The Faustian bargain : the art world in Nazi Germany /

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Main Author: Petropoulos, Jonathan.
Format: Book
Published:Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2000.
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Review by Choice Review

Following his Art as Politics in the Third Reich (CH, Jun '96), Petropoulos focuses on five categories of collaborators in the Nazi programs designed to eliminate "degenerate" art from public view, to acquire from occupied countries art desired by Nazi officials, and to foster officially approved art. A chapter is devoted to each category and each chapter focuses primarily on one individual, although ancillary figures are discussed to illustrate that the main character was not unique. The first category, art museum directors, uses Ernst Buchner, who controlled some 15 museums, as the prime example. The second chapter focuses on Karl Haberstock, probably the most successful art dealer in the period. The most important art critic was Robert Scholz, the focal figure in the third chapter. Kajetan Muehlmann, an Austrian, was selected to exemplify the role of art historians. Finally, the artist Arno Breker illustrates how artists themselves were involved in the Nazi program. The total picture reveals how what often began as a modest participation grew into a large role. Petropoulos also shows that many of the participants escaped significant punishment, indeed, often reestablished their careers after 1945. Both general and academic readers at any level. H. D. Andrews; emeritus, Towson University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

As research director of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Committee on Holocaust Assets, Petropoulos (Art as Politics in the Third Reich) is at the forefront of the efforts to understand the full extent of Nazi plundering of art. (He is also professor of history at Claremont McKenna College in California.) Tirelessly scouring European archives, Petropoulos has compiled an invaluable account of how certain artists profited from the Nazi system. Moreover, he follows the story through the end of the war and describes how these profiteering artists fared after the fall of the Third Reich. Some, like the notorious sculptor Arno Breker, long a favorite of Hitler, amazingly escaped any major penalties or prosecutions. Detailed chapters describe the destinies of German art museum directors, art dealers, art journalists and art historians as well as artists, presenting a far broader picture than any previous study of the true artistic climate during the war years. Not only do we read about vile acts of cowardice and collaboration, but we get hints of the innocuous, everyday faces of the bureaucrats and journalistic hacks who committed crimes against art and humanity. With 69 pages of detailed notes, and an unusually useful and extensive bibliography, this book is sure to be a cornerstone for further studies of art in the Nazi period. Perhaps most impressively, Petropoulos manages to maintain a cool tone while recounting the spoilation of Jewish art collections for the profit of the Reich, a subject that even today raises emotions to fever pitch. This is the sort of book that literary prizes were invented to honor. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A consistently startling and intellectually rich account that throws light upon the largely obscured players in the art world of Nazi Germany--exploring their moral equivocations, their roles in aiding the Reich, and their generally lenient fates. Petropoulos (Art as Politics in the Third Reich, not reviewed) notes that the actions of many German artists and intellectuals during the Reich confound expectations (shared then by the Allies) that such figures were likelier to "behave in a more scrupulous and humane fashion," and he presents a number of scrupulous studies of individuals who struck the "deal with the devil . . . for greatness and in pursuit of a lofty ideal." He endeavors first to piece together, through personalized narrative, some understanding of why these individuals accommodated the Nazis, and then to show how the German art world's close-knit, complex web of competition and profit ultimately provided cultural legitimacy (as well as aesthetic and financial support) for the regime's genocidal politics. To this end, Petropoulos examines representative figures from among museum directors, art dealers, journalists, historians, and artists, according in-depth coverage to such key Nazi associates as Walter Hofer (GÖring's personal dealer) and Arno Breker (Hitler's favorite sculptor). Though one might assign avaricious or self-preserving motives to these art-world professionals, the range of their Nazi-related deeds is a sobering indictment of true fervor; Petropoulos documents activities ranging from the blackballing of Jews and leftists to the confiscation (for destruction or covert sale) of "degenerate" art to the organized plundering of art from all Nazi-occupied countries. Yet most of these well-connected art professionals were treated lightly in de-nazification proceedings, and most resumed their careers with varying degrees of informal approbation. An especially dark theme here concerns the fervor of top Nazis for art collecting and patronage; it offers a more disturbingly nuanced configuration of the supposed "banality of evil" schematic that makes Nazism easier to comprehend. Thus, a subtly rendered, thoroughly informed, and important examination of one of the least-understood aspects of the Third Reich. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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