HITLER AND CULTURE
What did Adolf Hitler himself have to say about Nazi culture ?
His ideas are written large in many documents and speeches, for he dominated the Third Reich in every phase of its activities.
It is therefore only fitting that we should hear from him before we start our inquiry.
Hitler wrote and talked continually, and what he had to say about cultural activity would fill many volumes.
Hitler wrote and talked continually, and what he had to say about cultural activity would fill many volumes.
The purpose of our small selection is merely to reflect in his own words the direction of thought contained in the material which follows.
There are two reasons for quoting from Hitler's only published book.
'Mein Kampf' was required reading in the schools of the Third Reich as well as in many other organizations.
Secondly, even if the book was not read, the speeches made by various individuals during the Third Reich, and a host of other books and articles, reflect the contents of Mein Kampf with great faithfulness.
Hitler never changed the world view he had laid down when he started on the road to power, and the culture of the Third Reich reflected his all-encompassing ideology.
'Mein Kampf' in fact would have been a successful book even if it had never been read: its contents were spread throughout the nation by the whole cultural drive of the new Reich.
|Karl Haushofer and Rudolf Heß|
|Hitler in Landsberg|
There was good reason for Hitler's change of mind: by fusing his own personality with the Nazi party the book would help him regain undisputed party leadership when he left prison.
The cry, so often heard in the Third Reich, that "Hitler is Germany, and Germany Hitler" had to be preceded by the cry that "Hitler is the party."
Though it took several years after he left Landsberg to re-establish his ascendancy, there can be little doubt that 'Mein Kampf' helped him in this process, however, the book had more than a political purpose; it also represented his most profound beliefs.
These beliefs were based upon the primacy of the world view in determining man's fate.
|Hitler's War Experience|
Idealism is contrasted with materialism, symbolized by what he calls the teachings of Marxism which have also infected the bourgeoisie.
His own world view is Völkish: based upon the racial principles which are fundamental to all of life.
Thus race is the foundation of all culture.
The state is only a means to the end of preserving the race, and we will find this concept of the state made law ten years later in his Third Reich.
Racial ideas are combined with a belief in an aristocracy which rises from the mass of the population.
All culture is the product of the Aryan: only he can produce true personalities.
As culture is the expression of an ideal, materialism can never produce culture.
|Jews Cannot Produce Cultur|
Materialism has taken hold of the bourgeoisie through the influence of Marxism, an invention of the Jews.
They are the true adversary of the Germanic world view and must be dealt with ruthlessly.
Jews cannot produce culture, but they do serve a function: symbolizing all that is evil, they spur the Aryan on to struggle against them and thus to become ever more conscious of his own race.
Therefore Hitler, adopting a phrase of Goethe, calls Jews a 'power which wants evil but produces good'.
The "revolution in world view" can succeed only if it becomes part of a mass movement.
Propaganda is designed to accomplish this, but it must be backed up by an effective party organization.
It is worth remembering that Hitler devotes half of 'Mein Kampf' to problems of political organization.
|The Masses are Swayed by Emotion|
He recognizes the imperative of giving status to the people, but this is secondary to the techniques necessary to "unlock their souls."
The masses are swayed by emotion and feeling: they are a part of primeval nature itself, which reflects not the rational handiwork of God but instead an irrational view of man and the world.
Hitler builds upon the romantic tradition.
Throughout National Socialist culture the parallel between man and nature will be drawn in this manner.
The masses of Aryans are as "genuine" in their basic emotions as Nature herself.
The task of the leader is to awaken these emotions, to bring to the surface the belief in race and blood which provide the foundations.
The task of the leader is to awaken these emotions, to bring to the surface the belief in race and blood which provide the foundations.
|The masses of Aryans are as "genuine"|
in their basic emotions as Nature herself.
Simple and direct because Nature herself is held to be such, in contrast with the artificiality of a materialist civilization; partisan because, in the last resort, the voice of the race will be heard.
This view of the masses is allied with the culture necessary to activate them in the struggle.
Propaganda, as Hitler used the word and as the National Socialists put it into practice, is the infusion of cultural attitudes into the mass of Aryans.
The anti-intellectualism which resulted will run like a theme throughout this study.
Hitler's own view of the nature of education will provide the foundation for the attempt to capture youth.
He calls for general rather than specialized education, meaning that the teaching of the National Socialist world view must take precedence.
|Haus der Deutschen Kunst|
When he was at the height of his power Hitler gave a succinct summary of his concept of culture - at the opening of the first Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung - (Exhibition of German Art) (July 18, 1937), for this was more than just another art exhibit.
The exhibition, in a new building (see left) specially constructed for it, was to exemplify the entire direction of Aryan culture through the instrumentality of visual art.
Representations of nature played a leading role (40 per cent of the pictures), but peasant and family motifs also abounded.
Art must have clarity, as Hitler stated, and the idyllic pictures symbolize well the traditionalism of the framework within which National Socialism did its work.
The exhibition was a success; the sales figures reached extraordinary heights.
The Aryan needed an adversary in his struggle.
We have seen how the Jews fulfilled this function and on this occasion too an enemy was represented.
|'Die Ausstellung Entartete Kunst'|
|Art must have Clarity|
The 'moderns' were hung under the appropriate slogans: "German peasants through Jewish eyes," "Blaspheming the German heroes of the world war," and "Making fun of German womanhood."
What a contrast with the ideal types of peasants, heroes and women who graced the "Exhibition of German Art." We shall meet these ideal types throughout our documents.
This, then, is the setting in which Hitler defined culture, a definition which had already been put into practice throughout the Third Reich.
When Hitler spoke in Munich, the "revolution of the world view" was already four and a half years old.
The Power of Ideals
'One should beware of evaluating the force of an ideal too little.
Those who today become faint-hearted in this regard, I would like to remind, in case they once were soldiers, of a time the heroism of which was the most overwhelming profession of the force of ideal motives.
For, what made people die at that time was not care of their daily bread, but the love of their country, the confidence in its greatness, the general feeling for the honour of the nation.
And only after the German people turned its back on these ideals in order to follow the material promises of the Revolution, and after it exchanged the gun for the knapsack, it came, instead of into an earthly heaven, into the purgatory of general disdain and, not less, of general distress.
Therefore it is all the more necessary to oppose the calculating masters of the erstwhile material Republic with the faith in an ideal Reich.'
'The Marxist doctrine is the brief spiritual extract of the view of life that is generally valid today.
Merely for this reason every fight by our so-called bourgeois world against it is impossible, even ridiculous, as this bourgeois world also is essentially interspersed with all these poison elements, and worships a view of life which in general is distinguished from the Marxian view only by degrees or persons.
The bourgeois world is Marxist, but it believes in the possibility of a domination of certain human groups (bourgeoisie), while Marxism itself plans to transmit the world systematically into the hands of Jewry.
In opposition to this, the Völkish view recognizes the importance of mankind in its racially innate elements.
In principle, it sees in the state only a means to an end, and as its end it considers the preservation of the racial existence of men.
Thus it by no means believes in an equality of the races, but with their differences it also recognizes their superior and inferior values, and by this recognition it feels 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.
Thus in principle it favors also the fundamental aristocratic thought of nature and believes in the validity of this law down to the last individual.
It sees not only the different values of the races, but also the different values of individual man.
In its opinion, out of the masses emerges the importance of the person, but by this it has an organizing effect, as contrasted with disorganizing Marxism.
It believes in the necessity of idealizing mankind, as, in turn, it sees in this the only presumption for the existence of mankind.
But it cannot grant the right of existence to an ethical idea, if this idea represents a danger for the racial life of the bearers of higher ethics; for in a hybridized and negrified world all conceptions of the humanly beautiful and sublime, as well as all conceptions of an idealized future of our mankind, would be lost forever.
In this world, human culture and civilization are inseparably bound up with the existence of the Aryan.
His dying off or his decline would again lower upon this earth the dark veils of a time without culture.
The undermining of the existence of human culture by destroying its supporters appears, in a Volkish view of life, as the most execrable crime.
He who dares to lay hand upon the highest image of the Lord sins against the benevolent Creator of this miracle and helps in the expulsion from Paradise.'
The State Is Not an End But a Means
'The basic realization is that the state represents not an end but a means.
It is indeed the presumption for the formation of a higher human culture, but not its cause. On the contrary, the latter lies exclusively in the existence of a race capable of culture.
Hundreds of exemplary states may exist on this globe, but in case of a dying off of the Aryan culture supporter, no culture would exist which would correspond to the spiritual level of the highest peoples of today.
One can even go further and say that the fact of human state formation would not in the least exclude the possibility of the destruction of the human race, insofar as the superior intellectual ability and elasticity, in consequence of the lack of its racial supporters, would be lost.'
The Jew Has No Culture
'The Jewish people, 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 peoples, and is mostly spoiled in his hands.
When judging Jewry in its attitude toward 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 bowdlerization or intellectual theft.
With this, the Jew lacks those qualities which distinguish creatively and, with it, culturally blessed races.'
The Necessity of Propaganda
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, while the organization of the idea - that is, the movement - has to embrace only so many people as absolutely necessary for the Occupation of the nerve centres of the state involved.
That means, in other words:
In every really great revolutionary movement propaganda will first have to spread the idea of this movement. Thus, it will untiringly try to make clear to the others the new train of thought, to draw them over to its own ground, or at least to make them doubtful of their own previous conviction.
Since the propagation of a doctrine - that is, this propaganda - has to have a backbone, the doctrine will have to give itself a solid organization.
The organization receives its members from the followers in general won by propaganda.
The latter will grow the more quickly, the more intensively propaganda is carried out, and the latter in turn is able to work the better, the stronger and the more vigorous the organization is that stands behind it.
How Hitler Viewed the Masses
'The national education of the great masses can only take place through the detour of a social uplift, since exclusively by this all those general economic presuppositions are created which permit the individual to take part in the cultural goods of the nation.
The nationalization of the great masses can never take place by way of half measures, by a weak emphasis upon a so-called objective viewpoint, but by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation as to the goal to be aimed at.
That means, therefore, one cannot make a people "national" in the meaning of our present "bourgeoisie," that is, with so and so many restrictions, but only nationalistic with the entire vehemence which is harboured in the extreme.
Poison is only checked by antidote, and only the insipidity of a bourgeois mind can conceive the middle line as the way to heaven.
The great mass of a people consists neither of professors nor of diplomats.
The small abstract knowledge it possesses directs its sentiments rather to the world of feeling.
In this is rooted either its negative or positive attitude.
It is open only to the expression of force in one of these directions, and never to a half measure swaying between them.
Their sentimental attitude, however, is caused by their exceeding stability.
It is more difficult to undermine faith than knowledge, love succumbs to change less than to respect, hatred is more durable than aversion, and at all times the driving force of the most important changes in this world has been found less in a scientific knowledge animating the masses, but rather in a fanaticism dominating them and in a hysteria which drove them forward.
He who would win the great masses must know the key which opens the door to their hearts.
Its name is not objectivity - that is, weakness-but will power and strength.
One can only succeed in winning the soul of a people if, apart from a positive fighting of one's own for one's own aims, One also destroys at the same time the supporter of the contrary.
In the ruthless attack upon an adversary the people sees at all times a proof of its own right, and it perceives the renunciation of his destruction as an uncertainty as regards its own right, if not as a sign of its own wrong.
The great masses are only a part of nature, and this feeling does not understand the mutual handshake of people who assert that they want various things.
What they want is the victory of the stronger and the annihilation or the unconditional surrender of the weaker.
The nationalization of our masses will only be successful if, along with all positive fighting for the soul of our people, its international poisoners are extirpated.
All great questions of the times are questions of the moment, and they represent only consequences of certain causes. Only one of them is of causal importance, that is, the question of the racial preservation of the nationality.
In the blood alone there rests the strength as well as the weakness of man.
As long as the people do not recognize and pay attention to the importance of their racial foundation, they resemble people who would like to teach the greyhound's qualities to poodles, without realizing that the greyhound's speed and the poodle's docility are qualities which are not taught, but are peculiar to the race. Peoples who renounce the preservation of their racial purity renounce also the unity of their soul in all its expressions.
The torn condition of their nature is the natural, necessary consequence of the torn condition of their blood, and the change in their spiritual and creative force is only the effect of the change in their racial foundations.
He who wants to redeem the German people from the qualities and the vices which are alien to its original nature will have to redeem it first from the alien originators of these expressions.
Without the clearest recognition of the race problem and, with it, of the Jewish question, there will be no rise of the German nation.
The race question not only furnishes the key to world history, but also to human culture as a whole.'
Education Must Be Based on Ideals
'It is a characteristic of our present materialized time that our scientific education turns more and more toward the subjects of natural science only, namely, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.
No matter how necessary this is for a time in which techniques and chemistry dominate in daily life and represent its symptoms, at least as far as outwardly recognizable, it is just as dangerous if the general education of a nation is always directed exclusively at this.
On the contrary, this education has always to be an ideal one.
It has to correspond more to the classic subjects and should only offer the foundations of a later training in a special field.
Otherwise, one renounces forces which are still more important for the preservation of the nation than any technical or other ability.
Especially in history instruction one should not let oneself be deterred from studying antiquity. Roman history, rightly conceived in very broad outlines, is and remains the best teacher not only for today but probably for all times.
The Hellenic ideal of culture, too, should be preserved for us in its exemplary beauty.
One must not allow the differences of the individual races to tear up the greater racial community.
The struggle that rages today involves very great aims: a culture fights for its existence, which combines millenniums and embraces Hellenism and Aryanism together.
A sharp difference should be made between general education and specialized knowledge.
Since the latter, today more than ever, threatens to sink into the service of pure Mammon, general education, at least in its more ideal orientation, has to be preserved as a counterbalance.
Here, too, one has continuously to inculcate the principle that industry and techniques, trade and professions are able to flourish only as long as an idealistically disposed national community offers the necessary presuppositions. But the latter do not lie in material egoism, but in a joyous readiness to renounce and to sacrifice.'
Education, Instinct, and Will
'A change in education is a further necessity: today we suffer from over-education.
Only knowledge is prized.
The know-it-alls are the enemies of action.
What is needed is instinct and will.'
What is needed is instinct and will.'
The Cultural Renascence
|Haus der Deutschen Kunst|
On July 18, 1937, Adlof Hitler delivered a speech at the opening of the House of German Art in Munich, which was to take the place of the former "Glass Palace."
'In the collapse of Germany after the war, he said, the economic decline had been generally felt, the political decline had been denied by many, the cultural decline had not even been observed by the majority of the people. It was an age of phrases and catchwords: in the economic sphere the hard facts of misery and unemployment deprived these phrases of their force: in the political sphere such phrases as "international solidarity" had more success and veiled from the German people the extent of the political collapse.
But in the long run the failure of the parliamentary-democratic form of government, copied from the West - a West which regardless of this democratic form still continued to extort from Germany whatever there remained to extort - defeated the phrase-mongers.
Far more lasting was the effect of these phrases in the cultural field, where they resulted in a complete confusion concerning the essential character of culture.
Here the influence of the Jews was paramount and through their control of the press they were able to intimidate those who desired to champion "the normal sound intelligence and instinct of men," Art was said to be "an international experience," and thus all comprehension of its intimate association with a people was stifled: it was said that there was no such thing as the art of a people or, better, of a race: there was only the art of a certain period.
Thus it was not Greeks who created the art of Greece, Romans the art of Rome, etc. - a particular period had found in each art its expression.
Art is a "time-conditioned phenomenon."
So today there is not a German or a French art, 'but a "modern art."
This is to reduce art to the level of fashions in dress, with the motto "Every year something fresh" - Impressionism, Futurism, Cubism, perhaps also Dadaism.
These newly created art phrases would be comic, if they were not tragic.
The result was uncertainty in judgements passed on art and the silencing of those who might otherwise have protested against this Kulturbolschewismus, while the press continued to poison our sound appreciation of art. And just as in fashions one must wear "modern" clothes whether they are beautiful or not, so the great masters of the past were decried.
But true art is and remains eternal, it does not follow the law of the season's fashions: its effect is that of a revelation arising from the depths of the essential character of a people which successive generations can inherit. But those who do not create for eternity do not readily talk of eternities: they seek to dim the radiance of these giants who reach out of the past into the future in order that contemporaries may discover their own tiny flames.
These facile daubers in art are but the products of a day: yesterday, non-existent: today, modern: tomorrow, out of date. The Jewish discovery that art was just the affair of a period was for them a godsend: theirs could be the art of the present time.
Theirs was a small art - small in form and substance - and at the same time intolerant of the masters of the past and the rivals of the present.
There was a conspiracy of incapacity and mediocrity against better work of any age.
The new rich, having no judgement of their own in art matters, accepted these artists at their own valuation.
It was only an attraction that these works of art were difficult to understand and on that account very costly: no one wished to admit lack of comprehension or insufficient means!
And if one does not oneself understand, probably one's neighbor will not either, and he will admire one's comprehension of obscurity.
For this "modern art" National Socialism desires to substitute a "German" art and an eternal art.
This House of German Art is designed for the art of the German people - not for an international art.
"The people in the flux of phenomena is the one constant point.
It is that which is abiding and permanent, and therefore art as the expression of the essential character of the abiding people must be an eternal monument, itself abiding and permanent; there can be therefore no standard of yesterday and today, of modern or un-modern: there can be only the standard of 'valueless' or 'valuable,' of 'eternal' or 'transitory.
"And therefore in speaking of German art I shall see the standard for that art in the German people, in its character and life, in its feeling, its emotions, and its development."
From the history of the development of our people we know that it is composed of a number of more or less distinct races which in the course of millennia through the formative influence of a certain outstanding racial kernel produced that mixture which we see before us in Our people today.
This force which formed the people in time past and which still today continues that formative activity lies in the same Aryan branch of mankind which we recognize not only as the support of our own civilization but of the earlier civilizations of the ancient world.
The way in which our people was composed has produced the many-sidedness of our own cultural development, but as we look upon the final result of this process we cannot but wish for an art which may correspond to the increasing homogeneity of our racial composition, and thus present in itself the characteristics of unity and homogeneity.
Many attempts have been made through the centuries to define what "to be German" really means.
I would not seek to give an explanation in the first instance.
I would rather state a law - a law previously expressed by a great German: "To be German is to be clear," and that means that to be German is to be logical and true.
It is this spirit which has always lived in our people, which has inspired painters, sculptors, architects, thinkers, poets, and above all our musicians.
When on June 6, 1931, the Glass Palace was burned down there perished with it an immortal treasure of German art. The artists were called Romantics, and yet they were but the finest representatives of that German search for the real and true character of our people, for an honest and decent expression of this law of life divined by our people.
For it was not only their choice of subject which was decisive, but the clear and simple mode of rendering these sentiments.
Many of their original works are lost, we possess only copies or reproductions, but the works of these masters are removed by a great gulf from the pitiable products of our modern so-called "creative artists."
These masters felt themselves to be Germans, and consequently they created works which should be valued as long as there should be a German people to appreciate them.
But these modern works we would also preserve as documents illustrating the depths of that decline into which the people had fallen.
The "Exhibition of Degenerate Art" is intended as a useful lesson.
During the long years in which I planned the formation of a new Reich I gave much thought to the tasks which would await us in the cultural cleansing of the people's life: there was to be a cultural renascence as well as a political and economic reform.
I was convinced that peoples which have been trodden underfoot by the whole world of their day have all the greater duty consciously to assert their own value before their oppressors, and there is no prouder proof of the highest rights of a people to its own life than immortal cultural achievements.
I was therefore always determined that if fate should one day give us power I would discuss these matters with no one but would form my own decisions, for it is not given to all to have an understanding for tasks as great as these.
Among the plans which floated before me in my mind both during the war and after the collapse was the idea of building a great new exhibition palace in Munich; and many years ago I thought of the place where the building now stands.
In 1931 I feared that I should be anticipated and that the "men of November" would erect an exhibition building. Plans indeed were produced for an edifice.
But when we came to power in 1933 the plan had not been executed: the erection of the building was left to the Third Reich.
And the building is so unique, so individual, that it cannot be compared with anything else: it is a true monument for this city and more than that - for German art....
It represents a turning point, the first of the new buildings which will take their place among the immortal achievements of German artistic life.
But the House is not enough: it must house an Exhibition, and if now I venture to speak of art I can claim a title to do so from the contribution which I myself have made to the restoration of German art.
For our modern German state that I with my associates have created has alone brought into existence the conditions for a new, vigorous flowering of art.
It is not Bolshevist art collectors or their henchmen who have laid the foundations: we have provided vast sums for the encouragement of art, we have set before art itself great, new tasks.
As in politics, so in German art-life: we are determined to make a clean sweep of phrases.
Ability is the necessary qualification if an artist wishes his work to be exhibited here.
People have attempted to recommend modern art by saying that it is the expression of a new age: but art does not create a new age, it is the general life of peoples which fashions itself anew and therefore often seeks after a new expression.
A new epoch is not created by littérateurs but by the fighters, those who really fashion and lead peoples, who thus make history.
It is either impudent effrontery or stark stupidity to exhibit to the people of today works which perhaps ten or twenty thousand years ago might have been made by a man of the Stone Age.
They talk of primitive art, but they forget that it is not the function of art to retreat backward from the stage of development which a people has already reached: its sole function must be to symbolize that development.
The new age of today is at work on a new human type.
Men and women are 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.
This is the type of the new age.
The artist does not create for the artist: he creates for the people and we will see to it that henceforth the people will be called in to judge its art.
No one must say that the people has no understanding for a really valuable enrichment of its cultural life. Before the critics did justice to the genius of a Richard Wagner he had the people on his side, while the people has had nothing to do with so-called "modern art."
The people regarded this art as the outcome of an impudent and unashamed arrogance or of a simply shocking lack of skill; it felt that this art-stammer - these achievements which might have been produced by untalented children of from eight to ten years old - could never be valued as an expression of our own times or of the German future.
When we know today that the development of millions of years repeats itself in every individual compressed into a few decades, then this art, we realize, is not "modern"; it is on the contrary in the highest degree "archaic," far older probably than the Stone Age.
The people when it passes through these galleries will recognize in me its own spokesman and counsellor: it will draw a sigh of relief and express its glad agreement with this purification of art.
And that is decisive: an art which cannot count on the readiest and most intimate agreement of the great mass of the people, an art which must rely upon the support of small cliques, is intolerable.
Such an art does but endeavour to confuse, instead of gladly reinforcing, the sure and healthy instinct of a people.
The artist cannot stand aloof from his people.
This exhibition is but a beginning, yet the end of the artistic stultification of Germany has begun.
Now is the opportunity for youth to start its industrious apprenticeship, and when a sacred conscientiousness at last comes into its own, then I doubt not that the Almighty, from the mass of these decent creators of art, will once more raise up individuals to the eternal starry heaven of the imperishable God-favored artists of the great periods. We believe that especially today, when in so many spheres the highest individual achievements are being manifested, so also in art the highest value of personality will once again assert itself.'
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.
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.
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.
As a young man, Breker lived in France where he was influenced by his future friend and sculptor, Aristide Maillol.
After the war, many of Breker’s sculptures were destroyed by American soldiers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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