Fascist and National Socialist Antiquities and Materialities from the Interwar Era to the Present Day: Fascism Volume 8, Issue 2

Guest-edited special issue of Fascism: Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies, December 2019.

Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, along with other twentieth-century authoritarian regimes, have often attempted to create consensus through propagandistic reinterpretations of the classical past. The Fascist appropriation of romanità and Nazi philhellenism were not only conditioned by prior cultural receptions of antiquity, but were also a key political tool in motivating and mobilising citizens to fulfil the aims of the fascist state.

Once Fascism and Nazism had fallen, the material legacies of both regimes then became the object of destruction, reinterpretation and memory work. Thus, the archaeological and architectural heritage of these regimes, now tainted by their ideology, has not only suffered the consequences of damnatio memoriae in the aftermath of regime change, but continues even today to inflame contemporary public debate.

This special issue is based on contributions to an interdisciplinary workshop exploring these themes, which was held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, on 8 June 2018.

Helen Roche’s article, ‘Mussolini’s ‘Third Rome’, Hitler’s Third Reich and the Allure of Antiquity: Classicizing Chronopolitics as a Remedy for Unstable National Identity?’ seeks to identify and analyse continuities in nationalist appeals to the ancient past over the longue durée, suggesting that the Fascist recourse to romanità and the Nazi recourse to philhellenism in fact represented the culmination or radicalisation of pre-existing national traditions which had also existed prior to unification. From this perspective, an analysis of fascist classicism can provide a discrete example of the way in which fascisms tend to appropriate the ideas and traditions which lie ready to hand in the nationalist canon, creating what we might term a ‘fascist national vernacular’.

Nicolò Bettegazzi, Han Lamers and Bettina Reitz-Joosse’s article, ‘Viewing Rome in the Latin Literature of the Ventennio Fascista: Francesco Giammaria’s Capitolium Novum, which emphasises the material Rome’s multivalency as a site of Catholic as well as fascist imaginaries, then provides a tellingly detailed case study of Fascist classicism’s indebtedness to prior intellectual and generic developments, as well as documenting a significant example of Fascist romanità in the (latinising) literary sphere.

James J. Fortuna’s article, ‘Fascism, National Socialism, and the 1939 New York World’s Fair’ then explores a rather different form of (often explicitly classicising) staged materiality – that of the plans and pavilions destined for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

Clare Copley’s article, ‘Stones do not Speak for Themselves: Disentangling Berlin’s Palimpsest’ then sets out to explore the controversial material legacies of the National Socialist and Fascist past. Copley analyses post-reunification discourses relating to the preservation of the Nazi ‘layers’ of Berlin’s urban palimpsest, focusing on the former Aviation Ministry, the Olympic Stadium, and Tempelhof Airport.

Finally, in his article Mare Nostrum: Italy and the Mediterranean of Ancient Rome in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries’, Samuel Agbamu explores the genesis and rhetorical antecedents of two Italian humanitarian operations codenamed ‘Mare Nostrum’ and ‘Mos Maiorum’, which were instigated during the recent Mediterranean refugee crisis, and which reveal some startling continuities in Fascist and post-Fascist political rhetoric and colonial fantasies.