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Book Reviews 167 Theatre in the Third Reich, the Prewar Years, Essays on Theatre in Nazi Germany, edited by Glen W. Gadberry. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. 187 pp. $55.00. . There were few subjects on which Hitler did not consider himself an expert. This was especially true when it came to cultural affairs. Although his tastes remained quite petit bourgeois-the FUhrer preferred entertainment for its own sake, the kitschier the better-as dictator ofGermany he had to insist on the propagation ofhigh culture, albeit one that would follow the official tribal values of his regime. This imperative was reflected in the politicization of everything from Wagnerian operas (about whose production the FUhrer had fixed opinions) across to classic German drama. But such classical fare was usually performed to certain fixed traditional standards. Therefore, only in the more proletarian genres, such as that ofthe stage review and the cinema, was the regime really able to call the shots, and only here did a universal Hitlerian version of socialist realism really emerge. Shortly after the Nazi accession to power, the FUhrer's Council of United German Culture and Art Organizations was established with Culture Chambers which had the authority to control the entire entertainment industry. However, the establishment ofa new theater aesthetic was not easy. Depending on the personal whims ofsuch prima donnas as Joseph Paul Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Hermann Goring, as well as various lesser satraps, standards often fluctuated between ideology and art. For example, propaganda minister Goebbels thought that Nazi entertainment should be non-sentimental, manly, and heroic in tone and show "steelhard " romanticism. It must be accessible to all, create a soothing sense ofstability, and promote the solidity ofthe regime. Drama had to reflect life the way the regime wanted it to be, not the way it was. Hitler, on the other hand, liked less ideological fare. Three ofhis favorite movies were Snow White andthe Seven Dwarfs, Gone with the Wind, and King Kong, and he adored Viennese operetta. The eleven essays in this book try to make sense ofthis National Socialist theatrical Byzantium. While they do not pretend to treat their subject comprehensively-the chapters often come at the reader from different directions-they collectively add up to a satisfying whole nonetheless. And they are all the more welcome since there is a relative absence ofmaterial written about theatre under the Nazis. A few examples can illustrate the book's general scope and diversity. "Theatre in Detmold 1933-1939: A Case Study of Provincial Theatre During the Nazi Prewar Era" shows how a regional repertory theater with a strong tradition "swiftly and seemingly without serious objection or defiance, acquiesced to the new order and structure of the Third Reich cultural agenda."Author Ron Engle claims that such a smooth transformation was characteristic of the way other such theaters conducted their affairs. 168 SHOFAR Spring 2000 Vol. 18, No.3 The Nazi career ofactor Werner Krauss is related in "Werner Krauss and the Third Reich." Krauss, the leading actor in the expressionistic classic Das Kabinett von Dr. Kaligari (1920) went on to star in the famous antisemitic film Jud Suss (1940). This latter role he performed so stereotypically that he feared that he might himselfbe taken for a Jew. William Elwood holds that although Krauss was ┬Ěno Nazi and apparently detested the party hierarchy, he could not tum down a good role, no matter how odiously antisemitic it was. Krauss had ample opportunity to decline, but he "chose to play along with the new cultural bureaucracies in hope that they would go away." In the meantime there was fame, prestige, and money, powerful inducements for a fruitful and active collaboration. Rebecca Rovit also handles the question of motivation in "Collaboration or Survival, 1933-1938: Reassessing the Role ofthe Jiidischer Kulturbund," but under its vastly differing circumstances. While the Nazis were busily denigrating the Jews, they were also sponsoring Jewish theatrical activities. The Jewish Cultural Organization gave employment to Jewish actors and directors and allowed the Nazis to score propaganda points with the outside world for a humanitarian Judenpolitik. The real reason, though, was to tighten control over Jewish artists and accelerate the process of pure Aryan culture...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 167-169
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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