AICGS Home Page!


Nazi Cultural Politics and the Purge of Modernism in Germany between 1933-45

Ehrhard Bahr
Department of Germanic Languages
University of California
Los Angeles, California 90024-1539
Tel. No.: (310) 825-3955
Fax No.: (310) 825-9754

Course Description:

"'Degenerate Art, Literature, and Music': Nazi Cultural Politics and the Purge of Modernism in Germany between 1933-45."
E. Bahr

Course Description -- Dealing with the cultural politics and ideology of the Nazi regime and with its purge of modernist art, music and literature in Germany from 1933 to 1945, the course is planned as a seminar with one meeting per week.

Grown out of resistance to modernization, German fascism was a counterrevolution against modernism. Since the expressions of modernism were most obvious in literature, music, and art, they became special targets of Nazi propaganda. Wanting to create an environment for "healthy" and native-German art, music, and literature, the Nazi regime declared all modernist art, music and literature "deg enerate" and made it its official policy to rid the nation of these works and their producers. With the exception of the genocide o f the Jews, the racist character of the Nazi state became perhaps nowhere else as evident as in its cultural policies. Modernism wa s defined in racist terms as a disease, threatening the "healthy body" of an "Aryan Germanic" nation. So-called "racial aliens" in art, literature and music were characterized as carriers of a disease, infecting the German mind and soul. Jews were considered both an "inferior race," incapable of producing a genuine culture, and intent on destroying the mental health of the "Germanic Aryans," the only "race" which was the bearer of human culture, according to Hitler's Mein Kampf. This racist-ideological programme resulted in the "removal" of those designated as being of "alien race." The racial-hygienic policies, adopted by the Nazi State, were enforced most effectively in the cultural sector, before World War II started. The result was one of the largest forced emigrations of artists, composers, writers and intellectuals recorded in history.

The course will focus on three specific events: 1. the book burnings of 1933, 2. the exhibition of so-called "Degenerate Art" in Munich in 1937, and 3. art , literature, and music in exile with Los Angeles becoming a center of German exile culture in the 1940s.

The seminar was first offered in the Honors Collegium of the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1991 and 1992, and will be particularly relevant to students in European history, German literature, comparative literature, art history, musicology, and political science. As originally designed, a knowledge of German was not required. Since the course design is to be implemented for German majors or majors in German Studies, all primary texts, listed below, and excerpts for reading will be in German.

The goals of the seminar is to explore the representations of modernism in Central European art, literature, and music, and to analyze the threat they constituted to a racist inspired ideology of Nazi art, literature, and music. Focusing on the various events and the measures introduced, the course will trace the racist character of these purges, identifying the ideological assumptions and political interests at work in the Nazi fight against modernism. In its conclusion, the seminar will concentrate on the survival of modernism in exile.

Required Reading: Bertolt Brecht, Galileo, Ernst Jünger, On the Marble Cliffs, Klaus Mann, Mephisto, Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus, E. Bahr, "Literary Weimar in Exile: German Literature in Los Angeles, 1940-1958," and assigned readings.

Required Course Work: Two (2) short papers on the biography and work of an artist, author, or composer between 1933-1945, due during the second and third week, and one (1) seminar paper (maximum: fifteen [15] typewritten pages), due at the end of the quarter. All papers require concise synthesis and analysis. The two short papers will comprise 20% of the grade; the seminar paper will compris e 60%, and class discussion 20%. There will be no midterm of final examinations.

Ehrhard Bahr Department of Germanic Languages University of California Los Angeles, California 90024-1539

E. Bahr, Syllabus -- "Degenerate Art, Literature, and Music": Nazi Cultural Politics and the Purge of Modernism in Germany, 1933-1945

1. Week: Introduction:
  1. Screening of Video Tape: "The Exiles", Richard Kaplan Production (New York, 1989);
  2. Discussion of the terms "Modernism" and "Degeneracy," and of Hitler's racial ideology and concept of art, literature, and music in "Mein Kampf";
  3. Discussion of the term "Aryan" and its ideology. Reading Assignments: H.A. Jacobsen, "The Third Reich," S. L. Gilman, "Literature in German, 1933- 1945," in Burdick/Jacobsen, "Contemporary Germany:" "Politics and Culture" (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984) 27-59, 276-97; Sander L. Gilman, "The Mad Man as Artist: Medicine, History, and Degenerate Art," "Journal of Contemporary History" 20 (1985): 575-97.

2. Week:
  1. 1. Modernism in German Art and Literature and its Opponents before 1933;
  2. The Nazi Experiment in Thuringia before 1933: Nazi Ideology and Art Purges before 1933;
  3. Nazi Cultural Politics in Action after 1933: a. NS German Students' Association's Propaganda Project: Poster: "Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist" ("Campaign Against the Un-German Spirit") (13 April 1933). b. Purge of the Section for Literature of the Prussian Academy of Arts (7 May 1933). Reading Assignment: J.M. Ritchie, "Germany Awakens," Chapter 4 of Ritchie, "German Literature under" "National Socialism", pp. 65-93; chapters on "Literature," "Theatre," "Cinema," and "Music," in Richard Grunberger, "The" "Twelve-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany".

3. Week:
  1. Book Burning: 10 May 1933: Directive to all German Students' Associations at German universities (9 May 1933); Black Lists for Literature in Public Libraries: 16 May 1933. Heinrich Heine quote: "Where men burn books,/ They will burn people also in the end" (Almansor, 1821).
  2. Founding of the "Reichskulturkammer" ("Reich Cham- ber of Culture") with sections for literature ("Reichsschrifttumskammer"), press, radio, theater, music, and art. Legislation: 22 Sept. 1933; Proclamation: 15 November 1933. Documentation: Speeches by Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler (in translation).
  3. Slide Presentation of Expressionist Art. Reading Assignment: Ritchie, "Exile, The First and Second Phase," "German Literature under NS.", 187-229; Stephanie Barron, "1937: Modern Arts and Politics in Prewar Germany," ""Degenerate Art": The Fate of the" "Avantgarde in Nazi Germany", ed. St. Barron. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991. 9- 23.

4. Week: Screening of "Triumph of the Will", directed by Leni Riefenstahl and discussion of Susan Sontag: "Fascinating Fascism." Persecution of Artists and Intellectuals:
  1. Nobel Prize for Peace for Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938): 23 November 1936: As a peace activist, journalist, editor-in-chief and contributor to "Die" "Weltbühne", Ossietzky was sentenced to prison in the early thirties for "defaming the German Army" and was imprisoned in a concentration camp after the Nazis came to power. In 1936, still a concentration camp inmate, Ossietzky received the Nobel Peace Prize. Released as an invalid, he died in Berlin in 1938. Documentation: Diploma of Nobel Prize; Announcement of Nobel Prize in "New York Times".
  2. Thomas Mann stripped of German Citizenship: 2 De- cember 1936: Thomas Mann's Letter to the Dean of the Humanities Faculty at the University of Bonn in response to the subsequent loss of his honorary Ph.D. degree: 31 December 1936.
  3. Last Escape, Exile and Murder: Nelly Sachs escapes to Sweden, Gertrud Kolmar is murdered in an extermination camp. Theodor W. Adorno, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Broch, Alfred Döblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Max Horkheimer, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Werfel escape to the United States. Walter Benjamin commits suicide at the Spanish border. Other suicides: Carl Einstein, Walter Hasenclever, Ernst Toller, Kurt Tucholsky, Ernst Weiß, Stefan Zweig.
  4. 1937 Exhibition in Munich of "Entartete Kunst" ("Degenerate Art"). Consult reconstruction of exhibit in catalogue ""Degenerate Art": The Fate of" "the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany", 45-81. Assigned Reading for the following week: E. Jünger, "On the Marble Cliffs" (1939), and J.M. Ritchie, "Inner Emigration," "German Lit. under NS", 111-32.

5. Week: Inner Emigration:
  1. Art: Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde;
  2. .
  3. Literature: Gottfried Benn, Werner Bergengruen, Ricarda Huch, Ernst Jünger, Jochen Klepper, Elisabeth Langgässer, Reinhold Schneider, Ernst Wiechert.
  4. Music: Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek, Anton Webern, Kurt Weill. Discussion of E. Jünger, "On the Marble Cliffs" and of relevant excerpts from W. Benjamin's essay on "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936). Reading Assignment: Klaus Mann, "Mephisto" (1936).

6. Week: Screening: "Mephisto", directed by Istvan Szabo (1981): discussion of the novel and the film as a response to culure in totalitarian states. Reading Assignment:
  • Bahr, "Literary Weimar in Exile: German Lit. in Los Angeles, 1940-58,"
  • Brecht, "Galileo".

7 Week: Legacy of German Modernism between 1933 and 1945: Art:
  1. German Expressionism and "Neue Sachlichkeit" ("New Objectivity");
  2. Architecture: "Bauhaus", Walter Gropius at Harvard, Mies van der Rohe in Chicago, Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler in Los Angeles.
  3. Music: Arnold Schoenberg, "A Survivor of Warsaw" (1947), "Ode to Napoleon" (1941).
  4. Philosophy: Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, "Dialectic of Enlightenment" (1947).
  5. Literature: Thomas Mann, "Doctor Faustus", Bertolt Brecht, "Galileo", Alfred Döblin, "November 1918", Franz Werfel, "Jakobowsky and the Colonel", and "Star of the Unborn", Lion Feuchtwanger, "Josephus Trilogy", Hermann Broch, "The Death of Virgil", Anna Seghers, "The Seventh Cross". Discussion of Brecht, "Galileo" and the Epic Theater as Modernism in Exile. Reading Assignment: Thomas Mann, "Doctor Faustus".

8. Week: Reading and Discussion: Thomas Mann, "Doctor Faustus" as Modernism in Exile. Presentation of recordings of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," "Symphony" No. 9 and Schoenberg's "A Survivor of " "Warsaw" (1947).

9. Week: Reading and Discussion of "Doctor Faustus". Reading Assignment: Thomas Mann: "Germany and the Germans," Library of Congress, 29 May 1945.

10. Week: Reading and Discussion of "Doctor Faustus" and "Germany and the Germans," i.e., the function of music in the interpretation of Fascism. Conclusions and Recommendations: The Role of Modern- ist Art, Literature, and Music at the Ende of the 20th Century. The Response of Post-Modernism

"Degenerate Art, Literature, and Music": Nazi Cultural Politics and the Purge of Modernism in Germany, 1933-1945 E. Bahr, University of California, Los Angeles Bahr, Bibliography -- Bibliography

Bahr, Ehrhard. "Literary Weimar in Exile: German Literature in Los Angeles, 1940-1958." "Literary Exiles and Refugees in Los Angeles". Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Mem. Library, 1988. 1-27. Baird, Jay W. "To Die for Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Patheon". Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990.

Barron, Stephanie, ed. ""Degenerate Art": The Fate of the AvantGarde in Nazi Germany". Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum, 1991.

Berghahn, V.R. "Modern Germany: Society, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century". Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982.

Berman, Russel A. "Written Right Across Their Faces: Leni Riefenstahl, Ernst Jünger and Fascist Modernism." "Modern Culture a nd Critical Theory: Art, Politics, and the Legacy of the Frankfurt School". Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. 99- 117.

Bradbury, Malcolm and James McFarlane, eds. "Modernism: A Guide to European Literature, 1890-1930". Reprinted with a new preface. London: Penguin, 1991. Burdick, Charles et al., eds. "Contemporary Germany: Politics and Culture". Boulder/London: Westview Press, 1984.

Burleigh, Michael and Wolfgang Wippermann. "The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945". Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Cazden, Robert E. "German Exile Literture in America 1933-1950". Chicago: American Library Association, 1970.

Chefdor, Monique, Richard Quinones, and Albert Wachtel, eds. "Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives". Urbana: Universit y of Illinois Press, 1986.

Dahlhaus, Carl. "Schoenberg and the New Music". Transl. by Derrick Puffett and Alfred Clayton. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni versity Press, 1987.

Gilman, Sander L. "Literature in German, 1933-1945." "Contemporary Germany", ed. by Charles Burdick et al., 276-97. -----. "Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness". Ithaca, London: Cornell UP, 1985." "

-----. "The Mad Man as Artist: Medicine, History, and Degenerate Art." "Journal of Contempory History" 20 (1985): 575-97.

Golomstock, Igor. "Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy and the People's Republic of China. London: Collins Harvill, 1990.

Grunberger, Richard. "The Twelve Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-1945". New York: Holt, Rinehart & Win ter, 1979.

Grosshans, Henry. "Hitler and the Artists". New York: Holmes & Meier, 1983.

Heilbut, Anthony. "Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America from the 1930's to the PresentÇ È". New York: Viking, 1983.

Herf, Jeffrey. "Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich". Cambridge: Camb ridge UP, 1984.

Hilberg, Raul. "The Destruction of the European Jews". Chicago: Quadrangle, 1967. Hirschbach, Frank D. et al. "Germany in the Twenties: The Artist as Social Critic: A Collection of Essays". New York, London: Holmes & Meier, 1980.

Hitler, Adolf. "Mein Kampf". Transl. by Ralph Manheim. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.

Hitler, Adolf. "Speech Inaugurating the 'Great Exhibition of German Art, 1937'." "Theories of Modern Art: A Sourcebook by Art ists and Critics", ed. by Herschel B. Chipp. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968. 474-82.

Hochman, Elaine S. "Mies van der Rohe and the Third Reich". Lanham, Maryland: National Book Network, 1990.

Jackman, Jarrell C. and Carla M. Borden (eds.). "The Muses Flee Hitler: Cultural Transfer and Adaptation 1930-1945". Washington, D.C.: Smithonian Institution Press, 1983.

Jacobson, Hans-Adolf. "The Third Reich, 1933-1945: A Sketch." "Contemporary Germany", ed. by Charles Burdick et al., 27- 59.

Jay, Martin. "The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950ÇM DNMÈ. Boston: Little, Brown and Comp., 1973.

"Adorno". Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984.

"Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America". New York: Columbia UP, 1986.

Karl, Frederick R. "Modern and Modernism: The Sovereignty of the Artist, 1885-1925". New York: Atheneum, 1988.

Klieneberger, H.R. "The Christian Writers of the Inner Emigration". The Hague/Paris: Mouton, 1968.

Lane, Barbara Miller. "Architecture in Germany, 1918-1945". Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985.

Lehnert, Herbert and Peter C. Pfeiffer, eds. "Doctor Faustus: A Novel at the Margin of Modernism". Columbia, SC.: Camden House, 1991.

Mosse, George L. "Nazi Culture: A Documentary History". New York: Schocken, 1966.

Noakes, J. & G. Pridham, eds. "Nazism 1919-1945: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts". 2 vols. New York: Sch ocken, 1983/84.

Pfanner, Helmut F. "Exile in New York: German and Austrian Writers after 1933". Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1 983.

Pike, David. "German Writers in Soviet Exile, 1933-1945". Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982. Poggioli, Renato. "The Theory of the Avant Garde". Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1968.

Richard, Lionel. "Nazisme et littérature". Paris: Maspero, 1971. Ritchie, J.M. "German Literature under National Socialism". London: 1983.

Rosen, Charles. "Arnold Schoenberg". Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1975.

Selz, Peter. "German Expressionist Painting". Berkeley, Los Angeles: UC Press, 1957.

Schrader, Bärbel & Jürgen Schebera. "The "Golden" Twenties: Art and Literature in the Weimar Republic". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Snyder, Louis. "Hitler's Third Reich: A Documentary History". Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1981. Schuster, Peter Klaus, ed. "Nationalsozialismus und Entartete Kunst". Munich: Prestel, 1988.

Sontag, Susan. "Fascinating Fascism." "Under the Sign of Saturn". New York: Doubleday, 1991. 73-105.

Spalek, John M. and Robert F. Bell (eds.). "Exile: The Writer's Experience". Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina P ress, 1982.

Taylor, John Russel. "Strangers in Paradise: The Hollywood" "Emigres, 1933-1950". New York: Holt, Rinehart, Wi nston, 1983.

Taylor, Ronald. "Literature and Society in Germany, 1918-1945". Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1980.

Wilkinson, James D. "The Intellectual Resistance in Europe". Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981.

Willett, John. "Art and Politics in the Weimar Period: The New Sobriety 1917-1933". New York: Pantheon, 1978.

Wistrich, Robert. "Who's Who in Nazi Germany". New York: Macmillan, 1982.

Research @ AICGS

Additional Resources

Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder
Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder

1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036-2121, USA
| (+1-202) 332-9312 tel. | (+1-202) 265-9531 fax. |
Contact: Webmaster

Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder

Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder
Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder
Ignore me, I'm just a placeholder