The DGfGK and National Socialist Culture Policy

The Early Integration of the DGfGK into National Socialist Culture Policy

Chapter extracts from:The Golden Network – The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst During the National Socialist Period

© 2019 Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt, authors, translator. ISBN: 978-3-95542-361-2

In accordance with the articles of association, the society’s first committee elections were planned for 1933, during the first ordinary general meeting. However, far-reaching political changes occurred in Germany in January of 1933, which were to result in the demise of the Weimar Republic and the destruction of democratic conditions in Germany. Upon the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst was already confronted with a considerable upheaval only a few months after its founding. Through the assistance of pseudo-legal emergency decrees and state-sanctioned terror, the National Socialists had created the National Socialist one-party state by the summer of 1933. With the “Ermächtigungsgesetz” (“Enabling Act”) passed on March 24, 1933, legislative authority had been effectively transferred to Hitler and basic civil rights had been quashed. Communists, social democrats, unionists and political opponents from the civic party spectrum were arrested and interned in concentration camps or prisons. On April 1, 1933, a Reich-wide boycott of Jewish businesses, organized by Joseph Goebbels, took place. In a process of “enforced conformity”, the National Socialist leadership attempted to reorganize, respectively to reform, all areas of the politics and society in line with the National Socialist world view and to eliminate pluralistic structures in favor of an authoritarian “Führer principle”. Therefore, for example, the unions were smashed and their members incorporated into the German Labor Front. The “enforced conformity” of public service was performed following ratification of the “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums” (law on reconstructing the civil service) on April 7, 1933, on the basis of which numerous Jewish civil servants and political opponents were sent into early retirement. Important officials were gradually replaced by National Socialists.

The many German organizations were also affected by the “enforced conformity policy”. These—like the political workers’ organizations—were either forcibly disbanded or they often, at their own initiative in a move of “self-enforced conformity”, adopted National Socialist principles, such as the cultivation of the national community, “militarization”, the elimination of democratic structures in favor of the “Führer principle”, as well as racist articles of association that demanded the exclusion of Jewish members. Faced with this situation, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst endeavored to express its stance toward the National Socialist world view in an affirmative manner, in order not to run the risk of being disbanded or coerced into conformity. However, things looked problematic in this respect at first. Initially, though, the DGfGK remained unimpressed by the prevailing political conditions and, in August 1933, elected as its Chairman Wilhelm Waetzoldt, who had been already suspended from his office as Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin by the Prussian Minister of Science, Art and Public Education in early July 1933, because he had promoted modern art.[1]

[1] Simultaneously with Waetzoldt, the Director of the Nationalgalerie, Prof. Dr. Justi, as well as the Director of the Paintings Gallery of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Geheime Regierungsrat (confidential government adviser) Dr. Friedländer, were also discharged from their offices. Cf. Universitätsarchiv Halle-Wittenberg, Rep. 11, personal file 16543 (Wilhelm Waetzold) as well as Metzler-Kunsthistoriker-Lexikon.