In This Review

Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics
Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics
By Frederic Spotts
Overlook Press, 2003, 420 pp

A diplomat turned historian, Spotts offers a fascinating contribution to our understanding of Hitler's complex, chaotic, and catastrophic personality, and a compelling study of Hitler's artistic policies in the Third Reich. Hitler considered himself an artist first and a political leader and savior second. He was convinced the arts were important for, and should be used to affect, the people's culture. His talent for grand mise en scenes was of course connected to an admiration of Wagner that, Spotts tells us, was not shared among other Nazi leaders. Hitler's taste for grandiose (and ruinous) architecture, dislike of modern painting, passion for collecting artwork, ignorance of chamber music and indifference to symphonies, friendship with Albert Speer, and bad taste in sculpture, are all documented, along with his manipulation of artists and his role as art dictator. Spotts believes that if Hitler had been "like Mussolini, a cretinous philistine without interest in the arts, he would have been less destructive." One thing is certain: his interest in these domains exceeded his talents by far.