The power of propaganda
The story of the Nazi art looting might seem to be a widely known story, this chapter goes beyond that. First, a reminder that Hitler was an artist, if a failed one. When Allied troops were closing in, he was still fantasising about his museum of Linz, poring over folders compiling photos of paintings. In the will he wrote just before committing suicide, his “heartfelt desire for this legacy to be fulfilled” was about his museum : “the paintings in the collection bought by me during the course of the years were never assembled for private purposes, but solely for the establishment of a picture gallery in my home town of Linz”.
Power of propaganda
How can a man go from leading a small party, being jailed for a failed coup, and then ten years later become chancellor? The chapter also describes the Nazi delusions about race, their use of the despair caused by the Great Depression.
How do people abandon reason and basic humanity to be lead by emotions, irrational fear and hatred, and throw their destiny in the arms of a saviour? How could the population of a major country acquiesce to the Nazi horrors? Hitler wrote “the force which has ever and always set in motion great historical avalanches of religious and political movements is the magic power of the spoken word”.
Even after the loss of “personal liberty, the right of free expression of opinion, freedom of the press”, book burnings, the death of “intellectualism” with the sacking of university professors or museum directors who were not Nazis, only one third of the country was in favour of the Nazi program.
So how can the remaining majority be made to follow the Nazis? As soon as he became Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Goebbels would explain how, “transform a nation through a revolution of the spirit, not by destroying the opponent, but winning him over”.
And Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf that “the genius of a great leader” is to manipulate the masses with fear, to overwhelm the masses with “a multiplicity of different adversaries must always be combined so that in the eyes of the masses of one's own supporters the struggle is directed against only one enemy”.
Result “this strengthens their faith in their own right and enhances their bitterness against those who attack it”.
Power of art
The first major Nazi building was an immense art exhibition centre, the 'House of German art'. For its opening in 1937, there would be two exhibitions meant to teach the Nazi program. One, the Great German Art Exhibition, to prove the superiority of the Germans, the other, Entartete Kunst, that is 'Degenerate Art', to illustrate the threat of the “degenerates”, the Bolsheviks and Jews.
At the German Art Exhibition the failed artist turned curator. He insisted that “I don't like any sloppy paintings where you cannot tell which is top or bottom”, and that he would not tolerate “unfinished paintings”.
Talking about the threat of modern art made the dictator so emotional that a witness described “his manner of speaking became more agitated, to a degree that had never been heard even in a political tirade. He foamed with rage as though out of his mind, his mouth slavering, so that even his entourage stared at him in horror”.
The 'Degenerate Art' exhibition was meant to teach the German people to fear and hate modern art, and those making it, supposedly the Bolsheviks and the Jews. The power of the image was also used to sow hatred in the hearts of children, even in songs and board games.
A dictator's dream : the Führermuseum
With Allied forces near, the dictator still dreamed, looking at the model of his museum “whatever the time, whether day or night, whenever he had the opportunity, he sat in front of the model”.
Hitler even said “it will be the most beautiful day of my life when I retire from political affairs and leave the worries, troubles and vexations behind me”.
That day never came, and not only up to 20% of the art in Europe is estimated to have been looted, in Russia, the destruction and loot amounted to 100 million books and 427 museums, and the destruction or damage of nearly 2,800 places of worship, churches and synagogues.
This chapter then illustrates the lengths with which the Nazi machine not only killed, but intentionally erased the memory of millions.
This is a preview of the chapter about the use of propaganda and the destruction of mankind's memory by the Nazis, from Lost Treasures.