Moritz Föllmer's new book asks important questions about how the Nazis were able to strengthen their cultural positionby Prospect Team / July 17, 2020 / Leave a comment
Moritz Föllmer turns the spotlight on the Third Reich’s successful cultural appeal in his ground-breaking new study Culture in the Third Reich, investigating what “culture” meant for people in the years between 1933 and 1945: for convinced National Socialists at one end of the spectrum, via the legions of the apparently “unpolitical,” right through to anti-fascist activists, Jewish people, and other victims of the regime at the other end of the spectrum. Relating the everyday experience of people living under Nazism, he is able to give us a privileged insight into the question of why so many Germans enthusiastically embraced the regime and identified so closely with it.
Here, he answers questions on his new book.
Your new book is called Culture in the Third Reich; to what extent did appeals to popular and high culture strengthen the position of Nazis as they rose to power?
High culture, especially music and theatre, was central to Germany’s self-understanding as a nation. At the same time, the Weimar period had seen a vibrant popular culture of films, magazines, and best-selling books. After coming to power, the Nazis managed to exploit both: they subsidised concert halls and theatres as well as film productions and basic radio sets. They took control where it mattered to them without stifling all cultural trends, some of which continued largely unaltered. Those cultural practitioners who were Jewish or left-wing experienced exclusion and persecution, but those who were neither now faced less competition. Moreover, audiences mostly did not view the changes as an impoverishment. On the contrary, many Germans found the vision of a culture that was nationalist rather than cosmopolitan and dynamically modern without breaking with the past highly appealing.
Why do you believe so many Germans enthusiastically embraced the Nazi regime?
The Nazi regime offered two basic messages: one of reassuring ordinariness, of peace, quiet, and harmony; and one of exciting extraordinariness, of great deeds on an individual and collective level. Many Germans were longing for an ordinary life, others for an extraordinary existence, while a third group desired some combination of both. Images and stories served to convey these prospects, to depict any shortcomings as temporary and downplay any serious…