Cover image for Art as politics in the Third Reich
Art as politics in the Third Reich
Petropoulos, Jonathan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [1996]

Physical Description:
xviii, 439 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally presented as the author's thesis (doctoral)--Harvard University.
Reading Level:
1760 Lexile.
Electronic Access:
Book review (H-Net)

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Orchard Park Library N6868.5.N37 P48 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The political elite of Nazi Germany perceived itself as a cultural elite as well. In Art as Politics in the Third Reich , Jonathan Petropoulos explores the elite's cultural aspirations by examining both the formulation of a national aesthetic policy and the content of the private art collections held by high-ranking Nazis. He demonstrates that these leaders manipulated public policy and their own collecting patterns to articulate fundamental tenets of Nazi ideology.

Petropoulos begins by tracing the evolution of official aesthetic policy, from the purges of museum staff and academics labeled as 'undesirable' in 1933 to the confiscation of Jewish-owned artworks in the late 1930s and the organized plundering of art from occupied areas during the war. He then reconstructs the collections of a dozen prominent Nazi officials--including Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, and Ribbentrop--and argues that their private holdings defined their relationships to one another within the Nazi hierarchy in addition to reflecting their racist and nationalist beliefs. According to Petropoulos, art collecting offered the political elite a way to achieve legitimacy and social standing, thereby providing a common cultural language for the leaders of the Third Reich.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Numerous works, e.g., those by Berthold Hinz and Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, have detailed National Socialist antipathy towards modernism in the visual arts. Others have presented accounts portraying the "coordination" of artists under Goebbels's Reich Chambers (Alan Steinweis's Art, Ideology & Economics in Nazi Germany, 1993) or the wholesale wartime expropriation of European masterpieces (Lynn Nicholas's The Rape of Europa, CH, Nov'94). Petropoulos provides an in-depth description of two critical aspects of visual arts policies under the National Socialists. He discusses the multiple, confusing, and often overlapping jurisdictional bureaucracies entrusted with advancing Hitler's attacks on modernism. Second, he details the Nazi leaders' collecting proclivities and the confiscation of artworks for their personal collections. Using a variety of archival sources, Petropoulos convinces the reader that art was employed as a means of displaying power in the widest political sense. Dividing his account in two sections--administering art and collecting art--Petropoulos demonstrates the interconnectedness of the two enterprises and reminds the reader that for the Nazis, art was politics, and politics a high art. All levels. M. Deshmukh George Mason University

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
A Note on Names, Titles and Abbreviationsp. xv
Abbreviations and Acronymsp. xvii
Introductionp. 3
I Administering Art the Competition for Cultural Controlp. 17
Chapter 1 The Establishment of the National Socialist Cultural Bureaucracy 1933-1936p. 19
Chapter 2 Degenerate Art and State Interventionism, 1936-1938p. 51
Chapter 3 From Confiscation to Aryanization the Radicalization Cultural Policy, 1938-1939p. 75
Chapter 4 Artp. 100
Chapter 5 Occupation and Exploitation, 1940-1943p. 123
Chapter 6 The Contraction of the Cultural Bureaucracy 1943-1945p. 151
II Collecting Art the Certification of an Elitep. 177
Chapter 7 An Overview of the Leaders Colletions and Methods of Acquisitionp. 179
Chapter 8 Art Collecting as a Reflection of the National Socialist Leaders' Worldviewsp. 241
Chapter 9 Art Collecting and Interpersonal Relations among the National Socialist Elitep. 262
Conclusionp. 308
Appendix: Organizational Charts and Glossary of Key Figuresp. 313
Notesp. 323
Bibliographyp. 385
Indexp. 417

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