The Myth of the Aviator and the Flight to Fascism

Colin Cook looks at the political, philosophical and cultural impact of the idea of aviation in the first half of the 20th century.

The week-long Nuremberg rally of 1934 marked Hitler’s first year as Reich chancellor, and was a grandiose symbol of the Nazi Party’s triumph against the odds in shaping Germany’s future. In the opening sequence of Triumph of the Will , Leni Riefenstahl’s famous film documenting the event, Hitler flies over Nuremberg in an aeroplane which casts a crucifix shadow over the land. The symbolism was no accident: the film represented a new Germany, reborn and free of suffering on the First World War cross of defeat and humiliation. The aeroplane was the embodiment of the message borne by Hitler: Germany would be free to fulfil its historic mission.

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