Day 11-13: Nazis, Rings, and Blue Riders

National Socialism

The National Socialism Tour hosted by the Goethe Institute was one of the most stimulating tours I have ever taken. Given by Dr. Christoph Engels, the guide provided the overview of Hitler and how Munich was a central control and rallying point for the Nazi Party.

Using Hitler’s creations for the flag, logo, and uniforms, he combined propaganda and design to seduce the populace with fanfare and drama. The frequent marches down the main thoroughfare from Marienplatz to the Odeonsplatz were displays of might and staging trials for the military. I was a bit chilled to realize that the very backdrop for the Greek Festival I attended on my first day in Munich was where Hitler conducted many ceremonies.

The monumental boulevards reminiscent of Paris contributed to the public parades of the military. Billions of dollars were donated to the Nazi Party by private citizens, who saw the salvation of Germany led by Hitler. The original headquarters of the Nazi Party still exists, and while not open to the public, it continues to host activities of the Neo-Nazi Party members.

There were three phases of recovery by the German people after the devastating reign of terror. First, there were those who experienced it, followed by the children of the war survivors. They experienced a long period of “Scham und Schuld”, or Shame and Guilt. After 1968, the third generation began to ask the grandparents what role they had in the war. These questions were difficult discussions that needed to be answered by each family.

When the official statistics about the Holocaust victims at 6,000,000 people was mentioned, a couple of my classmates from Russia and the Ukraine noted that there were many more Russians killed by Stalin before and after WWII. They wanted to put history in perspective with their experience and knowledge. They also noted that the war itself saved many Russians from starvation and death caused by Stalin.

Munich Opera Festival

The Ring by Richard Wagner is a 17-hour epic, presented in a series over four days. The 2.5 hour, no-break opera in German subtitles was a challenge.  I had prepared myself for the “real thing” after seeing my first Ring at the SF Opera last month.

The difference between the two? San Francisco spent alot more effort in the production, the acting, the stage sets, but the singing was weak. Munich was the opposite. The stage sets were minimal, but Munich delivered some of the best singing I have ever heard. The opera house is smaller than San Francisco’s, and the singers must have their voices perfectly calibrated to the acoustical capabilities of the house. It didn’t hurt to have estatically beautiful music for both, thanks to Wagner.

And here’s a clip of how it looked from the audience during the curtain call. You would have to turn your sound up to full volume (but don’t do it!) to capture the thunderous foot stomping that Germans do in addition to clapping. The gesture is highly successful because: 1. you don’t have to stand up and drop the program in the process while still being able to respond spontaneously; 2. you don’t block others behind you who don’t want to stand or have a different opinion; and 3. It gets your entire body stimulated and the blood flowing so you can remember to get up to leave!

Lenbach Museum

Last week, good friend Helena had suggested going to the Lenbach Museum during her visit here. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fit everything in. She has pretty good taste in choosing museums, so I decided to venture there on a free morning. I combined a trip to load up on German sketch books at an art supply store near the museum area with a visit to the Lenbach.

I could only remember that Helena had told me about something Blue that was on display there. After all, Helena and I had just seen Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter the week before, right? At first, I thought it was the Blue Wonder, then I remembered, no, that’s a bridge in Dresden. After I ripped through a gaggle of galleries searching for the missing identity, I finally asked the guide where the Blue Rider was located. His answer: they’re everywhere! I was perplexed at first, then realized that its…a movement.

The collection generated a lively FaceTime conversation with my German language partner in the Bay Area. Being an art history aficionado, he set me straight. The text may be hard to read, but if you are interested, you can view it on a monitor. They’re all yours, Jim!

8 thoughts on “Day 11-13: Nazis, Rings, and Blue Riders”

  1. Happy Birthday to you! 🎏 the start of a new decade! Can you believe it?! Hope you have a fun celebration in Munich. We will have our own celebration 🎊 of this big one when you get back. glucklicher Geburtstag! Karen

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  2. Is this your Birthday ??? Happy Birthday Vickie. What a wonderful way to celebrate it with so much art and beauty around you. Wishing you an awesome year with more art, opera, friends, culture, family, aesthetic pleasures, travels, and all the wonderful things. Thank you so much for this amazing post. I read it many times just to savor the topics one by one. Big hug, Iza

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    1. Yep. Didn’t think about it when I booked my class in November, so here I am eating and drinking the most expensive items on the menu at a restaurant near where I live and it still came to only 20€ with tip!! Thanks for your kind words and support. You probably like the same things I do, so we are kindred spirits. Stay in touch as I finish in Germany at the end of the month and then travel to Hungary, China and Korea!!

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  3. Thanks so much for reporting on the Lenbach Museum, that I missed. That would be a reason for returning to Münich! I loved the photo of the Kandinsky Room, who has been my favorite painter, ever since I saw many of his works in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
    Speaking of Hitler in Münich, reminded me of the Gurlitt collection of stolen artwerks by the Nazi regime, that was heired to the Kunstmuseum in Bern by the son of Gurlitt. Might be a reason for you to come to Switzerland next year!
    Enjoy your time in Münich and the rest of the Ring!
    Big hug,
    Helena

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    1. If you get a chance to read the text (difficult unless you are at a computer), it summarizes the periods of his work, his involvement with other artists, and his transitions. I have to say I did enjoy his work that I only had peripheral knowledge of. I would certainly pay a visit to the Kunstmuseum for that purpose, but I’m wondering whether the works are in the hands of those who originally owned them or when they might be returned. There was a great book about the Getty Museum director and the role that Switzerland played in art laundering. Interested? I’ll get you the title if so. The Ring will be a challenge this week, as I have two in the early evening and will have to excuse myself from class early to see them. They are the 5-hour killers.

      Maybe you should send some posts to us from Mongolia!

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  4. Herzlichen Gluckwunsch zum Geburtstag! Du bist jetz ein Jahr junger. Your post reminds me of a story you told about going to the opera as a little girl. Your mother took you long long opera’s.
    Do you think the Germans have collective guilt from the war?
    Thanks for the post.

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    1. Danke sehr! Es war ein bisschen lustig, um hier allein zu sein. Ich schreibe jetzt eine Schauspiel über meine Mutter, wenn sie mit mir in chinesischen opern Kinos war. Sie haben mir guten Erinnerungen gegeben! Die älteren Deutschen müssen Scham und Schuld haben, aber sie sprechen mit anderen nicht. Die Jungen sind frei von diesem Frage.

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