Art, Ideology & Economics in Nazi Germany: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts

Art, Ideology & Economics in Nazi Germany: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts

Art, Ideology & Economics in Nazi Germany: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts

Art, Ideology & Economics in Nazi Germany: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts

Synopsis

"From 1933 to 1945, the Reich Chamber of Culture exercised a profound influence over hundreds of thousands of German artists and entertainers. Subdivided into separate chambers for music, theater, the visual arts, literature, film, radio, and the press, this organization encompassed several hundred thousand professionals and influenced the activities of millions of amateur artists and musicians as well. Alan Steinweis focuses on the fields of music, theater, and the visual arts in this first major study of Nazi cultural administration, examining a complex pattern of interaction among leading Nazi figures, German cultural functionaries, ordinary artists, and consumers of culture. One of the most persistent generalizations to emerge from research on Nazi Germany is the notion of a German artistic and cultural establishment at the mercy of a totalitarian regime determined to mobilize the arts for its own ideological purposes. Steinweis argues that this generalization obscures a more complex reality. It overlooks continuities in the agenda of the German cultural establishment from the Weimar Republic through the Nazi period and presupposes a clearer distinction than actually existed between officialdom and the cultural elite, thereby overestimating the degree to which policy affecting artists originated outside the artistic world. Steinweis describes the political, professional, and economic environment in which German artists were compelled to function and explains the structure of decision making, showing in whose interest cultural policies were formulated. He discusses such issues as work creation, social insurance, minimum wage statutes, and certification guidelines, all of which were matters of high priority to the art professions before 1933 as well as after the Nazi seizure of power. By elucidating the economic and professional context of cultural life, Steinweis also contributes to an understanding of the response of German artists to cultural Gleichschaltung, or "coordination," and helps to explain the widespread acquiescence of German artists to artistic censorship and racial and political "purification.""--BOOK JACKET. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The arts occupied a central position in the ideology and propaganda of National Socialism. Yet despite the existence of a number of fine scholarly and popular studies of the subject, the research potential of the Nazi regime's policies toward the arts remains largely untapped. The Reich Chamber of Culture, or Reichskulturkammer, in particular, stands out as an institution that merits far more attention than it has received. Created by the Reich Cabinet in September 1933 upon the initiative of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who became president of the mammoth new organization, the Kulturkammer was designed to "promote German culture on behalf of the German Volk and Reich" and to "regulate the economic and social affairs of the culture professions." Subdivided into separate chambers for music, theater, the visual arts, literature, film, radio, and the press, this organization encompassed several hundred thousand professionals and influenced the activities of millions of amateur artists and musicians as well. Most of what we know about the Kulturkammer and its chambers relates to the purge and censorship dimensions of their responsibilities, although even these require far more investigation. Meanwhile, the economic, social, and professional dimensions of chamber policy have been largely overlooked. During the years of Nazi rule, the culture chambers implemented, or attempted to implement, numerous measures designed to ameliorate the material hardships that had long confronted German artists and to secure a modicum of long-term economic stability for the traditionally crisis-ridden art professions.

It is hoped that this study of the Chamber of Culture will contribute to an emerging scholarly literature on Nazi artistic and cultural policy, which aims at achieving a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between the Nazi regime and the German art world. One of the most persistent generalizations to have emerged from almost five decades of postwar research on Nazi Germany is the notion of a German artistic and cultural establishment at the mercy of a totalitarian regime determined to mobilize the arts in pursuit of its own ideological ends. Explicitly or implicitly, historians have characterized the relationship between the regime and the art world as one in which a powerful state-party apparatus manipulated malleable and sometimes enthusiastic artists. According to this view, a regime exercising absolute power engineered the "de-Jewification" (Entjüdung) of German cultural life, carried through the purge of Marxists . . .

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