PaperCity Magazine

January 2019- Houston

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unearths a trove of damning information on the architect, via copious Freedom of Information requests and by quoting Johnson's own words. "Part of my re- search led me to the military, FBI, and Justice Department files that had inter- views with him," Lamster tells me. "In those, Johnson admits his contacts with the very highest echelons of the German security state." Lamster's reporting is chilling: In 1933, at age 28, the Ohio-born Johnson attended a Hitler Youth rally in Potsdam, Germany; that same year, he wrote an ar- ticle lauding Third Reich architecture. By 1934, Johnson left his post as a MoMA ar- chitecture curator to organize a pro-fascist activist group, which he hosted regularly at the New York apartment he shared with his sister. Johnson secretly kept a list of attendees, which he is suspected of sharing with the Nazis for their propa- ganda efforts. In 1938, he attended the notorious Nuremberg rally, where John- son found himself "carried away" by the F├╝hrer's magnetism. He participated in several pro-Nazi rallies at Madison Square Garden in New York and spent summers in Germany consorting with high-rank- ing Nazi officials. He also associated with German officials in Washington D.C., and New York. Johnson visited Hitler Youth camps and reviewed the status of Ger- many's national building program with government officials. He wrote essays on Nazism for the pro-fascist journal, The Examiner. Johnson narrowly escaped the sedition charges that ensnared other pro- Nazi Americans during World War II, in part due to his high profile and social connections, but also because he had not violated any laws. He used his personal wealth to promote the Nazi cause, par- tially bankrolling a pro-fascist pamphlet published by Nazi sympathizer Lawrence Dennis. He was also a financial benefactor of the Christian Mobilizers, a virulently anti-Semitic organization run by Joseph E. McWilliams. American Journalist Ern- est Pope, who knew Johnson in Germany, told the FBI he suspected Johnson was an informant for the Gestapo. "While Johnson cloaked himself behind a veneer of respectable intellectualism," Lamster writes, "He was not only aware of but actively supported the more brutal repre- sentatives of the fascist cause in America." Yet, as revolting as these revelations are, we are mesmerized by the spectacle. "You can't take your eyes off him," Lam- ster tells me. "He was charming and witty and brilliant. On the other hand, he could be cruel, and represented many of the things I find objectionable." In his later years, Johnson expressed deep remorse for his behavior but never acknowledged his complicity with the Nazi state, which even now remains unresolved, Lamster writes. During his career, Johnson built synagogues for free, designed a nucle- ar power plant for Israel, and cultiva- ted Jewish friends. "He did these things as acts of contrition, but they were also to quell criticism," Lamster tells me. The architect died in 2005 after a long and acclaimed career that produced some of the country's most celebrated architec- ture. "As for whether or not we forgive his trespasses, that's an individual decision each person has to make," Lamster says. 45 The 1948 Glass House designed by Philip Johnson in New Canaan, Connecticut. Mark Lamster in Dallas at the Beck House, designed by Philip Johnson.

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