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Author Topic: REICHPUNK - Aesthetics of the Third Reich  (Read 11432 times)
Gozdom
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« on: January 20, 2010, 11:56:32 pm »

First, a disclaimer. I do not condone the racist, anti-semitic or repressive practices of the Third Reich. This topic is purely exploring the aesthetic aspects of Nazi Germany. As for its imperialism, I guess steampunk already has an ambivalent relation with that notion.

So, to the point. Steampunk seems to follow a fairly simple recipe: anything looking Victorian is bound to look good. Brass, leather and stained wood will look great together most of the time. Filigree ornaments are considered beautiful in all times. Brass cogwheels represent mechanics and technology as powerful symbols, even in the digital era when "Options" is often coupled with an icon of gears.

In a way, the Third Reich had a similarly clean, though very eclectic visual doctrine. Sometimes called "Nordic Hellenism", Nazi aesthetics called upon classical (Hellenic and Roman) proven patterns, especially in architecture. Teutonic chivalry also made an impact. (See this painting of Hitler in a knight's battle gear: http://www.thirdreichruins.com/lanzingerbannertraeger.jpg)

Red-white-black colours (as in the flag) was often used in their symbolism, and it is certainly a striking composition. The swastika itself is a powerful symbol that is both very machine-like and occult. Occultism was clearly present. Apart from Hitler's grand plan of creating a Neo-Paganist religion, various kinds of mediums and paranormal researchers held considerable power in his empire. This has infiltrated all ways of life, including the most influential political, scientific and military circles.

On the other hand, Nazi Germany was a regime focused on technology. Hitler's frequent rants about the "wunderwaffen" (wonder weapons) created the idea that by achieving a certain level of arcane technology, any war could be won. Ironically, this was more or less true, except that the real wonder weapon was the nuclear bomb, built first by the USA, months after German surrender. However, the Germans managed to field the first practical jet fighters, ballistic missiles, "cruise missiles", guided bombs, and pioneered the modern people's car concept with the hugely successful Volkswagen Bug, itself a rich source of inspiration for decades.

This eclectic and still coherent symbolism and aesthetics has already been demonstrated in popular culture. The Wolfenstein game series is an excellent example. It is basically swastikas with Nazi zombies and wonder weapons. There was also a number of movies and alternative history books utilizing the Nazi brush set. Some people spend their time modeling and even painting experimental German jets, including the Horten flying wing - this sub-culture is labelled as Luft'46 (http://www.luft46.com/luftart.html). Early jet age gave birth to bizarre and curious contraptions. Turbines are just as sexy as brass clockworks, and the silhouette of a Tiger tank or a U-boot is no less imposiong than a Zeppelin.

I would name this set Reichpunk if I had to name it.

Face it: Reichpunk can look just as good as steampunk. I admit I hope to see more Reichpunk pieces of art, either Tactile, Auro-Ocular or Textual, even though I would never wear or buy anything decorated with swastikas or Hitler's portrait. But steampunk is alive and well without Victoria's depictions. There is a lot to save and resurrect, I think. (On a side note: reexploring Soviet aesthetics also holds great potential.)

As the first illustration, I have selected this animation showing a Stahlhelm-headed Nazi "mech", giant robot attacking an American port:
Code Guardian Part 1DQ
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Herr Döktor
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2010, 12:23:59 am »

As a moderator: Careful, now...


As a member: Good points, but I feel it's more Dieselpunk than Steam, but, as an interested party, carry on...

While I'm here , the WWII  parts of Hellboy fit, Kroenen especially!
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Atterton
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2010, 12:36:44 am »

Yep, careful now. Remember what happened to Bryan Ferry.

It´s really just dieselpunk though. A genre quite well known already.
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2010, 12:44:02 am »

Yep, careful now. Remember what happened to Bryan Ferry.

And David Bowie...
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Klynt Mahryd
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2010, 12:46:16 am »

I'm taking bets on how long this thread will last.  Cheesy

But yes, advanced Nazi technology is very much dieselpunk. I cannot think of one dieselpunk villain that wasn't a nazi or nazi-inspired.
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Herr Döktor
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2010, 12:50:11 am »

Well, as Godwin's Law has already kicked in, it's only a matter of time before it's locked, unless we can all keep a level head...
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Atterton
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« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2010, 12:57:12 am »

Godwin´s law is really about comparing things to nazis, not just to mention them. Besides, it´s a historical period.
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Jemima Annabelle Clough
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2010, 01:01:42 am »

Well, as Godwin's Law has already kicked in, it's only a matter of time before it's locked, unless we can all keep a level head...

Have we beaten some kind of record for it kicking in? Huh

As Herr Doktor says, so long as every one keeps calm, there shouldn't be a problem.

(And I'm another who also thinks it's far more diesel than steam punk)

Godwin´s law is really about comparing things to nazis, not just to mention them. Besides, it´s a historical period.
Dieselpunk villains were compared to nazis - OK - I'm stretching it a bit (a lot Grin )
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Herr Döktor
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« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2010, 01:03:19 am »

Godwin´s law is really about comparing things to nazis, not just to mention them. Besides, it´s a historical period.

By association, we have drawn the comparison between Nazi chic and Dieselpunk, so Godwin's law stands.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, baby.

Wink
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 01:08:49 am by Herr Döktor » Logged
Atterton
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« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2010, 01:06:19 am »

No, we have merely said it is encompassing it already.  Tongue Actually some politician recently invoked Godwin´s Law in a real life debate.

Gozdom: If you´re interested, there´s a website dedicated to dieselpunk already, as people on here prefer to keep things about steampunk. You´ll find it at http://www.dieselpunks.org

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Mr Addams
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2010, 01:11:28 am »

Yep, careful now. Remember what happened to Bryan Ferry.

It´s really just dieselpunk though. A genre quite well known already.


Definitely Dieselpunk. Albeit with a Nazi aesthetic.

By definition, Godwins law cannot be applied to discussions about Nazis unless the posters begin comparing each-other to Nazis.
So far, nobody has made any judgments either positive or Negative about Nazi philosophy or actions, and it should stay that way.
But I think that 1940's German aesthetics is a valid topic.

The first part of the Code Guardian clip made me think of the Propaganda film from the rocketeer.

The Rocketeer - Nazi Propaganda CartoonDQ
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Herr Döktor
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« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2010, 01:13:02 am »

No, we have merely said it is encompassing it already.  Tongue Actually some politician recently invoked Godwin´s Law in a real life debate.

Actually, you said it wasn't, whereas I said it was.

Opinions are funny things: theres just as many as there are people...

Huh
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Jemima Annabelle Clough
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« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2010, 01:14:52 am »

No, we have merely said it is encompassing it already.  Tongue Actually some politician recently invoked Godwin´s Law in a real life debate.

Actually, you said it wasn't, whereas I said it was.

Opinions are funny things: theres just as many as there are people...

Huh

Personally, I'd say there's more Wink
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Herr Döktor
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2010, 01:16:27 am »

No, we have merely said it is encompassing it already.  Tongue Actually some politician recently invoked Godwin´s Law in a real life debate.

Actually, you said it wasn't, whereas I said it was.

Opinions are funny things: theres just as many as there are people...

Huh

Personally, I'd say there's more Wink

Quoted for absolute accuracy.

Or inaccuracy.

Or both.
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Darkhound
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2010, 02:55:56 am »

The trouble with Nazis, Fascists, Falangists and all their ilk is that they are profoundly anti-intellectual, and thus anti-technology. Nazism grew out of the frothiest maunderings of the German romantic poets, not out of ingenious chemistry and advanced physics.

The Nazis achieved a truly spectacular dichotomy by taking over a country that was leading the world in advanced technology for more than a generation before they got in, and deciding that advanced technology was one of the properties of the Master Race. While Hitler certainly did rant about "Wunderwaffen" more and more as the war went on, he expected them to grow not from the minds of his scientists, but from their "Deutchtum", their essential Germanness. The residual momentum of pre-nazi German technology carried the Nazis far, but the rate of progress fell off from the day they took power.

A simple example, already mentioned in passing: the chief reason that the Nazis failed to beat us to the atomic bomb was that particle physics happened to have many Jews among its ablest theorists. Therefore, atomic physics was "Jüdenwissenschaft", Jewish science, and not to be trusted.

The wonder is not that the Nazis had so much technology, but that, given the commanding lead Germany had in 1925, they managed to fall so far behind.
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Gozdom
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« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2010, 03:18:05 am »

Oh I went offline for a few hours and the topic has grown a lot! I still don't feel like treading forbidden lands, though. From my experience this far, the public of Brass Goggles is mature enough to discuss Speer's architectural visions or the aesthetics of Messerschmitt jets without bursting out in hate speech or being struck with fear.

Yes I know about dieselpunk. It does apply for some elements, and doesn't deal with others. The Wolfenstein franchise is very near to the essential Nazi retro-futurism. It has the runes, the color schemes, the grandeur, the very important occult line (albeit a bit over the top in this), and high tech.

What I have seen in dieselpunk or this vein of retro-futurism (say, Sky captain) seems to forget about the fact that the Nazis actually made a crucial leap in technology, one that is even more important when one tries to portray it on film, paintings or props. Namely, they crossed the line when technology becomes arcane once again. I'd draw this line around the jet engine. See, a piston engine is a fairly simple thing. A plane driven by propellers may be beautiful and cool, but it doesn't hide its workings: it has visible moving parts. Look how people in the Tactile forum decorate everything with brass gears, often without function. That's because gears, especially when they actually do something, make you feel you understand them. Now, when the jet Jagers took off, they were like the first 'horseless carriages", propelled by an unseen force. Still, they were quite awkward contructions compared to present-day warplanes, with all the rivets, wooden frames, glued canvas and the like. They look as if a semi-primitive tribe got hold of these engines from above and tried to contain and use their power. (Cf. the Ark of the Covenant...)

OK, I'm a bit aviation-heavy, but it is really interesting in a steampunk-related way: that was out-of-place technique in its time, along with rocketry. I really love these craft, especially the ones that never got off the drawing table (see Luft46 link in the first post).

I occasionally do tactile things, and the above points, along with early jet age as a whole, do inspire me, although I plan to stick with brass (classic SP) for a while. However, it would be a great excuse to finally use aluminum Smiley

Now its a bit late here, so I'll stop the musings before it gets even more diffuse.
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Gozdom
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« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2010, 03:29:29 am »

The trouble with Nazis, Fascists, Falangists and all their ilk is that they are profoundly anti-intellectual, and thus anti-technology. Nazism grew out of the frothiest maunderings of the German romantic poets, not out of ingenious chemistry and advanced physics.


You're certainly right about all, especially the scientific suicide committed by expelling and killing the Jews. I may add that by committing huge resources to some areas, they did a bit more than merely hindering progress. The V-2 missile program was the single most expensive endeavour in their war effort, even though it was practically useless. A unique, never-seen cutting edge of technology which has since changed warfare, and they got virtually nothing out of it. It certainly sounds like poetry! (Another very romantic plan was the 'supertank'  Maus and other "land cruisers".)

But it is also offtopic, even if true. I meant this topic to discuss the aesthetic aspects of the Reich, as detached from its crimes as possible. Besides, talk about Nazi crimes and the stupidity of the regime sadly invites its proponents, which is least desirable here.
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Voltin
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« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2010, 03:30:28 am »

Do I dare touch this thread?
Well I have always been fascinated by how the occult influenced nazism and also how the party evolved from The Thule society. In the fictional book The Coming Race Science Fiction author Edward Bulwer Lytton writes of a subterranean master race that relies on a almost limitless power source called Vril to power their subterranean city. Lytton decribes this race as being decended from the "Aryans". This is not suprising that the nazis were taken to Lytton's work.
I don't want spoil it for those that wish to read this early science fiction novel but I would like to mention that the book involves human flight, atomic power, and possible form of early computers and was published in 1870!
Quite a interesting book but as I have mentioned it is pure fiction ladies and gentlemen and nothing more.

I also agree that what has been mentioned is definitely Dieselpunk.

« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 04:51:53 am by Voltin » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2010, 03:39:44 am »

Wether there´s nazi aesthetics really depends on where the dieselpunk story is set. Though it seems to always be either the US or Germany. I don´t get why people focus so much on simple aesthetics anyway. Even if people on here might be smart enough to discuss this, generally I think people prefer to leave the dieselpunk to other places. The Dieselpunk.org website has a small collection of Nazi propaganda posters as well.
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Nex
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« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2010, 03:50:28 am »

It strikes me that such things are covered far better by the term Weird World War 2, but then I preffer terms like gaslight fiction and steam fantasy to steampunk so perhaps it is just my dislike of the whole "-punk" thing (aside from Cyber) showing through.

Anyway whether Dieselpunk or Weird World War the simple thing I would like to say is that every nation not just Nazi Germany had its own style, technological focus, and secret and weird projects that never came to anything.

Most Weird World War style worlds have all sides looking into the likes of the occult and religious power along side advanced and strange technologies.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2010, 04:00:10 am by Nex » Logged

H. MacHinery
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« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2010, 04:01:07 am »

ON the subject of Nazi architectural style, I read online somewhere that one of the driving aesthetics was the way buildings would look as ruins - that's why they favored real stone instead of concrete; it would make a great-looking ruins at the end of the Thousand-Year Reich.
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Gozdom
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« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2010, 04:16:44 am »

ON the subject of Nazi architectural style, I read online somewhere that one of the driving aesthetics was the way buildings would look as ruins - that's why they favored real stone instead of concrete; it would make a great-looking ruins at the end of the Thousand-Year Reich.



I'm afraid your source was at least partly wrong. They did use concrete and not only for Bunkers, incorporating elements of Bauhaus (which was, by the way, officially suppressed as Jewish architecture). The dominant movement was, however, called Nordic Hellenism for a reason. Like the Communists, totalitarian regimes have a taste for Classicism, perhaps that's how they try to look everlasting, maintain a cultured facade to their brutal nature. Look, we build like the Greeks, that's how cool we are! (Cf. Stalin-Baroque)

On the other hand, they were more or less right. It may have looked good. Here's a rendering of World Capital "Germania", the mega-Athens they intended to build after winning the war:

GermaniaDQ

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welthauptstadt_Germania
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Sgt.Major Thistlewaite
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« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2010, 04:21:37 am »

They came frighteningly close to having spaceflight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbervogel

~T
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« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2010, 04:35:07 am »

They came frighteningly close to having spaceflight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbervogel

~T

Good lord, man! What if they had succeeded?

Iron Sky teaser - Space Nazis attack!DQ
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Gozdom
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« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2010, 04:42:59 am »

They came frighteningly close to having spaceflight.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbervogel

~T


Now that was anything but a near usable space shuttle. Daydreaming, the whole concept of skipping along "the barrier of athmosphere", which is not the kind of surface that could bounce a 1000 ton plane. Not to mention reentry and landing. But again, an example of fanatic belief in progress, technology, and big pieces of iron. Techno-romanticism at its best.

There were many fantasies that have eventually become reality. The global strike bomber or the shuttle, space flight, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (another "vaporware" of the Reich, plans of a sub-towed missile container existed) are real now. But it took years or decades, so "frighteningly close" is far from the truth (and into the punk)!
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