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Artists Under Hitler: Collaborations and Survival in Nazi Germany

Artists Under Hitler: Collaborations and Survival in Nazi Germany

Artists Under Hitler: Collaborations and Survival in Nazi Germany

By Jonathan Petropoulos 

Artists Under Hitler accomplishes nothing less than proposing significant changes to our understanding of the history of modern art and artists in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Petropoulos investigates major figures with relentless insight and honesty. He is also fair in his understanding and judgments.”—Richard Hunt, Senior Lecturer, Harvard University, retired

“Richly illustrated with dozens of images and thirteen color plates, Artists under Hitler offers a very readable synthesis of much of the recent work by cultural, architectural, and art historians on ten major artistic figures of the Nazi era.”—Pamela E. Swett, Journal of Modern History

“A persuasive, nuanced, and surprising picture of German culture under the Nazis.”—Kirkus Reviews

The story of how the Nazi seized control of Germany in 1933 and swiftly launched a ferocious campaign against artist they deemed "degenerate" is well known. The Nazi persecution of such artists were relentless, made especially grotesque by Hitler's obsession with art as a force capable of shaping both the present and the future. Artists, whether painters or sculptors, filmmakers or writers, would bow to this vision and help realize it or find themselves banished-or worse.

Many fled, and the drama and circumstances of their emigration and exile are also well known. What is neglected in the story of those who stayed and why and how, whether out of cowardice or conviction, some sought-and found-a compromise with Germany's new rulers that permitted them not only to survive but, in some instances, to thrive. "What are we to make of those cultural figures, many with significant international reputations, who tried to accommodation with the Nazi regime?" Jonathan Petropoulos asks in this provocative and scrupulously researched book.

Far from being simple, the culture life of Nazi Germany was actually complex. For, one thing, contrary to conventional wisdom, fascism did not defeat modernism. Indeed, modernism persisted as an unresolved issue throughout Hitler's twelve-year reign. Petropoulos upends many assumptions that have guided previous accounts of Nazi cultural policies. He shows how individual variously dealt with the regime's public opposition to modern art and reveals how private practices by key officials was at odds with their public posture. His findings explode the myth that all modern artists were anti-Nazi, and all Nazi anti-modernist.

Artists Under Hitler closely examines cases of artists who failed in their attempts to find accommodation with the Nazi regime (Walter Gropius, Paul Hindemith, Gottfried Benn, Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde) as well as others whose desire for official acceptance was realized (Richard Strauss, Gustaf Gründgens, Leni Riefenstahl, Arno Breker, Albert Speer). Collectively these ten figures illuminate the complex cultural history of Nazi Germany, while individually they provide haunting portraits of people facing excruciating choices and grave moral questions.

424 pages
Yale University Press, 2014
6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
ISBN 9780300197471
History, Biography, Art History 

$42.00 $42.00