The first major government building to be completed in Berlin by the National Socialist regime, later the House of Ministries in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and now the seat of the Federal Finance Ministry, the Reich Aviation Ministry is an archetypal palimpsest site, bearing the traces of multiple historical rewritings. Exploring the analytic potential of the palimpsest figure in the cultural history of the German dictatorships, Philpotts sets out to uncover two key moments of cultural-political appropriation: at the time of the Ministry's original design and construction under National Socialism in 1934–36, and at the time of the composition and installation of Max Lingner's socialist-realist mural in the GDR in 1950–53. Remarkably similar patterns emerge in each dictatorship, as the site's cultural-political present was inhabited not only by the regimes' ideological projections of the future but also by persistent and often subversive traces of the cultural-historical past. In this way, a “palimpsestuous” reading of the Ministry site highlights the profoundly and inherently ambivalent temporalities generated by the cultural-political projects of the twentieth-century dictatorships, as well as develops the palimpsest figure as a conceptual tool.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.