The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture
Harvard University Press 2016
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoliticsNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network November 29, 2016 James Esposito
Benjamin Martin’s The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture (Harvard University Press, 2016) examines the attempt by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to forge a European cultural empire out of their military conquests during World War II. Martin shows that the idea of Europe as a discrete political and cultural entity did not come from the postwar period (much less the European Union of the 1990s), but owes much to the cultural discourses of the 1930s. Germany in particular pushed for a kind of authentic “volkisch” cultural nationalism with a basis in folk traditions of central and eastern Europe. Germany’s initiatives in music, film, and literature appealed to the cultural sensibilities of Europe’s conservative cultural elite, offering a third way between American commercialism (epitomized by jazz and Hollywood films) and Soviet Bolshevism.
With the Fall of France in 1940, the Nazi-fascist new order aimed to replace Anglo-French Civilization the universalist basis of European culture since the Enlightenment, with Kultur, a vision of culture that was transcendent and deeply rooted in national specificity. Nazi Germany’s attack on modernism created friction between its ally fascist Italy. Mussolini’s government promoted modernist experimentation in music and art as well the unconventional style of the futurists. Unlike Hitler, who abhorred modernism, Mussolini was a patron to modernism as well as more traditional artistic styles. Both coexisted in the fascist state. Martin shows that although Italy could scarcely compete with Germany militarily, the Italians believed they could export their culture in such a way as to build a kind of Italian-focused cultural hegemony in Europe, supplementing and even competing with Germany.