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The Nazi Perpetrator

Postwar German Art and the Politics of the Right

Paul B. Jaskot

Publication Year: 2012

Who was responsible for the crimes of the Nazis? Party leaders and members? Rank-and-file soldiers and bureaucrats? Ordinary Germans? This question looms over German disputes about the past like few others. It also looms over the art and architecture of postwar Germany in ways that have been surprisingly neglected. In The Nazi Perpetrator, Paul B. Jaskot fundamentally reevaluates pivotal developments in postwar German art and architecture against the backdrop of contentious contemporary debates over the Nazi past and the difficulty of determining who was or was not a Nazi perpetrator.

Like their fellow Germans, postwar artists and architects grappled with the Nazi past and the problem of defining the Nazi perpetrator—a problem that was thoroughly entangled with contemporary conservative politics and the explosive issue of former Nazis living in postwar Germany. Beginning with the formative connection between Nazi politics and art during the 1930s, The Nazi Perpetrator traces the dilemma of identifying the perpetrator across the entire postwar period. Jaskot examines key works and episodes from West Germany and, after 1989, reunified Germany, showing how the changing perception of the perpetrator deeply impacted art and architecture, even in cases where artworks and buildings seem to have no obvious relation to the Nazi past. The book also reinterprets important periods in the careers of such major figures as Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, and Daniel Libeskind.

Combining political history with a close analysis of specific works, The Nazi Perpetrator powerfully demonstrates that the ongoing influence of Nazi Germany after 1945 is much more central to understanding a wide range of modern German art and architecture than cultural historians have previously recognized.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-11

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Introduction. Political History and Postwar German Art

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pp. 1-11

Franz Schönhuber, like many twentieth-century Germans, had a complicated and variable relationship to the Nazi past.1 Born on January 10, 1923, in Trostberg an der Alz in Oberbayern, Schönhuber worked his way through the Nazi youth organizations, became a...

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1. National Socialists and Art: Becoming the Perpetrator

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pp. 13-45

In the postwar period, the term “perpetrator” became relatively easy to throw around. But who were these National Socialist perpetrators? Were their actions so clear and separate from those of other Germans who helped implement policies of oppression but were...

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2. Gerhard Richter and the Advent of the Nazi Past: The Persistence of the Perpetrator

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pp. 47-81

Gerhard Richter was born on February 9, 1932, at the fateful moment in which the NSDAP consolidated its electoral victories at the end of the Weimar Republic. His mother, Hildegard, enjoyed music and literature, while his father, Horst, pursued a career as a teacher....

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3. Anselm Kiefer and the Ascendance of Helmut Kohl: The Changing Perception of the Perpetrator

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pp. 83-125

Albert Kiefer, father of Anselm, came of artistic and political age during the Nazi period. His own father had been mayor in the small town of Niederbuhl bei Rastatt before he ran afoul of the new regime in 1933 when he refused to replace the flag of Baden on the Rathaus...

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4. Daniel Libeskind and the Neo-Nazi Specter: The Resurgence of the Perpetrator

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pp. 127-165

With some fanfare, the first Jewish Museum in Berlin opened its collection to the public in newly designed rooms in the Oranienburgerstrasse on January 24, 1933, six days before Hitler came to power. Plans for a Jewish Museum in Berlin go back to the art collection left...

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5. The Nuremberg Party Rally Grounds and Local Politics: The Historicized Perpetrator

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pp. 167-204

By the end of the Weimar Republic, Nuremberg had already become a popular site for the rallies of the faithful of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Almost as soon as Hitler came to power, he chose the location as the permanent home of the annual rallies...

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Afterword. The Nazi Past in Postwar Germany’s Cultural History

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pp. 205-210

In spite of the distance of more than half a century and the beginning of a new millennium, it is hard to say that we have left the effects of World War II and the Holocaust behind in our society. The latter is still the litmus test with which we subsequently judge all...

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pp. 211-214

The arc of this book has a long trajectory. It began with the History of Art Department at University College London, which invited me to give the Tomás Harris Memorial Lectures in 2003. Those talks were the genesis of this book, and I am grateful for the kind invitation as well as the reception...


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pp. 215-243


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pp. 245-261


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pp. 263-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780816682676
E-ISBN-10: 0816682674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816678242

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012