National socialist law and the censuring of modernist culture, art and literature
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AbstractThis paper traces the development of National Socialist cultural and legal policy towards the arts. It examines the role of censure in this development starting with Hitler's first attempts at power in the Weimar republic. It then looks more closely into aspects of the development of new policies in and after 1933 and their implementation in institutions of the totalitarian state. As the paper shows, policies were carried out within a legal framework that included parliament and constitutional law but they were often also accompanied by aggressive political actions. Racial and nationalistic ideologies were at the heart of the National Socialist discourse about culture. This discourse quickly established modernity as its principal enemy and saw modernist culture (in the broad sense of the word), and especially art criticism, as being under Jewish domination. True German Kultur was set against this; Hitler himself promoted German art both through exhibitions and through policies which included the removal of un-German art and the exclusion of writers and artists who did not conform the cultural ideal. As Jewish artists and intellectuals in modernist culture posed the greatest threat to the establishment of a new German culture, Nazi policies towards the arts embarked on a process of censure, exclusion and annihilation. The purpose of these policies was nothing less than the elimination of all modernist (Jewish and ‘degenerate’) culture and any memory of it.