Academic level – Undergraduate 3-4
Type of paper – Response essay
Topic Title – Response paper: The Development of Nazism
Q1: The Rosenstrasse protest was the single largest public protest against Nazism to take place in Germany. What conditions that made this protest possible? Why did the Nazi leadership cave to the demands of these protesters?
Q2: Why did the Nazis wage a war against art forms they perceived as degenerate?
The Rosenstrasse protest is a remarkable testament to the resilience of the human spirit against the oppressive backdrop of Nazi Germany. Before the protest, Nazi Germany announced the policy of deporting Jews who were spouses of “Aryans.” The vast majority of Germans defied divorce decrees and other regulations aimed at socially isolating Jews, and in 1943 they marched to Berlin’s Rosenstrasse to protest the deportation of family members (Gellately & Stoltzfus, 2001). The protesters were predominantly non-Jewish spouses of Jewish individuals, a demographic that held a comparatively elevated status within the Nazi social hierarchy. The current relative privilege likely emboldened these Germans to challenge the regime’s actions publicly. Intermarried “Aryans” thwarted Nazi anti-Jewish policies, causing conflict between racial purification and social quiescence (Gellately & Stoltzfus, 2001). The protest’s peaceful and persistent nature and proximity to the regime’s downfall added to its significance.
The Nazi leadership’s decision to acquiesce to the protesters’ demands can be attributed to several factors. The history of intermarried couples provides a unique opportunity to examine the effect of ordinary Germans on Hitler and Nazi leaders’ decision-making, which was especially decentralized in the case of intermarried Jews ( Gellately & Stoltzfus, 2001). The advancing Allied forces and the deteriorating military situation in World War II compelled the regime to maintain an image of control. Top Nazi leaders believed deporting these Jews would cause social unrest and draw attention to the secret genocide in Nazi Germany (Gellately & Stoltzfus, 2001). The protesters’ cause garnered domestic and international attention, which posed a potential public relations nightmare for the Nazis. Releasing the detained Jewish husbands served the regime’s interest in portraying a facade of humanity amid their atrocities. Overall, the Rosenstrasse protest showcased that collective action and the assertion of fundamental human rights could elicit concessions from even the most ruthless regimes, even in the darkest times.
The Nazi regime’s crusade against what they regarded “degenerate art” manifested Nazism’s broader strategy to control all aspects of society to conform to their warped ideology. The current encompassing campaign was deeply rooted in the Nazis’ belief that culture and art were powerful tools for shaping public perception and maintaining their totalitarian grip. Nazi authorities thought avant-garde art mirrored Germany’s postwar democracy’s alleged instability, decadence, and pacifism. The Munich exhibition of degenerate art was a deliberate effort to stigmatize and reject artistic expressions that diverged from their prescribed aesthetic norms. While any forms of avant-garde were forbidden in Germany, Julien Bryen captured Jewish theatre performances in Poland in the 1930s (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.). Modern and abstract art forms, often associated with individualism and intellectualism, contradicted the Nazis’ preference for traditional, propagandistic art that glorified their vision of Aryan supremacy.
The regime sought to eliminate potential challenges to their authority, including dissenting artistic voices that might inspire critical thinking or rebellion. Julien Bryen, who managed to travel to Nazi Germany in 1937, revealed the anti-Jewish Nazi actions driven by the idea that modern art’s ambiguity included Jewish and Communist influences (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.). The Nazis aimed to eliminate any traces of cultural diversity and to ensure complete control over the narrative portrayed through art by waging war against modern art forms. The campaign reinforced their propaganda, enforced conformity, and fostered an environment of fear and compliance. By suppressing “degenerate art,” the Nazis hoped to create a cultural landscape that mirrored their ideology and further solidified their totalitarian regime’s hold on society.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.). JULIEN BRYAN. United States holocaust memorial museum. https://www.ushmm.org/collections/the-museums-collections/collections-highlights/julien-bryan/nazi-germany-1937/1937-munich-exhibition-of-degenerate-art
Gellately, R., & Stoltzfus, N. (Eds.). (2001). Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany. Princeton University Press.