Seeing and being seen : urban space and the German public, 1933-1949 / Elizabeth Brabazon Drenning.
This dissertation examines the intersection of socio-political and spatial practices during the Nazi and immediate post-war periods in Germany. It asks first, how do we connect acts of legislation removing Jews from the German public to the urban visions articulated in Nazi architecture and city planning, and second, what implications did these Nazi visions have for modern architects imagining how to rebuild Germany's ruined cities immediately after the war? Drawing on architectural plans, accounts in architectural journals, print and film propaganda, period belles lettres, and memoirs, the dissertation reconstructs the ideological underpinnings for both periods' attempts to “redeem” the metropolis. Fantasies about Jewish visibility first articulated in Mein Kampf drove much of the Third Reich's public statements about urban space and allowed the Nazis to instrumentalize the public/private opposition in a manner useful to their own consolidation of power. Focussing on how Nazi propaganda cast the private sphere as “Jewish,” the dissertation argues that for the Nazis turning Berlin into a truly “worthy” capital city and eliminating its “Jewishness” meant not only physically removing Jewish bodies, but renegotiating the “place” of private buildings in the city. Yet as internal documents from Albert Speer's office show, these very goals, which defined acceptable limits for the use of commercial elements, often constrained Speer's attempts to create “urban life” for the new Berlin. Following from this insight that Nazi architectural propaganda relentlessly constructs public/private oppositions within its visions for urban space, the dissertation examines those modern architects and planners who explicitly defined themselves in opposition to Nazi architectural practice by embracing the discourse of humanism and recuperating the private realm they saw leveled by Nazism. Using the work of Hannah Arendt, a figure not usually brought to bear on urban questions, particularly her arguments concerning the lingering damage of Nazi totalitarianism on the public sphere, I argue that these architects' wish to dismantle the metropolis and reaffirm the value of private space was, despite their intents, profoundly de-politicizing and thus failed to address an important legacy of Nazism.
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