The Cultural Axis

Cultural concerns were vital to the imperial projects of Hitler and Mussolini. We do not normally associate their violent and aggressive regimes with “soft power.” But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals—Adolf Hitler a failed painter inebriated with the music of Wagner, and Mussolini a onetime schoolteacher and novelist. Unlike American philistines, they thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest. Benjamin Martin’s illuminating book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture adds a significant dimension to our understanding of how the Nazi and Fascist empires were constructed.

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