Hitler, The Third Reich- As Artists

Discussions on the propaganda, architecture and culture in the Third Reich.
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Max2Cam
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Post by Max2Cam » 14 May 2003 17:09

Largo Caballero wrote:No work of art can ever by 'outside' morality. Art is, by it's very nature a reflection of the world, and the world we inhabit is a world of moral judgement.


Where in the world outside of human culture is there moral judgement? Where is moral judgment when the tiger devours the lamb? Or when the volcano buries a village and all of its inhabitants? Are you telling me there is a "judge" out there causing those things to happen?

If I accept that art is NOT outside of morality, then whose morality do we place upon art? Your morality or my morality? The Judeo-Christian morality or the Hindu morality? The Chinese morality or the American morality?
To claim that beauty exists in the Third Riech as a whole is one thing, to claim that there is greatness in this artistic achievement is wholly ridiculous in relation to the moral standpoint of most free thinking individuals.
Like art, "greatness" is another amoral concept. There can be greatness but not goodness. If we accept that there was no "goodness" in the Third Reich (which is debateable), there still can be "greatness" in the aesthetics that the Third Reich left behind, today mostly seen in films, photographs, and in their artifacts. I know this to be true because I have experienced that sense of aesthetic greatness. But that doesn't mean I adopt the Hitler morality as my own or advocate it to others.

In like manner I might find the personal life of an artist abhorent, but still appreciate his or her art. That is true, because again, art is outside of morality.
===========
National Socialism is really a way of life [eine Weltanschauung]. It always begins at the beginning and lays new foundations for life. That is why our task is so difficult, but also so beautiful.... -- Dr. Goebbels

JLEES
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Nazis and their Art

Post by JLEES » 15 May 2003 00:15

Again some intesting twists on art and the US Army in Iraq. Even when we look at Hitler "guardianship of traditional art." Of course your not talking about Polish patriotic traditional art; Russia patriotic traditional art, Slavic patriotic art, etc. Because if you are, the Nazis destroyed a great deal of it. So the traditional art your speaking of is works executed by non-Jewish, non-Communist, non-socialist Germans and some selected Aryan Europeans. If this is true, it seems your guardian isn't the big protector any more of the arts you origionally made him out to be. Yes, the subject of death and destruction has been a theme in the arts since the begining to time, but to say the holocaust and destruction of cities, is an example of art itself and that Hitler of the protector of art, seems a little odd. But, I too have heard similar things in videos about Nazi art on TV, but they were talking figuratively and not seriously saying the Third Reich was art!

The Nazis were experts at propaganda, but it has been claimed by many the US was better at it during the war. The art of the Third Reich was designed to support the regime; the NSDAP destroyed and looted many pieces of art that did not fit into their defined ideal asthetics. They further produced nothing of lasting significance in the Finer Arts field. Although the neoclassic, romaticism and realistic pieces are nice to look at, they are 19th Century repeats of another era with Nordic looking beings in them. Now if your talking about poster art images they were very good at creating those forms of propaganda images. You should read some books like "The Rape of Europe" before making statements that Hitler of the Protector of European Art. Peaple may begin thinking your knowledge of art is very small other wise.

Meanwhile, who said anything racist about the Iraqis. You seem to be trying to drop some type of trump card here by twisting those word too. The fact of the situation is the Iraqi's looted their museums and not the US Army. That is unlike what the German Army did in occupied Europe during the Third Reich. When the US Army made sure their positions were stabilized and the opposition within the city was neutralized, they stopped the looting. Anyone who understands military priorities also understands this point; so why do you fail to understand this? Now since Hitler holds such high regard in your artistic eyes, did the German Army make the salvation of the Finer Arts or arts in general its priority when they blasted their way into Warsaw, Kiev, Minsk, Stalingrad, etc., since Hitler was the protector of art (of course you qualified that statement to excude the Finer Arts)? It's most interesting that on one hand you can say Hitler was attempting to save traditional art, which he was not, unless of course we're just talking about your limitted artistic field of study, but you can make such a wild claim that the US Army should have done more to preserve Iraqi art even before they stabilized their positions and eliminated the opposition within the capital. Maybe instead of looting the Iraqi bank of its funds, Saddam should have made sure the art was protected? Or, in your eyes is that another racist statement too?
James

Nick Pears
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Post by Nick Pears » 15 May 2003 12:40

I think I chose my works pretty carefully - the world we inhabit is a world of moral judgement. Whether or not there is a "Great Judge" who judges all is neither here nor there. Every human being on this planet carries with him or her a degree of moral baggage, it's absolutely inescapable, the morality imposed upon art is that of the artist and the viewer, whatever it may be. This is why art is open to interpretation.

If art was indeed OUTSIDE of morality, why would people be so upset by installations such as "Piss Christ"? It causes a moral outrage precisely because both the artist and the viewers and critics were acutely aware of the challenge to the moral landscapoe that it presents.

That "Goodness" existed in the Third Reich cannot be doubted (the ultimate example of a moral concept, surely!). I doubt any society, whatever ethos it adopted, could be entirely without goodness. My point is that "Greatness" can be judged by several criteria, and by the criteria of most of our contemporaries, the Third Reich in general cannot be judged to be great because it included ideologies that could be classed as out and out evil. To say that the "Architecture of the Third Reich was great" or that the "Socio-political reform introduced by Hitler was great" can be justified. What, I think, cannot be justified is to argue -

The Third Reich is Art

The Art of the Third Reich is Great

Therefore the Third Reich is Great

This is not logically sequitable.

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Post by Nick Pears » 15 May 2003 15:06

Lets face it, broadly we all agree, we are arguing over the details. Not a bad thing to do by any means though. 8)

JLEES
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Nazi Art

Post by JLEES » 15 May 2003 17:07

Largo Caballero,
You’ve brought up some good points. I must admit myself that I find many of the art pieces of the Third Reich stunning, attractive and pleasing to look at, and furthermore, Hitler had some artistic talent. That is once someone overlooks the horror of the Third Reich and 12-million dead. This of course is really not the issue.

Meanwhile, Max2cam in his message stated, “It seems that the Holocaust promoters (I don't know how else to describe them), are waking up to the fact that Nazi aesthetics are more attractive than theirs and that it won't die.” It sounds like there are the same old “holocaust denial” in his statement; then he directly says Nazi artistic “aesthetics are more attractive than theirs.” What ever the last part means I guess is open to interpretation. Is he saying people’s appreciation of Nazi art is more pleasing to look at then the documented Holocaust? I hope he is not denying the Holocaust.

Then he goes on to call the Third Reich itself art and further say, “I would go so far to say that the war, the destruction of cities, the countless deaths, and even the so-called Holocaust was a part of that great and terrible beauty.” This is what some have the robotic quality of Nazi culture staged events, which he then denies is valid. So now the Holocaust was a “great and terrible beauty.” He furthermore goes on to say, “That's not saying it was always "good" or "nice" or "moral" but it was still beautiful. That is almost beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend, but still true...” Therefore, Max2cam is saying the Holocaust is beautiful and he has that supreme intellectual ability to understand this! Nevertheless, he has no need to read “Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics” by Frederic Spotts, because Max2cam says, “It is NOT going to tell me anything new that I already don't know and have known all my life -- and know probably better than the author.” This is both an odd and simultaneously interesting statement!

These peculiar remarks are then followed up by, “I also have to laugh when I hear those who claim that Hitler was going to destroy European culture, when in fact he was totally into it and honestly wanted to be its great protector.” Overlooking all the art ordered destroyed by Hitler and banned he was “totally into it and honestly wanted to be its great protector.” Interesting us of the words “totally” and “honestly.” Does this statement by someone who has no need to read a book about Nazi art make sense to you, Largo?

Finally, Max2cam follows everything up by saying, “You only have to contrast the care in which the Nazis crated up their (stolen) artwork and stored it in salt mines at the end of the war to the criminal neglect in which the USA just allowed the ancient treasures of Mesopotamia to be looted and destroyed to see who the real cultural barbarians are!” This last comment illustrates how little current events and military judgment seem to also enter into his thought process. It’s most interesting how Max2com calls the USA “the real cultural barbarians,” because they did nothing while the Iraqis looted their museums and can claim Hitler was the “total and honest protector” of European art all in one forum message.

I’m sorry guys, although the Art of the Third Reich or the Soviet Union maybe a fascinating subject, the items produced during their respective periods are not great examples of the Finer Arts. Even overlooking the politics behind the images, no one in the academic art history community is going to display the works that were in the House of German Art and call then great finer art works. Part analyzing artistic works is having the ability to understand the period and culture to which they were produced. Therefore, it is easy to take Nazi art pieces and fool someone into saying they are good pieces. One academically cannot divorce the period in which the artwork was produced with the piece itself, before doing an analysis of the work; the two analytical elements go hand-in-hand together. Therefore, when someone says people said they were great pieces of art before discovering they were Nazi produced pieces it just illustrates how little those people themselves understand how art is evaluated. Nevertheless, they may say, these pieces are excellent examples of propaganda for their era, but that is where it will end. Furthermore, although the images are pretty to look one must remember their artistic styles are rehashes of the 19th Century pieces with swastikas and Nordic looking people in fantasy situations; there is nothing original about these works, or for that matter what was being produced in the Soviet Union and Mussolini’s Fascist-Italy. Those who now appear to be trying to promote these works seem to be doing it under the scorn of neo-fascist, holocaust denying and “lets get open minded approach” technique, while they deliberately distort historical facts, twist words and events to make weak intellectual points.

In summation, for some, they’re maybe much to learn from academic books on the subject.
James

Nick Pears
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Post by Nick Pears » 15 May 2003 18:58

Some points...

To claim that Hitler was the "Great Protector" of all art is out and out false. To claim that at all requires a very rigid and narrow definition of art - namely, Romantic art from 1750-1900, particularly from those artists inspired by the Existentialists (Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, even Blaise Pascal).

Nietzsche's philosphy is based on the concept of the Will and the Will to Life. Life, for Nietszche, is eternal strife. This isn't a 'world view', it's a philosophy, i.e. it concerns everything - plants 'strive' to be nearer the sun, rocks 'strive' to form mountains etc. Also, Nietzsche classifies the human race into the great masses and the Ubermensche. The Ubermensche are the tiny, tiny minority of human beings who forge their own destiny, they must embrace nature, turn away from the constriants of the masses and 'evolve' continually towards godhood (literally - becoming 'god'). The masses fear the Ubermensche and the Ubermensche hold the masses in contempt.

You can see this philosophy in the architectural and artistic representations of the Third Reich - the Nuremburg Rallies for example, the 'masses' laid out, de-personified, rigidly uniform, endless columns. The huge stone edifice from out of which gaze the Ubermenschen, surveying the fearing masses, transcending them. Also, much propogandic art of the period is concerned with strife - strife against everything from mother nature (the images of the german farmer tilling his earth as an agrarian Nazi ideal, the prominence given to images of young men running through the forests, embracing nature and striving towards evolution from the masses.) to Germany's neighbors. The 'strife factor' hit such a chord, I would say, because of the percieved persecution of the German People brought about by the Treaty of Versailles, but that is going off at a bit of a tangent...

My point is, in philosophical terms, Nietzsche is a dead duck today. This doesn't make the art of the Third Reich any less spectacular, but it erodes its foundations. Now, you could argue that the same could be said of, say, Catholic Art of the Renaissance. This is to overlook the essential natures of the philosophies involved - most pre-romantic art is concerned with theological themes - theology has an invunerability when subjected to interrogation that philosophy lacks - a theologan can say, "Despite all the evidence you have presented to me I believe it still to be true, I have Faith", you cannot claim this in an essentially athiestic system such as that advocated by Nietzsche or the Third Reich, therefore, when the foundations fall to logical reason, there is nothing left. For this reason, the Art of the Third Reich cannot be said to be great, even before the actual aesthetics of the works in question are even considered.

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Max2Cam
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Too Open Minded....

Post by Max2Cam » 15 May 2003 19:27

These thoughtful replies deserve detailed answers, but I don't have time at the moment.

In brief, I have a feeling that my "problem" is that I'm too open minded and my thinking outside the establishment box: too free and probing. (I would NOT last long in the Third Reich).

Still, I prefer to look at the ORIGINAL material and do my own thinking, and not be educated by aggenda-driven writers. But being open-minded is NOT what one is supposed to do with the subject of the Third Reich as that might lead to unacceptable conclusions such as the possibility of "great" art inherent in Hitler-culture (that term of course is offensive and an oxymoron I am sure I will be told).

However, many Jewish writers and artists have for years been making "art" off the atrocities of WWII. They even have given this broad venue a catchy trade name to it: "The Holocaust." We are going to witness another "artistic" rendering in the "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" mini-series coming this weekend to CBS.

"Artistic" because according to Newsweek it can't be called historically accurate and the only way it could get through the Holocaust promotors was to make Hitler "evil" even as a child.

My basic point remains: If the Third Reich can be looked at and used as an artistic vehicle in its negative features (which admittedly did exist), why can't the Third Reich be looked at in terms of highly artistic aesthetic beauty as well? Because we seem to admit that it does exist and has "great" (if not "good") allure.

On the Iraqi thing we'll just have to "agree to disagree." How one can defend the inept American handling of Iraqi occupation (still in chaos) seems politically driven to me.

And it is indeed RACIST to level blame on the "Iraqi people" in general for the looting just as it was for Hitler to blame the "Jews" in general or for something to blame "black Americans" in general for the high crime rate in modern America.
===========
National Socialism is really a way of life [eine Weltanschauung]. It always begins at the beginning and lays new foundations for life. That is why our task is so difficult, but also so beautiful.... -- Dr. Goebbels

JLEES
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Nazi Art

Post by JLEES » 15 May 2003 21:29

Max2cam.
I think the problem with looking at the Third Reich in terms of highly aesthetic beauty is that the era's artistic outer shell is false. Or, you can't judge a book by its cover concept. To say it is pretty to look at is one thing; to say it’s great art is something else. In other words the 19th Century looking Nazi pieces do not reflect reality of the Third Reich. They were designed to give a false impression of the Third Reich, as it silenced self-expression of the individual artist impulses. They are excellent pieces of propaganda and coupled with the political philosophy of the regime, served their creator’s propaganda purpose(s) well, but fall short of the level needed for acceptable inclusion with other finer art works. Or to put it another way, for example, the religious belief of Creationism is a great doctrine for those in church that believe the bible literally, but it fails to compete with the scientific Theory of Evolution in a science classroom. Nazi art was great material for propaganda purposes, but it too fails in terms of its finer arts qualities. Nevertheless, I’m sure in time, the paintings and sculptures without overt Nazi images and icons on them may be reevaluated at some point and viewed differently in terms of their finer art qualities, but this will possibly be far into the distant future and beyond our life time.
James

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Psycho Mike
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Post by Psycho Mike » 18 May 2003 13:41

The first public cultural show by Hitler was a condemnation of modern art which was ridiculed and attacked. The first thing Hitler wanted to do when he achieved power was attack the successful artists of the day. So I don't think he defended art at all. He defended art, that was like his.

JLEES
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Nazi Art

Post by JLEES » 18 May 2003 17:28

Psycho Mike,
Your right to a point. When Hitler assumed power in 1933 there was a few minor art shows held by the Nazis that featured Modern Art. Initially, many members of the party had no idea what was acceptable art in the Third Reich was and there was a struggle between some of them to pick a selected art form. Goebbles and Nodel, for example, initially tried to promote modern art in 1933 and failed at this attempt. Afterwards, Goebbels jumped ship to the other camp after finding out Hitler's strong views on the subject. It wasn't until 1937 that the HDK was opened and Hitler's asthetic values became known and enforced throughout the Reich.
James

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sylvieK4
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Post by sylvieK4 » 21 Nov 2003 15:36

Here is the link to images shown to an art class at Northwestern University. The topic, "Totalitarian Art", includes several photos of Third Reich period German art and architecture. (Breker, Speer, et al)

http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/ ... ckmeister/

This is said to be the inlay from one of Hitler's study desks:
Image

German Art Day Celebration:
Image

Reichs Chancellery:
Image

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Psycho Mike
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Post by Psycho Mike » 21 Nov 2003 17:06

Hi Sylvie K4.

Wow what a great links page.

The approach by Professor Werckmeister, although I have never met the man or seen his class notes, is interesting in that in his selection of images no differentiation is made between Hitler and his approach to art (messianic kitsch) and Stalin's. With the exception of the brilliant but forgotten Wilhelm Reich book THE MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF FACISM these two men are rarely presented as equals in horror by colleges.

Maybe there's hope for the kids after all...... :)

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