A Reich of Art And Culture
A REICH OF ART AND CULTURE
By Carolyn Yeager
Adolf Hitler’s study at the Berghof, where every detail was carried out to his exact specifications. A British Homes & Gardens magazine pictorial lay out on Hitler’s home described him as “his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect.”
The effort to “explain” the phenomenon of Adolf Hitler is made impossible for mainstream writers by their obligatory need to portray him as a perpetrator of genocide, war atrocities, and “the murderer of millions.”
Frederic Spotts, in his informative though biased book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, obligingly writes that it was Hitler who “turn[ed] Europe upside down and nearly destroy[ed] it.1 Yet he also wrote in the preface that “After being appointed chancellor in 1933 the first building he had erected was not a monument to his own triumph [as did Mussolini] but a massive art gallery.”2 Hitler’s complaint to his field commanders after Winston Churchill refused peace terms in 1940 was, “It is a pity that I have to wage war on account of that drunk instead of serving the works of peace.”
The tasks of peace—grand architectural renovations and the promotion of German culture—were uppermost in Hitler’s mind, as Hermann Giesler has shown us throughout his memoir. But not only Giesler. After pondering the matter for 20 years in Spandau prison, Hitler’s other architect Albert Speer concluded that Hitler was always and with his whole heart an artist.3
Hitler’s secretary Christa Schroeder recalled that his non-military conversation turned more and more to the arts.4 Josef Goebbels provides numerous examples in his diaries. In Jan.1942, after a long discussion with Hitler, he wrote: “The intensity of the Fuehrer’s longing for music, theatre and cultural relaxation is enormous.” The life he was then leading was “culturally empty,” the Fuehrer had told him, and he looked forward to the war’s end when he would “compensate for this by a dedication stronger than ever to the more beautiful sides of life.”
Giesler, in charge of designing Hitler’s retirement home overlooking Linz, was told by him, “The great hall with the terrace [is] the right room for an ‘Artus Runde’ [King Arthur’s Round Table] … You, as my architect, will be a member.” Hitler envisioned discussion of art, philosophy and matters of importance to the future of Europe by those invited to his home. “Ms. Braun,” whom he would marry when he retired after the war, would be the lady of the house.5
Hitler was no dilettante. His knowledge of architecture was enormous, along with many other subjects. He had supported himself from 1909-1913 in Vienna and Munich by drawing and painting architectural landmarks in watercolor and oil, selling them through dealers. His Munich landlord, Herr Popp, said he often found his lodger reading the works of Schopenhauer and Plato, along with war histories. Throughout the First World War Hitler carried with him a pocket edition of The World as Will and Idea.6
His enthusiasm for Richard Wagner’s music began as a 12 year-old boy attending a performance of Lohengrin in Linz. He’s said to have seen Tristan und Isolde up to 40 times and Der Meistersinger one hundred times. He could hum or whistle all its themes.7
In 1942, Hitler became equally enthused about Austrian-born composer Anton Bruckner. He considered Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony the equivalent of Beethoven’s Ninth. Always generous with his own funds, Hitler personally financed a center of Bruckner studies, had his organ repaired and added to his library; he designed a monument in his honor in Linz; endowed a Bruckner Orchestra and subsidized the publication of the composer’s original scores.8
No other leader of the time came close to that dedication. “Stalin as well as Lenin, Mussolini, Mao Tse-tung and their ilk … had never set foot in an art gallery.”9 While ostensibly better-educated, Churchill, Roosevelt and Wilson were also far below Hitler’s level of cultural awareness. It turns out, by a close study of Adolf Hitler’s biographers, memoirists, associates and the record itself, that his idea of national greatness was only fulfilled in a true national art and culture—reminiscent of the ancient Greeks he admired, wherein magnificent physical beauty combines with a brilliant mind and noble soul.
The Fuehrer Art Museum for Linz designed by architect Herman Giesler. Linz was to become a cultural mecca, with a large theater, a concert hall devoted to Anton Bruckner, a special operetta theater and an opera house with 2000 seats, along with the art museum—all placed along a grand boulevard. Most of the buildings were based on Hitler’s own sketches.
1. Frederick Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, Overlook Press, Woodstock and New York, 2002, p 8.
2. Ibid, p xi.
3. Ibid, p 3
4. Christa Schroeder, He was my Chief, Frontline Books, London, 2009
5. See “Who Are the Traitors?” The Barnes Review May/June 2009, p 58
6. Werner Maser, Hitler: Legend, Myth & Reality, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 124
7. Spotts, p. 235
8. Ibid, p233
9. Ibid, p 10