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
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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
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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
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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.

Kaiserreich
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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.

Lichtdom
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
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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.
Fichte

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.

Δορυφόρος
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.

‘Ruin’
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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Deutsch Kultur im Dritten Reich – German Culture in the Third

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DEUTSCH KULTUR IM DRITTEN REICH
(German Culture in the Third Reich)

Diana’s Rest – Saliger

The art of the Third Reich, the visual art produced in Germany between 1933 and 1945, was characterized by a style of Romantic realism (heroic realism) based on classical models.

While banning modern styles as degenerate, paintings and sculptures that were promoted that were academic in manner, and exalted values of formalised beauty, community (Volksgemeinschaft), nationalism and racial purity.

 Der Fuehrer Spricht
Paul Matthias Padua

Other popular themes for the art of the Third Reich were the ‘Volk’ at work, a return to the simple virtues of Heimat (love of homeland), the manly virtues of the National Socialist struggle, and the lauding of the female activities of child bearing and raising, symbolized by the phrase Kinder, Küche, Kirche (“children, kitchen, church”).

Female Nude
Ivo Saliger

Ivo Saliger 1894-1987  moved to Vienna in 1908 at the same time as Adolf Hitler but unlike Hitler he studied painting and etching techniques at the Academy of Vienna, under some of Austria’s finest artists such as Ferdinand Schmutzer. In 1920 Saliger assumed the post of professor of art at the Academy. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Ivo Saliger developed strong Art Deco elements within his art. Saliger’s paintings were frequently exhibited at the ‘Great German Art Exhibition’ held annually in Munich between 1937 and1944.


Similarly, music was expected to be formally structured and tonal, and free of Negroid jazz influence.
Films and plays were equally expected to portray the values of community (Volksgemeinschaft), nationalism racial purity.

Architecture for official, public buildings was monumental, and executed in a simplified classical idiom, while domestic architecture took it’s inspiration from völkisch forms and styles.

Contemporary Bauhaus styles, however, were used for buildings related to industry and technology.

Bäuerliche Venus, 1939
Sepp Hilz


‘Bauernfamilie’ – (Peasant Family)
Adolf Wissel

Among the well-known artists endorsed by the Third Reich were the sculptors Josef Thorak and Arno Breker, and painters Werner Peiner, Adolf Wissel and Conrad Hommel.

During the Third Reich artists, sculptors, architects, writers and designers with Jewish ancestry were forbidden to contribute work to the Volksgemeinschaft.
The rationale for this was to be found in the National Socialist’s racial philosophy.
According to this philosophy the Jewish people, with all its apparent intellectual qualities, was nevertheless without any true culture, especially without a culture of its own, for the sham culture which the Jew possessed  was the property of other peoples, and was mostly spoiled in Jewish hands.

When judging Jewry in its attitude toward the question of human culture, the National Socialists maintained that one has to keep before one’s eyes, as an essential characteristic, that there never has been Jewish art and, that above all, the two paragons of all the arts, architecture and music, owe nothing original to Jewry.
This philosophy stated that whatever the Jew achieves in the fields of art is either bowdlerization, or intellectual theft, because the Jews lack those qualities which distinguish creativity.
Adolf Hitler saw Greek and Roman art as uncontaminated by Jewish influences.
Modern art was seen as an act of aesthetic violence by the Jews against the German spirit (Deutsch Geistes).


Entartete Kunst 
Entartete Kunst Exhibition

The Jewish nature of art that was indecipherable, distorted, or that represented “depraved” subject matter was explained through the concept of degeneracy (Entartung), which held that distorted and corrupted art was a symptom of an inferior race.

By propagating the theory of degeneracy, the National Socialist racial philosophy combined  anti-Semitism with a drive to control culture, thus consolidating public support for both campaigns.
Their efforts in this regard were unquestionably aided by a popular hostility to Modernism that pre-dated their the establishment of the Third Reich.
The view that such art had reflected Germany’s condition and moral bankruptcy was widespread, and it was believed that many artists acted in a manner to overtly undermine or challenge popular values and morality.
Max Nordau
The term Entartung (or “degeneracy”) gained popularity 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, which he explained as the work of those so corrupted and enfeebled by modern life that they have lost the self-control needed to produce coherent works.
Explaining the unfinished nature of Impressionism as the sign of degeneracy, he decried modern art, while praising traditional German culture (traditionellen Deutsch Kultur).
This theory of artistic degeneracy was seized upon by German National Socialists during the Weimar Republic as a rallying point for their demand for Aryan purity in art.
This view of art was grounded in a belief in a Germanic spirit (germanischen Geistes), defined as mystical, rural, moral, and bearing ancient wisdom,  – noble in the face of a tragic destiny, and existing long before the rise of the National Socialism.
Richard Wagner celebrated such ideas in his works.


Nietzsche Gedächtnishalle
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.


Schloss Freudenbern
Paul Schultze-Naumbur

Paul Schultze-Naumburg (10 June 1869 – 19 May 1949) was a German architect and one of the Third Reich’s most vocal political critics of modern architecture. Along with Alexander von Senger, Eugen Honig, Konrad Nonn, and German Bestelmeyer, Schultze-Naumburg was a member of a National Socialist group known as the Kampfbund deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure (KDAI). Schultze-Naumburg wrote ‘Kunstund Rasse’ (“Art and Race”), which was published in 1928

In September 1933 the Reichskulturkammer (RKK – Reich Culture Chamber) was established, with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s ‘Reichminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda’ (Reich Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment) in charge.
Sub-chambers within the Culture Chamber, representing the individual arts (music, film, literature, architecture, and the visual arts) were created; these were membership groups consisting of artists supportive of the Party.
In the same year Hitler made a speach in which he defined the true nature of German Art.

Emblem of the Reichskulturkammer
 Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘Germany wants again a “German Art,” and this art shall and will be of eternal value, as are all truly creative values of a people.

Should this art, however, again lack this eternal value for our people, then indeed it will mean that it also has no higher value today
When, therefore, the cornerstone of this building was laid, it was with the intention of constructing a temple, not for a so-called modern art, but for a true and everlasting German art, that is, better still, a House for the art of the German people.
It is therefore imperative for the artist to erect monuments, not so much to a period, but to his people.
For time is changeable, years come and go.
Anything born of and thriving on a certain epoch alone would perish with it.
And not only all which had been created before us would fall victim to this mortality, but also what is being created today or will be created in the future.
But the National-Socialists know of only one mortality, and that is the mortality of the people itself:
As long as a people exists, however, it is the fixed pole in the flight of fleeting appearances.
It is the quality of being and lasting permanence.
And, indeed, for this reason, art as an expression of the essence of this being, is an eternal monument.’
Adolf Hitler 1933


 Reichskulturkammer
 Reichskulturkammer
(RKK – Reich Culture Chamber)

Goebbels also spoke on the subject  and defined the nature of the  Reichskulturkammer :
In future only those who are members of a chamber are allowed to be productive in our cultural life. Membership is open only to those who fulfill the entrance condition. In this way all unwanted and damaging elements have been excluded.”


By 1935 the Reich Culture Chamber had 100,000 members.
Degenerate artworks were purged from German museums.


Entartete Kunst Exhibition
 Haus der deutschen Kunst

These became the material for a defamatory exhibit, ‘Entartete Kunst’ (“Degenerate Art”), featuring over 650 paintings, sculptures, prints, and books from the collections of thirty two German museums, that premiered in Munich on July 19, 1937 and remained on view until November 30 before travelling to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria.

Coinciding with the ‘Entartete Kunst’ exhibition, the ‘Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung’ (Great German art exhibition) made its premier amid much pageantry.
This exhibition, held at the palatial Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art), displayed the work of officially approved artists such as Arno Breker and Adolf Wissel.


CLASSICAL MUSIC IN THE THIRD REICH

Richard Wagner
Hans Pfitzner
At the establishment of the Third Reich in 1933, the musical establishment was re-ordered to accomodate National Socialist ideology. 
Richard Wagner and Hans Pfitzner were notable pre-existing composers who conceptualized a united order (Volksgemeinschaft) where music was an index of the German community.
In a time of disintegration, Wagner and Pfitzner wanted to revitalize the country through music.

Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His own music – including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem – was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Pfitzner’s works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music. His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate ‘Von deutscher Seele’ (Of the German Soul) (1921).

Arnold Schonberg 
A book written about Hans Pfitzner and Wagner, published in Regseneberg in 1939, followed not only the birth of contemporary musical parties, but also of political parties in Germany.
The Wagner-Pfitzner stance contrasted ideas of other notable artists – Arnold Schonberg and Theodor W. Adorno – who wanted music to be autonomous from politics.
Hitler and Winifred Wagner
Although Wagner and Pfitzner came before the Third Reich, their sentiments and thoughts, Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, were aproved of by Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.


Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles,  throughout his life. His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas. Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

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Hitler at Bayreuth 
Bayreuth – Festspeilhaus

The very emphasis on rootedness and on tradition underscored the National Socialist understanding of itself in a dialectic terms: old gods were mobilized against the false values of the immediate past to offer legitimacy to the epiphany of Adolf Hitler and the music representation of his realm.

Composers, librettists, educators, critics, and especially musicologists, through their public statements, intellectual writings, and journals contributed to the justification of a national Socialist view of musical culture.
Certain progressive journalism, pertaining to modern music, was purged.
Journals that had been sympathetic to the ‘German viewpoint,’ entrenched in Wagnerian ideals, like the ‘Zeischrift fur Musik’ and ‘Die Muzik’, showed confidence in the new regime and affirmed the process of intertwining government policies with music.


Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels used the ‘Volkscher Beobatcher’, a journal that was disseminated to the general public in addition to elites and party officials, as an organ of Reich Culture.
By the end of the 1930s the ‘Mitteilungen der Reichsmusikkammer’ became another prominent journal that reflected the music policy, organizational and personnel changes in musical institutions.
In the early years of the Third Reich, the musicologists and musicians redirected the orientation of music, defining what was ‘German Music’ and what was not.
National Socialist ideology was applied to the evaluation of musicians.
Musicians defined in the new German musical era were given new status, while their accomplishments and deeds were seen as direct accomplishments of the Third Reich.
Ludwig van Beethoven
The contribution of German musicologists led to the justification of Third Reich, and a ‘neue deutsche Musikkultur’ – (new German musical culture).
They defined the greater German values that musicians would have to identify with, because their duty was to integrate music and National Socialism so that they became inseparable.
Highly favoured was music which alluded to a mythic, heroic German past such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.
Adolf Hitler honours Bruckner

Anton Bruckner was highly favoured, as his music was regarded as an expression of the zeitgeist of the German volk. 

The music of Arnold Schoenberg (and atonal music along with it), Felix Mendelssohn and many others was no longer played, because they were Jewish or of Jewish origin.
Music by non-German composers was tolerated if it was classically inspired, tonal, and not by a composer of Jewish origin or having ties to ideologies hostile to the Third Reich.


Richard Strauss
The Nazis recognized Franz Liszt and Frédéric Chopin for having German origins.
Music of the Russian Peter Tchaikovsky could be performed in the Third Reich, even after Operation Barbarossa.
Operas by Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini got frequent play.
Richard Strauss, probably the greates living German composer, served as the first director of the Propaganda Ministry’s music division, and Carl Orff produced much work during the Third Reich.

Carl Orff 

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895 – March 29, 1982) was a 20th-century German composer, best known for his cantata Carmina Burana (1937).
His Carmina Burana was hugely popular in the Third Reich after its premiere in Frankfurt in 1937.
In addition to his career as a composer, Orff developed an influential approach of music education for children.
Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Death and Transfiguration’, ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

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SCULPTURE

Josef Thorak – Male Nude
Arno Breker – Male Nude

Sculpture’s monumental possibilities gave it a special status in the expression of National Socialist racial theories.

The ‘Greater German Art Exhibition’ displayed, throughout the period of the Third Reich, a steady rise in the number of sculptures at the expense of paintings.
The most common image was of the heroic nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.
Arno Breker’s skill at this type of sculpture made him Hitler’s favourite sculptor.
Nude females were also common, though they tended to be less monumental.
In both cases, the physical form was to show no imperfections.
Josef Thorak was another official sculptor of the Third Reich owing to his skill at monumental sculpture.

ARNO BREKER

Arno Breker (July 19, 1900 – February 13, 1991) was a German sculptor, best known for his public works in Germany, which were the antithesis of “degenerate art”.

Breker was born in Elberfeld, in the west of Germany, the son of a stonemason.
He began to study architecture, along with stone-carving and anatomy, and at age 20 was accepted to the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts where he concentrated on sculpture.
He first visited Paris in 1924, shortly before finishing his studies.
In 1932, he was awarded a prize by the Prussian Ministry of Culture, which allowed him to stay in Rome for a year.

In 1934 he returned to Germany on the advice of Max Liebermann.
Breker was supported by many Nazi leaders, especially Adolf Hitler.

Even Rosenberg later hailed his sculptures as expressions of the “mighty momentum and will power” (“Wucht und Willenhaftigkeit”) of Nazi Germany.
He took commissions from the German Government from 1933 through 1942, for example participating in a show of his work in occupied Paris in 1942, where he met Jean Cocteau, who appreciated his work.
He maintained personal relationships with Albert Speer and with Hitler.

In 1936 he won the commission for two sculptures representing athletic prowess, intended for the 1936 Olympic games, one representing a “Zehnkämpfer” (The Decathlete) and the other “Die Siegerin” (‘The Victress’).
In 1937 Breker joined the Nazi Party and was made “official state sculptor” by Hitler, given a large property and provided a studio with thousand assistants.
Hitler also exempted him from military service.
His twin sculptures ‘Die Partei’ (‘The Party’) and ‘Das Heer (‘The Army’) held a prominent position at the entrance to Albert Speer’s Neuen Reichskanzlei (new Reich Chancellery).

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POPULAR MUSIC




Germany’s urban centres in the 1920s and 30s were buzzing with jazz clubs, cabaret houses and avant garde music.

In contrast, the National Socialist regime made concentrated efforts to shun modern music (which was considered degenerate and Jewish in nature) and instead embraced classical “German” music.






VÖLKISCH JAZZ

‘Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;
In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;
As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation.
On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;
So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;
Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.’

Baldur von Blodheim
Reichsmusicfuhrer und Oberscharfuhrer SS

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Volksgemeinschaft
Reichsarbeitsdienst

The poster became an important medium for propaganda during this period.

Combining text and bold graphics, posters were extensively deployed both in Germany and in the areas occupied.
Their typography reflected National Socialist official ideology.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism.
Hitler Youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.





ARCHITECTURE

Reichsparteitagsgelände
Albert Speer

Adolf Hitler was an admirer of ancient Greece and imperial Rome, and believed that some ancient Germans had, over time, become part of its social fabric and exerted influence on it.

He considered the Romans an early Aryan empire, and emulated their architecture in an original style inspired by both neoclassicism and Art Deco, sometimes known as “severe” Deco.
He also ordered construction of a type of Altar of Victory, borrowed from the Greeks, who were, according to National Socialist ideology, inseminated with the seed of the Aryan peoples.
The National Socialists believed that architecture played a key role in creating their new order.
Architecture had a special importance to the politicians who sought to influence all aspects of human life.
Volkisch Domestic Architecture

Moreover, not only major cities but also small villages were to express the achievement and the nature of the German people.

It seemed as though the basic design of commonly practised architecture at the time was to be either left in place or modified within Germany’s dominion.
The new building style may have been intended to give the idea to the rest of the world and to the unconverted Germans that the era of the thousand-year Reich had, in fact, dawned.
Hitler was quite fond of the numerous theatres built by Hermann and Ferdinand Fellner, who built in the late baroque style.

Law Courts of Brussels 
Paris Opera

In addition, he appreciated the stricter architects of the 19th century such as Gottfried Semper, who built the Dresden Opera House, the Picture Gallery in Dresden, the court museums in Vienna, and Theophil Freiherr von Hansen, who designed several buildings in Athens in 1840.

He was also enthusiastic about the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera, and the Law Courts of Brussels by the architect Poelaert.
Ultimately, he was always drawn back to inflated neo-baroque such as Kaiser Wilhelm II had fostered, through his court architect Ernst von Ihne.

Reichsparteitagsgelände
Albert Speer
Dietrich Eckart Bühne

Hitler later appreciated the permanent qualities of the classical style as it had a relationship between the Dorians and his own Germanic world.

The neoclassical style was primarily used for urban state buildings or party buildings such as the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg, the planned Volkshalle for Berlin and the Dietrich Eckart Bühne in Berlin.

Ordensburg Sonthofen

The völkish style was primarily used in rural settings for accommodation or community structures like the Ordensburg in Krössinsee, Ordensburg Vogelsang in North Rhine-Westphalia and Ordensburg Krössinsee in Pomerania.

Ordensburg Vogelsang

Ordensburgen were four schools developed for the National Socialist elite. There were strict requirements for admission to the school. Junker candidates had to be aged between 25 and 30 years old, belong to either the NSDAP, the Hitler Youth, the Sturmabteilung, or the Schutzstaffel, be physically completely healthy, and be pure-blooded with no hereditary defects. The schools themselves were typically völkish style buildings with extensive facilities. Vogelsang, for instance, reportedly contained the world’s largest gymnasium at the time. Each student attended all four institutions in sequence, for specialty training, finishing in Marienburg.

It was also to be applied to rural new towns as it represented a mythical medieval time when Germany was free of foreign and cosmopolitan influences.
This style was also used in a limited way for buildings with modern uses like weather service broadcasting and the administration building for the federal post office.

 Reichsautobahn 1936

National Socialism is often viewed as anti-modern and romantic, or having a pragmatic willingness to use modern means in pursuit of anti-modern purposes.

This confuses the Nazi dislike of certain styles like the Bauhaus with a blanket dislike of all modern styles.
This was based mainly on what the Bauhaus and others were seen as representing, like foreign influences or the decadence of the Weimar Republic.
The lack of any human scale details or plain exteriors may have produced an overwhelming effect, but this style was common from the 1910s onwards.

By 1936, 130,000 workers were directly employed in the construction of autobahns, as well as an additional 270,000 in the supply chain for construction equipment, steel, concrete, sign-age  maintenance equipment, etc. In rural areas, new camps to house the workers were built near construction sites. The job creation program aspect was not especially important because full employment was almost reached by 1936. The autobahns were not primarily intended as major infrastructure improvement of special value to the military as often stated because they were of no military value as all major military transports in Germany were done by train to save fuel.

This modern approach was not limited to the neo-classical buildings for city centres, but was also used for völkisch buildings like Ordensburgs and Autobahn garages.
The National Socialists chose new versions of past styles for most of their architecture.
This should not be viewed simply as an attempt to reconstruct the past, but rather an effort to use aspects of the past to create a new present.
Most buildings are ‘copied’ in some form or other, but for the Nazis, copying the past not only linked them to the past in general but also specifically to an Aryan past.
Neo-classical architecture was a direct representation of Aryan culture.
Völkish architecture was also Aryan but of a Germanic nature.
Still, these analogues were not part of an attempt to recreate an actual past, but were meant to emphasize the importance of Aryan culture as a justification for the actions of the present.
While Hitler saw the architecture of the Weimar Republic as an object lesson in cultural decline, the new buildings he would build would teach a different lesson, that of national rebirth.

PAUL TROOST

The first major architect of the Third Reich, and one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century, was Paul Ludwig Troost (17 August 1878 – 21 January 1934).

Troost born in Elberfeld in Westfalen.  An extremely tall, spare-looking, reserved individual 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 and Troost

In 1933 he became Hitler’s foremost architect ,whose neo-classical style became for a time the official architecture of the Third Reich.

His work filled Hitler with enthusiasm, and he planned and built state and municipal edifices throughout Germany.
In the autumn of 1933, he was commissioned to rebuild and refurnish the Chancellery residence in Berlin.

Along with other architects, Troost planned and built State and municipal edifices throughout the country, including new administrative offices, social buildings for workers and bridges across the main highways.

Ehrentempel at Dusk

One of the many structures he planned before his death was the Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) in Munich, intended to be a great temple for a “true, eternal art of the German people”.
It was a good example of the classical forms in monumental public buildings during the Third Reich, though subsequently Hitler moved away from the more restrained style of Troost, reverting to a more ornate style.
Hitler’s relationship to Troost was that of a pupil to an admired teacher.
According to Albert Speer, who later became Hitler’s favorite architect, the Führer would impatiently greet Troost with the words: “I can’t wait, Herr Professor. Is there anything new? Let’s see it !” Troost would then lay out his latest plans and sketches.
Hitler frequently declared, according to Speer, that “he first learned what architecture was from Troost”‘.

Hitler at the Grave of
Paul Troost

Paul Ludwig Troost
1878 – 1934
The architect’s death on 21 January 1934, 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.

Troost was buried in the “Nordfriedhof” Cemetery (North Cemetery) in Munich.
The gravestone still survives although the family name has been removed.
Hitler posthumously awarded Troost the German National Prize for Art and Science in 1936.
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ALBERT SPEER

Albert Speer (born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer – March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect.

As a young man Speer  followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.

Speer as a Student
Heinrich Tessenow 
Speer began his architectural studies at the University of Karlsruhe.
In 1924 he transferred to the “much more reputable” Technical University of Munich.
In 1925 he transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where he studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Speer greatly admired.

Heinrich Tessenow (April 7, 1876 – November 1, 1950) was a German architect, professor, and urban planner. He was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. 
His father was a carpenter, and he studied as an apprentice before studying architecture in a building trade school in Leipzig and at the Technical University of Munich, where he later taught.

Magdeburg Hindenburg-Gedenkalle
(Fahnenhalle) – 1937 – 39
Festspielhaus Hellerau – Dresden

Tessenow taught at the Institute of Technology in Berlin-Charlottenburg from 1926 until 1934. Tessenow is also known through his student, and one-time assistant, the Reichsarchitect Albert Speer. Tessenow taught Speer in 1925 and became Tessenow’s assistant in 1927 at the age of 23. Speer’s memoirs describe Tessenow’s personal, discursive, informal teaching style, and his preference for architecture that expressed national culture and simplified forms. He was known for the saying, “The simplest form is not always the best, but the best is always simple.


After passing his exams in 1927, Speer became Tessenow’s assistant, a high honor for a man of 22.[11] As such, Speer taught some of Tessenow’s classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies.
Hitler mit Albert Speer

In Munich, and continuing in Berlin, Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.
Hitler spoke of Speer as a “kindred spirit” for whom he had always maintained “the warmest human feelings“.
The young, ambitious architect was dazzled by his rapid rise and close proximity to Hitler, which guaranteed him a flood of commissions from the government and from the highest ranks of the Party.

Zepplinfeld Stadium 

When Troost died on January 21, 1934, Speer effectively replaced him as the Party’s chief architect. Hitler appointed Speer as head of the Chief Office for Construction.

One of Speer’s first commissions after Troost’s death was the Zeppelinfeld stadium—the Nürnberg parade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda masterpiece Triumph of the Will. This huge work was capable of holding 340,000 people.

Germania

The tribune was influenced by the Pergamon Altar in Anatolia, but was magnified to an enormous scale.
Hitler ordered Speer to make plans to rebuild Berlin.
The plans centered on a three-mile long grand boulevard running from north to south, which Speer called the Prachtstrasse, or Street of Magnificence; he also referred to it as the “North-South Axis”.
At the north end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build the Volkshalle, a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 700 feet (210 m) high, with floor space for 180,000 people.
At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch; it would be almost 400 feet (120 m) high.

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Sculpture and Architecture

Olympic Stadium
Monumental Reich Adler

Sculpture was used as part of, and in conjunction with, National Socialist architecture to embody the “German Spirit” of divine destiny.
Sculpture expressed the National Socialist obsession with the ideal body, and espoused nationalistic, state approved values like loyalty, work, and family.
Josef Thorak and Arno Breker were the most famous sculptors of the Third Reich.
Arno Breker was nominated as official state sculptor on Hitler’s birthday in 1937.
His technique was excellent, and his choice of subject, poses, and themes were outstanding. Breker uses his numerous “heroic male nudes” to unite the notions of health, strength, competition, collective action and willingness to sacrifice the self for the common good.


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Der Körperkultur im Dritten Reich


Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen


Kultur, in the Third Reich was not just a matter of the ‘academic and applied arts’ – National Socialism was also concerned with ‘physical culture’ – after all, the sculptors and artists needed to model from life.

On a deeper level National Socialism believed that physical beauty and physical perfection was concomitant with an ‘enobled (veredelte Seele) spirituality’.
‘Veredelte Seele’ was believed to be a condition exclusively attained by the Aryan race – and counld not be achieved by non Aryans, and particularly the Jewish race.
The Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRL) (National Socialist League of the Reich for Physical Exercise), known as Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL) until 1938, was the umbrella organization for sports during the Third Reich.
The NSRL was led by the Reichssportführer, who after 1934 was at the same time presiding over the German National Olympic Committee.
The NSRL’s leaders were Hans von Tschammer und Osten (1933–1943), Arno Breitmeyer (1943–1944) and Karl Ritter von Halt (1944–1945).
Sports Organizations Prior to the Third Reich
The 1916 Summer Olympics had been awarded to Berlin, but were cancelled because of the  World War I. 
The Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Olympische Spiele (DRA or DRAfOS) “German Imperial Commission for Olympic Games”, was the German Olympic Sports organization at that time.
In 1917 the “German Imperial Commission for Olympic Games” was renamed Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen (DRA), (sometimes also DRL or, more rarely, DRAfL) (“German Imperial Commission for Physical Exercise”).
The name change reflected Germany’s protest against the fact that Germany and other Central Powers were being excluded from the “Olympic family” which was dominated by the Entente Powers – an interesting example of the corruption of sport by politics.

Carl Diem

The Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen was led by Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem was its Secretary General.

Even though it saw itself as the pan-German umbrella organization for sports, the fact is that it did not represent all types of sports and sports associations of Germany.
A great number of sport clubs, especially those stemming from industrial workers’ background, had not joined the DRA.
After the ‘Enabling Act’ which legally gave Hitler dictatorial control of Germany in March 1933, all sports organizations connected to the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, and  the church, were banned.
This ban affected especially the sports clubs of industrial workers, most of which were called to split up on their own (Selbstauflösung) before the first semester of 1933 was over.
The more conservative nationalistic and bourgeois clubs were allowed to subsist into the following year.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten

In April 1933, Hans von Tschammer und Osten was named Reichskommissar für Turnen und Sport (Commissioner for Gymnastics and Sports of the Reich).

Von Tschammer, however, would keep his predecessor in a high position in the sports body, and years later he would appoint Theodor Lewald as president of the ‘Organizing Committee of the Berlin Olympic Games’.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten was an aristocratic SA group leader.
In the name of ‘gleichschaltung’ he disbanded the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen on May 5, 1933 (officially on May 10).
Gleichschaltung, meaning “coordination”, “making the same”, “bringing into line”, is a term for the process by which the Third Reich successively established a system of control and tight coordination over all aspects of society.
Von Tschammer was then elevated to Reichssportführer on July 19 and the whole sports sphere in Germany was placed under his power.
Sports and propaganda in Nazi Germany: The Aryan ideal
The Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL) was established on July 27, 1934 as the official Sports governing body of the Third Reich.
It would quickly become a formidable system within the German nation.
After the DRL’s foundation all other German sport associations gradually lost their freedom and were coopted into the DRL as units (“Fachämter”).
Even the most prestigious ones, like the ‘German Football Association’ (DFB) were incorperated .
Hans von Tschammer und Osten

Von Tschammer’s goal was to build a formidable sports body in which all German sports associations would be involved.

His vision was that physical exercise would “improve the morale and productivity of German workers” as well as making sports a source of national pride for the Germans.
Sporting skills were made a criterion for school graduation, as well as a necessary qualification for certain jobs and admission to universities.
In 1935 journalist Guido von Mengden, was named public relations officer of the ‘Reich Sports Office’.
He became the personal advisor and consultant of the Reichssportführer in 1936.
Von Mengden became the chief editor of NS-Sport, the official organ of the Reich Sports Office.
Other DRL/NSRL publications included ‘Dietwart’, a sports magazine with excellent illustrations and ‘Sport und Staat’ (Sports and State), a massive four-volume report on the organized sports activities in the Third Reich.
Sport und Staat was made by Arno Breitmeyer and Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann.
This lavishly illustrated work had many pictures and information about the various Nazi organizations, i.e. SA, NSKK, Bund Deutscher Mädel, Hitler Jugend, etc.
The aims of the promotion of sports in the Third Reich included strengthening the spirit of every German, as well as making German citizens feel that they were part of a wider national purpose.
This was in line with the ideals of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the “Father of physical exercises“, who connected the steeling of one’s own body to a healthy spirit and promoted the idea of a unified, strong Germany.

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (August 11, 1778 – October 15, 1852) was a German gymnastics educator and nationalist. He is commonly known as Turnvater Jahn, roughly meaning “father of gymnastics”.
Brooding upon what he saw as the humiliation of his native land by Napoleon, Jahn conceived the idea of restoring the spirits of his countrymen by the development of their physical and moral powers through the practice of gymnastics. The first Turnplatz, or open-air gymnasium, was opened by Jahn in Berlin in 1811, and the Turnverein (gymnastics association) movement spread rapidly. Young gymnasts were taught to regard themselves as members of a kind of guild for the emancipation of their fatherland. This nationalistic spirit was nourished in no small degree by the writings of Jahn.

Another aim  was the demonstration of Aryan physical superiority.

Von Tschammer’s impressively staged events of sports pageantry not only enhanced the physical activity, but also the nationalism of Germans.
‘Nordic aesthetic beauty’, and commitment to Germanic ideals of race went hand in hand during the Third Reich, and von Tschammer und Osten implemented a policy of racial exclusion within sports.
Athletes of Jewish origin were excluded from participation in relevant sporting events.

Nacktkultur

German Nacktkultur, or Freikörperkultur (free body movement), refers to a network of private clubs that promoted nudism as a way of linking the modern body more closely to nature, giving it a freer presence in the great outdoors.

‘Nacktende Mensch’
Heinrich Pudor (Heinrich Scham, 1865–1943) supposedly coined the term Nacktkultur around 1903.
His book ‘Nacktende Mensch’ (1893) and the three-volume ‘Nacktkultur’ (1906) established an enduring link between Nacktkultur, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including anti-Semitism).
However, Rothschuh claims that Nacktkultur first appeared in Germany in the 1870s, along with the animal protection, vegetarian, and natural healing movements.
Nudity was an important feature of Freikörperkultur well before World War I, and the idea of nudity as a healthful activity apparently owed something to the medical profession’s efforts to combat such diseases as tuberculosis with what before the war was called ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’ (air and light therapy) or ‘Heliotherapie’.
As late as 1922 a Munich film-maker  Robert Reinert, released a film (‘Nerven’) that concluded with scenes of nude bodies in the mountains finally cured of neurasthenic ailments contracted in a decadent urban environment.
Membership in the more than two hundred German nudist clubs seems to have appealed equally to men and women.
The movement produced numerous journals, and by the late 1920s books on the subject of Nacktkultur were only slightly less numerous than all those devoted to sportsand dance.

Nacktkultur

Yet Nacktkultur, at that time, had no unified ideology.
Nacktkultur was a constellation of subcultures, each of them pursuing values that were not always, or even usually, common to the constellation as a whole.

Indeed, one might even say that, for each subculture, the naked body functioned as a sign of ideological difference rather than as a universal identifier in relation to the alienating pressures of modernity.
The tendency to read Nacktkultur as an anti-intellectual, völkisch (or, at least, conservative) response to the problems of urbanization and rationalization results from an emphasis on two issues often associated with the phenomenon: the use of racial and eugenic theory to justify nudism; and the idea that “natural” nudism was anti-erotic and did not disturb conventional sexual morality.
But Nacktkultur was actually much more complex than we might suppose from such a focus. Something deeper is at stake in critiques of Nacktkultur that seek to bestow a stable political identity on the constellation of subcultures and in the subcultures that seek to bestow a stable political identity on the naked body itself.
Far from being, as some have considered, anti-intellectual, it spawned a considerable philosophical discourse that ascribed deep metaphysical significance to the human body.

Körpersinn – Body Sense
Male Nude – Männlicher Akt

In his insightful book ‘Körpersinn’ (Body Sense) – (1927), Wolfgang Graeser gave perhaps the most direct articulation of this preoccupation with constructing a metaphysics of the body:

The dark, chaotic side of Western technocracy has damned the body, branded it with hell and sin. But in the luminous side, the body stands anew in unconcealed clarity. Exposed and naked is our thinking. Now we comprehend the body, uncaged and without veiling insinuations. Radiant bronze skin mirrors the light of the Olympian sun with the same pure sobriety as the sparkling pistons of clearly formed machines“.

Wolfgang Graeser (1906-1928), whose book Körpersinn (1927), remains an engrossing commentary on the body culture of the era.
Graeser was a protégé of Oswald Spengler, and he shared the master’s vision of apocalyptic transformation in Western civilization:
The evolution of the West now stands in its final stage. The path is prescribed upon which we must move forward“.
This path “can only come out of those sources of life which gymnastics has rediscovered,” for “so long as we feel the red pulse of our bloodstream our being is assured“. 

Körpersinn – Body Sense

Graeser’s book contained no pictures, no “totems” (as he put it) of body culture, no discussion of any body culture personalities, no discussion of any techniques, specific dances, body types, schools of physical education, or documented achievements; it did not even contain any dates, except for frequent reference to the war as the decisive moment in the awakening of modern “body sense.”
Although he clearly differentiated the objectives of sport, gymnastics, and dance, Graeser treated them as abstract theoretical categories, which he did not analyze in relation to subcategories or specific manifestations.
He specified sport as the most “rational” mode of body culture. Graeser sought to reveal the metaphysical significance of the body.


Martin Heidegger
An even deeper thinker, Martin Heidegger, made a relevant contribution to theories on the metaphysics of the body when, in his work ‘Sein und Zeit’ (Being and Time) (1927), he linked the mysterious concept of “unveiling” simultaneously to the construction of truth and to the manifestation of being itself.

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the “question of Being”.
His best known book, ‘Sein und Zeit‘ (Being and Time), is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.
Writing extensively on Nietzsche in his later career, and offering a “phenomenological critique of Kant” in his ‘Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik’ (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics), Heidegger is known for his post-Kantian philosophy. Heidegger’s influence has been far reaching, from philosophy to theology, deconstructionism, cultural anthropology, literary theory, architecture, and artificial intelligence.
Heidegger supported National Socialism and the Third Reich.

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Nackte Mädchen
Nackte Junge
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Perceptions and images of human bodies are apparently the source of the most powerful and disturbing emotions people can experience.

Perhaps this relation to perception is due to the fact that bodies (their flesh, at any rate) for the most part remain hidden by clothes.
Similarly, the flesh itself hides an intricate and mysterious field of invisible activities whose material identity no microscope can yet reveal, activities we designate by such terms as “emotion,” “desire,” “drive,” “consciousness,” “memory,” “mind,” “soul,” and “the unconscious.”
The invisibility of these activities is itself evidence of a dark, formless, or metaphysical dimension to the body.
But if we associate modern identity with an anti-metaphysical belief system that achieves its strongest expression through antifigural abstraction, then we do not need to see the body itself as a relevant sign of modern identity: all that matters is a modern mind.
By pushing representation and performance toward ever greater intensities of abstraction, much of modernist culture attempted to demystify the body and liberate people from the deep—hence, dark—controls over perception emanating from the body or its image.
No more nudes,” demanded the futurists, for they understood well that memory structures emotion, and nothing stirs emotion so profoundly as the sight of the naked body.
Thus, the liberation of people from memory, from the past, depended on their being freed from the emotions they attach to the body.

Nackt Junge
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Nackt Hitlerjugend

Much of modernist cultural history until recently has avoided dealing with strands of modernism that focus perception on the body rather than away from it, perhaps because modern identity seems less difficult to achieve or comprehend when it is aligned with a constant idea of the body that lies beyond the grasp of those conditions of perception and signification that make identity modern.

‘Nacktkultur’ projected an ambiguous political identity because it treated the body as a double sign: on the one hand, it presented nudity as a return to an eternal primeval; on the other hand, it regarded modern identity as an unprecedented condition of nakedness.
With the rise of Völkisch movements and National Socialism, nudism burst out of its bourgeois enclaves.
By the late 1920s the lure of the ‘nudist arcadia’ had extended its influence across the best part of the ideological spectrum and thereby furnished clear proof that the naked body could become the focus of reformist, educational and aesthetic ideas.
It was a telling symptom of the degree of material uncertainty and mental anxiety then prevailing that human beings felt compelled to return to the most basic point of orientation, the body, in order to redefine their perception of society and their relation to it.
The cult of the naked body had its origins in Germany around the turn of the twentieth century. The German FKK clubs-the literal translation of Freikoerperkultur is “bare (or open-air) body culture” – from which naturism took its cue, retain even now some of the high-minded ideals associated with nudism in the first third of the century.

FKK – Javelin Thrower
FKK – Freikoerperkultur

At first many German and Austrian nudists were suspicious to the National Socialist regime, though not because of the free body cult.
Instead it was because the practice wasn’t official.
There was not a prudish or anti-pleasure atmosphere, though permissiveness was always coupled with thoughts on race, however, due to their willingness to be co-opted by the party, nudists achieved official state recognition fairly quickly.
The greatest success of the movement was the 1942 “Police Decree for the Regulation of Bathing,” which allowed nude swimming.

During the Third Reich Hans Surén published “Mensch und Sonne,” a collection of nude photographs.

Nackt Hitlerjugend Jungen Duschen

Though the numerous photographs of nude bodies no doubt enhanced the appeal of the book, the main attraction was the radiant mythic apparatus Surén constructed to justify a new culture based on “naked living.”
From Surén’s perspective, it was necessary to detach nudity from the association with sickness it had acquired through its use in ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’, and from its stigmatization by anxiety-ridden forces of “prudery” that were poisoning modern civilization.

Convergence of Health, Strength, and Beauty

Open nudity, for Surén, was a sign of health, strength, and beauty (relating nudity to the visual arts); the text implied that people do not “open” their nudity to the world unless their bodies possess all three qualities.
Surén saw nudity as the key to achieving a convergence of health, strength, and beauty.
As long as people remained remote from their own bodies, as long as they were unable to see their own bodies, they could not possibly enjoy health, strength, or beauty.
Because nudity was a natural condition, the proper setting for its manifestation was the great outdoors.
Almost all the photos in ‘Der Mensch und die Sonne’ showed nude bodies in flower-speckled meadows, sun-drenched beaches, grassy flatlands, tranquil marshes, and snow-bright alpine slopes.
He perceived nudity above all as a matter of the body’s relation to sunlight, of its power to see and be seen in a great, open space in which nothing hides the horizon.

Nackt Hitlerjugend an der Nordsee

The “friendship” between sunlight and flesh motivated activities that strengthened and
beautified the body.
The urge to be naked, he believed, lies dormant within us, yet it is as strong as the urge to feel the light of the sun.
The primary activity was gymnastics, with hiking, swimming, and non-competitive sports (such as archery) assuming subordinate significance.
Not surprisingly, Surén promoted his own gymnastic method, which stressed the use of medicine balls, weights, and throw-thrust exercises.
Naked exercises achieved maximum effect when performed in groups rather than alone.
Yet he separated nude gymnastics from competitive sports, which could have unhealthy consequences for the body.
And though he accepted nude dancing as an agreeable component of Nacktkultur , he clearly regarded it as an activity for women.
The profound freedom offered by the conjunction of nudity, sunlight, and open space depended on the perfection of self-discipline resulting from gymnastic training.
Despite his emphasis on group performance, Surén saw nudity and gymnastics as modes of self-discovery and will formation.
The photographs, which feature both men and women, tend to portray “blood and soil” motifs, with a glorification of Aryan supermen (and women).

Mensch und Sonne

It has been suggested that some of the photographs have homoerotic undertones to them, and some feature full frontal male and female nudity.
What is interesting about ‘Mensch und Sonne’, is that it was officially endorsed by the the government of the Third Reich as being in agreement with its political and racial ideology. 
Völkisch groups and National Socialists promoted nudism, and at one point promoted premarital sex for the purpose of breeding a new generation of the master race.
The SS magazine, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, advertized  Surén’s book, even giving it an entire page in a pre-Christmas issue.
In that edition the magazine stated that : “We want a strong and joyful affirmation of body awareness, because we need it to build a strong and self-confident race.”
Nudity was seen partly as a means of encouraging the “health of the race.”


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

‘Archaic Postmodernity’

National Socialist dignitaries devoted much energy to the promotion of German sculptors and helped them considerably in the execution of massive bas-reliefs and in the erection of monumental stone and bronze sculptures.
The political goal was obvious: to bring German art as close as possible to the German people, so that any German citizen, regardless social standing, could identify himself or herself with a specific artistic achievement.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the German art of that time witnessed a return to ‘classicism‘.
Models from Antiquity and the Renaissance were to some extent adapted to the needs of National Socialist Germany.
Numerous German sculptors benefited from the logistic and financial support of the political elite.

‘Flora’ – Arno Breker
Arno Breker
Their sculptures resembled, either by form, or by composition, the works of Praxiteles or Phidias of ancient Greece, or the sculptures of Michelangelo during the Renaissance.
The most prominent German sculptors of that time were Arno Breker, Josef Thorak, and Fritz Klimsch, who although enjoying the significant resources of the National Socialist regime, were never members of the NSDAP.
Sculptures of female nudes, such as “Flora” by Breker, “Girl” by Fehrle, or “Glance” by Klimsch, show beautiful and geometrically defined women with perfect bodies, narrow ankles, and well rounded and well-proportioned breasts.

Fritz Klimsch (10 February 1870, Frankfurt am Main – 30 March 1960, Freiburg) was a German sculptor.
Klimsch studied at the Royal College for the Academic Fine Arts in Berlin, and was then a student of Fritz Schaper. In 1898 Klimsch was a founding member of the Berlin Secession.
In the era of National Socialism Klimsch was highly regarded as an artist, and created busts of Erich Ludendorff, Wilhelm Frick and Adolf Hitler. According to a diary entry by Goebbels, Klimsch was the most mature of our sculptors. A genius. In September 1944 Klimsch was named in the highest rank of artists of the Third Reich, in the Gottbegnadeten list.
Shortly before his death in 1960 Klimsch received the Federal Cross of Merit. He was an honorary citizen of Saige, where he was buried.

Male Nude
Fritz Klimsch 1870-1960 
‘Bauer’
Jacob Wilhelm Fehrle – 1884-1974
In addition, the fact that many sculptures show nude males embracing nude females indicates that National Socialism was by no means a “conservative” or “reactionary” movement, and that Puritan Anglo-Saxon prudishness was completely alien to it.
It is difficult to deny the great talent of Breker or Klimsch, even if some critics characterize their sculptures as workmanlike ‘copies‘ of classic artists.

Etude pour l`Action enchaînée, bronze 1905
Aristide Maillol
As a young man, Breker lived in France where he was influenced by his future friend and sculptor, Aristide Maillol.

Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol (December 8, 1861 – September 27, 1944) was a French Catalan sculptor, painter, and printmaker.
The subject of nearly all of Maillol’s mature work is the female body, treated with a classical emphasis on stable forms. The figurative style of his large bronzes, and his serene classicism set a standard for European and American)figure sculpture until the end of World War II.

In spite of his political troubles, Breker continued to work after the war making busts of his friends, (Salvador Dali, Hassan II, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, etc).
It should be noted that Breker, in the wake of the Allied occupation of Germany, was requested by the Soviets to continue his artistic career in the Soviet Union – an offer that he refused.



The New Soviet Man and Woman
Prometheus – Arno Breker
It goes without saying that it is possible to draw certain parallels between the gigantism of the plastic art in National Socialist Germany and that of the Soviet Union (the naked Prometheus vis-à-vis the muscular and shirtless hammer-holding proletarian!).
Yet the differences are again glaring: in Communist countries one could never find sculptures representing nude women and men – which confirms the thesis that Communism, although politically frightening, was primarily a prudish and conservative system.
Indeed, even today, one can hardly encounter pictorial or plastic representations of embracing couples in China, Cuba, or in North Korea.
Neverthless, the sculptures of Venus or nymphs by Breker or Thorak display nothing provocative or pornographic; they rarely trigger sexual fantasies or erotic dreams, as is perhaps the case with the naked beauties painted by the Jewish-Italian artist Amadeo Modigliani.
You and Me – Arno Breker
Upon the faces of the sculptures representing nude women made by German artists, one comes across an enigmatic and aristocratic smile, and a deep sense of the tragic, which reflect, symbolically, the feelings of a whole nation in search of its geopolitical identity.
Little trace can be found of female coquetry or flirtatiousness, such as one encounters among the nudes painted by the French realist, Gustave Courbet, by the Impressionist Edouard Manet, or by Paul Cézanne.
German painting of that time represents a chapter apart.
Contrary to widespread ideas, “kitsch” was never part of art in National Socialist Germany. Indeed, the German National Socialist authorities adopted repressive measures against kitsch” in the arts resembling those invoked against alleged “degenerate art.”
Regarding painting, the early school of expressionism was abandoned and even severely repressed by the authorities as “degenerate art.”
Expressionism, as opposed to Impressionism which originated in France, is paradoxically the typical feature of the German character and temperament, just as it is of other Germanic peoples (Flemings, Scandinavians).
Nevertheless, German artists of the expressionist school did not obtain the regime’s green light to exhibit their works.

Edvard Munch
Dr. Joseph Goebbels
Schools of thought that had emerged from cultural circles such as ‘Die Brücke’ or ‘Neue Sachligkeit’ at the beginning of the twentieth century, were assailed by the National Socialist censorship.
Nevertheless, Dr. Joseph Goebbels was a great admirer of expressionist artists, and was on friendly terms with the Norwegian forerunner of expressionism, the famous painter, Edvard Munch.
In December 1933, Goebbels sent a telegram to Edvard Munch on his seventieth birthday describing him as the spiritual heir of the Nordic spirit.
Goebbels was also among the first to send condolences to his family on the occasion of his death in January 1944.

Edvard Munch (Norwegian: [ˈɛdvɑʈ muŋk]  ( listen); 1863–1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. One of his most well-known works is ‘The Scream’ of 1893.

Gottfried Benn
There were thus serious differences among Völkisch politicians and academics regarding the nature and artistic value of expressionism, not just in its pictorial form, but also as poetic expression, as indicated by a still much admired German expressionist poet and cultural pessimist, Gottfried Benn, who was himself very close to National Socialism, and who, in his earlier days, conceived of National Socialism as first and foremost a cultural movement.
This is important because it shows that the National Socialist experiment, contrary to the later liberal-communist propaganda, was by no means a monolithic movement, and that considerable personal and  æsthetical differences prevailed among its high ranking members and sympathizers.
The German painters, who, between 1933 and 1945, gained considerable reputation were by and large neo-classicist portraitists and landscape painters, who avoided pathetic and exaggerated compositions, and attempted to rid artistic work of every trace of the influence of Cubism and abstract art.

Paul Matthias Padua – Ser Fuehrer Spricht – 1939
Overall, one can sense in many of their paintings the revival of the taste for primitive art and a return to the Flemish masters of the fifteenth century.
Certain parallels can again be drawn with the paintings known as “socialist-realist” in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, however, even here the difference is obvious.
Whereas one can see on the paintings of Soviet artists peasants and workmen adorned with their perpetual grins, and in the background a factory under construction, on the German paintings of that time seldom can one see signs of industrialization.

Sepp Hilz – Bäuerliche Venus, 1939
Traces of the asphalt, chimneys spewing fumes, or factories in full gear – such as one can observe among “socialist-realist” painters (and in their titanic and apocalyptic form among the futuristic artists in fascistic Italy!), very rarely appear in the German paintings of that period.
Just as one can draw a comparison between German sculptors and Soviet sculptors, one can also notice a difference between figurative art under Communism and figurative art under National Socialism.
In the art galleries of the Third Reich the scenes of attractive rural nymphs abound (Amadeus Dier, Johannes Beutner, Sepp Hilz, etc).
These pastoral beauties, which can be observed on oil paintings, exude family harmony, and seem to anticipate a well-deserved rest after a hard day’s work in the cornfields.
Also worth mentioning is the artist and a wood engraver, Ernst von Dombrowski, whose scenes of country life and young children playing, still win great praise from critics.
In conclusion, one can state that the German sculpture of that time, proclaims, at least as a rule, a message of racial and Promethean hygiene, while the paintings of that time reveal a distinct and populist (völkisch) tendency that can hardly be misconstrued for any ideological or political speculation.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013