ART

Using Art as Nazi Propaganda

The Nazi Party ended democracy in post-World War I Germany and had established a totalitarian regime. It was prevalent in every part of life, also reflected in art. Individual art styles that better helped to manipulate the public. They imposed the Nazi Party’s ideals on art such as Socialist Realism, Heroic Realism, and Fascist Realism. While using these in their propaganda, other styles seemed degenerated.

Before its rise in Germany, Stalin imposed Socialist Realism in the post-Lenin Russia first. He banned all negative illustrations of communist ideals and life in Soviet Russia, enforcing optimistic depictions of the regime.

Socialist Realism in art showed life realistically and traditionally under the Soviet rule, emphasizing socialist propaganda and glorifying communist ideals. It reflected life using a realistic style, avoiding fictional elements and stylization. This idea is closely related to Fascist Realism and Heroic Realism, promoting the regime in charge while limiting self-expression.

German Student Poster

Propaganda of “non-Aryan” art using Realism

As a result, it led to the destruction of others. One of the significant degeneration propaganda of “non-Aryan” art to the public during Nazi Germany was the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) Exhibition. Adolf Ziegler organized it, an artist very close to and favored by Adolf Hitler.

The totalitarian regimen inherently celebrated any form of art that was useful for propaganda. Also humiliated any art style they found unconventional. Personal, abstract, experimental art, anything that did not fit the stereotypically “beautiful” mold was destroyed, degenerated, and shamed. It naturally led to the glorification of specific styles, such as Socialist Realism.

As the Nazi regime belittled and prohibited modern art, the “Aryan” style took over. It constructed around the perfect German citizen image, nurturing nationalism and classical models. They used art to endorse feelings of sacrifice, courage, strength.

A Woman’s Magazine in 1939, illustrates every day, happy life of farmers.

Perfect Citizen

Regarding this, the perfect citizen had to devote and sacrifice themselves for the nation’s duty. Through ideas such as a self-sufficient economy and socialism, it was natural that Realism was an essential part of art, mostly as Nazi Germany rejected materialism.

This rejection resulted in focusing on creating “perfect” pieces that would last an eternity, making Socialist Realism an immensely popular style. It was a form of Realism, which served socialist propaganda, ironically using highly stereotyped “perfect” images of men and women depicting power and beauty.

An essential part of the Nazi propaganda, peasants were also depicted favorably in these paintings. They often seem at peace and in harmony with nature. “According to the ‘worldview’ envisioned by Hitler in Mein Kampf, one of the earliest sources of Nazi propaganda, “the peasants were the group of noble Germans who would build the new Reich.” (Swaney, 48) Embodying the slogan “Blood and Soil,” the agricultural propaganda used a realistic way of painting and pushing socialist ideals, such as glorifying peasants.

SOURCES: 

El-Mecky, Dr. Nausikaä, and Dr. Nausikaä El-Mecky. “Art in Nazi Germany.” Smarthistory, smarthistory.org

Ginnybatty. “The Political Picture – How the Nazis Created a Distinctly Fascist Art.” Ginnyandthemoon, 26 Sept. 2015, ginnyandthemoon.wordpress.com

“Nazi Ideology – Beliefs of the Nazi Party – GCSE History Revision – BBC Bitesize.” BBC News, BBC, bbc.co.uk

Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 132 ISBN 0-8109-1912-5

“Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).” Piet Mondrian: Dutch Abstract Painter, Founder of Neo-Plasticism, visual-arts-cork.com

“Poster:‘The German Student.’” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, ushmm.org

Spotts, Frederic (2002). Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. The Overlook Press. pp. 151–68. ISBN 1-58567-507-5.

Swaney, Keith R. (2004) “An Ideological War of ‘Blood and Soil’ and Its Effect on the Agricultural Propaganda and Policy of the Nazi Party, 1929-1939,” The Gettysburg Historical Journal: Vol. 3 , Article 6. Available at: cupola.gettysburg.edu

Tate. “’1939′, Hans Feibusch, 1939.” Tate, 1 Jan. 1970, tate.org.uk

Tate. “Neo-Plasticism – Art Term.” Tate, tate.org.uk

Tate. “Socialist Realism – Art Term.” Tate, 1 Jan. 1970, tate.org.uk

The NS Frauen Warte, 1st May Issue 1939 research.calvin.edu

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