a1 University of Essex
National Socialist propaganda has created an aesthetic legacy that is difficult to shake off. Filmic images of well-trained athletes preparing for the Berlin Olympics or mass scenes from Nazi Party rallies have become familiar features in history documentaries. While many of us lack personal memories of the Third Reich, we think we know what Nazism looked like. In addition, Walter Benjamin's concept stressing the use of aesthetics in politics has become commonplace in interpretations of Nazi representation. “Gesamtkunstwerk of political aesthetics” or “formative aesthetics” are terms used to analyze festivities and spectacles in the Third Reich, suggesting that the Nazis developed a specific style with a focus on aesthetics, symbols, and festive set-up. This allegedly distinctive Nazi style is emphasized even more by contrasting it favorably with celebrations of the Weimar Republic. Once again, the German republican experience is placed in “the antechamber of the Third Reich.”
Nadine Rossol is a lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Essex (Department of History, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom; e-mail: email@example.com). This article is expanded in her book Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany: Sport, Spectacle, and Political Symbolism 1926–36 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). She is currently preparing a book on the role of the police as educator in Germany from the 1920s to the 1950s.
I have expanded the arguments of this article in my study Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany: Sport, Spectacle, and Political Symbolism 1926–36 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). I want to thank Moritz Föllmer, Anthony McElligott, Matthew Potter, and the anonymous reader for Central European History for their helpful comments. I would also like to thank the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Dublin.