German military nazi network investigation

This 20 August 2017 video says about itself:

Another branch of the German military is being investigated over far-right activities – this time, an elite unit’s accused of giving Nazi salutes and playing neo-Nazi rock music at a party. There’s been a series of similar scandals stretching back months. Miguel Francis Santiago reports.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

German Defence Minister announces investigation into nazis in the military

GERMAN Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has announced an investigation into “whether there is a network” of far-right extremists in the army’s KSK special forces wing.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that a KSK sergeant would be discharged this week and two colleagues investigated over reports they had given nazi salutes at a bash the sergeant hosted.

Concern at neonazis active in the military has been growing, with another newspaper revealing an internal letter in September that showed top brass considered the KSK the main problem in the army’s “fight against extremism.”

The Morning Star’s German sister paper Junge Welt said that extremists belonging to the Nordkreuz and Uniter associations had completed paratrooper training courses in Bavaria, and that the “entanglement” of security forces and fascists was further illustrated by the trial of a Special Task Force policeman who turned out to be a Nordkreuz administrator with guns, explosives and 20,000 rounds of ammo hidden in his house.

USA: GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES SUSPENDED OVER NAZI SALUTE  A photo shows roughly 30 employees of West Virginia’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety making the racist gesture, which was used to hail German dictator Adolf Hitler while he oversaw the slaughter of millions of Jews during World War II. [HuffPost]

German neo-nazi military officer charged with terorism

This 10 October 2019 video is called Right-wing terrorism In Germany.

By Dietmar Gaisenkersting in Germany:

Right-wing German Army officer Franco A. to be charged for terrorism

2 December 2019

Following an announcement last week, German ex-Army officer Franco A. is to appear in court on the charge of preparing an act of sedition. The information was contained in a recently published ruling by the German Constitutional Court dating from August 22.

The Frankfurt/Main Court of Appeals previously rejected a charge on this issue. However, the details now made public strongly suggest that the 30-year-old ex-Army officer is a neo-Nazi terrorist.

A. was arrested at Vienna’s airport in February 2017 as he sought to recover a weapon he had previously hidden in a toilet. Subsequent investigations revealed that he planned attacks with two accomplices, Maximilian T., and Matthias F., on high-ranking politicians and other public personalities. All three accused were found to possess large quantities of arms and ammunition.

Franco A. also registered as a Syrian refugee in Bavaria, with the apparent intention of blaming future attacks on refugees so as to stoke right-wing and xenophobic sentiment in Germany.

Alongside politicians, the death list included the name of Anetta Kahane, the head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a target of hatred for the far-right. Nonetheless, Franco A. was released from prison in November 2017 on grounds of insufficient suspicion that he had committed a crime.

Just over six months later, in June 2018, the Frankfurt Court of Appeals dismissed the charge against Franco A. of preparing an act of sedition. The court claimed that although the preparations for the crime were far advanced, Franco A. had not carried them out, even though he allegedly had several opportunities to do so.

On this basis, the court reached the conclusion that there was a lack of suspicion that he had committed a crime. Additional charges, including violations of the firearms law and fraud, were to be dealt with in a trial at the Darmstadt District Court.

In response to this decision, the federal state prosecutor’s office appealed to the Constitutional Court, which has now ruled in favour of the appeal. The Court of Appeals must now hear the state prosecutor’s terrorism case.

The Constitutional Court gave little credibility to Franco A.’s defence. A. claimed that his statements and actions had been misinterpreted and misunderstood by the authorities. He was, in fact, always concerned about “peace, but never violence”.

In a lengthy three-part article in April 2019, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung followed this line in an attempt to rehabilitate Franco A. “The Berlin office of the NZZ has possession of hundreds of pages of files, audio recordings, and mobile phone videos related to the Franco A. case,” wrote the author, Benedict Neff. Neff added that he had repeatedly met with Franco A., his partner, and family members.

Neff could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “One notices that this is a soldier’s home,” he enthused, “due to its cleanliness. The apartment is spotlessly clean.” Franco A. is “still very fit, but his hair is bound in a short ponytail with strands falling over his brow. Nobody would consider him to be an officer any more. Rather, he looks more like an artist or a philosophy student. His beard remains.”

Franco A.’s partner, who was also interviewed in detail by the NZZ, was introduced as Sophia T. … She is the sister of A.’s accomplice, Maximilian T., who served alongside A. as a soldier in Illkirch, France, was briefly arrested, and now works as a personal adviser to Alternative for Germany (AfD) parliamentary deputy Jan Nolte.

The father of Sophia and Maximilian, Thomas Tischer, is a well-known neo-Nazi, who was active in the right-wing extremist Reichsbürger movement and the fascist National Democratic Party (NPD). The author Tobias Ginsburg, who conducted undercover research on the Reichsbürger movement, cited him as saying, “The world can be saved only with radical measures—by biologically exterminating billions and obliterating the Middle East with nuclear weapons.”

While the NZZ portrayed Franco A. as “misunderstood”, the Constitutional Court’s published ruling underscores his right-wing extremist, neo-Nazi outlook.

The defendant has a particular aversion to Jewish people, noted the ruling. “Zionism is conducting a systematic race war by sending millions of migrants to Germany, which will lead to a mixing of the races and the extermination of the German race,” states the ruling in summing up A.’s views. “He compared immigration to genocide and the social welfare state to automatised genocide,” continued the ruling. “Zionism is the root of all evil and the United States serves as a power to impose devilish interests.”

The ruling cited statements and writings, including, “My beliefs are my Germanness, that Israel governs the United States, and that Hitler stands above everyone else.”

Franco A. owned books such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the 1940 work The Wehrmacht—the Liberation Struggle of the Great German People. CDs with Nazi songs were also found in his possession.

According to Franco A.’s outlook, a terrorist is “a freedom fighter for the establishment of a just world,” wrote the Constitutional Court. “In an audio recording from February 2016, A. described his political opponents as ‘swines’ who he and his fellow believers would kill if they got in their way.” Franco A. stated in the recording, “I know you want to murder me, so I’ll murder you first.” Anyone not prepared to do this “may as well give up the struggle from the start.”

To contribute to “the retention of the German nation”, Franco A. planned to “use the fictive identity of a Syrian refugee” to launch attacks on “refugee-friendly” people, including current foreign minister Heiko Maas, Green Party politician Claudia Roth, and Anetta Kahane.

The planned attack on the head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation was far advanced. It was already known that Franco A. carried out surveillance on a parking garage belonging to the organisation in Berlin and noted down car registration plates.

The Constitutional Court has connected this information with other events. In April 2016, he purchased a mounting bar for his long-sight Heckler & Koch G3 gun. Four days after carrying out surveillance on the garage, he performed firing practice with the gun, “suggesting that he was seeking to achieve improved accuracy with the weapon.” It is likely that soon afterwards, probably on July 28, the defendant acquired the pistol in Paris that he later concealed at the Vienna airport.

The claim that Franco A. merely wanted to meet Kahane for a discussion was deemed by the court to lack credibility.

All of this information paints a clear picture of the activities of Franco A. and his accomplices. It is all the more remarkable that the Frankfurt/Main Court of Appeals came to the conclusion in 2018 that it could not sufficiently justify suspicion of the commission of a seditious crime.

This underscores what the>World Socialist Web Site wrote following the dropping of charges in June 2018: “All of the evidence in the case suggests that Franco A. and his accomplices are merely a small portion of a much broader neo-Nazi network within the Army and the German state.”

We now know that Franco A. had contact with a large number of right-wing extremists, including figures with ties to the terrorist organisation National Socialist Underground. The extent of the right-wing extremist network in the state apparatus is also becoming ever clearer.

A prominent role in this is played by the state authorities in Hesse, not merely due to the Court of Appeals decision in the Franco A. case. When Halit Yozgat was murdered by the NSU in Kassel in 2006, Andreas Temme, an employee of the Hesse state intelligence agency, was at the crime scene. The state government led by Volker Bouffier (Christian Democrats, CDU) ensured that relevant files were suppressed for decades. Moreover, evidence shows that death threats sent to a lawyer representing NSU victims, which were signed “NSU 2.0,” were sent by people with connections to the Frankfurt police.

The AfD, which trivialises the Nazis’ crimes, glorifies the [Adolf Hitler] Wehrmacht and rails against refugees and protesting students, enjoys close ties to this right-wing network within the state. Fifteen percent of the AfD’s deputies in the federal parliament and 10 percent in state parliaments are former career soldiers, and 8 percent are former or fired police officers.

History is returning with full force. The political and corporate elites, as they did during the Weimar Republic, are once again turning to authoritarian and fascist forms of rule. The return of Germany to imperialist policies and militarism can be carried through only by suppressing all opposition and encouraging, building up and supporting the most right-wing forces.

While state agencies focus on covering up, financing and organising the right-wing extremist and terrorist activities of soldiers, police officers and intelligence service agents, protests against the AfD are criminalised and declared to be anti-constitutional. For example, the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party) is described by the Secret Service in its Verfassungsschutz Report as left-wing extremist and anti-constitutional because it firmly opposes nationalism, militarism and the AfD, while advocating a socialist society.

A Jewish mother in Germany is taking her son out of a public high school because of frequent anti-Semitic comments in the classroom: here.

German mayor driven away by anti-refugee racists

This 23 November 2919 video from Germany says about itself (translated):

Because of witchhunt: Mayoress gives up office | Sky Germany

Solidarity from state and federal politics: Martina Angermann had condemned the behaviour of a “paramilitary” gang who had tied an Iraqi to a tree.

Mayor Martina Angermann, MDR photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 22 November 2019:

The mayor of the German town of Arnsdorf has resigned her post after continuing threats. Martina Angermann (61) has been sick at home with a burnout since February and has applied for early retirement.

Arnsdorf, a place with some 5000 inhabitants in the eastern state of Saxony, came in the news in 2016 when four men tied an Iraqi refugee with psychological problems to a tree. One of the perpetrators was a municipal councillor on behalf of the right-wing populist

Dear NOS and other journalists: stop abusing the word ‘populist’ as an euphemism for neo-fascist racists.

party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Mayor Angermann has strongly condemned the action several times, which led to a storm of criticism, hatred and (death) threats from the right wing.

Incidentally, the investigation into the abuse case was quickly cut off and the four men were not on trial.


Last month the AfD group in the Arnsdorf local council called on mayor Angermann to resign because of her illness. The party threatened to put her position to a vote, but it did not come to that.

According to the German news site Focus, Angermann’s party, the Social Democratic SPD, speaks of a witchhhunt against the mayor. “For months she has been verbally attacked, threatened and intimidated,” says party secretary Homann. Minister of Justice Lambrecht says to broadcaster MDR: “If people withdraw from their social involvement because of threats, then our democracy will be jeopardized.”

Dear Ms Lambrecht and other SPD politicians: you are correct in this. However, the racism which now has driven Mayor Angermann into illness and retirement is partly the fault of your party. As your CDU-CSU-SPD coalition government, eg, stopped the investigation into the far-right paramilitary violence against that Iraqi refugee in Arnsdorf. And as that government massively deports refugees to war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, falsely claimed to be ‘safe’.

The student’s association (Asta) at the University of Hamburg has been bombarded with hate mail and threats of violence after students protested against a founding member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Bernd Lucke, who returned to his teaching post at the university: here.

German neo-fascist deposed as parliamentary committee chairman

This 13 November 2019 video says about itself:

Germany: AfD Bundestag committee head ousted over alleged anti-Semitism

The German Parliament’s (Bundestag) Legal Affairs Committee voted to oust its chairperson Stephan Brandner, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, in Berlin on Wednesday, after he made comments that were widely seen as anti-Semitic.

Brandner was stripped of his post after the committee voted 37-6 in favour of his removal. It is the first time in German post-war history that a committee head has been voted out.

AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland condemned the committee’s decision …

Brandner has repeatedly been accused of expressing anti-Semitic sentiments, including his recent tweet where he claimed that singer Udo Lindenberg, who is critical of the AfD, was given a ‘Judaslohn’ (‘Judas Reward’) when he was presented with the Federal Order of Merit.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 13 November 2019:

For the first time in the seventy-year history of the Bundestag [German parliament], a committee chair has been deposed. It is AfD politician Stephan Brandner, who until today was chairman of the justice committee of the German parliament. Because the politician refused to resign, it came to a vote today.

Brandner came under fire last month because of a tweet he shared after the attack on a synagogue in Halle. The tweet asked “why politicians hang out with candles at mosques and synagogues, while the two victims of the attack are a German woman and a German-born person [a kebab shop customer]”.

After the tweet, all German parties, apart from the AfD, called for Brandner to leave as chairman of the justice committee. The call was supported by, eg, the German Bar Association. …

At the beginning of this month, the former committee chairman again became discredited. The politician called the presentation of the Order of Merit to the AfD-critical rock singer Udo Lindenberg ‘Judas’ thirty pieces of silver‘. The other parties accused Brandner of using anti-Semitic concepts and called for the resignation of the committee chairman. According to the parties, Brandner does not have the decency, respect and dignity for the chairmanship.

Because the AfD politician did not want to leave voluntarily, a chairman was voted down for the first time in the history of the Bundestag.

German ‘center-right’ CDU collaborating with neo-fascist AfD?

This 23 February 2018 video says about itself:

AfD again questions German memorials to Nazi era | DW English

Remembrance is not something the German AfD is keen on. At least not as long as it means remembering Germany’s difficult past. It has already objected to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. This time it’s the “Stumbling Stones” commemorating Nazi victims.

By Marianne Arens in Germany:

German Christian Democrats call for collaboration with the far-right AfD

9 November 2019

Following the recent election in the state of Thuringia, there is a growing chorus of voices within Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) calling for collaboration with the extreme-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). …

Shortly after the election, the deputy chair of the CDU parliamentary group in Thuringia, Michael Heym, demanded that a three-party coalition of the AfD, CDU and neo-liberal Free Democratic Party, be considered as a feasible alternative government for the state. Such a coalition would in practice have enough seats to govern. In an interview with journalist Gabor Steingart, Heym said that, in his opinion, the AfD was “a conservative party” and were “not all Nazis.”

So, Mr Heym claims that ‘only’ some AfD politicians are nazis. Let us suppose that ‘only’ 95% of AfD politicians are nazis and the other 5% are non-nazis who do not mind that their fellow party members are nazis: that, for Mr Heym, seemingly would be good enough for the CDU to collaborate with the AfD.

He could well imagine a situation in the state parliament where the AfD would “tolerate” a CDU premier.

Meanwhile, 17 other CDU politicians have issued an “Appeal” demanding their party “actively participate in discussions with ALL democratically elected parties in the Thuringia state parliament.” This includes, of course, discussions with the AfD.

In the state election, the CDU lost a total of 36,000 votes to the far-right AfD, which gained 23.4 percent of the vote and came second behind the Left Party. Now 17 leading CDU politicians are demanding “open-ended” talks with the AfD. According to the appeal, “a liberal society could not afford to ignore almost a quarter of the votes in these discussions.”

The CDU functionaries issued a pro forma acknowledgement that their party should not form a coalition with either the Left Party or the AfD, but at the same time criticised the “haste to exclude”, which “led to a very difficult constellation for forming a government in Thuringia.” Heym had “analysed the situation very correctly. We therefore expect the state executive to stand by him.”

The Thuringia AfD is headed by Björn Höcke, the main spokesperson for the party’s openly neo-fascist grouping, “The Wing” (“Der Flügel”). On Wednesday, Höcke responded to the offer from the CDU ranks and offered to support a CDU-led minority government.

In a letter to the state leaders of the CDU and FDP, Höcke proposed “talking together about new forms of cooperation.” “An expert government sponsored by our parties, or a minority government supported by my party, would be a viable alternative to “a continuation of the status quo,” i.e., the state’s former Left Party-Social Democratic Party (SDP)-Green (so-called Red-Red-Green) administration, the letter read.

CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak called the proposal by the 17 politicians “crazy” and rejected any cooperation with the AfD as a “betrayal of our Christian Democratic values.” This talk, however, is mainly directed at an upcoming CDU party congress, where intense conflicts are expected to dominate. In fact, the CDU has been preparing to cooperate with the AfD for some time and has contributed significantly to boosting the far-right party’s prospects.

In particular, the ultra-conservative “Union of Values” faction inside the CDU favours political rapprochement with the AfD. Its most prominent member is the former head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maaßen, who personally intervened in the state elections in both Saxony and Thuringia to the applause of enthusiastic AfD supporters.

Friedrich Merz, the candidate of the Union of Values in the current struggle for the CDU leadership, has also called upon the party to open itself up to the far right. Merz blamed the “grotesquely bad” policies of the federal government for the CDU defeat in Thuringia. “We are losing sections of the German army (Bundeswehr) and the federal police to the AfD,” he told the Bild newspaper. Merz is a lobbyist for one of the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock, and heads the company’s German subsidiary.

It is not only the right wing in the CDU that promotes the AfD. The German federal government—a coalition of the CDU and SPD—has largely taken over the far-right AfD program with regard to immigration policy and military rearmament, entrusting the AfD in turn with the leadership of the German parliament’s committees for budget, law and tourism.

The AfD is also intertwined with the state apparatus. There are proportionally more civil servants, police and soldiers in AfD factions in state governments than in any other party. At the same time, the AfD is publicly demonstrating its fascist character in Thuringia.

According to a court ruling, AfD state spokesman Höcke can be described as a “fascist”. In September 2018 he marched together with Brandenburg neo-Nazi and AfD member Andreas Kalbitz at the head of a far-right mob in the city of Chemnitz. The mob harassed foreigners along the way and a Jewish restaurant was attacked.

Following the election in Thuringia, Höcke announced his “Deportation Initiative 2020” after being asked what he would do first in the event of entering the state government. He had previously demanded a “large-scale emigration project” to “forestall the impending death of our people [Volk] due to population exchange.” The measure would “involve a policy of tempered cruelty.” For his part Alexander Gauland, the leader of the AfD, described the period of Nazi rule in Germany as just a “speck of bird shit in over 1,000 years of successful German history.”

Research has shown that the AfD was not, as many claim, voted for by the “unemployed, the poor and the hungry.” Taking into account abstentions, only about 10 percent of voters in the prefabricated housing districts of Erfurt, where voter turnout was extremely low, voted for the far-right party, compared to a national average of 15.5 percent.

Bauhaus architecture, 1919-2019

This January 2019 video from Germany is called Architecture, art and design – 100 years of the Bauhaus (1/3) | DW Documentary.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Sybille Fuchs in Germany:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus art school and movement: “A New Era”

2 November 2019

Rarely has an anniversary been so extensively celebrated and commented on in Germany as the founding of the Bauhaus School (Staatliches Bauhaus) in Weimar in 1919.

Cities all over the country have opened their cultural institutions, museums, theatres, schools of art and further education to a host of exhibitions, lectures, symposia and performances devoted to the famed art and design school and subsequent movement.

Numerous books and articles have also appeared, along with a series of films and documentaries on television and radio. The celebrations even include the construction of two new museums, in Weimar and Dessau, aimed at preserving the Bauhaus legacy.

The question arises: what is so special about this school, which existed for only 14 years and was forced to change its location three times in Germany due to the hostile reaction of conservative and nationalist forces?

(Bauhaus literally means “building house” in German, or “School of Building”, although, ironically, the institution did not have an architecture department to begin with.)

Undoubtedly, the Bauhaus artistic movement has had an enormous influence over the course of the past century. As one art historian comments, “Its assimilation throughout the world can be traced … in numerous buildings, artworks, objects, designs, concepts, and curricula.” Its founder, architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969), writing in 1923, noted that the movement’s “identifying traits are clear, well-proportioned lines from which all unnecessary ingredients have been removed—the same traits characteristic of the modern engineered products of the machine.”

Walter Gropius

However, the contemporary significance of the Bauhaus does not lie merely in the forms of modern design it developed and propagated or the simple, functional architecture that was to largely characterise the 20th century—until its replacement by postmodernist conceptions of design. Above all, what makes Bauhaus special is its notion of combining many forms of artistic work and unleashing the creative power made possible by collective work. It appears that as the crisis of capitalism intensifies there is a longing for forms of creativity that no longer strive merely for individual “self-realisation,” but rather address real social needs and problems.

This need coincides with the general goals and perspectives with which the Bauhaus was founded and developed. In its founding manifesto, Gropius placed construction at the center of artistic work by attempting to build on the artisanal and artistic traditions of medieval architecture. The building, its space and everything in it, should be designed to serve the people. This principle should also apply to what appears to be at first glance a backward-looking return to craftsmanship and its foundations. In fact such craftsmanship is deliberately aimed at creating models which can then be produced industrially.

Foyer of the Bauhaus University, Weimar

In the April 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto, Gropius wrote: “The ultimate goal of all art is the building! The ornamentation of the building was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and they were considered indispensable parts of the great building. Today, they exist in complacent isolation, from which they can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavours of all artisans. Architects, painters and sculptors must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the building, both as a totality and in terms of its parts. Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of architecture, which it lost in salon art …

“So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”

Lyonel Feininger, Bauhaus Manifesto, 1919

It is no accident that the manifesto was adorned by a sketch of a cathedral by Lyonel Feininger, symbolically expressing the common aspiration of artists, master builders and craftsmen.

Even prior to the First World War, the architect Gropius had assimilated the ideas of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen, established in 1907), which called for an economic and cultural “union of artists, architects, entrepreneurs and experts” whose central concern was the search for a new form of architecture centered on “function”, “materials” and “construction.” These concepts were further discussed by architects and artists during the war. They were not limited to Germany or the Bauhaus, but were discussed and developed internationally, with different tendencies influencing one other.

One of the most important representatives of the association of art, architecture and arts and crafts schools in Germany was the architect Bruno Taut, whose exemplary large Berlin housing developments (“Hufeisensiedlung”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” etc.) are today part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In 1918, Taut was one of the founders of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers Council for Art, or Art Soviet), which drew its inspiration from the workers ‘and soldiers’ councils founded in Berlin at the same time, as well as from the 1917 October Revolution. Taut set himself the goal of bringing progressive developments and trends in architecture and art to broader layers of the population. He believed that capitalism was a grotesque system and had to perish. Like many artists of the time, members of the “art soviet” were reacting to important impulses from political and artistic developments and discussions in post-revolutionary Russia.

Bauhaus-style building in Chemnitz, Germany

A March 1, 1919 leaflet produced by the Arbeitsrat, for example, read: “Priority rests with the guiding principle: art and the people must form a unity. Art should no longer be the plaything of a few, but rather the fortune and life of the masses. The aim is to combine the arts under the wings of a splendid architecture.”

At the end of World War I, Gropius also joined the “soviet” and played a leading role in it.

Bauhaus—A New Era

Bauhaus—A New Era is the title of a six-part series that recently featured on German television to coincide with the Bauhaus anniversary. The title is entirely apposite. It refers to the social approach of the Bauhaus school, which remains so relevant today. The school emerged from its predecessors, the Grand-Ducal Saxon Art School and the School of Applied Arts founded by Henry van de Velde in Weimar in 1907, in whose buildings it initiated its work.

The television series is limited to the Weimar years of the Bauhaus. It depicts the spirit of optimism and enthusiasm that made possible highly progressive solutions despite the severe material shortages. Under these conditions, Bauhaus students developed new and creative methods of producing materials, often based on recycling existing sources.

Weimar was traditionally associated with German artistic giants Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and reactionary forces in the city were quite prepared to distort the heritage of these two radical thinkers and artists to justify their own backward nationalism against everything Bauhaus stood for. They deplored the school’s internationalism, its opening up of opportunities for women and efforts to overcome boundaries between various arts and crafts to develop a comprehensive socially based concept.

Gropius (August Diehl) had already applied for the post of heading the Weimar school from the trenches of the First World War. The opening credits of the first part of the series feature this scene against the backdrop of images from the war. Both pupils and teachers (known as masters) returned from the horrors of war to what they hoped would be a fresh start for society, a new society which they were prepared to fight for with all their might.

Bauhaus—A New Era stands in contrast to the television film Bauhaus (original German title, Lotte am Bauhaus, 2019, directed by Gregor Schnitzler) recently broadcast on the ARD television channel, which is dominated by a love story and concentrates on the theme of the supposed oppression and discrimination of women at the Bauhaus.

The six-part series directed by Lars Kraume (The People vs. Fritz Bauer, 2015) has a number of strengths, even if the basic story and the choice of Dörte Helm (also present in the Schnitzler-directed film) as main protagonist initially suggest a similar approach. Kraume and his team have carried out extensive research to provide a realistic insight into the spirit of elation and enthusiasm with which the students, male and female, and masters, took up their work.

The series opens with an interview with an 80-year-old Walter Gropius in New York City carried out by the feminist journalist Stine Branderup (Trine Dyrholm), who accuses the architect of oppressing female students at the Bauhaus.

Branderup brings up Helm (Anna Maria Mühe) as an example of such alleged repression. Helm is able to develop herself and play a leading role among the students. The series explores the different factors determining why the talented young woman is not able to rise to the position of master-professor.

Kraume also deals with issue of the failure of the school to fully implement equality between the sexes, although the Bauhaus makes clear it favours equality for women. Instead of simply laying blame, the series presents a number of plausible explanations based on Gropius’ manoeuvres aimed at preserving the school.

Gropius has the support of the Social Democratic education minister Max Greil (Sebastian Blomberg), who, however, repeatedly makes concessions to the members of Weimar’s conservative-nationalist “fine society” and other reactionary circles. These included previous masters of the former art school and its pupils who despise Gropius for allowing Jews, women and Bolsheviks to participate in the Bauhaus. The prejudices of some of the teachers brought to the school by Gropius also play a significant role.

The establishment of a “women’s-only class” and the banning of female students from all the activities apart from work in the weaving department was undoubtedly a concession to the hostility and prejudices Gropius confronted. But as the film shows, the weavers were not oppressed. Rather, the textile workshop at Bauhaus headed by Gunta Stölzl (Valerie Pacher) developed into a highly creative center for textile art and technology and became one of the school’s most economically successful workshops.

Regarding the conflict about equal rights for women, Kraume explains: “Of all of the biographies, hers [Dörte Helm’s] was best suited to our story. She came from a middle-class home and yet was the most rebellious amongst her fellow students. She was denied matriculation but then resumed her studies, and had an unexplained relationship with Gropius on the basis of which she was able to join the painting class of Oskar Schlemmer, although women were only supposed to participate in weaving. Finally, after many conflicts, she moved back to her patriarchal father in Rostock. We asked ourselves the question, why.”

The role played by Gropius’ alleged affair with Helm remains unclear, but it clearly provides for dramatic film material. The court assembled to clarify whether Gropius did have a relationship with his student really existed and concluded there was no basis for the accusation.

Was the Bauhaus “political”?

Although the alleged affair occupies a central role, the series includes powerful scenes, performed by a cast of outstanding actors, which throw light on the history of the Bauhaus and why the school continues to fascinate up until today.

Kraume and his team have inserted key dramatic events drawn from the social struggles that took place between 1919 and 1923. The scenes commence with original film material from the battlefields of World War I. Later scenes, shot partly in black-and-white, feature battles between workers and police and in particular the events surrounding the general strike carried out by German workers to oppose the counterrevolutionary Kapp Putsch in March 1920. The militant resistance by workers was supported by many Bauhaus students.

Gropius sought to protect his school against reactionary forces by declaring it to be “unpolitical”, but there could be no escape from the political strife and antagonisms that dominated the early years of the Weimar Republic.

Time and again, A New Era reveals the precarious conditions under which members of the Bauhaus fought to further their aims of freedom of art, emancipation and internationalism against a host of right-wing forces. Based on their artistic work, the Bauhaus students were determined to overcome social differences and contribute to a better understanding between different nationalities.

Achievements, contradictions and conflict in the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus school is often associated with “reduced colours, clean lines and functionality”, but that is only partially true and applies above all to the work of Bauhaus in Dessau. During its period in Weimar the school’s approach was much broader and more colourful. The series shows this clearly.

This was precisely the approach adopted by those masters employed by Gropius in the school’s early days, including Johannes Itten (Sven Schelker), Lyonel Feininger (Ernst Stötzner), Oskar Schlemmer (Tilo Werner), Marcel Breuer (Ludwig Trepke), Wassily Kandinsky (Pjotr Olev), Paul Klee (Marek Harloff) and later Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (Alexandru Cirneala). Some of these artists had already made a name for themselves as Expressionists before the war.

The inclusion of dance and theatre in the school’s education program was also revolutionary. The series depicts Bauhaus evenings which included performances by well-known artists, such as Else Lasker-Schüler (Marie-Lou Sellem), as well as the famous Bauhaus festivals with their imaginative costumes and lanterns, expressing the hunger for life on the part of young people following the horrors of the World War.

Fierce polemics about the artistic orientation of Bauhaus’ educational program are also addressed in A New Era. In the course of the Weimar years, these conflicts developed mainly around the teachings of Itten and his followers, who in their endeavour to place the perfection of man at the center of their artistic activity turned to extreme forms of lifestyle. The conflict with Itten eventually led to his departure from the school. Nevertheless, albeit with some changes, the compulsory preliminary course developed by Itten, requiring all students to acquire basic skills in dealing with color, materials and techniques, was retained.

At the same time, great weight was placed on clear, constructivist forms based on the principle of “form follows function,” as well as a concentration on primary colours, represented by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg from the De Stijl (“The Style”) movement who was invited to the school as a guest speaker. De Stijl had many followers at the Bauhaus, although Doesburg was never appointed as a lecturer.

The sixth and last part of the series is devoted to the highly successful Bauhaus exhibition of 1923 which, for the first time, combined all of the various arts and crafts in the form of a new building—the Haus am Horn. The intention was to build an affordable house with all the features necessary for a family. The Haus am Horn predates the conceptions developed later in Dessau, i.e., construction with cheap and in part prefabricated but solid materials, together with simple but functional and appealing interior accessories.

Haus am Horn

However, the end of Weimar was not far away. In 1924, funding for the school was withdrawn following the election of a right-wing, German-nationalist administration in the state of Thuringia. The Bauhaus was forced to find a new location in the industrial city of Dessau.

The approach to the training of artists and architects encouraged by Gropius and his co-workers continues to be fruitful in many respects. Even if they could not solve many problems due to the constraints of capitalist society and the devastation of culture by the National Socialists and war, a study of the school’s ideas and aesthetic conceptions remains rewarding.

Bauhaus in Dessau [Source: Hjochheim]

The issues and contradictions surrounding art, design and building, posed in Weimar in 1919, are again very relevant at a time when ultra-right forces are once again seeking to influence cultural affairs. A whole layer of intellectuals is embracing reactionary politics.

In Germany the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is threatening to withdraw funding to artists and projects that seek to defend the rights of refugees and immigrants, should the party come to power. It is already agitating against art which does not conform to the party’s own thoroughly nationalist and backward provincial outlook.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ines Weizman, a professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, was asked: “Do the Bauhaus institutions—in the light of this history—have a socio-political responsibility today?”

She replied: “Yes, that is very important! Then as now we must make a stand against right-wing tendencies and their attacks against cultural institutions and recognise the international network of scientists, teaching institutions, cultural institutions, collections and involved public celebrated in 2019, to be a strong, unifying force against the right wing.”

Weizman went on to criticise the decision by the Bauhaus in Dessau to cancel a concert in 2018 by the left-wing punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet following threats of counter-demonstrations by the far right.

The author also recommends:

100 years since the founding of the Bauhaus
[25 January 2019]