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A startling reassessment of Hitler's aims and motivations, Frederic Spotts' Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics is an adroitly argued and highly original work that provides a key to fuller understanding of the Third Reich.
Spotts convincingly demonstrates that, contrary to the traditional view that Hitler had no life outside of politics, Hitler's interest in the arts was as intense as his racism - and that he used the arts to disguise the heinous crimes that were the means to fulfilling his ends. Hitler's vision of the Aryan superstate was to be expressed as much in art as in politics: culture was not only the end to which power should aspire, but the means of achieving it.
In this well-researched book, the author goes to great lengths to show how Hitler saw himself, whether or not we agree with or understand that self-concept. Hitler saw himself, first and foremost, as an artist.
So many myths and legends continue to be put about regarding Hitler's artistic impulses, from accusing him of "having no talent" to saying he was a housepainter. (Neither is true).
The author speaks of the great outrage that attends any book speaking about Hitler as possibly having human qualities. This tendency can eclipse a more balanced view of certain areas of his character and motivations, which is in no way to defend his undeniable responsibility for atrocities.
I was fascinated at an experience the author described. Showing prints of Hitler's watercolors (without signature) he described people's reactions to the pieces. Most expressed appreciation for the pleasing if unimaginative renderings of street scenes and architecture. Then he told them who painted them and the surprise was rather dramatic.
Hitler's obsession --- and it was indeed an obsession --- with all the arts is subdivided into several sections:
The Reluctant Dictator
The Artful Leader
The Artist of Destruction
The Failed Painter
The Art Dictator
The Perfect Wagnerite
The Music Master
The Master Builder
The book is a fascinating selection for anyone interested in Hitler's psychology, the Third Reich's policies regarding the arts, and German history. It provides valuable insights into a somewhat neglected area, and while it in no way defends or praises Hitler, it does illuminate aspects of his character which are not found in broader histories.
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