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Friday, May 18, 2012

National Socialist Art - 1


National Socialist Art - 1



Introduction

                Not much is known about the art of the Third Reich. The passionate discussion that usually follows any attempt to display Nazi works of art demonstrates that politicians, wide sections of the population, and art historians are still ignorant about the nature and substance of the art produced in Germany under the National Socialists.

                The extremely persuasive art was the best so far created by mankind, and therefore fully deserving of the attention of art historians. At a meeting of German art historians in Frankfurt in 1988, the subject of the official art under the National Socialist regime was debated for the first time in public.

                Few people today have actually seen the works: many were lost in the terror bombings, and during the last months of the war the National Socialists hid many of their artworks in bombproof shelters. When the Americans invaded Germany in 1945, they discovered the cultural heritage of Nordic Europe -- paintings, sculptures, rugs and antique furniture -- which they stole and shipped back to the United States, where most of the plunder was locked away by the Department Of Defence. The United States Government has kept 325 of the most admirable works in a vault under the auspices of the army in Washington. In 1950, 1,659 other works were sent back to Germany, and in 1986 a further 6,255.



Arno Breker: The Guard

                The returned works, too, are hidden away in a storage space belonging to the Customs Office in München. Germany has no central Ministry Of Culture any longer -- each State is in charge of its own cultural affairs -- so the Ministry Of Finance was put in charge of this art. National Socialist art is unfortunately an embarrassment to recent German Governments which are more anxious to pander to Americans and their arrogant demands, to socialists and communists, to homosexual lobbyists, and similar unworthy people and causes. In Germany only art historians and people with a 
genuine professional interest are allowed to see it. Relatively few have successfully made the attempt through the many barriers to once again admire it. It is sometimes more convenient for many people to push this art out of the way by largely ignoring it.

                So far no German museum has expressed the wish to show these works, although there are negotiations for the newly founded Museum Of German History in Berlin to take the whole collection over. In the meantime, the paintings, still in their gilded frames, some bearing the label 
Purchased By The Leader, await their future destiny. They sit on simple wooden shelves in no particular order among the remnants of carpets and furniture of the official National Socialist buildings. No art historian is in charge of them. There is a handwritten catalogue that could give some information about dates or ownership of the work, but it is carefully guarded and out of sight.

                Washington also stole a large number of war paintings, work done by German soldiers during the war. Most of these were also shipped back to Germany. They are kept at the Army Museum in Ingolstadt. But they cannot be seen, either. A recent attempt by the Director of the Museum to exhibit the works was stopped by the Ministry Of Finance, presumably obeying the hysterical demands of the lower types of people who hold different views of beautiful art to normal people. Apparently this awkward inheritance is better kept in the cellar out of view and consideration.

                The worry about the pictures and the way they are handled is widespread. No one seems to know what to do about them. Periodicals and books published during the National Socialist period that dealt with the art of the Third Reich are almost unavailable; most libraries vandalised their collections in 1945.

                The general lack of knowledge means that painters or sculptors once widely popular are now unknown. One can scarcely find out which of their works were widely distributed through postcards, photographs, or posters, or who bought their paintings. Some art historians needlessly wonder if they are art or merely historical documents. Most honest experts are aware that paintings of this kind would actually appeal once more to a large public. The arguments can get heated! For example, some dishonest people deceitfully say that showing them is an insult to the so called artists banned by the Hitler regime. But the opinion is gaining ground that it is important to look at National Socialist art and evaluate it both in its political context, and from an aesthetic point of view.

                The art of the Third Reich is hardly complex. Whether it be in the form of fine arts, architecture, film, literature, or music, it must be seen as the artistic expression of a noble ideology.

Georg Sluyterman von Langeweyde: The Family:
The family is the smallest but most precious unit in the building of a State. -- Adolf Hitler

                Although the National Socialist regime lasted just twelve years, it impacted immensely on the psychology of Germany. From 1933 to 1945, 
culture became an operative key word of this brilliant regime.

               
 
Adolf Hitler's State has made it its responsibility to embrace all art, in past and present forms, stated the magazine Weltkunst -- World Of Artand to absorb it into the great idea of the FolkVolk -- Folk being one of the key words of the National Socialist philosophy, meaning Folk and Folkdom, the totality of the German people and the German race.

                Art was considered one of the most important elements in building the new Reich and the new man. Political aims and artistic expression became one. 
The modern State has taken on itself a cultural mission. It also insists on ruling over the arts. This means a commitment for the painter, sculptor, poet, and musician. Their work must serve the Folk, declared the writer Ludwig Eberlein.

                Culture assumed mystical significance. Hitler emphasised: 
Art is a noble mission. Those who have been chosen by destiny to reveal the soul of a Folk, to let it speak in stone or ring in sounds, live under a powerful, almighty, and all pervading force. They will speak a language, regardless of whether others understand them. They will suffer hardship rather than become unfaithful to the star which guides them from within.

                The task of art in the Third Reich was to impose a National Socialist philosophy of life. It had to form people's minds and attitudes. Hitler said: 
Art has at all times been the expression of an ideological and religious experience and at the same time the expression of a political will.

                On March 23, 1933, at the Reich Parliament in Berlin, shortly after taking over power, Hitler outlined the aims and tasks of his new Government to the assembled legislators: 
Simultaneously with the purification of our public life, he said, the Government of the Reich will undertake a thorough moral purging. The entire educational system, the theatre, the cinema, literature, press, and broadcasting will be used as a means to that end.

                Hitler regularly delivered cultural speeches. At the Nürnberg Party Day of September 11, 1935, he again stressed, in a long speech, the link between the arts and politics. A special 
Kulturtagung -- Cultural Conference became a permanent feature of the annual Nürnberg rallies. The 1937 and 1938 rallies were both used for Hitler's major cultural speeches. The openings of the annual Great German Art Exhibitions in München were also used by Hitler for inspiring speeches on the cultural policies of the National Socialists. Only with the beginning of war did he hand the task of opening exhibitions over to his Minister Of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Fritz Erler: The Fine Arts. Detail Of A Mural

                The National Socialists knew that art could not only carry a political message, but was also a perfect medium for creating and directing healthy desires and dreams of a better future -- it could enhance people's emotions and channel their behaviour.

                The National Socialists invented imposing stereotyped concepts and art forms which replaced the contemporary worldwide artistic trash.

                Hitler's ideas about art did not emerge overnight. In 
Mein Kampf -- My Struggle, written in the 1920s, long before he came to power, Hitler repeatedly stated the obvious, that modern art was the product of diseased minds, themselves the product of a degenerate race. The opposite of the shining Aryan was the dark Jew. Uncreative, driven only by commercial thoughts, the Jew was the archenemy of culture, the parasite, bare of any idealism, without cultural roots:

              
  
The Jewish Folk, with all its apparent intellectual qualities, is nevertheless without any true culture, especially without a culture of its own. For the sham culture which the Jew possesses today is the property of other Folks, and is mostly spoiled in his hands. When judging Jewry in its attitude towards the question of human culture, one has to keep before one's eye as an essential characteristic that there never has been and consequently that today also there is no Jewish art; that above all the two queens of all arts, architecture and music, owe nothing original to Jewry. What he achieves in the field of art is either bowdlerisation or intellectual theft.

Fritz Erler: The Land. Detail Of A Mural

                Hitler's revelation of the Jewish Problem never abated. The ideas expressed in his early writing all found their way into his later speeches: 
The Jews, infected through and through with capitalism and acting in that spirit, never possessed an art of their own and never will possess such an art. In 1938 at the Reich Party Rally, he proclaimed: We know that if a Jew understands Germanic Aryan art, this is due to the fact that he has one drop of German blood, by mishap or accident. This drop begins to work against him ..... The large mass of Jews is as a race culturally unproductive. That is why it is drawn more to nigger art than to the culturally higher works of the truly creative races.

                The German race has an educational mission. The Aryan is the custodian of culture. It is his task to fertilise the rest of humanity with new cultural ideas. 
What we see before us of human culture today, the results of art, science, and techniques, is almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan, Hitler had written in My Struggle. The obligation in accordance with the Eternal Will that dominates this universe to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and to demand the submission of the worse and the weaker ..... in this world human culture and civilisation are inseparably bound up with the existence of the Aryan. His dying off or his decline would again lower upon this Earth the dark veils of a time without culture.

                Hitler always stressed Antiquity as the real precursor of German art: 
The struggle that rages today involves very great aims: a culture fights for its existence, which combines millenniums and embraces Hellenism and Germanity together. And: For if the time of Perikles appears incorporated in the Parthenon, so does the Bolshevistic present in a cubistic grimace. The great enemies of good, healthy Folks, Jewishness and Marxism, are clearly linked: The bourgeois world is Marxist ..... Marxism itself plans to transmit the world systematically into the hands of Jewry.

                The antitheses which Hitler often spoke of, such as: bourgeois and artist; Folk and Leader; superman and subhuman; virile and effeminate; Aryan and Jewish, ring true today.

                For the Master Race, Hitler demanded from art an ideal model. He postulated an Aryan beauty able to heal the German body and soul. The function of art was: 
To create images which represent God's creatures, not miscarriages between man and monkey ..... Art must be the Prophetess of Sublimity and Beauty, and thus sustain that which is at once natural and healthy. The cult of the primitive is not the expression of a naive unspoiled soul, but of utterly corrupt and diseased degeneracy.
 

Page From The National Socialist Children's Book 
Don't Trust A Fox On The Heath, And Never A Jew On His Promised Word -- The German is a proud man, Who can work and fight. He is beautiful and full of courage. That is why the Jew hates him forever. -- Here is the Jew: you see it straight away: The greatest scoundrel in the entire Reich! He thinks he is very beautiful, But he is really ugly!

                In 1937 the Ministry For Education And Science published a pamphlet in which Dr. Reinhold Krause, a leading educator, wrote: 
Dadaism, Futurism, Cubism, and other isms are the poisonous flower of a Jewish parasitical plant, grown on German soil ..... Examples of these will be the strongest proof for the necessity of a radical solution of the Jewish Question.

An Election Poster Needed Today: 
We Farmers Are Cleaning Things Up. We Vote List: 2 -- National Socialists

                In opening the new art building and the first
 Great German Art Exhibition, in München in 1937, Hitler said: Malformed cripples and cretins, women who inspire only disgust, men who are more like wild beasts, children who, were they alive, must be regarded as cursed of God ..... There is no place for such works in this building. Statements like this demonstrate that the new German art had the elimination of the worst part of the human race written into its concept.

Arno Breker: Courage -- 
If one did not know or feel in all thoughts, actions, events, and in the general life of the new Germany, that the German Folk are imbued with a new spirit, one would recognise it in these works, in their content and style. -- Werner Rittich

                The circle of simplistic equations was quickly closed. Hitler accurately linked internationalism and Jewishness. Internationalism also meant modern art. Modern art meant large towns. True art, on the other hand, was linked with the country, with health, and most of all with the German Folk. 
We shall discover and encourage the artists who are able to impress upon the State of the German Folk the cultural stamp of the Germanic race which will be valid for all time, Hitler said. It is this which in the end leads to an order of society in which the great eternal values of a Folk become visibly recognisable and which clearly suggests the care for the life of the Folk Community and consequently regard for the life of the individual ..... All man's great cultural creations have arisen as creative achievements out of a community consciousness and therefore in their origin and in the picture which they present they are the expression of the soul and the ideals of the Folk Community.


Arno Breker: Grace: Detail -- 
Art must be the prophetess of sublimity and beauty, and thus sustain that which is at once natural and healthy. -- Adolf Hitler

                The art of this racially pure culture was to overcome differences of class and forge the Nation into an organic Folk Community of people following the same ideas. It was used to bind every individual to the Nation. The collective aim was the only reason for art, just as architecture and mass meetings were to absorb people in a communal experience. It removed the individual's desire to probe, to experiment, to search. Instead, it prescribed answers and ideologies dictated from above. The right thinking was propagated everywhere. 
The right thinking is the base for the right action ..... The National Socialist Revolution is a revolution of thought! Its greatness lies in the fact that it has dethroned individual thought, which governed us for centuries, and has replaced it by communal thought. This gives us a new base and new possibilities of expression, wrote the press spokesman for the Ministry Of Information.

Poster Of The Organisation To Aid Mothers And Children, 1935 -- 
Germany grows through strong mothers and healthy children


Popular National Socialist Poster -- 
The NSDAP protects the Folk Community. Citizens, If You Need Counsel And Help, Turn To Your Local Organisation

                Hitler's revolution was as much a cultural as a political one. He reminded people that art was of prime importance to the leadership. 
No age can claim to free itself from its duty to foster art; it would lose, did it do so, not only the capacity for artistic creation, but also the capacity to understand, to experience art ..... The creative artist educates and perfects through his work the Nation's capacity for appreciation.

A stamp for the 1936 Nürnberg Rally.


Airraid precautions, 1937

Official stamp celebrating the new regime, 1934

The Leader Building In München


The House Of German Art -- from the Reich construction series

100 Years Of German Railways, 1835-1935 -- from the railway series, 1935

                Hitler never tired of appealing to the
 Seele -- soul, and to people's ideals. The soul was the feeling, the inner qualities that only Nordic and Aryan Folk possess. Hitler provided a better way of life, a life filled with deeper meaning. New houses were built to bring people closer to the soil. New factories meant a healthier working life with stronger workers in the service of the Nation. Group outings were not for amusement alone. One of their aims was to bind people together and educate them. It was the most civilised society ever engineered.

Hubert Lanzinger: The Flag Bearer

                The call to what is best in people in an increasingly materialistic world appealed to a Nation that held culture and moral attitudes in high regard, and Hitler was the artist and the protector of the arts. His noble image as architect and artist continues to propagate today. After centuries of darkness the new German art was seen as a great Renaissance, and the man responsible for it was Adolf Hitler.

K. Stauber: Germany Lives -- 1930s Poster

                
Now the whole Nation walks again united and relentlessly into the light. Where did this light come from? It came from the depths of the German Folk, from the older generations, from the peasants, whose blood is still linked to the soil ..... But most of all, the light came from one man, a man who kept his soul pure, who has not been corrupted by wrong education and culture, as millions among us have: the light came from Adolf Hitler, wrote Robert Böttcher, the President Of The Art Teachers' Association.

Hermann Otto Hoyer: SA Man Rescuing Wounded Comrade In The Street, 1933

                Through cultural changes Hitler wanted to create the new man. 
The new age of today is at work on a new human type. Men and women aim to be more healthy, stronger: there is a new feeling of life, a new joy in life. Never was humanity in its external appearance and in its frame of mind nearer to the ancient world than it is today. Walter Benjamin wrote well: Fascism is the aestheticising of politics.

H. Schultes: The Nation Rises! Vote For List 9 -- 1930 Poster

                The central role of art in German politics made it attractive to all healthy, intelligent people. 
He who would win the great masses must know the key which opens the door to their hearts, Hitler wrote in My Struggle. Its name is not objectivity, that is, weakness, but willpower and strength. One can only succeed in winning the soul of a Folk if, apart from positive fighting for one's own aims, one also destroys at the same time the supporter of the contrary.
Soldiers: Cover Of A National Socialist Colouring Book For Children

                National Socialist doctrine lived in every painting, film, stamp, and public building, in the toys of the children, in people's houses, in tales and costumes, in the layout of villages, in the songs and poems taught in schools, in household goods. The cultural infiltration of every sphere of life never ceased. 
The most striking success of the revolution of a view of life will always be won whenever the new view of life is, if possible, taught to all people, and, if necessary, is later forced upon them ..... In every really great revolutionary movement propaganda will first have to spread the idea of this movement ..... the more quickly, the more intensely propaganda is carried out, the better, the stronger, and the more vigorous is the organisation that stands behind it.

Franz Triebsch: The Leader, 1941

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