01 Jan 2008
TL;DR: In this article, the authors explore how early audiences might have encountered and responded to atrocity footage of the camps, organizing these potential directions around some of the more popular myths regarding how and by whom this footage was seen.
Abstract: Any discussion of atrocity fi lms must address “a fallacy of presentism,” in David Hackett Fischer’s words, characterizing a modern-day response to these images (1970: 135–40). Given public concern over the dwindling generation of eyewitnesses and survivors who can off er direct testimony of the Holocaust, exploring the specifi c issues of context and reception for so-called atrocity fi lms seems more important than ever, yet they have received scant scholarly attention. In some cases, such as in the work of artist Alan Schechner, attempts to highlight the signifi cance of context in viewing documentary imagery of the camps have met with public opprobrium. Th e political dimension of this footage does present particular challenges, given the unusual circumstances of how these fi lms initially were produced, distributed, and exhibited. Th is chapter begins to chart some potential new directions to reimagine how early audiences might have encountered and responded to atrocity footage of the camps, organizing these potential directions around some of the more popular myths regarding how and by whom this footage was seen. Popular memory of how Holocaust imagery fi rst was screened, and of how these screenings forged a distinctly American public memory of the Holocaust, remains embedded within an actual and locatable history. Previous attention has been concentrated mostly on the visual, but this
01 Jan 2003
01 Jan 2007
01 Jan 2002
01 Jan 2007
TL;DR: Goebbels was one of the first Nazis to attend a jazz concert at the Scala Theatre, Berlin, in 1938 as discussed by the authors with Hermann Goering and Goering, where Hylton performed a Shirley Temple routine.
Abstract: design; and Goebbels even pressed him to design the ‘Deutsches Volk, Deutsche Arbeit’ exhibition. Things were on the up.35 The image of the Reichsminister for Propaganda and Enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels, encouraging Mies van der Rohe to tender for prestigious regime projects encourages us to ‘revisit’ the whole subject of Nazism’s famed jihad against modernism. An even more striking example of the recurring incongruities in Nazism’s interactions with Western modernity is Joseph Goebbels’ weakness for Jazz, offi cially lambasted as the epitome of ‘degenerate music’. This foible accounts for a remarkable moment on the evening of 15 February 1938 when he went backstage with Hermann Goering at the Scala Theatre, Berlin, to congratulate the internationally acclaimed English band-leader, Jack Hylton, whose tour was breaking all Germany’s box-offi ce records that spring. (Apparently Hitler had attended the concert but gone straight home.) This was no lapsus on Figure 7 Walter Gropius’ uncompromisingly modernist competition entry for the Reichsbank in Berlin, 1933. © President and Fellows of Harvard University. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM), Cambridge, MA 14039_8784X_03_chap01 29 2/5/07 07:47:46 30 Modernism and Fascism Goebbels’ part, for the event had been ‘cleansed’ in advance. His own censors had axed a Shirley Temple routine by Maureen Potter as ‘too American’ and ensured there were no Jews playing in the orchestra.36 Moreover, Goebbels’ patronage was offi cially portrayed as showing his support not for Jazz (which was classifi ed ‘decadent’) but Swing (which was ‘life-asserting’): more on this anon. Nevertheless, whatever the offi cial gloss put on the occasion, the brief encounter at the Scala fl ew ideologically in the face of the adulation that Jack Hylton had previously enjoyed in modernist circles located far beyond the Nazi pale, one example of which was Igor Stravinsky’s invitation to collaborate with him on the comic opera Mavra in 1931. Goebbels’ almost surreal presence in Hylton’s dressing room can be seen in a fresh light after reading his semi-autobiographical diary novel, Michael: A German Destiny (1926), a work bearing the unmistakable stamp of Expressionism in both style and structure. One passage recounts a visit to an exhibition of modern painting in which a solitary ‘star’ shone out amidst all the trash on display: Vincent van Gogh. His canvases prompt Goebbels’ alter ego to refl ect on the nature of modernity, which he describes as ‘a new way of experiencing the world’: Modern man is necessarily a seeker after God, perhaps a Christ-Man. Van Gogh’s life tells us more than his work. He combines the most important elements in himself: he is teacher, preacher, fanatic, prophet – he is mad. When it comes down to it, we are all mad when we have an idea. [...] What makes up the modern German is not so much cleverness and intellect as the new spirit, the willingness to become one with the people, to devote oneself and sacrifi ce oneself to it unstintingly.37 Such a declaration calls into question the deeply entrenched preconceptions about Nazism’s hostility to modernity which make it ‘self-evident’ that the austere rectilinear geometry and stripped neo-classicism of Paul Troost’s Haus der deutschen Kunst in Munich symbolize the Nazis’ urge to take refuge in an idealized past. This assumption seems corroborated by the building’s declared purpose, namely to display the ‘organic’ artistic products of the nation’s ongoing social and political renaissance. The new collection would showcase the steady stream of ‘healthy’ paintings and sculptures spontaneously fi lling the yawning gaps in the national heritage resulting from the ruthless slash and burn tactics that the Nazis applied to the self-appointed mission to purge Germany of cultural decadence. Yet the extended cohabitation of Gottfried Benn, Emil Nolde, and van der Rohe with the regime, not to mention Goebbels’ enthusiasm for Van Gogh, suggest that even such apparently irrefutable semiotic demonstrations of the regime’s visceral anti-modernism as Troost’s German art gallery may warrant reappraisal. 14039_8784X_03_chap01 30 2/5/07 07:47:46 The Paradoxes of ‘Fascist Modernism’ 31 Re-evaluating modernism’s relationship to fascism means more than just acknowledging how aesthetic modernism fl ourished under Mussolini or retained some enthusiastic proselytes under Hitler. It means creating an entirely different ‘lens’ through which to observe Fascist and Nazi culture than that offered by Norberto Bobbio or Peter Adam, one that at least makes it possible to contemplate the possibility that there was more than ‘totalitarian propaganda’ involved in the regime’s cultural production. Take, for example the speech which Hitler made on 17 July 1937 at the opening ceremony for the House of German Art. In it he claimed that Troost’s building was ‘to be the turning point, putting an end to the chaotic and botched architecture of the past’, the symbol of the State’s effort to lay ‘the basis for a new and mighty fl owering of German art’.38 The address leaves no doubt that the new art gallery’s purpose was to display art that rejected the experimentalism of modernist aesthetics in order to celebrate instead ‘eternal values’. Yet once we entertain the possibility that the building genuinely represented for Hitler a ‘new beginning’, an Aufbruch into a new era, certain passages in the catalogue published to commemorate the occasion assume fresh signifi cance, such as the boast that the structure incorporated the latest gas-fi red central heating, an air-conditioning system, and a modern air-raid shelter. Thinking in the old groove leads us to dismiss the modern elements in buildings such as the House of German Art, the Casa del Fascio in Como, or the construction of entire new towns such as Sabaudia in areas of the Pontine Marshes that had once bred malaria, simply as symptoms of fascism’s cynicism in the manipulation of culture. Any unmistakable elements of modernization appropriated are dismissed as serving solely to realize its fundamentally reactionary, regressive vision of the future, its ‘utopian anti-modernism’.39 But approaching the issue from the perspective which is beginning to open up here invites us at least to entertain the possibility that in strikingly different ways both the Fascists and Nazis were not rejecting modernity, but using the built environment to lay the cultural foundations of an alternative modernity. They were thus seeking to realize an alternative modernism. This at least is the perspective offered by Hitler himself in the closing passage of his speech, even if he naturally avoids referring to ‘modernity’ or ‘modernism’, both terms replete with decadent connotations for Nazis. He tells his audience that, though great new tasks had been assigned to art – an assertion that would have been enthusiastically endorsed by many early twentieth-century modernists – ‘it is not art that creates new ages’. These only come about when the life of entire peoples assumes new forms and searches for new expression.40 In such a speech the Nazi rejection of artistic modernism is clearly bound up with what Frank Kermode calls the ‘creation of fi ctions’ needed to ‘make new’. It also chimes in with what Hayden White calls the 14039_8784X_03_chap01 31 2/5/07 07:47:47 32 Modernism and Fascism ‘anticipation of a new form of historical reality’, and announces a variant of modernism in a totalizing sense that transcends the realm of ‘pure’ art. A ‘SYNOPTIC INTERPRETATION’ OF FASCIST MODERNISM? Hitler’s speech in July 1938 announced the task he had set German art, to both manifest and inspire the process of national rebirth, its triumphal recovery from the Weimar years of decadence that preceded the Third Reich. The task I have set myself in this book is fortunately considerably less epoch-making. It is to establish a new conceptual framework within which to investigate modernism’s relationship to fascism, one that may prove useful to historians in numerous specialisms which impinge on the dynamics of modern history, especially in its more extreme, uncompromisingly irrational or destructive manifestations. It aims to resolve not only the tensions and ambivalence constantly encountered in the history of fascist culture, but the blatant paradoxes persistently generated by so much scholarship on the topic, such as Henry Turner’s insistence on fascism’s ‘anti-modern utopianism’ and Jeffrey Herf’s investigation of the ‘reactionary modernism’ which allegedly resulted when hardcore Nazi conservatives wholeheartedly embraced the modern technocracy. The need for greater conceptual clarity and rigour in this area is underlined by a scintillating collection of scholarly essays written for the catalogue of the ‘Modernism – Designing a New World 1914–1939’ exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2006. As the subtitle suggests, it marks a radical break with much earlier work in the way the eleven essays cumulatively build up a powerful picture of aesthetic modernism’s thrust towards historical Aufbruch, its aspiration to harness the power of art and design to supply a new vision to a modern world urgently in need of social and metapolitical renewal. Yet at the same time they perpetuate the taxonomic confusions that led Dan Cruickshank to see Malaparte’s Capri house as profoundly un-Fascist in spirit, rather than made conceivable precisely by the caesura Fascism had brought about with Italy’s history under liberalism in the mind of genuine converts to the new era. Thus, while Christina Lodder’s essay ‘Searching for Utopia’ highlights the central role played by modernism in the pioneering days of the Russian Revolution, it passes over in silence Le Corbusier’s close association with French fascism.41 Similarly, David Crowley’s chapter on ‘national modernisms’ makes only the briefest of allusions to the
01 Jan 2005
01 Aug 2011
TL;DR: Reenactment has played a vital, albeit unacknowledged, role in what has been remembered of the Holocaust from the moment the camps were liberated, performative and participatory practices were sei...
Abstract: Reenactment has played a vital, albeit unacknowledged, role in what has been remembered of the Holocaust. From the moment the camps were liberated, performative and participatory practices were sei...