Where ghosts walked : Munich’s road to the Third Reich New York : W.W. Norton, c 1997 David Clay Large National socialism Germany Munich Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxv, 406 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-394) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
An account of Munich’s cultural life and its supposed connections with Nazism. It begins with the efforts of Bavaria‘s kings, Ludwig I and Ludwig II, and goes on to describe Munich’s avant-garde in the 1890s and early 1900s. The cabaret Die elf Scharfrichter gets its share of attention, as do Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Stefan George and the satirical newsletter Simplicissimus. Little is said about the avant-garde in art and Large’s point is that Munich became famous for bohemeiansm but that it was in decline well before World War I.
Even the bohemeians were riddled with anti-Semitism and racism. The city, which exploited its artistic reputation for tourism, was considered increasingly dull by artists themselves. Yet this was an ideal environment for the young Hitler, who liked the flair of boheme but shunned experimentalism in art.
Large goes on to describe the outbreak of nationalist enthusiasm in August 1914 and the chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and hate-filled disillusionment that followed as the war experience became bitter. Wartime Munich did not differ much from other German cities, except that the strains of war transformed a dislike of Prussia into hatred. Large’s account of the confused Bavarian revolutions, the repression of the soviet republic, Hitler’s return to Munich, and the rise of Nazism until the Beer Hall Putsch is familiar.
Hitler stubbornly considered Munich home for himself and the Nazi movement and that he resisted transferring party headquarters elsewhere even when his party expanded outside Bavaria, despite the fact that the Nazi vote in Munich and Bavaria was below the national average. Hitler’s loyalty to the “birthplace of the movement” did not prevent Munich from losing political influence even as the Nazis took power in Berlin; the purge of the Munich-based SA in June 1934 accelerated this development.
During the Nazi period Munich, the declared capital of German art, tried to display a cheerful and artistic side of Nazism. This resulted in what Large considers crude kitsch supported by a local party leadership who were always eager to carry out the regime’s measures. Large mentions plans to rebuild the city in the gigantesque manner typical of Nazi architecture but also shows that the townspeople retained some satirical distance to their rulers and their schemes. Large ends with a brief analysis of postwar Munich’s attempts to revive the image of the cultural city and to disassociate Munich from Nazism.
Anecdotes and little stories, many of them colorful and some sensationalist, take up much space. This is particularly true for the bloom of the 1890s avant-garde, the soviet republic of April 1919 (which made idealistic writers and hard-nosed revolutionaries fight shoulder-to-shoulder), and for Hitler’s emotional attachment to the city’s bohemian flair and artistic claim.