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    The use and abuse of conservation and restoration under the Nazi regime

    Blewett, Morwenna Rachel (2023) The use and abuse of conservation and restoration under the Nazi regime. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    In Nazi Germany conservation and restoration and the practitioners of these processes, furthered the aims of the regime. Restorers helped provide cultural window-dressing, heralding a supposed new epoch of German culture through the instrumentalization of cultural goods and the organisation of these policies. Among other tasks, conservation and restoration supported the presentation of historic works of art as evidence of cultural and ‘racial’ primacy. The discipline was also used to enforce the composition of the Volksgemeinschaft, the so-called people’s community – the population which excluded and persecuted those the regime saw as its enemies. This involved restoration treatments and visual documentation which enabled the extraction of ‘racial’ information from historic texts. These ‘restoration’ treatments were essential steps in preparing for genocide. The thesis argues that examining the work this profession adds weight to the existing theoretical framework that characterises the Third Reich as a polycratic in structure, with its overlapping objectives and competing agencies. It also argues that the path towards its various aims regarding the physical manipulation of cultural objects was not only without a single body at its head, but also that its aims were also not pre-ordained. The work of the profession evolved. It was shaped by events, changing circumstances, personalities and resources. This aligns with a functionalist position regarding the progression towards regime crime and mass murder. While the nature of the Volksgemeinschaft is still the subject of much debate, the motivation for the involvement of the profession in regime initiatives can be explained by key concepts inherent in proposed forms of the Volksgemeinschaft – both crafted from above and from below. These include uniting in and profiting from exclusion, perpetration, comradeship, the dissemination of ideology, material bribery, and the abetting of crimes for profit and careerism. Restoration actors, and the networks within their reach, were predominantly willing collaborators within the Reich and outside it.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2023 09:55
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:06
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/50951
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.18743/PUB.00050951

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