Neo-nazis and historians in Germany

This 2018 video says about itself:

“The Jews are hiding the truth”: what the neo-Nazis in Germany think

Antonia Yamin, Europe correspondent for KAN Israel got exclusive access to a neo-Nazi rock festival in Themar, Germany. There she watched a crowd of skinheads covered with Nazi tattoos and shirts with captions about longing for the Third Reich.

By Christoph Vandreier in Germany:

The neo-Nazi offensive in Germany and the role of historians

27 September 2018

The following statement was distributed by members of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality to the Historians’ Conference currently underway in the city of Münster. The annual conference is the most prestigious gathering of its kind in Germany, bringing together historians from all over the world. It meets this year under the title “Divided Society.”

The 52nd Historikertag (Historians’ Conference) in Münster takes place under conditions where historical questions have assumed immense significance. Eighty-five years after the Nazis came to power, several thousand far-right demonstrators marched through the streets of Chemnitz, hunting down refugees, besieging a Jewish restaurant and attacking a local office of the Left Party. Sometime later, in Dortmund, a few hundred neo-Nazis chanted anti-Semitic slogans and committed crimes.

These forces have been actively encouraged by leading representatives of the government and the state. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer lined up behind the far-right demonstrators and even stated that he would have marched alongside them in Chemnitz if he were not a minister. The president of the German domestic intelligence service, the BfV, Hans-Georg Maassen, denied that there had been any persecution of refugees in Chemnitz and accused journalists and victims of the fascist mob of lying. Previously, he had met confidentially with leading members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The fact that the grand coalition in Berlin has refused to dismiss Maassen sends a clear signal to the AfD, its sympathisers and its members in the state apparatus that they have the backing of the government (a coalition of the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union and Social Democratic Party).

Although the AfD is despised by the vast majority of the population, it has become the most influential political force in Germany. It heads key Bundestag committees, and the grand coalition has adopted and is implementing its racist policies. These policies include the setting up of a comprehensive system of camps where refugees are incarcerated, harassed and then deported. They also include the build-up of the state apparatus and an aggressive foreign policy, as agreed in the coalition agreement.

This fundamental change in German politics has shocked many, but it did not appear out of the blue. It was prepared ideologically.

For years, an intellectual climate has been cultivated in which the far-right could thrive. Already at the time of the reunification of Germany, nearly 30 years ago, tendencies emerged in historical circles seeking to rehabilitate old Nazi myths while downplaying the crimes committed by German imperialism. Then, in January 2014, the German government announced the “end of Germany’s military restraint”, and such forms of historical falsification assumed a new quality.

“It is difficult to conduct a responsible policy in Europe with the notion that we are to blame for everything. With relation to 1914 this is a legend”, Herfried Münkler declared on January 4, 2014, in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, thereby sparking a new wave of historical falsification. On the same day, the right-wing military historian Sönke Neitzel, Professor Dominik Geppert (Bonn University), the “New Right” author Cora Stephan and Professor Thomas Weber published an article in Die Welt denying that Germany pursued aggressive goals in World War I. Germany, they argued, was “far removed from any pursuit of world power driven by pride and megalomania.”

The professor of Eastern European history at Humboldt University, Jörg Baberowski, went even further and sought to whitewash the crimes of National Socialism (Nazism). In an article in Der Spiegel in February 2014, he lined up behind the historian

not a historian, but a philosopher by education

Ernst Nolte, who had unleashed the Historians’ Debate in 1986. Nolte had claimed that the Holocaust was an understandable response to the violence of the Soviet Union. Nolte’s thesis led to a storm of protest at the time and was quite correctly refuted by dozens of historians. Soon after, Nolte appeared solely on the platform of far-right organisations.

Baberowski, however, is intent on rehabilitating the Nazi apologist: “Nolte was done an injustice”, the Humboldt professor told Der Spiegel. “Historically speaking he was right.”

Baberowski continued, “Hitler was no psychopath, and he wasn’t vicious. He didn’t want people to talk about the extermination of the Jews at his table.” Baberowski drew a parallel between the Holocaust and alleged executions during the Russian Civil War, claiming: “It was essentially the same thing: killing on an industrial scale.”

Baberowski combines his trivialisation of the crimes of the Nazis with a malicious campaign against refugees, which, in content and tone, echoes the AfD. In May 2017, he complained to the NZZ that since 1968, “the resistance to a dead dictator [Adolf Hitler] is legitimacy enough to rise morally above other people.” Anyone who “reaches conclusions about racism, colonialism, war and peace or gender relations that depart from what the hegemonic discourse allows is morally discredited”, he continued.

In 2015, on the TV programme “Kulturzeit”, he described the growing number of attacks on refugees as “rather harmless” weighed against the problems that he alleged were associated with refugees.

Baberowski’s comments in 2014 were not the first time he sought to exonerate the Nazis and their leader. Already in a text from 2007 he denied that the war of annihilation in eastern Europe was the result of systematic planning and Nazi ideology. Instead, he blamed the Red Army: “Stalin and his generals forced on the Wehrmacht a new kind of war that no longer spared the civilian population”, he wrote. Similar theses can be found in his book Scorched Earth from 2012.

In 1986, positions such as those defended by Baberowski met with a torrent of criticism. In 2014, they were greeted mainly with silence. For the next three years, not a single historian or professor objected to the fact that the Holocaust had been played down and the viciousness of Hitler called into question in Germany’s biggest-circulation news magazine.

Instead, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), the youth organisation of the Socialist Equality Party (SGP), was roundly attacked by numerous media outlets, university officials and historians for criticising Baberowski in its pamphlets and meetings.

Even after the Cologne Higher Regional Court ruled that Baberowski had been correctly quoted by his critics and that it was perfectly legitimate to describe him as a “right-wing extremist,” “racist” and “glorifier of violence”, the presidium of Humboldt University in Berlin and a number of professors, including Michael Wildt and Hannes Grandits, praised Baberowski as an “outstanding scientist whose integrity is beyond doubt.” His scientific statements were “not right-wing radical”, they declared.

The IYSSE and other critical students were branded as being linked to “violence and extremism,” without any evidence being offered, while “media attacks” on Baberowski were declared to be “unacceptable”.

The current BfV report, produced under Maassen’s leadership, lists the Socialist Equality Party, for the first time, as a “left-wing extremist party” and “object for surveillance.” This is evidently the response to the SGP’s campaign against the right-wing ideological offensive.

The report does not accuse the SGP of any type of violence or improper activity. Instead, the party is condemned because it is “against alleged nationalism, imperialism and militarism.” According to the BfV, anyone who protests against, or gathers information on, right-wing extremists is a “left-wing extremist.”

The report fails to make any critical mention of the AfD or other leading figures and movements associated with the far right (Pegida, Björn Höcke, Götz Kubitschek, etc.). Much of the report bears the signature of the AfD, which Maassen consulted on a number of occasions prior to its publication.

Anyone familiar with German history is aware of the significance of the recent neo-Nazi offensive. In 1933, Hitler was “elevated” to power by the German elites (Ian Kershaw), because they needed him to smash the workers’ movement and prepare World War II. Today, the rise of the right-wing extremists coincides once again with a critical turning point in German history: faced with trade war, international conflicts and growing social tensions, the ruling elites are pressing ahead with the revival of German militarism and strengthening the state apparatus.

Unlike 1933, the far-right extremists are not yet a mass party. They draw their strength from the support of the state and government and from the right-wing ideological climate cultivated at Germany’s universities. The whitewashing of Nazi crimes by Baberowski, his defence by leading press organs and professors, and the cowardly silence of many others have created an ideological climate that encourages this development. It is time to break the silence and oppose the historical revisionism that is the breeding ground for right-wing extremists.

* Stop the surveillance of the SGP and other left-wing organisations by the BfV!

* Condemn the statement of the Humboldt University presidium against the IYSSE and critical students!

* Publicly protest against Baberowski’s attempts to relativise the crimes of the Nazis!

Ancient Egyptian tomb, new research

This 12 September 2018 video says about itself:

A 4,000-year-old tomb was recently opened in the town of Saqqara Necropolis outside Egypt’s ancient capital of Memphis. The tomb, containing six burial chambers, is believed to belong to Mehu, a man so powerful that the walls list him as having 48 different titles. The tomb also contained colorful images depicting the life of Mehu as a ruler and a hunter. RT’s Trinity Chavez reports.

Mehu was an Ancient Egyptian vizier who lived in the Sixth Dynasty, around 2300 BC. The office of vizier was the most important one at the royal court: here.

Painter Raphael on film, review

This video says about itself:

Raphael: The Lord of the Arts – Extended Theatrical Trailer

24 March 2017

Raphael – the Lord of the Arts is the first film adaptation of the life and work of one of the most famous artists in the world, Raphael Sanzio. Few figures in the history of art have lived a life so full of intensity and fascination. He died young, aged 37, and yet managed to leave an indelible mark on the artistic world. In a well-balanced dialogue between historical reconstruction and expert commentary, the film retraces the most significant moments of Raphael’s life.

Set in 20 locations, two of which are major exclusives – the Vatican Logge and Cardinal Bibbiena’s apartment in the Apostolic Palace – the film explores more than 30 works of art, including the most famous and most representative of Raphael’s work. Beauty comes to life through the brushwork and enduring genius of one of the most talented artists the world has ever known.

Luca Viotto is the director of this film. The main roles are by Flavio Parenti as Raphael; Angela Curri as Margarita Luti, aka La Fornarina, Raphael’s model and lover; Enrico Lo Verso as Giovanni Santi, Raphael’s father, and Marco Cocci as Cardinal Pietro Bembo, whose portrait Raphael made.

On 19 August 2018, I went to see that film on Italian Raphael, 1483-1520. He was a painter´s son, making it easier to become a painter himself. Though his father died when he was only eleven years old.

Raphael is one of few painters whose name was incorporated in the name of an artistic movement. It was the 19th century British Pre-Raphaelite movement. That these British artists chose that name on the one hand shows that Raphael was famous, even more than three centuries after his death. On the other hand, it shows they did not want to emulate Raphael, but rather preferred earlier painters.

Young artists, opposed to the artistic establishment, founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, a year of revolutions. Originally, they were a secret society.

Their inspiration was influential art critic John Ruskin. According to Ruskin, in medieval art truth prevailed, correctly, over beauty; and in most later art, beauty prevailed, wrongly, over truth. Ruskin wrote that Raphael was the prominent example of that change. Truth, he said, should become more important than beauty again: artists should once again become ‘Pre-Raphaelite’.

Meghan Trudell wrote on the Pre-Raphaelites:

The Pre-Raphaelites rejected academic artistic conventions, in particular the insistence that Italian Renaissance painting had set the standards for composition and subject matter in painting.

They denounced the Royal Academy as a reactionary institution and official art as conservative and pretentious, and called for a wide ranging artistic and moral renewal.

In particular, the Pre-Raphaelites looked back to the “primitivism” of Medieval painting. This was a move away from grandiose historical and religious subjects towards a more intimate style that emphasised emotion and literary themes.

Here, I disagree somewhat with Ms Trudell. Though rebellious, the pre-Raphaelites still, like the art establishment, had many historical and religious subjects in their work. Like there had been mostly religious subjects in their beloved medieval art. They were arguably the first artistic movement ever naming themselves.

Their contemporary Gustave Courbet, a French rebel against then predominant classicist and romantic art, went a step further, rejecting painting historical subjects. In 1848, he already painted in a new, realist, style. In 1855, Courbet wrote the manifesto of the new realist movement. Courbet´s example of artists naming their movements themselves, organizing exhibitions together, etc. became an example for later tendencies, even for opponents of realism like the, mainly French, symbolists.

Another issue with Meghan Trudell’s article is that Raphael is usually considered as, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, one of the three great artists marking the transition from High Renaissance to Mannerist art; not from Medieval to Renaissance art. Raphael was one of the first depicting emotions on human faces; paving the way from High Renaissance to Mannerism. So, when Meghan Trudell writes the Pre-Raphaelites wanted to ’emphasise emotion’ then they were arguably more ‘Raphaelite’ than ‘Pre-Raphaelite’.

Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo did not call themselves ‘Renaissance’ or ‘Mannerist’ artists. Art historians called them that after their deaths. Contrary to 19th century and later artists considering themselves realists, symbolists, futurists, dadaists, etc.

Raphael was one of the first artists to employ female models. He was also innovative otherwise: depicting emotions on human faces, as we wrote earlier. His strategy, the film says, was: learn from other master artists; try to equate them; then try to surpass them.

As the film shows, Raphael was born in Urbino, a small, but then artistically important town. He continued to bigger, still artistically more important, Florence. Finally, to Rome, where ‘Renaissance popes‘ could afford money for art.

Besides painting, Raphael also worked at architecture and drawing, eg, designing tapestries.

This video is called Raphael’s Drawings.

In her review, Joyce Glasser calls it unfortunate that the film says nothing about the rivalry between Raphael and Michelangelo, while they both worked at the Vatican; a point about which Hudi Charin says in her review: ‘Raphael and Michelangelo’s relationship is almost entirely skipped over.’ The film suggests wrongly, according to Glasser, that Raphael became a universally beloved artist without any conflicts.

I would not say that the film says nothing at all about the Raphael-Michelangelo rivalry. But it hints at it rather than making it a central theme.

The film also shows Leonardo da Vinci unveiling his Mona Lisa in his workshop, with only Raphael being present. We don´t know whether that really happened, writes Ms Glasser. The problem with Raphael, like with many 16th century artists, is that we don’t have very many reliable biographical facts.

The film set showing Leonardo's Mona Lisa, with director Luca Viotto on the right

The good side of the film, Joyce Glasser says, is that it shows so many of Raphael´s works.

Hudi Charin writes:

In partnership with the Vatican Museums, it provides us with incredible insights into rooms that are normally packed full of visitors. One of the most enchanting moments has to be in the Raphael Rooms.

As I saw in Rome only a few months ago, these rooms are always full of tourists, meaning you can never experience it fully. With steady camera-work Raphael takes us through each room, projecting the full journey the artist would have intended for his audience.

However, ´the names of the paintings and their locations, as well as proper names, are rattled off in Italian so that these citations are all but meaningless for the average viewer´, Joyce Glasser criticizes. That may be true for the version of the movie which Ms Glasser saw. However, not for the version which I saw: English spoken, Dutch subtitles.

One of the paintings in the film is the Madonna of the goldfinch.

Raphael, Madonna of the goldfinch

The Dutch subtitle wrongly translates English ‘goldfinch’ as ‘goudvink’. That is a literal translation: gold is ‘goud’ in Dutch; finch is ‘vink’. However, the bird species called (European) goldfinch in English is called ‘putter’ or ‘distelvink’ (thistle finch) in Dutch. The species called ‘goudvink’ in Dutch is called bullfinch in English.

Raphael also depicted bigger birds in his religious works; like the Eurasian cranes on the right here, in a tapestry design showing the Miraculous Draught of Fish.

In this cartoon by Raphael, Christ tells Peter to cast his net into the water whereupon he and his fellow apostles make a miraculous catch. The story refers to Peter’s role as “fisher of men”, who converts others to Christianity. It also demonstrates his humility as he kneels before Christ to acknowledge His divinity, and confess his own sinfulness. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Hudi Charin writes:

We are also told [in the film] Raphael was ground-breaking, and it is true that he was, but without comparisons with earlier Renaissance paintings, his mastery can not really be appreciated.

The same problem is seen in the Transfiguration analysis where the voice-over describes it as the best painting of Christ in the whole of art history, which is quite a claim without a comparison with any other paintings of the same subject.

The Transfiguration is said to be the last painting Raphael made before he died; probably of malaria.

The last scene of the film shows Raphael’s grave in the Pantheon. The Pantheon was the only ancient Roman building still standing in 16th century Rome. Originally a polytheist temple, it later became a church. During most of the film, we have seen churches and other buildings full of paintings. There are not any paintings in the Pantheon. Somewhat symbolic for the empty spot Raphael left behind by dying.

Director Luca Viotto died in February 2017, just before the première of his Raphael film. The very beginning of the film commemorates him.

Young Rembrandt exhibit in Leiden, the Netherlands

This Dutch 18 May 2018 video says about itself (translated):

Leiden has a new attraction where you can experience the work and life of the young Rembrandt. Exactly at the place where he got his first painting lessons, a special video presentation explains what the Leiden life of the young painter looked like.

With the Young Rembrandt Studio, Leiden is taking a first step towards making Rembrandt more present in the city. The Young Rembrandt Studio on the Langebrug street has only been open for a day and yet a lot of people come to take a look. First you have to walk past the souvenirs, and then you end up in the narrow building at a curtain.

Behind it is the 7-minute video. ‘I really liked it’, says a lady from Amsterdam. Together with friends she visits Leiden. “And without Rembrandt a visit to Leiden is not a real visit”, she says.

However, many tourists do not know that Rembrandt was born in Leiden and his first painting lessons were with history painter Jacob van Swanenburgh. Leiden Marketing has set itself the goal of making young Rembrandt a permanent part of what Leiden has to offer as a tourist city.

Big plans

‘This is one of the first places in the new Rembrandt Trail‘, says Lucien Geelhoed of Leiden Marketing. “And so we are going to develop a number of places, such as the Latin school [where Rembrandt had lessons] but also along the Rapenburg canal and around his birth house.”

No mass tourism

In addition, in 2019 it will be exactly 350 years ago that Rembrandt died in Amsterdam. And that has to bring money to both Amsterdam and Leiden. But Leiden people do not have to be afraid of mass tourism. ‘We are mainly targeting tourists who are interested in art and culture.’ It is the intention that young Rembrandt will get a permanent place in Leiden, so that the tourists will be able to find Leiden after 2019 as well.

This Dutch 17 May 2018 video shows an interview with an actor playing Rembrandt‘s painting teacher Jacob van Swanenburgh at the Young Rembrandt Studio.