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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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Modernism and the Isolation of Nazi Culture

Modernism and the Isolation of Nazi Culture

(p.175) 5 Modernism and the Isolation of Nazi Culture
Art of Suppression

Pamela M. Potter

University of California Press

Opening with a survey of the challenges to understanding the term modernism and the particular complications of German culture’s negotiation with modernization, this chapter goes on to identify how modernism and antimodernism came to define a Cold War conflict between Socialist Realism and Western tolerance for experimentation. In histories of the visual and performing arts, expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), and the Bauhaus came to represent the primary casualties of National Socialism that needed to be rescued from oblivion. This made it difficult to acknowledge the evidence pointing to modern aspects of Nazi society, encouraging scholars instead to go to great lengths to portray an aesthetic nazification focused almost exclusively on stamping out modernism, especially in art history and musicology. Film, theater, and dance studies concentrated less on antimodernism and more on the Nazis’ overall devaluation of arts and media, relegating Nazi-era products to categories of mere propaganda and kitsch. For much of the Cold War period, presumptions about Nazi antimodernism were only slowly and cautiously challenged, with many questions remaining unanswered about the striking similarities one could observe between “Nazi arts” and parallels in other societies, including Western democracies.

Keywords:   modernism, modernization, Socialist Realism, expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, New Objectivity, Bauhaus, propaganda, aesthetic nazification

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