Philhellenism and the Reception of Winckelmann during the Third Reich

Presented at an interdisciplinary workshop entitled ‘What Remains? Fascist Antiquities and Materialities from the Interwar Era to the Present Day’, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 8 June 2018.

This paper traced the reception of Winckelmann during the Third Reich, engaging in particular with contemporary interpretations of his work in educational periodicals. Scholars and educators under National Socialism attempted to construct a model of philhellenism for the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ which explicitly defined itself as descended from, yet opposed to, earlier manifestations of the phenomenon, especially as personified by Enlightenment figures such as Winckelmann.

These Nazified authors tended to see the ‘great’ eighteenth-century philhellenists as providing an important legacy on which the National Socialist Weltanschauung could draw, yet, at the same time, they often vociferously decried their intellectualization of philhellenism, and their ‘blindness’ in terms of racial theory.

This paper contains material from articles previously published in The Historical Journal and Publications of the English Goethe Society.