Degenerate Fonts

Crooked Timber does us all a service by praising the stripped-down modernism of Barack Obama’s Berlin speech poster and informing us of yet another victim of Nazism — the Futura font:

After the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933, however, when the Dessau Bauhaus was closed (the school had moved from its original home in Weimar in 1925), it was forbidden to use modern design or sans-serif typefaces such as Futura, which Goebbels called a “Jewish invention.” Rigid, central balanced composition returned and traditional (and often illegible) Fraktur type was touted as symbolic of the glories of the nation.

7 thoughts on “Degenerate Fonts

  1. Wow, there is almost nothing correct in that paragraph, which, one should mention, is actually a quote from a book about German graphic design which can’t be very good. No, modern design and antiqua typefaces weren’t “forbidden”, and the blackletter typefaces that were used were often quite modern (e.g. Tannenberg, which has become the face of the Third Reich to some extent). It is mind-boggling how oblivious one would have to be of the actual visual appearance of Nazi propaganda to make such wholesale statements.

    Come to think of it, I’m not buying the Goebbels quote either. It’s plausible – the Nazis called everything they didn’t like Jewish – but why should I believe it when all else is wrong, and in absence of even such a pointer as “in a speech” or something.


  2. German Joys’ sexy, brilliant readers come through with an insta-debunking. Thanks.

    I guess I should note that the entire post I linked to does go one to temper some of the assertions in the block quote I picked out, so perhaps it’s not as bad as all that.


  3. @Sebastian Koppehel
    Wow, fascinating collection of Nazi propaganda posters. Many look pretty much like you would expect them to look (heavy use of fraktur), others look nearly Bauhaus like.

    This is one where Futura Bold was used – for a quote of Hitler. They even use fancy ligatures and the long s.

    My own little pet theory about this whole thing is that the Nazis didn’t care all that much about typefaces, even though there may have been certain trends in graphic design which shaped the way in which we see the graphic design of the Nazis now. And always remember: many thing in that whole Nazi ideology simply make no (logical) sense. Many things contradict each other. If it weren’t so sad you could probably laugh a whole lot about that the mess that is the Nazi ideology. Consistency is not one of the strengths of the Nazi ideology.


  4. Utter tosh. Quite to the contrary, Nazis even abandoned the use of black letter fonts and labeled them as “Schwabacher Judenlettern” (which doesn’t make any sense historically or typographically). According to some tome on typography whose title I can’t remember Fraktur was mainly given the boot because it was hard to read for foreigners, and thus considered unsuitable for international propaganda. (also cf.

    As for the “stripped-down modernism of Barack Obama’s Berlin speech poster”, Crooked Timber might be in for quite some disturbing surprise if he bothered to check the printed agitprop of Italian fascism, with its bonds to futurism (

    Unrelated: Lileks[1] has some unpleasant things to say on Obama’s Berlin speech[2] (who would’ve thunk?), he even likens him to Ronald Reagan and Paris Hilton (sort of), and I feel he makes a convincing case.



  5. And I feel his criticism of Obama’s speech is almost as empty and useless and vapid and free of content as Obama’s speech. But then, I am just glad Marek didn’t abuse his return to this blog for yet another islamophobe rant. However, I am still curious to know: what attracted you to Lileks’s blog? Was it the choice of fonts. Because, the content, come on…


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