Fascism’s Approaches to Leisure and Tourism – Andrew Devenish

The fascist approach to building a national community seems to have been very important for Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Under these regimes, both nations mobilized tourism as a way to attain specific goals set by the regime for their populations. However, while these approaches are similar in concept, their goals and implementations were very different.

The theme that unifies these countries through their approaches to mass leisure and tourism is about building a unified national community. However, Mussolini and Hitler went about it in very different ways. Baranowski argues that the state-run organization Strength through Joy, or the KdF, had goals of giving Germans positive experiences of the Third Reich, improving standards of living and even expanding upon the idea of standards of living, and notably fostering an “egalitarian” racial community without class divides. The idea was that sending workers and low-income people on cruises and vacations with other classes of people would result in inter-class mingling and hopefully blur those class divides or get rid of them altogether, while fostering an identity more centred around race so that all “racially acceptable” Germans could think of themselves as equal subjects of the Third Reich, and therefore be more endeared to the Nazi regime.

De Grazia paints a different picture of Italy, however. Italy also wanted to use leisure and tourism to further the regime’s specific goals, but it was less about getting rid of class divides and sponsoring racial community. This tourism and leisure industry was also constructed, and the purpose of the Italian OND was similar to the German KdF, but the OND was focused more on linking rural communities more tightly to urban communities, and tying both to the state, and fostering ideas of national community rather than racial community.  The OND wanted to engage the Italian population – they wanted an active public rather than a passive audience, and they wanted to strengthen ideas of the Italian national community and cultural unity, in the same way that the KdF fostered racial community between “racially acceptable” Germans. Both of these fascist regimes employed tourism and mass leisure agencies to guide these industries toward specific, focused regime goals, in similar ways, but to different types of goals.

Measuring the Successes, Failures, and Challenges of Fascist Regimes Attempts to Regulate of Leisure

Confronted with the task of unifying their respective nations under a burgeoning consumer culture, fascist regimes Germany, Italy, and Spain looked to the realm of leisure. By regulating the sphere of leisure, these fascist regimes could maintain a close hold on proper citizenship in addition to establishing a certain, often paternalistic, relationship between the state and the people. In turn, this further legitimized the practices of the regime. By instating different programs, practices, and systems, these fascist regimes often offered a veneer of freedom. The seemingly paradoxical relationship between individual freedom and fascism begs the question: to what end were these programs successful? Did citizens go along with these efforts or did they make displays of resistance?

in her book, Strength through Joy, Baranowski considers the way that tourism expeditions organized by Strength through Joy (kdf) were put in place to bolster the support of the Nazi regime. This was done by offering trips to working and middle class Germans to deliberately chosen countries wherein every day people clearly faced great deprivation so that German tourists could understand how the Nazi party greatly improved their lives. These trips were very methodically organized and offered an atmosphere of fun. In doing so, the Nazi party offered a semblance of individual freedom that brought Nazi Germany closer to its vision of racial purity. Despite their intentions, these trips did not always affirm a unified Germany as there was often differential treatment afforded to those of more affluent backgrounds. Indeed, it often came from members of the Nazi party themselves who would join these trips in high numbers and conduct themselves with great arrogance. Additionally, sometimes impediments to Nazi goals of the trips came from the tourists who would stay on the boat all day rather than interacting with the locals of the countries they visited.  

According to de Grazia, attempts to regulate leisure in Italy expressed great concern over class and regional divisions as they threatened a homogenous nation. In addition to tourism within the country that connected regions and showcased Italy’s natural beauty, the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND), coordinated and mediated sports and theatre to assert a unified nation. Like fascist Germany, Mussolini’s Italy was interested in maintaining a seemingly egalitarian society. Regulating such leisure activities and offering a veneer of freedom ensured conformity. In the Italian context, a high degree of state intervention and mass media including advertising help fascism flourish. As much as fascist Italy sought to blur the lines between class and differences by regulating leisure, they undermined their own work by seating theatre audiences according to class, to take one example. 

The case of Spain as explored by Crumbaugh is maybe most interesting for the way that it interacted with the “free world” and its invocation of democracy. Tourism to Spain brought a variety of foreign bodies. Most notably, it saw an influx of Americans to Spain. Given the spirit of democracy that  Americans are often thought to embody, this tourism offered a narrative of liberation. Tourism in Spain, affirmed the country as modern and also help to create self-disciplining citizens. Ultimately, the freedom that tourism offered was concluded as inauthentic.

A brief tour of Fascist ideology

By Daniel Williams (See what I did there?)

There is often an assumption, propagated in part by modern media, that fascist ideologies and nations are homogeneous. That the individual at the bottom level often buys into the ideology of the top level in full, and that this ideology is taken as the primary identity of all regardless of social divisions. And while this may be the end goal of fascist ideologies, to have a single unifying set of values, it is also a very basic, face-value assumption. It takes for granted that fascist regimes (and further, totalitarian regimes as a whole) are fully successful in convincing their citizens to this goal, despite individual groups already having their deep rivalries set.

Strength Through Joy takes a particularly interesting approach in attempting to disprove parts of this, by looking directly at the attempts made by the Nazi regime in particular to use vacations to try and spread ideology. This is particularly interesting in contrast and comparison to the previous week’s discussions, addressing whether fascism is imperialist or international, rather than national.

One of the most interesting components of Strength Through Joy is how it addresses that regional differences *within* the nation were significant enough to cause conflicts aboard vacation cruises, or that social status would lead to discomfort. It’s somewhat interesting that while Prussian militarism was often seen as dominant in the national image, that individual regions still maintained rivalries and less-than-pleasant thoughts within the nation.

Perhaps more interesting is the choice of destinations, how the Nazi regime was not afraid to expose its tourists to non-fascist nations and cultures. The Nazi regime seemed to be making it clear that it was willing and ready to compete on the main stage for a place as a potential successor to democratic liberalism.

With populism on the rise, and the sense that right-wing populism is itself an illiberal entity, it would interesting trying to evaluate how populist groups are attempting to transcend national identity over regional differences, in contrast to fascist activities.

Control, Culture, and Technocracy

By Stuart Strang

In this week’s readings, I have clustered a few general themes that I thought were the driving forces behind the fascist efforts of tourism, leisure, and consumerism. These themes are: Control, Culture and Technocracy.


Germany under National Socialist rule attempted to spread its message and control consumerism through the KfD (Strength through Joy). To achieve this, Germany dedicated significant monetary resources (free trips, subsidies, etc) as well as manpower (Gestapo agents) to promote and monitor mass tourism. One of the most prominent cases for the ‘success’ of mass tourism was the average German’s exposure (through subsidized travel) to other less fortunate living standards in other countries. By witnessing what other people were accustomed to; Germans saw their circumstances in a different, more favorable light and thus painted the regime in a better light as well.


The fascist regime in Italy faced a different set of circumstances in comparison to Germany, such as a weaker national identity, lesser access to resources to devote towards its programs, and a different approach to implementing a culture of fascism to promote a new national identity. In Italy, the emergence of this “mass leisure” was thus closely tied to the specific ends of the fascist regime. While the regime was able to subsidize some of the costs for events such a movie tickets, radios, and sports; there were other areas where the regime faced clear class divisions such as professional theaters and high-level sports. The regime thus attempted to promote an Italian culture through tying the OND (and in a general sense the regime) to these past times. For example, Victoria de Grazia argues that “the regime in effect appropriated as its own a whole series of popular pastimes, incorporating what had previously been experienced as autonomous expressions of class or community into the social life of the state, associating them with its official activities and infusing them with new competitiveness” (170). I think in comparison to the German or Spanish case, the Italian attempts to promote tourism and culture was the least well received, as there seemed to be a general trend of great interest by the public at the introduction to new activities and events, but was followed with a quick diminish in interest.


As Crumbaugh highlights in Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism, the Franco government in the late 1950’s underwent a massive change of economic governance, towards a more technocratic economic policy. At the time, tourism in Spain became a prominent success for the country. Crumbaugh argues that “The power exercised through the spectacle of tourism, in other words, was constructive rather than repressive.” (20). Lastly, I found it interesting that tourism may have also contributed to the regimes downfall by allowing for such openness and socialization to democratic ideas. Personally, I found the Spanish case to be the most compelling for the fascist state being able to exert direct influence and control over the public. However, this was likely due to the fact that the policy the regime pursued was heavily economic and constructive.

Question: Other than for pragmatic reasons, were there any common elements of a fascist approach between Germany, Italy, or Spain?

To be “relaxed in a disciplined way”

It would likely seem comically absurd to modern observers that Hitler’s Nazi regime should need to essentially bribe its own citizens with fancy tourist adventures and leisure activities in exchange for ideological obedience. It may seem even crazier to imagine Adolf Hitler himself posing in a relaxed fashion in front of a German landscape to appeal to his citizens’ cultural pride. However, these outlandish premises are the subjects, respectively, of Shelley Baranowski’s book, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich, and Maiken Umbach’s article, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945.”

The various culture-building projects of fascist authoritarians during the 20th Century, each aimed at creating a homogenous and unified identity upon which the regime could stand. The malleability of culture and identity, and the inherent lack of ideological coherence in fascist movements resulted in these programs having what I view to be somewhat mixed results.

In Baranowski’s book, specifically, she tends to gloss over the fact that the Strength through Joy (Kraft durch Freude or KdF) project had mixed results and focuses instead on the intended effects of KdF. In the conclusion to Baranowski’s fifth chapter, “Racial Community and Individual Desires: Tourism, the Standard of Living, and Popular Consent,” she correctly explains that KdF “adopted techniques and hedonistic messages of commercial leisure more willingly, and more successfully, than had the Weimar left,” and also that “KdF conveyed the notion that serving the racial community was compatible with personal pleasure.” While these are both factual statements, Baranowski fails to offer in-depth analysis concerning the success or failure of KdF to achieve its states goals despite making note of these successes and failures throughout this chapter.

Throughout her chapter, Baranowski mentions that clashes would frequently occur between KdF tourists and “private” tourists, that KdF tours often intensified regional, religious, and class tensions between Germans, and that KdF tours occasionally sparked hostile feelings toward the regime’s party members who enjoyed more lavish luxuries on KdF cruises. Baranowski also describes that the way KdF tours operated encouraged “the assertive and individualistic behaviour that KdF officially deplored,” and that Gestapo and SD agents who were tasked with monitoring tourists would often be exposed to the very things the regime was worried regular tourists would be exposed to.

All these examples demonstrate the difficulties involved with manipulating culture and identity, the exact reason why authoritarian regimes place so much importance upon doing exactly that, and how dangerously impressive it is that Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Francoist Spain were able to accomplish this feat to varying degrees. If an ideology can infiltrate a culture – the daily lives of laypeople – in ways that scarcely anybody can notice without the benefit of historical hindsight, then one may not even be aware that committing even the most mundane act may be an act of political obedience. As Umbach describes it: to be “relaxed in a disciplined way.”

Material Realities of Ideology

In the 30s, consumer societies were flourishing and acquisition of consumer goods for private property was becoming increasingly important in a number of society. The decrease in price of cameras offered the opportunity to most of the population to capture their own experiences.

Interestingly, Hitler’s Third Reich reflects this new type of consumerism meant to promote state ideals. Maiken Umbach presents the part played by photographs in not only portraying propaganda and showing consumerism but also shows the way in which ideology was passed and lived in the population through photographs. The use of cameras, Umbach argues, gives authority to the photographed and the photographer to portray insights into everyday life as it was a common practice to take pictures by the 30s. He also argues that “[p]hotographs turned experiences into material realities—and thereby arguably did the same for ideology.”(p.365) How can ideology become material reality? One can think of the propagandist photography, but depicting ideology in the everyday life of the average citizens needs to go beyond the hold of state production.

Umbach presents pictures from his own collection to represent the untouched by, yet representative of state ideology. Showing how photographs and the role played by the photographed “as a form of affective and performative political behavior that transcended that which had traditionally been defined as the business of politics” (p.365) This is effectively shown in Shelley Baranowski’s piece on consumerism under the Nazi regime when she writes about paid vacation which proved effective in communicating to workers the “ideal place” they held in maintaining productivity and how great their leader was as he took care of their needs unlike the poor people living in slums that they saw during their trips. Thus, photographs and paid vacation as well as the ability to acquire consumer goods for personal property are all modes through which the Nazi Regime was able to convey ideology through material realities.

Beyond Ideology

Was there appeal to Fascism beyond the ideology? While typically fascism is associated with anti-modernism, based on the readings for this week that is not entirely true. Rather, it seemed as though a form of modernism was what was appealing to fascism beyond the ideology.

De Grazia points out that in Italy there was a growing popularity of the radio, theatre shows, and mass sport participation. These things are all considered modern, however they were promoted by the fascist government in Italy at the time. Umbach looks at a variety of different photographs and scrapbooks created by amateur photographers. In Spain. While all of these things are not inherently fascist in nature, each author explore the promotion of them through their individual Fascist regimes. Which would make this modernism allowed within these regimes.

However, I do not think that it is fair to say that the participation in these modern activities is solely based on the idea that they were promoted by fascism or because they were the culture of Fascism. In the de Grazia article, she writes the the sport Bocce, which is something that even today is a sport seen in Italy as whole heartedly Italian, was not “approved of” by Mussolini. Rather was later promoted by the his government because of the popularity among people. People in the countryside did not watch movies because they were not accessible to them, and were only accessible to them after they was an alternative given to them by the government. That does not necessarily mean that that is the only reason they watched the films but could also be seen as an opportunity to experience something more modern.  There is agency in these acts, and it shows that these acts were not necessarily performed due to fascism.

This can also be said for the Umbach article, in the article he looks at the leisurely poses that the subjects of the pictures are taken. Ones taken by amateur photographers, and the ones that are taken for propaganda purposes. He also looks at the way in which Germans would hold themselves in picture on their travels, as well as, the pictures of the roads. Which he linked back to these amateur photographs representing more than a relaxing time, and rather exhibiting the culture of the nazi regime. I find it difficult to make any solid assumptions on the acts of citizens based on their photographs. There is no way of knowing or sure the intentions behind the photographs. That is why I do not think that they were taking these photographs in these ways because they were seen promoted by the Nazi regime. But, because they had access to cameras they didn’t and took pictures of comparatively different things on their journey’s, which in my opinion is why you travel to new places. The culture of fascism does not necessarily mean the culture of the country, but the curiosity of modernity that was allowed.

Works Cited

Victoria de Grazia, The Culture of Consent: Mass Organisation of Leisure in Fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 151-86

Maiken Umbach, “Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945” Central European History Vol. 48, Special Issue 3 (Photography and Twentieth-Century German History): 335-365.


Trains, Cruises and Theatres: How Culture Impacted the Life in Italy and Germany During the Rise of Fascism and Nazism.

What transpires in Shelley Baranowski’s book Strength Through Joy is the attempt and overall success to democratize tourism and to show the social and racial harmony among the tourists who took part of these all-paid vacations. Multiple examples illustrate how this social harmony was not as simple or cohesive as hoped though. Party members benefitted from greater accommodations or access to extra activities whilst the workers were confined to small cabins and the regulated activities. The tourism en masse did not yield the expected enthusiasm among the local establishments where private clientele deliberately separated from the travellers. Single women were the subject of scrutiny due to their fraternization with the locals and their seemingly provocative attitude toward men. Another example is presented with the regional divide that fuelled some racist comments among Germans themselves.

All these trips were attended by undercover surveillance agents which role was to report on every daily event. These organized cruises and trips were the showcase of the superiority of the Third Reich and the author mentions multiple times how the racial and social component  played a role in their success. Rewarding the workers with free tourism was the way to boost the productivity, especially in the armament industry and it was also a mean to support the propaganda through the voices of the people and not only the party.

Italy which did not have the same financial power to propose such trips, used a different approach to rally more people under the fascist ideology. Like for Germany, the mass-consumption was the pitfall to avoid but the nationalization of markets helped Italy to create a national consciousness that was sustaining the build of a new “Italian” identity ( De Grazia, 152). Radio as a popular source of entertainment became the mean to reach a far-out rural population which was crucial to the idea of an Italian identity. Movies and traveling theaters (although differentiated between professionalism and amateurism), facilitated the diffusion of a regulated mass culture that reinforced the idea of collectivism . Italy favoured traditional popular pastimes which were heavily controlled by the state in order to erase class or regional differences.

The difference between Germany and Italy in the matter of popular culture diverge according to these two readings. Italy, less successfully though, did propose trips. But overall, the activities were more practiced nationwide as a way to endorse nationalism and fascism  through traditions and cultural identity. On the other hand, Germany went countrywide and  beyond its borders to display its racial and material superiority. The element of racial difference weighs heavily in the way Germany showcased itself, even toward Italy which was seen as less developed and disciplined.  


Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 1-10, pp. 162-98

Victoria de Grazia, The Culture of Consent: Mass Organisation of Leisure in Fascist Italy (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 151-86

The Memory of Fascism

By: Nadiya Alexandra

In Selfhood, Place and Ideology in German Photo Albums, 1933-1945, Maiken Umbach discusses the relationship between amateur snapshots and propagandisctic and commercial photos. The discussion of mass photography having a transformative effect at the time is fascinating, however, I would like to refute one of Umbach’s arguments:

“Spectacle during fascism was not merely an ideological ploy used by a regime to manipulate a population. It was coproduced by countless actors, from above, from below, and, most typically, from in between”

It is conceivable that the spectacle of fascism was coproduced, however, I do not find the photographs from that era as evidence of this claim. Or, at the very least, I would argue that this “coproduction” in the form of photography was not as intentional as Umbach suggests. On the other hand, the production of propagandistic and commercial photos was intentional, and I think offers more insight and opportunity for analysis.

In studying civilian snapshots, there are a few problems. Firstly, as Umbach admits, it is often impossible to tell if an image from civilian life was taken in the 1920s, 30s or 40s, as many photos did not have captions. This makes linking civilian photographs to fascism difficult. Secondly, Umbach discusses the style of photos produced as “risk-averse”; this implies that German civilians knew there was danger to be aware of. However, in Strength through Joy – Consumerism and Mass Tourism, Shelley Baranowski points out that many Aryan Germans were blissfully unaware of the terror and tragedy faced by second-class people. Additionally, Baranowski points out that many Strength through Joy (KdF) tourists, “ignored or trivialized Nazi terror and the regime’s minacious foreign policy.” If we assume that Baranowski is correct here, why was there a need to produce risk-averse photos?

Umbach also describes German civilian photo stereotypes, such as “the natural German,” “good times,” and “on the road.” The argument concerning “good times” is that these photos show an alignment with the way the regime sought to “naturalize” political ambitions. However, could there be a more simple explanation for these kinds of photos? In my opinion, people generally try to take photos to capture and display happy memories (unless they are photographers). Even today, most people’s Facebook and Instagram profiles are carefully curated to show the best parts of one’s life. Even in times of turmoil, I think is a natural human reaction, or even coping mechanism, to capture and hold on to the “good times.”

Another one of Umbach’s arguments is that “on the road” photographs show a fetishization of roads and vehicles, and “a clear sense that roads…are seen as spaces of a peculiar charismatic power, as trajectories, literally and metaphorically for transporting smiling travelers into a brave new world.” Again, I question how intentional these actions were from the amateur photographers, or how unique the obsession with travel was to Nazi Germany? Perhaps an argument can be made here that such photos show Germany’s striving for modernity?           

Again, my main question to Umbach is how intentional was this alleged coproduction of ideology from below? Was there indeed an ideology at play here? My guess would be that many of the civilian photos were taken without much thought for political ideology or risk-aversion. I think that the quantity of “good times” photos and “on the road” photos cannot be argued as showing production of ideology from below. However, this does not mean that there was not coproduction of ideology from below at all. Going back to the idea of the pragmatism of fascism, focus on travel and leisure was a very pragmatic strategy to keep the support from German civilians. Fascism had to be responsive to be pragmatic.  

Fascism and the Photograph: Dimitrios Monette

Upon completing this weeks reading upon the correlation of fascism and photography with a specific focus on the Nazi regimes use of the technology, I found myself largely agreeing with the pieces content for the first time in mass with the addition of a small observation. That single observation is that while yes, Nazism and totalitarianism have made use of photography to further their own goals and workings, so has literally every other ideology imaginable. We have seen great pictures of Soviet Russian columns of men and tanks, of women snipers and pilots. We have viewed photos of men in DCU camouflage and American flags standing beneath Saddam’s crossed swords in Baghdad.  We have seen and will continue to see the world the way the photographer wished it to be seen, no matter who is right or wrong, who is totalistic or liberty driven, and who is good or bad. The author even points out that the small men on the ground are capable of changing the outlook a view has on the conflict by way of a personal camera and personal anecdote “The same soldier’s album then documents his service on the Eastern Front in 1941 and 1942, before he was killed in battle in the Soviet Union. The mood changes significantly: photos of German war dead and makeshift graves abound, with captions underscoring a sense of melancholy and mourning, including occasional expressions of doubt, such as “Why all this bloodshed?,” and farewell messages to fallen comrades. The way the landscape is captured changes accordingly. Germans are now depicted acting in a featureless, muddy desert…” (326).  The photographer manufactures the feeling we discover within the snapshot by way of posing angle or even descriptor on the bottom or back of a photo. We have little to go off of but what we have been given, not too much unlike a totalitarian mentality. Despite this though, the German Reich of the Nazi regime certainly has a knack for such work unlike all others,  yet to call it inclusively fascist is not exact. The writer points it out best “Images, the recent historiography on “spectacle” has argued, were central to the success of fascism. Yet, the same images also lent themselves to the fashioning of more individual identities, as well as to the telling of stories that deviated from official propaganda narratives” (365).