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A persuasive, nuanced and surprising picture of German culture under the Nazis.

Petropoulos (History/Claremont McKenna Coll.; Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany, 2006, etc.) questions the prevalent assumption that Nazis denigrated modernism and quashed evidence of avant-garde movements in the arts.

Examining the careers of selected visual artists, composers, architects, a poet, an actor and, of course, filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, the author argues that the cultural milieu of Nazi Germany was complex and often contradictory. Although publicly deriding modernism as degenerate, many high-ranking Nazis collected modernist works, bought from French dealers or plundered from confiscated collections. Austrian art historian Kajetan Mülhmann, “arguably the most prolific art plunderer in history,” mounted many modernist exhibitions. Focusing on modernists themselves, Petropoulos questions their motives in seeking accommodation with the Nazi regime. He concludes that some, despite their artistic proclivities, were Nazi sympathizers; some misunderstood or underestimated Nazi goals; others were so egotistical that “they thought their work to be indispensable to their field”; some were simply opportunists; and some believed “that the intellectual goals of modernism and fascism were compatible.” Petropoulos cites five modernists whose efforts at accommodation failed: Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and composer Paul Hindemith, who left Germany during the war, expressionist poet Gottfried Benn, sculptor Ernst Barlach and visual artist Emil Nolde, who remained but whose careers were compromised. Among the five, Nolde was a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite; but Barlach, who “identified with the downtrodden and marginalized,” was not. Modernists who flourished were composer Richard Strauss, actor Gustaf Grundgens, sculptor Arno Breker, architect Albert Speer, and Riefenstahl, who tried mightily to revise or conceal her past after the war. She claimed that she had been “a sworn enemy of Goebbels,” committed only to her art and apolitical. These 10 artists, Petropoulos claims, were exemplary of many other modernists.

A persuasive, nuanced and surprising picture of German culture under the Nazis.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0300197471

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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