Archive for February, 2011

ARTICLE BY Jim Edwards PUBLISHED ON A-FE

Steven Heller is a design historian & the co-founder of the MFA in design criticism at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He is also the author of “The Swastika, a Symbol Beyond Redemption?” & “Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State,” both books about the history of fascist symbolism. Heller recently discovered the German Nazi Party’s branding & design handbook at an antiquarian book fair.

Existing within a larger manual on the organization of the Nazi Party, Adolf Hitler’s style guide consists of 70 full-page, full-color plates (on heavy paper) that provide examples of virtually every Nazi flag, insignia, patterns for official Nazi Party office signs, special armbands for the Reichsparteitag (Reichs Party Day), & Honor Badges. The book ‘over-explains the obvious’ & leaves no Nazi Party organization question, regardless of how minute, unanswered.

All that according to a recent post on Heller’s blog.

He agreed to talk to The Tagline about the similarities & differences between history’s most notorious propagandists & modern American marketers. [Read More]

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ARTICLE BY Susan Sontag PUBLISHED ON A-FE

Here is a book of 126 splendid color photographs by Leni Riefenstahl, certainly the most ravishing book of photographs published anywhere in recent years. In the intractable mountains of the southern Sudan live about eight thousand aloof, godlike Nuba, emblems of physical perfection, with large, well-shaped, partly shaven heads, expressive faces, & muscular bodies that are depilated & decorated with scars; smeared with sacred gray-white ash, the men prance, squat, brood, wrestle on the arid slopes. And here is a fascinating layout of twelve black-and-white photographs of Riefenstahl on the back cover of The Last of the Nuba, also ravishing, a chronological sequence of expressions (from sultry inwardness to the grin of a Texas matron on safari) vanquishing the intractable march of aging. The first photograph was taken in 1927 when she was twenty-five & already a movie star, the most recent are dated 1969 (she is cuddling a naked African baby) & 1972 (she is holding a camera), & each of them shows some version of an ideal presence, a kind of imperishable beauty, like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s, that only gets gayer & more metallic & healthier-looking with old age. & here is a biographical sketch of Riefenstahl on the dust jacket, & an introduction (unsigned) entitled “How Leni Riefenstahl came to study the Mesakin Nuba of Kordofain”—full of disquieting lies. [Read More]

Second Exhibit. Here is a book to be purchased at airport magazine stands and in “adult” bookstores, a relatively cheap paperback, not an expensive coffee-table item appealing to art lovers and the bien-pensant like The Last of the Nuba. Yet both books share a certain community of moral origin, a root preoccupation: the same preoccupation at different stages of evolution-the ideas that animate The Last of the Nuba being less out of the moral closet than the cruder, more efficient idea that lies behind SS Regalia. Though SS Regalia is a respectable British-made compilation (with a three-page historical preface and notes in the back), one knows that its appeal is not scholarly but sexual. The cover already makes that clear. Across the large black swastika of an SS armband is a diagonal yellow stripe which reads “Over 100 Brilliant Four-Color Photographs Only $2.95,” exactly as a sticker with the price on it used to be affixed—part tease, part deference to censorship—on the cover of pornographic magazines, over the model’s genitalia. [Read More]

ARTICLE BY Klaus Wiegrefe PUBLISHED ON A-FE

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, is having historians look into its shadowy early years, when the organization hired former Nazi criminals. The coming revelations could prove embarrassing for Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats & may even tarnish the legacy of former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

They called Johannes Clemens the “Tiger of Como.” When an SS captain bore a nickname like that, it rarely meant anything good. Clemens belonged to a squad that shot 335 civilians in the Ardeatine Caves near Rome in 1944, one of the worst massacres on Italian soil during World War II.

Former chief inspector Georg Wilimzig also had blood on his hands. His 300-member squad, known as IV/2, murdered thousands of men, women & children following the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

After 1945, Clemens & Wilimzig both found themselves working for the same employer — the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency.

It’s no secret that intelligence agencies don’t like to disclose too much information about their own histories. There is even less transparency when that history involves mass murderers among the ranks. For this reason, it is all the more remarkable that the current BND head, Ernst Uhrlau, has been pushing for years to have more light cast on the early years of his organization, as part of Germany’s ongoing efforts to come to terms with its Nazi past. Uhrlau, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has been trying since 2006 to move the issue forward. [Read More]

ARTICLE BY Simon Edge PUBLISHED ON A-FE

In December 1940, as war raged in Europe and Britain battled Hitler in lonely isolation, ­American journalist Fulton Oursler received an unexpected summons to the Bahamas. He had been invited to conduct a rare interview with the islands’ governor, the former King Edward VIII, ­officially known since his abdication four years earlier as His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor.

As an officer in the British Army as well as a dignitary of the British Empire and brother of King George VI, the Duke might have been expected to fly the flag for his embattled ­country. Instead he gave Oursler a eulogy to Hitler. The former British monarch told the journalist it would be tragic for the world if the Nazi ­dictator were overthrown. Hitler was not just the right and logical leader of the German people, the Duke insisted, he was also a great man.

As Oursler tried to grasp the ­enormity of what he was hearing the Duke asked him: “Do you suppose that your President would consider intervening as a mediator when and if the proper time arrives?” The American understood that he was being asked to carry a message to President Roosevelt, with whom he was on good terms, but he was not certain what it was. As he was leaving the Duke’s aide-de-camp spelt it out. [Read More]

ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON Mail Online

The moustache is gone but the familiar round glasses are still there in this chilling photograph of Heinrich Himmler seconds after he killed himself. This is the first time this picture has been seen of the architect of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six million Jews, just after he crunched a cyanide capsule in his mouth.

The photograph, which is due to be auctioned, was taken by British intelligence officer Guy Adderleyin in May 1945. Dishevelled Himmler, who had been arrested by the British, was due to be interrogated by intelligence chiefs over his war crimes the following day. [Read More]

A new parliamentary proposal to establish a commemoration day in honor of those Germans expelled from Eastern Europe following World War II has revived an ongoing debate about Germany’s 20th century history. Dozens of accomplished academics have blasted the idea in an open letter.

To an outsider, it could almost seem like just another item on a packed parliamentary calendar. Last week, Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag – led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives & her business-friendly coalition partners, the Free Democrats – voted in favor of a proposal which could lead to the addition of another commemoration day to the German year.

But the event up for commemoration is anything but free of controversy. The day, should Merkel’s cabinet choose to pursue the idea, would be in memory of the expulsion of millions of Germans from Eastern Europe in the wake of World War II. Past efforts to commemorate their suffering have reliably elicited outcries from both within Germany & abroad. Portraying Germans as victims of World War II, after all, is always a dicey proposition.

The Berlin opposition took the lead last week in blasting Merkel’s conservatives. On Monday, they were joined by 68 leading historians from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, who published an open letter criticizing the idea. [Read More]