Adolf Hitler – speech at the Day of the German Art
Munich, July 16, 1939
I most assuredly do not wish to side with those who utterly condemn the artistic achievements of the latter half of the 19th century simply because they hold them to be the more or less glutted reflection of the styles of various past epochs. For I do not believe that this can ever be completely avoided, and I do not think that this must necessarily be detrimental.
It is perhaps not so much the multifariousness of the artistic work back in the early days of the new Reich’s foundation to which we owe the general characteristics of this period, which are so unsatisfactory to us. Rather this is due to the obvious failure to give cultural expression to the recent, great historic accomplishment in an original manner. In other words, what was lacking was the strength to transform the total output into a cohesive whole, to go beyond partially ingenious individual works, and to express all this in a manner worthy of a truly great age.
Perhaps the fundamental reason for this lay in the fact that a number of the men making history then lacked I would not say an appreciation of art, but had a more or less pronounced lack of interest in the arts. It even reached the point where the most successful statesmen, the greatest warlords, and the immortal artists of this otherwise great age did not know one another. Actually, this is a shameful as well as a shattering realization!
The primary goal of our artistic work in Germany has no doubt already been attained today. Just as the campaign for architectural recovery had its beginnings in this city, Munich, a cleansing of the perhaps even more devastated field of sculpture and painting was launched here three years ago. The whole swindle of fashionable art-decadent, diseased, and dishonest-has been swept away. A decent standard has been achieved, which means a lot. It has an uplifting effect on the truly creative genius. Not only do we believe, we know, that today already many bright stars have appeared on the horizon of artistic work in Germany.
This third exhibition in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst reinforces this belief. Therefore, we hope and expect all the more that those called on to practice art will approach their work with holy zeal. From one exhibition to the next, we are prepared to apply ever-more stringent criteria to select from the mass of decent average ability the works of true talent. We have already reached a level which makes it difficult to decide between two or three works of equal merit. Therefore, I have ordered that, as last year, a part of the exhibited works shall be replaced, after their sale, by works of equal quality which were excluded solely from lack of space. Also I would like to express the hope that perhaps individual artists of true calibre will devote themselves to the experiences, the events, and the intellectual foundations of that age, which affords them the outward, material prerequisites for their work.
For as thousandfold as those earlier historic visions or other memories of the artist’s life may well be, which stimulate his work, which he has in mind, and which inspire him, they are all surpassed by the greatness of his own era today, which is on a par with the most majestic epochs in our German history.
Still we had to reject some works which placed themselves in the service of this cause since, regrettably, the force of the artistic design did not suffice to render justice to the intent, so that they could not withstand comparison to other works of similar inspiration of the past. Thus they failed of their purpose in the last instance. Still, insofar as these works reflect-as they so often do-the innocence of the soul, they do nonetheless merit our gratitude. Their almost pious undertaking, I would say, must be seen as an obligation for all those whom Providence has blessed and who can express in a more accomplished fashion what moves all leading and thinking men in our time.
I do not wish to let this hour pass without affording you and thereby all Germans an interest in the arts-perhaps a professional interest, perhaps just an enthusiasm-and those who follow with great sympathy the new ascent of our art, a brief insight into the planned further extension of this house.
We have secured the financial prerequisites for the construction of an additional building, thanks to the dedication of those already involved in the financing of the present Haus der Kunst and thanks to the magnanimous contributions received from German patrons of the arts. Professor Gall has come up with a truly wonderful plan for it. The building is being constructed on the opposite side of this unique street.
Thus, in the future, it will be possible for the Great German Art Exhibition to bring together all creations in the domain of the creative arts: the masterpieces of architecture, painting, and sculpture in a general survey of the work of German artists.
The cornerstone will be laid before this year is out. We hope to open this building in a few years. It will help to increase the significance of an event which I now declare open to the public.