Beverly Sills, a famous reporter, once said, "Art is the signature of civilizations." Even this powerful declaration understates the true value of art. It has given today's society a glance into the past so that it can continue into the future; no one can know where they are going until they understand where they have been. Art brings to the table everything-whether positive or negative-that happened in history. Literature is history's most enduring form of art, but in today's culture cinematography has taken its place at the top of the influential pyramid.
Every new piece of literature created shapes the people who read it in the future. Everyone learns lessons from novels and appreciates their masterful story-telling. One such famous, albeit disputable, novel dictated by Adolf Hitler to Hess and Maurice is Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In many societies, Mein Kampf is taboo because people are outraged at the idea of having the younger generations exposed to Hitler's fascist ideas. Hitler's manipulation of people into doing unbelievably immoral acts while he was in power should be the focus of their outrage, not his novel. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf while on his rise to Fuhrer. His book simply explains the socialist and fascist ideas he mulled over while gaining power. Many people refuse to accept the notion that Hitler was a genius in the realm of orating and manipulation, and that his book cleverly contained ideas from political affiliates such as Friedrich Nietzsche.
If one cannot accept the novel as genius, one can certainly accept it as a witness against genocide. People should embrace the book and use it as an ethical guide for future leaders and followers. Art in literary form holds sacred values to be passed down from generation to generation. Without literature, mankind would wander without guidance and would eventually repeat terrible mistakes made by their predecessors. Plato wrote in his novel The Republic that he deemed writers and poets deceptive and dangerous; this seems hypocritical considering he penned these words for his fellow men to read. Literature is only dangerous to those who mistake the meaning of the words.
Every reader sees what he or she wants to see in a novel. "It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors." This quote from Oscar Wilde captures the exact emotion many people have against critics attempting to ban certain pieces of literature. A critic saying "This novel is pornographic," means that the critic altered a valuable message in the novel into something explicit; a problem with the reader, not the novel, needs to be rectified (PLBCAK). Adolf Hitler's biography only harms those who attempt to twist the bare essentials of the novel. Taking time to explain to a younger reader about Hitler's satanic acts against the Jewish population would eliminate any possible negative recursions the reader might have after reading Mein Kampf.
Another extremely influential and widely despised piece of art concerning Adolf Hitler is Leni Riefenstahl's documentary Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will). In the world of cinematography, Triumph of the Will is a masterpiece. The visual sequences brought about a cinematic revolution. Many producers feign ignorance about this remarkable film, but it seems suspicious that several of their film sequences match those of Leni Riefenstahl's. In Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Jackson portrayed the power and unity of the orcs by showing the viewer a perfectly symmetrical line of orcs marching into battle. Leni Riefenstahl showed the Nazi power and unity using this exact method at one of Hitler's rallies; each soldier walked perfectly in step with the person in front of him and behind him giving the viewer an overwhelming feeling of synchronization. It is hard to imagine that such stunning imagery would be chewed up by 'concerned viewers' and left to rot because of its objectionable content.
What makes art astounding is not the subject of the art, but the way the artist portrays the subject in a new and interesting way. Art is not "just for art's sake," it is meant to make the viewer question themselves and ponder a deeper meaning. Leni Riefenstahl wanted nothing more than to show Germany's beauty and power in a uniquely artistic way. She accomplished this feat even with the poor video quality of the 1940s. The unfortunate part of her cinematography is that Hitler ended up using Germany's power and beauty diabolically, rendering her flawless film not viewable by those who knew of Hitler's tyranny.
Even though Mein Kampf and Triumph des Willens both received condemnation from the masses, they helped shape future generations both ethically and artistically. Those who hold any art involving Hitler in contempt are ignorant of that artwork's value and are oblivious to the lessons they can procure from each original piece. Art is most precious in its unadulterated, uncensored form, and no one should ever allow it to be marred by stipulations about subject-matter. Every civilization's artwork has left an imprint on history, so why would we decide to commit genocide on artwork now when artistry can only get better?
"Art Quotations." Quoteland.com. 07 Nov 2007. 29 Apr 2008 <http://www.quoteland.com/>.
Hitler, Adolf. "Mein Kampf." Online Books. White Nationalists. 27 Apr 2008 <http://www.crusader.net/texts/mk/>.
Riefenstahl, Leni, dir. Triumph des Willens.1935.
Webb, Igor. Ideas Across Time. New York: The McGraw-Hill Company, 2008.