Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture

By Matthew Jefferies | Go to book overview

2
Back to the Future? The Heimatschutz Movement in Wilhelmine Germany

Histories of twentieth century architecture have, by and large, chosen to ignore the German Heimatschutz movement. Where the term 'Heimatschutz' -- it literally means 'protection of the homeland' -- does intrude into the classic texts it is usually in a negative context: as the mouthpiece of organised philistinism; as a misguided body of people who sought to prevent the onward march of modernism. The well-documented campaigns against the Weimar and Dessau Bauhaus in which some Heimatschutz supporters were involved, and their role as 'opposition' in the heroic period of the Modern movement, sealed their fate in the eyes of a generation of art-historians.

Moreover, tragi-comic episodes, such as the touched-up photograph produced by the Swabian Heimatschutz association to portray the flatroofed and whitewashed houses of Stuttgart's ultra-modernist Weißenhof estate as a 'Suburb of Jerusalem', complete with camels and shadowy Arab figures, are used to illustrate the movement's marriage of convenience with the National Socialists in the late 1920s. The ill-advised flirtation of certain Heimatschutz leaders with racial theory, and the Nazi Party's eager exploitation of the propaganda opportunities which this presented, have inevitably cast a dark shadow on the movement's history. It hardly matters that the Third Reich paid only lip-service to Heimatschutz ideas -- Fritz Todt, architect of the Autobahn construction programme and from 1940 Hitler's Armaments Minister, described himself as 'Guardian of the Heimatschutz Ideal', as he buried great swathes of the Homeland under concrete and steel -- for once the movement had sold its soul to Hitler, there was no way back.

The four decades since World War Two have produced no monograph on the movement in any language, and precious little research into any

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