Facisim and Design: The Nazi Aesthetic
Not long ago a good friend confessed to me that she found S.S. uniforms incredibly attractive. I would have scoffed but the truth is in terms of creating an visually stimulating brand identity, Hitler had goose-stepped onto something pretty sweet – as hard to stomach as that is. To me, the whole idea of finding something to appreciate in something so undeniably appalling is hard to get my head around without feeling some amount of shame.
The art, music, architecture and film of the Germany was controlled by strict regulations set in place by Hitler from the moment he came to power in 1933. Hitler disliked the hub of avant-garde art Germany was becoming during the early 20th century and wanted to return to the Romanesque art of yesteryear that would embody the heroism and romantic culture he wanted to the Nazi ‘brand’ to evoke. Considering modern art Hitler wrote:
“This art is the sick production of crazy people. Pity the people who are no longer able to control this sickness”
In 1934 to emphasise these new opinions of art and culture being projected by the Nazis two exhibitions were held: the Great German Art Exhibition which featured paintings and sculpture chosen to exemplify this new idea of ‘German Art’ that Hitler wanted to project; and the Degenerate Art Exhibition, which was held to create a negative perception of modern art such as Cubism, Dadaism, Futurism in the German peoples.
THE NAZI BRAND
The swastika is the most well known image of Nazism. For 3000 years the symbol connoted power, life and good luck. The bold red, white and black colour scheme was based upon flag of the German Empire but also had a deeper symbolism as outlined by Hitler in Mein Kampf:
“In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.”
The formal emblem of the Nazi Party was a German eagle perched above a swastika with wings spread. The bold and clean graphic of this image symbolised the rigid order of Hilter’s regime.
The uniform of the Nazi Party was designed to be clean and streamlined to suggest strength and authority. I find there’s something particularly intimidating about the long black leather coats shown above, where the classic Nazi red bounces right off the material.
An example of Nazi propoganda. Note the Aryan look of the girl, her militant Hitler Youth uniform and her swastika money tin. Not to mention the style of the poster with a realistic depiction of the figure and the Germanic typeface. Strangely enough the colours also reflect the colour scheme of the modern flag of Germany, despite Hitler’s distaste for it.
Despite only being in power for little over a decade the Nazi Party had an obvious affect on the architecture of the period. Buildings were designed to overwhelm and to dominate – with vast scale. Above shows a photograph of a Nazi rally with a vast but orderly sea of people giving scale to the image – the pillars of light rising up from the building making it seem even more sizeable.
History Learning Site: Art in Nazi Germany
Glancey, J. (2007) The Guardian: Why Nazi Aesthetics are a Dangerous Minefield
Young, J. (2003) The Terrible Beauty of Nazi Aesthetics: Acknowledging the Role of Art in a Spectacular Act of Barbarism
Rosenberg, J. (2013) About.com 20th Century History: History of the Swastika
Order from Stone: Nazi Architecture