Hitler and the Artists

Hitler and the Artists

Hitler and the Artists

Hitler and the Artists

Excerpt

In the late summer or early fall of 1945, according to the best available evidence, the cremated ashes of Adolf I litler were blown from the mouth of a Soviet cannon. Over the years our personal and historical memories of the events associated with his life have faded. Thus we often find ourselves in a position similar to that of Rudolf Höss, commandant of the most infamous extermination camp, who, after the war and while in prison awaiting execution, remarked: "Auschwitz? That was far away. Somewhere in Poland."

Yet the interest in Hitler has not slackened. A flood of articles, books, and films has catered to what appears to be an unending fascination with the 4,482 days—twelve years—that Hitler played his important part upon the world stage. Malcolm Muggeridge has claimed that in the nineteen-thirties, "Conversations, whatever their beginnings, had a way of ending in Hitler. It is doubtful if any human being in his lifetime has ever before so focused the attention of his fellows." And Hitler continues to haunt the efforts of all those attempting to make sense of German and European history in this century. He once announced: "Nothing is to be written on my tombstone but the words Adolf Hitler. I shall create my own title for myself in my name alone." There is no tombstone. But in a larger sense Hitler was correct. The name is enough.

Historians and others have responded to the challenge of interpreting Hitler and his times. In fact, scholarship upon the Hitler period has been so thorough and so intellectually provoking that anyone tempted to suggest additional words upon the subject is justifiably intimidated. As early as 1934, the Austrian critic Karl Kraus, who had previously never shown any inhibition in declaring his opinions, opened an essay on contemporary politics with the statement: "I have no bright ideas about Hitler." And the disclaimer by Kraus should remain a warning to all who dare to comment upon the person who may have been, no matter how offensive such a . . .

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