Local Pride and Nazi Zeal: Mapping Cultural Politics in the Third Reich

Friday, January 6, 2012: 10:10 AM
Parlor D (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Anne Kristina Berg, University of Michigan
The Nazi regime insisted that in the ‘New Germany’ politics must pervade all areas of economic, social and cultural life of the nation. In order to achieve such total permeation, the regime immediately coordinated not only political institutions and the state bureaucracies, but created an entirely new apparatus to control the production, deployment and reception of culture. Focusing on film in particular, I suggest that Goebbels’ control of culture was far less totalizing that the Ministry Propaganda and the Reich’s Culture Chamber envisioned. Rather, in the name of Nazi culture local pride and National Socialist zeal became most powerful allies. This contribution focuses on two instances in which local discourse attempted to put Hamburg on the cultural map of the Reich. In 1935 exhibitors, cultural enthusiasts and film critics in Hamburg founded the Film Consortium to educate local audiences and contribute to the national discussion of the Nazi Film Art. The Film Consortium was an organization in which local needs for national recognition, local pride, and local patriotism found a unique outlet. While the efforts of the Film Consortium almost excessively subscribed to Goebbels’ notion of the primacy of art in the Reich, the second instance of Hamburg’s solo attempt in cultural matters directly undermined the validity of Nazi achievements in the cultural realm. The Consortium for Youth Protection in Wartime, commissioned by Gauleiter and Governor Karl Kaufmann in the spring of 1940, mobilized Nazi ideology and local particularities – this time in the name of youth protection –  to alert to the deplorable state of cultural production in the Reich and the sexualizing effects of film and pulp fiction on the ‘most valuable’ members of the increasingly endangered Volksgemeinschaft: mothers and their immature (female) offspring.
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