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Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics Hardcover – International Edition, January 6, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The opening paragraph and photo powerfully capture Spotts's argument: The Soviet army is soon to launch its final, devastating assault on Berlin; the British and the Americans are about to invade Germany from the west. And there sits Adolf Hitler, gazing longingly at a model of a rebuilt Linz, his hometown, which is slated to become a grandiose symbol of the Thousand-Year Reich. For Spotts, this proves what Hitler himself claimed: that he was at heart never a politician, but an artist. Spotts, who has written an acclaimed study of the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, tries to substantiate his thesis by providing a panorama of Hitler's artistic activities, including his failed career as a painter, the purge of Jews and others from the cultural sphere, and his personal patronage of artists, musicians and architects. According to Spotts, Hitler's essence is to be found in his desire to create an empire in which "true" German art could flourish as never before. Yet Spotts overlooks the fact that Hitler, in megalomaniacal fashion, also claimed mastery of engineering, history and military strategy. His primary focus was arguably not on art, but on the creation of a racial utopia. Art and politics were but two sides of the same, racially minted coin. Spotts provides a lively, encyclopedic account of Hitler and the arts, but a more comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the Fuhrer and the Nazi regime can be found in Ian Kershaw's two-volume biography, which will remain the standard work for many years to come. 100 b&w and 4 color illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Unlike biographies of Adolf Hitler that focus on the ideological and humanitarian disaster wrought by his intense anti-Semitism, Spotts's book posits that the 13-year nightmare of the Third Reich was just as much a result of Hitler's artistic nature. Though other authors have touched on certain aspects of Hitler's artistic side-the dictator's obsession with monumental architecture or his grandiosity and love of Wagnerian opera-Spotts (Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival) has leapt with both feet into a full exploration of Der F hrer as artist. Spotts argues that Hitler's aesthetic nature compelled him to destroy society only to re-create it according to the image in his artist's eye and that the crusade against the Jews (and, indeed, all "degenerate" influences) was the result of what Hitler viewed as the destruction of German culture by the practitioners of what he referred to as "modernism." Hitler's art-the art of centuries past-envisioned nothing new. Spotts makes the point visually, with numerous photographs and drawings, many by Hitler himself. With scholarship and true artistry, Spotts has exposed this picture in a book that is accessible to the average reader but that will be of interest to academicians as well.
Michael F. Russo, Louisiana State Univ. Libs., Baton Rouge
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; First edition (January 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585673455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585673452
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Loveitt on June 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do we really need another book about "Der Fuhrer"? Surprisingly, if the book is this one, the answer is yes. Because this book looks at Hitler from a different angle- one that is pretty much unknown to the layperson: this book is about the "sensitive," "artistic," and "cultivated" Hitler. As you might expect when using such words in connection with Hitler, contradictions abound. The man who could weep while listening to the music of Wagner is the same man who, the moment he came to power, fired or drove into exile musicians and artists he didn't approve of: Jews, Bolsheviks, Modernists, etc. On the other hand, if he liked you personally and thought you were talented, he would sometimes look the other way- he supported, or at least didn't harass, several people who were Jewish or who disagreed with him politically. Some of you may have winced when I used the word "cultivated" in connection with Hitler. But, consider the following: he was very well read (and had a tremendous, possibly photographic, memory); he was a competent, though unimaginative, artist- he could draw and paint as well as your average art school student (and he was completely self-taught); he knew a tremendous amount about the operas of Wagner, and was a good judge of opera singers; he was knowledgeable about architecture, could make architectural sketches, and could intelligently discuss technical aspects of the craft, etc. Having said that, we must remember the flip-side- Hitler was very narrowminded. His love of art was pretty much limited to 19th century German Romantics and some of the painters of the Italian Renaissance. He thought all modern art- which for him started with the Impressionists- was trash, and decadent to boot. He loved opera, but only Wagner and Puccini.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
If there is any justice in the world, Spotts' book will go a long way toward eradicating from popular consciousness the facile descriptions of Hitler as not much more than a cross between a risible, Chaplin-esque, comic book character and an insane, incarnate demon.

Part of the first notion of Hitler includes the idea that he ought to be dismissed as a failed, lousy artist. As Spott points out, the truth is that Nazism, like all self-styled utopianisms, was something like a gigantic project in aesthetics using people rather than pigments or plastics, and control and murder rather than downstrokes and glazing - and Hitler was the artist behind that (very popular for some years in Germany) project; he therefore must be taken seriously as an artist in this sense (obviously a grotesque, genocidal one).

As Spotts notes, even his hatred of Jews emerges from this context: the Jews are "ruining all art" by embracing atonalism, cubism, jazz, dadaism, etc., as well as ruining all life by embracing "Bolshevism". But in his mind, there doesn't seem to be much difference there: Picasso, Marx, Alban Berg - all the same. Since, in Hitler's view, art can't be separated from culture, and culture can't be separated from the state, and the state can't be separated from life itself, the eradication of the Jews becomes, in Hitler's mind, nothing less than a matter of national survival, or, strangely, to say the same thing, the artistically appropriate choice.

Spotts does a good job of underscoring another aspect of all this by calling attention to the seeming homoeroticism in Hitler's taste, particularly as it expresses itself toward the human being: at bottom (pun intended), Hitler preferred, aesthetically, buff blond males with blue eyes, i.e., "Nordic" types.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I lived in Germany 45 years ago I simply could not understand how those decent and civilized people had allowed themselves to be taken in by Hitler. And amazingly in our many conversations they freely admitted that they still believed, up to a point, that Hitler had been "good" for Germany!
Since then I have turned over a whole library trying to find an answer to that question. Three books go a long way toward explaining the phenomenon of Adolf Hitler: Ian Kershaw's two-volume biography; "Hitler's Table Talk" edited by John Toland; and now Frederic Spotts' "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics."
"Who is afraid of Adolf Hitler?" Frederic Spotts asks at the end of this extraordinarily revealing book. "Just about everyone," is his rhetorical response. Another question this book asks, tangentially, is "Who doesn't loathe Adolf Hitler?" Well, Hitler was personally responsible for the murder of millions of people and a war that destroyed Europe. All of this within living memory -- many of us were nurtured on the events of WWII. So how could any decent person admit to a shred of sympathy or even understanding for a monster like this Hitler? One would rather admit to sympathy for the Devil.
If you wish for any insight into a person's psychology, start with the music he likes and his taste in art. In this book Mr. Spotts makes the case that that these things were essential and central in Hitler's life and career and he does this convincingly. He also proves, to my satisfaction at least, that Adolf Hitler actually had some talent as a painter and an architect, not first-class by any means, but enough that he knew good stuff from trash and that he knew full well the "socialist" art produced during the Third Reich was trash.
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