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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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The Exile Experience

The Exile Experience

(p.48) 2 The Exile Experience
Art of Suppression

Pamela M. Potter

University of California Press

This chapter looks at challenges faced by refugees from Nazism and their direct and indirect role in establishing perceptions about Nazi culture that still have deep roots in arts scholarship. Exile studies, generally romanticizing their subjects’ experiences, developed a particular concept of Weimar modernism—that exiles exported and preserved the “good” German culture under assault by the Nazis—and in the process, these studies established the year 1933 as a caesura in German cultural history. But artists and performers encountered numerous challenges along the way, facing economic stresses in each of the countries they entered, and while intellectuals had a better experience (accounting for the outspokenness of Thomas Mann and the productivity of the Frankfurt School), all were held in suspicion for being Jews, Communists, and Germans. Cultural histories still reflect the influence of Adorno and Kracauer, but by reinterpreting exiles’ judgments in light of the insecurities they faced as refugees, we can see how those who were most vocal in proclaiming and redressing Nazi oppression did so in part to demonstrate their loyalties to host countries. Many had to distance themselves from all that was cultivated in Nazi Germany, even when they shared strong ties with that same cultural heritage.

Keywords:   exile, Weimar modernism, Frankfurt School, Thomas Mann, Adorno, Kracauer

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