Hitler – Time’s Most Influential Person of the Year 1938

Read this article Hitler, Man of the Year, published by Time magazine, January 2, 1939.

TIME’s cover (above) showed Organist Adolf Hitler playing his hymn of hate in a desecrated cathedral while victims dangle on a St. Catherine’s wheel and the Nazi hierarchy looks on, was drawn by Baron Rudolph Charles von Ripper, a Catholic who found Germany intolerable.

Book Burning and Degenerate Art

“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”

Heinrich Heine (German Poet and Writer, 17971856

In 1933, Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  began to exert control over German cultural life. There are numerous examples of Nazi censorship but two that stand out are the book burning bonfires in 1933 and the removal of thousands of artworks and Degenerate Art exhibit in Munich in 1938.

In Berlin and other university cities of Germany, “un-German” and immoral books were gathered and burned by students. During the bonfire at Opernplatz in Berlin, Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels addresses the youth:

“My fellow students, German men and women, the era of exaggerated Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. The triumph of the German revolution has cleared a path for the German way; and the future German man will not just be a man of books, but also a man of character and it is to this end we want to educate you. To have at an early age the courage to peer directly into the pitiless eyes of life. To repudiate the fear of death in order to gain again the respect for death. That is the mission of the young and therefore you do well at this late hour to entrust to the flames the intellectual garbage of the past. It is a strong, great and symbolic undertaking, an undertaking, which shall prove to all the world that the intellectual basis of the November Republic is here overturned; but that from its ruins will arise victorious the lord of a new spirit.” (The Opernplatz in Berlin)”.

Students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books and this is evidence of an era of Nazi censorship and control of culture.  At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, “fire oaths,” and incantations.

Degenerate Art

Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich on July 19, 1937

The Nazis went to extraordinary lengths to rid German society of what they saw as polluting influences. The censorship during the Nazi regime  has become legendary and in 1938 they removed thousands of artworks from national museums.

Ironically, many these artworks are now seen to be among the most important of the 20th century.

The Nazis believed that there was a relationship between race and art and by 1933, the terms “Jewish,” “Degenerate,” and “Bolshevik” were used to describe almost all modern art. The Nazis hated the modernist ideas that had dominated art, theatre, music and film during the Weimar years.

“To show off their revulsion of this “degeneracy”, the Nazis mounted infamous Entartete Kunst or Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich on July 19, 1937. Goebbels authorised the confiscation of  any remaining art deemed modern, degenerate, or subversive from museums and art collections throughout the Reich. These works were then to be presented to the public in an exhibit intended to incite further revulsion against the “perverse Jewish spirit” penetrating German culture.”

Over 5000 works were seized, including works by Nolde, Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann, as well as smaller numbers of works by such artists as Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Over 5000 people a day came to see the exhibition.

There were slogans painted on the walls. For example:
* Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist rule
* Revelation of the Jewish racial soul
* An insult to German womanhood
* The ideal–cretin and whore
* Deliberate sabotage of national defense
* German farmers–a Yiddish view
* The Jewish longing for the wilderness reveals itself – in Germany the Negro becomes the racial ideal of a degenerate art
* Madness becomes method
* Nature as seen by sick minds
* Even museum bigwigs called this the “art of the German people”

“The exhibit was designed to promote the idea that modernism was a conspiracy by people who hated German decency, frequently identified as Jewish-Bolshevist, although only six of the 112 artists included in the exhibition were in fact Jewish.

A few weeks after the opening of the exhibition, Goebbels ordered a second and more thorough scouring of German art collections and the total artworks seized amounted to 16,558 works.”

“Not every artist considered by the Nazis to be degenerate was included in the Entarte Kunst exhibit. One such artist was Käthe Kollwitz whose paintings, drawings, and sculptures were commentaries on social conditions. She was much loved by the German people, with streets and parks being named after her. Käthe Kollwitz became the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin. But because her work was critical of the Nazi regime, she too was persecuted.

Where do all the women who have watched so carefully over their loved ones get the heroism to send them to face the cannon? I toy with the thought (of) . . . mothers standing in a circle defending their children, as a sculpture in the round. –Kollwitz

The Nazis forbade her work to be displayed, and banished her work, declaring: “In the Third Reich mothers have no need to defend their children. The State does that.”

“While modern styles of art were prohibited, the Nazis promoted paintings and sculptures that were narrowly traditional in manner and that exalted the “blood and soil” values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience. Similarly, music was expected to be tonal and free of any (non-Aryan) jazz influences; films and plays were censored.”

Sources: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/arts/artDegen.htm

What do these two incidents reveal about life under Nazism?

Use this information to help answer the  essay set for prep:

Evaluate the view that Germany was a totalitarian society in the period 1933–1939.

Blut und Boden – Life Under Nazism

Blut und Boden = Blood and Soil


“Die Nation braucht Dein Opfer = The Nation needs your Sacrifice”

You will recall that we studied the process of Gleichschaltung (coordination, sychronisation). Gleichschaltung was a word made up by the Nazis to describe their plans to establish totalitarian control over German political, economic and social life. By 1934, almost 1 million Germans gathered around the nation to declare a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler. For those who were not so enthusiastic, the Nazi reign of terror began almost immediately. Following their assumption of power, the Nazis used the state apparatus via propaganda, legal exclusion, intimidation, imprisonment and murder to eliminate any opposition to their revolution. After the Reichstag fire, socialists, communists and Democrats were taken to Dachau, one of the first Nazi concentration camps. The brutal reputation of Himmler’s secret police ensured that people who did not actively support the Nazis were too frightened to oppose them.

While Gleichschaltung was used to describe the legal measures taken by Hitler and the Nazis from 1933 to 1934, this process continued until all aspects of German society were under Nazi control. By 1937, the Nazis controlled Germans’ political, cultural and social lives to an unprecedented degree.

“The period from 1933 to around 1937 was characterized by the systematic elimination of non-Nazi organizations that could potentially influence people, such as trade unions and political parties. The regime also challenged the influence of the churches, for example by instituting the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs under Hanns Kerrl. Organizations that the administration could not eliminate, such as the schools, came under its direct control.” Source: http://www.germannotes.com/hist_ww2_gleichschaltung.shtml

Education under Nazi Germany

Impact of Nazism on Family Life


  1. Why were the Nazis so concerned about families?
  2. What incentives were used to encourage large families?
  3. How were mothers particularly encouraged to produce large families?
  4. Why did divorce rates increase in the years of the Third Reich?
  5. What were two of the more tragic results on family life over the twelve years Hitler was in power?
  6. Write a paragraph of about eight lines describing the effects of the totalitarian policies of the Third Reich on family life.

Impact of Nazism on Christian Churches

Syllabus recap – Germany

Germany 1918–1939

Principal focus: Students investigate the key features and issues of the history of Germany 1918–1939.

Key features and issues:
•    successes and failures of democracy
•    nature and role of nationalism
•    influence of the German army
•    nature and influence of racism
•    changes in society
•    the nature and impact of Nazism
•    aims and impact of Nazi foreign policy

Students learn about:

1    Weimar Republic
–    emergence of the Democratic Republic and the impact of the Treaty of Versailles
–    political, economic and social issues in the Weimar Republic to 1929
–    collapse of the Weimar Republic 1929–1933
–    impact of the Great Depression on Germany

2    The rise of the Nazi Party
–    rise of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) from 1923
–    Hitler’s accession to power
–    initial consolidation of Nazi power 1933–1934

3    Nazism in power
–    Hitler’s role in the Nazi state
–    Nazism as totalitarianism
–    the role of propaganda, terror and repression; SA and SS; opposition to Nazism
–    social and cultural life in the Nazi state: role of Hitler Youth, women, religion
–    Nazi racial policy; anti-Semitism: policy and practice to 1939

4    Nazi foreign policy
–    nature of Nazi foreign policy: aims and strategies to September 1939
–    impact of ideology on Nazi foreign policy to September 1939