Visual History of the World




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Artists that Changed the World
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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The World Wars and Interwar Period
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Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Under the Swastika: Nazi Germany



see also: National Socialist Art

see also collection: John Heartfield


With Hitler's takeover of power, a twelve-year totalitarian regime began in Germany. In 1939 it brought war and racist terror to the world. The "Fuhrer"-led dictatorship attempted to reform state and society to conform to National Socialist ideology. Despite the Nazis' brutal suppression of the opposition and single-minded removal of the Jewish population from national life, the world underestimated the nature of the regime and its contempt for human life, and thus World War II erupted.


Nazi Foreign Policies through 1939

The Nazi leaders were tactically clever in disguising their plans of conquest as a peaceful policy to revise the Treaty of Versailles.


Hitler had planned a great war since the beginning of his rise to power. In a secret speech to German officers in February 1933 he openly spoke of the goal of "conquering new living space in the East and its ruthless Germanization."

In order to restore Germany's position of power necessary to accomplish this, the Nazi leadership successfully 8 revised the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.

To pacify their war-weary European neighbors, they veiled their goals in an official policy of rapprochement.

Despite 7 leaving the League of Nations in 1933, Hitler avowed the German desire for peace and stood by Western cultural heritage.

8 Propaganda poster promoting the annexation
of Austria: "Bit by bit, Adolf Hitler tore up the
Treaty of Versailles!" 1938

7 The empty seats of the German delegation after
it left the League of Nations, 1933

The Reich Concordat with the Vatican, which was meant to secure the rights of the Catholic-Church in Germany, nonaggression pacts with other states, and the hosting of the 1936 10 Olympic Games seemed to confirm this.

10 Official English-language posters of the 1936 Olympic Games

When Saarland clearly voted to join the German Reich in a plebiscite in 1935, the Western allied powers acknowledged the Germans' right to self-determination and accepted the subsequent violation of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler reintroduced military conscription in 1935, announced rearmament, and signed a naval fleet agreement with Great Britain.

A year later, he occupied the 11 demilitarized Rhineland region. Involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the 9 "Berlin-Rome Axis", and the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan  were coalitions with a clear anti-Soviet orientation that presaged later war alliances.

While the Western Powers had accepted the invasion of Austria in 1938 and its unification with Germany and had even legalized the annexation of the Sudetenland through the Munich Agreement, they gave up their policy of appeasement after the breakup of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and threatened war if Germany attempted further territorial expansion. Poland was invaded by Germany under a pretense on September 1, 1939, and the Second World War had begun .

11 The reconstituted German Wehrmacht
marches into the demilitarized
Rhine-land on March 7, 1936

9 Stamp showing Hitler and Mussolini, entitled
"Two nations, one battle," 1938



The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin

Germany deceived the world during the Olympic Games of 1936 with a demonstration of cosmopolitan culture, jazz was allowed to be played in the bars and the persecution of political opponents and Jews was put on hold.

Under the Third Reich jazz was
labeled "degenerate" and prohibited,
poster, 1938

The perfectly staged Olympic propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl also impressed the world and was generally positively received.

Still from Leni Riefenstahl's Olympics
"Festival of the Nations," 1936



Olympic Stadium in Berlin 1936. Author  Josef Jindrich Sechtl


Olympic Fire in Berlin, 1936. Author  Josef Jindrich Sechtl 


Sculpture of athletes built for the 1936 Berlin Olympics


Sculpture of athletes built for the 1936 Berlin Olympics


Olympics in Berlin 1936


Olympics in Berlin 1936


Olympics in Berlin 1936


Olympics in Berlin 1936


Olympics in Berlin 1936


Olympics in Berlin 1936



1936 Summer Olympics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona (two years before the Nazis came to power). It marked the second and final time that the International Olympic Committee would gather to vote in a city which was bidding to host those Games. The only other time this occurred was at the inaugural IOC Session in Paris, France, on April 24, 1894. Then, Athens, Greece, and Paris were chosen to host the 1896 and 1900 Games, respectively.

Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, a favorite of Hitler's, was commissioned by the IOC to film the Games. Her film, entitled Olympia, introduced many of the techniques now common to the filming of sports.

By allowing only members of the Aryan race to compete for Germany, Hitler further promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy. At the same time, the party removed signs stating "Jews not wanted" and similar slogans from the city's main tourist attractions. In an attempt to "clean up" Berlin, the German Ministry of the Interior authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani (Gypsies) and keep them in a special camp. Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of anti-homosexual laws. Total ticket revenues were 7.5 million Reichsmarks, generating a profit of over one million marks. The official budget did not include outlays by the city of Berlin (which issued an itemized report detailing its costs of 16.5 million marks) or that of the German national government (which did not make its costs public, but is estimated to have spent US$30 million, chiefly in capital outlays).



Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl


Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl
(22 August 1902 Ц 8 September 2003) was a German film director, actress and dancer widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party. Riefenstahl's prominence in the Third Reich along with her personal friendships with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels thwarted her film career following Germany's defeat in World War II, after which she was arrested but never convicted of any crimes.

Triumph of the Will gave Riefenstahl instant and lasting international fame. Although she made only eight films, just two of which received significant coverage outside of Germany, Riefenstahl was widely known throughout the rest of her life. The propaganda value of her films made during the 1930s repels most modern commentators but many film histories cite the aesthetics as outstanding. The Economist wrote that Triumph of the Will "sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century."

In the 1970s Riefenstahl published her still photography of the Nuba tribes in Africa in several books such as The Last of the Nuba. She was active up until her death and also published marine life stills and released the marine-based film Impressionen unter Wasser in 2002.

After her death, the Associated Press described Riefenstahl as an "acclaimed pioneer of film and photographic techniques." Der Tagesspiegel newspaper in Berlin noted, "Leni Riefenstahl conquered new ground in the cinema." The BBC said her documentaries "were hailed as groundbreaking film-making, pioneering techniques involving cranes, tracking rails, and many cameras working at the same time."

Adolf Hitler (center) with (from left to right): Heinz Riefenstahl,
Frau Dr. Ebersberg, Leni Riefenstahl, Joseph Goebbels,
and Ilse Riefenstahl. Germany



Film Stars of the Third Reich


Marika Rokk

Marika Rokk

Marika Rokk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marika Rökk (November 3, 1913 Ц May 16, 2004) was a Hungarian singer, dancer and actress who became famous in German films, notably in the Nazi era.

Rökk was born in Cairo, Egypt, the daughter of the Hungarian architect Eduard Rökk and his wife Maria Karoly. She spent her childhood in Budapest, but in 1924 her family moved to Paris. Here she learned to dance and starred as a dancer in the Moulin Rouge. After a tour in the USA she came to England where she acted in her first film. In 1934 she was offered a contract with Universum Film AG (UFA) in Germany, where she became one of the most famous filmstars of the time.

She was married to the film producer Georg Jacoby from 1940 until his death in 1964, and to Hungarian actor Fred Raul from 1968 until he died in 1985. She was the mother of actress Gaby Jacoby. She died of a heart attack in Baden bei Wien, Austria.

Marika Rokk

Marika Rokk




Pola Negri

Pola Negri

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pola Negri (Barbara Apolonia Chałupiec; 3 January 1897 - August 1, 1987) was a Polish film actress who achieved notoriety as a femme fatale in silent films between 1910s and 1930s.

Born Apolonia Chałupiec according to her birth record and autobiography (unsourced publications sometimes add Barbara as her other baptismal name) on January 3, 1897 in Lipno, Poland, as an only child in a poor family, her mother had to make a living alone after Chałupiec's father was arrested by the Russians and sent to Siberia. Her father, Juraj Chalupec, was a Slovak immigrant tinsmith.

In 1902, both moved to Warsaw, where they lived in extreme poverty. She trained as a dancer at the Ballet School in Warsaw and performed there until tuberculosis forced her to stop dancing.

During her movie career, she was also touted as an accomplished organist, and at least one extant photograph shows her apparently performing on a two manual pipe organ, but this may have been merely publicity, as her family's extreme poverty would seem to argue against her studying with any well-known organist.

She turned to acting, and by the end of World War I had established herself as a popular stage actress in Warsaw, appearing in several films. She made an appearance in the Grand Theatre (in Sumurun), as well as in Small Theatre (Aleksander Fredro's Śluby panieńskie) and at the Summer Theatre in the Saxon Garden, a popular summer variéte theatre. She debuted in film in 1914 in Slave of the Senses (Niewolnica zmysłów).

During that time, she adopted the pseudonym "Pola Negri," after the Italian poetess, Ada Negri. She also appeared in a variety of films made by the Warsaw film industry, including The Wife (Żona), The Beast (Bestia), Students (Studenci), Street Ruffian's Lover (Kochanka apasza) and the Mysteries of Warsaw series. During her short screen career in Warsaw, she gained much popularity, acting with many of the most renowned Polish film artists of the time, including Józef Węgrzyn, Władysław Grabowski, Józef Galewski and Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski.

In 1917, her popularity provided her with an opportunity to move to Berlin, Germany, where she appeared in several films for film directors of the UFA agency, including Max Reinhardt and Ernst Lubitsch. Their films were successful throughout the world, and in 1922 both were offered contracts with Hollywood studios and the following year Negri settled in the U.S. Her exotic style of glamour proved popular with audiences during the 1920s and her affairs with such notable actors as Charles Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino ensured that she remained in the public eye.

One of the most popular Hollywood actresses of the era, and certainly the richest woman of the movie industry at the time, Negri lived in a palace in Los Angeles, modelled after the White House. However, her popularity quickly began to fade.

Pola Negri

Negri caused a media sensation after the death in 1926 of Valentino by announcing that they had planned to marry, and following the train that carried his body from New York City to Los Angeles, posing for photographers at every stop. At his funeral she "fainted" several times, and arranged for a large floral arrangement, which spelled out her name, to be placed on Valentino's coffin. Despite the wide publicity she attracted, many of Valentino's friends stated that Valentino and Negri had not intended to marry, and dismissed her actions as a publicity stunt. Negri allegedly kept Valentino's picture on her bedside table until the end of her life, always insisting he had been the great love of her life. Actress Tallulah Bankhead, in particular, badmouthed Negri, although others such as Mary Pickford (supportive and generous to so many troubled actresses of the time) and Valentino's brother, Alberto, defended her.

Negri's "vamp" style began to go out of vogue, and the advent of talking pictures revealed an accented voice that the public did not warm to. As Negri put it: "They went from Pola to Polaroid." Also, the Hays Code introduced in 1930 prevented Negri from using her staging techniques, for which she was so popular in Europe. The ban on "scenes of passion" and "excessive and lustful kissing" proved especially disastrous to her career in the U.S.

Having divorced Eugeniusz Dąbski in 1921, Negri married Serge Mdivani in 1927 (he claimed to be a Georgian prince and his brother was married to actress Mae Murray). In 1929, Negri lost most of her fortune in the Wall Street Crash. The couple divorced, and she returned to Europe.

In 1928, Negri made her last film for Paramount Pictures, The Woman From Moscow, opposite actor Norman Kerry. The film was only Negri's second talkie (the first being Loves of an Actress, also released in 1928) and Paramount declined to renew her contract after audiences allegedly had difficulty discerning her dialog because of her heavy Polish accent. Negri subsequently left Hollywood later that year for Great Britain to make the 1929 drama The Way of Lost Souls (also known as The Woman He Scorned).

Pola Negri

She made only a few films after 1930, and worked mainly in England and Germany, where she acted in several films for the Joseph Goebbels-controlled UFA. Writer Mercedes de Acosta alleged in her autobiography Here Lies the Heart (1960) that she and Negri were involved in a lesbian affair during the 1920s, but short of de Acosta's claim there is little proof of that.

The 1935 Willi Forst picture Mazurka gained much popularity in Germany and became one of Adolf Hitler's favorite films, a fact that gave birth to a rumor in 1937 about Negri having had an affair with Hitler. There was no truth to the rumor. Pola sued a French magazine, Pour Vous, that had circulated the libelous rumor and won her case.

Mazurka was remade (almost shot-for-shot) in the U.S. as a Kay Francis picture, Confession. Negri had expressed a desire to return to the States to do the remake but had been turned down. In her autobiography Memoirs of a Star (1970), Negri recounted that with Francis in the lead the picture was a flop. Years later director Forst was interviewed stating that although Negri still looked attractive, her lifestyle had aged her and she could not be photographed in a tight close-up. He also said she came out of the women's room with "snow" (cocaine) on her upper lip.

She fled Germany in 1938, after a few Nazi officials labeled her as having "part Jewish" ancestry.[citation needed] She moved to France, and then in 1941 she sailed to New York from Portugal and was temporarily detained at Ellis Island. After her release, she eventually returned to Hollywood. She briefly appeared in the 1943 film Hi Diddle Diddle, though her career was essentially over.

After actresses Mae West and Mary Pickford declined the role, director Billy Wilder approached Negri to appear as Norma Desmond in the film, Sunset Boulevard (1950). Wilder recalled that Negri "threw a tantrum at the mere suggestion of playing a has-been", and the role was given to the more amenable and realistic Gloria Swanson, who became immortalized on celluloid as Norma Desmond.

In 1951, Negri became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Her final film appearance was in the Walt Disney film The Moon-Spinners (1964), with Hayley Mills.

The same year she received an honorary award from the German film industry for her career work. Negri lived her remaining years in San Antonio, Texas, with her companion, Texan heiress and composer, Margaret West. Negri maintained her flamboyant persona to the end of her life and was often compared to Norma Desmond, the character role she had famously turned down.

Pola Negri

She died on August 1, 1987, at the age of 90. Her death was caused by pneumonia, however she was also suffering from a brain tumor (for which she had refused treatment). At her wake at the Porter Loring Funeral Home in San Antonio, her body was placed on view wearing a yellow golden chiffon dress with a golden turban to match. Her small obituary in the local newspaper read, "she had an international career as a screen and stage actress".

She was interred in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles next to her mother, Eleonora. Since she had no children, she left most of her estate to St. Mary's University in Texas, including several rare prints of her films. In addition, a generous portion of her estate was given to the Polish nuns of the Seraphic Order; a large black and white portrait hangs in the small chapel next to Poland's patron, Our Lady of Częstochowa, in San Antonio, Texas.

Pola Negri has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard. She was the 11th star in Hollywood history to place her hand and foot prints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

There were rumors that Negri had a short affair with the young comedian Milton Berle. Decades later, Berle claimed that these rumors were true on The Howard Stern Show and Larry King Live. (Berle made many such statements about various women, always after said women were dead and could not reply.)[citation needed]

In a 1973 interview, she said: "Speaking of the 20's and 30's that was the most extravagant and glamorous era of the film industry. There was hard work and longer hours than at present, but there was dignity, class and great style. Stars didn't have to worry as they were on long term contracts and were able to enjoy their vacations without worrying about tomorrow. Few had financial worries due to large incomes and little taxes. Alas, in 1929 came the Stock Market crash and everything changed and became worrisome. People started practicing conservatism because of financial losses, myself included.




Lida Baarova

Lida Baarova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lída Baarová (7 September 1914 Ц 27 October 2000) was a Czech actress.

Born Ludmila Babková, she studied acting at Prague Conservatory and got her first movie role in a Czech film at the age of 17. Her mother appeared in several theatre plays and her younger sister, Zorka Janů, also was a movie actress. After being discovered by talent scouts for the German movie studios, Baarova left Prague for Berlin.

In Berlin she met Gustav Fröhlich, a German actor, and starred in several films with him. In 1935, following her successful appearance in the German film Barcarole, she received several job offers from Hollywood studios. She turned them down, but later regretted it and claimed to her biographer, Josef Škvorecký: "I could have been as famous as Marlene Dietrich."

After her engagement to Fröhlich, they moved to the Schwanenwerder peninsula on the outskirts of Berlin, where their house on the (later named) Karl-Marx-Straße 8 was close to the residence of Joseph Goebbels on Inselstraße 8. Goebbels was the propaganda minister in Adolf Hitler's regime, with a decisive voice in German movie production. Lída Baarová met Goebbels while working for Ufa films. They started an affair that lasted for over a year and caused her breakup with Fröhlich.

After Goebbels' wife Magda learned about this affair, she complained to Hitler. He was the godfather of Goebbels' children, and sympathetic towards Magda; he asked Goebbels to end the affair. Goebbels offered his resignation instead. He wanted to divorce his wife, marry Baarová, and leave Germany for Japan with her. However, Hitler did not accept this.

Shortly afterwards, Baarová received a call from the German police that she was persona non grata and was given consilium abeundi to leave Germany. She went to Prague and, in 1941, to Italy, where she starred in such movies as Grazia (1943), La Fornarina (1944), Vivere ancora (1945), and others. After American troops occupied Italy, she returned to Prague, where she dated her old friend Hans Albers, another of Germany's movie idols. In April 1945, Lída Baarová left Prague for Germany, to join Albers in his country house on the shores of Lake Starnberg. On the way, she was taken into custody by the American military police, imprisoned in Munich, and later extradited to Czechoslovakia.

Lida Baarova

In Czechoslovakia, Baarová faced a death sentence for her work with the Germans during the war, but she was able to prove that she worked in Germany before the war and received only a prison sentence. In prison, she was often visited by Jan Kopecký who, like many others, was infatuated with her. Kopecký was a close relative of a prominent politician in the post-war government of Czechoslovakia who arranged Lída's release from prison. Jan Kopecký and Lída Baarová were married in 1949 and formed an itinerant troupe playing marionettes before they escaped to Austria. From there, Kopecký immigrated to Argentina, leaving Lída behind to recuperate in the sanatorium of Dr. Lundwall.

In Austria, Lída attempted a comeback, but Anton Walbrook, who was persecuted during the war for his sexual orientation, withdrew from a film where he was cast with her. To escape the resulting negative media, she left for Argentina, where she lived in extreme poverty. She decided to return to Italy. Her husband stayed in Argentina and they were divorced in 1956. Back in Italy, she appeared in several films, including Fellini's I Vitelloni (1953), where she played the wife of a rich merchant. In 1958, she moved to Salzburg, where she performed in a theater. The same year she married Swedish physician - Kurt Lundwall (d. 1980).

In the 1990s Baarová reappeared on the cultural scene of the Czech Republic. She published her autobiography and a movie, Lída Baarová's Bittersweet Memories, appeared in 1995 and won an award at the 1996 Art Film Festival in Trenčianske Teplice, Slovakia.

Lída Baarová suffered from Parkinson's disease and died in 2000 in Salzburg, while living alone on the estate she inherited after the death of her second husband, Dr. Lundwall. If she ever felt guilt about her past, she rigorously suppressed it. "There's no doubt that Goebbels was an interesting character," she observed in 1997, "a charming and intelligent man and a very good storyteller. You could guarantee that he would keep a party going with his little asides and jokes."

Her ashes were interred in Prague's Strašnice cemetery, where she rests with her parents and sister Zorka Janů.




Olga Chekhova

Olga Chekhova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Olga Konstantinovna Chekhova or Tchechowa (Russian: ќльга  онстантиновна „ехова, (14 April 1897, Aleksandropol (now Gyumri, Armenia) Ц 9 March 1980, Berlin) was a Russian actress who made a stunning career in the cinema of the Third Reich. Her film roles include the female lead in Alfred Hitchcock's Mary (1931).

Born Olga Knipper, she was the daughter of Konstantin Knipper, an imperial minister and the niece and namesake of Olga Knipper (Anton Chekhov's wife), both of whom were Lutherans of ethnic German descent. She went to school in Tsarskoye Selo but, after watching Eleonora Duse act, joined a studio of the Moscow Art Theatre. There she met the great actor Mikhail Chekhov (Anton's nephew) in 1915 and married him the same year. (Thus, the niece of Anton Chekhov's wife became the wife of Anton Chekhov's nephew.) Their daughter, also named Olga, was born in 1916.

Two years after the October Revolution, Chekhova divorced her husband but kept his name. She managed to get a passport from the Soviet government, possibly in exchange for cooperation, which led to permission to leave Russia. She was accompanied by a Soviet agent on a train to Vienna, then she moved to Berlin in 1920. Her first cinema role was in Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau silent movie Schloß Vogelöd (1921). She also played in Max Reinhardt's productions at UFA, the same studios where Fritz Lang directed Metropolis (1927). She made the successful transition from silent film to talkies. In the 1930s, she rose to become one of the brightest stars of the Third Reich and was admired by Adolf Hitler (who did not know that Chekhova's ex-husband Mikhail Chekhov had a Jewish mother). A published photograph of her sitting beside Hitler at a reception gave the leaders of the Soviet intelligence service the impression that she had close contacts with Hitler. In fact she had more contact with the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels who was referring to her in his diaries as "eine charmante Frau" ('a charming lady'). Ironically, Soviet archives reveal that she was in fact a Communist spy.

Olga Chekhova and Adolf Hitler

During World War II her acting career was less successful; her one film made in Hollywood was unpopular, largely because her accent was too strong. After the war she moved to Munich, Bavaria, and launched a cosmetics company. At the same time she continued acting, and played supporting roles and cameos in more than 20 films. She largely retired from acting in 1974, publishing a book of memoirs. Her correspondence with Olga Knipper and Alla Tarasova was published posthumously.

KGB archives made partially public in the 1990s show that Chekhova was a Soviet "sleeper" agent recruited in the 1920s, and was connected to her brother Lev Knipper, an active OGPU - NKVD (Soviet secret police) agent. It is believed that one of her roles was to help her brother in the Hitler assassination plot. In 1945, after Berlin was taken by the Red Army, Chekhova was taken by Soviet agents and was flown to Moscow for a few weeks of interrogations. She returned to Berlin in June 1945, and moved to a new home which was paid for and guarded by the Soviets for several years.

Olga Chekhova



Adolf Ziegler. The Four Elements

see also:

National Socialist Art



John Heartfield Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk

see also

John Heartfield



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