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Typography and nationalism: The past and modernism under Nazi rule

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In 1941, the Nazi regime revoked the long-established convention of typesetting German texts in Fraktur styles.1 This study examines the significance of the messages conveyed by letterforms in Nazi propaganda and the extent to which the regime put into practice its professed typographic policies. Taking into account different audiences and channels, it focuses on books by the Ahnenerbe institute controlled by Heinrich Himmler, the women’s magazine NS-Frauen-Warte and the newspaper Völkischer Beobachter. Fraktur styles seem to have functioned as the main letterforms of the blood and soil ideology, but another strand of Nazi typography departed from Fraktur and probably translated the importance of the Oera Linda book and the Codex Aesinas in the image of a supposedly ‘Aryan’ past. Meanwhile, the Nazi propaganda incorporated forms and norms that it appropriated from modernist typography, a topic implicitly raised in the dispute between Max Bill and Jan Tschichold in 1946. Typography functioned as an instrument for exclusion, racial discrimination and gender stereotyping and to mark the boundaries of the ‘Aryan’ community, challenging the notion of print-language as intrinsically inclusive expressed in Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.
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Keywords: Ahnenerbe; Imagined Communities; Jan Tschichold; Max Bill; NS-Frauen-Warte; Nazi propaganda; Völkischer Beobachter; nationalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000404579566University of Reading

Publication date: June 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Visual Political Communication (formerly known as The Poster) is a forum for debate about the ways in which visual devices are used to form opinion, sway, persuade, provoke, unite and divide us. This peer-reviewed journal invites all scholars and practitioners of visual culture – its social operation, anthropology, philosophy, history, politics and creation – to join with us in an open debate about the ethics, aesthetics, effect and operation of visual rhetoric in the public sphere. A fully refereed and peer-reviewed through a rigorous process conducted by our international Editorial Board and team of Associate Editors, all selected for their ability to bring a unique insight into the applications of visual rhetoric in the public sphere and for their academic strength as researchers.

    Formerly published as The Poster (ISSN 2040-3704, Online ISSN 2040-3712)

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