These pictures were taken by a Life photographer between 1939 and 1940 in Berlin and were lost for over 50 years because the American photographer disappeared at the beginning of the war, along with his Roliflex camera. They were found by a nurse in a Berlin hospital, who kept them put away during all these years. After her death her daughter returned them to the current editors, who retain the copyrights to LIFE magazine, which has not been published since the early ’70s.
These were sent to me by a friend, and I know nothing else about their origin, such as the name of the photographer, whether or when they were published in LIFE or how they appeared on the internet other than what’s stated above. I do think they represent a treasure trove of documentation – for historians and for students of fascism. I was particularly struck by a number of things:
One – the uniformity – of uniforms, of positions in ordered arrays, and of hand positions. Fascism and militarism go together. As I wrote in Roots of War and Domination, you want the phalanx to all obey marching orders, the massing of numbers to assert power. This uniformity paradigm is the driver behind capitalism too – if as many as possible are induced to buy coca cola, or blue jeans, it increases profits and simplifies production. Which is why (most) corporations are organized with militarist hierarchies and use military metaphors – sales campaigns, hostile take-over, command/control, captains of industry, etc. Noam Chomsky is always emphasizing this point: – corporations, as presently organized in most places, are inherently authoritarian and fascistic. I only recently found out that Mussolini used to assert that the fascist system could just as well be called “corporatist.” Of course, they opted for the symbolic value of the fasces, the bound bundles of sticks that used to be carried through the streets by the Magistrates in ancient Rome, as symbols of their authority. (Of course, the power symbol of the bound sticks is also found on the American one dollar bill: the American Eagle is holding the bundled arrows in the left talon, and the olive branch of peace in the other. – the basic message of imperialists everywhere and everywhen – “we bring you peace, just do what we say (or we’ll kill you).”
Two – I was also struck by picture #14, with the muscled naked backs of the fine young men, and the maidens in dresses further back in the scene. There was a German cultural historian named Klaus Theweleit, who published a two volume documentation called Male Fantasies about the erotic imagery in fascist literature and propaganda materials.
The pictures also reminded me of Wilhelm Reich, who psycho-analyzed the imagery of the Nazis (in his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism) as being indicative of phallic narcissism – which meant of course that he had to leave the country immediately after his book came out. The constant erected arm salute also supports this theory.
Three – picture 41 in this series, with old Adolf relaxing and enjoying a laugh with his secretary, sitting on the sofa – reminded me of the 2002 documentary film, Blind Spot. Hitler’s Secretary, based on the diaries of Hitler’s secretary – who was naively adoring of her boss during the regime, and many years later, as an older woman revealed in a series of interviews the upheaval and conversion experience she went through when the hidden truths of the Nazi regime came out.
Filed under: Current Events, Modern History, Politics, Roots of War & Domination | Tagged: corporatism, fascism, Hitler, Klaus Theweleit, LIFE magazine, Mussolini, Nazis, Noam Chomsky, Third Reich, Wilhelm Reich |