Film and Architecture as Nazi Propaganda
Totalitarianism is composed of specific actions that are used to maintain over the whole state. Propaganda is one of the actions totalitarian state performs to maintain their purposes. Mass media plays a vital role in the above described process. Unlike a democratic society, where mass media performs a function of population informing, a totalitarian state refers to mass media with only one purpose, which is focused on propaganda and imposing the priorities of a leader in the society. Defining the word ‘propaganda’, it is necessary to state that it is a distribution of ideological and political views among the audience with the purpose to formulate necessary to the state attitudes, values, perceptions, emotions, and ideology, which should affect behavior of a particular person or the whole society, in general. Propaganda cannot exist without ideology. Ideology is a system of ideas and beliefs, which depict ideas and interests of different social classes, groups and societies. Propaganda is a strong weapon and Hitler was very well aware of it. Using cinematography as a strong tool of propaganda, Nazi regime has managed to achieve good results in imposing their views on the society and formulating a successful background for distributing their ideas in the society. Film and architecture have become the basic tools on upbringing a new society in Germany and have helped Nazi regime to spread all over the country with high speed and to further gain support from German population in war and holocaust.
The main characteristics of the Third Reich have become the overall atmosphere of the social and psychological pressure, which was impossible to perform without cultural revitalization. Theater, cinema, music, the fine arts have become not just means of satisfying human spiritual needs, but it also became a means of escaping from harsh reality to the illusion of stability and order in the society. The interest in cultural life of Nazi totalitarian society of Germany is associated with general aspects that are related to the relationship of the culture and government. Nazi regime was interested in using culture in propaganda, as it is one of the main tools to attract human attention and leave it focused. Starting with lectures, public speeches and similar ways of propagandist work, Hitler understood that is was not enough. Ideological principles of Nazi cultural policies required active study of new artistic ideals and forms, their explanations, and finally bringing it to the masses; films and architecture have become the primary forms of art.
Architecture, in more extent than other forms of art, reflected personal likes and dislikes of Hitler. None of the major architectural projects of that time escaped propagandist nature and imposed nationalist ideas in the society. Hitler tended to neo-baroque, with some exceptional interest in the monumental neo-classical forms. Hitler wanted to express the essence of political, economic and military power through architecture by presenting the new system to the future generations. The heroic spirit of the Third Reich had to be imposed in any building. Size was considered as the main instrument is showing Nazi power and superiority. Most of the buildings, constructed during the period of Nazi Reich, were big, bulky constructions, which aimed at symbolizing German strength. The predominance of straight lines and angles, wide use of columns, less number of arches and domes, attraction to a very large size are the main characteristic features of Nazi architectural structures.
German architecture and culture, in general, were focused on one central purpose of providing advocacy, exaggerating the achievements and success of the regime, and showing the greatness of Nazi achievements and heroism of its soldiers. Hitler was certain that German community should live among the majestic monuments, surrounded by huge and beautiful (although the latter is not necessary) buildings, and subconsciously feel that only a great society could create such grandiose constructions. The center of that project was the consecution of Berlin-Germania around the east-west and north-south coordinate axes. The major reconstructions were supposed to be imposed. Having an idea to show German power and superiority, Hitler, along with his architect, wanted to rearrange underground and put it under the Brandenburg Gate with the gigantic main station at the Government Quarter. Trying to highlight personal individuality and power, Hitler wanted to build the Great Hall with the ideas of domed structure, serving for speech purposes and troops marches. At the center of the main axis of the capital, a straight segment of a few colossal public buildings was planned, such as the buildings of northern and southern railway stations, town halls, the Soldiers’ Palace, the Opera House, the Chancellery, the Triumph Arc, and others.
Chancellery was designed to impress. It was a massive building, constructed in the best tendencies of classicism. Considering Chancellery building in Berlin, it should be mentioned that the role of sculpture in the conditions of the Third Reich developed along with architecture. A sculpture served as a permanent allegorical character filled in the architectural space; the three-meter Arno Breker’s stone sculpture was located in the courtyard of the newly built Chancellery. The most impressive part of Chancellery, according to Hitler’s opinion, was the interior. To reach the main hall, where the ceremonies took place, the visitors had to walk more than 700 feet. Having appeared in the room, the visitors were impressed with the vast space and the dark marble all around. The surrounding area of the Chancellery was reconstructed for making it a place of speeches. The possibility to unite people in one place was a center of Hitler’s idea, as it gave him an opportunity to talk to many people at once.
Another idea of Nazi architecture, different from Hitler superiority, was the concept of community. One of the practices that Hitler implemented with the purpose to achieve the desirable result was raising the rural roots of German people. Having an intention to remind German population about their farming roots and trying to return the community into this collective labor, architects constructed traditional thatched roof cottages, offering people to return to their traditional occupations. Another architect means for imposing community idea in the society was based on hanging Nazi swastika flags and banners. Oftentimes, such symbolism spoiled and even ruined historical property, but no one cared. The interests of the regime were in priority.
Fortunately for Germany, only the smallest part of these ideas was implemented. Despite the fact that Nazi regime constructed different buildings during the war, the major building project was planned to be implemented by 1950, after the end of war. Architecture, in general, was considered as the most important stream of art because its purpose was to structure the social life of Reich, according to clear hierarchy level. The authority and the power of the Nazi regime were approved in the form of new office buildings and the construction of public buildings, which carried Nazi ideology to the public.
Having an intention to create a new city (Hitler started his reconstruction ideas from the capital of Germany, from Berlin), it was necessary to ruin the already existing buildings and architecture sights. The focus of Hitler city reconstruction was the creation of magnificent monuments in the center of squares or larger space. Such architectural vision was aimed at showing the power of Germany and the strength of one leader, who would be given an opportunity to talk to thousands of people from above.
Cinema was the most important means of propaganda during the Third Reich. Even the most apolitical films served the purposes of regime. Entertaining films allowed people to relax, which prepared them for doing their jobs or to go to the front, being ready for new challenges in labor and war. Movies in Germany seemed to serve purely entertaining purposes at first glance, however, the main purpose of such movies was to indirectly strengthen the regime’s ideology, thereby making the doctrine more effective, having made it less intrusive. Some films had a huge national success, while others did not reach wide public. Having considered the movies of Nazi regime from the propagandists’ point of view, it is possible to divide them into four major categories, such as documentary, war films, national films, and entertaining. The most popular documentary films are as follows, Baptism by fire (Fewertaufe, 1939), Kampfgeschwader Lützow (1941), Victory in the West (Sieg im Westen, 1941), and The Eternal Jew (Der Ewige Jude, 1940). The example of a war movie is U-boat Westward! (U-Boote westwärts! 1941). The German Sudetes return home (Sudetendeutschland kehrt heim, 1939) was one of the national films, which depicted how ethnic Germans were persecuted on Slavic lands, showing Slavic people as cruel and bloodthirsty animals.
The film Triumph of the Will, directed by Leni Riefenstahl (1934), is the most popular example of Nazi propaganda. The young Nazis, preparing to become soldiers, are in the center of its plot. Hitler oversees their training and, as a result, young men turn into a powerful military force. The film begins with observation of the sky and a plane maneuvering between the clouds. A triumphal landing of Hitler is perceived as a messiah. People, who have gathered near the airdrome, symbolize German society, that has been waiting for a leader, able to bring their society to prosperity and success. Driving from the airdrome, the films shows how people greet a new leader, how they love him and appreciate his actions. Enthusiastic shouts support Hitler. People, who have come to the airdrome, symbolize the society. It is possible to see people of all generations, startling from small children on the hands of their parents and ending with older part of population. It was one of the means for showing that people of all ages support Hitler. Further speech and actions on the screen show strict discipline. Workers, farmers and soldiers show their adherence to the rules and laws of the Third Reich.
Hitler Youth Quex (German Hitlerjunge Quex) is one of the first Nazi propagandist movies, directed by Hans Steinhoff in 1933. The film tells a story of a boy named Heini, who appears as a prototype of a German hero, Herbert Norkus. The boy went against the will of his father, who was a Communist, and entered the rows of Hitler Youth Quex. At the end of the film, a boy is killed by the communists. A conflict of a boy with his father is in a center of the movie. The father is characterized as a heavy drinker who spends all the money earned by his mother to drink with his friends communists. Contrasting this unpleasant picture, the film shows an absolutely different scene, young people with friends, thinking about future of their country and going hiking together to meet the sun. The contrast, presented in the movie, is aimed at showing that Communism is a vice in the contemporary world and it must be eradicated. The contrast allowed German community to see the benefits and advantages of Nazi regime, depicting the evil that Communists wanted to bring to the world.
These two films have the same purpose, despite the fact that they are focused on different aspects of German life. Having a purpose to impose Nazi vision of the community and spreading the views and ideals of Nazi regime, these movies were aimed at imposing the ideas of Hitler to the nation, while serving as entertainment, at the same time. Watching the same people on TV screens people became more reliable and more trusting to Hitler. Having no freedom in choice regarding what information to consider, these movies were taken for granted with all the subsequent consequences.
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In conclusion, the role of Nazi films and architectural constructions in Hitler propaganda was incredible. The rise of the Nazi political power and the entire period of the Third Reich were accompanied by intense propaganda campaigns with the purpose to make German people trust Hitler and support him in his war. The use of mass media in influence on human consciousness helped Germany to keep people blind to the real situation in the world. Having considered propaganda as an art, German leaders have managed to make their ideas more effective and spread them fast in the community. Trying to show Hitler as a messiah, movies called people to save Germany from the bloody enemy. The newly created architectural pieces were also intended to support Nazi ideas and ideology. Overall, the main purpose of films and architecture in Nazi Germany was to keep people in a state of nervous excitement, and the actions taken by the government were successful. Nazi propaganda of fascism played a huge role in the overall orientation of German history. Hitler made extensive use of its ability to encourage large masses of people. Making people watch architectural pieces as the signs of daily propaganda, the idea of entertaining people with the same propagandistic ideas was effective, as when mental and physical capabilities of people are weakened, they become more susceptible to the information they perceive without being critical.
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