Adolf Hitler – speech at the “Great Exhibition of German Art”
Munich, July 10, 1938
Scarcely six years have passed since the National Socialist Movement, following many years of struggle, was finally entrusted with the leadership of the Reich. Nonetheless, today we can already state that rarely in the history of our Volk has there been a comparably eventful period of peace as in these past five and a half years, an epoch of National Socialist leadership which was inaugurated on that memorable January 30, 1933. How many realms of our lives have witnessed radical change since then, a resurgence of life which had been declared completely impossible just a few years earlier by those who had felt themselves “called upon.” The Party which had been decried as a threat to the inner peace in fact bestowed true inner peace upon the German Volk in the first place.
A regime that supposedly would precipitate economic collapse pulled the German Volk back from the brink of economic ruin and saved it. That very National Socialism, which was assumed to spell a disastrous defeat in matters of foreign policy, has uplifted the German Volk from the most dreadful defeat in its entire historical existence, has restored its proud self-confidence and has led Germany to become a highly-respected force in the world. There is hardly one realm in which the prophecies of our opponents were not revealed as lies.
During these months, we have borne witness to the fact that the economic philosophy of National Socialism, which ten years ago had been decried as pure stupidity and only five years ago was termed a criminal act or madness at least, that this philosophy is now gradually being adopted by other states as well- albeit in omission of copyright charges. [-] The cultural program of this new Reich is of an unparalleled grandeur in the history of our Volk. Success will come about as a matter of consequence as it already has in all other realms of our lives. However, we are fully aware that in this instance the initial time period by nature will be a longer one than the ones to date.
In the twentieth century, the German Volk is a Volk of a resurrected affirmation of life, enchanted in its admiration of the strong and beautiful and hence of what is healthy and capable of sustaining life. Power and beauty are the slogans of our time. Clarity and logic reign supreme in our efforts. Whoever wants to be an artist in this century must wholeheartedly pledge himself to this century.
There is no room for any Neanderthal culture in the twentieth century, no room for it at least in National Socialist Germany. We rejoice that the democracies are opening their progressive doors to these degenerated elements for, after all, we are not vindictive. Let them live, we do not mind! For all we care, let them work-but not in Germany! In 1937, 1 felt the time to have come for a clear decision in this matter as well. Naturally, this entailed a severe intervention. Whether or not we can today call geniuses of eternal standing our own is as always difficult to judge, but in the end it is of little consequence for our actions. What is of great consequence, however, is the preservation of an environment in which true genius can be nurtured. To this end, it is imperative to uphold the solid and decent underpinnings of the common artistic heritage of a people out of which develops true genius. Genius is not synonymous with insanity, and above all genius is not synonymous with fraud. To the contrary, genius manifests itself through extraordinary accomplishments which are easily differentiated from the common.
This prejudice threatened to pervade the entire nineteenth century [in the time of decline]. The decent, or let me say well-intentioned naive average of that century, has nonetheless furnished that ground from which arose many a great artist. A century that can claim so many great musicians, great poets and thinkers, renowned architects, wonderful sculptors and painters, towers way above the stupid profanities of an epoch of noise-makers in the Dadaist tradition, formers of plaster in the Cubist mode and colorers of futurist screens.
Of course, the nineteenth century also brought forth many an average performance and even more performances ranking below average. However, that is the mark of any century of achievement. How many people wander through life and how few of them are able to run a marathon, and how many actually win the race? Yet these victors are but the fastest runners of humankind. However, if these men would hop around crazily instead of walking like ordinary men, then their performance would equal that of our cultural geniuses of the time of disintegration. They would be no better than these because they, too, would lack the basis for the creation and assessment of supreme achievements.
Hence in the course of the past year, I resolved to clear a passage for the honest and decent average performance. Already at the exhibition prior to the last, we warranted the joyful premonition that one or the other artist was well capable of even greater achievement in the future. Developments since then have proven this assessment correct. Our suspicions were, moreover, reinforced by the winter exhibition on German architecture and the products of our arts and crafts.
These days I greatly rejoice in having been able to afford the German Volk this magnificent work of eternal beauty to be placed in the capital of its arts thanks to the truly magnanimous permission granted by the Italian Government. May none of you who visit this house fail to go to the sculpture gallery. May you all then realize how glorious man already was back then in his corporeal beauty, and that we can speak of progress only if we have attained like perfection or if we manage to surpass this level.
Above all, may the artists appreciate how great the sight and the artistic ability of this Greek named Myron must have been as it reveals itself to our eyes today. How marvelous an achievement of that Greek who created a statue two and a half millenniums ago, a statue the Roman copy of which still elicits stunned admiration on our part. And may all of you take this to heart as a standard for the tasks and accomplishments of our time. May you all strive for beauty and perfection so that you shall also stand the test of time both before the Volk and the ages. [-] I have no doubt that you will be moved by the same sensations that moved me when I first saw this unparalleled testimony to eternal beauty and achievement.
You will perhaps then, too, be able to sense what I feel on this day as I declare open this second art exhibition in the Reich and as I compare it to what existed just a few years before we came.