Politics and the Purge of Modernism in Germany between 1933-45
Department of Germanic Languages
University of California
Los Angeles, California 90024-1539
Tel. No.: (310) 825-3955
Fax No.: (310) 825-9754
Art, Literature, and Music': Nazi Cultural Politics and the Purge
of Modernism in Germany between 1933-45."
-- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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  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.
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:
of Video Tape: "The Exiles", Richard Kaplan Production
(New York, 1989);
of the terms "Modernism" and "Degeneracy,"
and of Hitler's racial ideology and concept of art, literature,
and music in "Mein Kampf";
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
- 1. Modernism
in German Art and Literature and its Opponents before 1933;
- The Nazi
Experiment in Thuringia before 1933: Nazi Ideology and Art
Purges before 1933;
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".
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"
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).
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.
Week: Screening of "Triumph of the Will", directed by
Leni Riefenstahl and discussion of Susan Sontag: "Fascinating
Fascism." Persecution of Artists and Intellectuals:
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".
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.
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.
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:
Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde;
Gottfried Benn, Werner Bergengruen, Ricarda Huch, Ernst Jünger,
Jochen Klepper, Elisabeth Langgässer, Reinhold Schneider,
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).
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:
"Literary Weimar in Exile: German Lit. in Los Angeles,
7 Week: Legacy of German Modernism between 1933 and 1945: Art:
Expressionism and "Neue Sachlichkeit" ("New
"Bauhaus", Walter Gropius at Harvard, Mies van der
Rohe in Chicago, Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler in Los
Arnold Schoenberg, "A Survivor of Warsaw" (1947),
"Ode to Napoleon" (1941).
Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, "Dialectic of Enlightenment"
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".
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).
Week: Reading and Discussion of "Doctor Faustus". Reading
Assignment: Thomas Mann: "Germany and the Germans,"
Library of Congress, 29 May 1945.
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
Art, Literature, and Music": Nazi Cultural Politics and the
Purge of Modernism in Germany, 1933-1945 E. Bahr, University of
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