“Style Hitler!”

This post was contributed by Ruth Harriss, a student on  Birkbeck’s MA History of Art.

Dr Despina Stratigakos, ‘Domesticating Hitler: Ideology and Aesthetics in the Führer’s Private Spaces‘, Friday 8 March 2013, hosted by the Architecture, Space and Society Network, School of Arts, Birkbeck.

Before attending Dr. Despina Stratigakos’ talk, it had never crossed my mind that one might think of Adolf Hitler as an individual who possessed impeccable taste – as someone who lived in comfortable, stylish interiors that reflected a refined artistic sensibility.  However I learned how this image of the German chancellor, expertly crafted by his talented interior designer Gerdy Troost, was used with great effect to distance Hitler from the violent crimes he committed across Europe.  In fact Hitler’s ‘domesticated’ persona was so compelling that unbelievably, merely a year after the devastation of Guernica in 1937, his mountain retreat in Obersalzberg was esteemed in the British magazine Homes & Gardens.

The Berghof at Obersalzberg

The Berghof at Obersalzberg. Photo: L. Ammon

Drawing upon research carried out for her upcoming book Hitler at Home, Despina Stratigakos discussed both the Berghof at Obersalzberg and Hitler’s Munich apartment on Prinzeregentenplatz as important and influential ‘backstage’ spaces to the Fuhrer’s public campaigns and performances.  Although only the cultural and economic elite would actually cross the threshold of either residences, their locations and the photographs of the Berghof that were circulated in the media both embedded Hitler into a specifically German context of art and culture as well as representing his vision of an Aryan super state.

Of particular interest was the argument that the Hitler/Troost design partnership forged an instantly recognizable National Socialist vernacular that undermines the ‘bombast’ of Fascist aesthetics that already dominates much of the scholarship.  On the whole Art History has tended to devaluate and disregard the influence of the domestic sphere and consequently Hitler’s private spaces remains unexplored territory.  However I expect that Hitler at Home will apply more than just a fresh lick of paint to the previously overlooked domestic profile of Adolf Hitler and not least in its recovery of Gerdy Troost from beneath the rubble of kitsch Nazi paraphernalia.

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