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Artists Under Hitler

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.

Praise For Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany

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

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

“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
— William O’Connor

Yale University Press, 9780300197471, 424pp.

Publication Date: November 25, 2014

About the Author

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.