HomeGER-383Module 5: Approved Culture

Module 5: Approved Culture

Approved Art

The Great German Art Exhibition was an annual affair intended to promote German art to the public. Read this speech by Hitler given at the opening of the first exhibition:

 Hitler speech at opening of the Great German Art Exhibition

Now, look at some of the art that received the approval of the regime:

Click images to see full size versions.

Your task: How do one or more of the pieces of art above conform to what Hitler says in his speech? 


Here is an essay by the most famous architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer, along with some pictures of the buildings he refers to in the essay:

The Führer’s Buildings

 (accompanying photos)

This video is a computer-generated reconstruction of Speer’s Reich Chancellery:


And this article tells you about the plans to build Germania, a new capital for Germany that was to replace Berlin (the centre of Berlin was to be completely redesigned):

  Germania: Hitler’s Dream Capital

Your task: What are the main components or features of government-endorsed architecture in the Third Reich? 

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl is one of the most complex figures of Third Reich culture.

In the late 1920s she became famous as the heroine of Bergfilme (mountain films). She was a gifted athlete and could perform all her own stunts (in that day, most actors performed their own stunts). Even though Hitler did not particularly like film, he did like Leni, even if she didn’t incorporate the Nazi ideal of the passive woman who accepted her duty to produce healthy children.

She turned to directing, and was invited to film the Nazi Party’s annual congress at Nuremberg. Today there still aren’t many female film directors, so imagine the impact her work as a director must have had in the 1930s. Her fame as a director rests on two films: Triumph of the Will, her film of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, and Olympia, her two-part film of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Both films are documentaries, but because she was had the support of Hitler and access to anything she needed, she was able to commit an incredible amount of resources to the making of these films. She shot miles and miles of footage, and took months to edit each film.  

Watch these two clips:

Triumph of the Will: opening sequence

Triumph of the Will: mass rally. The 1934 party congress occurred after Hitler used the SS to execute members of the SA he thought were becoming rivals. This scene is a display of unity as Hitler marches with Himmler, leader of the SS, and the new leader of the SA, a supporter of Hitler.

Riefenstahl’s renown as a director rests on a couple of points: (1) she pulled out all the stops to get exactly the shot she wanted, which usually meant making special equipment especially for such shots; (2) she edited with a precision and a sense of rhythm that is still studied today. She had the time, the determination, and the resources to realize her vision, and because of that became one of the most important directors in cinematic history.

But the issue always come up: should we watch Riefenstahl’s films? Should we study her technical mastery, even though that mastery served the purposes of the Nazi party? She denied to her dying day (and she lived past 100) that she was ever a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer. She claimed to know nothing of the Nazis’ brutal tactics, and said that she was an artist with no interest in politics. But her films, especially Triumph of the Will, are considered to be classic examples of Nazi propaganda, and so it is supposed that her films contributed directly to the mobilzation of the German people behind Hitler. Thus for many, her claims of innocence and naivete ring false. After the war she was held for a time by the Allies, but she was never convicted of any major crimes for her work during the Third Reich. 

Your task: After watching those two clips, do you think Riefenstahl was an artist or a propagandist? Did she simply document some aspects of the Third Reich, or did she glorify it in her films, thereby convincing others to do the same? How did you feel after watching the clips?

Fascinating Fascism

In 1975, cultural critic Susan Sontag wrote an essay about Leni Riefenstahl called “Fascinating Fascism.” You can read the essay here:

 “Fascinating Fascism

Part One of the essay (the part I really want you to read) is a review of a book of Riefenstahl’s photographs of the Nuba, a people in Africa that Riefenstahl visited after the war. (If you’d like to see some of these photos, click here.) It’s a dense essay, but it makes the argument that the aesthetics of fascism continue to be seen and enjoyed in contemporary culture.

Your task: How would you summarize Sontag’s argument? What is the point she’s trying to make?

Specific Instructions for this Review: Approved Culture

Have a look at this ProfMoment:

Your task: Analyze one of the works of art in this module, and explain how it supports the ideology of Nazism. 

Feel free to make use of the content items in the module and the postings of your classmates when composing your answer. (For example, perhaps someone else mentioned the point you’re making in a posting – you can cite that and expand on it.)

550-650 words

General Instructions for the Module Reviews

Please keep the following in mind, and please note the elaborations that have been added (in red):

  • your answer should be uploaded as a PDF document – if it isn’t, it will be graded, but you’ll receive no comments.
  • your answer should be double-spaced.
  • no title page, but there should be a title, your name should appear at the top, and there should be page numbers.
  • answers should be within the specified word range.
  • good essays have the following: grammatically-correct sentences; coherent paragraphs; no spelling mistakes; a clear argument or point; titles that capture, directly or indirectly, a point being made in your essay.
  • if you refer to a reading in this unit, you don’t have to give full bibliographical information, but when you first mention it, give the full title and author’s name. If you refer to material not read in class, provide a full bibliographical citation at the end of your essay (it will not count as part of the word count).

Please note: the question may ask you to make use of the discussions that occurred in the module. There are two modes for viewing the discussion forums, GRID VIEW and READING VIEW. (You can change which you view by clicking on the settings – the gear icon – in the upper right-hand corner of your screen when you’re in the Discussions area of the course.) Play around with the two views to find the setting that works best for you. For example, when I’m reading your discussions during the week and commenting on some of them, I use the READING VIEW, but if I have to read and grade a lot of postings I use the GRID VIEW.