A note on Nazi postcards shown on this site

The historical images dating from 1933-1945 shown on this site exclusively serve for historical understanding and research (cf. § 86a StGB).

Some postcards from my collections contain images of swastikas and other Nazi symbols, on theatre buildings, flags, postal stamps, or postmarks. I refrain from a manipulation of these images, because I think that such a manipulation only leads to a manipulation of our historical consciousness. Theatre is not an "unpolitical" art, and certainly was not during the Nazi era:

Many intellectuals and artists were among the first to welcome the Nazi regime, and the theatre was a field of active Nazi politics.

Performances of works by Jewish playwrights and composers were forbidden, among them perennial masterpieces (e.g. by Mendelssohn or Meyerbeer). Nearly all masterpieces of modern art and music were labelled "entartet" [degenerate] and forbidden. Later, many authors, composers, actors, and singers were deported and murdered in the concentration camps.

On the other hand, popular theatres were converted to "Kraft durch Freude" theatres to please the masses. The Olympic Games of 1936 (with a new open-air stage at Berlin that would later become the famous "Waldbühne") and the Bayreuth Festival served as international platforms for pretending culture and civilization. Later, theatres and cinemas became an important part of pretending a "normal way of life" during the war.

A little known fact is that, while most of the architectural heritage of the Nazis has been destroyed in the terrible war they started or has thankfully never been actually built in the first place, many of their open-air theatres survive. These theatres known as "Thingstätten" were designed for Nazi ritual and theatre performances in the early years of the Nazi regime. Throughout Germany, many open-air theatres have such "Thingstätten" as their roots. Most have been renamed, and their history remains mostly unknown to locals and visitors.

Nearly all major German theatres were severely damaged or completely destroyed in World War II (as were many other European theatres, in Poland, Great Britain, and elsewhere). While German right-wing extremists and neonazis tend to declare the bombings of these cultural buildings a senseless war crime, I think it is important to understand how important theatres were to the Nazis. I firmly believe that seeing theatres both in full swastika flag decoration and as mere shells after bombings can help to better understand the historical context.

Andreas Praefcke

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