The Propaganda Exhibition “The Beautiful Town—Entschandelung and Design”: Stops in the “German East”, 1940–1942
The traveling exhibition “The Beautiful Town—Entschandelung and Design,” initiated by the Deutscher Heimatbund under Werner Lindner (1883–1964), toured the German Reich starting in 1938. Selected buildings of the organizing municipalities were integrated into the exhibiton. The Lehrschau visualized “bad buildings,” “advertising excesses” and their “ridding of disgraces” (Entschandelung), and attempted to present design principles. Werner Lindner and the German League for Homeland Protection thus positioned themselves alongside the official monument authorities. They succeeded in establishing legal foundations for these measures, which were mostly aimed at the facades of buildings. In 1943, the exhibition was discontinued due to the war, but its traces can still be found in surviving buildings until today. The design goals propagated were significant for German architecture in the postwar period. The exhibition can be seen as a counterpart in the field of architecture to the well-known propaganda show “Degenerate Art.” The starting point was the Entschandelung of Semlower Street in Stralsund in 1937. This term refers to the phenomenon of modern building cleanup, to the ideas of the German homeland security movement, and to the redevelopment of old towns in the first third of the twentieth century, which can only briefly be touched upon here. The special relationship to the “German East” became clear in Lindner’s design principles. These, with the works of ancient Prussian master builders and examples of site-specific building in the March of Brandenburg, had their basis in a building culture that was seen as inspired by the “German East.” The plans for the reconstruction of East Prussia during the First World War were another factor that has to be taken in account here. The conception of the “East” as an area in need of reorganization and planned settlement was shared by the exhibition initiators with other National Socialist protagonists of the “German East,” thus “The Beautiful Town” became part of Heinrich Himmler’s Volkstumspolitik. The presentations of the exhibition in Poznań (Posen), Łódź (Litzmannstadt) and Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) serve as examples of this.