A new order for European culture : the German-Italian Axis and the reordering of international cultural exchange / by Benjamin George Martin.
This dissertation is a study of how German and Italian intellectuals and cultural organizers collaborated and competed in an effort to reorganize international cultural exchange in Europe in the late 1930s and during World War II. The core of this project, which sought to make Rome and Berlin the centers of European cultural exchange, was an effort to present a model of "European culture" defined in such a way as to legitimate German-Italian leadership and Nazi-Fascist dominance, while also appealing to traditional elites at home and abroad. Using archival and published sources from both countries, this dissertation reconstructs and interprets the three main strategies through which Axis leaders presented their distinctive model of European culture. First, beginning in 1936, the exchanges of the German-Italian "Cultural Axis" presented Germany and Italy together as the leaders of an authentically European culture, characterized by spiritual depth and national rootedness, in contrast to the materialism and rootless cosmopolitanism of Western European civilization. Second, following France's defeat in June 1940, German and Italian organizers competed in concrete efforts to reorder existing structures of international cultural exchange, seeking to make Berlin and Rome, rather than Paris or Brussels, the new centers of European culture. Third, from mid-1941, Axis organizers developed several "European" cultural institutions, creating new German-dominated, trans-European networks of exchange that involved intellectuals from all over the continent, designed to legitimate Hitler's "New Order" in Europe. The prospect of an Axis-dominated Europe also stimulated fierce competition between Germans and Italians to claim the intellectual leadership of the new cultural order. Undaunted by their military inferiority, the Italians used German power to expand Italian influence, while defending a Fascist vision of the Italian-Latin cultural legacy against Nazi claims to absolute German dominance. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy's cultural cooperation thus represented a crucial episode in the history of efforts to define the nature and values of "European culture," even as that very concept was vitiated by Nazi-Fascist brutality, exploitation, and genocide.
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