Published in 1932 by Heinrich Hoffmann, the illustrated book The Hitler Nobody Knows tells of Hitler's popularity and successes in words and photographs. It is not just an example of political image propaganda, but a "model" for a multitude of politically motivated illustrated books that followed. This refers both to the multiple editions of photographic books published by Hoffmann’s company over many years, which sought to strengthen Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist system, as well as the personal political iconography similar in style to the handling of politicians after National Socialism which can be still be observed today. More than ever, image strategies based on photographs are being used for a politically motivated and a writing of history with intention, as can be observed in Hoffmann's books.
The dissertation was presented in March 2018 at the Art Research and Media Philosophy faculty of the University of Arts and Design and defended in the summer of the same year. It takes a significant selection of illustrated books produced under Heinrich Hoffman’s “label” as observational objects and subjects them to image-contextual analysis. The photographs here are not perceived as isolated appearances, but rather as reflexive corpus: reflecting the medium of context in which they appear (e.g. photo book); considering the modalities of the execution of these media context (e.g. editions); including the sequence or the overarching cluster of images from which they were taken (e.g. film strips or image archives); comprehending the corpus of analyzed topics in the discourse.
The Heinrich Hoffmann enterprise is considered from a media-analytic perspective, particularly against the backdrop of photo-technical industrialization and propagandistic marketing of the National Socialist ideology with Hitler as recurring (but not sole) motif. The narrative effectiveness of the photographic image in the political context of the Third Reich is a central point of reference. National Socialist image propaganda, which decisively influenced the image and popularity of Adolf Hitler with the photo-illustrated volumes edited by Heinrich Hoffmann in the period of 1932-1944, is thus the starting point and always central to Christina Irrgang’s analysis of the significance of the image in the mediation of the National Socialist ideology.
The work focuses on Heinrich Hoffmann’s self-portrayal, especially after the collapse of the National Socialist regime. As time and again, even experts rely on “Hoffmann’s stories” (interviews, manuscripts, publications) – a self-perception based on source texts or even embarrassment whether Heinrich Hoffmann’s few, “documented” statements solidify a myth-making written by one man who in 1947 in his first lawsuit by the tribunal Munich III, was sorted into group I and thus was originally considered the main culprit of the crimes of World War II; but from which he was able to absolve himself.
To what extent did Hoffmann really innovate or know how to effectively and accurately actuate image politics with the (technical) developments and media channels of his time, like Pete Souza for Barack Obama or Donald Trump's social media office? The serial treatment of photographically reproduced image and text, which produced and maintained the media staging of Hitler in the format of the narrative photo series or the photo book, gives rise to the thesis that the businessman Hoffmann deliberately developed Hitler’s image and power in terms of media strategy and ran it profitably with his “image manufacture.”
It was the technical reproducibility of photographic image material that made the reproduction of “almost real” images as a world view model possible. This development is fundamental to the emergence of media formats as seen in Hoffman’s selection. What is crucial here is that Heinrich Hoffmann’s prepared propagandistic photographs turn out to be contemporary historical documents that were once convincing in their media relevance beyond what was pictured. Hoffmann’s documents are products of an image campaign whose strategy the work Hoffmann’s Image Industry attempts to name and to summarize.
The approach of the work is to consider historical, art theoretical, media philosophical, legal, ethical, socio-cultural, political and conceptual implications in the analysis of Hoffman’s Image Industry and to re-think the topic with an interdisciplinary image-theoretical approach. The analysis delivers the marketed and produced image strategies in the National Socialist system under Heinrich Hoffmann. It is also a particularly important critical contribution with the backdrop of current rightwing populist tendencies and formulations.
Tutors: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (HfG Karlsruhe), Prof. Dr. Bernd Stiegler (Universität Konstanz)