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.  

Sources:

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

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

  1. I find it interesting that you emphasized the push of activities in Italy as endorsing fascism through cultural identity and less so for what they were doing in Germany. I agree with you that Italy was attempting to push their identity through fascism, and Germany racial and material authority. I also think that in a way by looking at the cruises that were funded by the government and the push of racial and material superiority, could also be a way for the government in Germany to frame a German cultural identity across borders.

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