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The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany 1st Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195129649
ISBN-10: 0195129644
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As research director of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Committee on Holocaust Assets, Petropoulos (Art as Politics in the Third Reich) is at the forefront of the efforts to understand the full extent of Nazi plundering of art. (He is also professor of history at Claremont McKenna College in California.) Tirelessly scouring European archives, Petropoulos has compiled an invaluable account of how certain artists profited from the Nazi system. Moreover, he follows the story through the end of the war and describes how these profiteering artists fared after the fall of the Third Reich. Some, like the notorious sculptor Arno Breker, long a favorite of Hitler, amazingly escaped any major penalties or prosecutions. Detailed chapters describe the destinies of German art museum directors, art dealers, art journalists and art historians as well as artists, presenting a far broader picture than any previous study of the true artistic climate during the war years. Not only do we read about vile acts of cowardice and collaboration, but we get hints of the innocuous, everyday faces of the bureaucrats and journalistic hacks who committed crimes against art and humanity. With 69 pages of detailed notes, and an unusually useful and extensive bibliography, this book is sure to be a cornerstone for further studies of art in the Nazi period. Perhaps most impressively, Petropoulos manages to maintain a cool tone while recounting the spoilation of Jewish art collections for the profit of the Reich, a subject that even today raises emotions to fever pitch. This is the sort of book that literary prizes were invented to honor. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Since the publication of Lynn H. Nicholas's The Rape of Europa (LJ 5/1/94), a number of works have appeared that further document the cultural pillaging that took place during World War II. While books such as Hector Feliciano's The Lost Museum (LJ 8/97) have focused on the lost artworks, Petropoulos's study is the first to focus on the Nazis and Nazi sympathizers who made the looting possible. Spotlighting five groups--art museum directors, art dealers, art journalists, art historians, and artists--Petropoulos (history, Claremont McKenna Coll.) carefully and systematically details how each of these groups either directly or indirectly facilitated the theft of countless works of art and legitimized the Nazi regime. By following a number of individuals in each group through their rise in Nazi Germany and in a number of instances their "rehabilitation" in a postwar "de-Nazification" process, Petropoulos shows that justice is too often blind to the truth. Detailed notes document all of the author's allegations, and he supplies an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary materials that reinforce his arguments. Highly recommended for both public and academic collections.
-Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195129644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195129649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Petropoulos is the John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California. Previously, he received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1990), where he also had an appointment as a Lecturer in History. He began working on the subject of Nazi art looting and restitution in 1983, when he commenced my graduate work in history and art history. He is the author of _Art as Politics in the Third Reich_ (University of North Carolina Press, 1996); _The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany_ (Oxford University Press, 2000); and _Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany_ (Oxford University Press, 2006); as well as co-editor of a number of volumes, including _A User's Guide to German Cultural Studies_ (University of Michigan Press, 1997), and _Gray Zones: Amibuity and Compromise in the Holocaust and its Aftermath_ (Berghahn Books, 2005). He has also helped organize art exhibitions, including _Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1991_ and appeared in a number of films, including _Rape of Europa_ (2006).

From 1998 to 2000, he served as Research Director for Art and Cultural Property on the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, where he helped draft the report, Restitution and Plunder: The U.S. and Holocaust Victims' Assets (2001). In this capacity as Research Director, he supervised a staff of researchers who combed archives in the United States and Europe in order to understand better how representatives of the U.S. government (including the Armed Forces) handled the assets of Holocaust victims both during and after the war. As Research Director, he provided expert testimony to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in the U.K. House of Commons and to the Banking and Finance Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He has served as an expert witness in a number of cases where Holocaust victims have tried to recover lost artworks. This includes Altmann v. Austria, which involved five paintings by Gustav Klimt claimed by Maria Altmann and other family members. Mrs. Altmann was born and raised in Vienna and her family had its art collections seized after the Anschluss.

He lives with his family in Claremont, California.

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By marronglace on September 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Petropoulos, Professor of History at elite Claremont McKenna College, presents an academic subject with a style that reads as a "user-friendly" narrative. He explores the manner in which certain Nazi-era museum directors, art dealers, art journalists and art historians, and, finally, artists, themselves, negotiated the dangerous terrain of Hitler Germany in order to enjoy the benefits of Reich approval. Petropoulos keeps the reader aware of moral, ethical, and legal issues as he paints a damning portrait of opportunists, both talented and not, who sold their souls to the National Socialist devil. In the end, one is left with a sorrow for their choices, and, in all honesty, a realization that the art produced for this regime was weak, coarse, and ultimately foolish.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on September 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Rather than producing another dry narrative of events in the artistic world during the Nazi era, the author brings the subject to life by taking a prosopographic approach: comparative biographies of a number of interesting figures in Nazi art (not only artists but critics, museum directors, etc.), following their careers both before and after 1945. A fascinating series of case studies. But I must agree with the previous reviewer that there are problems with editing: "prosopography" is misspelled throughout -- eek!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LD TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for specific situations in order to know the details or you just want to know the whole story that is known so far, this is a 5 star book. I enjoyed finding out who and how the stolen art disappeared and why it is still being recovered over 65 years later. But I admit that in some chapters I got bored with the details.

P.4 "Part of the project of this book is to understand the various motivations that induced talented and respected professionals in the art world to become accomplices of the Nazi leaders-in most cases, to become art plunderers. These figures in the art world had the opportunity for a Faustian bargain because the Nazi leaders themselves cared so much about culture-the visual arts in particular. The Nazi leaders could not have dominated the artistic sphere or have amassed such collections without the assistance of figures in the art world."

P.7 "Dr. Ernst Buchner served as the General Director of the Bavarian State Painting Collections where he oversaw 15 museums. The 2nd chapter, on art dealers, focuses on Karl Haberstock. The 3rd chapter is dedicated to art critics who served as important mediators between the regime and the public. Art historians are discussed in chapter 4. The final chapter is about the artists (particularly Arno Breker) who collaborated with the leaders. Within each chapter are 3-4 other figures to show this was not a unique situation."

P.10 "This study underscores the extent to which individuals who participated in the criminal programs of the Nazi regime were able to rehabilitate their careers after 1945."

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Crook on September 27, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Jonathan Petropoulos' writings on art and the Third Reich are a real treasure. In "Faustian Bargain," Professor Petropoulos takes on the German artists, art dealers, and art critics who became state-sanctioned under Hitler. This is an unusual, if not solitary, book on subject matters that do not receive close analysis.

The personal conclusions of this reviewer are different than those reached by Petropoulos who is uniformly critical in his portrayals. While some of the art glorified the Nazi leadership, most of it did not. Moreover, the subject matter and style of the art had been present in Germany and popular in the decades preceeding the Third Reich. The Nazis gave it prominent venues and subsidized it; they did not create it. Finally, it is a difficult stretch of logic to draw parallels with the artwork of the period and the brutality of the Nazi regime.

That said, although he does not hold back on his criticism, Professor Petropoulos is not heavy handed, and he allows his readers to render their own judgments. Petropoulos provides his readership with liberal citation to original source material so that the reader is ultimately left to draw his or her own conclusions about the artistic value of the work produced during that time, and the culpability, if any, of artists, art dealers, and art critics in glorifying the Nazi regime.
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hazel Clark on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've always wondered how I would have reacted had I lived in Germany in the 1930s. As a Jew, as a Lutheran, as a man or a woman, as an intellectual, as a peasant, as a business owner. The author does a fair job covering the members of the art world, artists, dealers, museum directors, critics. He picks one or two of the worst in each group and also a few shaded lighter grey. The only fact I would question is the name of the main Jewish bookdealer in Munich. Wasn't it Emil Hirsch rather than Heinrik Hirsch? Also it's slightly annoying to see some people's birth and death dates in brackets but not all and even more annoying to see a birth date and a questionmark for the death date. Did his editor not get around to filling in the dates?
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