of the film consisted of stills and archival footage from feature films.
The basic tenet of the film as argued that “the Jew is an oriental barbarian who has insinuated himself cleverly into European society, and now exploits it parasitically.
This point is emphasized throughout the film, starting from the very opening lines of the film’s commentary:
The civilized Jews that we know in Germany give us only an incomplete picture of their racial character.
This film shows genuine shots of the Polish ghettos. It shows the Jews as they really are, before they conceal themselves behind the mask of the civilized European.’
Der ewige Jude – Rats
Following this commentary, the film provides a succession of scenes in which Jews are portrayed as an uncivilized, parasitic people with low social standing. 
The film utilizes a montage that juxtaposes these images of ghetto Jews with images of rats to draw an analogy between the migration of Jews from Eastern Europe with the migration of rats.
For example, one of the shots shows a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, followed by a shot of a crowd of Jews in a bustling street of the Lodz ghetto. Close-ups of those in the crowd reveal sickly, malformed facial features.
The narrator states that, as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption.
Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their “human hosts.”
A scene depicts four bearded men in traditional religious Jewish clothing, then shows them shaved and in modern business suits, while the narrator explains that only a “trained eye” can distinguish their Jewish features.
Where rats appear, they bring ruin by destroying mankind’s goods and foodstuffs. In this way, they spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on. They are cunning, cowardly and cruel and are found mostly in large packs. Among the animals, they represent the rudiment of an insidious, underground destruction – just like the Jews among human beings.

Wunschkonzert – Poster
Wunschkonzert (“Request Concert”) is a 1940 German drama propaganda film by Eduard von Borsody.
After ‘Die grosse Liebe’, it was the most popular film of wartime Germany, reaching the second highest gross.
The popular music show “Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht” (“Request Concert for the Wehrmacht”) was broadcast on the German radio network every Sunday afternoon.
Its popularity was based on the fact that it broadcast music requested by men in the armed forces, thus uniting the armed forces and the homefront in Volksgemeinschaft.
The story takes place during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.


The young Inge Wagner and Luftwaffe Fliegerleutnant (Flight Lieutenant) Herbert Koch meet, and within a few days fall in love.
They make plans for their joint future, but before they can get married Herbert is seconded to the Condor Legion and ordered to the Spanish Civil War; he is forced to leave immediately without giving Inge any explanation.
The mission is top secret and all contact with home is forbidden, including by letter, and he is unable to contact her with an explanation.
When after several months the operation is over, and Herbert is recovering from a severe injury, he is at last able to write to Inge, but she has moved in the meantime and he is unable to trace her.
Inge meanwhile is unable to forget Herbert and is prepared to wait for him.
Three years go by.
When the war begins with the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the men from Inge’s area all go off to the front, including Inge’s childhood friend, Helmut Winkler, whose proposal of marriage she has turned down, but who continues to hope for her hand.
Helmut is assigned to a Squadron where he is put directly under Herbert, who has meanwhile been promoted to Hauptmann (Group Captain).
The two become friends, not knowing that they both love the same girl.
Since the beginning of the war, a big musical event has taken place in Berlin every week, which is broadcast on the radio as “Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht” and provides a channel for greetings and messages between the front and home.
When Herbert, remembering the beautiful days with Inge, asks for the Olympic fanfares, Inge, who is listening at home like every one else, hears it and is encouraged by this sudden sign out of the blue to discover Herbert’s whereabouts, with renewed hope of seeing him again.
They exchange letters, and arrange to meet in Hamburg.
However, at the last moment before the meeting, Herbert and Helmut are both ordered off on a reconnaissance flight over the Atlantic and are shot down.
A German U-Boat picks them up.
Meanwhile Inge is waiting in vain.
Helmut is taken wounded to the military hospital, where all three meet in his sickroom.
After sorting out the confused situation – Herbert assumes that Inge and Helmut are engaged – the two lovers are reunited.
Starring roles were played by Ilse Werner as Inge Wagner, Carl Raddatz as Herbert Koch and Joachim Brennecke as Helmut Winkler.
Wunschkonzert was officially classified as “Politically valuable“, “Artistically valuable“, “Valuable for the people” and “Valuable for youth“.
By the end of World War II the film had been seen by almost 26 million people and taken 7.6 million Reichsmarks.



The last great film of the Third Reich was ‘Kolberg’.

‘Kolberg’ was a historical feature film made in 1945 German and was directed by Veit Harlan, it was intended as a propaganda piece to shore up the will of the German population to resist the Allies.
The film is based on the autobiography of Joachim Nettelbeck, mayor of Kolberg in western Pomerania.
It tells the story of the successful defence of the besieged fortress town of Kolberg against French troops between April and July 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars.
The film ends with King Frederick William III of Prussia being convinced by Gneisenau to rise up against Napoleon, and in the final scene he sits down to write the proclamation ‘An Mein Volk’ (“To my People”) announcing the ‘War of Liberation’.
Joseph Goebbels explicitly ordered the use of the historical events for a film, which he regarded as highly suitable for the circumstances Germany faced.
Kolberg, begun in 1943, was made in Agfacolor with high production values.
At a cost of more than eight million marks, it was the most expensive German film of the second World War, with the actual cost suppressed to avoid public reaction.
At a time when the war was turning against German fortunes, thousands of soldiers were used in the film.
Principal cinematography took place from October 22, 1943 to August 1944.


The exteriors were shot in Kolberg and environs, Königsberg, Berlin and environs, Seeburg and Neustettin.

To film scenes with snow during summer, 100 railway wagons brought salt to the set in Pomerania.
The film was finally completed at the Babelsberg Studios at Potsdam, while the town and nearby Berlin were being steadily bombed by the Allies.
Two extras were killed during the making of the film when an explosive charge went off too early.
The film opened on January 30, 1945 in a temporary cinema (U.T. Alexanderplatz) and at Tauentzien-Palast in Berlin, and ran under constant threat of air raids until the fall of Berlin in May. 
One of the last films of the Third Reich, it never went into general release.

Propaganda in the Third Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Propaganda was skillfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler’s leadership of Germany (1933–1945).

National Socialist propaganda provided a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of their policies, including the pursuit of total war.

In Opposition (1919–33)
Adolf Hitler devoted three chapters of his 1925/26 book ‘Mein Kampf’, itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda.
He claimed to have learnt the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda.
The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in ‘Mein Kampf’, reflected then-common German nationalist claims.
Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Third Reich thanks to its reception by Hitler.

Mein Kampf’ contains the blueprint of later National Socialist propaganda efforts.

Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in Chapter VI:
Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people.
All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed.
The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.
The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgement in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.
The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
As to the methods to be employed, he explains: “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble.
On the other hand, they quickly forget.
Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion.
The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.
Hitler put these ideas into practice with the re-establishment of the ‘Völkischer Beobachter’, a daily newspaper published by the NSDAP from February 1925 on, whose circulation reached 26,175 in 1929.
It was joined in 1926 by Joseph Goebbels’s ‘Der Angriff’, another propagandistic paper.
During most of the National Socialists’ time in opposition, their means of propaganda remained limited.
With little access to mass media, the party continued to rely heavily on Hitler and a few others speaking at public meetings until 1929.
In April 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels head of party propaganda. Goebbels, a former journalist and National Socialist party officer in Berlin, soon proved his skills.
Among his first successes was the organization of riotous demonstrations that succeeded in having the American anti-war film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ banned in Germany.
In Power (1933–39)
Before World War II, National Socialist propaganda strategy, officially promulgated by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, stressed several themes.

Treaty of Versailles

Their goals were to establish external enemies (countries that inflicted the Treaty of Versailles on Germany) and internal enemies, such as Jews and Bolsheviks, and topics like degenerate art.

Hitler and National Socialist propagandists highlighted the anti-Semitism and resentment present in Germany. The Jews were shown to be responsible for things such as robbing the German people of their hard work while themselves avoiding physical labour.
Posters, films, cartoons, and fliers were seen throughout Germany which attacked the Jewish community, such as the 1940 film ‘The Eternal Jew’.

A major political and ideological cornerstone of National Socialist policy was the unification of all ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich’s borders under one Greater Germany (e.g Austria and Czechoslovakia and territories taken from Germany by Poland).
Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation

In ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler made a direct remark to those outside of Germany.

Großgermanisches Reich

He stated that pain and misery were being forced upon ethnic Germans outside of Germany, and that they dream of common fatherland.

He concluded by stating they needed to fight for one’s nationality.
Throughout ‘Mein Kampf’, he encouraged Germans worldwide to make the struggle for political power and independence their main focus.
National Socialist propaganda used the ‘Heim ins Reich’ policy for this, which began in 1938.
National Socialist propaganda efforts then focused on identifying external enemies.
Propagandists strengthened the negative attitude of Germany towards the Treaty of Versailles by territorial claims and ethnocentrism.
Heim ins Reich

When the Treaty was signed in 1919 non-propagandists newspapers headlines across the nation spoke German’s feelings, such as “UNACCEPTABLE” which appeared on the front page of the ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’ in 1919.

‘The Berliner Tageblatt’, also in 1919, predicted “Should we accept the conditions, a military furore for revenge will sound in Germany within a few years, a militant nationalism will engulf all.”

Treaty of Versailles

Hitler, knowing his nation’s disgust with the Treaty, used it as justifiable leverage to influence his audience.

He would repeatedly refer back to the terms of the Treaty as a direct attack on Germany and its people.
In one speech delivered on January 30, 1937 he directly stated that he was withdrawing the German signature from the document to protest the outrageous proportions of the terms.
He rightly claimed the Treaty made Germany out to be inferior and “less” of a country than others only because blame for the war was placed on it.

Volksdeutsche Killed by Poles – 1939

The success of National Socialist propagandists and Hitler won the NDAP control of Germany.

For months prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, German newspapers and leaders had carried out a national and international propaganda campaign showing that the Polish authorities had organised and tolerated violent ethnic cleansing of Germans living in Poland.
Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on February 4, 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories.

Allied Bomber Fleet over the Reich – 1944

Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers, and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone.

At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviets.
One of the primary sources for propaganda was the Wehrmachtbericht, a daily radio broadcast that described the military situation on all fronts.
German victories lent themselves easily to propaganda broadcasts, and were at this point difficult to mishandle.
Satires on the defeated, accounts of attacks, and praise for the fallen all were useful for the regime.
After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of “Western European Culture” against the “Bolshevist Hordes”.

V1 Rocket
V2 (A4)Rocket

The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 vengeance weapons” was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.

V-weapons, known in the original German as Vergeltungswaffen (retaliatory weapons, reprisal weapons), were a particular set of long range artillery weapons designed for strategic bombing during World War II, particularly terror bombing and/or aerial bombing of cities. They comprised the V-1 flying bomb, the V-2 rocket and the V-3 cannon. All of these weapons were intended for use in a military campaign against Britain, though only the V-1 and V-2 were so used in a campaign conducted 1944-5. After the invasion of Europe by the Allies, these weapons were also employed against targets on the mainland of Europe.
They were part of the range of the so-called Wunderwaffen (wonderweapons) of the Third Reich.

The increasing hardship of the war for the German people also called forth more propaganda explaining that the war had been forced on the German people by the refusal of foreign powers to accept their strength and independence.
Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels called for propaganda to toughen up the German people, and not make victory look easy.

Adolf Hitler reading
the ‘Völkischer Beobachter’

The ‘Völkischer Beobachter’ (“People’s Observer”) was the official daily newspaper of the NSDAP since December 1920.

It disseminated National Socialist ideology in the form of brief articles directed against the weakness of parliamentarism, the evils of Jewry and Bolshevism, the national humiliation of the Versailles Treaty and other such topics.

The Völkischer Beobachter (“Völkisch Observer”) was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from 8 February 1923. For twenty-five years it formed part of the official public face of the Nazi party. The “fighting paper of the National Socialist movement of Greater Germany” (Kampfblatt der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung Großdeutschlands) had its origin in the Münchner Beobachter (“Munich Observer”).

Dietrich Eckart
Thule Gesellschaft

In 1918 was acquired by the ‘Thule Society‘, and in August 1919 was renamed Völkischer Beobachter. The NSDAP purchased it in December 1920 on the initiative of Chase Bauduin and Dietrich Eckart, (both Thule members) who became the first editors. In 1921, Adolf Hitler acquired all shares in the company, making him the sole owner of the publication. The circulation of the paper was initially about 8,000 but increased to 25,000 in autumn 1923 due to strong demand during the Occupation of the Ruhr. In that year Alfred Rosenberg became editor. With the prohibition of the NSDAP after the Munich Putsch of 9 November 1923, the paper also had to cease publication, which resumed however on the party’s re-foundation on 26 February 1925. The circulation rose along with the success of the NSDAP, reaching more than 120,000 in 1931 and 1.7 million by 1944.

It was joined in 1926 by ‘Der Angriff’ (“The Attack”), a weekly and later daily paper founded by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.

The newspaper was set up by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, who in 1926 had become the Gauleiter in Berlin, and the NSDAP provided most of the money needed to ensure publication. The paper was first founded to rally NSDAP members during the nearly two-year ban on the party in Berlin. ‘Der Angriff’ was conceived as a mass circulation paper that fought the hated “System”.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbles

The most regular contributors were party functionaries; lead articles were usually written by the publisher, Dr Goebbels, until 1933, and signed “Dr. G.”. Willi Krause, using the pen name Peter Hagen, was its first editor-in-chief. He was succeeded first by Julius Lippert, (see below) then in 1933 by Karoly Kampmann, and from 1935, by Dr Goebbels’s trusted friend Hans Schwarz van Berk. A further attraction of the paper were the political caricatures by Hans Schweitzer.

Julius Lippert

Julius Lippert (9 July 1895–30 June 1956) was a German politician in the NSDAP.

Born in Basel, Switzerland, he became a nationalist in his youth after reading the philosophers Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. He joined the German military and fought in World War I, twice being wounded, and ended the war as a 2nd Lieutenant.In 1936, Lippert supervised the 1936 Olympic Games.

Der Angriff was first published 4 July 1927 by the Angriff Press. Its motto was “For the oppressed against the exploiters“. In 1927 the circulation was around 2,000. This number rose to 146,694 in 1939 and 306,000 by 1944. After the NSDAP gained political power in Germany on 30 January 1933, the importance of the newspaper slowly decreased. When the Allies started the bombing campaign against Berlin, the circulation was increased to keep up the morale of Berliners. After 19 February 1945 Der Angriff was merged with the Berliner Illustrierte Nachtausgabe (Berlin Illustrated Night Edition). The last edition was published on 24 April 1945.

‘Der Angriff ‘ was mainly dedicated to attacks against political opponents and Jews – but also engaged in the glorification of National Socialist heroes such as Horst Wessel.

Horst Ludwig Wessel
Horst Ludwig Wessel

Horst Ludwig Wessel (October 9, 1907 – February 23, 1930) was a NSDAP activist and an SA-Sturmführer who was made a posthumous hero of the National Socialist movement following his violent death in 1930. He was the author of the lyrics to the song “Die Fahne hoch” (“The Flag On High”), usually known as ‘Horst-Wessel-Lied‘ (“the Horst Wessel Song”), which became the NSDAP anthem and, de facto, Germany’s co-national anthem from 1933 to 1945. His death also resulted in his becoming the “patron” for the Luftwaffe’s 26th Destroyer Wing, and the 18th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division during World War II.

‘llustrierter Beobachter

The ‘Illustrierter Beobachter’ was their weekly illustrated paper.

Other National Socialist publications included ‘Das Reich’, a more moderate and highbrow publication aimed at intellectuals; and ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, an SS publication, aiming at a more intellectual tone.
After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, all of the regular press came under complete NSDAP editorial control through the policy of ‘Gleichschaltung’, and short-lived propaganda newspapers were also established in the conquered territories during World War II.


The NSDAP relied heavily on speakers to make its propaganda presentations, most heavily before they came to power, but also afterwards.

Hitler, in ‘Mein Kampf’, recounted that he had realized that it was not written matter but the spoken word that brought about changes, as people would not read things that disagreed, but would linger to hear a speaker.
Furthermore, speakers, having their audiences before them, could see their reactions and adjust accordingly, to persuade.
His own oratory was a major factor in his rise, and he despised those who came to read pre-written speeches.
Sturmabteilung speakers were used, though their reliance on instinct sometimes ‘offended’ well-educated audiences, but their blunt and folksy manner often had their own appeal.
The ministry would provide such speakers with information, such as how to explain the problems on the Eastern Front, or how to discuss the cuts in food rations.
The party propaganda headquarters, sent the Redner-Schnellinformation (Speakers’ Express Information) out with guidelines for immediate campaigns, such as anti-Semitic campaigns and what information to present.
Specific groups were targeted with such speakers.
Speakers, for instance, were created specifically for Hitler Youth.
Nürnberg 1937
Hitler Jugend
Reichsparteitag Nürnberg

Poster art was a mainstay of the National Socialist propaganda effort, aimed both at Germany itself and occupied territories.

It had several advantages.
The visual effect, being striking, would reach the viewer easily.
Posters were also, unlike other forms of propaganda, difficult to avoid.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism.
National Socialist youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.
Hans Schweitzer, under the pen name “Mjölnir” produced many National Socialist posters.
Posters were also used in schools.
The National Socialists produced many films to promote their views.
Themes included the virtues of the Nordic or Aryan type, German military and industrial strength, and the evils of Germany’s enemies.
On March 13, 1933, the Third Reich established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as its Minister.

Reichskulturkammer (RKK)

On September 22, 1933, a ‘Department of Film’ was incorporated into the ‘Chamber of Culture’.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

The Reichskulturkammer (RKK) (“Reich Chamber of Culture”) was an institution in Nazi Germany. It was established by law on 22 September 1933 in the course of the ‘Gleichschaltung’ process at the instigation of Reich Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as a professional organization of all German creative artists. It was intended to control the entire cultural life in Germany, promoting art created by “Aryans” and seen as consistent with National Socialist ideals.
Every artist had to apply for membership on presentation of an Aryan certificate. A rejected inscription de facto resulted in a profession ban.
The RKK was affiliated with the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment with its seat in Berlin. Headed by Dr Goebbels, a state secretary of his ministry served as vice president:

The department controlled the licensing of every film prior to its production.
Sometimes, the government would select the actors for a film, financing the production partially or totally, and would grant tax breaks to the producers.
Awards for “valuable” films would decrease taxes, thus encouraging self-censorship among movie makers.
Under Dr Goebbels and Hitler, the German film industry became entirely nationalised.

‘Triumph des Willens’  – Final Scene
Leni Riefenstahl 

The National Socialist Propaganda Directorate, which Dr Goebbels oversaw, had at its disposal nearly all film agencies in Germany by 1936.

Schools were also provided with motion pictures projectors because film was regarded as particularly appropriate for propagandizing children.
Newsreels were explicitly intended to portray such of the truth as was in the interest of Germany to spread.
‘Triumph des Willens’ (Triumph of the Will, 1934) by film-maker Leni Riefenstahl chronicles the Reich Partietag.
It features footage of uniformed party members (though relatively few German soldiers), who are marching and drilling to classical melodies.
The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various leaders of the NSDAP at the Congress, including speeches by Adolf Hitler.

Triumph des Willens
Der Sieg des Glaubens

‘Triumph des Willens’ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Reichsparteitag in Nürnberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Germans. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation. An earlier, less successful film ‘Der Sieg des Glaubens’ (Victory if Faith) had also been made of  the Fifth Party Rally, which occurred in Nürnberg from 30 August to 3 September 1933.
‘Triumph des Willens’ was released in 1935.
Riefenstahl’s techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned ‘Triumph’ recognition as one of the greatest films in history. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. The film was popular in the Third Reich, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day.

‘Der ewige Jude’ (The Eternal Jew, 1940) was directed by Fritz Hippler at the insistence of Dr Goebbels, though the writing is credited to Eberhard Taubert.

‘Der ewige Jude’

The Eternal Jew (1940) is an anti-Semitic propaganda film, presented as a documentary. The film’s title in German is ‘Der ewige Jude’, the German term for the character of the “Wandering Jew” in medieval folklore. At the insistence of the Minister of Propaganda, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the film was directed by Fritz Hippler. The screenplay is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with materials filmed shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland. At this time Poland’s Jewish population was about three million, roughly ten percent of the total population. Actor Harry Giese (1903–1991) narrated.

The movie is done in the style of a documentary, the central thesis being the immutable racial personality traits that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasite.
Throughout the film, these traits are contrasted to the National Socialist ideal: while Aryan men find satisfaction in physical labour and the creation of value, Jews only find pleasure in money and a hedonist lifestyle.
The National Socialists and sympathizers published many books.
Most of the beliefs that would become associated with the National Socialism, such as German nationalism, eugenics and anti-Semitism had been in circulation since the 19th century, and the National Socialists seized on this body of existing work in their own publications.
The most notable is Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ detailing his beliefs.
The book outlines Hitler’s major ideas.

Hans F. K. Günther
Gustave Le Bon

It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 ‘The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind’, which theorized propaganda as a way to control the seemingly irrational behaviour of crowds.

Particularly prominent is the anti-Semitism of Hitler and his associates.
Other books such as ‘Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes’ (Ethnology of German People) by Hans F. K. Günther and ‘Rasse und Seele’ (Race and Soul) by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (de) identify and classify the differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan type and other supposedly inferior peoples.

Karl May
Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss

These books were used as texts in German schools during the Third Reich.

The pre-existing and popular genre of ‘Schollen-roman’, or ‘novel of the soil’, also known as ‘Blut und Boden’ (blood and soil) novels, was given a boost by the acceptability of its themes to National Socialists and developed a mysticism of unity.
The immensely popular “Red Indian” stories by Karl May were permitted despite the heroic treatment of the hero Winnetou and “colored” races; instead, the argument was made that the stories demonstrated the fall of the Red Indians was caused by a lack of racial consciousness, to encourage it in the Germans.
Other fictional works were also adapted; Heidi was stripped of its Christian elements, and Robinson Crusoe’s relationship to Friday was made a master-slave one.
Text Books
“Geopolitical atlases” emphasized National Socialist theories, demonstrating the “encirclement” of Germany, depicting how the prolific Slav nations would cause the German people to be overrun, and (in contrast) showing the relative population density of Germany was much higher than that of the Eastern regions (where they would seek Lebensraum).
Geography text books stated how crowded Germany had become.
Math books discussed military applications and used military word problems, physics and chemistry concentrated on military applications, and grammar classes were devoted to propaganda sentences.
Other textbooks dealt with the history of the NSDAP.

Elementary school reading text included large amounts of propaganda.

Children were taught through textbooks that they were the Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) while the Jews were untrustworthy, parasitic and Untermenschen (inferior subhumans).
Even fairy tales were put to use, with Cinderella being presented as a tale of how the prince’s racial instincts lead him to reject the stepmother’s alien blood for the racially pure maiden.
Nordic sagas were likewise presented as the illustration of ‘Führerprinzip’, which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck.
Literature was to be chosen within the “German spirit” rather than a fixed list of forbidden and required, although Jewish authors were not permitted in the classroom.
While only William Shakespeare’s MacBeth and The Merchant of Venice were actually recommended, none of the plays were actually forbidden.
Biology texts, however, were put the most use in presenting eugenic principles and racial theories; this included explanations of the Nuremberg Laws, which were shown to allow the German and Jewish peoples to co-exist without the danger of mixing.
Science was to be presented as the most natural area for introducing the “Jewish Question”, once teachers took care to point out that in nature, animals associated with those of their own species.
Despite their many photographs glamorizing the “Nordic” type, the texts also claimed that visual inspection was insufficient, and genealogical analysis was required to determine their types, and report any hereditary problems, however, the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB) stressed that at primary schools in particular they had to work on only the Nordic racial core of the German Volk and have to contrast this with the racial composition of foreign populations and the Jews.

Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund (NSLB)

The Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund (NSLB), (National Socialist Teachers League), was established on 21 April 1929. This organization lasted until 1943. Its seat was in Bayreuth. The founder and first “Reichswalter” of the organization was Hans Schemm. Its organ was the Nationalsozialistische Lehrerzeitung (NS Teachers’ News). Its goal was to make the National Socialist world-view the foundation of all education and especially of schooling. In order to achieve this it sought to have an effect on the political viewpoint of educators, insisting on the further development of their spirit along National Socialist lines. 
After 1933 the NSDAP validated the NSLB as the sole organization of teachers in the German Reich. In July 1935 the NSLB was merged with the existing organization of lecturers to form the Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Dozentenbund (NSDDB) (National Socialist German University Lecturers League).

National Socialist publications also carried various forms of propaganda.
‘Neues Volk’, the monthly publication of the Office of Racial Policy, carried racial propaganda.
While chiefly aimed at fomenting ethnic pride through ideal Aryan types, it also included articles aimed at Jews.
The ‘NS-Frauen-Warte’, aimed at women, included such topics as the role of women in the Nazi state. 
Despite its propaganda elements, it was predominately a woman’s magazine.
It defended certain aspects of anti-intellectualism, urged women to have children, even in wartime, put forth what the NSDAP had done for women, discusses bridal schools, and urged women to greater efforts in total war.

Gertrud Scholtz-Klink


The NS-Frauen-Warte was the magazine for women.Put out by the NS-Frauenschaft, it had the status of the only party approved magazine for women, and served propaganda purposes, particularly supporting the role of housewife and mother as exemplary.
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink née Treusch (9 February 1902 – 24 March 1999) was a fervent member of the NSDAP, and leader of the National Socialist Women’s League (NS-Frauenschaft) in Nazi Germany.
The NS-Frauen-Warte had articles on a wide range of topics of interest to women and included sewing patterns.
Its articles included such topics as the role of women in the state, Germanization in Poland, the education of youth, the importance of play for children, claims that Great Britain was responsible for the war, and the Bolshevist threat with the need to annihilate the Soviet Regime. It highlighted the achievements of National Socialist women, and how the system had benefited females, and discussed bridal schools. Poetry exulted in a child as a form of immortality. During wartime it urged women to have children, to join in the war effort either in employment or in Frauenschaft from the very beginning, and to greater efforts in total war. 
It was predominately a woman’s magazine despite containing propaganda; this contrasts sharply with ‘Das deutsche Mädel’, which lay emphasis on the strong and active German woman.

‘Der Pimpf’ was aimed at boys and contained both adventure and propaganda.

‘Der Pimpf’
‘Morgen’ – First Issue

‘Der Pimpf’was the National Socialist magazine for boys, particularly those in the ‘Deutsches Jungvolk’, with adventure and propaganda.
The Deutsches Jungvolk (German: “German Youth”) was a youth organization in for boys aged 10 to 14, and was a section of the Hitler Youth movement. Through a programme of outdoor activities, parades and sports, it aimed to indoctrinate its young members in the tenets of Nazi ideology. Membership became fully compulsory for eligible boys in 1939. By the end of World War II, some had become child soldiers.
The magazine ‘Der Pimpf’ first appeared in 1935 as ‘Morgen’ (Morning), changing its name to ‘Der Pimpf’ in 1937.
It included adventures of troops of Hitler Youth. Its last issue urged the boys to model themselves on the SS, and spoke of the SS Division “Hitler Jugend”.

The female counterpart, ‘Das deutsche Mädel’, lacked this emphasis on adventure.

Das deutsche Mädel

‘Das deutsche Mädel’ (The German Girl or Maiden) was a magazine aimed at German girls, particularly members of Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls).
Unlike the adventure orientation of ‘Der Pimpf’, intended for Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), ‘Das deutsche Mädel’ urged hiking, tending the wounded, hard work in factories, and preparing for motherhood. On the other hand, in contrast to the woman’s magazine with some propaganda, ‘NS-Frauen-Warte’, it lay far more emphasis on the strong and active German woman; health, education, service, and sports were all featured, and famous women depicted included doctors, athletes, poets, and pilots.
Articles in it included describing a speech by Jutta Rüdiger when she was appointed to lead Bund Deutscher Mädel, telling the girls of their duties to Germany, and a story of how Young Girls had ensured that a dead father’s promise to his son was fulfilled.

‘Das deutsche Mädel’, in contrast, recommended for girls hiking, tending the wounded, and preparing for care for children.
It lay far more emphasis than ‘NS-Frauen-Warte’ on the strong and active German woman.
Signal was a propaganda magazine published by the Wehrmacht during World War II.
It was distributed throughout occupied Europe and neutral countries.

Signal Magazine

Signal was a modern, glossy, illustrated photo journal and army propaganda tool, meant specifically for audiences in neutral, allied, and occupied countries. A German edition was distributed in Switzerland and to various other countries with a strong German military presence, but Signal was never distributed in Germany proper. Signal was published fortnightly (plus some special issues) in as many as 25 editions and 30 languages, and at its height had a circulation of 2,500,000 copies. It was available in the United States in English until December 1941. The last number was 6/45, only known in one sample from the Swedish edition.
Signal described the combat conditions of the German troops and their allies in all fronts, together with high quality photos, including a central double page full colour picture. Many of the most famous photos of World War II to be seen today are taken from Signal. The magazine also included articles about economics, science, arts, and advertising for the most well-known German companies (BMW, Agfa, Audi, Siemens …). 
The magazine kept its independence from the Propaganda Ministry, remaining under control of the army. Still, there is a political message, one of a unified Europe (under the so-called ‘New Order’) fighting together against the Bolshevism, this idea was symbolized by the different foreign units and volunteers fighting for the Third Reich.

“Signal” was published from April 1940 to March 1945, and had the highest sales of any magazine published in Europe during the period 1940 to 1945 – circulation peaked at two and one half million in 1943.
At various times, it was published in at least twenty languages.
There was an English edition distributed in the British Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark –  these islands were occupied by the Wehrmacht during World War II.
The promoter of the magazine was the chief of the Wehrmacht propaganda office, Colonel Hasso von Wedel.
Its annual budget was 10 million Reichmarks, roughly $2.5 million at the pre-war exchange rate.
The image that ‘Signal’ hoped to create was that of the Third Reich and its New Order as the great benefactor of European peoples, and of Western civilization in general.
Germany and its allies were shown to be the humane liberators of the occupied nations.
Some articles displayed colour photographs of dramatic battle scenes.
The magazine contained little anti-Semitic propaganda, and the Jews were hardly mentioned.
Adolf Hitler – Radio Speech

Before Hitler came to power, he rarely used the radio as forms of connection with the public, and when he did so non-party newspapers were allowed publish his speeches.

This soon changed after he came to power in 1933, Hitler’s speeches became famous all over Germany and were often major events for the Germans, the speeches were broadcast on the national radio, every newspaper published his speeches, they were shown in the weekly newsreels and reprinted in large editions in books and pamphlets all across Germany.
The speeches made by Hitler became so significant to the National Socialists that that even restaurants and pubs were expected have their radios on whenever Hitler was delivering one of his speeches and in some cities even public speakers were used so passers-by could hear him deliver one of his speeches.
The extent that National Socialist propaganda emphasized and portrayed his speeches was done in so the main points of his speeches appeared in the weekly posters and were all over Germany by the hundreds of thousands.
The radio was an important tool in National Socialist propaganda, and it has been argued that it was the National Socialists who pioneered the use of what was still a relatively new technology.
Internal Broadcasts

Certainly the National Socialists recognised the importance of radio in disseminating their message, and to that end Dr Goebbels approved a scheme whereby millions of cheap radio sets (the Volksempfänger) were subsidised by the government.

The Volksempfänger (German for “people’s receiver”) was a range of radio receivers developed by engineer Otto Griessing at the request of Propaganda Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The purpose of the Volksempfänger-program was to make radio reception technology affordable to the general public. Joseph Goebbels realized the great propaganda potential of this relatively new medium and thus considered widespread availability of receivers highly important. The original Volksempfänger VE301 model was presented on August 18, 1933 at the Große Deutsche Funkausstellung in Berlin. The VE301 was available at a readily affordable price of 76 German Reichsmark (equivalent to two weeks’ average salary), and a cheaper 35 Reichsmark model, the DKE38  fitted with a multisection tube, was also later produced, along with a series of other models under the Volksempfänger, Gemeinschaftsempfänger, KdF (Kraft durch Freude), DKE (Deutscher Kleinempfänger) and other brands.

Volksempfänger Poster

1936 Nazi propaganda poster, promoting the use of the Volksempfänger. The translated text reads, “All Germany hears the Führer with the Volksempfänger.

Dr Goebbels claimed the radio was the “eighth great power“, and he, along with the NSDAP, recognized the power of the radio in the propaganda machine of the Third Reich.
In that “Radio as the Eighth Great Power” speech, Dr Goebbels proclaimed: ‘
It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio.
It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the air-plane and the radio.
Radio reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion.
That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.
Above all it is necessary to clearly centralize all radio activities, to place spiritual tasks ahead of technical ones, to provide a clear world-view.’
By the start of the Second World War over 70% of German households had one of these radios.
Radio broadcasts were also played over loudspeakers in public places and workplaces.
In private homes, however, people could easily turn off the radio when bored, and did so once the novelty of hearing the voice from a box wore off; this caused the National Socialists to introduce many non-propaganda elements, such as music, advice and tips, serials and other entertainment.
This was accelerated in the war to prevent people from tuning in enemy propaganda broadcasts.
Fine Art
Adolf Ziegler – ‘The Four Elements’

By National Socialist standards, fine art was not propaganda.

Its purpose was to create ideals, for ‘eternity’.
This produced a call for heroic and romantic art, which reflected the ideal rather than the real.
Explicitly political paintings were very rare.
Still more rare were anti-Semitic paintings, because the art was supposed to be on a higher plane. 
Nevertheless, selected themes, common in propaganda, were the most common topics of art.
Sculpture was used as an expression of National Socialist racial theories.
The most common image was of the nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.
Nudes were required to be physically perfect.
At the Paris Exposition of 1937, Josef Thorak’s ‘Comradeship’ stood outside the German pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of defence and racial camaraderie.

Haus der Deutschen Kunst
Tag der Deutschen Kunst

On 15 and 16 October 1939, the ‘Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung’ inside the ‘Haus der Deutschen Kunst‘ was complemented by the monumental ‘Tag der Deutschen Kunst’ (Day of German Art) celebration of “2,000 years of Germanic culture” where luxuriously draped floats (one of them carrying a 5 meter tall golden Reichsadler) and thousands of actors in historical costumes paraded down Prinzregentenstraße for hours in the presence of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Reinhard Heydrich, and many other high-ranking members of the government of the Third Reich, with minor events taking place in the Englischer Garten nearby. 

Landscape painting featured mostly heavily in ‘Die Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung‘ (Greater German Art Exhibition), in accordance with themes of ‘Blut und Boden’ (blood and soil).
Peasants were also popular images, reflecting a simple life in harmony with nature, frequently with large families.
With the advent of war, war art came to be a significant though still not predominating proportion.
The continuing of  ‘Die Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung‘ throughout the war was put forth as a manifestation of German Culture.
Death and Sacrifice – ‘Und ihr habt doch gesiegt’

Heroic death was often portrayed in National Socialist propaganda as glorious.
It was glorified in such films as ‘Flüchtlinge’, ‘Hans Westmar’, and ‘Kolber’.

Hans Westmar- ‘Einer von vielen’
Hanns Heinz Ewers
‘Hans Westmar. Einer von vielen. Ein deutsches Schicksal aus dem Jahre 1929’ (Hans Westmar. One of many. A German Fate from the Year 1929) was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films commissioned by the Third Reich shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating the ‘Kampfzeit’ – a ‘mythologised’ history of their period in opposition, struggling to gain power. The film is a fictionalized life of the famous National Socialist martyr Horst Wessel.
The film was based on a novel, personally commissioned by Adolf Hitler from his close friend Hanns Heinz Ewers. It was among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades. His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting “the real battle.”

‘Wunschkonzert’, though chiefly about the home-front, features one character who dies playing the organ in a church in order to guide his comrades, though he knows the enemy forces will also find him.

Wunschkonzert – Poster
Wunschkonzert (“Request Concert”) is a 1940 German drama propaganda film by Eduard von Borsody. After ‘Die grosse Liebe’, it was the most popular film of wartime Germany, reaching the second highest gross. The popular music show “Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht” (“Request Concert for the Wehrmacht”) was broadcast on the German radio network every Sunday afternoon. Its popularity was based on the fact that it broadcast music requested by men in the armed forces, thus uniting the armed forces and the homefront in Volksgemeinschaft. Reich Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels insisted that all German performers contribute to it and concluded that a film based on it would be even more successful. Starring roles were played by Ilse Werner as Inge Wagner, Carl Raddatz as Herbert Koch and Joachim Brennecke as Helmut Winkler. Wunschkonzert was officially classified as “Politically valuable”, “Artistically valuable”, “Valuable for the people” and “Valuable for youth”. By the end of World War II the film had been seen by almost 26 million people and taken 7.6 million Reichsmarks.
‘Heroic Head’ – Arno Breker
‘Und ihr habt doch gesiegt ‘
And you are also victorious
The dead of World War I were also portrayed as heroic; in a film of ‘Operation Michael’, the general tells a major that they will be measured by the greatness of their sacrifice, not by that of their victory, and in ‘Leave on Parole’, the people are portrayed as being corrupted by pacifist slogans while soldiers stand their ground unflinching.

Even the film ‘Morgenrot’, predating the National Socialist seizure of power, and containing such matters as a woman refusing to rejoice because of the sufferings on the other side, praised such deaths and found favour among NSDAP officials.


‘Morgenrot’ is a 1933 German submarine film set during World War I.

Released three days after Adolf Hitler became Reichskanzler, it was the first film to have its screening in the Third Reich. It became a symbol of the new times. The title, literally “morning-red”, is German for Dawn) 
It was filmed in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, the first German submarine movie made after World War I.
The film offered a heroization of death, with the captain explicitly stating that Germans may not know how to live, but they know how to die.
Propaganda about the Volk depicted it as a greater entity to which the individual belonged, and one worth dying for.
Several dead Storm-troopers were singled out for glorification by Dr Goebbels, especially Horst Wessel (see above).

Hitlerjunge Quex

The films ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’ and ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ also glorified those had died in the struggle to seize power; ‘Quex’ was based on a novel that sold over 200,000 copies over two years.

Hitlerjunge Quex is a 1932 German propaganda novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus. The 1933 movie ‘Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend’ was based on the novel, and was described by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as the “first large-scale” transmission of National Socialist ideology using the medium of cinema.

Hitlerjunge Quex

Both the book and the movie, like ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ and ‘Hans Westmar’ (see above), both released the same year, fictionalized and glorified death in the service of the NSDAP and Hitler. The novel Der Hitlerjunge Quex was written by Karl Aloys Schenzinger between May and September 1932. It was first published in Nazi party outlet Völkischer Beobachter, and as a book in December 1932.

Hitlerjungen marschieren
von Herbert Norkus ‘Grab der
NSDAP Kongress in Nürnberg

Both novel and movie are based on the real story of Herbert Norkus’ life. Norkus, a Hitler Youth member, died from injuries suffered when chased and confronted by Communist youths in the night of 23 / 24 January 1932 in the Beusselkietz neighbourhood of Moabit, Berlin. While the murder was condemned by the press, the Communists started a counter-propaganda offensive, describing the incident as an accidental result of Communist self-defense during a NSDAP attack. By January 1934 the film had been viewed by a million people.

Soldiers and street fighters were the heroes of the NSDAP – those who had died or might die.
Even the 1936 anthem for “Olympic youth” celebrated not sports but sacrificial death.
This continued in the war.
In 1942-3, the Winter Relief booklets recounted the stories of 20 decorated war heroes.
The dead of Stalingrad were portrayed as heroes of Valhalla.
A 1944 Mother’s Day Card, particularly intended for the wives and mothers of the war dead, presented a mystical view that the dead continued in the life that followed them.
Similarly, ‘Die grosse Liebe‘ depicted its self-centred heroine learning to bravely send the air force lieutenant she loves back to his squadron.
Zarah Leander 

Die große Liebe‘ (The Great Love) is a German drama film of the National Socialist period, made by Rolf Hansen, starring Zarah Leander and Viktor Staal.

It premièred in Berlin in 1942 and went on to become the most commercially successful film in the history of the Third Reich. The film included one of the most popular songs of the Third Reich – ‘Davon geht die Welt nicht unter‘ (“It’s Not the End of the World”). After 1942, as the military situation became more and more unfavourable to Germany, the song became a staple element of the prevalent informal propaganda geared to “seeing it through“. 
Deutscher Volkssturm Armband
The creation of the Volkssturm had propagandists make full use of themes of death, transcendence, and commemoration to encourage the fight. Dr Goebbels and other propagandists depicted the ‘Volkssturm’ as an outburst of enthusiasm and will to resist. National Socialist themes of death, transcendence, and commemoration were given full play to encourage the fight, however, many also realized that this was a desperate attempt to turn the course of the war.

Deutscher Volkssturm
The Volkssturm (“people’s army” or “national militia”) was a German national militia of the last months of World War II. It was set up, not by the traditional German Army, but by the NSDAP on the orders of Adolf Hitler on October 18, 1944. It conscripted males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military unit as part of a German Home Guard. ‘Volkssturm’ units were placed under direct command of the local NSDAP, meaning local Gau- and Kreisleiters. The ‘Volkssturm’ was also to become a nation-wide organization, with Heinrich Himmler as Replacement Army Commander, responsible for armament and training. Though normally under party control, ‘Volkssturm’ units were placed under Wehrmacht command when engaging in action.

Leopold Schmutzler – ‘Arbeiten Jungfrauen’ 1940

While men were the ones depicted as dying for Germany, women were also presented as needing to sacrifice.

Exercise was praised as making young women strong, able to do hard physical labour for their country at need, particularly in agriculture, where the ‘blood and soil’ ideology glamorized hard labour at the farm.
This was not, however, translated in strong propaganda for women to join the workforce during the war; NS-Frauenschaft, in its magazine ‘NS-Frauen-Warte’ and the speeches of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, urged such behaviour, and collections of essays praised heroic German women of the past, but the propaganda was weak and not widespread or repeated.
Part of the problem may have been that the German government had called for sacrifice incessantly since 1931, and could bring no new appeal to it with the outbreak of war.
Women, and other civilians, were also called on by Dr Goebbels to reduce their standard of living to that of soldiers and civilians living in bombed areas, so as to sacrifice that material for total mobilization.
Many propaganda films developed the importance of the ‘Führerprinzip’ or leader principle.
‘Flüchtlinge’ depicted Volga German refugees being saved from persecution by a leader, who demands their unquestioning obedience.
‘Der Herrscher’ depicts its hero, Clausen, as the unwavering leader of his munitions firm, who, faced with his children’s machinations, disowns them and bestows the firm on the state, confident that a worker will arise capable of continuing his work and, as a true leader, needing no instruction.
Otto von Bismark
Frederick the Great

In schools, adolescent boys were presented with Nordic sagas as the illustration of ‘Führerprinzip’, which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck.

Hitler Youth in particular indoctrinated for blind obedience and “Führer worship.”
This combined with the glorification of the one, central Führer.
At the time of the Munich Putsch, Hitler used his trial to present himself, claiming it had been his sole responsibility and inspiring the title Fuhrer.
Booklets given out for the Winter Relief donations included ‘The Führer Makes History’, a collection of Hitler photographs, and ‘The Führer’s Battle in the East’.
Films such as ‘Der Marsch zum Führer’ and ‘Triumph of the Will’ glorified him.
Carl Schmitt, drawn to the Nazi party by his admiration for a decisive leader, praised Hitler in his pamphlet ‘State, Volk and Movement’, because only the ruthless will of such a leader could save Germany and its people from the “asphalt culture” of modernity, to bring about unity and authenticity.
The Volksgemeinschaft or people’s community received a great deal of propaganda support.
The Volk were not just a people; a mystical soul united them, and propaganda continually portrayed individuals as part of a great whole, worth dying for.
This was portrayed as overcoming distinctions of party and social class.
A common Party mantra declared they must put “collective need ahead of individual greed” – a widespread sentiment in this era.
The commonality this created across classes was among the great appeals of National Socialism.
After the failure of the Munich Putsch, Hitler, on the trial, centred his defence on his selfless devotion to the good of the Volk, and the need for bold action to save them.
The Versailles settlement had betrayed Germany, which they had tried to save.
Thereafter, his speeches concentrated on his boundless devotion to the Volk, though not entirely eliminating the antisemitism.
Even once in power, his immediate speeches spoke of serving Germany.
The Volksgemeinschaft was also used for war support.
Film on the home-front during World War II, depicted the war uniting all levels of society, as in the two most popular films of the war era, ‘Die grosse Liebe’ and ‘Wunschkonzert’ (see above).
Failure to support the war was an anti-social act; this propaganda managed to bring arms production to a peak in 1944.
Blut und Boden’ – Blood and Soil
Blut und Boden

Closely related to the community was the notion of ‘blood and soil‘, a mystical bond between the German people and Germanic lands.

A true Volkish life was rural and agrarian, rather than urban, a theme pre-dating National Socialism.
It was foundational to the concept of ‘Lebensraum’ (Living-space).
Prior to their ascension to power, NSAP called for a movement back to the rural areas, from the cities.
Blood and soil” novels and theatre celebrated the farmer’s life and human fertility, often mystically linking them.
Adolf Wissel – ‘Bauernfamilie’
Erbhofbauer – Farmstead Peasant
Hans Toepper
‘Neues Volk’ displayed demographic charts to deplore the destruction of the generous Aryan families’ farmland, and how the Jews were eradicating traditional German peasantry.
Posters for school depicted and deplored the flight of people from the countryside to the city.
‘Der Giftpilz’, a children’s book, included an account of a Jewish financier forcing a German to sell his farm.
Carl Schmitt argued that a people would develop laws appropriate to its “blood and soil because authenticity required loyalty to the Volk over abstract so-called ‘universals’.
The charge laid against degenerate art was that it had been cut off from ‘blood and soil‘.
Landscape paintings were featured most heavily in the ‘Greater German Art Exhibitions’, to depict the German people’s Lebensraum.
Peasants were also popular images, promoting a simple life in harmony with nature.
Blud und Boden‘ films likewise stressed the commonality of Germaness and the countryside.
‘Die goldene Stadt’ has the heroine running away to the city; after becoming pregnant, she drowns herself.
Her last words beg her father to forgive her for not loving the countryside as he did.
Nazi propaganda promoted Nazi ideology by demonizing the enemies of the Nazi Party, especially Jews and communists, but also capitalists and intellectuals.
It promoted the values asserted by National Socialists, including heroic death, Führerprinzip (leader principle), Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community), Blut und Boden (blood and soil) and the youth were taught early to take pride in the Germanic Master Race (Herrenvolk).
Propaganda was also used to maintain the cult of personality around Adolf Hitler, and to promote campaigns for eugenics and the annexation of German-speaking areas.
After the outbreak of World War II, National Socialist propaganda vilified Germany’s enemies, notably the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and exhorted the population to partake in total war in defence of European Civilisation.

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Propaganda Posters of the Third Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The National Socialists possessed a highly refined æsthetic sensibility, and they enacted their æsthetic at every level of politics and policy including propaganda.
Adolf Hitler, and many of his associates, not only believed themselves to be artists, but were regarded by others, at the time, as artists, whose very ideology was founded in an essentially æsthetic logic.
This is generally referred to as the  ‘æstheticization’ of politics.
Alpine Landscape
Adolf Hitler
The artistic ambitions of Adolf Hitler, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Walther Funk and others were originally deeper than their political ambitions, and were essential elements of their personalities.
There were two conceptual cornerstones of National Socialist ideology – redemption and monumentality – which found their expression in National Socialist æsthetic productions, which were not only means by which to deliver a political message, but very much part of the message itself.
Without recognizing the central role aesthetics actually played in the regime of the Third Reich, we cannot ignore the basic historical fact that Art, beauty and æsthetics were not benign by-products of the Third Reich, but part and parcel of its coherent, internal logic.
Propaganda was skilfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler’s leadership of Germany (1933–1945).
National Socialist propaganda provided a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of their policies, including the pursuit of total war.
‘Mein Kampf’
Adolf Hitler – circa 1920s
Adolf Hitler devoted three chapters of his 1925/26 book ‘Mein Kampf‘, itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda.
He claimed to have learnt the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda.
The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in ‘Mein Kampf’, reflected then common German nationalist claims.
Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Nazi Germany thanks to its reception by Hitler.
The propaganda of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party regime that governed Germany from 1933 to 1945 promoted National Socialist ideology by demonizing the enemies of the NSDAP, notably Jews and communists, but also capitalists and intellectuals.
It promoted the values of National Socialism, including heroic death, Führerprinzip (leader principle), Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community), Blut und Boden (blood and soil) and pride in the Germanic Herrenvolk (master race).
Propaganda was also used to maintain the cult of personality around Adolf Hitler, and to promote campaigns for eugenics and the annexation of German-speaking areas.
After the outbreak of World War II, Nazi propaganda vilified Germany’s enemies, notably the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and in 1943 exhorted the population to total war.
Heroic ‘Eternal’ Art
Arno Breker
Poster art was a mainstay of the NSDAP propaganda effort, aimed both at Germany itself, and at occupied territories.
It had several advantages.
The visual effect, being striking, would reach the viewer easily.
Posters were also, unlike other forms of propaganda, difficult to avoid.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism.
National Socialist Youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.
The artistic standard of National Socialist graphic design was remarkably high, but it must be remembered that in accordance with National Socialist theory poster art was not ‘high art’.
‘High art’ – in National Socialist theory – was considered to be ‘eternal’, whereas poster art was temporal and utilitarian.
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Nürnberg Reichsparteitag 1936
Triumph des Willens

Triumph des Willens
Dem Führer die Treue

Kdf Volkswagen
National Socialism is the guarantor of victory
Mother’s Day – God has blessed the hearts of mothers as vessels of sacrifice in a time of greatness.

Hard and without pity as we have been in our struggle for power, so will we also be in the struggle for the preservation of our nation.

Adolf Hitler


From The Duties of the German Soldier – Great achievements in war and peace can only be accomplished through an unshakable unity of Führer and Army.


National Socialism is highest soldierly bearing in all ways of life.


Sacrifices created the great German Empire. Through sacrifices it will be made everlasting !


5 years-Strength through Joy- Strength through Joy’ is not simply a recreational organization-rather it is a national socialistic community that contributes to the realization of a new way of life and establishes a new social order.



Art is the highest expression of the creative powers of a nation. The artist is blessed with the task to give it meaning.

Dr. Josef Goebbels

Deutschen Jugend
Reichsparteitag Nürnberg 1937
Weimar Gau Tag 1936
Hitler Jugend – Reichsparteitag Nürnberg
1943 Paper Drive
Deutsche Reichsport
I gave my vote to the Führer

Election Poster

Austria Comes Home !



Germany is victorious on all fronts

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Arthur Schopenhauer – The Philosophy of the Will

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation) , in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
Influenced to some degree by Eastern thought, his faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept the possibility of atheism.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ – (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason), which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.

Four classes of explanation fall under the principle’s rubric. Hence, four classes of objects occur always and already only in relation to a knowing subject, according to a correlative capacity within the subject. These classes are summarized as follows: becoming, knowing, being and willing.

Richard Wagner
Alfred Rosenberg

He has influenced a long list of individuals, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Otto Weininger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Mann, Adolf Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg.
Schopenhauer’s theory of music, along with his emphasis upon artistic genius and the world-as-suffering, was also influential among composers such as Johannes Brahms, Hans Pfitzner, Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Richard Wagner.
Richard Wagner, writing in his autobiography, remembered his first impression that Schopenhauer left on him (when he read  ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’):
Schopenhauer’s book was never completely out of my mind, and by the following summer I had studied it from cover to cover four times. It had a radical influence on my whole life.’

‘Tristan und Isolde’

Wagner also commented that “serious mood, which was trying to find ecstatic expression” created by Schopenhauer inspired the conception of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.
Schopenhauer’s influence on ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is most evident in the second and third acts. The second act, in which the lovers meet, and the third act, during which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer’s work.


The world-view of Schopenhauer dictates that the only way for man to achieve inner peace is to renounce his desires: a theme that Wagner explored fully in his last and greatest opera, ‘Parsifal’.
In fact Wagner even considered having the character of Parsifal meet Tristan during his sufferings in Act 3, but later rejected the idea.
Friedrich Nietzsche owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’, and admitted that he was one of the few philosophers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).

Untimely Meditations (German: Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen), also translated as Unfashionable Observations[1] and Thoughts Out Of Season) consists of four works by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, started in 1873 and completed in 1876.

Jorge Luis Borges remarked that the reason he had never attempted to write a systematic account of his world view, despite his penchant for philosophy and metaphysics in particular, was because Schopenhauer had already written it for him.

Adolf Hitler and Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein

As a teenager, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was a school-fellow of Adolf Hitler, was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer’s epistemological idealism.

Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a profound effect on Adolf Hitler when they were both pupils at the Realschule (lower secondary school) in Linz, Austria, in the early 1900s. Interestingly, a few days before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler personally granted Mischling status to the Wittgenstein siblings – which included Ludwig.

Schopenhauer’s 19th century historical profile is frequently obscured by the shadows of Kant, Hegel,  Mill, Darwin and Nietzsche, but more than is usually recognized, in his rejection of rationalistic conceptions of the world as early as 1818, he perceived the shape of things to come.

Adolf Hitler

As a consequence of his monistic philosophy, Schopenhauer, like Adolf Hitler, was very concerned about the welfare of animals.

For him, all individual animals, including humans, are essentially the same, being phenomenal manifestations of the one underlying Will.
The word “will” designated, for him, force, power, impulse, energy, and desire; it is the closest word we have that can signify both the real essence of all external things, and also our own direct, inner experience.
Since everything is basically Will, then humans and animals are fundamentally the same, and can recognize themselves in each other.
For this reason, he claimed that a good person would have sympathy for animals, who are our fellow sufferers. 
Schopenhauer was also one of the first philosophers since the days of Greek philosophy to address the subject of male homosexuality.
In the third, expanded edition of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the “Metaphysics of Sexual Love”.
He also wrote that homosexuality did have the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children.
Concerning this, he stated, “… the activity we are considering appears to work directly against the aims and ends of nature, and that in a matter that is all important and of the greatest concern to her, it must in fact serve these very aims, although only indirectly, as a means for preventing greater evils.”


Arthur Schopenhauer – a Brief Biography

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse, the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Königreich Preußen annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.

Königreich Preußen
Arthur Schopenhauer as a Boy

In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.

Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’.

In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin, however, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.

Arthur Schopenhauer as a Young Man

Schopenhauer had a strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer.
After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two years of drudgery as a merchant, in honour of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
Later he went to live with his mother, but by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the ways of the salon.
Consequently, he attempted university life.

Arthur Schopenhauer in Old Age

In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on ageing,  were published posthumously under the title ‘Senilia’.
Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch with his cat. He was 72.


‘Honour means that a man is not exceptional; fame, that he is.
Fame is something which must be won; honour, only something which must not be lost.’

Arthur Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of the Will

A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’.

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time.
The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the word. In his works such as ‘Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte’, he uses the phrase ‘der Geist seiner Zeit’ (the spirit of his time) – for example, “no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spiritOther philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Voltaire. Hegel believed that art reflected, by its very nature, the time of the culture in which it is created. Culture and art are inextricable because an individual artist is a product of his or her time and therefore brings that culture to any given work of art.

Emanuel Kant

Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism, and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason.
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.

For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants“.
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject“.


This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.

To Schopenhauer, the Will is a malignant, metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena; an evil to be terminated via mankind’s duties: asceticism and chastity.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation“.
Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘Ding-an-sich‘ – (thing-in-itself).”
Nietzsche was greatly influenced by this idea of Will, while developing it in a different direction.

Art and Aesthetics

Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics result from his doctrine of the primacy of the Will as the ‘thing in itself’, the ground of life and all being; and from his judgement that individuation of the Will is evil.
Schopenhauer held that art offers a way for people to temporarily escape the suffering that results from willing.
Basing his doctrine on the dual aspect of the world as will and the world as representation, he taught that if consciousness or attention is fully engrossed, absorbed, or occupied with the world as painless representations or images, then there is no consciousness of the world as painful willing.
Aesthetic pleasure results from being a spectator of “the world as representation” [mental image or idea] without any experience of “the world as will” [need, craving, urge].
Art, according to Schopenhauer, also provides essential knowledge of the world’s objects in a way that is more profound than science or everyday experience.
For Schopenhauer, the Will is an aimless desire to perpetuate itself, the basis of life.
Desire engendered by the Will is the source of all the sorrow in the world; each satisfied desire leaves us either with boredom, or with some new desire to take its place.
A world in thrall to Will is necessarily a world of suffering. Since the Will is the source of life, and our very bodies are stamped with its image and designed to serve its purpose, the human intellect is, in Schopenhauer’s simile, like a lame man who can see, but who rides on the shoulders of a blind giant.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics is an attempt to break out of the pessimism that naturally comes from this world view.
Schopenhauer believed that what distinguished aesthetic experiences from other experiences is that contemplation of the object of aesthetic appreciation temporarily allowed the subject a respite from the strife of desire, and allowed the subject to enter a realm of purely mental enjoyment, the world purely as representation or mental image.
The more a person’s mind is concerned with the world as representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will.
Schopenhauer analysed art from its effects, both on the personality of the artist, and the personality of the viewer.
Schopenhauer believed that while all people were in thrall to the Will, the quality and intensity of their subjection differed:
Only through the pure contemplation . . . which becomes absorbed entirely in the object, are the Ideas comprehended; and the nature of genius consists precisely in the preëminent ability for such contemplation. . . . This demands a complete forgetting of our own person.
The aesthetic experience temporarily emancipates the subject from the Will’s domination and raises them to a level of pure perception.
On the occurrence of an aesthetic appreciation, the will thereby vanishes entirely from consciousness.”
Genuine art cannot be created by anyone who merely follows standard artistic rules.
A genius is required, that is, a person who creates original art without concern for rules.
The personality of the artist was also supposed to be less subject to Will than most: such a person was a Schopenhauerian genius, a person whose exceptional predominance of intellect over Will made them relatively aloof from earthly cares and concerns.
The poet living in a garret, the absent-minded professor, are (at least in the popular mind) examples of Schopenhauer’s geniuses: so fixed on their art that they neglect the “business of life” that in Schopenhauer’s mind meant only the domination of the evil and painful Will.
For Schopenhauer, the relative lack of competence of the artist and the thinker for practical pursuits was no mere stereotype: it was cause and effect.
Schopenhauer believed that what gives arts such as literature and sculpture their value was the extent to which they incorporated pure perceptions.
But, being concerned with human forms and human emotions, these art forms were inferior to music, which being a direct manifestation of will, was to Schopenhauer’s mind the highest form of art.

Richard Wagner

Schopenhauer’s philosophy of music was influential in the works of Richard Wagner.
Wagner was an enthusiastic reader of Schopenhauer, and recommended the reading of Schopenhauer to his friends.
His published works on music theory changed over time, and became more aligned with Schopenhauer’s thought, over the course of his life.
Schopenhauer had stated that music was more important than libretto in opera.
Music is, according to Schopenhauer, an immediate expression of will, the basic reality of the experienced world.
Libretto is merely a linguistic representation of transient phenomena.
Wagner emphasized music over libretto in his later works, after reading Schopenhauer’s aesthetic doctrine.
In proposing that art could offer deliverance from the Will, Schopenhauer elevated art from mere decoration, and held that art potentially offered temporary deliverance from the aimless strife of the Will in nature.
In effect, Schopenhauer turned art into a substitute religion by offering a doctrine of salvation through aesthetic experiences.
Artists were not merely skilled hands; they were the priests or prophets of this doctrine.
This teaching goes far to explain Schopenhauer’s appeal to members of the creative communities over the second half of the nineteenth century.
His doctrine of aesthetics justified artistic work as a matter of highest importance in human society.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics remain influential today, and are one of the most lasting parts of his philosophy.
Their appeal to later generations of Romantics, and to all schools of bohemianism, is demonstrated.
Wagner sent Schopenhauer a note expressing deep gratitude for Schopenhauer’s discussion of music.

Thomas Mann

Schopenhauer’s philosophy in general left a deep impression on a number of important writers, especially Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust, Stéphane Mallarmé, Thomas Mann, and Ivan Turgenev.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics were directly responsible for the rise of the ‘Symbolists’ and their allied movements, and to the general development of the concept of ‘art for art’s sake’.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It deeply influenced the aesthetics of Friedrich Nietzsche, although he ultimately rejected Schopenhauer’s conception of Will as evil, whose famous opposition of the Apollonian and Dionysian is a translation of Schopenhauer’s opposition of intellect against will in terms of Greek mythology.
Santayana praised Schopenhauer’s doctrine that tragedy benefited audiences because it helped them to deny the will–to–live and to turn away from life. “Schopenhauer thought tragedy beautiful because it detached us from a troubled world and did not think a troubled world good, as those unspeakable optimists did, because it made such a fine tragedy. It is pleasant to find that among all these philosophers one at least was a gentleman.”

In Retrospect

There is a danger in interpreting the text of some long gone author, let alone of some heavyweight philosopher, such as Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860).

The interpreter tends to look at parts of the author’s prose that may best suit his own conclusions, while avoiding parts that other critics may find more relevant, and which the interpreter may consider either incomprehensible or irrelevant.
This is true for Schopenhauer in so far as he deals in his multi-layered work with diverse subject matters, ranging from the theories of knowledge, to the role of women, sex, eugenics, religion, etc., while offering aphoristic formulas on how to live a more or less liveable life. 

Moreover, in his entire work Schopenhauer deals extensively with the perception of objective reality, our self-perception, and how our self-perception reflects itself in the perception of the Other, for instance in the mind of my political foe or friend.

Sigmund Freud

It’s no wonder that when Schopenhauer is read along with some post-modern authors, his work can retrospectively yield some ground-breaking insights, of which even he was not aware.

The devil is often in the details, but harping on the details alone may often overshadow the whole.
Just because Schopenhauer was critical of Jewish monotheism, or made some critical remarks about women, should not lead us to the conclusion that he was a standard-bearer of anti-Semitism or a hater of women.
The fact that Adolf Hitler was one of his avid readers should not overshadow the fact that the father of modern psychoanalysis, the Jewish-born Austrian Sigmund Freud, learned a great deal from him on the how irrational will is expressed in sexual drive.

An Apolitical Meta-Politician

Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will.’

(Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.)
Arthur Schopenhauer

How relevant is Arthur Schopenhauer ?
Friedrich Nietzsche

At first sight Schopenhauer’s prose may be dated for our understanding of the world today.
Schopenhauer can be catalogued as a thinker of the so-called intellectual conservative revolution in so far as many thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Vilfredo Pareto, Julius Evola and others, one hundred years later, were heavily influenced by his writings.

Neither can these authors be properly understood unless the reader becomes familiar with Schopenhauer’s writings first.
Secondly, Schopenhauer’s teachings about the primacy of the will spearheading our perception of reality can also be of help in grasping the political hype-rreality of the modern liberal system.
Schopenhauer’s name is usually associated with cultural pessimism.
Nevertheless, he is far from the caricature of a suicidal author harping ceaselessly on the culture of death, as was the case with many of his 20th-century successors, including the magisterial Emile Cioran.
In his aphorisms Schopenhauer provides some handy recipes as to how to minimize a life of pain and sorrow, and how to discard the dangerous illusion of happiness.
As a fine connoisseur of human psychology, Schopenhauer justly remarks that where there is a violent outburst of joy, a disaster looms just around the corner.
It is therefore with maximum efforts that we need to curb shifts in our mood: anxiety is just the other side of ecstasy.
One must not give vent to great jubilation or to great sorrow as the changeability of all things can transfigure those at any moment.
By contrast, one must enjoy the “here and now,” possibly in a cheerful manner — this is the wisdom of life. (Die Kunst glücklich zu sein. C.H. Beck 1999, p. 56).
Schopenhauer does not deal with political treatises in his work, nor does he discuss the political sociology of the rapidly industrializing Europe, or governmental institutions of his time.
The political changes he witnessed, however dramatic they were, such as the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the rise to power of America, and the post-Napoleonic era, were of no interest to him.
Quite consistent with his misanthropic views about human nature, he stayed above the political and historical fray to the point of total disinterestedness.
Schopenhauer refuses any formula for any ontological, political, or ethical system whatsoever. Instead, he demolishes all doctrines and all systems, be they religious or political.
He resented politics, and he can be justly depicted as an “anti–intellectual” in a modern sense of the word.
For Schopenhauer, the world is fundamentally absurd, and no political philosophy can alter its absurdity.
A French theoretician of post-modernity  the philosopher Clément Rosset, is probably one of the best authors who summarized the significance of Schopenhauer for our times.

“Man has forever been successful in passing off past events for new events.
He has been thought to be able to act within free and regenerating time.
In reality, though, he has been in the arms of the cadaver.
A retrospective horror extends to his past, in which he has lived ever since, although, just like his future, that time had lapsed for good.
This time-illness, a profound source of intuition about the absence of all finality, expresses itself in the obsessive theme of repetition.” (Clément Rosset, Schopenhauer, Philosophe de l’Absurde, 1967, p. 97).

In other words, however much we may yearn to affect the flow of time, or assign it some goal or purpose, its merciless cyclical nature always bring us to further delusions and the inevitable status quo.
Nowhere is this absurd repetitive will of living visible as in man’s sexual desire – which Schopenhauer describes in his famous chapter and essay “The Metaphysics of Sex.”
Once a sexual appetite is assuaged, the will continues to manifest itself again and again in ceaseless sameness of sexual desire.
It follows from this absurd repetitiveness that the entire history of the human species is the entanglement of re-enactments.
World affairs and political decision-making are manifestations of a self-inflicted desire for something new.
Based on such perceptions of repetitive reality, Schopenhauer shows no interest in history, noting that it is always the same people who take the world stage, with the same ideas, albeit framed in a different rhetoric.
In short, his target of criticism is the philosophy of optimism, and the idea of progress which lay embedded in the eighteenth century teaching of the Enlightenment.
For Schopenhauer there is nothing new under the sun, as with every fleeting second the new becomes the old and the old becomes the new; the wheel of time turns forever.
Time for Schopenhauer is devoid of historicity, therefore, a study of some historical event, or of some political drama, is totally irrelevant.
Schopenhauer advocates the abandoning of the illusory will to create a better world..
Despite his static philosophy that rejected human and political betterment, Schopenhauer ventures often in his lengthy work into interesting and well-founded analyses, such as his brief study on the importance of heredity.
But one must be careful not to extrapolate his scattered comments on race and heredity and assume that they make up the bulk of his work.
He believed in the hereditary improvement of mankind, and some of his remarks about biological betterment are highly relevant.
Irrespective of the fact that he does not delve much into the subject of heredity, one must agree that Schopenhauer could be easily used as a weapon by modern sociobiologists or race realists.

“If we could castrate all scoundrels, and shut up all stupid geese in monasteries and give persons of noble character a whole harem and provide men, and indeed complete men, for all maidens of mind and understanding, a generation would soon arise what would produce a better age than that of Pericles” (The World as Will and Idea, p. 331, “Heredity.”)

In another context, Schopenhauer reiterated his antidemocratic-eugenic thesis:

If you want Utopian plans, I would say: the only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women. This proposal constitutes my Utopia and my Platonic Republic“.

Analysts have suggested that Schopenhauer’s advocacy of anti-egalitarianism and eugenics influenced the neo-aristocratic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who initially considered Schopenhauer his mentor.
Schopenhauer’s remarks on heredity are perfectly compatible with his teachings on the independence of the will.
Just as we can never change the predetermined nature of our genes and our genealogy, we cannot change the predetermined nature of the will:

“The only freedom that exists is of a metaphysical character. In the physical world freedom is an impossibility. .. The will itself, as something that lies beyond time, and so long as it exists at all, never changes…  Hence it is that every man achieves only that which is irrevocably established in his nature, or is born with him. (Free Will and Fatalism).

The Will vs. the Deceptive Reality

The main driving force of the entire university is the will.
Ideas, concepts and images are merely the objectification of our will at different levels of perception. 
The will is a blind force; it is subject neither to time nor to space, neither does it obey the principles of causality, nor is it subject to accidents.
In this sense Schopenhauer represents a big break with the teachings of rationalists and idealists of his time, who were enamoured with the principles of causality, and henceforth viewed necessity as a cornerstone of life on Earth.
Schopenhauer stood out as an oddity in his times which were imbued with the heritage of the Enlightenment.
The will is more important than the thought, however, at the conceptual level, as some scholars pointed out, one must carefully distinguish between the will and the instinct, as his later critical admirer and commentator, the National-Socialist Minister, Alfred Rosenberg, noted in his chapter “Will and Instinct” in his now famous book, ‘The Myth of the 20th Century’. 

“Will is always the opposite of instinct (“Trieb”), and not identical with it, as Schopenhauer seemed to teach.”

In other words contrary to Schopenhauer, Rosenberg objects that Schopenhauer uses the term “will” in an overly general manner.
Similar to Nietzsche and his followers, Rosenberg argues for the “implementation” of the free will for Promethean and political goals, while contrasting it to the primeval biological impulses which he calls the “instinct.” (Trieb).
Man is originally not a being of knowledge but a creature of instinct and will – a will that comes alive in cyclical time and in a non-linear way.
Will is the fundamental reality of the world, the ‘thing-in-itself’, and its objectification is what is visible in external phenomena, such as objects or political events that we witness daily.
In practical life the antagonism between the will and reason arises from the fact that the will is a metaphysical substance, whereas the reason is something accidental and secondary: an “appendage” to the will.
The will is an autonomous desire, that is to say, an irrational need to act or to do something.
The will is free in every single thought process and action, but it need not and generally does not follow the precepts of reason.
Unlike the majority of philosophers of his time, including Hegel, Schopenhauer does not hold reason in high regard.
Our illusions, based on self-serving perceptions, remain so entrenched despite the most sophisticated appeals to reason.
Therefore, Schopenhauer can be justly labelled as the greatest anti-rationalist philosopher of all time. Only the genius has some capacity for objectivity in so far as he can harness his will and become the pure knowing subject.
The absurdity of Schopenhauer’s “free” will is that man is enslaved by it without ever knowing its origin and reason.
Humans act but do not know why they act the way they do: apart from a few geniuses, their self perceptions are nothing more than illusions.
This leads us to a dreadful life, full of anguish on the one hand and ecstatic expectations on the other. 
The absurdity of our will is not how to reach the river and quench our thirst: the absurdity consists in the will for being thirsty !
The will has no cause and, given that it excludes causality, it does not have any necessity or purpose.
That the being is without any necessity is already a dreadful problem.
But that this very being is in addition unhappy and miserable only emphasizes the absence of a raison d’être. (Rosset, p. 16)
Schopenhauer’s theories of representation and perception can easily rank him today in the category of the founding fathers of post-modern theory of the Double and the Hyperreal.
Everything that we see is fleeting “representations” and not the actual physical phenomena.
We dream even when we are awake. 
Well, how then tell the difference between the real political truth and the fabricated political truth?
Schopenhauer is a crucial source in understanding the psychopathological impact of religions, myths and the systems of beliefs.
At times he labels them “allegories” whereas in other places he describes them as the “metaphysics of the masses” or “people’s metaphysics” (Volksmetaphysik).
Just as people have popular poetry and the popular wisdoms or proverbs, they also need popular metaphysics.
They need an interpretation of life; and this interpretation must be suited for their comprehension.
The great majority of humans have at best a weak faculty for weighing reasons and discriminating between the fact and the fiction.  Does this sound familiar?
No belief system, no ideology, no religion is immune from self-serving delusional tenets linked to false perceptions of reality, although, in due time, each of them will undergo the process of demythologization and eventually become a laughing stock for those who see the illusions underlying these delusional myths.
We can illustrate this changing masquerade of history repeating itself when observing the mindset of modern opinion makers.
People have always wished, by means of different allegories, to transcend their cursed reality and make frequent excursions into the spheres of the hyper-real  the unreal, or the surreal – in order to offset the absurdity of their existence.
It is natural that they resort to religious and ideological devices, however aberrant or criminal these allegorical devices may subsequently turn out to be.
Accordingly, the motor of religious mass mimicry, which Schopenhauer describes, is again our objectified will.
Consequently, the whole course of human life is patterned along the principle of imitation, where even the smallest thing in our perception is borrowed from that role model who is viewed now as a path-breaking innovator or a new messiah.
Mimicry is the powerful motor of the will, the theme which was later expanded by Schopenhauer’s disciples, such as Gustave Le Bon.
Intelligent individuals amidst our modern rootless masses realize that some beliefs are fraudulent and harmful, but for the sake of social conformity they accept them.
They will rather listen to others than trust their own head.
As Schopenhauer writes, the bad thing about all religions is that instead of being able to admit their allegorical nature, they conceal it.
Absurdities form an essential part of popular beliefs.
Schopenhauer’s teaching on religions, including his denunciation of the will to political power, was borrowed from the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.
He has good words for Catholicism though, which for him is a religion of pessimism (The World as Will and Idea, p. 372).
But it would be a serious error, based on a fragmentary reading of his work, to conclude that he was rejecting one religion at the expense of the other.
Although Schopenhauer may be described as an atheist or agnostic, his sense of spirituality was very strong.
Of all religions Judaism is the worst religion, notes Schopenhauer in his famous book ‘Parerga und Paralipomena’.

“The genuine religion of the Jews … is the crudest of all religions (die roheste aller Religionen.) The ongoing contempt for Jews, amidst their contemporary peoples, may have been to a large degree due to the squalid (armsälig) qualities of their religion. … In any case the essence of any religion consists, as such, in its persuasion that it provides for us, namely that our actual existence is not only limited to our life, but that it remains timeless. The appalling (erbärmlich) Jewish region does not fulfil this; indeed, it does not even try to. … Therefore, this is the crudest and the worst of all religions consisting only in an absurd and outrageous (empörend) theism. … While all other religions endeavour to explain to the people by symbols and parables the metaphysical significance of life, the religion of the Jews is entirely immanent and furnishes nothing but a mere war-cry (Kriegsgeschrei) in the struggle with other nations” (pp. 136–137).

Some of Schopenhauer’s words about the power of the blind will can easily be applied to our post-modern times – for example, how the will to believe in something has been hijacked by liberal political elites.

The Hyperreal: The Denial and its Double

We can now jump over to the 20th and 21st century and observe how Schopenhauer’s ideas provide a good fit to the mass illusions accompanying the rising tide of the democratic mystique.
How does the will objectify itself in the political arena today ?
Politicians are inclined to project their perception of the real world into its embellished Double. Example: None of us is entirely happy with his looks; no political theorist is happy with the world as it is.
We all strive to be someone else; we all wish to project either our physique or the present political order into its loftier, distant, and more romantic substitute.
As a result, the masses, but also our politicians, assess values and objective reality not as they are, but rather as they’d like to see them.
Our passionate need for a change, as a rule, results in inevitable disappointments and feelings of betrayal.
Following Schopenhauer’s logic, it is a serious error to assume that some contemporary politician is a liar or a crook just because we feel or think that we are being cheated or oppressed by him.
More likely, such wicked political leaders are themselves the victims of self-delusions.
Their manic desire for world improvement is based on honest and self-proclaimed “scientific”, “reasonable,” and “truthful” wishful thinking, which they benevolently wish to share with us or with their subjects or constituents.
To illustrate the will for self-delusion, one may observe contemporary leftists and antifascist militants within Schopenhauer’s framework of analysis.
What they say is already based on their prior self-persuasions, which are the reflections of the prevailing beliefs of their time.
Pareto, as a valiant disciple of Schopenhauer’s methods, notes that ”many people are not socialists because they have been persuaded by reasoning. Quite the contrary; these people acquiesce to such reasoning because they are (already) socialists.”
Their will, however aberrantly it may objectify itself in the ravings for some communistic mystique, defies any empirical argument.
Schopenhauer is of paramount importance in understanding our perception of postmodern reality, or our hyperreality, as some authors call it.
The surreal world of the liberal dogma – that is, the world in which we live – fits perfectly Schopenhauer’s teaching on the flawed perception of the real.
Moreover, Schopenhauer’s work is a useful tool for deciphering liberal mendacity, which has become today the cornerstone of the new world order.
The postmodern West is enveloped in the virtual reality of the electronic age (the “video sphere”) and media make-believe, which incessantly turn every real political event into a virtual image.
How does the liberal mystique or, to use Schopenhauer’s word, ‘allegory’, operate today ?
The process that started with the abstraction of the objective, as a result of the mass media, has ended now in integral reality, as the post-modern author Jean Baudrillard writes. “The virtual itself is “negationist,” or denial-prone. The virtual takes away the substance of the real. “We are living in a society of historical denial by virtue of its virtuality.”
Disbelief reigns everywhere, even if there are solid and empirical proofs of the opposite.
No longer is some historical or political event perceived as “real” or truthful.
For instance the memory of the ‘so-called’ Holocaust functions today as the largest civic religion of the West.
This idea of a Holocaust is a system of belief serving not only a commemorative goal; it is also a cognitive paradigm for interpreting all aspects of our contemporary society.
The issue, however, is no longer the body count of people who it is suggested had died; rather, the issue is the fact that the post-modern virtual world by definition minimizes or maximizes the hyperreal at the expense of the real.
This rule of the hyper-real or the double applies now to all grand narratives, especially those teeming with victimological themes.
Even honest historians or social theorists can no longer be taken as real.  Why ?
The big post-modern question will immediately start hovering over their heads: What if that person is telling the lies ? What if he does not tell the truth ?
Victimologies, and victim-hoods no longer sound persuasive as they have found their media hyper-substitutes, which either re-enact, or deactivate the real past crime.
Therefore, the modern media and politicians must make post-prophylactic political decisions in a desperate attempt to dismantle the previous real, i.e., the previous bad decision, the previous inaction by making it up to the real victim with an overkill of repenting rhetoric and post-prophylactic decision making (massive security checks at airports, always new mass commemorations, etc.).
If the lives of the masses of people who perished cannot be restored, let us restore their memory by the hyper-real media !
Why resuscitate the living, when the resuscitation of the dead is a far better business ?
One can analyse the post-modern wars, the so-called Gulf War in 1991 and the war in Bosnia in 1995 using the concepts of the hyper-real and the double.
When these wars were televised and commented on by talking heads on TV screens, their real and horrible reality was cancelled out.
Spectators were therefore much more likely to support these wars.
Neither can our history writing be a matter of academic discussion any more.
Historical narratives about real or surreal ‘fascist crimes’ or ‘White man crimes’ or the current mantra on ‘White man guilt’ have attained a grotesque level of psychological saturation, to the point that for politically conscious Whites they soon sink into oblivion – and laughter – as they are de-constructed. 
Even if some past mass crimes are empirically verifiable, the masses will start reconstructing its negative Double — after first deconstructing its Real antecedent.
The ‘Age of Post-modernity  is basically the age of deconstruction, where no single verity can hold sway for a long time.
Here is the vicious circle of the hyper-real.
If one is encouraged to de-construct the real world and denounce political beliefs as a passing allegory, as Schopenhauer did, why not de-construct new contemporary civic religions, such the monotheism of the capitalist market or the civic religion of victim-hood ?
Spectral Verities, Viral Lies

We all live the hyper-real  as the French philosopher Rosset writes; we all crave for the Double – be it in its negative or the positive form. 
We all wish to be something we are not; the duplicate of ourselves.  “In place of the world as it is, we invent a ‘duplicate’ or a ‘double,’ a parallel universe which functions as a phantom rival to the existing world.”
The disadvantage of living in the real world is that life in it is drab, frightening, or boring; the advantage of the “doubled” life lies not only in the fact that such life does not exist, but that such life doesn’t even have to exist in order for us to believe it to be true and real! In other words, this desire for a spectral world is not so much a desire for something different, as it is a desire to get rid of the real world.
Who are the new paradigms or role models of our hyper-real post-modernity ?
Once upon a time the role model for Western man was a rugged individual, a Prometheus unbound, a war hero, a conqueror.
Today the will for the hyper-real requires his double or his denial, or better yet the “doubled denial.” 
As a result, the new role models for the West are the degenerates, the retards, the ‘non-Whites’, the pederasts, the pathetic and the perverts.
Baudrillard: “The Courtier was the most remarkable figure of the aristocratic order. The Militant was the most remarkable figure of the social and revolutionary order. The Penitent is the most remarkable figure of our advanced post-modern democratic politicians.”
But these degenerate role models are in turn subject to deconstruction, especially by proud, psychologically healthy White people who are being victimized by the legitimization of these role models.
Granted, we are witnessing the end of the big narratives, such as ‘antifascist victimology’, however, the unresolved work of mourning the real (or hyper-real  victims of fascism or racism is in full swing.
In other words, the antifascist, anti-racist war (with all its political, media and legal prohibition) continues unabated.
Even if real racism and fascism are dead and gone, they need to be resurrected in a negative doubled manner in order to give the mourners an opportunity to repent for the failed duty to prevent it from happening. Never again, never again ! — this is a  new war cry of our hyperreal discourse.
This strategy of the hyper-real “never again”, is directed not only at preventing similar events from happening again in the future – as expressed in the forms of a myriad of  memorial centers commemorating the Holocaust.
It is also meant to be a tool of unravelling  in a vicarious and imaginary way, of the real past historical disaster that befell the Jews or the non-Whites.
Likewise, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are waged today as the post-prophylactic double; indeed, they are not just the wars for stopping the terror; they are the wars for removing the past sins of the political class, which led to the real terror of the dreadful 9/11 !
The goal is now to retroactively cancel out the inflicted national disgrace and humiliation of the ruling elites.
This is why the actual wars and our public discourse all over the West are “non-events”. Never again, never again!
And this is why the hyperreal or the double are pure illusions.
They cannot last.
The violent and the objective real is waiting in the wings and it will soon take the upper hand.
Is it for real ?

A Clash of Styles – German Aesthetics – 1933-1945

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Emblem of the NSDAP

During the period of the Third Reich there was a tension between three conflicting elements in National Socialist aesthetics and ideology – these three elements being Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism.
Towards the end of the period Classicism and Modernism rose to prominence, both fulfilling their appropriate functions, while a Gothic Romanticism gradually faded in significance.
To understand theses developments, however, we need to consider the origins of German National Socialism.

National Socialism comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism.
Partito Nazionale Fascista
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Falange Española de las
Juntas de

Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista
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Many historiographers say that the anti-Semitic element, which does not exist to any great extent in the sister fascist movements in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement.

Partito Nazionale Fascista – PNF – (the National Fascist Party) was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism  The party ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943.
Falange was a Spanish political organization founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1933, during the Second Spanish Republic. Primo de Rivera was the son of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, who governed Spain as Prime Minister in the 1920s. The Falange was republican, avant-gardist and modernist, in a manner similar to the original spirit of Italian Fascism. Its uniform and aesthetic was similar to contemporary European fascist and national socialist movements.

Futurism and Fascism: We usually associate modern art, and modernism in general, with left wing politics. Futurism, however, had right wing political sympathies from the beginning, and its creators developed ties with Italian Fascism in the years following the First World War. Mussolini, unlike almost all the other right-wing leaders of the 20th century, took an active interest in modernism and, for a while, cultivated it. Futurism, like Italian Fascism itself, was ideologically a mess. It was a hodge-podge of anarchism, the aesthetics of violence, and nationalism. Italian Fascism was likewise a stew of nationalism, anarchism, syndicalism, opportunism and machismo. Mussolini loved the Futurists precisely because they were so modern, so aggressive, and so daring. He had his own origins in anarchism, and that anarchist aesthetic probably genuinely appealed to him, even as his politics became more nationalist and reactionary. Futurism, of course, is a form of ‘degenerate art‘.

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Der Große Krieg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Anti-Semitic prejudice was very common among the masses in German Empire, and it has been claimed that mass acceptance for the NSDAP required the party to be anti-Semitic.
This would also flatter the wounded pride of German people after the defeat of Der Große Krieg (the Great War – World War One).

Others, however, see anti-Semitism as central to Hitler’s Weltanschauung (World view).
The latter is of course the correct interpretation.
Many see strong connections between the values of National Socialism and the irrationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century.
Strength, passion, lack of hypocrisy, utilitarianism, traditional family values, and devotion to community were valued by the National Socialists, and first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers.
German romanticism in particular expressed these values.

Richard Wagner

For instance, the National Socialists identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite, author of ‘Das Judenthum in der Musik’, and idol to the young Hitler).

Many of his operas express the ideals of the strong dominating the weak, and a celebration of traditional Norse Aryan folklore and values.
The style of his music is often heroic and grandiose.

Heiliges Römisches Reich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The idealisation of tradition, folklore, classical thought, the leadership of Frederick the Great, the rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic and the decision to call the German state the ‘Third Reich’ (which hearkens back to the medieval ‘First Reich’ – Heiliges Römisches Reich – and the pre-Weimar ‘Second Reich’ or Kaiserreich) has led many to regard the National Socialists as essentially traditionalist and reactionary.

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The NSDAP that came to power in January 1933 desired more than simply political authority, the ability to revise the Versailles Treaty, and regain and expand upon those lands lost after a humiliating defeat in World War I.
They also wanted to change the cultural landscape: to return the country to traditional “German” and “Nordic” values, to excise or circumscribe Jewish, “foreign,” and “degenerate” influences, and to shape a racial community (“Volksgemeinschaft”) which aligned with Völkisch ideals.
These ideals, however were, at times, contradictory.
National Socialism, however, represented much more than a just a political movement
National Socialism was at once ‘modern’ and ‘anti-modern’; (often referred to as ‘reactionary modernism‘) – Classical and Romantic.

‘Im walde’
Des-Knaben Wunderhorn
Schwind von Moritz (1804-1871)

It was dynamic and utopian, and yet often hearkened back to an idyllic and romanticized German past.

Blut,Boden und Heimat

In certain elements, Völkisch cultural principles were consistent: they stressed family, race, and Volk as the highest representations of German values.

They rejected materialism, cosmopolitanism, and “bourgeois intellectualism,” and instead promoted the German virtues of loyalty, struggle, self-sacrifice, and discipline.
Völkisch cultural values also placed great importance on Germans’ harmony with their native soil (Heimat) and with nature, (the Green Reich), and emphasized the elevation of the Volk and nation above its individual members.

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In the Third Reich,  one of the main roles of culture was to disseminate the Völkisch world view.
One of the first tasks the NSDAP undertook upon their ascension to power in early 1933 was a synchronization (Gleichschaltung) of all professional and social organizations with National Socialist ideology and policy.
The arts and cultural organizations were not exempt from this effort.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, immediately strove to bring the artistic and cultural communities in line with Völkisch goals.

The government therefore purged cultural organizations of Jews, and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect.
Reichskulturkammer – RKK
(Reich Culture Chamber)
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Beginning in September 1933, a new Reichskulturkammer – (Reich Culture Chamber), an umbrella organization composed of the Reich Film, Music, Theater, Press, Literary, Fine Arts, and Radio Chambers — moved to supervise and regulate all facets of German culture.
The new Nazi aesthetic embraced the genre of objective realism.
The visual arts and other modes of high culture employed this form to depict peasant life, family and community, and heroism on the battlefield; and attempted to exemplify such Germanic virtues as industry, self-sacrifice, and Aryan racial purity.
In the Third Reich there was no such concept as “art for art’s sake”.
Instead all forms of art, in addition to its formal and aesthetic considerations, had a calculated propagandistic undercurrent: it stood in stark contrast to the trends of modern art in the 1920s and 1930s, much of which employed abstract, expressionist, or surrealist tenets.

Professor Paul Ludwig Troost
Haus der Deutschen Kunst 

In October 15, 1933, Hitler laid the cornerstone of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst designed by Professor Paul Ludwig Troost to replace the burned down (1931) glass and steel Munich Glass Palace (1854).

The new museum was a monumental, ‘severe Deco’, neo-classicist buildin,g made of huge cut stones on the exterior, and marble on the interior.

Hitler and Frau Gerdy Troost

Paul Ludwig Troost (17 August 1878 – 21 January 1934), born in Elberfeld, was a German architect. An extremely tall, spare-looking, reserved Westphalian with a close-shaven head, Troost belonged to a school of architects, Peter Behrens and Walter Gropius who, even before 1914, reacted sharply against the highly ornamental Jugendstil, and advocated a restrained, lean architectural approach, almost devoid of ornament. Hitler frequently declared, according to Speer, that “he first learned what architecture was from Troost”‘. The architect’s death on 21 January 1934, after a severe illness, was a painful blow, but Hitler remained close to his widow Gerdy Troost, whose architectural taste frequently coincided with his own, which made her (in Speer’s words) “a kind of arbiter of art in Munich.

In many ways the Haus der Deutschen Kunst expressed an anti-industrial and anti-economic aspect of the spirit of the NSDAP.

Adolf Hitler – Tag der Deutschen Kunst

During the opening ceremony, Hitler declared his pride at being able ‘to lay the foundations for this new temple in honor of the goddess of art‘.

In July 1937 a ‘Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung’ (Great German Art Exhibition) displaying the culture  of National Socialist art premièred in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) in Munich.
Entartete Kunst

A nearby exhibition hall presented, in contrast, an Entartete Kunst (Exhibition of Degenerate Art) in order to demonstrate to the German public the “demoralizing” and “corruptive” influences of modern art.
In architecture, artists like Professor Paul Ludwig Troost and Albert Speer constructed monumental edifices in a classical form, heavily influenced by Art Deco, which conveyed the “enduring grandeur” of the National Socialist movement.
In literature, the Reichskulturkammer promoted the works of writers such as Adolf Bartels and Hitler Youth poet Hans Baumann.
Literature glorifying the peasant culture as bedrock of the German community, and historical novels bolstering the centrality of the Volk figured as preferred works of fiction, as did war narratives.

Adolf Hitler at the UFA studios
Universum Film AG

The cultivation of art also extended to the modern field of cinema.

Heavily subsidized by the state, the motion picture industry in Germany proved an important propaganda tool for the NSDAP. One of the leading film companies, centred at  Babelsberg in Berlin was UFA.

Leni Riefenstahl’s
Triumph des Willens

Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. in the course of the National Socialist “Machtergreifung UFA was nationalised and produced a huge output of film under the supervision of Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.

Films such as Leni Riefenstahl’s pioneering “Triumph des Willens” (“Triumph of the Will”) and  Olympia ‘Fest der Völker’ and ‘Fest der Schönheit’.

Triumph des Willens – Titles
Triumph des Willens‘ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, which was attended by more than 700,000 NSDAP supporters
The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various National Socialist leaders at the Congress, including portions of speeches by Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, and Julius Streicher interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops.
Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.

‘Olympia’ is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. It was the first documentary feature film of the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were ground-breaking at the time, were employed – including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like. The film appears on Time magazine’s “All-Time Greatest 100 Movies.”

Other, non-documentary films were also produced such as “Der Hitlerjunge Quex” (“Hitler Youth Member Quex”), glorified the NSDAP, its auxiliary organizations, and the Volk.

“Der Hitlerjunge Quex”
“Der Hitlerjunge Quex” is a 1932 novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus  by Karl Aloys Schenzinger. The 1933 movie ‘Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend’ was based on it, and was described by Joseph Goebbels as the “first large-scale” transmission of National Socialist ideology using the medium of cinema. Both the book and the movie, like ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ and ‘Hans Westmar’, both released the same year, fictionalized and glorified death in the service of the NSDAP and Hitler. Both novel and movie are based on the real story of Herbert Norkus’ life. Norkus, a Hitler Youth member, died from injuries suffered when chased and confronted by Communist youths in the night of 23 / 24 January 1932 in the Beusselkietz neighbourhood of Moabit, Berlin.

Another example was ‘Hans Westmar – Einer von vielen’, which was a dramatisation of the life and death of Horst Wessel, based on Hanns Heinz Ewers’s novelistic biography.

 Horst Wessel
Hanns Heinz Ewers
Hans Westmar – Einer von vielen was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films commissioned by the NSDAP shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating the ‘Kampfzeit’ – ‘time of struggle’. The film is a fictionalized life of the Horst Wessel. Originally, the film, based on the novel personally commissioned by Hitler from Hanns Heinz Ewers, was named ‘Horst Wessel’. Dr Paul Josef Goebbels altered the main character’s name, changing it to the fictional “Hans Westmar”. It was among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades. His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting ‘the real battle’.

Goethe and Schiller
Weimar Classicism

Theatre companies followed the example of German cinema, staging National Socialist dramas as well as traditional and classical performances of the plays of writers such as Johann 
Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Friedrich Christoph von Schiller.

Goethe and Schiller exemplified Weimar Classicism (German “Weimarer Klassik”) – which is a cultural and literary movement in Germany. Followers attempted to establish a new humanism by synthesizing Romantic, classical and Enlightenment ideas. The movement, from 1772 until 1805, involved Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller and Christoph Martin Wieland, and often concentrated on Goethe and Schiller during the period 1788–1805.

In music, the Reichskulturkammer, was led by the great composer and conductor Richard Strauss.

Richard Wagner
Hans Erich Pfitzner

The Reichskulturkammer promoted the works of such giants of the German musical pantheon as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Anton Bruckner, and Richard Wagner, Hans Erich Pfitzner, while banning classical works by “non-Aryans,” such as Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler, and performances of jazz music and Swing, associated with degenerate African-American culture.

Adolf Hitler was himself a long-time devotee of the operas of Richard Wagner – an artist long associated with anti-semitism and the völkisch tradition from which National Socialists drew much of their ideology.

Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner
Adolf Hitler at Bayreuth

He regularly attended the annual Bayreuth Festivals held in the Wagner’s honor.

Each summer, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler attended the Bayreuth Festival, and he made the Wagner estate, Wahnfried, his second home. Because she had been one of his earliest supporters, Hitler had great affection for Winifred. Hitler repaid the Wagner family gratitude by pledging his undying friendship and his deepest devotion to Richard Wagner and Bayreuth.

Das Horst-Wessel-Lied
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But Völkisch music did not confine itself solely to “high” culture: songs like “Das Horst-Wessel-Lied” (“The Horst Wessel Song”) and “Deutschland, Erwache!” (“Germany, Awake”) numbered among many songs and marches which were circulated in order to encourage commitment to the NSDAP and its ideological tenets.

The Concept of Degeneracy

The term Entartung (or “degeneracy”) had gained currency in Germany by the late 19th century when the critic and author Max Nordau devised the theory presented in his 1892 book, Entartung.
Nordau developed a critique of modern art.
Degenerate art is the work of those so corrupted and enfeebled by modern life that they have lost the self-control needed to produce coherent works.
He attacked Aestheticism in English literature and described the mysticism of the Symbolist movement in French literature as a product of mental pathology.
Explaining the painterliness of Impressionism as the sign of a diseased visual cortex, he decried modern degeneracy while praising traditional German culture.
This theory was seized upon by German National Socialists during the Weimar Republic as a rallying point for their anti-Semitic and racist demand for Aryan purity in art.
Belief in a Germanic spirit – defined as mystical, rural, moral, bearing ancient wisdom, and noble in the face of a tragic destiny – existed long before the rise of the National Socialism; the composer Richard Wagner celebrated such ideas in his work.

Paul Schultze-Naumburg

Beginning before World War I, the well-known German architect and painter Paul Schultze-Naumburg’s influential writings, which invoked racial theories in condemning modern art and architecture, supplied much of the basis for Adolf Hitler’s belief that classical Greece and the Middle Ages were the true sources of Aryan art.
Schultze-Naumburg subsequently wrote such books as ‘Die Kunst der Deutschen. Ihr Wesen und ihre Werke’ (The art of the Germans.Its nature and its works) and ‘Kunst und Rasse’ (Art and Race), the latter published in 1928.

Paul Schultze-Naumburg (10 June 1869 – 19 May 1949) was an architect and a vocal political critic of modern architecture. Along with Alexander von Senger, Eugen Honig, Konrad Nonn, and German Bestelmeyer, Schultze-Naumburg was a member of a National Socialist para-governmental propaganda unit called the ‘Kampfbund deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure’ (KDAI). In September 1944, he was named as one of the first rank of artists and writers important to Nazi culture in the Gottbegnadeten list.

Thule Gesellschaft
Alfred Rosenberg

These works argued that only racially pure artists could produce a healthy art which upheld timeless ideals of classical beauty, while racially mixed modern artists produced disordered artworks and monstrous depictions of the human form.
By reproducing examples of modern art next to photographs of people with deformities and diseases, he graphically reinforced the idea of modernism as a sickness.
Alfred Rosenberg, a member of the Thule Gesellschaft, developed this theory in ‘Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts‘ (Myth of the Twentieth Century), published in 1933, which became a best-seller in Germany and made Rosenberg one of the Party’s leading ideological spokesman.

Alfred Ernst Rosenberg (12 January 1893 – 16 October 1946) was an early and intellectually influential member of the NSDAP. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the National Socialist government. He is considered one of the main authors of key Völkisch ideological creeds, including its racial theory, Lebensraum, abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and opposition to “degenerate” modern art. He is also known for his rejection of Christianity

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National Socialist Aesthetics

From the foregoing it can be seen that the National Socialists not only possessed a highly refined aesthetic sensibility, but unlike most, enacted their aesthetic at every level of politics and policy.

Alpine Landscape – Adolf Hitler

Moreover, they not only believed themselves to be artists, but were regarded by others, at the time, as artists, whose very ideology was founded in an essentially aesthetic logic.

This is generally referred to as the  aestheticization of politics.
The artistic ambitions of Adolf Hitler, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Walther Funk and Julius Streicher were originally deeper than their political ambitions, and were essential elements of their personalities.
What was this National Socialist aesthetic; what kind of art came of it ?

 Idealizations of Purity,
Heroism and the Human Form.

The National Socialist aesthetic had several inter-penetrating parts, including idealizations of purity, heroism and the human form.

The resulting art also encompassed National Socialist pageantry and regalia, films and political choreography and architecture.
The National Socialist aesthetic was part and parcel of their ideology, and not just an ornamental by-product of it.
Essential to this discussion is understanding how two conceptual cornerstones of Nazi ideology – redemption and monumentality – found their expression in National Socialist aesthetic productions, which were not only means by which to deliver a political message, but very much part of the message itself.
One of the most brilliant documentary films ever made, of course, was no mere documentary, but was the last century’s benchmark for cinematic propaganda.
Hitler über Deutschland

In the opening moments of ‘Triumph des Willens’ (Triumph of the Will) Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1934 Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, we find an object lesson in what we might call the “aesthetics of redemption

A plane is carrying the Führer and his entourage over a picturesque landscape of hills, valleys and churches on its way to Nuremberg.
A voice-over narrative introduces the scene: “Twenty years after the World War, 16 years after the crucifixion of Germany, 19 months after the beginning of Germany’s Renaissance, Hitler flew to Nuremberg to greet his columns of followers.
The plane suddenly appears from the clouds and glides over the countryside, its shadow in the form of a cross.
As if in a ‘Second Coming‘, a Führer has arisen who will save and redeem Germany, and Riefenstahl frames his arrival in the explicit iconography of  redemption and messianic deliverance.

The penetration of the Jews into the German body politic,
into German society, and into the German bloodstream.

And it is the very notion of redemption that  actually played a central role in the anti-semitism of the Third Reich, which has been termed ‘redemptive anti-Semitism‘, and is born from the fear of racial degeneration.

The main cause of degeneration was the penetration of the Jews into the German body politic, into German society, and into the German bloodstream.
Germanism, and the Aryan world, were on the path to perdition if the struggle against the Jews was not joined; this was to be a struggle to the death.
Redemption would come as liberation from the Jews by their expulsion from the body politic.
Just as Germany’s disastrous defeat in World War I was to be “redeemed” by the messianic advent of the Führer, in Riefenstahl’s version so would the war effort, no matter how terrible the costs, be redeemed by Germany’s “liberation” from the Jews.

The principle of redemptory “sacrifice” also played a primary role in the ‘memorial landscape‘ Hitler introduced into the topography of the Third Reich.

From the “Eternal Guard” at the Ehrentempel (by Professor Paul Troost) in Munich, which held the sarcophagi of eight “Martyrs of the Movement” killed in the 1923 Putsch attempt, to the ‘Totenburgen‘, or citadels of the dead, to be built as mass burial grounds for thousands of prospective fallen German soldiers, Hitler made redemptory sacrifice one of the aesthetic architectural pillars of his Reich.

Hitler with the Blutfahne

Even the elaborately choreographed party rallies, during which Hitler would salute the ‘Blutfahne‘ (blood flag) included scenes of almost pagan ritual, in which animal sacrifice has been replaced by the prospective human sacrifice of wars to come.

We are reminded of Hitler’s own indifference to individual human lives as they paled in comparison to the larger cause, and idealizations of race and nation, and the way this diminution of the individual underpinned his aesthetic embrace of the monumental.
Hitler’s lack of feeling for individual humans, even for fanatical party members, was already evident at the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, and other spectacles, when his ‘architecturalizing’ of the participants, and his deployment of them in geometrical patterns reduced them to noctambulent creatures.

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag – Monumental Aesthetic

For Hitler, individuals come and go, as well as their humanly scaled dwelling places, their sites of life.

What his monumental aesthetic would leave behind, therefore, was not the uniqueness of individual human experience, or its messy heterogeneity, but monolithic forms that imposed singular meaning on disparate deeds, experiences and lives.
The monumental in Hitler’s eyes was not only an end result, however, but also a means by which he could reduce the individual to insignificance, thereby making all appear as one.
Specifically, he did this in his elaborately choreographed spectacles and pageants, against which the individual seemed insignificant.

Deutsches Stadion – Albert Speer
North-South Axis – Germania

Witness his dozens of gargantuan productions: the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, the colossal stadiums and political arenas designed to hold 500,000 people or even the North-South Axis he and his architect Albert Speer designed for Berlin, – Germania.

On a commemorative “Day of the Political Leaders” in 1936, more than 110,000 men marched onto the review field while another 100,000 spectators watched from the stands.
Once darkness fell, the space was suddenly encircled by a ring of light, with 30,000 flags and standards glistening in the illumination.
Spotlights would focus on the main gate, as distant cheers announced the Führer’s approach.

At the instant he entered, 150 powerful searchlights would shoot into the sky to produce a gigantic, shimmering ‘lichtdom’ (cathedral of light) as it was called.
Hitler was both a product of his time’s aesthetic temper, and possibly the greatest producer of political design and choreography who ever lived.
We cannot separate his deeds, his policies and his ideology from his aesthetic temper.
Without recognizing the central role aesthetics actually played in the regime of the Third Reich, we cannot ignore the basic historical fact that Art, beauty and aesthetics were not benign by-products of the Third Reich, but part and parcel of its coherent, internal logic.
Beauty and heroism, aesthetics and power, may not only be paired after the historical fact, but might now be regarded as historical forces that also drive events as they actually unfold.
It is important to understand that one of the central ideas of Völkisch ideology is the myth of ‘rebirth’, in the sense of `Neugeburt’, or new birth.
The National Socialists wanted to build an entirely new type of modern nation-state on the basis of archetypal German values.
This involved the destruction of everything that was associated with Germany’s decadence, and the retention of every element of usable past in the redefinition of Germany as a State based on a healthy, revitalized Volksgemeinschaft or national community.
There is a dialectical relationship between destruction and creation at the centre of all ‘palingenetic myth’.

Palingenesis is a concept of rebirth or re-creation, used in various contexts in philosophy, theology, politics, and biology. Its meaning stems from Greek palin, meaning again, and genesis, meaning birth.
In biology, it is another word for recapitulation – the phase in the development of an organism in which its form and structure pass through the changes undergone in the evolution of the species. In theology, the word can be used to refer to reincarnation and Christian spiritual rebirth symbolized by baptism.

Once projected onto Germany, it took the form of what some have called `German nihilism’.
It is the logic of the principle `destroy to build’ which links the Völkisch ideologue’s destruction of liberalism, socialism, pluralism, and humanism to the creation of a `strong’ state based on a single party and a single ideology.

Cult of Athleticism
Aesthetic forms
deemed to be life-asserting

It includes cult of athleticism and physical health; the suppressing of decadent books to the publishing of `healthy‘ literature; the cleansing of art of its degenerate elements to the fostering of aesthetic forms deemed to be life-asserting.

Similarly, the rejuvenation of the Volksgemeinschaft went hand in hand with the removal of Jews and other negative elements from public life.

Reactionary Modernism

National Socialism presents itself as an alternative to liberal and socialist forms of modernity.
The importance it attributed to the organically and racially conceived nation meant that it rejected both the individualism, pluralism, cosmopolitanism, materialism, and rationalism associated with liberalism as radically as it did the internationalism and materialism it attributed to Bolshevism.
What has presumably prevented so many commentators from grasping this point has been the deep and eroneous impression that National Socialism incarnated a systematized and calculated form of barbarism reminiscent of a throw back to an earlier dark age.
Barbarism, however, has nothing to do with the development of the Third Reich.

Charles Darwin

It should also be remembered that Germany under Hitler pursued policies based on a populist nationalism conceived partially, though not exclusively in biological, eugenic, and Darwinian terms.

All these components were literally inconceivable before the 19th century.
Blut und Boden
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Certainly the ideology of National Socialism placed great emphasis on the concept of the superiority of the Aryan race and the heroic past of the Germans before their Europeanization and Judeo-Christianization, and on the values of ‘Blut und Boden‘ (Blood and Soil).
But these were not regressive, atavistic myths, but articulated in the spirit of the Conservative Revolution referred to above: the roots of the new order were to be extended as deep as possible into the past so that the tree of the organically conceived nation could grow as vigorously and high as possible.

National Socialism’s full-blooded commitment
to modern industry and science

As a result of National Socialism’s full-blooded commitment to modern industry and science, the ‘Blut und Boden’ programme had nothing to do with a radical re-ruralization programme.

Germany was to remain a highly urbanized and technologically advanced nation, however, a steady flow of festivals, rituals, and propaganda celebrating the German nation as a ‘Schicksalsgemeinschaft‘, (a community of destiny), was designed to ensure that the significance of the peasant as the back-bone of the economy, and of nature as a source of transcendent values and meaning, would be acknowledged to a point where every German recognized his or her roots, both physical and spiritual.
The countryside was a focus for palingenetic myth of renewal and sustenance, not for a retreat from the Twentieth century.

KdF Volkswagen

It is in no way a contradiction if the same regime which celebrated the peasant, also embarked on an extensive programme for modernizing and beautifying the urban housing stock and factory working conditions, glorifying the motorway network and the Volkswagen as symbols of the new Germany.

By marrying the industrial age to tribal consciousness Völkisch ideologues were certain that they were resolving the tensions and neuroses of the modern age.
The aim was to give modern life a new spiritual basis and historical purpose, not to destroy it.
It is from the union of the industrial and the pre-industrial that National Socialist art gains the relevance that is not to be found in modernistic degenerate art.
This interpretation of National Socialist art has a direct bearing on any exploration of the links between National Socialism and Romanticism.
The assumption that any such links are explicable in terms of a petty-bourgeois nostalgia for an idyllic past has to be rejected.
But before suggesting how that link might be conceived more appropriately, it is important to put the record straight about the type of art which prospered under the Third Reich.

‘Blut und Boden’

It has been suggested that the dominant form of art in the Third Reich was Blood and Soil genre paintings of landscapes and rural activities.

Ziegler – Göttin der Kunst
Certainly much art of the time fits this category, but it is important to remember that other recurrent types of art were neo-classical studies of nudes in arcadian surroundings, historical themes, figures engaged in athletic activities, military subjects whether of soldiers or battle scenes, and portraits of members of the National Socialist hierarchy.

These last three subjects are unmistakably `modern’, though the style was generally a highly romanticized form of ‘heroic realism’.

Bau der Neuen Reichskanzlei

The art of the Third Reich, in its `mature’ form of 1936 or 1937, came to employ a host of formal and aesthetic devices which Modernism itself had invented.

This `Modernist’ aspect of National Socialist art should be seen in the context not just of paintings evoking the vast building projects being undertaken by the Third Reich, such as the construction of a motorway bridge or work in a stone quarry, but of the vast outpouring of sophisticated graphic art and photographs of the Third Reich’s flourishing advertising industry, promoting such quintessentially modern products as Leica cameras and Daimler-Benz cars.

Hitler-Jugend Sport Poster
Hitlerjugend Poster

Nor were housing and factory projects, or the vast realm of product and interior design free from the influence of the ‘so-called’ Modern Movement.

There was, undoubtedly a tension between `Modernism and archaism’, a tension which is arguable resolved once the concept `Conservative Revolution’ (Reactionary Modernism) is applied.
There is a direct correlation here with the field of ideology.
Some historians have presented National Socialism as the fruit of an aberrant tradition in German thought and culture, which blended nationalism and idealism with the rejection of liberal humanistic values, and that Hitler had somehow absorbed, a weird mixture of some of the more extreme ideas that had erupted from German thinkers during the nineteenth century.
Certainly National Socialism drew on Fichte and Wagner, among others, but it also made much of the rigorously scientific basis of its Weltanschauung in a highly modern spirit far removed both from Romanticism and idealism.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (May 19, 1762 – January 27, 1814) was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant. Fichte is often perceived as a figure whose philosophy forms a bridge between the ideas of Kant and those of the German Idealist Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Fichte also wrote works of political philosophy and is considered one of the fathers of German nationalism.
Fichte made important contributions to political nationalism in Germany. In his ‘Ansprache an die deutsche Nation‘ (Addresses to the German Nation) (1808), a series of speeches delivered in Berlin, he urged the German peoples to “have character and be German” -entailed in his idea of Germanness was antisemitism, since he argued that “making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation.” 
Historian Robert Nisbet, in a gross oversimplification, thought him to be “the true author of National Socialism”.

At the root of this is a trait of considered eclecticism.
In their attempt to revitalize the present, and wipe out decadence, National Socialists had drawn many concepts that which would help to rationalize their policies.
To focus on only those aspects of art and ideology under Hitler which fit into the restorationist, anti-modern, bourgeois thesis is thus to misrepresent National Socialism.
Firstly, it would be a fallacy to assume that Nazism was, per se, against all forms of Modernism even in theory.
Dr Paul Josef Goebbels

In his semi-autobiographical novel ‘Michael: A German Destiny’, Dr Paul Josef Goebbels’s thinly veiled alter-ego claims at one point that he himself is an Expressionist, and in another passage writes: 

Vincent van Gogh

I visit an exhibition of modern painting. We see much new nonsense. One star: Vincent van Gogh. In these surroundings he already seems tame, but yet he is the most modern of the moderns. For modernity has nothing to do with heroic gestures. All that is just learnt through practice. The modern man is necessarily a god-seeker, perhaps a Christ-like person. Van Gogh’s life tells us even more than his work. He combines in his personality the most important elements: he is teacher, preacher, fanatic, prophet – mad. In the last analysis we are all mad if we have an idea. Fanatics of love: the capacity for self-sacrifice.’

Predictably Goebbels goes on to find an outlet by joining the NSDAP, but this did not mean abandoning his commitment to healthy Modernism.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates he was known for his zealous orations.
Goebbels earned a PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist. He also wrote novels and plays. Goebbels came into contact with the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) or Nazi Party in 1923. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin. Goebbels despised capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core, and he stressed the need for the Nazis to emphasize both a proletarian and national character.

 Max Weber
It is important to see ‘Modernism’ as a blanket-term for a bewildering variety of initiatives undertaken since the late Nineteenth century to re-spiritualize and re-enchant, to bring magic and meaning to, a Western civilization widely experienced as `decadent’, namely hyper-rationalized and (in Max Weber’s terms) ‘entzaubert‘ (disenchanted).

Maximilian Karl Emil “Max” Weber (21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist whose ideas influenced social theory, social research, and the entire discipline of sociology Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founding architects of sociology.

If this perspective is adopted, then National Socialism can be seen as promoting a quintessentially ‘modernist’ form of politics and aesthetics, in an attempt to purge society of its decadence, and to enable the entire German race, or rather its `healthy’ specimens, to tap into `eternal’ sources of spirit, value, and meaning.

The Omnipresent Swastika

There is a supreme importance to National Socialist art policies being essential to their self-appointed mission `to destroy a carefully selected “Modernist” past, – a mission which we have presented as integral to their crusade for Germany’s reawakening or palingenesis (the omnipresent Swastika itself was a symbol of the rising sun and of spiritual rebirth).

This impulse may be described as `Völkisch Post-Modernism’, and this can be seen to be part of a wider Modernist dynamic in which all forms are to be renovated, and life as a whole is to be transformed and improved.
For it seems likely that at a number of points within our Modernist and modernising century, the very apocalyptic (i.e. palingenetic – see above) nature of the race into the future has meant both a search for tradition as well as an obsession with the speed of time.
This is the sense in which National Socialism was an early form of Post-Modernism, albeit an authoritarian one, and hence part of that wider network of Modernisms with which we are still trying to get adequately acquainted.

Postmodernism is a term used to the era and the concepts that follows Modernism. It frequently serves as an ambiguous overarching term for skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is an example of a significant post-modernist philosopher.

Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism

This unique form of ‘Post-Modernism’ was born of a tension that originated in the outlooks of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and the technocrats epitomised by Fritz Todt.

Kritian Boy

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate.

Doryphoros of Polyclitus

The marble Kritios Boy or Kritian Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture.
The Kritios Boy is thus named because it is attributed to Kritios who worked together with Nesiotes (sculptors of Harmodius and Aristogeiton) or their school, from around 480 BC.

The Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer);  is one of the best known Greek sculptures of the classical era in Western Art and an early example of Greek classical contrapposto.

The Greek sculptor Polykleitos designed a work, perhaps this one, as an example of the “canon” or “rule”, showing the perfectly harmonious and balanced proportions of the human body in the sculpted form. A solid-built athlete with muscular features carries a spear balanced on his left shoulder. A characteristic of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is the classical contrapposto in the pelvis; the figure’s stance is such that one leg seems to be in movement while he is standing on the other.

The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained. Any violent emphasis or sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement destroys those qualities of balance and completeness through which classical form retains its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images.
Classicism implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms.
Classicism is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions

Hitler regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of the larger Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.

Imperial Roman Standard
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Pantheon – Rome
Ancient Classical Architecture

Adolf Hitler also believed that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were the racial ancestors of the Germans, and the first torch-bearers of “Nordic-Greek” art and culture.

He particularly expressed his admiration for Ancient Sparta, declaring it to have been the purest racial state:
Neue Wache – Berlin – Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Hitler, therefore, favoured Classicism, in the arts, and had a high regard for a classical period, and classical antiquity in the Western tradition, and saw it as setting standards for art, sculpture and painting.

The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained. 
In architecture Classicism features the golden section as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with the Greeks and Romans.
Classicism also involves the symmetry, the orderly arrangement of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules.

Neue Reichskanzlei
Albert Speer

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Spee (March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office. Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.

This classicism, favoured by Hitler, can be clearly see in Speer’s designs for Germania, and in Hermann Giesler’s designs for Linz.

Proposed redevelopment of Linz
Professor Hermann Giesler

Professor Hermann Giesler (April 2, 1898, Siegen – January 20, 1987, Düsseldorf) was a German architect – one of the two architects most favoured and rewarded by Adolf Hitler (the other being Albert Speer).

Hermann Giesler completed his architectural study at the Academy for Applied Arts in Munich. 
Up to 1938 he designed the “Ordensburg” in Sonthofen, planned Gau Forums in Weimar and Augsburg, and the “university” for the NSDAP at Chiemsee. In addition, he was commissioned to build Hitler’s house in Munich. In 1938 he was ordered by Hitler to the “General Building Inspector” for the reorganization of the city of Munich. Later he became also a director in the Organisation Todt, then one of the directors of the Group of Works of VI (Bavaria, Donaugaue). Starting from 1941 Giesler was entrusted by Hitler with the reorganization of the entire city of Linz. Giesler joined the NSDAP in 1941 for the Organisation Todt.

One indication of Hitler’s move to classicism may be seen in his decision regarding Fraktur and Sütterlin.
On January 3, 1941 Martin Bormann issued a circular to all public offices which declared Fraktur, and its corollary, the Sütterlin-based handwriting, to be “Judenlettern”, and prohibited their further use.

Fraktur or  Gothic is a blackletter typeface based on the calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet. The blackletter lines are broken up – that is, their forms contain many angles when compared to the smooth curves of the Antiqua (common) typefaces modeled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule. From this, Fraktur is sometimes contrasted with the “Latin alphabet” in northern European texts, being sometimes called the “German alphabet”.

Sütterlinschrift is the last widely used form of Kurrent, the historical form of German handwriting that evolved alongside German blackletter (most notably Fraktur) typefaces. Graphic artist Ludwig Sütterlin was commissioned by the Prussian ministry for culture to create a modern handwriting script in 1911. His handwriting scheme gradually replaced the older cursive scripts that had developed in the 16th century at the same time that bookletters developed into Fraktur

The reason for this decision was Adolf Hitler’s dislike for the Fraktur typeface, seen by him as ‘Gothic’ and non-Classical
This was demonstrated by a declaration that he made in the Reichstag in 1934

“… In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far...”

Adolf Hitler

Himmler’s approach to aesthetics was very different.

Himmler was deeply involved with the activities of the Ahnenerbe, which he directed to find evidence for early cultural developments within the borders of the Reich.
Not an artist by training or inclination, he was captivated by Germanic Medievalism, and therefore his aesthetic leaned toward the Romantic and the Gothic.

Caspar David Friedrich
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850.
Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.
It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature.

Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. 

Gothic Sculpture
William Dohme – der Braunschweiger Doml  – 1937

Its effect on politics was considerable and complex; while for much of the peak Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, in the long term its effect on the growth of nationalism was probably more significant.
The Gothic style, while difficult to describe succinctly, may be summed up as the antithesis of Classicism.
Whereas classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained, Gothic style is informal exuberant, involving violent emphasis of form and movement which destroys those qualities of balance and completeness to be found in classical art.
Classicism looks to the ideal, whereas Gothic exemplifies to particular and peculiar.

Romanticism favoured the Gothic style in architecture.
Gothic architecture features asymmetrical compositions, and free-form plans, with arched fenestration and roofing.

Wewelsburg – Paderborn 
SS Julleuchter
Neo-Gothic Art

An example of the romantic architecture favoured by Himmler was the Wewelsberg.

The Wewelsburg is a castle located in the northeast of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in district of Paderborn in the Alme Valley.
The castle, while not strictly Gothic, has the outline of a triangle and has a non-symetrical romanticised plan.
Equally another example of Romanticised aesthetic is the SS Julleuchter, whch was given at Christmas to members of the SS.

Classical Art
Blut und Boden  Romantic Art

Because of Himmler’s influence over the ‘Blut und Boden’ programme, most art depicting peasants, farming and landscape tended to be executed in a Romantic style, while more formal studies and mythological subjects tended to be executed in a tight, technically refined Classical style, as favoured by Hitler.

Contemporary subjects, however, such as representations of Reichsautobahnen, building projects, combat scenes and propaganda posters were executed in a ‘realist-modernist’ style.

Arno Breker
In other words, the National Socialist use of both Classicism and Romanticism is not the archaism of a society nostalgic for the past, but the ‘Modernism‘ of a regime which was, `nostalgic for the future‘.

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Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation – Race and Lebensraum

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Albert Speer
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The Großgermanisches Reich (Greater Germanic Reich), fully styled the Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation), is the official name of the political entity that Germany had established in Europe from 1939-1945.
Albert Speer stated in his memoirs that Hitler also referred to the envisioned state as the Teutonic Reich of the German Nation, although it is unclear whether Speer was using the now seldom used “Teutonic” as an English synonym for “Germanic”.

‘Mein Kampf’
Hitler also mentions a future Germanischer Staat Deutscher Nation (Germanic State of the German Nation) in ‘Mein Kampf‘.
The territorial claims for the Greater Germanic Reich varied over time, for instance during and for a short time after German-Soviet negotiations for the partition of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union took place, Hitler did not include territorial designs on the Soviet Union within the Greater Germanic Reich from 1939 to 1941, and instead was focusing on uniting the Germanic peoples of Scandinavia and the Low Countries into the Reich.
This pan-Germanic Empire was expected to assimilate practically all of Germanic Europe into an enormously expanded Reich.

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complete with commentaries and biographical information

Territorially speaking, this encompassed the already-enlarged German Reich itself (consisting of pre-1938 Germany proper, Austria,Bohemia, Moravia, Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmedy, Memel, Lower Styria, Upper Carniola, Southern Carinthia and German-occupied Poland), the Netherlands, the Flemish part of Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, at least the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Europe – Die neue Ordnung

The most notable exception was the predominantly Anglo-Saxon United Kingdom, which was not projected as having to be reduced to a German province, but to instead become an allied seafaring partner of Germany.

Another exception was German-populated territory in South Tyrol that was part of Italy.
In addition, its western frontiers with France were to be reverted to those of the earlier Holy Roman Empire, which would have meant the complete annexation of all of Wallonia, French Switzerland, and large areas of northern and eastern France.
The policy of lebensraum planned mass expansion of Germany eastwards to the Ural Mountains.
Hitler planned for the surplus Russian population, living west of the Urals, to be deported to the east of the Urals.

Neu-ordnung Europas

The Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation was also referred to as the Neu-ordnung Europas.
The establishment of the New Order was publicly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler in 1941:
The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order.
Among other things, it entailed the creation of a pan-German racial state, structured according to National Socialist ideology to ensure the supremacy of an Aryan-Nordic herrenvolk (master race), massive territorial expansion into Eastern Europe through its colonization with German settlers, the physical removal of the Jews, and the expulsion of most of the Slavic peoples and others regarded as “racially inferior”.
Historians are still divided as to its ultimate goals, some believing that it was to be limited to Nazi German domination of Europe, while others maintain that it was a springboard for eventual world conquest and the establishment of a world government under German control.

The Führer gave expression to his unshakable conviction that the Reich will be the master of all Europe. We shall yet have to engage in many fights, but these will undoubtedly lead to most wonderful victories. From there on the way to world domination is practically certain. Whoever dominates Europe will thereby assume the leadership of the world.

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda – 8 May 1943

Racial Theory

Aryan Race
National Socialist racial ideology regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of the larger Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.

Ancient Romans
Racial Ancestors of the Germans
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These peoples were viewed as either “true Germanic peoples” that had “lost their sense of racial pride“, or as close racial relatives of the Germans.
Adolf Hitler also believed that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were the racial ancestors of the Germans, and the first torch-bearers of “Nordic–Greek” art and culture.
He particularly expressed his admiration for Ancient Sparta, declaring it to have been the purest racial state:

The First Racial State
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The subjugation of 350,000 Helots by 6,000 Spartans was only possible because of the racial superiority of the Spartans.”
The Spartans had created “the first racial state.”
Furthermore, Hitler’s concept of “Germanic” did not simply refer to an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic group, but also to a distinctly biological one, the superior “Germanic blood” that he wanted to salvage from the control of the enemies of the Aryan race.
He stated that Germany possessed more of these “Germanic elements” than any other country in the world, which he estimated as “four fifths of our people“.

Wherever Germanic blood is to be found anywhere in the world, we will take what is good for ourselves. With what the others have left, they will be unable to oppose the Germanic Empire‘.

Adolf Hitler

According to National Socialists, in addition to the Germanic peoples, individuals of seemingly non-Germanic nationality such as French, Polish, Walloon, Czechand so on might actually possess valuable Germanic blood, especially if they were of aristocratic or peasant stock.

Heim ins Reich
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In order to “recover” these “missing” Germanic elements, they had to be made conscious of their Germanic ancestry through the process of Germanization (the term used for this process was Umvolkung, “restoration to the race“).

An example of this type of Germanization is the taking to germany of “racially valuable” Eastern European children.

The Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire; or Back to the Reich), was a foreign policy pursued by Adolf Hitler beginning in 1938. The aim of his initiative was to convince all of the ethnically German people who were living outside of the Third Reich (e.g. in Austria and the western districts of Poland etc) that they should strive to bring these regions “home” into Greater Germany. It included areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles, as well as other areas containing significant German populations such as the Sudetenland. The policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle) (English: Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsch issues. By 1941, the VOMI was under the control of the SS.

On the very first page of ‘Mein Kampf‘, Hitler openly declared his belief that “common blood belongs in a common Reich“, elucidating the notion that the innate quality of race (as the National Socialist movement perceived it) should hold precedence over artificial concepts such as national identity (including regional German identities such as Prussian and Bavarian) as the deciding factor for which people were worthy of being assimilated into a Greater German racial state (Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer).
Part of the strategic methods which Hitler chose to ensure the present and future supremacy of the Aryan race (which was, according to Hitler, “gradually approaching extinction“) was to do away with what he described as the “small state rubbish” (Kleinstaatengerümpel, compare Kleinstaaterei) in Europe in order to unite all these Nordic countries into one unified racial community.
From 1921 onward he advocated the creation of a “Germanic Reich of the German Nation“.

‘It was the continent which brought civilization to England, and in turn enabled her to colonize large areas in the rest of the world.
America is unthinkable without Europe.
Why would we not have the necessary power to become one of the world’s centres of attraction ?
A hundred-and-twenty million people of Germanic origin – if they have consolidated their position this will be a power against which no-one in the world could stand up to.
The countries which form the Germanic world have only to gain from this.
I can see that in my own case.
My birth country is one of the most beautiful regions in the Reich, but what could it do if were left to its own devices ?
There is no possibility to develop one’s talents in countries like Austria or Saxony, Denmark or Switzerland.
There is no foundation.
That is why it is fortunate that potential new spaces are again opened for the Germanic peoples.’
Adolf Hitler, 1942
Heiliges Römisches Reich
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The chosen name for the projected empire was a deliberate reference to the Heiliges Römisches Reich (Holy Roman Empire) (of the German Nation) that existed in mediaeval times, known as the First Reich in National Socialist historiography.
Krone des Heiligen Römischen Reiches

Heiliges Römisches Reich (Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum, was a multi-ethnic and complex union of territories in Central Europe existing from 962 to 1806. The territories making up the Empire lay predominantly in Central Europe. At its peak in 1050, under Emperor Henry III, it included the Kingdom of Germany, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Kingdom of Burgundy. The last Holy Roman Emperor was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Different aspects of the legacy of this medieval empire in German history were both celebrated and derided by the Third Reich.
The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne was admired by Hitler for his “cultural creativity“, his powers of organization, and his renunciation of the rights of the individual.
He criticized the Holy Roman Emperors however for not pursuing an Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy) resembling his own, while being politically focused exclusively on the south.


After the Anschluss, Hitler ordered the old imperial regalia (the Imperial Crown, Imperial Sword, Cross of Lothair, the Holy Lance [Spear of Destiny] and other items) residing in Vienna to be transferred to Nürnberg, where they were kept between 1424 and 1796.

Nürnberg, in addition of being the former unofficial capital of the Heiliges Römisches Reich, was also the place of the Reichsparteitag.
The transfer of the regalia was thus done to both legitimize Hitler’s Germany as the successor of the “Old Reich“, but also weaken Vienna, the former imperial residence.
Katherine Kirche – Nürnberg

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich.

It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.
Composed of prosperous artisans, the guilds of the Meistersingers flourished here. Richard Wagner made their most famous member, Hans Sachs, the hero of his opera ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’. 

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Große Wappen der
Protektorats Böhmen und Mähren

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After the 1939 German occupation of Bohemia, Hitler declared that the Heiliges Römisches Reich had been “resurrected“.

Unlike the “uncomfortably internationalist Catholic empire of Barbarossa“, the Germanic Reich of the German Nation would be racial and nationalist.
Rather than a return to the values of the Middle Ages, its establishment was to be “a push forward to a new golden age, in which the best aspects of the past would be combined with modern racial and nationalist thinking“.
The historical borders of the Holy Empire were also used as grounds for territorial revisionism by the National Socialists, laying claim to modern territories and states that were once part of it. 

Der Westfälische Frieden

Even before the war, Hitler had dreamed of reversing the ‘Westfälische Frieden’ (Peace of Westphalia), which had given the territories of the Empire almost complete sovereignty.

On November 17, 1939, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary that the “total liquidation” of this historic treaty was the “great goal” of the National Socialist regime, and that since it had been signed in Münster, it would also be officially repealed in the same city.
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities and can be denoted by two major events.

Pan-Germanism versus Pan-Germanicism
Despite intending to accord the other “Germanics” of Europe a racially superior status alongside the Germans themselves, in an anticipated post-war racio-political order, the National Socialists did not however consider granting the subject populations of these countries any national rights of their own.
The other Germanic countries were seen as mere extensions of Germany, rather than individual units in any way, and the Germans were unequivocally intended to remain the empire’s “most powerful source of strength, from both an ideological as well as military standpoint“.

Heinrich Himmler

Even Heinrich Himmler, who among the senior National Socialists most staunchly supported the concept, could not shake off the idea of a hierarchical distinction between German Volk and Germanic Völker (German Peoples).

The SS’s official newspaper, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, never succeeded in reconciling the contradiction between Germanic ‘brotherhood’ and German superiority.
Members of National Socialistic parties in Germanic countries were also forbidden to attend public meetings of the NSDAP when they visited Germany.
Although Hitler himself and Himmler’s SS advocated for a pan-Germanic Empire, the objective was not universally held in the National Socialist regime.
Goebbels and the Reich Foreign Ministry under Joachim von Ribbentrop inclined more towards an idea of a continental bloc under German rule, as represented by the Anti-Comintern Pact
Ribbentrop’s “European Confederation” project and the earlier Mitteleuropa concept.
Germanic Mysticism
There were also disagreements within the National Socialist leadership on the spiritual implications of cultivating a ‘Germanic history‘ in their ideological program.
Hitler was somewhat critical of Himmler’s esoteric völkisch interpretation of the ‘Germanic mission‘.
When Himmler denounced Charlemagne in a speech as “the butcher of the Saxons“, Hitler stated that this was not a ‘historical crime‘ but in fact a good thing, for the subjugation of Widukind had brought Western culture into what eventually became Germany.

Alfred Rosenberg
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He also disapproved of some of the archaeological projects which Himmler organized through his Ahnenerbe organization, such as excavations of pre-historic Germanic sites:

In an attempt to eventually supplant Christianity with a new religion more amenable to Nazi ideology Himmler, together with Alfred Rosenberg, sought to replace it with Germanic paganism, such as renewed worship of the deity Wotan.
For this purpose they had ordered the construction of sites for the worship of Germanic cults in order to exchange Christian rituals for ‘Nordic‘ consecration ceremonies, which included different marriage and burial rites.
Hitler, however, did not entirely approve of some aspects of this project, particularly with regard to the renewed worship of the Wotan
Establishment Strategy
Adolf Hitler
1937 Reichsparteitag

The goal was first proclaimed publicly in the 1937 Reichsparteitag.

Hitler’s last speech at this event ended with the words:
The German nation has after all acquired its Germanic Reich“,
which elicited speculation in political circles of a ‘new era’ in Germany’s foreign policy.
Several days before the event Hitler took Albert Speer aside when both were on their way to the former’s Munich apartment with an entourage, and declared to him that:
We will create a great empire. All the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy.”
On April 9, 1940, as Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in Operation Weserübung, Hitler announced the establishment of the Germanic Reich:

Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck
Herzog von Lauenburg
Austrian Anschluß – 1938

‘Just as the Bismarck Empire arose from the year 1866, so too will the Greater Germanic Empire arise from this day.’
The establishment of the empire was to follow the model of the Austrian Anschluß of 1938, just carried out on a greater scale.

Dr Paul Josef Goebbels

Goebbels emphasized in April 1940 that the annexed Germanic countries would have to undergo a similar “national revolution” as Germany herself did after the Machtergreifung, with an enforced rapid social and political Gleichschaltung (co-ordination) in accordance with National Socialist principles and ideology.

The ultimate goal of the Gleichschaltung policy pursued in these parts of occupied Europe was to eliminate the very concepts of individual states and nationalities, just as the concept of a separate Austrian state and national identity was repressed after the Anschluss through the establishment of new state and party districts.
The new empire was to no longer be a nation-state of the type that had emerged in the 19th century, but instead a “racially pure community“.
It is for this reason that the National Socialist occupiers had no interest in transferring real power to the various right-wing nationalistic movements present in the occupied countries (such as Nasjonal Samling, the NSB, etc.) except for temporary reasons of Realpolitik, and instead actively supported radical collaborators who favoured pan-Germanic unity (i.e. total integration to Germany) over provincial nationalism (for example DeVlag).

Wappen Reichsgau Sudetenland
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Unlike Austria and the Sudetenland, however, the process was to take considerably longer.

Eventually these nationalities were to be merged with the Germans into a single ruling race, but Hitler stated that this prospect lay “many years” in the future.
During this interim period it was intended that the Neue Europa (New Europe) would by run by Germans alone.
According to Speer, while Himmler intended to eventually Germanize these peoples completely, Hitler intended not to “infringe on their individuality” (that is, their native languages), so that in the future they would “add to the diversity and dynamism” of his empire.
The German language would be its lingua franca however, likening it to the status of English in the British Empire.
A primary agent used in stifling the local extreme nationalist elements was the Germanic SS, which initially merely consisted of local respective branches of the Allgemeine-SS in Belgium, Netherlands and Norway.
These groups were at first under the authority of their respective national commanders (Quisling, Mussert and De Clercq), and were intended to function within their own national territories only.

SS Emblem
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During the course of 1942, however, the Germanic SS was further transformed into a tool used by Himmler against the influence of the less extreme collaborating parties and their SA-style organizations, such as the Hird in Norway and the Weerbaarheidsafdeling in the Netherlands.

In the post-war Germanic Empire, these men were to form the new leadership cadre of their respective national territories.
To emphasize their pan-Germanic ideology, the Norges SS was now renamed the Germanske SS Norge, the Nederlandsche SS the Germaansche SS in Nederland and the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen the Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen.
The men of these groups no longer swore allegiance to their respective national leaders, but to the germanischer Führer (“Germanic Führer”), Adolf Hitler:
I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Germanic Führer loyalty and bravery. I pledge you and the superiors which you appointed obedience until death. So help me God.’
This title was assumed by Hitler on 23 June 1941, at the suggestion of Himmler.

Anton Mussert

On 12 December 1941 the Dutch fascist Anton Mussert also addressed him in this fashion when he proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler during a visit to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

He had wanted to address Hitler as Führer aller Germanen (“Führer of all Germanics”), but Hitler personally decreed the former style.
The difference between the two is that Führer aller Germanen implied a position separate from Hitler’s role as Führer und Reichskanzler des Grossdeutschen Reiches (“Führer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Reich”), while germanischer Führer served more as an attribute of that main function.
As late as 1944 occasional propaganda publications continued to refer to him by this unofficial title as well however.


The Hakenkreuzfahne (Swastika Flag) was to be used as a symbol to represent not only the National Socialist movement, but also the unity of the Nordic-Germanic peoples into a single state.

Welthauptstadt Germania
Hitler had long intended to architecturally reconstruct the German capital Berlin into a new imperial metropolis, which he decided in 1942 to rename ‘Germania‘ upon its scheduled completion in 1950.
The name was specifically chosen to make it the clear central point of the envisioned Germanic empire, and to re-enforce the notion of a united Germanic-Nordic state upon the Germanic peoples of Europe.
Just as the Bavarians and the Prussians had to be impressed by Bismarck of the German idea, so too must the Germanic peoples of continental Europe be programmatically steered towards the Germanic concept.
Große Halle – Germania – Albert Speer

Welthauptstadt Germania refers to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin during the Third Reich, part of Adolf Hitler’s vision for the future of Germany after the planned victory in World War II. Albert Speer, the “first architect of the Third Reich“, produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city in his capacity as overseer of the project, only a small portion of which was realized between the years 1937–1943 when construction took place.
Some projects, such as the creation of a great East-West city axis, which included broadening Charlottenburger Chaussee (today Straße des 17. Juni) and placing the Berlin victory column in the centre, far away from the Reichstag, where it originally stood, were successfully completed. Others, however, such as the creation of the Große Halle (Great Hall), had to be shelved owing to the beginning of war. A great number of the old buildings in many of the planned construction areas were, however, demolished before the war and eventually defeat stopped the plans.

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Role of Britain
United Kingdom

The one country that was not included in the Pan-Germanic unification aim was the United Kingdom, in spite of its near-universal acceptance by the National Socialist government as being part of the Germanic world.

Leading Nordic ideologist Hans F. K. Günther theorized that the Anglo-Saxons had been more successful than the Germans in maintaining racial purity, and that the coastal and island areas of Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales had received additional Nordic blood through Norse raids and colonization during the Viking Age, and the Anglo-Saxons of Eastern and Northern England had been under Danish rule in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Royal Arms of England
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Günther referred to this historical process as Aufnordung (“additional nordification”), which finally culminated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

Britain was thus a nation created by struggle and the survival of the fittest among the various Aryan peoples of the isles, and was able to pursue global conquest and empire-building because of its superior racial heredity born through this development.
Hitler professed an admiration for the imperial might of the British Empire in ‘Zweites Buch’ as proof of the racial superiority of the Aryan race, hoping that Germany would emulate British “ruthlessness” in establishing its own colonial empire in Eastern Europe.
One of his primary foreign policy aims throughout the 1930s was to establish a military alliance with both the English (Hitler conflated England with Britain and the United Kingdom in his writings and speeches) as well as the Italians, to neutralize France as a strategic threat to German security for eastward expansion.
When it became apparent to the Nazi leadership that the United Kingdom was not interested in a military alliance, anti-British policies were adopted to ensure the attainment of Germany’s war aims.
Even during the war however, hope remained that Britain would in time yet become a reliable German ally.

British Empire

Hitler preferred to see the British Empire preserved as a world power, because its break-up would benefit other countries far more than it would Germany, particularly the United States and Japan.

In fact, Hitler’s strategy during 1935-1937 for winning Britain over was based on a German guarantee of defence of the British Empire.
Ulrich Joachim von Ribbentrop

After the war, Ribbentrop testified that in 1935 Hitler had promised to deliver twelve German divisions to the disposal of Britain for maintaining the integrity of her colonial possessions.

The continued military actions against Britain after the fall of France had the strategic goal of making Britain ‘see the light‘ and conduct an armistice with the Axis powers, with July 1, 1940, being named by the Germans as the “probable date” for the cessation of hostilities.

Generaloberst Franz Halder
On May 21, 1940, Franz Halder, the head of the Army General Staff, after a consultation with Hitler concerning the aims envisaged by the Führer during the present war, wrote in his diary: “We are seeking contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world“.
One of Hitler’s sub-goals for the invasion of Russia was to win over Britain to the German side. 
He believed that after the military collapse of the USSR, “within a few weeks” Britain would be forced either into a surrender or else come to join Germany as a “junior partner” in the Axis.
Britain’s role in this alliance was reserved to support German naval and aerial military actions against the USA in a fight for world supremacy conducted from the Axis power bases of Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.
On August 8, 1941, Hitler stated that he looked forward to the eventual day when “England and Germany [march] together against America” and on January 7, 1942, he suggested that it was “not impossible” for Britain to quit the war and join the Axis side, leading to a situation where “it will be a German-British army that will chase the Americans from Iceland“.

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg hoped that after the victorious conclusion of the war against the USSR, Englishmen, along with other Germanic nationalities, would join the German settlers in colonizing the conquered eastern territories.

Wappen des Kaisertums Österreich
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From a historical perspective Britain’s situation was likened to that which the Austrian Empire found itself in after it was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia in the Battle of Königgratz in 1866.
As Austria was thereafter formally excluded from German affairs, so too would Britain be excluded from continental affairs in the event of a German victory.
Yet afterwards, Austria-Hungary became a loyal ally of the German Empire in the pre-World War I power alignments in Europe, and it was hoped that Britain would come to fulfil this same role.
Channel Islands
British Channel Islands
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The British Channel Islands were to be permanently integrated into the Germanic Empire.

On July 22, 1940, Hitler stated that after the war, the islands were to be given to the control of Robert Ley’s German Labour Front, and transferred into ‘Strength Through Joy’ holiday resorts.
It was suggested that the German occupiers should appeal to the islanders’ Norman heritage and treat the islands as “Germanic micro-states“, whose union with Britain was only an accident of history.
He likened the preferred policy concerning the islands similar to the one pursued by the British in Malta, where the Maltese language had been “artificially” supported against the Italian language.

Northern Italy
Fascist Kingdom of Italy
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Hitler emphasized the role of Germanic influence in Northern Italy, such as stating that the art of Northern Italy was “nothing but pure German“, and it was viewed that the Ladin and Friulian minorities of Northern Italy were racially, historically and culturally a part of the Germanic world.

Wappen der Südtirol
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The region of South Tyrol had been a place of contending claims and conflict between German nationalism and Italian nationalism.
One of the leading founders of Italian nationalism, Giuseppe Mazzini, along with Ettore Tolomei, claimed that the German-speaking South Tyrolian population were in fact a Germanicized population of Roman origin who needed to be “liberated and returned to their rightful culture“.
With the defeat of Austria-Hungary in World War I, the peace treaty designated to Italy the South Tyrol, with its border with Austria along the Brenner Pass.
The Italian Fascist regime pursued Italianization of South Tyrol, by restricting use of the German language while promoting the Italian language; promoting mass migration of Italians into the region, encouraged mainly through industralization; and resettlement of the German-speaking population.

Benito Mussolini

After Mussolini had made clear in 1922 that he would never give up the region of South Tyrol from being in Italy, Hitler adopted this position.

Hitler, in ‘Mein Kampf’ had declared that concerns over the rights of Germans in South Tyrol under Italian sovereignty was a non-issue considering the advantages that would be gained from a German-Italian alliance with Mussolini’s Fascist regime.
In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler also made clear that he was opposed to having a war with Italy for the sake of obtaining South Tyrol.
This position by Hitler of abandoning German land claims to South Tyrol produced aggravation amongst some NSDAP members who up to the late 1920s found it difficult to accept the position.

Hitler and Mussolini – Rome

On 7 May 1938, Hitler during a public visit to Rome declared his commitment to the existing border between Germany (that included Austria upon the Anschluss) and Italy at the Brenner Pass.

In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini resolved the problem of self-determination of Germans and maintaining the Brenner Pass frontier by an agreement in which German South Tyroleans were given the choice of either assimilation into Italian culture, or leave South Tyrol for Germany; most opted to leave for Germany.

Re Vittorio Emanuele III d’Italia

After King Victor Emmanuel III of the Kingdom of Italy removed Mussolini from power, Hitler on 28 July 1943 was preparing for the expected abandonment of the Axis for the Allies by the Kingdom of Italy’s new government, and was preparing to exact retribution for the expected betrayal by planning to partition Italy.

In particular Hitler was considering the creation of a “Lombard State” in northern Italy that would be incorporated into the Greater Germanic Reich, while South Tyrol and Venice would be annexed directly into Germany.
In the aftermath of the Kingdom of Italy’s abandonment of the Axis on 8 September 1943, Germany seized and de facto incorporated Italian territories into its direct control.

The Axis powers, were the nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The Axis promoted the alliance as a part of a revolutionary process aimed at breaking the hegemony of plutocratic-capitalist Western powers and defending civilization from communism.
The Axis grew out of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty signed by Germany and Japan in 1936. Italy joined the Pact in 1937. The “Rome–Berlin Axis” became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies.

La Repubblica Sociale Italiana
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After the rescue of Mussolini and the establishment of  La Repubblica Sociale Italiana (Repubblica di Salò – Italian Social Republic – RSI), in spite of urging by local German officials, Hitler refused to officially annex South Tyrol, instead he decided that the RSI should hold official sovereignty over these territories, and forbade all measures that would give the impression of official annexation of South Tyrol, however, in practice the territory of South Tyrol within the boundaries defined by Germany as Operationszone Alpenvorland that included Trent, Bolzano, and Belluno, were de facto incorporated into Germany’s Reichsgau Tirol-Vorarlberg, and administered by its Gauleiter Franz Hofer.

While the region identified by Germany as Operationszone Adriatische Kustenland that includedUdine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola, Fiume (Rijeka), and Ljubljana were de facto incorporated into Reichsgau Kärnten and administered by its Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer.
After the Kingdom of Italy capitulated to the Allies in September 1943, according to Goebbels in his personal diary on 29 September 1943, wrote that Hitler had expressed that the Italian-German border should extend to those of the region of Veneto.
Veneto was to be included into the Reich in an “autonomous form”, and to benefit from the post-war influx of German tourists.
Expected participation in the colonization of Eastern Europe
Despite the pursued aim of pan-Germanic unification, the primary goal of Nazi Germany’s territorial expansionism was to acquire sufficient Lebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe for the Germanic Aryan master race.
The primary objective of this aim was to transform Germany into a complete economic autarky, the end-result of which would be a state of continent-wide German hegemony over Europe.
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. The latter are called closed economies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky would be a state that could defend itself without help from another country. Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole, but also can be limited to a narrow field such as possession of a key raw material.
This was to be accomplished through the enlargement of the territorial base of the German state and the expansion of the German population.
Because of their perceived racial worth, the Nazi leadership was enthusiastic at the prospect of “recruiting” people from the Germanic countries to also settle these territories after the Slavic inhabitants would have been driven out.
The racial planners were partly motivated in this because studies indicated that Germany would likely not be able to recruit enough colonial settlers for the eastern territories from its own country, and other Germanic groups would therefore be required.
Hitler insisted however that German settlers would have to dominate the newly colonized areas.
SS Adolf Hitler
Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

Gradually the ‘Greater Germanic Empire’ gave way to a concept of a Neu-ordnung Europas of self-governing states, unified by German hegemony and the common enemy of Bolshevism.

The Waffen-SS was to be the eventual nucleus of a common europäischen Armee, where each state would be represented by a national contingent.
Heinrich Himmler himself, held on to his Pan-Germanic vision, and in a speech given on April 1943 to the officers of SS divisions ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’, ‘Das Reich’ and ‘Totenkopf’ he stated:
We do not expect you to renounce your nation. … We do not expect you to become German out of opportunism. We do expect you to subordinate your national ideal to a greater racial and historical ideal, to the Germanic Reich‘.

Hitler’s Real Views on die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation

In the beginning of the Kampfzeit (time of struggle) Hitler had only been concerned with National Socialism in Germany and Austria, and the reclaiming of territory lost through the Treaty of Versailles.
The concept of a ‘Große Reich’ (Greater Reich) was a late development, and the idea of Weltherrschaft (world domination) was the result of Hitler’s involvement with Major General Karl Ernst Haushofer, and his theories of Geopolitik (Geo-politics).
Karl Ernst Haushofer

Karl Ernst Haushofer (August 27, 1869 – March 10, 1946) was a German general, geographer and geopolitician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer’s ideas may have influenced the development of Adolf Hitler’s expansionist strategies. Haushofer developed Geopolitik from widely varied sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler, Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, and  Friedrich Ratzel.

Geopolitik contributed to the foreign policy of the Third Reich, chiefly in the strategy and justifications for lebensraum. The theories contributed five ideas to German foreign policy in the inter-war period:, the organic state, lebensraum, autarky, pan-regions, land power/sea power dichotomy.
Rudolf Heß

Hitler and Haushofer first came together through the offices of Rudolf Heß, during Hitler’s imprisonment at Festung Landsberg, after the 1923 Munich Putsch.

The evidence of Hausofer’s influence can clearly be seen in the second half of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf‘.
Geopolitics was very popular in Germany at the time that ‘Mein Kampf‘ was published, and it is quite reasonable to suppose that Hitler included geopolitical chapters in ‘Mein Kampf‘ in order to make it appear ‘modern’ and ‘in tune’ with current political and academic developments.
One cannot conclude, however, that Hitler seriously believed in the fundamental principles of Haushofer’s geopolitical theories, as much of the contents of the remainder of ‘Mein Kampf‘ is disingenuous to say the very least.
We should remember that while Hitler had no objection to extending the influence and power of the Third Reich beyond its previous racially demarcated borders, much of the speculation indulged in the National Socialist hierarchy about ‘Weltherrschaft’ is simply that – speculation.

Heinrich Himmler and
haj Amin al-Husseini
For example, overtures to the Arab and Muslim world (haj Amin al-Husseini) were as disingenuous as many other aspects of the foreign policy of the Third Reich.
As far as Hitler was concerned, Arabs were Semites, and therefore little different, in racial terms, from the Jews.
Any statements made by Hitler and Himmler et al, were, therefore, simply the means to obtain temporary wartime support from these groups.
As for Africa, South America and other non-European areas, these were matters that would be settled, probably by diplomacy and treaties, when the conflict in Europe came to an end.

Hitler’s primary concern, from the very beginning, was to create a settled, racially pure ‘living-space’ where Himmler’s SS could undertake the biological breeding programs that would produce Die Herrenrasse.

Die Herrenrasse

Die Herrenrasse is a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic race -a branch of the Aryan race – represented an ideal and pure race. The Nordic race was the purest example of the original racial stock of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans, who prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain, ultimately originated from the lost continent of Atlantis. The Nordics (Germanic peoples), were the true Aryans because they were less racially mixed with “non-native” Indo-European peoples than other Aryan peoples, such as the Slavic peoples, the Romance peoples and the Indo-Iranian peoples. Based on this claim that the Nordic peoples were superior to all other races, and were entitled to expand territorially.This concept is known as Nordicism.


This, however, was only the first stage of the process that Hitler envisaged.

Hitler explained the process of creating the Nietzschean übermensch in the following manner:
The real destiny of Man is something that ordinary men could not conceive and would be unable to comprehend, even if given a glimpse of it.
Our revolution is a final stage in an evolution that will end by abolishing history.
der Übermensch

It is my ultimate aim to perform an act of creation, a divine operation, the goal of a biological mutation which will result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men.

My party comrades have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind, or of the grandiose edifice of which the foundations, at least, will have been laid before I die. 
The world has reached a turning point, and will undergo an upheaval which the uninitiated cannot understand.’
Once the ‘divine operation‘ had been achieved there would be no further need for economic, politics, or strategies.
The ‘unprecedented exaltation of the human race‘ would produce “the ‘Man-God’, when Man will be the measure and centre of the world.
The ‘Man-God‘, that splendid Being, will be an object of worship …
But there are other stages about which I am not permitted to speak ...”

Adolf Hitler

And so, in the final analysis, ‘die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation’ would simply be the ‘seed bed’ for the greater creation, which would go beyond all national and political considerations, and into the realm of ‘pure metaphysics’.

The Green Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

“We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole.

This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought.”

Professor Ernst Lehmann

Germany is not only the birthplace of the science of ecology and the place where ecological politics’ rose to prominence; it has also been home to a peculiar synthesis of naturalism and nationalism forged under the influence of the Romantic tradition’s anti-Enlightenment philosophy.
Two nineteenth century figures exemplify this conjunction: Ernst Moritz Arndt and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl

Ernst Moritz Arndt 

Ernst Moritz Arndt (26 December 1769 – 29 January 1860) was a German patriotic author and poet. Early in his life, he fought for the abolition of serfdom, later against Napoleonic dominance over Germany, and had to flee to Sweden for some time due to his anti-French positions. He is one of the main founders of German nationalism and the movement for German unification. After the Carlsbad Decrees, the forces of the restoration counted him as a demagogue and he was only rehabilitated in 1840.
Arndt played an important role for the early national and liberal Burschenschaft movement and for the unification movement, and his song “Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?” acted as an unofficial German national anthem.

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl

Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl (6 May 1823 – 16 November 1897) was a German journalist, novelist and folklorist.
Riehl was born in Biebrich in the Duchy of Nassau and died in Munich.
Riehl’s writings became normative for a large body of Volkish thought. He constructed a more completely integrated Volkish view of man and society as they related to nature, history, and landscape. He was the writer of the famous ‘Land und Leute’ (Places and People), written in 1857-63, which discussed the organic nature of a Volk which he claimed could only be attained if it fused with the native landscape.
He rejected all artificiality and defined modernity as a nature contrived by man and thus devoid of that genuineness to which living nature alone gives meaning. Riehl pointed to the newly developing urban centres as the cause of social unrest. For many Volkish thinkers, only nature was genuine. He desired a hierarchical society that patterned after the medieval estates. In ‘Die bürgerliche Gesellschaft’ (Bourgeois Society) he accused those of Capitalist interest of disturbing ancient customs and thus destroying the historicity of the Volk. Animosity towards the city was an integral part of the rise of Volkish thought. At times it was expressed in the slogan “Berlin is the domain of the Jews” or in the remark by another writer that “cities are the tombs of Germanism” Such ideas secured a place for Riehl in the history of Volkish thought. 
Riehl, born into a settled middle-class background, was a professor at the University of Munich.

Sterbender Hirsch
Wilhelm Diefenbach

Riehl’s 1853 essay ‘Feld und Wald’ (Field and Forest) ended with a call to fight for “the rights of wilderness.” 

But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: “We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully, so that Germany remains German.”
Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly anti-semitic glorification of rural peasant values, and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the “founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism.

‘Nature Mysticism’

These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the völkisch movement, a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with ‘nature mysticism‘.

At the heart of the völkisch weltanschauung was a negative response to modernity.
In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, völkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature’s purity.
The movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit.
The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the chain which bound together nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections.
Ernst Haeckel 

In 1867 the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term ‘ecology’ and began to establish it as a scientific discipline dedicated to studying the interactions between organism and environment.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919), was a German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including anthropogeny, ecology, phylum, phylogeny, stem cell, and the kingdom Protista. Haeckel promoted and popularized Charles Darwin’s work in Germany and developed the controversial recapitulation theory (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny“) claiming that an individual organism’s biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarizes its species’ evolutionary development, or phylogeny.

The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations of animals and sea creatures (Kunstformen der Natur, “Art Forms of Nature”). As a philosopher, Ernst Haeckel wrote ‘Die Welträtsel’ (1895–1899, in English, The Riddle of the Universe, 1901), the genesis for the term “world riddle” (Welträtsel); and ‘Freedom in Science and Teaching’ to support teaching evolution.

Haeckel developed a philosophy he called ‘monism.’
The ‘German Monist League’ he founded combined scientifically based ecological holism with völkisch social views.
Haeckel believed in nordic racial superiority, strenuously opposed race mixing and enthusiastically supported racial eugenics.
Bayerische Räterepublik – Munich

His nationalism became more fervent with the onset of World War I, and he fulminated in anti-semitic tones against the post-war Jewish/Soviet Republic in Bavaria.
In this way Haeckel contributed to that special variety of German thought which served as the seed bed for National Socialism.
The pioneer of scientific ecology, along with his disciples Willibald Hentschel, Wilhelm Bölsche and Bruno Wille, profoundly shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of environmentalists by embedding concern for the natural world in a tightly woven web of Völkisch social themes.
Thus, for the Monists, perhaps the most pernicious feature of European bourgeois civilization was the inflated importance which it attached to the idea of man in general, to his existence and to his talents.

Raoul Francé

The biologist Raoul Francé, founding member of the ‘Monist League’, elaborated so-called ‘Lebensgesetze’, ‘laws of life’ through which the natural order determines the social order.
He opposed racial mixing, for example, as “unnatural.”
The chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation to prominence was the German youth.

The world’s first self-conscious “youth” movement sprang up in response to, and as a rejection of, urban life and the cold, impersonal mechanics of modernity.
It’s members wanted to reunite themselves with nature.
They went vegetarian, sometimes favoured nudism, hiked and even camped out in the wilderness, creating alternative societies to the mainstream.
It was a romantic, spiritual movement.
Many saw themselves as pagans, worshipping the sun, conceived of as an ancient Teutonic deity.
The young men sang songs and played guitars around campfires in a movement that was closely involved with Lebensreform (“life reform”).


Lebensreform (“life reform”) was a social movement in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany, Austria and Switzerland that propagated a back-to-nature lifestyle, emphasizing among others health food/raw food/or