Artists Under Hitler


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Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany

Jonathan Petropoulos

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A penetrating inquiry into the motives, moral dilemmas, and compromises of Walter Gropius, Emil Nolde, and other celebrated artists who chose to remain in Nazi Germany

“What are we to make of those cultural figures, many with significant international reputations, who tried to find accommodation with the Nazi regime?” Jonathan Petropoulos asks in this exploration of some of the most acute moral questions of the Third Reich. In his nuanced analysis of prominent German artists, architects, composers, film directors, painters, and writers who rejected exile, choosing instead to stay during Germany’s darkest period, Petropoulos shows how individuals variously dealt with the regime’s public opposition to modern art. His findings explode the myth that all modern artists were anti-Nazi and all Nazis anti-modernist.
Artists Under Hitler closely examines cases of artists who failed in their attempts to find accommodation with the Nazi regime (Walter Gropius, Paul Hindemith, Gottfried Benn, Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde) as well as others whose desire for official acceptance was realized (Richard Strauss, Gustaf Gründgens, Leni Riefenstahl, Arno Breker, Albert Speer). Collectively these ten figures illuminate the complex cultural history of Nazi Germany, while individually they provide haunting portraits of people facing excruciating choices and grave moral questions.
Jonathan Petropoulos is John V. Croul Professor of European History, Claremont McKenna College, and author of several books on culture in the Third Reich. He is former Research Director for Art and Cultural Property, Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. He lives in Claremont, CA.

Artists Under Hitler accomplishes nothing less than proposing significant changes to our understanding of the history of modern art and artists in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Petropoulos investigates major figures with relentless insight and honesty. He is also fair in his understanding and judgments.”—Richard Hunt, Senior Lecturer, Harvard University, retired

“No one knows more about cultural life in Nazi Germany than Jonathan Petropoulos. In his splendid new book, he provides ten vivid portraits of artists who tried to collaborate with the regime. Full of new information and challenging insights,  Artists under Hitler is an original and compelling account of Nazism’s complex and unsettled relationship with modernism in the visual arts, music, and film.”—James Sheehan, Stanford University, emeritus

“A persuasive, nuanced, and surprising picture of German culture under the Nazis.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone interested in a humane account of the dilemmas facing artists in Nazi Germany will gain a new level of understanding from this book.”—Richard J. Evans, Sunday Times

“Absorbing.”—Robert Fulford, National Post (Canada)

“[M]oral dilemma is at the heart of this fascinating book in which American Professor of European History Jonathan Petropoulos examines the cases of ten individuals, covering a range of the seven arts including composers Richard Strauss and Paul Hindernith, architect Walter Gropius and film-maker Leni Riefenstahl.”—Chris Green, Suffolk & Norfolk Life.

“Fascinating . . . Artists Under Hitler successfully manages to add some grey to the generally black-and-white conversation about Nazis and art.”—William O’Connor, Daily Beast

“Richly illustrated with dozens of images and thirteen color plates, Artists under Hitler offers a very readable synthesis of much of the recent work by cultural, architectural, and art historians on ten major artistic figures of the Nazi era.”—Pamela E. Swett, Journal of Modern History

“With this work, Petropoulos cements his reputation as the leading scholar of Nazi culture, one who has restored nuance and shades of grey to a topic typically rendered in only black and white.”—Joan L. Clinefelter, CJH/ACH
ISBN: 9780300197471
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
424 pages, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4
12 color + 44 b/w illus.
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