March 13, 2013 1
Art and Culture in Nazi Germany
Transforming German Culture
Hitler and his supporters took transforming art and culture very seriously.
He knew that culture, if properly controlled and directed, could serve his political
endeavors as well as propaganda.
Everything was to be controlled as much as possible.
Nazis viewed themselves as revolutionary movement
Culture was to be inn keeping with the concept of Nazi Community
Everything foreign was to be purged from German culture.
Wanted to create a culture that would appeal to everyone
Transforming the existing culture was the most difficult task.
Every nation shares certain values
people were more willing to believe the Jewish (political), but they were not
willing to throw away their books and music. This was very difficult to change.
They needed to be creative within a controlled framework Comprimises? Non-
o Nazis couldn’t produce a culture that would appeal to everyone but was
still politically correct.
The Nazis made some compromises, pertaining to culture.
German Art before 1933: modernism (avant-garde)
Germany was fameous for its modernist style.
Diverse styles. Defying traditional notion of reality, techniques of painting &
They changed the type of painting, and colours (very unusual and unnatural)
Unorthodox representation of reality: they argued that what reality is what each
individual believes is real. (no objective reality)
European Influence of German Art
Facination with modernity vs. anxiety
Expressionism- emotions through colour and form
They often defeated the theme of big city and loneliness (around people but
feeling alone)- expressed the idea of anxiety
German Art after WW1
Expressionism: defiant, gloomy and critical- the new objectivity movement.
Many of the artists were soldiers so they wanted to present the public with
problematic scenes- wanted to expose Germanys moral problems.
They also had prostitution/ night life paintings: the paintings were not far
removed from reality.
Night life in Berlin changed- people now wanted to celebrate life “anything goes”
attitude. The relaxation of censorship
Gave them a taste of excentricity- gay clubs and pubs March 13, 2013 2
Art in Nazi Germany
Hitler’s personal interest & tastes (conservative)
It was easy to shut down gay bars because the conservatives supported him; it
was harder to change art.
Labeling modern art: “degenerate , elitist, Jewish, Bolshevik, cosmopolitan
When he came to power he try to impinge his taste in art.
Exhibition of Degenerate Art
Was to serve as a lesson of what art SHOULD NOT be
They put those paintings and drawings into 9 catagories
Paintings from the same artist could fall into different catagories.
Group 8: “the endless supply of Jewish trash… that no words can adeaquately
Group 9: “the height of degeneracy”
Eliciting negative reaction from the public. Many of the works of art had a price-
not because they were for sale. They were showing people how much money
museams paid for that kind of trash
Hitler believed that there were 2 reasons why an artist would paint in these
o 1. There must be something wrong with their vision- We forceibly
o 2. They wanted to deceive the nation, don’t believe in what they are
painting but are trying to cause an uprise- Liable to prosecution and
1939-41:The artwork was confiscating and selling artworks at international
auctions- this showed HOW oppressive conditions got.
March 1939- 4,000 paintings were destroyed by a bonfire.
Officially approved art: National realism
New paintings had to be non-abstract. They wanted to make them accessible to
average intellectual people.
They wanted to “bring art closer to people”
Many lower class people were enjoying art they way they never had before.
The idea was to stifle non conformity and individuality.
In a normal democratic community, it is up to the public to determine what they
like in art- but the Nazis told them what to like.
Nazis didn’t want to spark opinionated thinking as a result of artwork
Art critics were no longer allowed to evaluate art, they were only allowed to
All Jewish artists were banned from the Reich Art. March 13, 2013 3
New themes in art were to focus on national community, racial purity and
gender roles assigned by the Nazis. It was also supposed to connect Germans to
their glorious past.
They often painted farmers living close to the land.
Germans had a unique connection to the land- that’s why