“Little Review” from David Blackbourn

Inhumanities: Nazi Interpretations of Western Culture by David B. Dennis (“little review”)

Dennis has read every article on culture published between 1920 and 1945 in the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter and turned it into a book. The result is a detailed compendium of the many ways in which the Nazis appropriated and abused Western culture, praising the “Nordic spirit” of Dürer and Shakespeare, turning Dante and Rembrandt into Germans, and settling accounts with “Jewish” artists like Heine and Mendelssohn. There are few surprises in these 450 pages of exegesis. Romanticism is good, Wagner is a prophet, social realism is bad, jazz is degenerate, Thomas Mann is a rootless cosmopolitan, and the music of “the Jew Schoenberg” is “sickly and convulsive.” We should nonetheless salute the author’s fortitude.

David Blackbourn holds the Cornelius Vanderbilt Distinguished Chair at Vanderbilt University and is professor of history there. His books include The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany; The Long Nineteenth Century; Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany; Populists and Patricians; and Class, Religion, and Local Politics in Wilhelmine Germany.

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