Nazi Art Many people know that Adolph Hitler was an artist in his youth as an Austrian, but just how much art played a role in the National Socialist Germany seems to get underrated in the history books. Just as a racial war was waged against the Jewish population and the military fought the French and the Slavic people, an artistic cleansing for the Germanic culture was in progress. Special Nazi units were searching the ancient arts of antiquity for evidence of a great Germanic race that existed well before history. Hitler had monuments and museums built on a grand scale with carefully designed architecture that would last a thousand years. Art of this nature was a priority because Hitler wanted to capture Chronos, not Gaea. He wanted to dominate the rest of time, not the limits of Earth.
Hitler was born and raised in the town of Linz. As a youth he studied art, primarily as a painter capturing mostly the surrounding Alpine Mountain landscapes that he grew up with, but he also had an interest in architecture. When he turned eighteen he applied to the Vienna Art Academy, and was rejected. Along with art, Hitler was fascinated with Linz, Antiquity, and Wagner. It was at this time in his youth that Hitler and his friend, Kubicheck would try to finish an opera that Wagner had abandoned.
This opera was about a leader trying to establish the Roman Empire by overthrowing the Papal government in Rome. Hitler would remember It was in that hour it all began.1 Hitler thought of Wagner and art as the basis for a new government, nation, and people. It is not just coincidence that he would be surrounded by National Socialist leaders with background in the arts. Joseph Gobbels, the Minister of Propaganda and head of the Reich Chamber of Culture, was an experienced writer and aspiring poet. Rosenberg was a painter and Von Sherot wrote poetry.
Hans Frederick Munch of the Reich’s Chamber of Literature said This government born out of opposition to rationalism knows the peoples inner longings and dreams, which only the artist can give them.2 Less than three months after coming to power, the Nazis issued What German artists expect of their new government in March of 1933. One of the first projects of the Nazi regime was the House of German Art (Haus der Deutschen Kunst), a large museum. Quickly the Third Reich was forming it’s own style of art, as identifiable as Soviet Social- Realism, but symbolizing the national and racial policies. And while the Soviets tended to emphasize Literature, the Nazis focused on Visual art and Architecture. Nazi art was Neo- Classical with a twist of German romanticism, heroicism, and nostalgia for the times of yore.3 In the beginning there was debate on what exactly the Nazis were looking for in art.
It is well known that the Third Reich was extremely hostile to Avant-Garde artists, but before the Nazis came to power, Joseph Goebbels took to the opinion that some German Expressionists were compatible with National Socialist ideas. These artists include Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Barlach, and Emil Nolde. Nolde was even a Nazi party member, but these artists could hardly be called Nazi artists. They declared nationalism and were very anti-capitalist. The Expressionists promoted sensation and passion over rational logic and were heavily into primitive German culture. Hitler, Alfred Rosenberg, and other senior Nazis attacked these modern artists as incompatible with the Nazi ideal because of there strong opposition to authoritarianism and the individualism expressed within their work.4 Albert Speer, commissioned to decorate Goebbels home would later write: I borrowed a few watercolours from ..
the director of the Berlin Nationalgalerie. Goebbels and his wife were delighted with the paintings—until Hitler came to inspect, and expressed his severe disapproval. Then the minister summoned me immediately. ‘The pictures will have to go at once; they’re simply impossible’.5 Upon the assumption of power, almost all modern art was attacked and artists of all sorts fled the country as work was confiscated and art schools were closed. There are many reasons Hitler attacked modern art.
Such groups as the Dadaists and the Bauhaus had close connections with the Soviet schools of Constructivism and Suprematism. These groups, while not necessarily Communist, were overly leftist ranging the gauntlet from Socialism to Anarchism and was extremely anti-military. Hitler also attacked the aesthetics of modern art. The Bauhaus was ultra-modern and cosmopolitan in it’s designs. It’s creations were seamless global industrial works that lacked a recognizable element of German tradition and craft. And other movements such as Cubism and Expressionism that distorted the picture to analyze colour, shape and space, Hitler found to be an example of the Degeneration of culture and race. On the day of the German Arts Festival in 1937, Hitler opened a dual exhibition to commemorate the House of German Art, One of Nazi approved art called the Great German Art Exhibition (Grosse Deutsch Kunstausstellung) and another exhibition of Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst).
From the pictures sent in for exhibition, it is clear that the eye of some men shows them things other than they are—that there are men who on principle feel meadows to be blue, heavens green, the clouds sulfur yellow. Either these ‘artists’ do really see things in this way and believe that in which they represent—then one has to ask how the defect in vision arose, and if it is hereditary the Minister of the Interior will have to see it that so ghastly a defect shall not be allowed to perpetuate itself—or, if they do not believe in the reality of such impressions but seek on other grounds to impose them upon the nation, then it is a matter for the criminal court. Hitler stated on the House of German Art’s inauguration.6 This connection of degenerate art and physical disability was best linked by Paul Schults-Naumberg’s book, Art and Race published in 1928. This book paired up modern paintings and sculpture with photographs of diseased and misshapen people. A film was made in 1936 on this principle and shown in almost every city.
This brings forth the question of what Nazi approved artwork was. Goebbels ordered racially conscious art that was within the limits prescribed, not by any artistic idea, but by the political idea.7 The Nazi art had t …