Goebbels’s Speech at the Sportpalast in Berlin (February 18, 1943) On February 18, 1943, Joseph Goebbels delivered the most famous speech of his career at the Berlin Sportpalast. The speech came shortly after the German capitulation at Stalingrad. In it, he praised the German dead of Stalingrad as heroes and emphasized that their sacrifice had not been made in vain. (He had nothing to say, however, about the tens of thousands who had been captured.) Goebbels urged Germans to commit anew to an all-out war effort – or what he described as “total war.” The members of Goebbels’s carefully chosen audience responded to the speech with fanatical enthusiasm. This photograph shows the interior of the Sportpalast during Goebbels’s speech. The banner in the background reads: “Total War – Shortest War” (“Totaler Krieg – Kürzester Krieg”).
When winter came, the Oberlins, my landlords, began heating the building with buckets of last week’s money like everybody else. Germany’s undernourished children died of tuberculosis and war veterans dragged themselves through the streets begging for a bite of stale bread or a ladle of cabbage soup.
Storage Room in Niederschönhausen Castle for Confiscated Works of Degenerate Art, including Works by Pablo Picasso and Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1937)
All art that did not correspond to the National Socialist aesthetic was deemed “degenerate.” The category included modern and avant-garde works by the Expressionists, Impressionists, Surrealists, and the Fauves, works by artists of Jewish descent, and socially critical works, such as those by Käthe Kollwitz. By the summer of 1937, the large-scale confiscation of “degenerate” from German public collections was already underway. Confiscated works were held in depots, such as the one pictured below, and then sold abroad, providing the regime with a source of foreign currency. On June 30, 1939, more than 125 were confiscated works were put up for auction at the Hotel National in Lucerne, Switzerland. The photograph below features some of the works that were put up for sale: (on the left) Picasso’s portrait of the Soler family (1903), confiscated from the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; (on the easel, top), Picasso’s Two Harlequins (1905), confiscated from the Städtische Galerie, Wuppertal; and (in the right foreground) two sculptures by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, taken from collections in Wiesbaden and Lübeck.
Erich Kästner was a pacifist and wrote for children because of his belief in the regenerating powers of youth. He was opposed to the Nazi regime in Germany that began on 30 January 1933 and was one of the signatories to the Urgent Call for Unity. However, unlike many of his fellow authors critical of the dictatorship, Kästner did not emigrate. Kästner did travel to Meran and to Switzerland just after the Nazis assumed power, and he met with exiled fellow writers there. However, Kästner returned to Berlin, arguing that he could chronicle the times better from there. It is probable that Kästner also wanted to avoid abandoning his mother. His epigram Necessary Answer to Superfluous Questions (Notwendige Antwort auf überflüssige Fragen) in Kurz und Bündig explains Kästner’s position:
I’m a German from Dresden in Saxony
My homeland won’t let me go
I’m like a tree that, grown in Germany,
Will likely wither there also.