How did the Second World War affect the Nazis?

There are irritating photographs from Adolf Hitler's early political days, in which, for example, he is posing in traditional folk costume. The photographer Heinrich Hoffmann photographed him several times in a jacket and short leather trousers in the late 1920s. It was not until 1933 that Hitler banned trading in such images. Perhaps he had suspected that he was showing a nakedness in these Lederhosen photos that was already scratching the edge of ridiculousness.

Nonetheless, these recordings show that National Socialism tried to take over social life right down to clothing. The relationship between Nazi ideology and reality in rural areas is of course far from being fully explored. The current special exhibition in the open-air museum Glentleiten, which is dedicated to this topic in a considerable breadth and depth, is all the more welcome. Among other things, it becomes clear that the Nazis even used the short lederhosen for their own purposes, of all things that piece of clothing that was once popularized by the mountain costume associations and today stands for Bavarian folklore and way of life around the world.

Many NSDAP members began to wear lederhosen and jackets after their party uniforms were banned in the 1920s. Last but not least, they wanted to attract the traditional costume clubs to their side. "However, they by no means wanted to preserve the diversity of the costumes," says Jan Borgmann, co-curator of the exhibition.

For example, Heinz Hecker's pamphlet "Traditional costumes" from 1939 is shown, which propagated a new uniform costume as a common symbol of the German national community. The aim of the Nazis was to uniformize the masses with a uniform national costume, whereas they defamed church-motivated costumes or regional costumes such as those of the Ochsenfurt Gau as degenerate.

The topic of traditional costumes only outlines a small section of the special show, which illuminates the effects of the Third Reich in rural areas in a variety of ways. Ultimately, National Socialism affected all areas of everyday life, from agriculture to clubs. And yet so much has not yet been told, especially if you look at the country, where political and social changes are becoming a little more hesitant.

"The Nazi era was not an issue there for a long time," says Borgmann. But a lot has improved in the meantime. The community of Murnau is currently engaged in a research project with its Nazi past.

Here as there, the Nazis tried to always show a strong presence. For example, with an obtrusive flag that should make it clear to the population: We are everywhere, nobody gets by. In the country in particular, every profession was extremely monitored and controlled, even in the farthest hamlet. This is frighteningly clear in the example of farmers. "The work of the German farmer is the bread of the people."

The quote from Hermann Reischle, the staff officer of the Reichsbauernführer, from 1936 can be found on a tear-off calendar for 1941. The farmer should be ideologically upgraded. The work in agriculture is the basis of the supply of the people and army, it was said, and for this the peasants had to be shown respect and honor. On the other hand, there was no escape for farmers when it came to food deliveries.

Through the local farmers' leaders, the Nazis knew very well about the income situation on each farm. A honey extractor from a household in Murnau can be seen in the exhibition. Even in this the tyranny is reflected. The formula "Sieg Heil" can be read on the hand crank wheel. In this respect, the device boldly shows the deep roots of the Nazi ideology in parts of the population. The hand crank wheel, turning incessantly during the work process, repeated the mantra of the Nazis like a prayer wheel.

The subtitle of the exhibition contrasts ideology and reality in rural Bavaria in the 1930s and 1940s. "This discrepancy is not always easy to work out," says Borgmann. This works relatively well with a view to the rural women of the time. According to the Nazis, they should take on the role of the mother who runs the household. But that was no longer possible during the war. From then on the women had to run the farms alone, the ideological goal could no longer be met.

Persecution and violence were also common in the countryside. The exhibition documents how brutally anti-Semitism developed there too. Synagogues were desecrated, the Jewish population was expelled or deported to extermination camps. At the same time, there was massive use of forced labor and prisoners of war in agriculture to replace the farmers who were drawn to war. The exhibition, which incidentally is a joint project of the southern German open-air museums, uses interviews, films and animations to show us an evil time that lasted well beyond 1945. The consequences of this can sometimes be felt up to the present day.

People's home village. Ideology and Reality in Rural Bavaria in the 1930s and 1940s. Open-air museum Glentleiten, Großweil, until July 9th, Tue-Sun 9 am-6pm. Lectures: May 21 (search for traces in Bad Tölz) and July 8 (society and National Socialism in Upper Bavaria), Tel. 08851 / 185-0.