Using your own knowledge, consider how far culture in the Third Reich was transformed because of the party’s views on race

The term “culture” is a very broad based one, which can cover the arts, human achievement, customs, traditions and people’s understanding of them. What the Nazi Party tried to do, was not necessarily ‘force’ their views on the public, but attempt to tailor what was available to them in these fields and as a result, change people’s attitudes towards certain ideas. It is debateable to what extent this was actually successful, as an accurate measure of this cannot be achieved. It would be impossible to gauge a representation of people’s thoughts on this because so much of it went unnoticed. The Nazi’s did succeed in manipulating what types of artistic expression were deemed acceptable and which types were derogatory, though how much was influenced by their racial ideologies is interesting. The NSDAP’s racial prejudice was both positive – promoting the Aryan race and a pure German society – and negative, degrading the works of Jews, Blacks and non-German, non-traditionalist origins.One of the forms of art that would be seen by the majority of the nation was architecture. Hitler and the Nazi’s were traditionalist and anti-modernist, which resulted in very conservative buildings, a Neo-Classical style. There were plenty of pillars and columns to show grandeur and exaggerate the height of the buildings. This can be seen in the “Haus der Kunst” which was designed by Troost. This was the House of German Art and was ordered to be built to show off the paintings and works of art that were considered acceptable by the NSDAP. For this reason, the building that they were contained in had to be equally as impressive. Hitler’s Reich Chancellery building was another that was built to impress both other nations and the people of Germany.If he could show them that they could afford to construct these buildings, they would believe that they had moved on from the poverty and inflation of the years before. People would think that Germany was escalating once again, and was over coming the problems that it had encountered – like the Treaty of Versailles and most importantly the financial difficulties. In the Reich Chancellery, Hitler had a long corridor of marble leading up to his office. This corridor served no purpose, only to reinforce the power and domination of the Fuhrer. The Nazi’s reflected this idea in all buildings in public view, to emphasize the totalitarian regime that they followed. It dwarfed people almost, to show how minute and insignificant they were compared to the power of Hitler. They hoped that it would make people accept the concept of the Volksgemeinschaft, that everyone was working together, no individuality, for the good of the state.On the other hand, the Nazi’s built houses for the people of the country, which were very different to the large, grand buildings in the public eye. These were small, traditional cottages, built to serve a purpose and be more practical than decorative. In this way, everyone’s houses were the same showing equality amongst the people – no power to the individual and that everyone should be conforming. The difference between the overbearing, large city buildings and the small, cosy country-houses was purposely done to give the people of Germany something to look up to and admire. Of course the housing was only available to those considered “Aryan” families, purebred Germans, and most certainly not Blacks and Jewish descendants. Hitler disapproved of modern architecture, so this was not allowed. Having studied architecture for many years, this area was one he felt very strongly for, though the sorts of buildings that emerged were not particularly affected by his negative racial views.To add to these styles of building, Hitler was keen on sculpture to emphasise some of his ideologies. These were more influenced by a positive racial prejudice – the statues made were generally all of people of a pure Aryan build. They were made to show the might of the nation and always accentuated the strength of the men, with their toned, muscular figures, and the beauty and simplicity of the women, highlighting their curved bodies for childbirth. Breker was one of Hitler’s preferred sculptors as his works showed this perfectly. The culture changed as these were more accommodated and more at home with the traditional, Neo-Classical buildings and gave a more powerful, totalitarian look overall.We can see the change that Nazi influence had by looking at 2 sculptures by the same artist, one from before the Third Reich, and one during the critical watch of the NSDAP. Georg Kolbe had previously sculpted in bronze, but this was changed due to the lack of resources and the “suggestion” by the Nazi party that a stone sculpture would be more appropriate for the times. He had been used to making figures that were in motion, impressionist style works; there were no definitive lines and smooth surfaces which is especially illustrated in his figure “Night”. This all changed however, when you look at “The Protectress” – a later piece. In the “Ring der Statuen” (Ring of Statues) in Frankfurt, Kolbe combined seven male and female nudes in a community. The athletic male nudes in particular were in accordance with the Nazi-regime ideals and were used for the National Socialist propaganda. Kolbe however, didn’t want his work to be used for such purposes and rejected a commission for a Hitler-portrait. Strangely, even though Kolbe disagreed with the ideas they put forward, his art was still altered by the thoughts of the time – perhaps because he was afraid of what the consequences might be if he didn’t conform. Art critics were noticing this change and years later the difference is clearly seen.”We trace a marked tendency not only to work on a larger scale but to move from the subjective [personal] to the exemplary [illustrative]. Kolbe’s earlier work shows mobility and dynamic balance together with apparently chance irregularities in both anatomy and technique. Later, all this is eliminated: the attitude becomes a pose; stability triumphs; the surface changes from an artistic texture into a smooth, encasing, body-sheathing skin.”1Only with these distinct differences that we can say that the NSDAP changed what artists produced, but whether this was because they actually believed that Nazi policy was the way forward, or whether the change was based solely on fear is highly contended. I would be inclined to believe that the artists thought it in their best interests to be consistent with what the regime wanted, as the rewards, both financially and otherwise, were very beneficial. Breker and Thorak for example, were given large studios to create their works in, although everything that they created had to be to promote a positive view of the Aryan German. Benno Elkan was a sculptor who suffered under the Nazi rule. He was Jewish and many of his works were of Jewish derivation, such as the “Hanukah Lamp” and later on the “Menorah” which currently stands in Jerusalem. Because his works were not accepted in the new German culture, he joined the exodus of Jewish artists in 1933 and was forced to move to England.Sculpture and Architecture were both very public forms of propaganda for the Nazi Party, a measure for the general public to see how well the party was doing and effectively a show to prove that they could restore Germany to its former glory. In 1937, the Exhibition of Great German Art was held to display some of these sculptures, as well as paintings, and was an opportunity for artists to show the nation “true” German Art. Obviously this Exhibition only contained works of art that were “pure”. Well over 16,000 works were submitted and of these 6,000 chosen to display in the museum.Again, everything was of positive racial prejudice, with depictions of Aryan peasant families, peasants working on the land and attempts to reflect the Volksgemeinschaft. There is an ironic juxtaposition here, contrasting the Nazi’s enormous, impressive buildings to show to the world how well Germany was recovering under fascist ruling, yet the paintings show a very different portrait of Germany – one where the majority of people are farming, and this is done with only very basic equipment. Men are still sowing seeds by hand, and horses were still drawing ploughs across the fields. It is peculiar how these two can live side-by-side, and yet both be encouraged by the party. It is almost as if the people of Germany were expected to live in this agricultural world in the country, whilst those who lived in the cities were privileged to the expensive, luxurious sights, a very totalitarian way of society.However, there was not much scope when painting Aryan peasants so many painters opted for landscapes, which were relatively safe. Adding the word “German” in the title would deem the painting more adequate for the standards set by critics. An analysis of the exhibits in the Great German Art gallery showed that 40% of the subjects were landscapes, whilst 30% were “ordinary people” – peasant life – and 10% were historical figures. Hitler commissioned painters to do portraits of him but he was very rarely accompanied by anyone else. Other important Nazi leaders were painted but these were not as widely distributed as the landscapes and Aryan portraits. Many art critics argue that art movements are not heavily influenced by political regimes and therefore the change to painting landscapes and peasant characters was a natural progression rather than Nazi induced. On the other hand however, there is the contention that the NSDAP refused to recognise any art that was not of this nature, and in fact forced many artists out of the country if they did not comply with the requests. Therefore, many say that it was this threatening tactic that changed the way art was done, not the inspiration of the artists themselves.On the 19th July 1937, the Exhibition of Degenerate Art was opened. Although there were only 5,000 exhibits in this exhibition, it attracted over 3million visitors, nearly five times the numbers who attended the German Art museum. The works were poorly hung, and surrounded by graffiti with written labels mocking the artists. However, many of the artists that were featured are now considered masters of the 20th century, including Klee, Munch, Kandinsky and even Picasso. The other modern art pictures and unacceptable paintings that didn’t feature here were burnt. The terms “Jewish”, “Bolshevik” and “degenerate” were used to describe all works that were not of the specified taste.Otto Dix was a painter who was eventually held in a prisoner of war camp to stop him painting. He was dismissed from being a Professor of Art and was instructed to only paint landscapes. His painting-style was known as “Social Realism” which depicted the horrors of trench warfare, as he was extremely critical of German Society. He painted graphically and it was this cynicism that the Nazi’s disliked. They prided themselves on their believed “success” in the First World War, so having these pictures in public shattered the illusion of their “heroic” acts. He was briefly held by the Gestapo on suspicion of being involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler; such was the paranoia of the Nazi’s toward degenerate artists. More racially fuelled though, was the discrimination of black and Jewish artists. Their works were seen as primitive, often “unfinished” if they were not to Hitler’s taste. Eastern European art was also victimised. The Nazi’s saw the Bolshevik movement and Communism in general, as the epitome of degeneration. This was the exact opposite of what they believed in; therefore anything with a Communist outlook was also banned.It is questionable whether the NSDAP were interested in art at all, or rather just the painter and his political opinions – thus, once these had passed scrutiny, the painting could be deemed adequate. Artwork became very repetitive, so many artists producing the same types of paintings, sculptures etc. This must be expected however, under a fascist regime, as everything must conform to a predefined way. It is ironic that Bolshevism was seen as an absolute evil, when effectively it was under a similar fascist control with Stalin, yet supposedly left wing. The culture “evolved” in exactly the same manner, reverting to traditionalism and positive view of its own people. In many ways, the German and Russian art was extremely alike, though they despised to admit this.A more modern form of expressing culture was the film industry, which heavily shows the anti-Semitic racial thinking of the Nazi party. The 1930’s saw a growth in the number of people attending the cinema, so this was the ideal place for the NSDAP to attempt to convey some of their racial beliefs. The majority of the films produced were not overtly political, but contained subliminal messages and parallels between the characters and the Third Reich. Many anti-Semitic films were produced, such as “The Eternal Jew” which compared Jews to rats on several occasions and allegedly Hitler ordered it’s reworking because it was not horrific or graphic enough.During the reworking they added a speech made my Hitler at the Reichstag threatening the destruction of the Jewish race. Goebbels did not approve of this film, and so offered an alternative, “Jud Suss” which audiences seemed to react better to, but they were both seen as trying to justify the elimination of Jews. On a more positive racial prejudice, one of Hitler’s favourite Directors was Leni Riefenstahl, who made films about the Nuremburg Rallies and the Berlin Olympic Games, which had the underlying Aryan ideals and changed the way other countries saw Germany as a whole. Films however, were provided more as an entertainment source, to keep people off the streets, making them forget their worries and feel that things were getting better under the Third Reich.On the whole the Nazi’s guarded many aspects of the ‘outlet’ of culture, but this was done for a large number of reasons. It seems apparent that the positive racial prejudice had more to play in the change of culture, rather than the degrading racial views that the NSDAP held. Culture was not left to change by itself, but was more of a controlled modification by the party, so we cannot, therefore, say that culture changed naturally, it was more forced into what it became. What the Nazi’s created however, was a world of culture where everything was politically linked. It is true that the ‘outlets’ to the public were definitely influenced by the party’s views on race, but how successful this was to sway the people’s thoughts on the issues simply cannot be represented.It is debated as to whether people’s taste changed as a result, or whether it was again forced to change, because everything was so manipulated according to the Nazi thought, people had to live with what was on offer. Comparing this to other fascist regimes, this was expected, as the entire ideology of fascism depends on conforming and social engineering to gain the greatest possible prosperity, whilst keeping the nation happy, in the belief that the regime is for the best.

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