National Socialist Art - 10
The Vernacular Style
The order of the communities, in medieval times, was determined by the natural order of society. Today too, our Folk Community demands a healthy and orderly organisation for our homes. The newly founded unity in communal life and communal space reflects the National Socialist Revolution. This is the base for new homes and not, as so many architects still believe, a variety of aesthetic ideas ..... The German land belongs to the Folk Community. This calls for the protection of the Homeland. The National Socialist worldview demands urban planning along the lines of politicogeographical considerations, and with a feeling for the landscape. -- Karl Neupert, Die Gemeinschaft formt das Bild der deutschen Städte, Heimatpflege-Heimatgestaltung, appendix to Der Deutsche Baumeister -- The German Master Builder, 1939, number 6, page 64.
If monumentalism was the style of official buildings, vernacular was usually used for housing, and for the Party's youth hostels. The folksy, country village style fitted in with the preconceptions about landscape and a feeling for tradition. It also blended with the Folkish idea.
The National Socialists had turned against the big cities with their asphalt culture and urban decadence. Big cities were international, sophisticated, open to the world; the places where modern art was made and enjoyed, a disorganised mix of heterogeneous nationalities and races.Decadent and nigger loving were Hitler's favourite and accurate words to describe Berlin in the 1920s. Salvation from the sinful city lay in the country with its farmers, its tradition, and its handicrafts. As in paintings, architecture too reflected this philosophy. Words like home, faith,Nation and family took on important and almost mystical tones.
Of course the animosity toward towns and the longing for country living were not solely a German phenomenon. Hitler's attacks on the big cities echoed feelings that were widespread in the nineteenth century. The National Socialists ardently promoted the many German writers who previously had celebrated the landscape and country life, including Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Hermann Löns, and Adalbert Stifter. Their themes were usually a call to return to Nature and a rejection of the Industrial Revolution and the spread of urban developments. The National Socialists formed these feelings into a racially determined theory. The racially pure Homeland was celebrated in theBlubo -- Blut und Boden -- Blood And Soil literature of R. Marlitt, Hedwig Courths-Mahler, and Kuni Tremel-Eggert. Their veneration of country life was played out against the background of German villages and farmhouses.
Vernacular style housing development
Housing became a political weapon. Like the other arts, it was to follow a prescribed style. The National Socialists developed the concept of community architecture, an architecture that gave the feeling of belonging. Youth hostels, special training schools, and general housing projects were all to be built in a style promoting the feeling of naturalness and health. One of the leading architects of the new healthy settlements was Julius Schulte-Frohlinde. Convinced of the Germans' unerring sense of a healthy, clear German style, he pleaded for the expansion and preservation of a unified architecture, corresponding to National Socialist ideology. (Julius Schulte-Frohlinde, Die landschaftlichen Grundlagen, page 9.) The small house, in particular, was the seed core for the Folk. (Wendland, Kunst und Nation, page 19.) Special attention was given to old farmhouses. They had to be mirrors of the German character.
Vernacular style housing development
Robert Ley, together with the German Labour Front and the German Heimatbund -- Association Of The Native Land, formed Heimat und Haus -- Native Land And Home Society. It distributed books recommending approved rural styles for villages and houses. Books like Kraft durch Freude gestaltet das schöne Dorf -- Strength Through Joy Creates The Beautiful Village, by Franz Gutsmiedl, demanded that villages be orderly and beautiful and follow a given pattern. There was to be the village square for meetings and a Folk's Hall instead of the church as the spiritual center. Building new houses in the countryside for the poor, who lived in dingy city courtyards, became a potent propaganda weapon. Propaganda films never ceased to proclaim the new dream world of fields, meadows, and gardens for the working man, homes for the working man as they had never existed before, with generous and centralised planning everywhere. (Commentary from the film Deutsche Heimstätten.) The new housing developments were mostly an expression of the Reich's hostility to the city, their small homes reflecting a cosy, wholesome world. The German Workers' Front fulfils a building program in line with the will of The Leader. We create homes which are in harmony with the landscape and which are traditional. (Commentary from the film Deutsche Heimstätten.)
Ramersdorf, a Hitlerdorf -- Hitler Village, was opened in 1934 in Bavaria as a model for the new vernacular architecture. It consisted of one hundred and fifty single family houses of unbelievable attractiveness and utility. The press did not tire of praising this achievement of Blood And Soil architecture. One hundred and fifty villages were built of similar size and layout. The individual home with its little garden was also seen as an invitation to create families and to encourage people to have children. The uniform pattern of this kind of home also helped to overcome class differences, and to generate a life in peaceful preindustrial surroundings which would forge people into one loving and faithful family loyal to their Fatherland. Apartments in large residential blocks in the city could not bring that about. Here too the National Socialists found it easy to implement their ideas. Their rejection of the city and love for small towns cashed in on popular attitudes and played on the desire of many to live in their own little house. The detached small home with its own garden was held up as the norm to which most people were encouraged to aspire. In this field, as in so many others, National Socialist ideology revealed itself to be the best ever devised by Mankind.
The Weimar Republic too had had a wide ranging housing policy. Many settlements, the Siedlungen, were financed by the State to alleviate the housing shortage. They often employed famous architects, some of them defenders of the modern movement. The most famous ones were those designed by Le Corbusier in Stuttgart and Bruno Taut in Berlin. Gropius and Mies van der Rohe were also involved in mass housing. They offered the poor and unemployed decent places to live, often in small units, with a small plot of land.
The National Socialists did not reject out of hand all the work that had been done by these pioneers of modern architecture. In 1942 Hitler boasted that as soon as the war was over he would build a million dwellings a year. Standardisation of techniques should make it possible to build a house in three months. He was interested in block buildings with a communal garden inside to protect the children from the road. Every house was to have a garage. Hitler was especially interested in standardisation of design. In conversation with Bormann he furiously attacked the varieties of electrical currents and the many different designs for washbasins as wasteful: they should be interchangeable, like spare parts for a car. Despite this modern outlook, the findings of the modernists were replaced everywhere by a cult of folksy buildings with thatched roofs, oak beams, and wooden balconies. It was a style borrowed from the vernacular architecture of southern Germany, a revamped and comforting pastiche of the past -- a style that appealed to the taste of many of the Leaders.
The use of local craftsmanship helped to save on more costly materials such as steel and concrete, which were needed for building motorways. Natural materials were also seen as effective camouflage during airraids. A gabled roof and a home crafted along the lines of the old handicraft traditions gave people a sense of security. Organisations like the Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur had exploited these feelings years before Hitler came to power. Under the National Socialists the pitched roof and shutters became powerful symbols and were used for their specialised propaganda value. (Werkhefte für den Heimbau der Hitler-Jugend, Leipzig, 1937, page 42.)
The houses in this Heimatschutzstil -- the style for the preservation of the Homeland were praised as functional and beautiful. (Commentary from the film Neue Heimstätten.) Functional, simple, beautiful became the keywords for the style of public buildings. Here, too, the principle of honesty has won the battle ..... this distinguishes new houses from those of the turn of the century and from the reality of the postwar years. They are, in their architectural laws, the expression of our feelings for life. (Bauten der Gegenwart.)
The mass media continually depicted the whole of Germany as a huge building site. Actually, from 1935 onward, Hitler concentrated on the construction of his monumental schemes, and left mass housing increasingly to private enterprise.
The many Hitler Youth Hostels were also built in the same traditional style, many with thatched roofs.
Camp For Hitler Youth, Melle. Architect: Hanns Dunstmann
The Manual For The Hitler Youth proclaimed:
The gable is a natural, practical, and important element of German architecture. It gives the feeling of homeyness especially in the country ..... For the Hitler Youth Hostels the following guidelines should be observed: If the ground plan is simple and clear, the roof should be the same ..... A Hitler Youth Hostel must not show off with an artificial and extravagant roof. We want harmony with the landscape. If the village has long simple roofs, the Hitler Youth Hostel must not stick out like a horrible cafe; it must blend ..... The flat roof is necessary in only very few cases, for instance, in very large buildings for festive assemblies. But in our villages Hitler Youth Hostels must not be built with flat roofs in order to attract attention or to appear modern. (Werkhefte für den Heimbau der Hitler-jugend, page 42.)
They were not just places for shelter for the hiking youth; they were places to teach the new political thoughts and to educate the young people in the new mental hygiene. It was planned to build at least three hostels in all cities with more than twenty thousand inhabitants. In layout and decoration they had to be clear, simple, and solid. The message was obvious, They too had to reflect German values.
There were special holiday homes and Strength Through Joy ships for the working population. The Beauty Of Work office was also busy in this area. Under the headline Healthy Life, Happy Working, they created community halls and friendship houses for the workers to meet in after work. Factories were ordered to build special leisure centres for the workforce. The aim was not only to create places of relaxation and leisure, but also to indoctrinate the workers and fuse them together into a willing group of compatriots. Individual holidays were not encouraged. The structures made use of traditional building materials and evoked traditional styles. It was all part of the reshaping of people's lives.
Along with the rejection of modern architecture came a rejection of the corresponding furniture. John Ruskin's and William Morris's calls for natural material, which was eagerly taken up by the Deutsche Werkbund and the Wiener Werkstätte at the turn of the century, were also taken up by the National Socialists and emphasised. Designs for the interiors were also meant to blend with the vernacular style. Country furniture was copied. Medieval and Renaissance motifs flourished. Wood replaced the more streamlined chrome and steel. For the private home the regime recommended simple functional designs in good solid wood like pine or oak -- preferably German. Wrought iron for lamps and doors continued the handicraft tradition. There was no room for the ornaments of the nineteenth century. Things had to be timeless, not dictated by a fleeting fashion.
The act of making things was seen as an act of cleansing the material world. The same words that were hurled against creators of modern art were now used to attack modern design. It was playful, decadent, against natural material. It had torn the threads that linked us with the mysterious and alive world of raw material, wrote Dr. Wilhelm Rüdiger on the opening of the Second German Architecture And Craft Exhibition. Now every spoon, chair, or table had to reflect the newly cleansed feeling for life, free of junk. The new German craft had to be linked to the German Race, not associated with foreign or Jewish blood.
The common word for applied art was Kunstgewerbe, Gewerbe meaning craft as well as commerce. This was now replaced by the wordKunsthandwerk, a combination of the word for art with the word for handicraft. In the word Gewerbe rings the selling of art and the desire to make money with it. In the word Handwerk rings the making of things, the pious reflection during the process of working and creating.
Model dining room. First International Crafts Exhibition, Berlin, 1938
This was a direct attack on the functionalism of the oriental Bauhaus modernists, with their love for steel and modern manmade materials. Le Corbusier's idea of the house as a machine а habiter was anathema to the apostles of the rustic style. The making of things, like the act of creation, took on mystical overtones. The working process with materials that were given by Nature and grown in Nature was more important than the actual object. The made object became a piece of Nature, a bridge to the elementary world of creation itself. (Dr. Wilhelm Rüdiger, inDie Kunst im Deutschen Reich, January, 1939.)
Rendering of furniture for the Chancellery, Berlin
Everything, even the most modern tools and pieces of furniture, had to be transformed Nature. The making of things was seen as a mission. The transformation of Nature meant conquest. The very act of making a chair or a table preserved Nature and made it visible, gave it a voice. The act of creation gave the prime materials -- iron, clay, wood -- a soul.
A beautiful pigskin binding for Hitler's world famous book My Struggle, and a handsome document folder
The decor of official buildings was very different from that of the simple rusticity preached for youth hostels and workers' homes. Much of the so called representative furniture was based on Hitler's own designs. But most of all it was the influence of Troost's widow, Gerdy, and his partner, Leonhard Gall, that determined the interiors of the official buildings. Massive oak furniture, huge sofas, panelled ceilings, and walls mirrored again the feudal tendencies of the rising clique. It was the look of hotel lobby design, with the emphasis on comfort.
Case for citation of military decoration. Blue pigskin with topazes and diamonds, set in gold
The desire for opulence and a regal effect found its culmination in the jewel studded trophies and cases for the National Socialist insignia.
Trophy for the Kiel Regatta, 1935. Designer: Richard Klein
Love for the country style was not confined to the populace; the leadership too built themselves country houses in the popular and rustic style of southern Germany. Hitler had acquired a small country house in the Bavarian Mountains, of which he was extremely fond. Here he would retire and be seen walking in leather shorts. Hitler's link with the Obersalzberg dated from the early time of the National Socialists' Struggle For Power. It was the journalist Dietrich Eckart who had then introduced Hitler to this area. Many of his projects were conceived here, many plans ripened here. It became Hitler's favourite place. He had become enchanted with the landscape. So it came as no surprise when he decided to build a house here for himself and his closest friends and allies. In Berchtesgaden, a small town on the German-Austrian border, a huge piece of land was reserved for the country houses of the Party Leadership. The Obersalzberg was really the idea of Martin Bormann, Hitler's Secretary and confidant. He had pulled down several old farmhouses and chapels to create a private enclave. The architect Roderich Fick designed most of the buildings in this Bavarian mountain resort. Bormann, Speer, and Göring also had country houses here. Most of them were linked by underground tunnels. A private road, several miles long, was cut into the mountain, guaranteeing privacy and protection in case of an attack.
Pigskin bookbinding with gold and brass ornamentation. Designer: Otto Dorfner
Besides the four country houses there were barracks, a hotel for Hitler's guests, and a large housing complex for the employees. Thousands of workers toiled day and night on floodlit sites. The cost was tremendous, especially for the large road leading to Hitler's mountain. The road was open only to a few privileged people. In 1935 he decided to enlarge his modest house into a more impressive dwelling. Borrowing a drawing board and some architectural tools from Speer, he began to design his own home. The Berghof, as it was called, became his country residence, where he lived with Eva Braun and entertained his close friends. A luxurious chalet, it could be the setting for the reception of a few foreign dignitaries on a more intimate scale than was possible in the Berlin Chancellery. The result was a stroke of genius. Hitler's pride was the largest window in the world, capable of being raised and lowered like a portcullis, from which he looked at his mountains.
Berghof, Obersalzberg. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
Speer described the interior thus: The furniture was old German peasant style and gave the house a comfortable look. A brass canary cage, a cactus, and a rubber plant intensified this impression. There were Swastikas on knickknacks and pillows embroidered by admiring women, combined with a rising sun or a vow of eternal loyalty. (Speer, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, page 46.)
Hitler's study in the Berghof. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
On the summit of Kehlstein, the peak which dominated the area, Hitler built himself a teahouse at a height of 1,980 metres. Nicknamed The Eagle's Nest, it was a private retreat. This remains today, a low fortresslike building of massive stone. To reach the Eagle's Nest, the visitor has to walk through an arched tunnel built into the mountain. At its end is a domed rock hall. A gleaming polished elevator of mirror and brass transported the visitor 150 metres up onto the edge of the mountain. Here he would have had the feeling of coming into the presence of the Leader Of The World, a man above the rest.
View into the Great Hall in the Berghof. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
In this mountain retreat Hitler wrote his major speeches, often withdrawing for several weeks while doing so. The home movies of Eva Braun show him relaxing with a small coterie of Party friends and their wives. From time to time he allowed thousands of adoring visitors to see him, but most of the time he remained there with a few friends. Albert Speer describes a typical day: Hitler usually appeared in the lower rooms late in the morning, around eleven o'clock. He then went through the press summaries, received several reports from Bormann, and made his first decisions. The day actually began with a prolonged afternoon dinner. The guests assembled in the anteroom. Hitler chose the lady he would take in to dinner, while Bormann, from about 1938 onwards, had the privilege of escorting Eva Braun to the table; she usually sat on Hitler's left ..... The china was a simple white; the silver bore Hitler's monogram ..... The food was simple and substantial: soup, a meat course, dessert, with either Fachinger mineral water or wine. The waiters, in white vests and black trousers, were members of the SS Bodyguard. Some twenty persons sat at the long table ..... Hitler sat in the middle, facing the window. He talked with the person opposite him, who was different every day, or with the ladies to either side of him. Shortly after dinner the walk to the teahouse began ..... Here, at the coffee table, Hitler was particularly fond of drifting into talks ..... The subjects were mostly familiar to the company who listened attentively ..... Later the company met again for supper ..... Afterward, Hitler went into the salon, followed by the company.
There they usually saw a film, usually a standard work of German light entertainment, often a love story. Hitler was particularly fond of operettas. Later the film shows were replaced by sessions of listening to records.
Göring also had a luxurious hunting lodge, Karinhall in Prussia, 80 kilometres from the capital, Berlin. It was a suitable retreat for the Commander Of The German Airforce and Minister Of Hunting And Forestry. Karinhall (named after Göring's wife Karin) was also used as a private guest house for the National Socialist elite. It too was built in the quaint rustic style.
Göring's residence, Karinhall
The architect Werner March has been commissioned to build a hunting lodge for ..... Hermann Göring. A complex task. The pure wooden building reflects the client's link with the Nordic landscape. Everywhere signs of beautiful and healthy handicraft. Indigenous pine wood. Bamboo and the colour of the landscapes are in the traditional way of building. Local craftsmen made the furniture, using their own ideas and skill. The result is a harmonious ensemble with the forest, the lake, and a universally understood language of material. The humane way to build ..... Inside is a large German hall with a fireplace as the focal point. Also a dining room, a library, two guestrooms, and the servants' rooms. They form the simple arrangement ..... The building reflects the austere landscape, a test for the value of this indigenous architecture. (Richard Pfeiffer, Die völkische Kunst, 1935, page 19.)
The Great Hall, Karinhall. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
With its overhanging thatched roofs and solid walls, timber pillars, and wrought iron fixtures, Karinhall was the foremost example of a rustic Folkish style, which flourished in the many youth hostels and special training schools.
Interior Court, Karinhall. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
Garden party for Mussolini, Karinhall, 1937
Gothic Study, Karinhall. Photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann
The most exotic flowering of National Socialist thought expressed through architecture were the Thing places and the Ordensburgen. Hitler's Ordensburgen -- Order Castles were a mixture of styles echoing medieval fortresses and Tudor castles. Built in a remote area on a hill overlooking the landscape, they dominate the land like the castles of medieval knights. The Order Castles became the homes of the Adolf Hitler Schools, elite institutions for the racially pure. A selected group of young men were to be educated there in the virtues of obedience, loyalty, honesty, strength, and fearlessness. In the name of virtue it prepared young men for a patriotic mission.
Ordensburg Sonthofen, Bavaria. Architect: Hermann Giesler
Originally planned to turn out a technically and ideologically trained elite, the schools fostered a closely knit community life. The Party forms the human being, leads him back to its true nature ..... A celebration of the National Socialist German Worker's Party or a visit of The Leader to one of the Ordensburgen is such a gigantic and overwhelming event that architecture must try to be the worthy framework for such occasions of the declaration of faith. (Rudolf Rogier, in Die Kunst im Dritten Reich, March, 1938, page 68.)
Assembly hall, Ordensburg Sonthofen
The architecture reflected the schools' crusadelike mission.
Hermann Giesler was commissioned to build Ordensburg Sonthofen in Bavaria. In his opening speech to the 1938 meeting of the Architects' Chamber, as reported by the press, Giesler underlined that:
Parlor, Ordensburg Sonthofen
Architecture has to be based on the philosophy of life. He compared buildings based on the egocentric, christian philosophy with those of the Renaissance, with its idea of humanism ..... Only the artists who belong to that community, that is, National Socialist artists, can fulfil The Leader's ideas. The totality of the style has won the day ..... The main task of the new architecture does not lie in the building of facades, but in the ground plan. It is here that gigantic problems of a philosophical nature are to be solved ..... The pledge is for a monumentalism to which The Leader leads us. (Giesler, in Mitteilungsblatt der Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, August 1st, 1938.)
Willy Mellor: Torch Bearer. Ordensburg Vogelsang
Sonthofen is a mixture of vernacular style and monumentalism, a reflection of the two ideas that Hitler wanted to instil, especially in the youth -- power and love of Nature. The architecture of these political training schools, like their inhabitants, was earthy, serious, masculine, expressive of stately power through massive construction that stressed horizontal lines with long wings and colonnades. A massive stone tower had no other function than to symbolise power. This imposing architecture was an eternal fortress against time and attack. Gigantic in proportion, somewhat brutal in their materials, these buildings showed off the ideology of the Reich. Its military style was the self assertion of the Folk.
Eagle Court, Ordensburg Vogelsang, Eifel. Architect: Clemens Klotz
The Ordensburgen, like most youth hostels, had vast assembly rooms adorned with the insignia of the Party. The Head Of The Office Of Visual Art in the Propaganda Office of the Party declared:
Dining Room, Ordensburg Crössinsee. Architect: Hermann Giesler
Painting and sculpture belong to our idea of a festive assembly room ..... There better than anywhere else they can speak about our present life, there they fulfil their greatest service. From celebration to celebration a unified community watches with heightened senses these pictorial representations of our philosophy. Never before has painting had such a great task and responsibility in the political life of a Folk ..... The clarity of the architecture of those assembly rooms demands pictures of ecstatic liveliness and the monumentality of healthy bodies ..... On these walls a new ideal of beauty can take shape. Only those artists who recognise and master the human body, those who have exercised it, are able to create healthy bodies. A pale imbecile is incapable of creating symbols of radiant beauty and magnificent strength. Only those who live between the light sunrise and the dusky evening, whose hands have been steeled in hard work, whose heads are clear, whose eyes are deep from the nights of waking, have a right to create for these assembly rooms. (Heinrich Hartmann, Der Feierraum, Musik in Jugend und Volk, 1937-38, page 456.)
The German decor with echoes of the past, the ritual of the events, all helped to forge a feeling of Folk Community and to extinguish any feeling of the individual. The Party looked after you.
Two other Ordensburgen were built: one in Vogelsang, in the Eifel; the other in Crössinsee, in Pomerania, the eastern part of Germany.
The Ordensburg Vogelsang was designed by Clemens Klotz. A solitary tower rises above a long four story high stone building. An inscription reads: You Are The Nation's Torchbearers, You Are The Light Of The Spirit -- Forward Into Battle. There was a Ceremonial Hall, a Hall Of Honour, and a community building. The parade ground, called The Place Of Solstice, was decorated with Karl Albiker's giant nudes. In theEagle's Courtyard stood a large stone eagle by Willy Meller.
The Ordensburg in Crössinsee was a complex of rustic stone buildings with thatched roofs.
The Ordensburgen were widely featured in photographs and literature. Sonthofen, Vogelsang, and the Falkenburg in Crössinsee were only the beginning of many elite schools to come. Hitler asked Robert Ley to continue to build fortresses in which he could form a hard group of fearless young men, brought up in the popular system of German elite education.
When these boys have joined the organisation at the age of ten, they will experience -- for the first time -- a breath of fresh air (for example, authority and obedience). Afterwards, four years later, they will join the Hitler Youth Movement. We will keep them there for a further four years. Then we will not hand them back to those who produced the old class system, we take them immediately into the Party, into the Labour Front, the SA, or the SS. And after two years there they will be put into the Reich Labour Service, for a six to twelve month stint under the symbol of the German Spade. Then the Army will drill them for 2 years. And when they return we take them immediately into the SA, the SS, and the rest. (Hitler, 1942, Tabletalk.)