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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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Totalitarianism, Intentionalism, and Fascism in Cold War Cultural Histories

Totalitarianism, Intentionalism, and Fascism in Cold War Cultural Histories

(p.130) 4 Totalitarianism, Intentionalism, and Fascism in Cold War Cultural Histories
Art of Suppression

Pamela M. Potter

University of California Press

This chapter and those that follow undertake more focused historiographic analyses. Chapter 4 opens with an examination of the origins of the concept of totalitarianism and historians’ debates over the viability of models for framing Nazi history: the totalitarian concept, intentionalism versus functionalism, challenges to the totalitarian paradigm with the alternative concept of fascism, and the historians’ debate (Historikerstreit) of the 1980s. With arts disciplines traditionally focused on high culture and the life and works of individuals, the totalitarian concept was useful for exonerating artists from any voluntary involvement in Nazi cultural production and persisted as a model for cultural histories of the Third Reich, despite losing its usefulness in other historical fields. A form of cultural intentionalism that credited Hitler and Goebbels with personal oversight of all artistic affairs held a similar appeal. As arts disciplines showed signs of taking their first steps away from these older paradigms of structural nazification, however, the Historikerstreit in the mid-1980s, with its warnings against relativizing the Holocaust—as well as simultaneous events in the art world that raised new questions about the pernicious effects of artistic products from the Third Reich—slowed any progress toward placing Nazi culture within broader historical and global contexts.

Keywords:   totalitarianism, intentionalism, fascism, Historikerstreit, Hitler, Goebbels, high culture, structural nazification

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