HITLER AND THE POWER OF AESTHETICS

Frederic Spotts, Author . Overlook $40 (456p) ISBN 978-1-58567-345-2

The opening paragraph and photo powerfully capture Spotts's argument: The Soviet army is soon to launch its final, devastating assault on Berlin; the British and the Americans are about to invade Germany from the west. And there sits Adolf Hitler, gazing longingly at a model of a rebuilt Linz, his hometown, which is slated to become a grandiose symbol of the Thousand-Year Reich. For Spotts, this proves what Hitler himself claimed: that he was at heart never a politician, but an artist. Spotts, who has written an acclaimed study of the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, tries to substantiate his thesis by providing a panorama of Hitler's artistic activities, including his failed career as a painter, the purge of Jews and others from the cultural sphere, and his personal patronage of artists, musicians and architects. According to Spotts, Hitler's essence is to be found in his desire to create an empire in which "true" German art could flourish as never before. Yet Spotts overlooks the fact that Hitler, in megalomaniacal fashion, also claimed mastery of engineering, history and military strategy. His primary focus was arguably not on art, but on the creation of a racial utopia. Art and politics were but two sides of the same, racially minted coin. Spotts provides a lively, encyclopedic account of Hitler and the arts, but a more comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the Führer and the Nazi regime can be found in Ian Kershaw's two-volume biography, which will remain the standard work for many years to come. 100 b&w and 4 color illus.(Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/16/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
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