Friday, August 24, 2007

Surprise! I've spent my vacation actually vacationing.

My article on Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918 - 1945 appears in this week's Washington City Paper.

Read it here.

Pictured is Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite film director/nature girl, responsible for Triumph of the Will, the infamous propaganda film glorifying the 1934 Nuremberg rally.

The film is loaded with the same kinds of juxtapositions and imagery as the NGA show: Identification with both the quaint old customs and costumes of the region and with the rapid militarization and mechanization of society. Hitler is always shown larger than the throngs of uniformed, regimented German citizens he surveys.

In one scene, he addresses the labor corps, young men who supposedly work on infrastructure projects--but who basically look like soldiers, except that they drill with spades instead of guns. Of course, Weimar Germany was limited to a standing army of 100,000 troops--so the shovels and the crossed-shafts-of-wheat insignia of the Reichsarbeitsdienst were something of a ruse. In a few short years, a lot of these men would be on the front lines, holding rifles.

My favorite use of this footage: Monty Python's sketch about joke warfare in WWII, The Funniest Joke in the World. In it, the Pythons recaption an exchange between Hitler and some creepy, bright-eyed, grinning RAD youth.


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