Freie Universität Berlin

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FU-BEST 19: Art and Dictatorship

InstructorJan Thomas Köhler
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


This course provides an introduction to art and politics in the context of dictatorship, focused on the examples of Hitler's Germany, Stalin's USSR, Mussolini's Italy, and Franco's Spain. In the first part of the semester, students will gain an understanding of art in a democratic society by analyzing the art and architecture of the Weimar Republic in Germany.
Official art and architecture in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union will then be examined, focusing on the works of Albert Speer, Giuseppe Terragni, Arno Breker, and Leni Riefenstahl. Modernist and Jewish artists were persecuted, forced into emigration or deported to concentration camps. Under the Nazi regime in Germany, the exhibition "Degenerate Art" tried to propagate the fascist idea of what art should not be like.
Nazi Art Looting and the difficult and long way to Art Restitution will be examined, focusing on the case of the Dutch art dealer und collector Jacques Goudstikker and the “art collector” Hermann Göring.
Art has also served as a medium to commemorate the Holocaust: the memorials at Buchenwald concentration camp or the Holocaust memorial in Berlin are prominent examples.
In the course of the semester, students will get an overview of important European art and architecture movements of the early 20th century. In addition, the course aims at providing a deeper understanding of art under totalitarian conditions.
As a complement to the lectures, formal field-trips to historically significant sites and museums constitute an integral component of the course.