Aestheticism, the tool of Public Policy. 1

Anti-Intellectualism as State Policy.  Destruction of Intellectuals, followed by mass murder of Jews  5


Aestheticism, the tool of Public Policy


Nazi aestheticism emphasized the propagandistic value of art and glorified the heroism of war and “Arian” themes, as shown here in Wilhelm Sauter’s, Der ewige Musketier, (Eternal Musketeers) in the Heroes’ Shrine, 1939-1945.


With the triumph of the German army in quickly devouring most of the European countries by 1940, the Shrine suggests continuity from the 1914-1918 WW-I (allegorized on the left part of the painting,) Hitler’s own propagandistic pet project. The contrast between the grueling battles on the Western Front during the First World War and the quick victories in the Second War was enormous. By the end of 1940, Germany invaded and conquered Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France, not to mention annexation of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and total blockade of the British Isles.


The lightning-fast Nazi victory (Blitzkrieg), it was proclaimed, the current success, would not have been possible without the sacrifice in 1914-1918, which gave birth to the Nazi fighting spirit. Since then, the victory of the New German Soldiers became possible because of the legacy of their valiant fallen fathers. Now that the true German nation state had arisen in unity of the German people, the humiliation and defeat of 1918 have been reversed. (Ein Kampf, ein sieg! – One struggle, one victory.)


American and European art, especially so abstract, was denounced as “Degenerate Art” and as “cultural bolshevism”, which it certainly was not: Soviets denounced abstract art as decadent and antagonistic to their own brand of propagandistic art, “Socialist realism,” represented here by Laktionov’s “Letter from the front.” Ever since the National Socialist Society for German Culture was formed in 1927, it worked tirelessly to halt the “corruption of art,” “informing” and “educating” the people about the presumed relationship between race and art. By 1933, the terms “Jewish,” “Degenerate,” and “Bolshevik” were used interchangeably to describe most of the modern art.  Blacklisted were such recognized masters of the 20th century as Salvador Dali, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Emil Nolde and numerous others. Many of their works were burned on bonfires.

 The lyrical paintings of Marc Chagall, who happened to be an ethnic Jew from Russia, who wrote, “It always seemed to me, and it still does, that the Bible is the greatest source of poetry that has ever existed” were about Love. To Nazis they personified the essence of what they declared “degenerate art,” as did surrealist Salvador Dali and cubist Picasso, whose “Guernica” at the 1937 Paris World Fair was a spit in Hitler’s face. The Picasso’s mural represented the senseless bombing of an ancient Basque town of Guernica by the German and Italian warplanes on April 26, 1937 and by association – the horrors of war. The German air attack on Guernica and the Japanese bombing of Chungking, China, were the harbingers of things to come: early examples of indiscriminate urban air raids upon civilians, a trend that greatly, inexorably expanded during WW-II. Unlike Dali and Picasso Nazis exalted the virtue and exhilaration of war. In 1937, little did they know that the very horrors of mass slaughter and destruction they were about to unleash on the rest of the World would come back to them, that the very Hitler Youth whom they trained to be Masters of the Universe, would end up dead or lowly slaves in hard labor camps. 

To get a glimpse at the “degenerative” art works and style, juxtaposed to the totalitarian art, visit our virtual gallery (currently under construction.)

All German newspapers were brought under the Eher Verlag, the Nazi-controlled publishing house, where propaganda articles were pre-written for the rest of newspapers, not at all unlike the U.S. nowadays, where “Associated Press” writes articles reprinted by all of the U.S. newspapers, from the New York Times to Los Angeles Times, with no deviation permitted by the copyright – sort of Goebbels’ propaganda on steroids, taken a step further and wearing a mask of objectivity and plurality.


Hitler was quite determined to do what before him breeders did with dogs, cows and pigs – to breed a new, physically and culturally “superior” breed of people, the Arian Race. The Aryan scull had to have certain proportions, so did the Aryan woman’s bottom, safely erring on extra-extra-large. Based on their cult of the male nude, however, Aryans sorely lacked in the balls department, ultimately demonstrated in the German Armies’ total, unconditional surrender in May of 1945. Ironically, many soldiers and generals among the victors were indeed, Jewish.


But long before it happened, Nazis asserted that even music was guided by the biological theory, presumably exemplified in the Nordic traits of Mozart, Wagner, and Hayden. The produce of Nazi film industry is hard to take nowadays: in the hindsight it is nothing but bombastic, nauseating glorification of the Nazi party, Hitler, Waffen-SS, Wermacht, Luftwaffe, martyrdom for  Nazism, combined with off-the-wall Jew-hatred exemplified by profiling enemy nationalists, such as quintessential wasps among Americans, or Slavophiles (Russia’s own national-socialists and chauvinists) as Jews. The impact of Nazi propaganda film upon the film industry world-wide was enormous, and by far ― not only in regards to the cinematographic technique.



Anti-Intellectualism as State Policy.  Destruction of Intellectuals, followed by mass murder of Jews


Daily life in Nazi Germany was manipulated from the first days of the Nazi regime. Propaganda dominated popular culture and entertainment. Hitler was hell-bent that a strong state could only exist in absence of its critics. Nazism was a cult demanding unquestioning loyalty, not unlike “Scientific Communism” of the Bolsheviks, though hardly any of whom actually read, let alone understood, Marx.  The essence of the Nazi culture was for the people to simply believe. As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf:


The great majority of a nation is… ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment… has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. The art of propaganda [is]… to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.”


In other words, there was no need for thinking individuals in the “thousand year Reich” and especially so – on its occupied territories. Intellectuals have a bad habit of thinking for themselves; they make it hard to dupe the masses, who only have “notions” and “feelings” “of love and hatred.” (Id.)


Not surprisingly, not only did Nazis wipe out their own intellectuals, but mass-murdered intellectuals in the countries they occupied, making it their first order of business.  Thus, the Nazi Einsatzgruppen (German for “special task forces” with an interesting similarly pronounced related word einsargen – to put in a coffin) were the SS death squads deployed for mass killings (typically by shooting) of the political “undesirables.” They were tasked with mass arrests and executions of Polish intelligentsia – teachers, priests, entrepreneurs, college professors, lawyers, judges, writers and poets. A special force, Einsatzgruppe, was attached to each of the Germany’s 4 armies operating in Poland, and another one operated independently in the rear, five Einsatzgruppen operating just in Poland.


Poland was to be effectively beheaded before its surviving population could be indoctrinated, reduced and enslaved. Poland was to provide Germany the necessary “living space,” hence its land had to be freed from Poles[1].


It started as Intelligenzaktion Pommern, an action to execute Polish intelligentsia in Pomeranian Voivodeship (county) and adjacent areas, immediately after the invasion of Poland. It was part of a larger Operation Tannenberg, covering all of Poland. Planned on direct order of Adolf Hitler by Reinhard Heydrich's bureau “Referat Tannenberg” of Himmler’s SS.[2]


Himmler’s idea was that once the country’s brains and its able leaders were annihilated, the Polish people would become a subservient, obedient race of slaves under the Nazi domination. Planning was done way ahead of the invasion: Operation Tannenberg (German: Unternehmen Tannenberg) was the codename for the creation of lists (Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen), which identified more than 61,000 members of Polish intelligentsia to be dispatched six feet under upon German occupation. The lists were prepared mostly by ethnic Germans living in Poland before the war. Once the German invasion of Poland was underway, Einsatzgruppen and Selbstschutz (self-defence) – the paramilitary force manned by ethnic Germans living in Poland – got busy: just between the fall of 1939 and Spring of 1940, over 60,000 Poles were rounded up and shot in mass executions.


According to the research by Dr. Kevork B. Bardakjian[3] about Hitler’s top secret speech delivered on August 22, 1939 to the top Army brass (on the eve of the German invasion of Poland), it included the following instructions (translated here from German), known among  historians as the Armenian paragraph:


<< I have issued the command - and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness - for the present only in the east - with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? >>


Rear Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of Abwer, the German Army Strategic Intelligence,[4]  took notes during the top secret speech quoted above. As Dr. Bardakjian showed, there were 3 copies of notes, one full, which included the Armenian paragraph, and 2 subsequently redacted. Although the latter 2 are sometimes used to put in question the authenticity of the full note, Dr. Bardakjian deems such attempts a hoax.


The outdated and outnumbered Polish army with its large cavalry units and antiquated aviation was no match for Germany’s mechanized infantry and panzer divisions, so Poland fell within a month even despite pockets of resistance in which Polish military demonstrated unprecedented heroism (but that is a whole separate discussion in its own right.)  The enduring myth created by Goebbels’ propaganda psychological operations was of a “suicidal” Polish cavalry attacking German tanks, which never happened. Nazis psych ops can be credited with creating enduring mythology appealing to primitive emotions that mesmerized not only Germans, but spread throughout the world.

Polish Navy and merchant ships were able to escape to the UK and fought the war under British high command, as did 145 Polish pilots who managed to make their way to the UK. The Polish squadrons were just 5% of the British air force, but they claimed 12% of the total kills. Polish mathematicians broke the Enigma codes and were able to listen in on German military communications. They contributed to the operations of Allied military intelligence. In September 2000, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, presented the Polish Government the original coding machine Enigma. He stressed that breaking of the Enigma code by the Poles was a significant contribution to Allied military successes during World War II. But neither heroism nor military intelligence of the outnumbered Polish army could stop the juggernaut of the German blitzkrieg, armed by modern Czechoslovak tanks. It was all over in a month.


Having occupied Poland, Nazis systematically killed over 2 million ethnic Poles and 500,000 ethnic minorities (Ukrainians and Belarusians) living in Poland. Just like they were doing elsewhere, Nazis systematically killed over 3.1 million Polish Jews, men, women and children, bringing the total numbers of Polish citizens wiped out by the Nazi regime close to 6 million people.  


As part of an effort to destroy Polish culture, the German occupants closed universities, schools, museums, libraries, and scientific laboratories. They demolished hundreds of monuments to national heroes. To ensure that there are no educated Poles, German officials decreed that Polish children's schooling must not continue beyond a few years of elementary education. “The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans....I do not think that reading is desirable," Himmler wrote in his May 1940 memorandum.


German administration prohibited publication of Polish-language books, let alone scholarly papers[5], destroyed libraries and books in Polish.  Polish publishing houses were replaced in 1940 by several German-operated printing houses, which began publishing Polish-German dictionaries and Anti-Semitic and anti-communist literature.[6] The insidious impact of Nazi propaganda has been enduring, felt even 70 years later not only in Poland but throughout the world. 


One of the goals of Nazi propaganda was to rewrite Polish history: it published “scientific studies” claiming that Polish lands were really Germanic; falsely claiming that famous Poles, such as Nicolas Copernicus, and Chopin, were ethnic Germans.[7]


<<          Two masters cannot exist side by side, and this is why all members of the Polish intelligentsia must be killed,” Hitler explained… The material destruction or confiscation of Poland’s books and libraries, the dismembering of its educational system, and annihilation of the educated and intellectual classes were calculated to speed the extinction of national and cultural identity, facilitate slavery, and serve as a stop-gap measure until general extinction was possible.              >>[8]


The Polish scholar Franciszek Piper was among leading historians who researched the statistics of victimization in Nazi concentration camps. He estimates that 140,000 to 150,000 Poles were brought to that camp between 1940 and 1945, and that 70,000 to 75,000 died there as victims of executions, of starvation and disease. Some 100,000 Poles were deported to Majdanek, and tens of thousands of them died there. An estimated 20,000 Poles died at Sachsenhausen, 20,000 at Gross-Rosen, 30,000 at Mauthausen, 17,000 at Neuengamme, 10,000 at Dachau, and 17,000 at Ravensbrueck. In addition, victims in the tens of thousands were executed or died in the thousands of other camps--including special children's camps at Lodz and its subcamp, Dzierzazn--and in numerous prisons and other places of detention. According to his research, at least 1.1 million people perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau alone, of whom about 1 million were Jewish.



All rights reserved ● Copyright ©  2011, Eric Ross, Ph.D.




[1] My father, then a major in the Soviet army, saved the life of then a major in a Polish first Corp, formed sometime in 1944 (Ludowe Wojsko Polskie,) families remaining close friends while the two men were alive. Hence, my special interest in Polish history of the period, and deep love and respect for those few Poles I personally knew as the most loyal of friends, through thick and thin. 

[3] Hitler and the Armenian Genocide, published by the Armenian-American Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation.

[4] Admiral Kanaris was executed by Hitler on April 9, 1945 for his part in a plot to arrest or assassinate Hitler and members of the Nazi government.

[5] Libricide: the regime-sponsored destruction of books and libraries in the twentieth century, By Rebecca Knuth; 2003; Praeger publishers; PP. 86-89.

[6] Drozdowski, Marian Marek; Zahorski, Andrzej; (2004); Historia Warszawy, Jeden Świat, ISBN 83-89632-04-7; P.449.

[7] Madajczyk, Czesław (1970), Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce, Tom II (Politics of the Third Reich in Occupied Poland, Part Two), Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe; P. 123; P. 131; P. 141;


[8]   Libricide: the regime-sponsored destruction of books and libraries in the twentieth century, By Rebecca Knuth; 2003; Praeger publishers; P. 89;