I discoverd this afternoon that I have possessed an average, and fairly naive understanding of the history of war, as being simply the battle over land, resources, and borders. While there is a grain of truth to this, the documentary film The Rape of Europa very powerfully opened my eyes to a dimension of WWII that I was virtually clueless about. The film is based on the books The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas and Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art – America and Her Allies Recovered It by Robert M. Edsel.
The film is a re-telling of the history of WWII in terms of the systematic theft and/or destruction of art and cultural artifacts that the Nazi’s engaged in. In fact, the Nazi’s had been visiting museums and galleries throughout Europe in the years preceding WWII in order to catalogue the locations of all the art pieces that they planned to capture for themselves (For Hitler’s private collection as well as the state’s). These targets were actually a large factor in determining when and where the Nazis struck in their drive through Europe, one city and country after another.
There are many dimensions of meaning packed into this film, and I would like to offer a few of my observations from a Heilkunst perspective. It is clear to me now that these activities were based fundamentally on an assault of, and theft of the generative power of these nations and cultures. The title of the film, itself, references “rape” as the driving force of the war – a term directly referencing an assault on the generative power. What was portrayed in many instances in this film, was the incredible efforts of a people to hide and protect their works of art, often at the risk of life and limb. France, for example, anticipating the Nazi attack, completely emptied the Louvre in Paris, and hid all the artworks in various castles in remote regions of the French countryside. Under distress of invasion, an organism or nation will organize itself to protect that which is most valuable (More or less noble organs). The collective (Ontic) identification with an art collection is a function of the nation-soul or nation-spirit, and drove many to incredibly heroic acts. In the rescue operations at the end of WWII, the search for and recovery of these art pieces which were referred to as “refugees” – a reference again equating the life- soul- and spirit- containing capacity of art. Other aspects of the film portrayed the “civilian” nature of art and heritage buildings, in the sense of the generally accepted conventions of war proscribing their direct attack, and how this was sometimes used as a tactical measure, much like a hostage-taking.
There was a scene early in the film which illustrated Hitler’s desire for a purified cultural and artistic milieu – by simultaneously stealing those works of art which fit the Nazi ideals, while purging entire cultures (both people and artifacts) which did not. I found it interesting that Modern Art was purged, as it was considered to be degenerate due to its perversion of the artist’s ability to perceive and portray nature exactly. This was (unconsciously) a gesture to destroy the emerging cultural consciousness of the supersensible realities behind nature (our inner world), which is the new subject matter of Modern art (or “art after nature”). The importance of Art and its history is that it embodies the history of evolution of consciousness – and an erasing of history is one of the most powerful acts in attempting to control people (as illustrated beautifully in Orwell’s 1984). The purging of Modern Art was an unconscious tactic of the Nazis to block the evolution of consciousness from attaining the emerging capacity for supersensible perception and cognition.
The official web site for the film contains a number of video clips, and still photos from the film, and interviews with the writer and director.
This film is well worth seeing. It is playing again in Ottawa Monday May 12th at 6:15pm, and Tuesday May 13th at 9:15pm at the Bytowne Cinema. Other listings for playing times in various North American Cities can be found here.
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