Author: Adolf Hitler
Source: Liberty, Art, Nationhood (1935)
Nuremberg, September 11, 1935
On February 27th 1933, when the blaze from the dome of the Reichstag was reflected in a red glow from the sky, it seemed as if Fate had chosen the torch of the Communist incendiaries to illuminate the grandeur of that historical turning point before the eyes of the nation. The final menace of the Bolshevic revolution hovered like a dark shadow over the Reich. A terrible social and economic catastrophe had brought Germany to the verge of annihilation. The foundations of social life had crumbled. There had been times in which high courage was demanded of us—in the great War, for instance, and afterwards during our long struggle on behalf of the movement and against the enemies of the nation. But the courage then demanded was not so great as that which now became necessary when we were faced with the question of taking over the direction of the affairs of the Reich and therewith the responsibility for the existence of the people. During the months that followed it was very difficult to discover and employ such measures as might still avert the final disaster, and doubly difficult to withstand and overthrow the last assault launched by those who wanted to wreck the Nation and the Reich. It was veritably a savage struggle against all those causes and symptoms of German internal disintegration and against our enemies abroad who were hopefully expecting the final debacle.
At some future date, when it will be possible to view those events in clearer perspective, people will be astonished to find that just at the time the National Socialists and their leaders were fighting a life-or-death battle for the preservation of the nation the first impulse was given for the re-awakening and restoration of artistic vitality in Germany. It was at this same juncture that the congeries of political parties was wiped out, the opposition of the federal states overcome and the sovereignty of the Reich established as sole and exclusive. While the defeated Centre Party and the Marxists were being driven from their final entrenchments, the trades unions abolished, and while the National Socialist thought and ideas were being brought from the world of dream and vision into the world of fact, and our plans were being put into effect one after the other—in the midst of all this we found time to lay the foundations of a new Temple of Art. And so it was that the same revolution that had swept over the State prepared the soil for the growth of a new culture. And certainly not in a negative way. For though there were many grounds on which we might have proceeded against the elements of destruction in our cultural life, as a matter of fact we did not wish to waste time in calling them to account. For we had decided from the start not to be drawn into endless controversy with persons who can be judged by their works and who were either imbeciles or shrewd impostors. Indeed we considered most of the activities of the leaders among these cultural protagonists as criminal. If we had opened a public discussion with such people we should have ended by sending them to some mental asylum or to prison, according as they believed in these fictions of a morbid fancy as real inner experiences or merely offered their deplorable lucubrations as a means of pandering to an equally deplorable tendency of the time.
I need not speak of those Bolshevising Jewish litterateurs who found in such "cultural activity" a practical and effective means of fostering spirit of insecurity and instability among the population of civilised nations. But their existence strengthened our determination to make assured provision for the healthy development of cultural activities in the new State.
To carry out this decision effectively, we resolved that on no account would we allow the dadist or cubist or futurist or intimist or objectivist babblers to take part in this new cultural movement. This was the most practical consequence which resulted from the fact that we had unmasked the so-called culture of the post-war period as really a process of decomposition in the German national being. We had to be intransigent, especially because we felt that our task is not merely to neutralise the effects of that unfortunate period which is now past, but also to fix the main outlines of those cultural features which will be developed during the centuries to come by this first National State that is really German.
It is not a matter for surprise to find that criticisms are advanced against such an undertaking at this particular time. But they are only a repetition of the criticisms that have accompanied every such cultural movement in the past. These objections fall under two general headings. We must ignore, of course, those which are insincerely meant and which come from people who know how effectively we mean to put our cultural policy into practice. Such persons cannot overcome their dislike for the German people and they will do their best to oppose any real progress in Germany. Therefore they try, by way of hostile criticism and sceptical insinuation and open accusation, to place every possible hindrance in the path of our effort. Considering the fundamental and inspiring motives of it, such opposition is in itself an excellent recommendation for our work. Therefore I shall deal here only with the objections which are often put forward by well-meaning people. The first of these objections may be stated thus:—
In view of the arduous nature of the political and economic programme that we have decided to carry out, is it wise at this juncture to bother about problems of art, which may have been of some importance in other centuries and in other circumstances but which are neither pressing nor essential in our day? Just now, isn't practical work more important than art, the drama, music etc. Excellent though they be in themselves and much to be commended on general grounds, such activities do not minister to life's necessities. Is it right to undertake monumental works of engineering and building, instead of restricting ourselves exclusively to what is practical and absolutely necessary at the moment?
The second line of objection runs thus: —
Can we permit sacrifices to be made in the interests of art at such a time as this when we find ourselves surrounded with poverty, distress, misery, and complaining? In the last analysis, isn't art the luxury of a small minority? What has it to do with the task of supplying bread to the masses?
I think it worth while to examine the grounds of such criticism and answer it. Is it in harmony with the times in which we live, and why should we feel called upon just now, to awaken public interest in questions of art? Would it not be more reasonable to ignore such matters at the present juncture and take them up at some later date when the present economic and political difficulties are over?
In answer to such an attitude the following must be said:
Art is not one of those human activities that may be laid aside to order and resumed to order. Nor can it be retired on pension, as it were. For either a people is endowed with cultural gifts that are inherent in its very nature or it is not so endowed at all. Therefore such gifts are part of the general racial qualities of a people. But the creative function through which these spiritual gifts or faculties are expressed follows the same law of development and decay that governs all human activity. It would not be possible, for instance, to suspend the study of mathematics and physics in a nation without thereby causing a retrogression in the special faculties and aptitudes that are exercised in the pursuit of such studies. And thus in this respect such a nation must necessarily fall behind other nations similarly endowed. For just the same reason, if the cultural activities of a people were suspended for a certain time the necessary result would be a general retrogression throughout the whole cultural sphere; and this would end in a process of internal decay.
Let us take an instance. Opera may be looked upon as one of the most characteristic creations of the neo-classical theatre. Now, if the activities involved in operatic production were to be suspended for a longer or shorter period of time, even though only temporarily, with the intention of restoring opera once again in its old brilliancy—what would be the consequence? There would be a suspension of the training and preparation of the personnel necessary for such productions. But the consequences would not end there. They would extend to the general public: for the receptive faculties of the public, in regard to this particular form of art, have to be developed and trained by the constant production of opera, just as in the case of the performers themselves.
The same holds good for art in general. No era can shelve the duty of cultivating the arts. If it should try to do so it would lose not only the capacity for creative artistic expression but also its powers of comprehending and appreciating such expression; because the creative and receptive faculties are here interdependent. Through the appeal of his work, the creative artist vitalises and enobles the aesthetic faculties of the nation. And the general feeling for artistic values, thus awakened and developed, becomes a rich spiritual nursing ground for the growth and increase of new creative talent.
But if, by reason of its very nature, such cultural activity cannot be suppressed for a longer or shorter period without causing irremediable damage, such a suppression or neglect would be particularly wicked when the economic and political situation expressly calls for a reinforcement of the moral strength of the nation. It is important that this should be clearly understood. The cultural achievements which mark outstanding periods in human history were always coexistent with a high degree of social development. Whether they belong to the material or spiritual order, it can be said that such works always incorporated the most profound elements of the national being. And never is it more necessary to direct the mind of a people towards the vital and inexhaustible powers of its inner being than when political and social and economic troubles tend to weaken faith in the nobler qualities which the nation incarnates and thereby hinder the fulfilment of its mission. When the poor human soul, oppressed with cares and troubles and inwardly distracted, has no longer a clear and definite belief in the greatness and the future of the nation to which it belongs, that is the time to stimulate its regard for the indisputable evidences of those eternal racial values which cannot be affected in their essence by a temporary phase of political or economic distress. The more the natural and legitimate demands of a nation are ignored or suppressed, or even simply denied, the more important it is that these vital demands should take on the appeal of a higher and nobler right by giving tangible proof of the great cultural values incorporated in the nation. Such visible demonstration of the higher qualities of a people, as the experience of history proves, will remain for thousands of years as an unquestionable testimony not only to the greatness of a people but also to their moral right to existence.
Even though the last representatives of such a people should submit to the final disgrace of having their mouths closed for ever, then the stones themselves will cry out. History pays scarcely any positive regard to a people that has not left its own monument to bear witness to its cultural achievement. On the other hand, those who have destroyed the artistic monuments of a foreign race remain only a subject of regret for the historian.
What would the Egyptians be without their pyramids and their temples and the artistic decorations that surrounded their daily lives? What would the Greeks be without Athens and the Acropolis? What would the Romans be without their mighty buildings and engineering works? What would the German emperors of the middles ages be without their cathedrals and their imperial palaces? And what would the Middle Age itself be without its town halls, and guild halls etc.? What would religion be without its churches? That there was once such a people as the Mayas we should not know at all, or else be unconcerned about them, had they not left for the admiration of our time those mighty ruins of cities that bear witness to the extraordinary epic qualities of that people, such ruins as have arrested the attention of the modern world and are still a fascinating object of study for our scholars.
A people cannot live longer than the works which are the testimony of its culture.
Therefore if artistic works have more powerful and more durable repercussions than any other human activity, then the cultivation of the arts becomes all the more necessary in an age that is oppressed and distracted by an unfavourable political and economic situation. For Art is more effective than any other means that might be employed for the purpose of bringing home to the consciousness of a people the truth of the fact that their individual and political sufferings are only transitory, whereas the creative powers and therewith the greatness of the nation are everlasting. Art is the great mainstay of a people, because it raises them above the petty cares of the moment and shows them that, after all, their individual woes are not of such great importance. Even if such a nation should go down in defeat, and yet have produced cultural works that are immortal, in the eye of History that nation will have triumphed over its adversary.
The objection that only a small minority of the people understands and takes pleasure in artistic work is based on a false supposition. Any other function in the life of a nation might be chosen and on the same grounds it might be maintained that such a function is unimportant, because the masses of the people have no direct share in it.
Nobody could say that the masses of the people appreciate or partake in the highest results that have been obtained by the sciences of chemistry and physics or indeed in the latest progress made in any other scientific or intellectual pursuit. But I am convinced that the contrary is true of artistic activities. And this is so precisely because Art is the clearest and most immediate reflection of the spiritual life of a people. It exercises the greatest direct and unconscious influence on the masses of the people, always of course on the supposition that it is true and real art, rendering a true picture of the spiritual life and inner powers of the race and not a distortion of these.
This is the true touchstone of the worth or worthlessness of an art. The most decisive condemnation of the whole dadist movement during recent decades is the fact that the great masses of the people have not only turned away from it but that they finally have come to show not the slightest interest in this Judeo-Bolshevic derision of all culture.
The last remnants who more or less believed in these imbecilities were only their own authors. In such circumstances it is true that the proportion of people who interest themselves in art is very small; because it is made up exclusively of mental deficients—that is to say, degenerates—who, thank God, form a very small minority and represent only those elements that are interested in the moral corruption of the nation. We must set aside these efforts to deride all culture and consider them as having no relation to Art. What we can say of Art, in the real sense of the term, is that in its thousandfold manifestations and influences it benefits the nation as a whole by reason of the fact that it gives the people a broad outlook in which they can contemplate and appreciate the nobler virtues of their race and are thus raised above the level of individual interests. And it is the same here as in the case of all the higher human activities. There are many degrees of perfection in the exercise and understanding of such activities.
That is a fortunate nation indeed in which Art has reached such a position that for each individual it stands as the ultimate source of his happiness, almost as a presentiment.
Out of the number of creative artists there are only a few examples where the highest pitch of human achievement has been reached. In like manner the faculty of perfectly comprehending artistic values is not given to all in equal measure. But each person who strives to reach those heights will find an inner and profound satisfaction in each step that he attains.
Therefore if the National Socialist Movement is to have a real revolutionary significance it must strive to give tangible proof of this significance by authentic creative work in the cultural sphere. It must make the people conscious of their collective mission, and of the particular mission of National Socialism, by encouraging and aiding such artistic production as will demonstrate to the people their own cultural resources. The work of the National Socialist Movement and the struggle it has to carry on will become all the more easy in so far as it can effectively impress on the public mind an understanding of the greatness of the aims it has in view. This understanding has always been the result of great cultural achievements, especially in the domain of architecture.
If the nation is to be trained to take pride in itself, the just motives of that pride must be placed before its eyes. The labour and sacrifices which the construction of the Pantheon demanded were the work of one time; but it has been an everlasting source of pride to the Greeks and an object of universal admiration for their contemporaries and for posterity.We also ought to nourish the hope that Providence will grant us great geniuses who may express the soul of our people in everlasting concord of sounds or in stone., We know of course that here as elsewhere the hard saying applies: "Many are called but few are chosen".
But we are convinced that in the political sphere we have discovered a fitting mode of expression for the nature and will of our people. Therefore we feel that we are capable also of recognising and discovering in the cultural sphere the complementary expression which will be adequate to that nature and that will. We shall discover and encourage artists who will imprint on the new German State the cultural stamp of the German race, which will be valid for all time.
The second objection I have mentioned is that at a time of material distress we ought to renounce all activity in the sphere of art, because in the last analysis this is only a luxury, suitable indeed to prosperous times but out of place as long as the pressing material wants of the individual are not satisfied. That objection has always been, like poverty itself, the everlasting shadow that has accompanied all artistic creation. For who can sincerely believe that there has ever been a great artistic epoch in which poverty and want did not also exist? Does anybody imagine that when the Egyptians built their pyramids and temples there were not poor people among them? Or in Babylon when its splendid buildings were erected? Has not this objection been advanced against all the greatest cultural creations in history and has it not been heard in all cultural eras? A simple way of answering it is to ask another question: Does anybody think that if the Greeks had not built the Acropolis at all there would have been no poverty or misery in Athens at that time? Or would there have been no human distress in the Middle Ages if they had renounced the idea of building their cathedrals? But let us take an example nearer home. When Ludwig I made Munich a centre of art exactly the same arguments were brought forward against him. Were there no poor and needy people in Bavaria before Ludwig began to carry out his great building plans? Or let us come down to the present time, as it is easier to understand what is before our eyes. National Socialism has made the life of the German people more pleasant in all directions because of the encouragement it has given to cultural activities of the highest kind. Ought we to renounce all that because poverty still exists among us and will exist tomorrow also? Before us and our plans was there no poverty in the country?
On the contrary.
If human existence had not been ennobled by the presence of great works of art it could not have found the road of ascension which led up from the pressing material necessities of primitive existence to a higher level of living. Now, this ascension finally led to a social order which, inasmuch as it brings before the individuals constituting it the importance of the people as a whole, thereby creates a sense of duty towards the community and in that way enhances the life of the individual.
It generally happens that when a nation more or less neglects the cultural side of its existence we have a correspondingly low standard of living and more widespread poverty. Human progress first began and continues to develop through a labour-saving procedure whereby the amount of work hitherto thought indispensable to produce the necessities of life is lessened and a portion of it transferred to domains which are being newly opened and which are accessible only to a small number of people who are materially and intellectually equipped for such new energies.
As the embellishment of life, Art follows the same route. But on that account it cannot by any means be termed a "capitalist" tendency. On the contrary, all the great cultural achievements in the history of mankind have been the product of those forces which spring from the feeling of communion in the social group, so that such works may be said to originate in the community itself. Hence they reflect in their genesis and final form the spiritual life and ideals of the community.
It is therefore no accident that all the great communities in history which were inspired and formed by a definite concept of the world and life, religious or philosophical, have striven to perpetuate themselves through the medium of great cultural works. And in those epochs of religious intensity, where material cares were set aside as far as possible, the human mind achieved the greatest cultural triumphs.
The contrary was the case with Judaism. Infected by the spirit of capitalism through and through, and directing their actions accordingly, the Jews never produced an art that was characteristically their own, and will never create such a thing. Although this people for long periods in its history has had immense individual fortunes at its disposal, it never created an architectural style of its own, nor have the Jews been able to produce a music that reflects their racial characteristics. Even in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem foreign architects had to be employed to help in giving it final shape, just as most of the Jewish synagogues nowadays are the work of German, French and Italian artists. Therefore I am convinced that, after a few years under the National Socialist leadership of State and people, the Germans will produce much more and greater work in the cultural domain than has been accomplished during the recent decades of the Jewish regime. And it must be a source of pride to us that, by some special dispensation of Providence, the greatest architect which Germany has had since the time of Schinkel was able to construct in the new Germany and in the service of the Movement his first and unfortunately his sole monumental masterpiece in stone, as a classic exemplar of a really German sculptural style. But it is easy to find even a more direct refutation of the second objection I have mentioned. In all the great artistic creations of mankind human labour has been employed and salaries paid for it; so that the general amount of work and payment is increased. By putting more work into circulation more money is put into circulation, which creates other employment in other spheres. So that if we consider those cultural works from the purely material viewpoint we find that they always signify a remunerative undertaking which benefits the commonweal. Moreover, they refine and expand human sentiment and in this way they help to elevate the general standard of life. The contemplation of such works makes a people conscious of itself and of its faculties; so that the creative powers of the individual are thereby awakened and stimulated. But an indispensable condition is required. It is this: If art is to have the effect just mentioned it must be a herald of the sublime and beautiful and the expositor of natural and healthy living.
When it fulfils this condition, then no sacrifice on its behalf can be too great. If it fail to meet this test, then even the smallest expenditure on it is a contribution to evil; for this latter kind of art is not a healthy and constructive factor for the betterment of our existence but rather a mark of degeneration and corruption, What is presented to us under the caption, "Cult of the Primitive", is not the expression of a naive and untainted primitive consciousness but rather a morbid decadence.
There are people who defend the pictures and sculptures—to mention only an obvious example—of our dadists and cubists and futurists or our self-worshipping impressionists, on the grounds that such effusions are examples of primitive forms of expression. But such people are entirely oblivious of the fact that it is not the purpose of art to be a remembrancer of degenerate symptoms but rather to strive to overcome symptoms of degeneration by directing the imagination to what is eternally good and beautiful. If these botchers who pretend to be artists think that they can stimulate the "primitive" instincts of our people and bring them to expression, they obviously do not realise that our people passed out of the stage represented by these primitive art-barbarians some thousands of years ago. Not only do the people turn away from those noisome productions but they consider the fabricators of them as charlatans or fools. In the Third Reich we have no idea of allowing such people to batten on the public. An attempt has been made to exculpate them post factum, on the alleged grounds that during a certain period of time it was necessary to pay court to that fashion, because it was so emphatic and dominant. In our eyes such an argument has no validity whatsoever. It only makes the case worse; because it shows an absolute lack of principle in the conduct of such people. Moreover, that kind of explanation is entirely out of place at the present time and it is addressed precisely to the wrong people when it is addressed to us. For if some composer or other today, when reminded of his past aberrations, should put forward the naive excuse that in those days nobody would have paid attention to him if he had not emitted that kind of caterwauling music, we should take the excuse as a condemnation of himself. Our answer is that we were confronted with an exactly similar situation in the political field. It was the same kind of music and the same kind of folly.
Our fellow-feeling and appreciation are reserved exclusively for those who, in this as well as in other spheres, did not pander to the canaille or make obeisance to the Bolshevic madness but opposed them openly and honourably with courage and confidence in their own cause.
Here we encounter another objection. It is that the artist is bound to observe what is real and take cognisance of it in his artistic representations. That is his sole consideration. Therefore, it is alleged, he must produce not only what may be pleasing but also what may be displeasing, not only the beautiful but also the ugly. My answer is that undoubtedly art has always dealt with the tragic problems of human existence, the eternal struggle between good and evil, between what is helpful and what is harmful. Yet never for the purpose of assuring the triumph of what is harmful but rather to demonstrate how mankind is always in vital need of what is helpful. It is not the duty of art to wallow in filth and rubbish for the sake of filth and rubbish and to portray mankind only in a state of moral and physical decomposition, to present the cretin as a symbol of the child-bearing woman and deformed idiots as the representatives of masculine strength. But if one of these so-called "artists" should feel called upon to depict human existence under all its forms and varieties and should feel specially inspired by what is inferior and morbid and should wish to present that variety, he might do so at a time when the general public taste agrees with that sort of thing. For us, however, those times are past and gone, and with them is gone the occupation of these "also-artists". If in this point we are becoming even more severe and uncompromising in our renunciations it is because we are perfectly convinced that we are on the right road. For any artist who has been destined and fitted by Providence to give visible form and embodiment to the hidden and eternal being of a people can never feel attracted towards such aberrations as I have mentioned.
There is no question here of "a menace to artistic liberty". Just as nobody would claim that, in order to uphold the sacred right of personal liberty, the assassin should be left free to inflict physical death on his neighbour, for the same reason nobody has the right to be allowed to inflict spiritual death on a people, simply because he claims full liberty for the exercise of his obscene and distorted fancy.
We have definitely decided, as far as in us lies, that all cultural activity at the present time should be directed, especially in the domain of architecture, towards the production of work that will not only be enduring in the appeal of its artistic proportions but also up-to-date in satisfying the material demands of our time,
In this connection the word "objective" has often been used very nonsensically. All the really great architects have built objectively; that is to say, their buildings fulfilled the purposes for which they were meant and conformed to the practical exigencies of the time. The importance of these practical and sometimes all too human purposes was not equally emphasised in all ages and therefore they have not always played the same part in structural planning and execution. But it would be a great mistake to think that Schinkel could not have constructed buildings with modern sanitary installations of a practical character. In the first place the hygienic conditions of that time were different from what they are today and, in the second place, such matters were not then given the importance which we attribute to them now. But it is a still greater mistake to suppose that the practical accessories demanded by our modern inventions and modern progress cannot be excellently provided for in a modern building planned and erected according to the strict canons of architecture.
It is not a question of some special talent in the artist, but simply a prerequisite condition of his professional efficiency, that he should be able to provide for the general elementary necessities of human life in any building which he constructs. The decisive test is that the whole structure must suit the general purpose for which it is built and that it should have a clear and definite form in accord with that purpose.
The reason why I am giving such prominence to architecture in dealing with cultural matters is because this problem is of immediate practical importance just now. For the present at least, Fate does not seem to have decided to give us a great musical composer or painter or sculptor. Therefore we must use the possibilities that are at hand. We cannot produce an equivalent for the want I have mentioned but we can at least compensate for it by creative activity in other directions. This nation has produced works of such enduring value in those spheres of art where we lack great master spirits today that for the time being we can be content with what we already possess in such spheres. But the carrying out of great constructional programmes is a matter of pressing necessity. The ends which are to be served in this respect cannot be put off. Anyhow if we do not employ the handicraft which is still with us and has the requisite aptitude for this kind of work it will continue to decline and die out.
But it is difficult to awaken in the people a clear vision and a proper estimation of the architectural needs of the present; because, for several decades past, this nation has been the dumping ground for astute charlatans and morbid imbeciles to unload their so-called artistic products. We shall find it difficult to guard against the stupid imitation of the past and the unspeakable confusion that would result from it.
What seems to me to be of the first importance would be to draw a clear line of distinction at the very outset between monumental public architecture and private architecture. A public edifice ought to be a worthy representation of the character of the patron for whom the work is done—that is to say, the community—and it ought to be suited in every detail to the special purpose for which it is built. To carry out this task in a becoming way bombastic display must be avoided, on the one hand; and, on the other, there must be a strict renunciation of that pretended and entirely false "modesty" which is too often only a convenient excuse for the inability of the architect to construct something that will be at one and the same time practical and aesthetically impressive. It very often happens that the architects who put forward this kind of excuse have very little corresponding "modesty" in their own tastes.
This "modesty"—which in most cases is only another name for the limited artistic abilities of the architect—must not be taken as synonymous with practicality—Sachlichkeit. To say of a building that it is practical means that it is well suited to serve the purpose for which it was built. But modesty here consists in obtaining a maximum effect with the minimum of means. This minimum of means is often confused with a minimum of ability, which is then compensated for by a maximum of more or less explanatory lucubrations. Buildings ought to be left to speak for themselves. They are not constructed in order to furnish a pretext for literary dissertations, much less if these be an attempt to transform bad architectural work into good.
When the true architect receives his commission to plan a structure he ponders inwardly over the purpose which this structure is meant to serve and then, by virtue of his artistic insight, he intuitively discovers that solution of the problem which will result in an outward design that conforms to the internal use. This means that, without any superimposed philosophical symbolism regarding the use for which the structure is intended, he will build a theatre, for example, which is obviously and unambiguously a theatre to the eye of the beholder. In carrying out his plans, therefore, he will always have this purpose in view and he will also build in accordance with the cultural traditions of his environment.
In doing this he will adopt, as given data to guide him in his work, all that he has learned from the history of his art. And he will adapt this to the present purpose in hand. Accordingly he will not build his theatre so that it may give the impression of a Grecian temple or recall some romantic city or so that it will look like a grain silo. Nor will he refuse to employ modern building materials, but he will shape them artistically to his purpose. At the same time he will not hesitate to revive certain elements of form which were once invented by the traditional talent of his own race. These he will even try to develop further; and he will try to refine them as indispensable syllables in the language of architecture.
It is the hallmark of the truly gifted artist to be able to express new thoughts in the words of current speech. There remains a large number of modern demands which have to be fulfilled and for which the past can furnish no example or prototype. And it is just here that the really gifted genius is given the opportunity to enrich the form-language of art with new means of expression. While keeping in mind the ends that have to be attained and the task that has to be fulfilled with the means that are at present available, he will try to find a synthesis which, because it is the distant forerunner of mathematical reasoning, is veritably an intuitive product and has every right to be considered as genuine art.
But the criterion for judging the beautiful must always lie in the answer to the question: whether or not it can make its usefulness clearly and definitely felt. It is the artist's task to furnish the objective answer to that question. To feel this usefulness, to understand it and to appreciate it is the business of the building authorities who are responsible for the commissioning of public works.
On principle, however, in the carrying out of every important public commission both those who are responsible for placing the order and those who execute it must always bear in mind that, though the contract be given in virtue of contingent exigencies, it must be executed in a manner and style that entirely transcends such temporary exigencies. To fulfil this aim it is necessary that the really great undertakings of the time should be planned on a grand scale. That is to say, public edifices, if they are to have a lasting significance and value, must conform definitely to the largeness of scale prevalent in the other spheres of national life.
It is impossible to develop in a people a strong and high-class sense of nationhood if the public edifices, and other public works which they see all around them, are not considerably above the level of those works which owe their origin and maintenance more or less to private capitalist enterprise.
It is out of the question now to think of erecting monumental buildings, for the State or the Movement, on a sufficiently grand scale to compare with the public edifices of two or three centuries ago. The reverse has been the case in regard to private mansions or business premises of purely capitalist origin; for these have enormously increased in number and size during recent times. It was not the magnificence of the private houses or business premises of the citizens that gave to the ancient and mediaeval cities those striking features which have made them the objects of admiration and wonder for posterity, but rather those great public structures which incorporated the life and spirit of the community. These were the outstanding and imposing features of the cities, while private edifices were erected in retired places. As long as the dominant architectural characteristics that strike the eye of the beholder in modern cities are the big commercial stores, bazaars, hotel and office buildings of the sky-scraper kind, there can be no question here either of art or true culture. In erecting such buildings the command should have been to follow the canons of modesty and simplicity. But unfortunately the construction of public works on an architectural scale that should be a worthy manifestation of public life was neglected in favour of commercial pomp in the interests of private capital. Now, the renunciation of this policy is an essential part of the cultural mission of National Socialism.
Not merely artistic considerations however, but also political considerations, must determine us to turn our eyes to the great examples of the past and draw from them inspiration and guidance in our efforts to construct an artistic counterpart which will worthily incorporate the spirit of the new Reich. The poltroon is most effectively forced to stop his grumbling when he is confronted with the eternal diction of great art. The centuries bow to it in silent veneration. May God give us that greatness of spirit which will enable us to formulate our plans in a manner worthy of our national greatness. That, of course, is an arduous undertaking.
The heroic achievements of our people during the last two thousand years belong to the epic deeds of human history. In Germany, as well as in the rest of Europe, there were centuries during which the triumphs of art were a worthy antiphon to the greatness of the human spirit in those ages. The sublime grandeur of our cathedrals constitutes an incomparable precedent for the architectural creations of our own time. It is not merely our aesthetic feeling of veneration that is stirred by the sight of those great cathedrals; they also force us to bow in admiration before the generations of men who conceived such vast ideas and brought them to realisation.
In doing homage to the eternal genius of the nation we call upon the great spirits that presided over that creative power in the past to come to our assistance now. Men grow great to match the greatness of the tasks they undertake. And we have no reason to doubt that, if the Almighty grants us the courage to undertake something that will be immortal, he will also give our people the strength to carry it out. Our cathedrals bear witness to the grandeur of the past. The greatness of the present will be measured by the immortal quality of the works it leaves to posterity. Thus, and thus alone, will it be possible for Germany to experience a renaissance of art and thus will it be possible to awaken in the people the consciousness of the high destinies to which they are called.