Antifascist Humanism and the Politics of Cultural Renewal in Germany

Cambridge University Press
  • erschienen am 23. August 2017
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978-1-108-22952-4 (ISBN)
Antifascism is usually described as either a political ideology of activists and intellectuals confronting the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini, or as a cynical tool that justified the Stalinist expansion of communism in Europe. Andreas Agocs widens our understanding of antifascism by placing it in the context of twentieth-century movements of 'cultural renewal'. He explores the concept of 'antifascist humanism', the attempt by communist and liberal intellectuals and artists to heal the divisions of Nazism by reviving the 'other Germany' of classical Weimar. This project took intellectual shape in German exile communities in Europe and Latin America during World War II and found its institutional embodiment in the Cultural League for Democratic Renewal in Soviet-occupied Berlin in 1945. During the emerging Cold War, antifascist humanism's uneasy blend of twentieth-century mass politics and cultural nationalism became the focal point of new divisions in occupied Germany and the early German Democratic Republic. This study traces German traditions of cultural renewal from their beginnings in antifascist activism to their failure in the emerging Cold War.
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Andreas Agocs is currently visiting Assistant Professor at the University of the Pacific, California, where he teaches modern German and European History. His research area is the cultural and political history of Germany and Central Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Introduction: antifascist humanism and the dual legacies of Weimar; Part I. Defending the 'Other Germany': 1. The humanist front: antifascism and culture wars, 1934-9; 2. 'Otra Alemanias': antifascist humanism in the diasporam, 1939-44; 3. The 'other Germany' from below: antifascist committees and national renewal in 1945; Part II. Contesting 'Other Germanies': 4. Antifascism as renewal and restoration: the cultural League for the democratic renewal of Germany, 1945-6; 5. Humanism with a socialist face: Sovietization and 'ideological coordination' of the Kulturbund, 1946-7; 6. The limits of humanism: cultural renewal and the outbreak of the Cold War, 1947-8; 7. Mass organization and memory: antifascist humanism in divided Germany, 1948 and beyond; Conclusion: from the Saar to Salamis.
'Agocs has written a timely overview of the original 'antifa' cultural movements of the 1930s and 1940s in Europe and the Americas. Alarmed by the rise of Nazism and Italian Fascism, groups and intellectuals ranging from communists to liberals organized as exiles to counter the threat of fascism by promoting 'cultural humanism', based on ideas of the freedom of thought and religion and progressive Enlightenment views. Writers, artists, and intellectuals ranging from Thomas Mann to German communists who had fled to Mexico City published broadsides; organized under the sponsorship of the German Communist Party, the Free Germany movement, and through a variety of activities; and hoped to convey another, better Germany than the country that existed under the Third Reich. ... Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.' M. Deshmukh, Choice '... Andreas Agocs has written an empirically focused, analytically wide-ranging study of the Cultural League for the Democratic Renewal of Germany (Kulturbund), a self-consciously antifascist organization that surfaced amid the ruins of Nazism in 1945.' Sean A. Forner, The American Historical Review
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