Hitler loved art. His taste tended toward classicism. The Greek ideal of beauty was his general standard in aesthetics. He once wrote the following memorandum about how he guaranteed that he would get “good” art for the Munich Museum. “I have inexorably adhered to the following principle,” Hitler wrote.

If some self-styled artist submits trash for the Munich exhibition, then he is a swindler, in which case he should be put in prison; or he is a madman, in which case he should be in an asylum; or he is a degenerate, in which case he must be sent to a concentration camp to be “reeducated” and taught the dignity of honest labor. In this way I have ensured that the Munich exhibition… More…

Berlin in the 21st century is something of an experiment with aftermath. How does a city that has been through so much and caused so much pain carry on and heal its wounds? You can’t just get Old Testament on the place, burn it to the ground and salt the earth. If we Sodom and Gomorrhaed the location of every atrocity, we’d have no place left to live. And so post-World War II and post-Berlin Wall, various techniques are explored. There was a taboo phase, and the bad things were never discussed. Then there was an “educate the children” phase. A writer told me that the children used to be forced into six-week-long courses on the Final Solution. They were told that their parents were responsible or at the very least participants, and if they were told any differently, they were being lied to.

 

Pacifism is like virginity. It doesn’t work half way. Anybody can be a pacifist when nothing is at stake. The trick is to be a pacifist even in the face of aggression against oneself or the people one cares about. The principle of pacifism, genuine pacifism, is that violence is always counterproductive. Always. A corollary principle is that wars are always bad for everyone involved. Wars, in that sense, are never winnable. Never. Any position that varies from this line isn’t really pacifism. It is more like prudence or restraint. It is saying that war ought to be avoided but that it’s still a genuine option.

It turns out that Nicholson Baker, the author of such bestselling novels as Vox and The Mezzanine, is a hardcore pacifist. His newest book, Human Smoke, is about the lead-up to and… More…