Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
Spectacular Settings for Nazi Spectacles: Mass Theater in the Third Reich
Impressions of Nazi spectacles in their different shapes and forms – ranging from parades through German cities, Nuremberg Party Rallies to the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympic Games – dominate our view of the Third Reich and have imprinted long-lasting images in our minds.1 While many of us lack personal experience of the Third Reich, we still think we know what Fascism looked like. This look, so it seems, was seductive, spectacular and all-embracing, staging the greatness of Hitler and the National Socialist State. Leni Riefenstahl’s films Triumph of the Will and Olympia on the 1934 Nazi party rally and on the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, respectively, certainly helped to create these visual impressions of Fascist aesthetics and of the staging of politics.2 Historians’ studies reminding us of the staging, rehearsal and manipulation that went into National Socialist ← 157 | 158 → propaganda have not yet changed popular assumptions on its alleged perfection and effectiveness.3
The terms “Gesamtkunstwerk of political aesthetics” or “formative aesthetics” are often used to analyse festivities in the Third Reich, suggesting that the Nazis developed a specific style for their festivities with a deliberate focus on aesthetics, symbols, decoration, and festive set-up as part of their political culture.4 Walter Benjamin’s concept stressing the use of aesthetics in politics has become commonplace in interpretations of Nazi visual representation, especially with regards to festivities, celebrations and mass parades. Benjamin found that the combination of politics and aesthetics influenced political life and, in so...
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