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Nazi Interpretations of Western Culture


  • Date Published: May 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107521858

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About the Authors
  • Inhumanities is an unprecedented account of the ways Nazi Germany manipulated and mobilized European literature, philosophy, painting, sculpture and music in support of its ideological ends. David B. Dennis shows how, based on belief that the Third Reich represented the culmination of Western civilization, culture became a key propaganda tool in the regime's program of national renewal and its campaign against political, national and racial enemies. Focusing on the daily output of the Völkischer Beobachter, the party's official organ and the most widely circulating German newspaper of the day, he reveals how activists twisted history, biography and aesthetics to fit Nazism's authoritarian, militaristic and anti-Semitic world views. Ranging from National Socialist coverage of Germans such as Luther, Dürer, Goethe, Beethoven, Wagner and Nietzsche to 'great men of the Nordic West' such as Socrates, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Dennis reveals the true extent of the regime's ambitious attempt to reshape the 'German mind'.

    • The first comprehensive survey of the ways the Nazi party appropriated major figures of the Western cultural tradition
    • Traces the Nazi party's efforts to convince Germans that Nazism offered cultural advancement as well as political leadership
    • Reveals how high culture was used to justify the elimination of enemies of the Volk
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'David B. Dennis's long-awaited study of the metamorphosis of Nazi Kultur during World War II has arrived like a blockbuster. The role that the regime gradually tailored for the finest artists and thinkers to serve a proposed new world order has been researched with the painstaking care of the true scholar, yet reported here with the elegance and thrust of a novelist. The book is more than a good read; it is destined to become a classic.' Glenn Watkins, author of Proof through the Night: Music and the Great War

    'This is an ambitious and important book that conveys the immensely depressing conclusion that even intellectual and cultural figures of great creativity and imagination (Dante, Bach, Beethoven) are dangerously malleable in the hands of their interpreters. Scholars, students, and the general public need now look no further than Dennis's book to find a cogent, reliable, and astute assessment of every Nazi attitude toward every canonical cultural figure of the western tradition, and a number of others besides.' Celia Applegate, author of Bach in Berlin

    'Dennis's distinctive contribution is to reveal in great detail how the Nazis understood and misunderstood, used and misused, selectively read and then appropriated bits and pieces of the Western tradition. Inhumanities again reminds us that the Nazi regime attacked what we understand to be the core values of the Western tradition. Yet they often did so in the name of defending Western civilization as its intellectuals, scholars, journalists and propagandists understood it. The book is an important advance in the scholarship about Nazi culture. Dennis's tone is restrained yet the impact is powerful.' Jeffrey Herf, author of Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust

    'One of the most important, authoritative and meticulous studies of Nazi propaganda to date.' The Times Literary Supplement

    '… revelatory … lively and incisive.' History Today

    '… a very valuable reference for any subsequent scholars on Nazi culture …' Andrew G. Bonnell, European History Quarterly

    'The general reader with a passing interest in Nazism or in any of these Nazified German masters will find Dennis's work fascinating and accessible. Researchers of Nazi culture will benefit from Dennis's scholarship for years to come. He should be commended for his labor.' Sewanee Review

    'Inhumanities represents a major contribution to the literature on National Socialism. Scholars in that field, as well as those interested in questions of German culture and nationalism, will find in it much to treasure.' Journal of Modern History

    'Inhumanities is an essential demonstration of the pivotal role culture played in Nazi conceptions of national and racial identity and an important addition to any campus library.' International Social Science Review

    '… with a superb command of the literature, as well as historiographical and terminological issues, Dennis has published a substantial work, whose quality is enhanced by photographs pointedly illuminating his arguments. His book stands among the very best studies of Nazi culture, from the classic work of George Mosse to more recent research of, among others, Michael Kater, Jonathan Petropoulos, Pamela Potter and Alan Steinweis.' Central European History

    'David B. Dennis has unearthed and presented in great detail Nazi ways of framing the legacy of several 'great masters' in völkisch and racial terms, thus creating a treasure trove of information on which future scholars can draw.' Riccardo Bavaj, German History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107521858
    • length: 558 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 30 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 50 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Foundations of Nazi Cultural History:
    1. The 'Germanic' origins of western culture
    2. Voxvolkish
    3. The western tradition as political and patriotic
    4. The western tradition as anti-Semitic
    5. The archenemy incarnate
    Part II. Blind to the Light:
    6. Classicism romanticized
    7. Intolerance toward enlightenment
    8. Forging steel romanticism
    9. Romantic music as 'our greatest legacy'
    Part III. Modern Dilemmas:
    10. Realist paradox and expressionist confusion
    11. Nordic existentialists and volkish founders
    12. Music after Wagner
    Part IV. 'Holy' War and Weimar 'Crisis':
    13. Heralds of the front experience
    14. Weimar culture wars i: defending German spirit from 'circumcision'
    15. Weimar culture wars ii: combating 'degeneracy'
    Part V. Nazi 'Solutions':
    16. 'Honour your German masters'
    17. The Nazi 'Renaissance'
    18. Kultur at war

  • Author

    David B. Dennis, Loyola University, Chicago
    David B. Dennis is Professor of History at Loyola University, Chicago. He is the author of Beethoven and German Politics, 1870–1989 (1996) and other works on the intersection of German music and politics.

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