Nazism and degenerate art
Similarly to Italian Fascism, the National Socialism that was developing in Germany in the 20's, didn't Initially posses have a unified concept regarding art. The chief ideologist of the party was Alfred Rosenberg, editor from 1921 of the Nazi newspaper "Völkischer Beobachter", attempted to worked out a basis for a new vision of Nazi culture to counter the "contemporary reigning forces of disintegration." The "Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur" created in 1927 through his initiative to inveigh against the liberal and cosmopolitan policies of the Weimer Republic, on behalf of national culture, evoking the Germanic spirit and manifesting racial purity. Conflict was postulated with all avant-garde tendencies, described as "bolshevik culture," "degenerated," or "judeo-bolshevik art." According to the ideologues of the Nazi culture "the 19th century ended with impressionist-expressionist impotency. German art became the art of the half-breeds, manifesting its deseased over-growths, creations of the syphilitic brain and artistic primitivism."
Restoring health to culture should - according to the creators of "Kampfbund" - bring about racial purification of Germany, elimination of Jews and Slavs and the strengthening of the aryan race. The strong accenting of the mutual inter-depence of race and culture, found its theoretical basis in Paul Schulz-Naumburg's 1928 work "Kunst und Rasse." He managed to assemble and juxtapose in the most suggestive manner (at least for the average town-dweller to whom the book was addressed) works of modern art with photographs of cripples and handicapped individuals. The thus suggested similarity between the artistic deformation of the cubist or expressionist canvases and human bodies deformed by disease was intended to prove the degenerate nature of modern artists and their social mariginalization. The hatred of the Nazis for contemporary art was an obscurant hatred of otherness. Their slogans appealed to the lower middle class and conservative peasantry, to the less educated strata most affected by the economic crisis. The developments in modern art were presented as a form of a Jewish plot, the purpose of which was rob the German citizens. According to Rosenberg: "We have had every three years and new '-ism,' always something new and the Jewish art dealers in their newspapers and periodicals undertook alltogether unlikly efforts to create sensations and, with the help of new art sensations, to make large profits."

based on Sztuka a systemy totalitarne (Art and totalitarian systems) by Waldemar Baraniewski.

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English translation by Peter K. Gessner of Polish original posted by Liga Republicanska
© 2000 Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. All rights reserved.


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