History, Department of


Date of this Version

Winter 1991


Published in Central European History, Vol. 24, No. 4 (1991), pp. 402-423. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association. Used by permission.


Between 1928 and 1932, the National Socialist movement transformed itself from an insurgent fringe party into Germany's most potent political force. The most important factor in this dramatic turnabout in political fortunes was the rapid deterioration of the German economy beginning in 1929. It does not, however, logically follow that the German people simply fell into the lap of the party and its charismatic leader. To the contrary, the party aggressively employed sophisticated propagandistic and organizational strategies for attracting and mobilizing diverse segments of German society. With the onset of the economic crisis, and the consequent social and political turmoil, the party stood ready to receive, organize, and mobilize Germans from all social strata. Cultural issues featured prominently in propaganda, particularly in the latter, decisive phase of the Nazis' rise to power. After its breakthrough in the September 1930 Reichstag elections, the NSDAP wasted little time before going on a cultural offensive. In December 1930, for example, provocations in Berlin achieved a major symbolic victory, compelling the government to ban the film version of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Despite such successes, the movement's reliance on artistic and cultural strategies during its rise to power has not been subjected to rigorous analysis. Although several studies have examined the cultural policies implemented by the Nazis once in power, the historiography is deficient when it comes to the role of cultural politics in pre-1933 mobilization strategies. Ironically, the use of art and culture as a political weapon by the left-wing parties has generated far more scholarly interest.

Included in

History Commons