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Art of SuppressionConfronting the Nazi Past in Histories of the Visual and Performing Arts$
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Pamela M. Potter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520282346

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520282346.001.0001

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Visual and Performing Arts in Nazi Germany

Visual and Performing Arts in Nazi Germany

What Is Known and What Is Believed

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Visual and Performing Arts in Nazi Germany
Source:
Art of Suppression
Author(s):

Pamela M. Potter

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520282346.003.0001

The starkest reminders of Nazi culture—the book burnings, Triumph of the Will, and “shame exhibitions” vilifying “degenerate” art and music—have left an indelible image of Nazis’ total control of arts operations (“structural nazification”) and taste (“aesthetic nazification”), even though evidence has repeatedly challenged these assumptions. This chapter synthesizes past findings to provide a baseline for what is known about the visual and performing arts in Nazi Germany (art, architecture, music, theater, film, and dance) and to explain its cognitive dissonance with what is believed. The establishment of the Reich Culture Chambers gave the impression of centralized control, but it concealed the internal rivalries and overlooked inherent controlling artistic production. The Degenerate Art and Degenerate Music exhibitions offered graphic displays but had limited effects on aesthetics. To resolve this dissonance, we need to consider how disciplinary isolation has kept scholars from sharing their findings, but we must also keep in mind the Nazis’ priority to eliminate “undesirable” individuals over “undesirable” artistic trends; the effectiveness of their rhetoric in exaggerating their authority; and the importance of instilling a sense of community (Volksgemeinschaft) in mobilizing arts professions while inspiring the hatred and violence toward perceived enemies that led to the Holocaust.

Keywords:   degenerate, art, music, architecture, film, dance, theater nazification, Holocaust, Reich Culture Chambers

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