Nationalizing Relaxation

By Alex Wittmann

The blog post that I will be writing on today will be on Selfhood, Place, and Ideology in German Photo Albums 1933-1945. The author of the article argues that personal photographs could demonstrate the ideals of Nazi Proganda just as much as state run propaganda pictures would. This article ties into the course theme of fascist culture because it sheds light on how Nazi ideology was able to penetrate into the everyday life Germans. I believe that Fascist culture varies across the nations who succumb to its practice, but the ideology remains uniform. It is a culture of the collective nation state and those who contribute to it, essentially build the strength of the nation at whatever cost. Nazi ideology is unique in the sense that collective nationalism was very much centered on race. It often centered around the racist theory of the “master ayran race” as the “real German” and anyone who was not white was deemed to be inferior. On that note, I believe that the author makes a very interesting point on personal and propaganda photos. The author said that there was a common theme of white Germans relishing vacation and relaxation. Most photos show Germans sitting and reading out in nature, going on leisure road trips, and performing recreational leisure activities. The author said that with these photographs the Nazis could use it to show relationship between public ideology and private life, showing that in relaxation and leisure, the aryan demonstrated its supremacy. The author also said that there was a link to “race and place” in photos of relaxation. In other words it showed the aryan race in its natural habitat of nature and its “superior” habits. Creating a sense of community identity that the Volksgemeinschaft espoused. What I find particularly dark and sinister about these pictures is while it might show what appears to be a very peaceful country, this same “peaceful” country was also was also carrying out deep systematic extermination of political opponents, jews, and gypsies. This sense of racial superiority can be seen in a trip to Belgrade by 17-year old German students in which pictures taken show people of the Balkans to be lazy and poor. This set a contrast between how white Germans were portrayed. By reading this article I can say that Nazi version of facsist culture was unique, it was built upon race as the central theme. The reading shows that Nazi propaganda and invented culture reached further than the public sphere, private leisure activities were nationalized as the ideal form of “purley German and Aryan” activity. It shows that German propaganda infiltrated the private lives of Germans.

Work Cited

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.

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