Arthur Schopenhauer – The Philosophy of the Will

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation) , in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
Influenced to some degree by Eastern thought, his faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept the possibility of atheism.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ – (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason), which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.

Four classes of explanation fall under the principle’s rubric. Hence, four classes of objects occur always and already only in relation to a knowing subject, according to a correlative capacity within the subject. These classes are summarized as follows: becoming, knowing, being and willing.

Richard Wagner
Alfred Rosenberg

He has influenced a long list of individuals, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Otto Weininger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Mann, Adolf Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg.
Schopenhauer’s theory of music, along with his emphasis upon artistic genius and the world-as-suffering, was also influential among composers such as Johannes Brahms, Hans Pfitzner, Sergei Prokofiev, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Richard Wagner.
Richard Wagner, writing in his autobiography, remembered his first impression that Schopenhauer left on him (when he read  ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’):
Schopenhauer’s book was never completely out of my mind, and by the following summer I had studied it from cover to cover four times. It had a radical influence on my whole life.’

‘Tristan und Isolde’

Wagner also commented that “serious mood, which was trying to find ecstatic expression” created by Schopenhauer inspired the conception of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.
Schopenhauer’s influence on ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is most evident in the second and third acts. The second act, in which the lovers meet, and the third act, during which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer’s work.

Parsifal

The world-view of Schopenhauer dictates that the only way for man to achieve inner peace is to renounce his desires: a theme that Wagner explored fully in his last and greatest opera, ‘Parsifal’.
In fact Wagner even considered having the character of Parsifal meet Tristan during his sufferings in Act 3, but later rejected the idea.
Friedrich Nietzsche owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’, and admitted that he was one of the few philosophers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).

Untimely Meditations (German: Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen), also translated as Unfashionable Observations[1] and Thoughts Out Of Season) consists of four works by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, started in 1873 and completed in 1876.

Jorge Luis Borges remarked that the reason he had never attempted to write a systematic account of his world view, despite his penchant for philosophy and metaphysics in particular, was because Schopenhauer had already written it for him.

Adolf Hitler and Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein

As a teenager, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was a school-fellow of Adolf Hitler, was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer’s epistemological idealism.

Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a profound effect on Adolf Hitler when they were both pupils at the Realschule (lower secondary school) in Linz, Austria, in the early 1900s. Interestingly, a few days before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler personally granted Mischling status to the Wittgenstein siblings – which included Ludwig.

Schopenhauer’s 19th century historical profile is frequently obscured by the shadows of Kant, Hegel,  Mill, Darwin and Nietzsche, but more than is usually recognized, in his rejection of rationalistic conceptions of the world as early as 1818, he perceived the shape of things to come.

Adolf Hitler


As a consequence of his monistic philosophy, Schopenhauer, like Adolf Hitler, was very concerned about the welfare of animals.

For him, all individual animals, including humans, are essentially the same, being phenomenal manifestations of the one underlying Will.
The word “will” designated, for him, force, power, impulse, energy, and desire; it is the closest word we have that can signify both the real essence of all external things, and also our own direct, inner experience.
Since everything is basically Will, then humans and animals are fundamentally the same, and can recognize themselves in each other.
For this reason, he claimed that a good person would have sympathy for animals, who are our fellow sufferers. 
Schopenhauer was also one of the first philosophers since the days of Greek philosophy to address the subject of male homosexuality.
In the third, expanded edition of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the “Metaphysics of Sexual Love”.
He also wrote that homosexuality did have the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children.
Concerning this, he stated, “… the activity we are considering appears to work directly against the aims and ends of nature, and that in a matter that is all important and of the greatest concern to her, it must in fact serve these very aims, although only indirectly, as a means for preventing greater evils.”

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Arthur Schopenhauer – a Brief Biography


Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse, the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Königreich Preußen annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.


Königreich Preußen
Arthur Schopenhauer as a Boy

In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.

Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’.

In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin, however, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.

Arthur Schopenhauer as a Young Man

Schopenhauer had a strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer.
After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two years of drudgery as a merchant, in honour of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
Later he went to live with his mother, but by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the ways of the salon.
Consequently, he attempted university life.

Arthur Schopenhauer in Old Age


In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on ageing,  were published posthumously under the title ‘Senilia’.
Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch with his cat. He was 72.

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‘Honour means that a man is not exceptional; fame, that he is.
Fame is something which must be won; honour, only something which must not be lost.’

Arthur Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of the Will

A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’.

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time.
The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the word. In his works such as ‘Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte’, he uses the phrase ‘der Geist seiner Zeit’ (the spirit of his time) – for example, “no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spiritOther philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Voltaire. Hegel believed that art reflected, by its very nature, the time of the culture in which it is created. Culture and art are inextricable because an individual artist is a product of his or her time and therefore brings that culture to any given work of art.

Emanuel Kant
Hegel

Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism, and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason.
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.

For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants“.
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject“.

Fichte
Descartes

This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.

To Schopenhauer, the Will is a malignant, metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena; an evil to be terminated via mankind’s duties: asceticism and chastity.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation“.
Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘Ding-an-sich‘ – (thing-in-itself).”
Nietzsche was greatly influenced by this idea of Will, while developing it in a different direction.




Art and Aesthetics

Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics result from his doctrine of the primacy of the Will as the ‘thing in itself’, the ground of life and all being; and from his judgement that individuation of the Will is evil.
Schopenhauer held that art offers a way for people to temporarily escape the suffering that results from willing.
Basing his doctrine on the dual aspect of the world as will and the world as representation, he taught that if consciousness or attention is fully engrossed, absorbed, or occupied with the world as painless representations or images, then there is no consciousness of the world as painful willing.
Aesthetic pleasure results from being a spectator of “the world as representation” [mental image or idea] without any experience of “the world as will” [need, craving, urge].
Art, according to Schopenhauer, also provides essential knowledge of the world’s objects in a way that is more profound than science or everyday experience.
For Schopenhauer, the Will is an aimless desire to perpetuate itself, the basis of life.
Desire engendered by the Will is the source of all the sorrow in the world; each satisfied desire leaves us either with boredom, or with some new desire to take its place.
A world in thrall to Will is necessarily a world of suffering. Since the Will is the source of life, and our very bodies are stamped with its image and designed to serve its purpose, the human intellect is, in Schopenhauer’s simile, like a lame man who can see, but who rides on the shoulders of a blind giant.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics is an attempt to break out of the pessimism that naturally comes from this world view.
Schopenhauer believed that what distinguished aesthetic experiences from other experiences is that contemplation of the object of aesthetic appreciation temporarily allowed the subject a respite from the strife of desire, and allowed the subject to enter a realm of purely mental enjoyment, the world purely as representation or mental image.
The more a person’s mind is concerned with the world as representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will.
Schopenhauer analysed art from its effects, both on the personality of the artist, and the personality of the viewer.
Schopenhauer believed that while all people were in thrall to the Will, the quality and intensity of their subjection differed:
Only through the pure contemplation . . . which becomes absorbed entirely in the object, are the Ideas comprehended; and the nature of genius consists precisely in the preëminent ability for such contemplation. . . . This demands a complete forgetting of our own person.
The aesthetic experience temporarily emancipates the subject from the Will’s domination and raises them to a level of pure perception.
On the occurrence of an aesthetic appreciation, the will thereby vanishes entirely from consciousness.”
Genuine art cannot be created by anyone who merely follows standard artistic rules.
A genius is required, that is, a person who creates original art without concern for rules.
The personality of the artist was also supposed to be less subject to Will than most: such a person was a Schopenhauerian genius, a person whose exceptional predominance of intellect over Will made them relatively aloof from earthly cares and concerns.
The poet living in a garret, the absent-minded professor, are (at least in the popular mind) examples of Schopenhauer’s geniuses: so fixed on their art that they neglect the “business of life” that in Schopenhauer’s mind meant only the domination of the evil and painful Will.
For Schopenhauer, the relative lack of competence of the artist and the thinker for practical pursuits was no mere stereotype: it was cause and effect.
Schopenhauer believed that what gives arts such as literature and sculpture their value was the extent to which they incorporated pure perceptions.
But, being concerned with human forms and human emotions, these art forms were inferior to music, which being a direct manifestation of will, was to Schopenhauer’s mind the highest form of art.

Richard Wagner

Schopenhauer’s philosophy of music was influential in the works of Richard Wagner.
Wagner was an enthusiastic reader of Schopenhauer, and recommended the reading of Schopenhauer to his friends.
His published works on music theory changed over time, and became more aligned with Schopenhauer’s thought, over the course of his life.
Schopenhauer had stated that music was more important than libretto in opera.
Music is, according to Schopenhauer, an immediate expression of will, the basic reality of the experienced world.
Libretto is merely a linguistic representation of transient phenomena.
Wagner emphasized music over libretto in his later works, after reading Schopenhauer’s aesthetic doctrine.
In proposing that art could offer deliverance from the Will, Schopenhauer elevated art from mere decoration, and held that art potentially offered temporary deliverance from the aimless strife of the Will in nature.
In effect, Schopenhauer turned art into a substitute religion by offering a doctrine of salvation through aesthetic experiences.
Artists were not merely skilled hands; they were the priests or prophets of this doctrine.
This teaching goes far to explain Schopenhauer’s appeal to members of the creative communities over the second half of the nineteenth century.
His doctrine of aesthetics justified artistic work as a matter of highest importance in human society.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics remain influential today, and are one of the most lasting parts of his philosophy.
Their appeal to later generations of Romantics, and to all schools of bohemianism, is demonstrated.
Wagner sent Schopenhauer a note expressing deep gratitude for Schopenhauer’s discussion of music.

Thomas Mann

Schopenhauer’s philosophy in general left a deep impression on a number of important writers, especially Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust, Stéphane Mallarmé, Thomas Mann, and Ivan Turgenev.
Schopenhauer’s aesthetics were directly responsible for the rise of the ‘Symbolists’ and their allied movements, and to the general development of the concept of ‘art for art’s sake’.

Friedrich Nietzsche

It deeply influenced the aesthetics of Friedrich Nietzsche, although he ultimately rejected Schopenhauer’s conception of Will as evil, whose famous opposition of the Apollonian and Dionysian is a translation of Schopenhauer’s opposition of intellect against will in terms of Greek mythology.
Santayana praised Schopenhauer’s doctrine that tragedy benefited audiences because it helped them to deny the will–to–live and to turn away from life. “Schopenhauer thought tragedy beautiful because it detached us from a troubled world and did not think a troubled world good, as those unspeakable optimists did, because it made such a fine tragedy. It is pleasant to find that among all these philosophers one at least was a gentleman.”


In Retrospect


There is a danger in interpreting the text of some long gone author, let alone of some heavyweight philosopher, such as Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860).

The interpreter tends to look at parts of the author’s prose that may best suit his own conclusions, while avoiding parts that other critics may find more relevant, and which the interpreter may consider either incomprehensible or irrelevant.
This is true for Schopenhauer in so far as he deals in his multi-layered work with diverse subject matters, ranging from the theories of knowledge, to the role of women, sex, eugenics, religion, etc., while offering aphoristic formulas on how to live a more or less liveable life. 

Moreover, in his entire work Schopenhauer deals extensively with the perception of objective reality, our self-perception, and how our self-perception reflects itself in the perception of the Other, for instance in the mind of my political foe or friend.

Sigmund Freud

It’s no wonder that when Schopenhauer is read along with some post-modern authors, his work can retrospectively yield some ground-breaking insights, of which even he was not aware.

The devil is often in the details, but harping on the details alone may often overshadow the whole.
Just because Schopenhauer was critical of Jewish monotheism, or made some critical remarks about women, should not lead us to the conclusion that he was a standard-bearer of anti-Semitism or a hater of women.
The fact that Adolf Hitler was one of his avid readers should not overshadow the fact that the father of modern psychoanalysis, the Jewish-born Austrian Sigmund Freud, learned a great deal from him on the how irrational will is expressed in sexual drive.

An Apolitical Meta-Politician
  

Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will.’

(Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.)
Arthur Schopenhauer

How relevant is Arthur Schopenhauer ?
Friedrich Nietzsche

At first sight Schopenhauer’s prose may be dated for our understanding of the world today.
Schopenhauer can be catalogued as a thinker of the so-called intellectual conservative revolution in so far as many thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Vilfredo Pareto, Julius Evola and others, one hundred years later, were heavily influenced by his writings.

Neither can these authors be properly understood unless the reader becomes familiar with Schopenhauer’s writings first.
Secondly, Schopenhauer’s teachings about the primacy of the will spearheading our perception of reality can also be of help in grasping the political hype-rreality of the modern liberal system.
Schopenhauer’s name is usually associated with cultural pessimism.
Nevertheless, he is far from the caricature of a suicidal author harping ceaselessly on the culture of death, as was the case with many of his 20th-century successors, including the magisterial Emile Cioran.
In his aphorisms Schopenhauer provides some handy recipes as to how to minimize a life of pain and sorrow, and how to discard the dangerous illusion of happiness.
As a fine connoisseur of human psychology, Schopenhauer justly remarks that where there is a violent outburst of joy, a disaster looms just around the corner.
It is therefore with maximum efforts that we need to curb shifts in our mood: anxiety is just the other side of ecstasy.
One must not give vent to great jubilation or to great sorrow as the changeability of all things can transfigure those at any moment.
By contrast, one must enjoy the “here and now,” possibly in a cheerful manner — this is the wisdom of life. (Die Kunst glücklich zu sein. C.H. Beck 1999, p. 56).
Schopenhauer does not deal with political treatises in his work, nor does he discuss the political sociology of the rapidly industrializing Europe, or governmental institutions of his time.
The political changes he witnessed, however dramatic they were, such as the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the rise to power of America, and the post-Napoleonic era, were of no interest to him.
Quite consistent with his misanthropic views about human nature, he stayed above the political and historical fray to the point of total disinterestedness.
Schopenhauer refuses any formula for any ontological, political, or ethical system whatsoever. Instead, he demolishes all doctrines and all systems, be they religious or political.
He resented politics, and he can be justly depicted as an “anti–intellectual” in a modern sense of the word.
For Schopenhauer, the world is fundamentally absurd, and no political philosophy can alter its absurdity.
A French theoretician of post-modernity  the philosopher Clément Rosset, is probably one of the best authors who summarized the significance of Schopenhauer for our times.

“Man has forever been successful in passing off past events for new events.
He has been thought to be able to act within free and regenerating time.
In reality, though, he has been in the arms of the cadaver.
A retrospective horror extends to his past, in which he has lived ever since, although, just like his future, that time had lapsed for good.
This time-illness, a profound source of intuition about the absence of all finality, expresses itself in the obsessive theme of repetition.” (Clément Rosset, Schopenhauer, Philosophe de l’Absurde, 1967, p. 97).

In other words, however much we may yearn to affect the flow of time, or assign it some goal or purpose, its merciless cyclical nature always bring us to further delusions and the inevitable status quo.
Nowhere is this absurd repetitive will of living visible as in man’s sexual desire – which Schopenhauer describes in his famous chapter and essay “The Metaphysics of Sex.”
Once a sexual appetite is assuaged, the will continues to manifest itself again and again in ceaseless sameness of sexual desire.
It follows from this absurd repetitiveness that the entire history of the human species is the entanglement of re-enactments.
World affairs and political decision-making are manifestations of a self-inflicted desire for something new.
Based on such perceptions of repetitive reality, Schopenhauer shows no interest in history, noting that it is always the same people who take the world stage, with the same ideas, albeit framed in a different rhetoric.
In short, his target of criticism is the philosophy of optimism, and the idea of progress which lay embedded in the eighteenth century teaching of the Enlightenment.
For Schopenhauer there is nothing new under the sun, as with every fleeting second the new becomes the old and the old becomes the new; the wheel of time turns forever.
Time for Schopenhauer is devoid of historicity, therefore, a study of some historical event, or of some political drama, is totally irrelevant.
Schopenhauer advocates the abandoning of the illusory will to create a better world..
Despite his static philosophy that rejected human and political betterment, Schopenhauer ventures often in his lengthy work into interesting and well-founded analyses, such as his brief study on the importance of heredity.
But one must be careful not to extrapolate his scattered comments on race and heredity and assume that they make up the bulk of his work.
He believed in the hereditary improvement of mankind, and some of his remarks about biological betterment are highly relevant.
Irrespective of the fact that he does not delve much into the subject of heredity, one must agree that Schopenhauer could be easily used as a weapon by modern sociobiologists or race realists.

“If we could castrate all scoundrels, and shut up all stupid geese in monasteries and give persons of noble character a whole harem and provide men, and indeed complete men, for all maidens of mind and understanding, a generation would soon arise what would produce a better age than that of Pericles” (The World as Will and Idea, p. 331, “Heredity.”)

In another context, Schopenhauer reiterated his antidemocratic-eugenic thesis:

If you want Utopian plans, I would say: the only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women. This proposal constitutes my Utopia and my Platonic Republic“.

Analysts have suggested that Schopenhauer’s advocacy of anti-egalitarianism and eugenics influenced the neo-aristocratic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who initially considered Schopenhauer his mentor.
Schopenhauer’s remarks on heredity are perfectly compatible with his teachings on the independence of the will.
Just as we can never change the predetermined nature of our genes and our genealogy, we cannot change the predetermined nature of the will:

“The only freedom that exists is of a metaphysical character. In the physical world freedom is an impossibility. .. The will itself, as something that lies beyond time, and so long as it exists at all, never changes…  Hence it is that every man achieves only that which is irrevocably established in his nature, or is born with him. (Free Will and Fatalism).

The Will vs. the Deceptive Reality

The main driving force of the entire university is the will.
Ideas, concepts and images are merely the objectification of our will at different levels of perception. 
The will is a blind force; it is subject neither to time nor to space, neither does it obey the principles of causality, nor is it subject to accidents.
In this sense Schopenhauer represents a big break with the teachings of rationalists and idealists of his time, who were enamoured with the principles of causality, and henceforth viewed necessity as a cornerstone of life on Earth.
Schopenhauer stood out as an oddity in his times which were imbued with the heritage of the Enlightenment.
The will is more important than the thought, however, at the conceptual level, as some scholars pointed out, one must carefully distinguish between the will and the instinct, as his later critical admirer and commentator, the National-Socialist Minister, Alfred Rosenberg, noted in his chapter “Will and Instinct” in his now famous book, ‘The Myth of the 20th Century’. 

“Will is always the opposite of instinct (“Trieb”), and not identical with it, as Schopenhauer seemed to teach.”

In other words contrary to Schopenhauer, Rosenberg objects that Schopenhauer uses the term “will” in an overly general manner.
Similar to Nietzsche and his followers, Rosenberg argues for the “implementation” of the free will for Promethean and political goals, while contrasting it to the primeval biological impulses which he calls the “instinct.” (Trieb).
Man is originally not a being of knowledge but a creature of instinct and will – a will that comes alive in cyclical time and in a non-linear way.
Will is the fundamental reality of the world, the ‘thing-in-itself’, and its objectification is what is visible in external phenomena, such as objects or political events that we witness daily.
In practical life the antagonism between the will and reason arises from the fact that the will is a metaphysical substance, whereas the reason is something accidental and secondary: an “appendage” to the will.
The will is an autonomous desire, that is to say, an irrational need to act or to do something.
The will is free in every single thought process and action, but it need not and generally does not follow the precepts of reason.
Unlike the majority of philosophers of his time, including Hegel, Schopenhauer does not hold reason in high regard.
Our illusions, based on self-serving perceptions, remain so entrenched despite the most sophisticated appeals to reason.
Therefore, Schopenhauer can be justly labelled as the greatest anti-rationalist philosopher of all time. Only the genius has some capacity for objectivity in so far as he can harness his will and become the pure knowing subject.
The absurdity of Schopenhauer’s “free” will is that man is enslaved by it without ever knowing its origin and reason.
Humans act but do not know why they act the way they do: apart from a few geniuses, their self perceptions are nothing more than illusions.
This leads us to a dreadful life, full of anguish on the one hand and ecstatic expectations on the other. 
The absurdity of our will is not how to reach the river and quench our thirst: the absurdity consists in the will for being thirsty !
The will has no cause and, given that it excludes causality, it does not have any necessity or purpose.
That the being is without any necessity is already a dreadful problem.
But that this very being is in addition unhappy and miserable only emphasizes the absence of a raison d’être. (Rosset, p. 16)
Schopenhauer’s theories of representation and perception can easily rank him today in the category of the founding fathers of post-modern theory of the Double and the Hyperreal.
Everything that we see is fleeting “representations” and not the actual physical phenomena.
We dream even when we are awake. 
Well, how then tell the difference between the real political truth and the fabricated political truth?
Schopenhauer is a crucial source in understanding the psychopathological impact of religions, myths and the systems of beliefs.
At times he labels them “allegories” whereas in other places he describes them as the “metaphysics of the masses” or “people’s metaphysics” (Volksmetaphysik).
Just as people have popular poetry and the popular wisdoms or proverbs, they also need popular metaphysics.
They need an interpretation of life; and this interpretation must be suited for their comprehension.
The great majority of humans have at best a weak faculty for weighing reasons and discriminating between the fact and the fiction.  Does this sound familiar?
No belief system, no ideology, no religion is immune from self-serving delusional tenets linked to false perceptions of reality, although, in due time, each of them will undergo the process of demythologization and eventually become a laughing stock for those who see the illusions underlying these delusional myths.
We can illustrate this changing masquerade of history repeating itself when observing the mindset of modern opinion makers.
People have always wished, by means of different allegories, to transcend their cursed reality and make frequent excursions into the spheres of the hyper-real  the unreal, or the surreal – in order to offset the absurdity of their existence.
It is natural that they resort to religious and ideological devices, however aberrant or criminal these allegorical devices may subsequently turn out to be.
Accordingly, the motor of religious mass mimicry, which Schopenhauer describes, is again our objectified will.
Consequently, the whole course of human life is patterned along the principle of imitation, where even the smallest thing in our perception is borrowed from that role model who is viewed now as a path-breaking innovator or a new messiah.
Mimicry is the powerful motor of the will, the theme which was later expanded by Schopenhauer’s disciples, such as Gustave Le Bon.
Intelligent individuals amidst our modern rootless masses realize that some beliefs are fraudulent and harmful, but for the sake of social conformity they accept them.
They will rather listen to others than trust their own head.
As Schopenhauer writes, the bad thing about all religions is that instead of being able to admit their allegorical nature, they conceal it.
Absurdities form an essential part of popular beliefs.
Schopenhauer’s teaching on religions, including his denunciation of the will to political power, was borrowed from the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.
He has good words for Catholicism though, which for him is a religion of pessimism (The World as Will and Idea, p. 372).
But it would be a serious error, based on a fragmentary reading of his work, to conclude that he was rejecting one religion at the expense of the other.
Although Schopenhauer may be described as an atheist or agnostic, his sense of spirituality was very strong.
Of all religions Judaism is the worst religion, notes Schopenhauer in his famous book ‘Parerga und Paralipomena’.

“The genuine religion of the Jews … is the crudest of all religions (die roheste aller Religionen.) The ongoing contempt for Jews, amidst their contemporary peoples, may have been to a large degree due to the squalid (armsälig) qualities of their religion. … In any case the essence of any religion consists, as such, in its persuasion that it provides for us, namely that our actual existence is not only limited to our life, but that it remains timeless. The appalling (erbärmlich) Jewish region does not fulfil this; indeed, it does not even try to. … Therefore, this is the crudest and the worst of all religions consisting only in an absurd and outrageous (empörend) theism. … While all other religions endeavour to explain to the people by symbols and parables the metaphysical significance of life, the religion of the Jews is entirely immanent and furnishes nothing but a mere war-cry (Kriegsgeschrei) in the struggle with other nations” (pp. 136–137).

Some of Schopenhauer’s words about the power of the blind will can easily be applied to our post-modern times – for example, how the will to believe in something has been hijacked by liberal political elites.

The Hyperreal: The Denial and its Double

We can now jump over to the 20th and 21st century and observe how Schopenhauer’s ideas provide a good fit to the mass illusions accompanying the rising tide of the democratic mystique.
How does the will objectify itself in the political arena today ?
Politicians are inclined to project their perception of the real world into its embellished Double. Example: None of us is entirely happy with his looks; no political theorist is happy with the world as it is.
We all strive to be someone else; we all wish to project either our physique or the present political order into its loftier, distant, and more romantic substitute.
As a result, the masses, but also our politicians, assess values and objective reality not as they are, but rather as they’d like to see them.
Our passionate need for a change, as a rule, results in inevitable disappointments and feelings of betrayal.
Following Schopenhauer’s logic, it is a serious error to assume that some contemporary politician is a liar or a crook just because we feel or think that we are being cheated or oppressed by him.
More likely, such wicked political leaders are themselves the victims of self-delusions.
Their manic desire for world improvement is based on honest and self-proclaimed “scientific”, “reasonable,” and “truthful” wishful thinking, which they benevolently wish to share with us or with their subjects or constituents.
To illustrate the will for self-delusion, one may observe contemporary leftists and antifascist militants within Schopenhauer’s framework of analysis.
What they say is already based on their prior self-persuasions, which are the reflections of the prevailing beliefs of their time.
Pareto, as a valiant disciple of Schopenhauer’s methods, notes that ”many people are not socialists because they have been persuaded by reasoning. Quite the contrary; these people acquiesce to such reasoning because they are (already) socialists.”
Their will, however aberrantly it may objectify itself in the ravings for some communistic mystique, defies any empirical argument.
Schopenhauer is of paramount importance in understanding our perception of postmodern reality, or our hyperreality, as some authors call it.
The surreal world of the liberal dogma – that is, the world in which we live – fits perfectly Schopenhauer’s teaching on the flawed perception of the real.
Moreover, Schopenhauer’s work is a useful tool for deciphering liberal mendacity, which has become today the cornerstone of the new world order.
The postmodern West is enveloped in the virtual reality of the electronic age (the “video sphere”) and media make-believe, which incessantly turn every real political event into a virtual image.
How does the liberal mystique or, to use Schopenhauer’s word, ‘allegory’, operate today ?
The process that started with the abstraction of the objective, as a result of the mass media, has ended now in integral reality, as the post-modern author Jean Baudrillard writes. “The virtual itself is “negationist,” or denial-prone. The virtual takes away the substance of the real. “We are living in a society of historical denial by virtue of its virtuality.”
Disbelief reigns everywhere, even if there are solid and empirical proofs of the opposite.
No longer is some historical or political event perceived as “real” or truthful.
For instance the memory of the ‘so-called’ Holocaust functions today as the largest civic religion of the West.
This idea of a Holocaust is a system of belief serving not only a commemorative goal; it is also a cognitive paradigm for interpreting all aspects of our contemporary society.
The issue, however, is no longer the body count of people who it is suggested had died; rather, the issue is the fact that the post-modern virtual world by definition minimizes or maximizes the hyperreal at the expense of the real.
This rule of the hyper-real or the double applies now to all grand narratives, especially those teeming with victimological themes.
Even honest historians or social theorists can no longer be taken as real.  Why ?
The big post-modern question will immediately start hovering over their heads: What if that person is telling the lies ? What if he does not tell the truth ?
Victimologies, and victim-hoods no longer sound persuasive as they have found their media hyper-substitutes, which either re-enact, or deactivate the real past crime.
Therefore, the modern media and politicians must make post-prophylactic political decisions in a desperate attempt to dismantle the previous real, i.e., the previous bad decision, the previous inaction by making it up to the real victim with an overkill of repenting rhetoric and post-prophylactic decision making (massive security checks at airports, always new mass commemorations, etc.).
If the lives of the masses of people who perished cannot be restored, let us restore their memory by the hyper-real media !
Why resuscitate the living, when the resuscitation of the dead is a far better business ?
One can analyse the post-modern wars, the so-called Gulf War in 1991 and the war in Bosnia in 1995 using the concepts of the hyper-real and the double.
When these wars were televised and commented on by talking heads on TV screens, their real and horrible reality was cancelled out.
Spectators were therefore much more likely to support these wars.
Neither can our history writing be a matter of academic discussion any more.
Historical narratives about real or surreal ‘fascist crimes’ or ‘White man crimes’ or the current mantra on ‘White man guilt’ have attained a grotesque level of psychological saturation, to the point that for politically conscious Whites they soon sink into oblivion – and laughter – as they are de-constructed. 
Even if some past mass crimes are empirically verifiable, the masses will start reconstructing its negative Double — after first deconstructing its Real antecedent.
The ‘Age of Post-modernity  is basically the age of deconstruction, where no single verity can hold sway for a long time.
Here is the vicious circle of the hyper-real.
If one is encouraged to de-construct the real world and denounce political beliefs as a passing allegory, as Schopenhauer did, why not de-construct new contemporary civic religions, such the monotheism of the capitalist market or the civic religion of victim-hood ?
Spectral Verities, Viral Lies

We all live the hyper-real  as the French philosopher Rosset writes; we all crave for the Double – be it in its negative or the positive form. 
We all wish to be something we are not; the duplicate of ourselves.  “In place of the world as it is, we invent a ‘duplicate’ or a ‘double,’ a parallel universe which functions as a phantom rival to the existing world.”
The disadvantage of living in the real world is that life in it is drab, frightening, or boring; the advantage of the “doubled” life lies not only in the fact that such life does not exist, but that such life doesn’t even have to exist in order for us to believe it to be true and real! In other words, this desire for a spectral world is not so much a desire for something different, as it is a desire to get rid of the real world.
Who are the new paradigms or role models of our hyper-real post-modernity ?
Once upon a time the role model for Western man was a rugged individual, a Prometheus unbound, a war hero, a conqueror.
Today the will for the hyper-real requires his double or his denial, or better yet the “doubled denial.” 
As a result, the new role models for the West are the degenerates, the retards, the ‘non-Whites’, the pederasts, the pathetic and the perverts.
Baudrillard: “The Courtier was the most remarkable figure of the aristocratic order. The Militant was the most remarkable figure of the social and revolutionary order. The Penitent is the most remarkable figure of our advanced post-modern democratic politicians.”
But these degenerate role models are in turn subject to deconstruction, especially by proud, psychologically healthy White people who are being victimized by the legitimization of these role models.
Granted, we are witnessing the end of the big narratives, such as ‘antifascist victimology’, however, the unresolved work of mourning the real (or hyper-real  victims of fascism or racism is in full swing.
In other words, the antifascist, anti-racist war (with all its political, media and legal prohibition) continues unabated.
Even if real racism and fascism are dead and gone, they need to be resurrected in a negative doubled manner in order to give the mourners an opportunity to repent for the failed duty to prevent it from happening. Never again, never again ! — this is a  new war cry of our hyperreal discourse.
This strategy of the hyper-real “never again”, is directed not only at preventing similar events from happening again in the future – as expressed in the forms of a myriad of  memorial centers commemorating the Holocaust.
It is also meant to be a tool of unravelling  in a vicarious and imaginary way, of the real past historical disaster that befell the Jews or the non-Whites.
Likewise, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are waged today as the post-prophylactic double; indeed, they are not just the wars for stopping the terror; they are the wars for removing the past sins of the political class, which led to the real terror of the dreadful 9/11 !
The goal is now to retroactively cancel out the inflicted national disgrace and humiliation of the ruling elites.
This is why the actual wars and our public discourse all over the West are “non-events”. Never again, never again!
And this is why the hyperreal or the double are pure illusions.
They cannot last.
The violent and the objective real is waiting in the wings and it will soon take the upper hand.
Is it for real ?

A Clash of Styles – German Aesthetics – 1933-1945

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Emblem of the NSDAP



During the period of the Third Reich there was a tension between three conflicting elements in National Socialist aesthetics and ideology – these three elements being Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism.
Towards the end of the period Classicism and Modernism rose to prominence, both fulfilling their appropriate functions, while a Gothic Romanticism gradually faded in significance.
To understand theses developments, however, we need to consider the origins of German National Socialism.




National Socialism comes from a different tradition than that of either liberal capitalism or communism.
Partito Nazionale Fascista
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Falange Española de las
Juntas de

Ofensiva Nacional Sindicalista
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Many historiographers say that the anti-Semitic element, which does not exist to any great extent in the sister fascist movements in Italy and Spain, was adopted by Hitler to gain popularity for the movement.


Partito Nazionale Fascista – PNF – (the National Fascist Party) was an Italian political party, created by Benito Mussolini as the political expression of fascism  The party ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943.
Falange was a Spanish political organization founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1933, during the Second Spanish Republic. Primo de Rivera was the son of General Miguel Primo de Rivera, who governed Spain as Prime Minister in the 1920s. The Falange was republican, avant-gardist and modernist, in a manner similar to the original spirit of Italian Fascism. Its uniform and aesthetic was similar to contemporary European fascist and national socialist movements.

Futurism and Fascism: We usually associate modern art, and modernism in general, with left wing politics. Futurism, however, had right wing political sympathies from the beginning, and its creators developed ties with Italian Fascism in the years following the First World War. Mussolini, unlike almost all the other right-wing leaders of the 20th century, took an active interest in modernism and, for a while, cultivated it. Futurism, like Italian Fascism itself, was ideologically a mess. It was a hodge-podge of anarchism, the aesthetics of violence, and nationalism. Italian Fascism was likewise a stew of nationalism, anarchism, syndicalism, opportunism and machismo. Mussolini loved the Futurists precisely because they were so modern, so aggressive, and so daring. He had his own origins in anarchism, and that anarchist aesthetic probably genuinely appealed to him, even as his politics became more nationalist and reactionary. Futurism, of course, is a form of ‘degenerate art‘.

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Der Große Krieg
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Anti-Semitic prejudice was very common among the masses in German Empire, and it has been claimed that mass acceptance for the NSDAP required the party to be anti-Semitic.
This would also flatter the wounded pride of German people after the defeat of Der Große Krieg (the Great War – World War One).

Others, however, see anti-Semitism as central to Hitler’s Weltanschauung (World view).
The latter is of course the correct interpretation.
Many see strong connections between the values of National Socialism and the irrationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century.
Strength, passion, lack of hypocrisy, utilitarianism, traditional family values, and devotion to community were valued by the National Socialists, and first expressed by many Romantic artists, musicians, and writers.
German romanticism in particular expressed these values.

Richard Wagner

For instance, the National Socialists identified closely with the music of Richard Wagner (a noted anti-Semite, author of ‘Das Judenthum in der Musik’, and idol to the young Hitler).

Many of his operas express the ideals of the strong dominating the weak, and a celebration of traditional Norse Aryan folklore and values.
The style of his music is often heroic and grandiose.

Heiliges Römisches Reich
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The idealisation of tradition, folklore, classical thought, the leadership of Frederick the Great, the rejection of the liberalism of the Weimar Republic and the decision to call the German state the ‘Third Reich’ (which hearkens back to the medieval ‘First Reich’ – Heiliges Römisches Reich – and the pre-Weimar ‘Second Reich’ or Kaiserreich) has led many to regard the National Socialists as essentially traditionalist and reactionary.

Kaiserreich
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The NSDAP that came to power in January 1933 desired more than simply political authority, the ability to revise the Versailles Treaty, and regain and expand upon those lands lost after a humiliating defeat in World War I.
They also wanted to change the cultural landscape: to return the country to traditional “German” and “Nordic” values, to excise or circumscribe Jewish, “foreign,” and “degenerate” influences, and to shape a racial community (“Volksgemeinschaft”) which aligned with Völkisch ideals.
These ideals, however were, at times, contradictory.
National Socialism, however, represented much more than a just a political movement
National Socialism was at once ‘modern’ and ‘anti-modern’; (often referred to as ‘reactionary modernism‘) – Classical and Romantic.

‘Im walde’
Des-Knaben Wunderhorn
Schwind von Moritz (1804-1871)

It was dynamic and utopian, and yet often hearkened back to an idyllic and romanticized German past.

Blut,Boden und Heimat

In certain elements, Völkisch cultural principles were consistent: they stressed family, race, and Volk as the highest representations of German values.

They rejected materialism, cosmopolitanism, and “bourgeois intellectualism,” and instead promoted the German virtues of loyalty, struggle, self-sacrifice, and discipline.
Völkisch cultural values also placed great importance on Germans’ harmony with their native soil (Heimat) and with nature, (the Green Reich), and emphasized the elevation of the Volk and nation above its individual members.

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In the Third Reich,  one of the main roles of culture was to disseminate the Völkisch world view.
One of the first tasks the NSDAP undertook upon their ascension to power in early 1933 was a synchronization (Gleichschaltung) of all professional and social organizations with National Socialist ideology and policy.
The arts and cultural organizations were not exempt from this effort.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, immediately strove to bring the artistic and cultural communities in line with Völkisch goals.

The government therefore purged cultural organizations of Jews, and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect.
Reichskulturkammer – RKK
(Reich Culture Chamber)
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Beginning in September 1933, a new Reichskulturkammer – (Reich Culture Chamber), an umbrella organization composed of the Reich Film, Music, Theater, Press, Literary, Fine Arts, and Radio Chambers — moved to supervise and regulate all facets of German culture.
The new Nazi aesthetic embraced the genre of objective realism.
The visual arts and other modes of high culture employed this form to depict peasant life, family and community, and heroism on the battlefield; and attempted to exemplify such Germanic virtues as industry, self-sacrifice, and Aryan racial purity.
In the Third Reich there was no such concept as “art for art’s sake”.
Instead all forms of art, in addition to its formal and aesthetic considerations, had a calculated propagandistic undercurrent: it stood in stark contrast to the trends of modern art in the 1920s and 1930s, much of which employed abstract, expressionist, or surrealist tenets.

Professor Paul Ludwig Troost
Haus der Deutschen Kunst 

In October 15, 1933, Hitler laid the cornerstone of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst designed by Professor Paul Ludwig Troost to replace the burned down (1931) glass and steel Munich Glass Palace (1854).

The new museum was a monumental, ‘severe Deco’, neo-classicist buildin,g made of huge cut stones on the exterior, and marble on the interior.

Hitler and Frau Gerdy Troost

Paul Ludwig Troost (17 August 1878 – 21 January 1934), born in Elberfeld, was a German architect. An extremely tall, spare-looking, reserved Westphalian with a close-shaven head, Troost belonged to a school of architects, Peter Behrens and Walter Gropius who, even before 1914, reacted sharply against the highly ornamental Jugendstil, and advocated a restrained, lean architectural approach, almost devoid of ornament. Hitler frequently declared, according to Speer, that “he first learned what architecture was from Troost”‘. The architect’s death on 21 January 1934, after a severe illness, was a painful blow, but Hitler remained close to his widow Gerdy Troost, whose architectural taste frequently coincided with his own, which made her (in Speer’s words) “a kind of arbiter of art in Munich.

In many ways the Haus der Deutschen Kunst expressed an anti-industrial and anti-economic aspect of the spirit of the NSDAP.


Adolf Hitler – Tag der Deutschen Kunst

During the opening ceremony, Hitler declared his pride at being able ‘to lay the foundations for this new temple in honor of the goddess of art‘.

In July 1937 a ‘Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung’ (Great German Art Exhibition) displaying the culture  of National Socialist art premièred in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) in Munich.
Entartete Kunst

A nearby exhibition hall presented, in contrast, an Entartete Kunst (Exhibition of Degenerate Art) in order to demonstrate to the German public the “demoralizing” and “corruptive” influences of modern art.
In architecture, artists like Professor Paul Ludwig Troost and Albert Speer constructed monumental edifices in a classical form, heavily influenced by Art Deco, which conveyed the “enduring grandeur” of the National Socialist movement.
In literature, the Reichskulturkammer promoted the works of writers such as Adolf Bartels and Hitler Youth poet Hans Baumann.
Literature glorifying the peasant culture as bedrock of the German community, and historical novels bolstering the centrality of the Volk figured as preferred works of fiction, as did war narratives.

Adolf Hitler at the UFA studios
Universum Film AG

The cultivation of art also extended to the modern field of cinema.

Heavily subsidized by the state, the motion picture industry in Germany proved an important propaganda tool for the NSDAP. One of the leading film companies, centred at  Babelsberg in Berlin was UFA.

Leni Riefenstahl’s
Triumph des Willens


Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. in the course of the National Socialist “Machtergreifung UFA was nationalised and produced a huge output of film under the supervision of Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.

Films such as Leni Riefenstahl’s pioneering “Triumph des Willens” (“Triumph of the Will”) and  Olympia ‘Fest der Völker’ and ‘Fest der Schönheit’.


Triumph des Willens – Titles
Triumph des Willens‘ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, which was attended by more than 700,000 NSDAP supporters
The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various National Socialist leaders at the Congress, including portions of speeches by Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, and Julius Streicher interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops.
Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.

‘Olympia’ is a 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany. It was the first documentary feature film of the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were ground-breaking at the time, were employed – including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like. The film appears on Time magazine’s “All-Time Greatest 100 Movies.”

Other, non-documentary films were also produced such as “Der Hitlerjunge Quex” (“Hitler Youth Member Quex”), glorified the NSDAP, its auxiliary organizations, and the Volk.


“Der Hitlerjunge Quex”
“Der Hitlerjunge Quex” is a 1932 novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus  by Karl Aloys Schenzinger. The 1933 movie ‘Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend’ was based on it, and was described by Joseph Goebbels as the “first large-scale” transmission of National Socialist ideology using the medium of cinema. Both the book and the movie, like ‘S.A.-Mann Brand’ and ‘Hans Westmar’, both released the same year, fictionalized and glorified death in the service of the NSDAP and Hitler. Both novel and movie are based on the real story of Herbert Norkus’ life. Norkus, a Hitler Youth member, died from injuries suffered when chased and confronted by Communist youths in the night of 23 / 24 January 1932 in the Beusselkietz neighbourhood of Moabit, Berlin.

Another example was ‘Hans Westmar – Einer von vielen’, which was a dramatisation of the life and death of Horst Wessel, based on Hanns Heinz Ewers’s novelistic biography.


 Horst Wessel
Hanns Heinz Ewers
Hans Westmar – Einer von vielen was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films commissioned by the NSDAP shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating the ‘Kampfzeit’ – ‘time of struggle’. The film is a fictionalized life of the Horst Wessel. Originally, the film, based on the novel personally commissioned by Hitler from Hanns Heinz Ewers, was named ‘Horst Wessel’. Dr Paul Josef Goebbels altered the main character’s name, changing it to the fictional “Hans Westmar”. It was among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades. His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting ‘the real battle’.




Goethe and Schiller
Weimar Classicism

Theatre companies followed the example of German cinema, staging National Socialist dramas as well as traditional and classical performances of the plays of writers such as Johann 
Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Friedrich Christoph von Schiller.

Goethe and Schiller exemplified Weimar Classicism (German “Weimarer Klassik”) – which is a cultural and literary movement in Germany. Followers attempted to establish a new humanism by synthesizing Romantic, classical and Enlightenment ideas. The movement, from 1772 until 1805, involved Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller and Christoph Martin Wieland, and often concentrated on Goethe and Schiller during the period 1788–1805.

In music, the Reichskulturkammer, was led by the great composer and conductor Richard Strauss.



Richard Wagner
Hans Erich Pfitzner

The Reichskulturkammer promoted the works of such giants of the German musical pantheon as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Anton Bruckner, and Richard Wagner, Hans Erich Pfitzner, while banning classical works by “non-Aryans,” such as Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler, and performances of jazz music and Swing, associated with degenerate African-American culture.


Adolf Hitler was himself a long-time devotee of the operas of Richard Wagner – an artist long associated with anti-semitism and the völkisch tradition from which National Socialists drew much of their ideology.




Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner
Adolf Hitler at Bayreuth

He regularly attended the annual Bayreuth Festivals held in the Wagner’s honor.

Each summer, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler attended the Bayreuth Festival, and he made the Wagner estate, Wahnfried, his second home. Because she had been one of his earliest supporters, Hitler had great affection for Winifred. Hitler repaid the Wagner family gratitude by pledging his undying friendship and his deepest devotion to Richard Wagner and Bayreuth.

Das Horst-Wessel-Lied
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But Völkisch music did not confine itself solely to “high” culture: songs like “Das Horst-Wessel-Lied” (“The Horst Wessel Song”) and “Deutschland, Erwache!” (“Germany, Awake”) numbered among many songs and marches which were circulated in order to encourage commitment to the NSDAP and its ideological tenets.





The Concept of Degeneracy

The term Entartung (or “degeneracy”) had gained currency in Germany by the late 19th century when the critic and author Max Nordau devised the theory presented in his 1892 book, Entartung.
Nordau developed a critique of modern art.
Degenerate art is the work of those so corrupted and enfeebled by modern life that they have lost the self-control needed to produce coherent works.
He attacked Aestheticism in English literature and described the mysticism of the Symbolist movement in French literature as a product of mental pathology.
Explaining the painterliness of Impressionism as the sign of a diseased visual cortex, he decried modern degeneracy while praising traditional German culture.
This theory was seized upon by German National Socialists during the Weimar Republic as a rallying point for their anti-Semitic and racist demand for Aryan purity in art.
Belief in a Germanic spirit – defined as mystical, rural, moral, bearing ancient wisdom, and noble in the face of a tragic destiny – existed long before the rise of the National Socialism; the composer Richard Wagner celebrated such ideas in his work.

Paul Schultze-Naumburg


Beginning before World War I, the well-known German architect and painter Paul Schultze-Naumburg’s influential writings, which invoked racial theories in condemning modern art and architecture, supplied much of the basis for Adolf Hitler’s belief that classical Greece and the Middle Ages were the true sources of Aryan art.
Schultze-Naumburg subsequently wrote such books as ‘Die Kunst der Deutschen. Ihr Wesen und ihre Werke’ (The art of the Germans.Its nature and its works) and ‘Kunst und Rasse’ (Art and Race), the latter published in 1928.

Paul Schultze-Naumburg (10 June 1869 – 19 May 1949) was an architect and a vocal political critic of modern architecture. Along with Alexander von Senger, Eugen Honig, Konrad Nonn, and German Bestelmeyer, Schultze-Naumburg was a member of a National Socialist para-governmental propaganda unit called the ‘Kampfbund deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure’ (KDAI). In September 1944, he was named as one of the first rank of artists and writers important to Nazi culture in the Gottbegnadeten list.


Thule Gesellschaft
Alfred Rosenberg

These works argued that only racially pure artists could produce a healthy art which upheld timeless ideals of classical beauty, while racially mixed modern artists produced disordered artworks and monstrous depictions of the human form.
By reproducing examples of modern art next to photographs of people with deformities and diseases, he graphically reinforced the idea of modernism as a sickness.
Alfred Rosenberg, a member of the Thule Gesellschaft, developed this theory in ‘Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts‘ (Myth of the Twentieth Century), published in 1933, which became a best-seller in Germany and made Rosenberg one of the Party’s leading ideological spokesman.

Alfred Ernst Rosenberg (12 January 1893 – 16 October 1946) was an early and intellectually influential member of the NSDAP. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the National Socialist government. He is considered one of the main authors of key Völkisch ideological creeds, including its racial theory, Lebensraum, abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and opposition to “degenerate” modern art. He is also known for his rejection of Christianity

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National Socialist Aesthetics

From the foregoing it can be seen that the National Socialists not only possessed a highly refined aesthetic sensibility, but unlike most, enacted their aesthetic at every level of politics and policy.

Alpine Landscape – Adolf Hitler

Moreover, they not only believed themselves to be artists, but were regarded by others, at the time, as artists, whose very ideology was founded in an essentially aesthetic logic.

This is generally referred to as the  aestheticization of politics.
The artistic ambitions of Adolf Hitler, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg, Baldur von Schirach, Walther Funk and Julius Streicher were originally deeper than their political ambitions, and were essential elements of their personalities.
What was this National Socialist aesthetic; what kind of art came of it ?


 Idealizations of Purity,
Heroism and the Human Form.

The National Socialist aesthetic had several inter-penetrating parts, including idealizations of purity, heroism and the human form.

The resulting art also encompassed National Socialist pageantry and regalia, films and political choreography and architecture.
The National Socialist aesthetic was part and parcel of their ideology, and not just an ornamental by-product of it.
Essential to this discussion is understanding how two conceptual cornerstones of Nazi ideology – redemption and monumentality – found their expression in National Socialist aesthetic productions, which were not only means by which to deliver a political message, but very much part of the message itself.
One of the most brilliant documentary films ever made, of course, was no mere documentary, but was the last century’s benchmark for cinematic propaganda.
Hitler über Deutschland


In the opening moments of ‘Triumph des Willens’ (Triumph of the Will) Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1934 Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, we find an object lesson in what we might call the “aesthetics of redemption

A plane is carrying the Führer and his entourage over a picturesque landscape of hills, valleys and churches on its way to Nuremberg.
A voice-over narrative introduces the scene: “Twenty years after the World War, 16 years after the crucifixion of Germany, 19 months after the beginning of Germany’s Renaissance, Hitler flew to Nuremberg to greet his columns of followers.
The plane suddenly appears from the clouds and glides over the countryside, its shadow in the form of a cross.
As if in a ‘Second Coming‘, a Führer has arisen who will save and redeem Germany, and Riefenstahl frames his arrival in the explicit iconography of  redemption and messianic deliverance.

The penetration of the Jews into the German body politic,
into German society, and into the German bloodstream.

And it is the very notion of redemption that  actually played a central role in the anti-semitism of the Third Reich, which has been termed ‘redemptive anti-Semitism‘, and is born from the fear of racial degeneration.

The main cause of degeneration was the penetration of the Jews into the German body politic, into German society, and into the German bloodstream.
Germanism, and the Aryan world, were on the path to perdition if the struggle against the Jews was not joined; this was to be a struggle to the death.
Redemption would come as liberation from the Jews by their expulsion from the body politic.
Just as Germany’s disastrous defeat in World War I was to be “redeemed” by the messianic advent of the Führer, in Riefenstahl’s version so would the war effort, no matter how terrible the costs, be redeemed by Germany’s “liberation” from the Jews.

The principle of redemptory “sacrifice” also played a primary role in the ‘memorial landscape‘ Hitler introduced into the topography of the Third Reich.

From the “Eternal Guard” at the Ehrentempel (by Professor Paul Troost) in Munich, which held the sarcophagi of eight “Martyrs of the Movement” killed in the 1923 Putsch attempt, to the ‘Totenburgen‘, or citadels of the dead, to be built as mass burial grounds for thousands of prospective fallen German soldiers, Hitler made redemptory sacrifice one of the aesthetic architectural pillars of his Reich.

Hitler with the Blutfahne

Even the elaborately choreographed party rallies, during which Hitler would salute the ‘Blutfahne‘ (blood flag) included scenes of almost pagan ritual, in which animal sacrifice has been replaced by the prospective human sacrifice of wars to come.

We are reminded of Hitler’s own indifference to individual human lives as they paled in comparison to the larger cause, and idealizations of race and nation, and the way this diminution of the individual underpinned his aesthetic embrace of the monumental.
Hitler’s lack of feeling for individual humans, even for fanatical party members, was already evident at the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, and other spectacles, when his ‘architecturalizing’ of the participants, and his deployment of them in geometrical patterns reduced them to noctambulent creatures.

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag – Monumental Aesthetic

For Hitler, individuals come and go, as well as their humanly scaled dwelling places, their sites of life.

What his monumental aesthetic would leave behind, therefore, was not the uniqueness of individual human experience, or its messy heterogeneity, but monolithic forms that imposed singular meaning on disparate deeds, experiences and lives.
The monumental in Hitler’s eyes was not only an end result, however, but also a means by which he could reduce the individual to insignificance, thereby making all appear as one.
Specifically, he did this in his elaborately choreographed spectacles and pageants, against which the individual seemed insignificant.

Deutsches Stadion – Albert Speer
North-South Axis – Germania

Witness his dozens of gargantuan productions: the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag, the colossal stadiums and political arenas designed to hold 500,000 people or even the North-South Axis he and his architect Albert Speer designed for Berlin, – Germania.

On a commemorative “Day of the Political Leaders” in 1936, more than 110,000 men marched onto the review field while another 100,000 spectators watched from the stands.
Once darkness fell, the space was suddenly encircled by a ring of light, with 30,000 flags and standards glistening in the illumination.
Spotlights would focus on the main gate, as distant cheers announced the Führer’s approach.

Lichtdom
At the instant he entered, 150 powerful searchlights would shoot into the sky to produce a gigantic, shimmering ‘lichtdom’ (cathedral of light) as it was called.
Hitler was both a product of his time’s aesthetic temper, and possibly the greatest producer of political design and choreography who ever lived.
We cannot separate his deeds, his policies and his ideology from his aesthetic temper.
Without recognizing the central role aesthetics actually played in the regime of the Third Reich, we cannot ignore the basic historical fact that Art, beauty and aesthetics were not benign by-products of the Third Reich, but part and parcel of its coherent, internal logic.
Beauty and heroism, aesthetics and power, may not only be paired after the historical fact, but might now be regarded as historical forces that also drive events as they actually unfold.
It is important to understand that one of the central ideas of Völkisch ideology is the myth of ‘rebirth’, in the sense of `Neugeburt’, or new birth.
The National Socialists wanted to build an entirely new type of modern nation-state on the basis of archetypal German values.
This involved the destruction of everything that was associated with Germany’s decadence, and the retention of every element of usable past in the redefinition of Germany as a State based on a healthy, revitalized Volksgemeinschaft or national community.
There is a dialectical relationship between destruction and creation at the centre of all ‘palingenetic myth’.

Palingenesis is a concept of rebirth or re-creation, used in various contexts in philosophy, theology, politics, and biology. Its meaning stems from Greek palin, meaning again, and genesis, meaning birth.
In biology, it is another word for recapitulation – the phase in the development of an organism in which its form and structure pass through the changes undergone in the evolution of the species. In theology, the word can be used to refer to reincarnation and Christian spiritual rebirth symbolized by baptism.

Once projected onto Germany, it took the form of what some have called `German nihilism’.
It is the logic of the principle `destroy to build’ which links the Völkisch ideologue’s destruction of liberalism, socialism, pluralism, and humanism to the creation of a `strong’ state based on a single party and a single ideology.

Cult of Athleticism
Aesthetic forms
deemed to be life-asserting

It includes cult of athleticism and physical health; the suppressing of decadent books to the publishing of `healthy‘ literature; the cleansing of art of its degenerate elements to the fostering of aesthetic forms deemed to be life-asserting.

Similarly, the rejuvenation of the Volksgemeinschaft went hand in hand with the removal of Jews and other negative elements from public life.

Reactionary Modernism

National Socialism presents itself as an alternative to liberal and socialist forms of modernity.
The importance it attributed to the organically and racially conceived nation meant that it rejected both the individualism, pluralism, cosmopolitanism, materialism, and rationalism associated with liberalism as radically as it did the internationalism and materialism it attributed to Bolshevism.
What has presumably prevented so many commentators from grasping this point has been the deep and eroneous impression that National Socialism incarnated a systematized and calculated form of barbarism reminiscent of a throw back to an earlier dark age.
Barbarism, however, has nothing to do with the development of the Third Reich.

Charles Darwin

It should also be remembered that Germany under Hitler pursued policies based on a populist nationalism conceived partially, though not exclusively in biological, eugenic, and Darwinian terms.

All these components were literally inconceivable before the 19th century.
Blut und Boden
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Certainly the ideology of National Socialism placed great emphasis on the concept of the superiority of the Aryan race and the heroic past of the Germans before their Europeanization and Judeo-Christianization, and on the values of ‘Blut und Boden‘ (Blood and Soil).
But these were not regressive, atavistic myths, but articulated in the spirit of the Conservative Revolution referred to above: the roots of the new order were to be extended as deep as possible into the past so that the tree of the organically conceived nation could grow as vigorously and high as possible.

National Socialism’s full-blooded commitment
to modern industry and science

As a result of National Socialism’s full-blooded commitment to modern industry and science, the ‘Blut und Boden’ programme had nothing to do with a radical re-ruralization programme.

Germany was to remain a highly urbanized and technologically advanced nation, however, a steady flow of festivals, rituals, and propaganda celebrating the German nation as a ‘Schicksalsgemeinschaft‘, (a community of destiny), was designed to ensure that the significance of the peasant as the back-bone of the economy, and of nature as a source of transcendent values and meaning, would be acknowledged to a point where every German recognized his or her roots, both physical and spiritual.
The countryside was a focus for palingenetic myth of renewal and sustenance, not for a retreat from the Twentieth century.

KdF Volkswagen

It is in no way a contradiction if the same regime which celebrated the peasant, also embarked on an extensive programme for modernizing and beautifying the urban housing stock and factory working conditions, glorifying the motorway network and the Volkswagen as symbols of the new Germany.

By marrying the industrial age to tribal consciousness Völkisch ideologues were certain that they were resolving the tensions and neuroses of the modern age.
The aim was to give modern life a new spiritual basis and historical purpose, not to destroy it.
It is from the union of the industrial and the pre-industrial that National Socialist art gains the relevance that is not to be found in modernistic degenerate art.
This interpretation of National Socialist art has a direct bearing on any exploration of the links between National Socialism and Romanticism.
The assumption that any such links are explicable in terms of a petty-bourgeois nostalgia for an idyllic past has to be rejected.
But before suggesting how that link might be conceived more appropriately, it is important to put the record straight about the type of art which prospered under the Third Reich.

‘Blut und Boden’

It has been suggested that the dominant form of art in the Third Reich was Blood and Soil genre paintings of landscapes and rural activities.

Ziegler – Göttin der Kunst
Certainly much art of the time fits this category, but it is important to remember that other recurrent types of art were neo-classical studies of nudes in arcadian surroundings, historical themes, figures engaged in athletic activities, military subjects whether of soldiers or battle scenes, and portraits of members of the National Socialist hierarchy.


These last three subjects are unmistakably `modern’, though the style was generally a highly romanticized form of ‘heroic realism’.

Bau der Neuen Reichskanzlei

The art of the Third Reich, in its `mature’ form of 1936 or 1937, came to employ a host of formal and aesthetic devices which Modernism itself had invented.

This `Modernist’ aspect of National Socialist art should be seen in the context not just of paintings evoking the vast building projects being undertaken by the Third Reich, such as the construction of a motorway bridge or work in a stone quarry, but of the vast outpouring of sophisticated graphic art and photographs of the Third Reich’s flourishing advertising industry, promoting such quintessentially modern products as Leica cameras and Daimler-Benz cars.


Hitler-Jugend Sport Poster
Hitlerjugend Poster

Nor were housing and factory projects, or the vast realm of product and interior design free from the influence of the ‘so-called’ Modern Movement.

There was, undoubtedly a tension between `Modernism and archaism’, a tension which is arguable resolved once the concept `Conservative Revolution’ (Reactionary Modernism) is applied.
There is a direct correlation here with the field of ideology.
Some historians have presented National Socialism as the fruit of an aberrant tradition in German thought and culture, which blended nationalism and idealism with the rejection of liberal humanistic values, and that Hitler had somehow absorbed, a weird mixture of some of the more extreme ideas that had erupted from German thinkers during the nineteenth century.
Certainly National Socialism drew on Fichte and Wagner, among others, but it also made much of the rigorously scientific basis of its Weltanschauung in a highly modern spirit far removed both from Romanticism and idealism.
Fichte

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (May 19, 1762 – January 27, 1814) was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, which developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant. Fichte is often perceived as a figure whose philosophy forms a bridge between the ideas of Kant and those of the German Idealist Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Fichte also wrote works of political philosophy and is considered one of the fathers of German nationalism.
Fichte made important contributions to political nationalism in Germany. In his ‘Ansprache an die deutsche Nation‘ (Addresses to the German Nation) (1808), a series of speeches delivered in Berlin, he urged the German peoples to “have character and be German” -entailed in his idea of Germanness was antisemitism, since he argued that “making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation.” 
Historian Robert Nisbet, in a gross oversimplification, thought him to be “the true author of National Socialism”.

At the root of this is a trait of considered eclecticism.
In their attempt to revitalize the present, and wipe out decadence, National Socialists had drawn many concepts that which would help to rationalize their policies.
To focus on only those aspects of art and ideology under Hitler which fit into the restorationist, anti-modern, bourgeois thesis is thus to misrepresent National Socialism.
Firstly, it would be a fallacy to assume that Nazism was, per se, against all forms of Modernism even in theory.
Dr Paul Josef Goebbels

In his semi-autobiographical novel ‘Michael: A German Destiny’, Dr Paul Josef Goebbels’s thinly veiled alter-ego claims at one point that he himself is an Expressionist, and in another passage writes: 

Vincent van Gogh

I visit an exhibition of modern painting. We see much new nonsense. One star: Vincent van Gogh. In these surroundings he already seems tame, but yet he is the most modern of the moderns. For modernity has nothing to do with heroic gestures. All that is just learnt through practice. The modern man is necessarily a god-seeker, perhaps a Christ-like person. Van Gogh’s life tells us even more than his work. He combines in his personality the most important elements: he is teacher, preacher, fanatic, prophet – mad. In the last analysis we are all mad if we have an idea. Fanatics of love: the capacity for self-sacrifice.’

Predictably Goebbels goes on to find an outlet by joining the NSDAP, but this did not mean abandoning his commitment to healthy Modernism.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates he was known for his zealous orations.
Goebbels earned a PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist. He also wrote novels and plays. Goebbels came into contact with the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) or Nazi Party in 1923. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin. Goebbels despised capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core, and he stressed the need for the Nazis to emphasize both a proletarian and national character.

 Max Weber
It is important to see ‘Modernism’ as a blanket-term for a bewildering variety of initiatives undertaken since the late Nineteenth century to re-spiritualize and re-enchant, to bring magic and meaning to, a Western civilization widely experienced as `decadent’, namely hyper-rationalized and (in Max Weber’s terms) ‘entzaubert‘ (disenchanted).

Maximilian Karl Emil “Max” Weber (21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) was a German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist whose ideas influenced social theory, social research, and the entire discipline of sociology Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founding architects of sociology.

If this perspective is adopted, then National Socialism can be seen as promoting a quintessentially ‘modernist’ form of politics and aesthetics, in an attempt to purge society of its decadence, and to enable the entire German race, or rather its `healthy’ specimens, to tap into `eternal’ sources of spirit, value, and meaning.


The Omnipresent Swastika

There is a supreme importance to National Socialist art policies being essential to their self-appointed mission `to destroy a carefully selected “Modernist” past, – a mission which we have presented as integral to their crusade for Germany’s reawakening or palingenesis (the omnipresent Swastika itself was a symbol of the rising sun and of spiritual rebirth).

This impulse may be described as `Völkisch Post-Modernism’, and this can be seen to be part of a wider Modernist dynamic in which all forms are to be renovated, and life as a whole is to be transformed and improved.
For it seems likely that at a number of points within our Modernist and modernising century, the very apocalyptic (i.e. palingenetic – see above) nature of the race into the future has meant both a search for tradition as well as an obsession with the speed of time.
This is the sense in which National Socialism was an early form of Post-Modernism, albeit an authoritarian one, and hence part of that wider network of Modernisms with which we are still trying to get adequately acquainted.

Postmodernism is a term used to the era and the concepts that follows Modernism. It frequently serves as an ambiguous overarching term for skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is an example of a significant post-modernist philosopher.

Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism

This unique form of ‘Post-Modernism’ was born of a tension that originated in the outlooks of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and the technocrats epitomised by Fritz Todt.

Kritian Boy

Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for a classical period, classical antiquity in the Western tradition, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate.

Δορυφόρος
Doryphoros of Polyclitus

The marble Kritios Boy or Kritian Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture.
The Kritios Boy is thus named because it is attributed to Kritios who worked together with Nesiotes (sculptors of Harmodius and Aristogeiton) or their school, from around 480 BC.

The Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer);  is one of the best known Greek sculptures of the classical era in Western Art and an early example of Greek classical contrapposto.

The Greek sculptor Polykleitos designed a work, perhaps this one, as an example of the “canon” or “rule”, showing the perfectly harmonious and balanced proportions of the human body in the sculpted form. A solid-built athlete with muscular features carries a spear balanced on his left shoulder. A characteristic of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros is the classical contrapposto in the pelvis; the figure’s stance is such that one leg seems to be in movement while he is standing on the other.

The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained. Any violent emphasis or sudden acceleration of rhythmic movement destroys those qualities of balance and completeness through which classical form retains its position of authority in the restricted repertoire of visual images.
Classicism implies a canon of widely accepted ideal forms.
Classicism is a force which is often present in post-medieval European and European influenced traditions

Hitler regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of the larger Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.


Imperial Roman Standard
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Pantheon – Rome
Ancient Classical Architecture

Adolf Hitler also believed that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were the racial ancestors of the Germans, and the first torch-bearers of “Nordic-Greek” art and culture.

He particularly expressed his admiration for Ancient Sparta, declaring it to have been the purest racial state:
Neue Wache – Berlin – Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Hitler, therefore, favoured Classicism, in the arts, and had a high regard for a classical period, and classical antiquity in the Western tradition, and saw it as setting standards for art, sculpture and painting.

The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained. 
In architecture Classicism features the golden section as a key proportion for buildings, the classical orders of columns, as well as a host of ornament and detail associated with the Greeks and Romans.
Classicism also involves the symmetry, the orderly arrangement of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules.

Neue Reichskanzlei
Albert Speer

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Spee (March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office. Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.

This classicism, favoured by Hitler, can be clearly see in Speer’s designs for Germania, and in Hermann Giesler’s designs for Linz.

Proposed redevelopment of Linz
Professor Hermann Giesler

Professor Hermann Giesler (April 2, 1898, Siegen – January 20, 1987, Düsseldorf) was a German architect – one of the two architects most favoured and rewarded by Adolf Hitler (the other being Albert Speer).

Hermann Giesler completed his architectural study at the Academy for Applied Arts in Munich. 
Up to 1938 he designed the “Ordensburg” in Sonthofen, planned Gau Forums in Weimar and Augsburg, and the “university” for the NSDAP at Chiemsee. In addition, he was commissioned to build Hitler’s house in Munich. In 1938 he was ordered by Hitler to the “General Building Inspector” for the reorganization of the city of Munich. Later he became also a director in the Organisation Todt, then one of the directors of the Group of Works of VI (Bavaria, Donaugaue). Starting from 1941 Giesler was entrusted by Hitler with the reorganization of the entire city of Linz. Giesler joined the NSDAP in 1941 for the Organisation Todt.

One indication of Hitler’s move to classicism may be seen in his decision regarding Fraktur and Sütterlin.
On January 3, 1941 Martin Bormann issued a circular to all public offices which declared Fraktur, and its corollary, the Sütterlin-based handwriting, to be “Judenlettern”, and prohibited their further use.


Fraktur or  Gothic is a blackletter typeface based on the calligraphic hand of the Latin alphabet. The blackletter lines are broken up – that is, their forms contain many angles when compared to the smooth curves of the Antiqua (common) typefaces modeled after antique Roman square capitals and Carolingian minuscule. From this, Fraktur is sometimes contrasted with the “Latin alphabet” in northern European texts, being sometimes called the “German alphabet”.

Sütterlinschrift is the last widely used form of Kurrent, the historical form of German handwriting that evolved alongside German blackletter (most notably Fraktur) typefaces. Graphic artist Ludwig Sütterlin was commissioned by the Prussian ministry for culture to create a modern handwriting script in 1911. His handwriting scheme gradually replaced the older cursive scripts that had developed in the 16th century at the same time that bookletters developed into Fraktur

The reason for this decision was Adolf Hitler’s dislike for the Fraktur typeface, seen by him as ‘Gothic’ and non-Classical
This was demonstrated by a declaration that he made in the Reichstag in 1934

“… In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far...”

Adolf Hitler


Himmler’s approach to aesthetics was very different.

Himmler was deeply involved with the activities of the Ahnenerbe, which he directed to find evidence for early cultural developments within the borders of the Reich.
Not an artist by training or inclination, he was captivated by Germanic Medievalism, and therefore his aesthetic leaned toward the Romantic and the Gothic.

‘Ruin’
Caspar David Friedrich
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850.
Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature.
It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature.

Caspar David Friedrich (September 5, 1774 – May 7, 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. 

Gothic Sculpture
William Dohme – der Braunschweiger Doml  – 1937

Its effect on politics was considerable and complex; while for much of the peak Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, in the long term its effect on the growth of nationalism was probably more significant.
The Gothic style, while difficult to describe succinctly, may be summed up as the antithesis of Classicism.
Whereas classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained, Gothic style is informal exuberant, involving violent emphasis of form and movement which destroys those qualities of balance and completeness to be found in classical art.
Classicism looks to the ideal, whereas Gothic exemplifies to particular and peculiar.

Romanticism favoured the Gothic style in architecture.
Gothic architecture features asymmetrical compositions, and free-form plans, with arched fenestration and roofing.


Wewelsburg – Paderborn 
SS Julleuchter
Neo-Gothic Art

An example of the romantic architecture favoured by Himmler was the Wewelsberg.

The Wewelsburg is a castle located in the northeast of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in district of Paderborn in the Alme Valley.
The castle, while not strictly Gothic, has the outline of a triangle and has a non-symetrical romanticised plan.
Equally another example of Romanticised aesthetic is the SS Julleuchter, whch was given at Christmas to members of the SS.

Classical Art
Blut und Boden  Romantic Art

Because of Himmler’s influence over the ‘Blut und Boden’ programme, most art depicting peasants, farming and landscape tended to be executed in a Romantic style, while more formal studies and mythological subjects tended to be executed in a tight, technically refined Classical style, as favoured by Hitler.

Contemporary subjects, however, such as representations of Reichsautobahnen, building projects, combat scenes and propaganda posters were executed in a ‘realist-modernist’ style.

Arno Breker
In other words, the National Socialist use of both Classicism and Romanticism is not the archaism of a society nostalgic for the past, but the ‘Modernism‘ of a regime which was, `nostalgic for the future‘.

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Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation – Race and Lebensraum

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Albert Speer
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The Großgermanisches Reich (Greater Germanic Reich), fully styled the Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation (Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation), is the official name of the political entity that Germany had established in Europe from 1939-1945.
Albert Speer stated in his memoirs that Hitler also referred to the envisioned state as the Teutonic Reich of the German Nation, although it is unclear whether Speer was using the now seldom used “Teutonic” as an English synonym for “Germanic”.

‘Mein Kampf’
Hitler also mentions a future Germanischer Staat Deutscher Nation (Germanic State of the German Nation) in ‘Mein Kampf‘.
The territorial claims for the Greater Germanic Reich varied over time, for instance during and for a short time after German-Soviet negotiations for the partition of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union took place, Hitler did not include territorial designs on the Soviet Union within the Greater Germanic Reich from 1939 to 1941, and instead was focusing on uniting the Germanic peoples of Scandinavia and the Low Countries into the Reich.
This pan-Germanic Empire was expected to assimilate practically all of Germanic Europe into an enormously expanded Reich.


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complete with commentaries and biographical information

Territorially speaking, this encompassed the already-enlarged German Reich itself (consisting of pre-1938 Germany proper, Austria,Bohemia, Moravia, Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmedy, Memel, Lower Styria, Upper Carniola, Southern Carinthia and German-occupied Poland), the Netherlands, the Flemish part of Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, at least the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Europe – Die neue Ordnung

The most notable exception was the predominantly Anglo-Saxon United Kingdom, which was not projected as having to be reduced to a German province, but to instead become an allied seafaring partner of Germany.

Another exception was German-populated territory in South Tyrol that was part of Italy.
In addition, its western frontiers with France were to be reverted to those of the earlier Holy Roman Empire, which would have meant the complete annexation of all of Wallonia, French Switzerland, and large areas of northern and eastern France.
The policy of lebensraum planned mass expansion of Germany eastwards to the Ural Mountains.
Hitler planned for the surplus Russian population, living west of the Urals, to be deported to the east of the Urals.

Neu-ordnung Europas

The Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation was also referred to as the Neu-ordnung Europas.
The establishment of the New Order was publicly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler in 1941:
The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order.
Among other things, it entailed the creation of a pan-German racial state, structured according to National Socialist ideology to ensure the supremacy of an Aryan-Nordic herrenvolk (master race), massive territorial expansion into Eastern Europe through its colonization with German settlers, the physical removal of the Jews, and the expulsion of most of the Slavic peoples and others regarded as “racially inferior”.
Historians are still divided as to its ultimate goals, some believing that it was to be limited to Nazi German domination of Europe, while others maintain that it was a springboard for eventual world conquest and the establishment of a world government under German control.

The Führer gave expression to his unshakable conviction that the Reich will be the master of all Europe. We shall yet have to engage in many fights, but these will undoubtedly lead to most wonderful victories. From there on the way to world domination is practically certain. Whoever dominates Europe will thereby assume the leadership of the world.

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda – 8 May 1943

Racial Theory

Aryan Race
National Socialist racial ideology regarded the Germanic peoples of Europe as belonging to a racially superior Nordic subset of the larger Aryan race, who were regarded as the only true culture-bearers of civilized society.

Ancient Romans
Racial Ancestors of the Germans
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
These peoples were viewed as either “true Germanic peoples” that had “lost their sense of racial pride“, or as close racial relatives of the Germans.
Adolf Hitler also believed that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were the racial ancestors of the Germans, and the first torch-bearers of “Nordic–Greek” art and culture.
He particularly expressed his admiration for Ancient Sparta, declaring it to have been the purest racial state:


The First Racial State
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The subjugation of 350,000 Helots by 6,000 Spartans was only possible because of the racial superiority of the Spartans.”
The Spartans had created “the first racial state.”
Furthermore, Hitler’s concept of “Germanic” did not simply refer to an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic group, but also to a distinctly biological one, the superior “Germanic blood” that he wanted to salvage from the control of the enemies of the Aryan race.
He stated that Germany possessed more of these “Germanic elements” than any other country in the world, which he estimated as “four fifths of our people“.


Wherever Germanic blood is to be found anywhere in the world, we will take what is good for ourselves. With what the others have left, they will be unable to oppose the Germanic Empire‘.

Adolf Hitler

According to National Socialists, in addition to the Germanic peoples, individuals of seemingly non-Germanic nationality such as French, Polish, Walloon, Czechand so on might actually possess valuable Germanic blood, especially if they were of aristocratic or peasant stock.

Heim ins Reich
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In order to “recover” these “missing” Germanic elements, they had to be made conscious of their Germanic ancestry through the process of Germanization (the term used for this process was Umvolkung, “restoration to the race“).

An example of this type of Germanization is the taking to germany of “racially valuable” Eastern European children.

The Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire; or Back to the Reich), was a foreign policy pursued by Adolf Hitler beginning in 1938. The aim of his initiative was to convince all of the ethnically German people who were living outside of the Third Reich (e.g. in Austria and the western districts of Poland etc) that they should strive to bring these regions “home” into Greater Germany. It included areas ceded after the Treaty of Versailles, as well as other areas containing significant German populations such as the Sudetenland. The policy was managed by VOMI (Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle) (English: Main Welfare Office for Ethnic Germans). As a state agency of the NSDAP, it handled all Volksdeutsch issues. By 1941, the VOMI was under the control of the SS.

On the very first page of ‘Mein Kampf‘, Hitler openly declared his belief that “common blood belongs in a common Reich“, elucidating the notion that the innate quality of race (as the National Socialist movement perceived it) should hold precedence over artificial concepts such as national identity (including regional German identities such as Prussian and Bavarian) as the deciding factor for which people were worthy of being assimilated into a Greater German racial state (Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer).
Part of the strategic methods which Hitler chose to ensure the present and future supremacy of the Aryan race (which was, according to Hitler, “gradually approaching extinction“) was to do away with what he described as the “small state rubbish” (Kleinstaatengerümpel, compare Kleinstaaterei) in Europe in order to unite all these Nordic countries into one unified racial community.
From 1921 onward he advocated the creation of a “Germanic Reich of the German Nation“.

‘It was the continent which brought civilization to England, and in turn enabled her to colonize large areas in the rest of the world.
America is unthinkable without Europe.
Why would we not have the necessary power to become one of the world’s centres of attraction ?
A hundred-and-twenty million people of Germanic origin – if they have consolidated their position this will be a power against which no-one in the world could stand up to.
The countries which form the Germanic world have only to gain from this.
I can see that in my own case.
My birth country is one of the most beautiful regions in the Reich, but what could it do if were left to its own devices ?
There is no possibility to develop one’s talents in countries like Austria or Saxony, Denmark or Switzerland.
There is no foundation.
That is why it is fortunate that potential new spaces are again opened for the Germanic peoples.’
Adolf Hitler, 1942
Heiliges Römisches Reich
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The chosen name for the projected empire was a deliberate reference to the Heiliges Römisches Reich (Holy Roman Empire) (of the German Nation) that existed in mediaeval times, known as the First Reich in National Socialist historiography.
Krone des Heiligen Römischen Reiches

Heiliges Römisches Reich (Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum, was a multi-ethnic and complex union of territories in Central Europe existing from 962 to 1806. The territories making up the Empire lay predominantly in Central Europe. At its peak in 1050, under Emperor Henry III, it included the Kingdom of Germany, the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Italy, and the Kingdom of Burgundy. The last Holy Roman Emperor was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Different aspects of the legacy of this medieval empire in German history were both celebrated and derided by the Third Reich.
The Frankish Emperor Charlemagne was admired by Hitler for his “cultural creativity“, his powers of organization, and his renunciation of the rights of the individual.
He criticized the Holy Roman Emperors however for not pursuing an Ostpolitik (Eastern Policy) resembling his own, while being politically focused exclusively on the south.

 Reichskleinodien

After the Anschluss, Hitler ordered the old imperial regalia (the Imperial Crown, Imperial Sword, Cross of Lothair, the Holy Lance [Spear of Destiny] and other items) residing in Vienna to be transferred to Nürnberg, where they were kept between 1424 and 1796.

Nürnberg, in addition of being the former unofficial capital of the Heiliges Römisches Reich, was also the place of the Reichsparteitag.
The transfer of the regalia was thus done to both legitimize Hitler’s Germany as the successor of the “Old Reich“, but also weaken Vienna, the former imperial residence.
Katherine Kirche – Nürnberg

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich.

It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.
Composed of prosperous artisans, the guilds of the Meistersingers flourished here. Richard Wagner made their most famous member, Hans Sachs, the hero of his opera ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’. 

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Große Wappen der
Protektorats Böhmen und Mähren

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After the 1939 German occupation of Bohemia, Hitler declared that the Heiliges Römisches Reich had been “resurrected“.

Unlike the “uncomfortably internationalist Catholic empire of Barbarossa“, the Germanic Reich of the German Nation would be racial and nationalist.
Rather than a return to the values of the Middle Ages, its establishment was to be “a push forward to a new golden age, in which the best aspects of the past would be combined with modern racial and nationalist thinking“.
The historical borders of the Holy Empire were also used as grounds for territorial revisionism by the National Socialists, laying claim to modern territories and states that were once part of it. 

Der Westfälische Frieden

Even before the war, Hitler had dreamed of reversing the ‘Westfälische Frieden’ (Peace of Westphalia), which had given the territories of the Empire almost complete sovereignty.

On November 17, 1939, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary that the “total liquidation” of this historic treaty was the “great goal” of the National Socialist regime, and that since it had been signed in Münster, it would also be officially repealed in the same city.
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities and can be denoted by two major events.

Pan-Germanism versus Pan-Germanicism
Despite intending to accord the other “Germanics” of Europe a racially superior status alongside the Germans themselves, in an anticipated post-war racio-political order, the National Socialists did not however consider granting the subject populations of these countries any national rights of their own.
The other Germanic countries were seen as mere extensions of Germany, rather than individual units in any way, and the Germans were unequivocally intended to remain the empire’s “most powerful source of strength, from both an ideological as well as military standpoint“.

Heinrich Himmler

Even Heinrich Himmler, who among the senior National Socialists most staunchly supported the concept, could not shake off the idea of a hierarchical distinction between German Volk and Germanic Völker (German Peoples).

The SS’s official newspaper, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, never succeeded in reconciling the contradiction between Germanic ‘brotherhood’ and German superiority.
Members of National Socialistic parties in Germanic countries were also forbidden to attend public meetings of the NSDAP when they visited Germany.
Although Hitler himself and Himmler’s SS advocated for a pan-Germanic Empire, the objective was not universally held in the National Socialist regime.
Goebbels and the Reich Foreign Ministry under Joachim von Ribbentrop inclined more towards an idea of a continental bloc under German rule, as represented by the Anti-Comintern Pact
Ribbentrop’s “European Confederation” project and the earlier Mitteleuropa concept.
Germanic Mysticism
There were also disagreements within the National Socialist leadership on the spiritual implications of cultivating a ‘Germanic history‘ in their ideological program.
Hitler was somewhat critical of Himmler’s esoteric völkisch interpretation of the ‘Germanic mission‘.
When Himmler denounced Charlemagne in a speech as “the butcher of the Saxons“, Hitler stated that this was not a ‘historical crime‘ but in fact a good thing, for the subjugation of Widukind had brought Western culture into what eventually became Germany.

Alfred Rosenberg
Ahnenerbe
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He also disapproved of some of the archaeological projects which Himmler organized through his Ahnenerbe organization, such as excavations of pre-historic Germanic sites:

In an attempt to eventually supplant Christianity with a new religion more amenable to Nazi ideology Himmler, together with Alfred Rosenberg, sought to replace it with Germanic paganism, such as renewed worship of the deity Wotan.
For this purpose they had ordered the construction of sites for the worship of Germanic cults in order to exchange Christian rituals for ‘Nordic‘ consecration ceremonies, which included different marriage and burial rites.
Hitler, however, did not entirely approve of some aspects of this project, particularly with regard to the renewed worship of the Wotan
Establishment Strategy
Adolf Hitler
1937 Reichsparteitag

The goal was first proclaimed publicly in the 1937 Reichsparteitag.

Hitler’s last speech at this event ended with the words:
The German nation has after all acquired its Germanic Reich“,
which elicited speculation in political circles of a ‘new era’ in Germany’s foreign policy.
Several days before the event Hitler took Albert Speer aside when both were on their way to the former’s Munich apartment with an entourage, and declared to him that:
We will create a great empire. All the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy.”
On April 9, 1940, as Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in Operation Weserübung, Hitler announced the establishment of the Germanic Reich:

Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck
Herzog von Lauenburg
Austrian Anschluß – 1938

‘Just as the Bismarck Empire arose from the year 1866, so too will the Greater Germanic Empire arise from this day.’
The establishment of the empire was to follow the model of the Austrian Anschluß of 1938, just carried out on a greater scale.

Dr Paul Josef Goebbels

Goebbels emphasized in April 1940 that the annexed Germanic countries would have to undergo a similar “national revolution” as Germany herself did after the Machtergreifung, with an enforced rapid social and political Gleichschaltung (co-ordination) in accordance with National Socialist principles and ideology.

The ultimate goal of the Gleichschaltung policy pursued in these parts of occupied Europe was to eliminate the very concepts of individual states and nationalities, just as the concept of a separate Austrian state and national identity was repressed after the Anschluss through the establishment of new state and party districts.
The new empire was to no longer be a nation-state of the type that had emerged in the 19th century, but instead a “racially pure community“.
It is for this reason that the National Socialist occupiers had no interest in transferring real power to the various right-wing nationalistic movements present in the occupied countries (such as Nasjonal Samling, the NSB, etc.) except for temporary reasons of Realpolitik, and instead actively supported radical collaborators who favoured pan-Germanic unity (i.e. total integration to Germany) over provincial nationalism (for example DeVlag).

Wappen Reichsgau Sudetenland
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Unlike Austria and the Sudetenland, however, the process was to take considerably longer.

Eventually these nationalities were to be merged with the Germans into a single ruling race, but Hitler stated that this prospect lay “many years” in the future.
During this interim period it was intended that the Neue Europa (New Europe) would by run by Germans alone.
According to Speer, while Himmler intended to eventually Germanize these peoples completely, Hitler intended not to “infringe on their individuality” (that is, their native languages), so that in the future they would “add to the diversity and dynamism” of his empire.
The German language would be its lingua franca however, likening it to the status of English in the British Empire.
A primary agent used in stifling the local extreme nationalist elements was the Germanic SS, which initially merely consisted of local respective branches of the Allgemeine-SS in Belgium, Netherlands and Norway.
These groups were at first under the authority of their respective national commanders (Quisling, Mussert and De Clercq), and were intended to function within their own national territories only.

SS Emblem
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During the course of 1942, however, the Germanic SS was further transformed into a tool used by Himmler against the influence of the less extreme collaborating parties and their SA-style organizations, such as the Hird in Norway and the Weerbaarheidsafdeling in the Netherlands.

In the post-war Germanic Empire, these men were to form the new leadership cadre of their respective national territories.
To emphasize their pan-Germanic ideology, the Norges SS was now renamed the Germanske SS Norge, the Nederlandsche SS the Germaansche SS in Nederland and the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen the Germaansche SS in Vlaanderen.
The men of these groups no longer swore allegiance to their respective national leaders, but to the germanischer Führer (“Germanic Führer”), Adolf Hitler:
I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Germanic Führer loyalty and bravery. I pledge you and the superiors which you appointed obedience until death. So help me God.’
This title was assumed by Hitler on 23 June 1941, at the suggestion of Himmler.

Anton Mussert

On 12 December 1941 the Dutch fascist Anton Mussert also addressed him in this fashion when he proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler during a visit to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

He had wanted to address Hitler as Führer aller Germanen (“Führer of all Germanics”), but Hitler personally decreed the former style.
The difference between the two is that Führer aller Germanen implied a position separate from Hitler’s role as Führer und Reichskanzler des Grossdeutschen Reiches (“Führer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Reich”), while germanischer Führer served more as an attribute of that main function.
As late as 1944 occasional propaganda publications continued to refer to him by this unofficial title as well however.

Hakenkreuzfahne

The Hakenkreuzfahne (Swastika Flag) was to be used as a symbol to represent not only the National Socialist movement, but also the unity of the Nordic-Germanic peoples into a single state.

Welthauptstadt Germania
Hitler had long intended to architecturally reconstruct the German capital Berlin into a new imperial metropolis, which he decided in 1942 to rename ‘Germania‘ upon its scheduled completion in 1950.
The name was specifically chosen to make it the clear central point of the envisioned Germanic empire, and to re-enforce the notion of a united Germanic-Nordic state upon the Germanic peoples of Europe.
Just as the Bavarians and the Prussians had to be impressed by Bismarck of the German idea, so too must the Germanic peoples of continental Europe be programmatically steered towards the Germanic concept.
Große Halle – Germania – Albert Speer

Welthauptstadt Germania refers to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin during the Third Reich, part of Adolf Hitler’s vision for the future of Germany after the planned victory in World War II. Albert Speer, the “first architect of the Third Reich“, produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city in his capacity as overseer of the project, only a small portion of which was realized between the years 1937–1943 when construction took place.
Some projects, such as the creation of a great East-West city axis, which included broadening Charlottenburger Chaussee (today Straße des 17. Juni) and placing the Berlin victory column in the centre, far away from the Reichstag, where it originally stood, were successfully completed. Others, however, such as the creation of the Große Halle (Great Hall), had to be shelved owing to the beginning of war. A great number of the old buildings in many of the planned construction areas were, however, demolished before the war and eventually defeat stopped the plans.

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Role of Britain
United Kingdom

The one country that was not included in the Pan-Germanic unification aim was the United Kingdom, in spite of its near-universal acceptance by the National Socialist government as being part of the Germanic world.

Leading Nordic ideologist Hans F. K. Günther theorized that the Anglo-Saxons had been more successful than the Germans in maintaining racial purity, and that the coastal and island areas of Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Wales had received additional Nordic blood through Norse raids and colonization during the Viking Age, and the Anglo-Saxons of Eastern and Northern England had been under Danish rule in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Royal Arms of England
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Günther referred to this historical process as Aufnordung (“additional nordification”), which finally culminated in the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

Britain was thus a nation created by struggle and the survival of the fittest among the various Aryan peoples of the isles, and was able to pursue global conquest and empire-building because of its superior racial heredity born through this development.
Hitler professed an admiration for the imperial might of the British Empire in ‘Zweites Buch’ as proof of the racial superiority of the Aryan race, hoping that Germany would emulate British “ruthlessness” in establishing its own colonial empire in Eastern Europe.
One of his primary foreign policy aims throughout the 1930s was to establish a military alliance with both the English (Hitler conflated England with Britain and the United Kingdom in his writings and speeches) as well as the Italians, to neutralize France as a strategic threat to German security for eastward expansion.
When it became apparent to the Nazi leadership that the United Kingdom was not interested in a military alliance, anti-British policies were adopted to ensure the attainment of Germany’s war aims.
Even during the war however, hope remained that Britain would in time yet become a reliable German ally.

British Empire

Hitler preferred to see the British Empire preserved as a world power, because its break-up would benefit other countries far more than it would Germany, particularly the United States and Japan.

In fact, Hitler’s strategy during 1935-1937 for winning Britain over was based on a German guarantee of defence of the British Empire.
Ulrich Joachim von Ribbentrop

After the war, Ribbentrop testified that in 1935 Hitler had promised to deliver twelve German divisions to the disposal of Britain for maintaining the integrity of her colonial possessions.

The continued military actions against Britain after the fall of France had the strategic goal of making Britain ‘see the light‘ and conduct an armistice with the Axis powers, with July 1, 1940, being named by the Germans as the “probable date” for the cessation of hostilities.

Generaloberst Franz Halder
On May 21, 1940, Franz Halder, the head of the Army General Staff, after a consultation with Hitler concerning the aims envisaged by the Führer during the present war, wrote in his diary: “We are seeking contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world“.
One of Hitler’s sub-goals for the invasion of Russia was to win over Britain to the German side. 
He believed that after the military collapse of the USSR, “within a few weeks” Britain would be forced either into a surrender or else come to join Germany as a “junior partner” in the Axis.
Britain’s role in this alliance was reserved to support German naval and aerial military actions against the USA in a fight for world supremacy conducted from the Axis power bases of Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.
On August 8, 1941, Hitler stated that he looked forward to the eventual day when “England and Germany [march] together against America” and on January 7, 1942, he suggested that it was “not impossible” for Britain to quit the war and join the Axis side, leading to a situation where “it will be a German-British army that will chase the Americans from Iceland“.

Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg hoped that after the victorious conclusion of the war against the USSR, Englishmen, along with other Germanic nationalities, would join the German settlers in colonizing the conquered eastern territories.

Wappen des Kaisertums Österreich
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From a historical perspective Britain’s situation was likened to that which the Austrian Empire found itself in after it was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia in the Battle of Königgratz in 1866.
As Austria was thereafter formally excluded from German affairs, so too would Britain be excluded from continental affairs in the event of a German victory.
Yet afterwards, Austria-Hungary became a loyal ally of the German Empire in the pre-World War I power alignments in Europe, and it was hoped that Britain would come to fulfil this same role.
Channel Islands
British Channel Islands
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The British Channel Islands were to be permanently integrated into the Germanic Empire.

On July 22, 1940, Hitler stated that after the war, the islands were to be given to the control of Robert Ley’s German Labour Front, and transferred into ‘Strength Through Joy’ holiday resorts.
It was suggested that the German occupiers should appeal to the islanders’ Norman heritage and treat the islands as “Germanic micro-states“, whose union with Britain was only an accident of history.
He likened the preferred policy concerning the islands similar to the one pursued by the British in Malta, where the Maltese language had been “artificially” supported against the Italian language.


Northern Italy
Fascist Kingdom of Italy
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Hitler emphasized the role of Germanic influence in Northern Italy, such as stating that the art of Northern Italy was “nothing but pure German“, and it was viewed that the Ladin and Friulian minorities of Northern Italy were racially, historically and culturally a part of the Germanic world.

Wappen der Südtirol
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The region of South Tyrol had been a place of contending claims and conflict between German nationalism and Italian nationalism.
One of the leading founders of Italian nationalism, Giuseppe Mazzini, along with Ettore Tolomei, claimed that the German-speaking South Tyrolian population were in fact a Germanicized population of Roman origin who needed to be “liberated and returned to their rightful culture“.
With the defeat of Austria-Hungary in World War I, the peace treaty designated to Italy the South Tyrol, with its border with Austria along the Brenner Pass.
The Italian Fascist regime pursued Italianization of South Tyrol, by restricting use of the German language while promoting the Italian language; promoting mass migration of Italians into the region, encouraged mainly through industralization; and resettlement of the German-speaking population.

Benito Mussolini

After Mussolini had made clear in 1922 that he would never give up the region of South Tyrol from being in Italy, Hitler adopted this position.

Hitler, in ‘Mein Kampf’ had declared that concerns over the rights of Germans in South Tyrol under Italian sovereignty was a non-issue considering the advantages that would be gained from a German-Italian alliance with Mussolini’s Fascist regime.
In ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler also made clear that he was opposed to having a war with Italy for the sake of obtaining South Tyrol.
This position by Hitler of abandoning German land claims to South Tyrol produced aggravation amongst some NSDAP members who up to the late 1920s found it difficult to accept the position.

Hitler and Mussolini – Rome

On 7 May 1938, Hitler during a public visit to Rome declared his commitment to the existing border between Germany (that included Austria upon the Anschluss) and Italy at the Brenner Pass.

In 1939, Hitler and Mussolini resolved the problem of self-determination of Germans and maintaining the Brenner Pass frontier by an agreement in which German South Tyroleans were given the choice of either assimilation into Italian culture, or leave South Tyrol for Germany; most opted to leave for Germany.

Re Vittorio Emanuele III d’Italia

After King Victor Emmanuel III of the Kingdom of Italy removed Mussolini from power, Hitler on 28 July 1943 was preparing for the expected abandonment of the Axis for the Allies by the Kingdom of Italy’s new government, and was preparing to exact retribution for the expected betrayal by planning to partition Italy.

In particular Hitler was considering the creation of a “Lombard State” in northern Italy that would be incorporated into the Greater Germanic Reich, while South Tyrol and Venice would be annexed directly into Germany.
In the aftermath of the Kingdom of Italy’s abandonment of the Axis on 8 September 1943, Germany seized and de facto incorporated Italian territories into its direct control.

The Axis powers, were the nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The Axis promoted the alliance as a part of a revolutionary process aimed at breaking the hegemony of plutocratic-capitalist Western powers and defending civilization from communism.
The Axis grew out of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty signed by Germany and Japan in 1936. Italy joined the Pact in 1937. The “Rome–Berlin Axis” became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies.

La Repubblica Sociale Italiana
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After the rescue of Mussolini and the establishment of  La Repubblica Sociale Italiana (Repubblica di Salò – Italian Social Republic – RSI), in spite of urging by local German officials, Hitler refused to officially annex South Tyrol, instead he decided that the RSI should hold official sovereignty over these territories, and forbade all measures that would give the impression of official annexation of South Tyrol, however, in practice the territory of South Tyrol within the boundaries defined by Germany as Operationszone Alpenvorland that included Trent, Bolzano, and Belluno, were de facto incorporated into Germany’s Reichsgau Tirol-Vorarlberg, and administered by its Gauleiter Franz Hofer.

While the region identified by Germany as Operationszone Adriatische Kustenland that includedUdine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola, Fiume (Rijeka), and Ljubljana were de facto incorporated into Reichsgau Kärnten and administered by its Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer.
After the Kingdom of Italy capitulated to the Allies in September 1943, according to Goebbels in his personal diary on 29 September 1943, wrote that Hitler had expressed that the Italian-German border should extend to those of the region of Veneto.
Veneto was to be included into the Reich in an “autonomous form”, and to benefit from the post-war influx of German tourists.
Expected participation in the colonization of Eastern Europe
Despite the pursued aim of pan-Germanic unification, the primary goal of Nazi Germany’s territorial expansionism was to acquire sufficient Lebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe for the Germanic Aryan master race.
The primary objective of this aim was to transform Germany into a complete economic autarky, the end-result of which would be a state of continent-wide German hegemony over Europe.
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. The latter are called closed economies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky would be a state that could defend itself without help from another country. Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole, but also can be limited to a narrow field such as possession of a key raw material.
This was to be accomplished through the enlargement of the territorial base of the German state and the expansion of the German population.
Because of their perceived racial worth, the Nazi leadership was enthusiastic at the prospect of “recruiting” people from the Germanic countries to also settle these territories after the Slavic inhabitants would have been driven out.
The racial planners were partly motivated in this because studies indicated that Germany would likely not be able to recruit enough colonial settlers for the eastern territories from its own country, and other Germanic groups would therefore be required.
Hitler insisted however that German settlers would have to dominate the newly colonized areas.
Conclusion
Leibstandarte
SS Adolf Hitler
Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

Gradually the ‘Greater Germanic Empire’ gave way to a concept of a Neu-ordnung Europas of self-governing states, unified by German hegemony and the common enemy of Bolshevism.

The Waffen-SS was to be the eventual nucleus of a common europäischen Armee, where each state would be represented by a national contingent.
Heinrich Himmler himself, held on to his Pan-Germanic vision, and in a speech given on April 1943 to the officers of SS divisions ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’, ‘Das Reich’ and ‘Totenkopf’ he stated:
We do not expect you to renounce your nation. … We do not expect you to become German out of opportunism. We do expect you to subordinate your national ideal to a greater racial and historical ideal, to the Germanic Reich‘.

Hitler’s Real Views on die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation

In the beginning of the Kampfzeit (time of struggle) Hitler had only been concerned with National Socialism in Germany and Austria, and the reclaiming of territory lost through the Treaty of Versailles.
The concept of a ‘Große Reich’ (Greater Reich) was a late development, and the idea of Weltherrschaft (world domination) was the result of Hitler’s involvement with Major General Karl Ernst Haushofer, and his theories of Geopolitik (Geo-politics).
Karl Ernst Haushofer

Karl Ernst Haushofer (August 27, 1869 – March 10, 1946) was a German general, geographer and geopolitician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer’s ideas may have influenced the development of Adolf Hitler’s expansionist strategies. Haushofer developed Geopolitik from widely varied sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler, Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, and  Friedrich Ratzel.

Geopolitik contributed to the foreign policy of the Third Reich, chiefly in the strategy and justifications for lebensraum. The theories contributed five ideas to German foreign policy in the inter-war period:, the organic state, lebensraum, autarky, pan-regions, land power/sea power dichotomy.
Rudolf Heß

Hitler and Haushofer first came together through the offices of Rudolf Heß, during Hitler’s imprisonment at Festung Landsberg, after the 1923 Munich Putsch.

The evidence of Hausofer’s influence can clearly be seen in the second half of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf‘.
Geopolitics was very popular in Germany at the time that ‘Mein Kampf‘ was published, and it is quite reasonable to suppose that Hitler included geopolitical chapters in ‘Mein Kampf‘ in order to make it appear ‘modern’ and ‘in tune’ with current political and academic developments.
One cannot conclude, however, that Hitler seriously believed in the fundamental principles of Haushofer’s geopolitical theories, as much of the contents of the remainder of ‘Mein Kampf‘ is disingenuous to say the very least.
We should remember that while Hitler had no objection to extending the influence and power of the Third Reich beyond its previous racially demarcated borders, much of the speculation indulged in the National Socialist hierarchy about ‘Weltherrschaft’ is simply that – speculation.

Heinrich Himmler and
haj Amin al-Husseini
For example, overtures to the Arab and Muslim world (haj Amin al-Husseini) were as disingenuous as many other aspects of the foreign policy of the Third Reich.
As far as Hitler was concerned, Arabs were Semites, and therefore little different, in racial terms, from the Jews.
Any statements made by Hitler and Himmler et al, were, therefore, simply the means to obtain temporary wartime support from these groups.
As for Africa, South America and other non-European areas, these were matters that would be settled, probably by diplomacy and treaties, when the conflict in Europe came to an end.

Hitler’s primary concern, from the very beginning, was to create a settled, racially pure ‘living-space’ where Himmler’s SS could undertake the biological breeding programs that would produce Die Herrenrasse.

Die Herrenrasse

Die Herrenrasse is a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic race -a branch of the Aryan race – represented an ideal and pure race. The Nordic race was the purest example of the original racial stock of those who were then called the Proto-Aryans, who prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain, ultimately originated from the lost continent of Atlantis. The Nordics (Germanic peoples), were the true Aryans because they were less racially mixed with “non-native” Indo-European peoples than other Aryan peoples, such as the Slavic peoples, the Romance peoples and the Indo-Iranian peoples. Based on this claim that the Nordic peoples were superior to all other races, and were entitled to expand territorially.This concept is known as Nordicism.

Nietzsche

This, however, was only the first stage of the process that Hitler envisaged.

Hitler explained the process of creating the Nietzschean übermensch in the following manner:
The real destiny of Man is something that ordinary men could not conceive and would be unable to comprehend, even if given a glimpse of it.
Our revolution is a final stage in an evolution that will end by abolishing history.
der Übermensch

It is my ultimate aim to perform an act of creation, a divine operation, the goal of a biological mutation which will result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men.

My party comrades have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind, or of the grandiose edifice of which the foundations, at least, will have been laid before I die. 
The world has reached a turning point, and will undergo an upheaval which the uninitiated cannot understand.’
Once the ‘divine operation‘ had been achieved there would be no further need for economic, politics, or strategies.
The ‘unprecedented exaltation of the human race‘ would produce “the ‘Man-God’, when Man will be the measure and centre of the world.
The ‘Man-God‘, that splendid Being, will be an object of worship …
But there are other stages about which I am not permitted to speak ...”

Adolf Hitler

And so, in the final analysis, ‘die Großgermanischen Reich der deutschen Nation’ would simply be the ‘seed bed’ for the greater creation, which would go beyond all national and political considerations, and into the realm of ‘pure metaphysics’.

Nietzsche und die deutsche Politik

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
In the halls of orthodox academia, his reputation precedes him.
His name is Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Enraptured by his vitriolic hatred for Christianity and enshrinement of moral anarchism, academia has consistently defended Friedrich Nietzsche as one of history’s “misunderstood” philosophers.
Cribbing from the standard litany of apologetics, many argue that Adolf Hitler somehow “misrepresented” or “distorted” Nietzsche’s ideas.
Is this genuinely the case ?
Of course, during their migration from abstraction to tangible enactment, ideas can become contaminated by any number of factors.
To be sure, internal contention among adherents, the personal idiosyncrasies of individual analysts, and the manifestly unpredictable nature of reality itself makes an idea’s journey towards tangible enactment very problematic.
Yet, was Nietzscheism’s journey toward tangible enactment so bastardized by Hitler that it was virtually unrecognizable ?
Was National Socialism nothing like the concepts that Nietzsche had in the mind ?
Again, only an examination of the delicate segues between abstraction and tangible enactment can answer this question.

Hitler und Frau Förster-Nietzsche – Wiemar

In ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, William Shirer recounts Hitler’s frequent visits to the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, and his meetings with Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846 – November 8, 1935), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894. Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar

Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental collapse occurred in 1889 (he died in 1900), and upon Elisabeth’s return in 1893 she found him an invalid whose published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe.


Nietzsche und seine Schwester

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche took a leading role in promoting her brother, especially through the publication of a collection of Nietzsche’s writings under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power). In 1930, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, became a member of the NSDAP. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the government, in return for which Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche bestowed her brother’s considerable prestige on the régime.


Admittedly, Hitler was enthralled by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer – to the extent that he carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) in his backpack throughout his sojurn in the trenches in the Great War – and undoubtedly Schopenhauer was a precursor to Nietzsche.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’. His faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept atheism.

Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung
‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann.
Schopenhauer used the word “will” as a human’s most familiar designation for the concept that can also be signified by other words such as “desire,” “striving,” “wanting,” “effort,” and “urging.” Schopenhauer’s philosophy holds that all nature, including man, is the expression of an insatiable will to life. It is through the will that mankind finds all their suffering. Desire for more is what causes this suffering.
For Nietzsche, the reading of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ aroused his interest in philosophy. Although he despised especially Schopenhauer’s ideas on compassion, Nietzsche would admit that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, lauding him in his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator 1874), one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).
Commenting on Hitler’s veneration for Nietzsche, Shirer writes:
William Shirer

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung.

Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman – and in the most telling aphorisms ?

William Lawrence Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, a history of the Third Reich that has been read by many, and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years.
‘Magnificent Blonde Brute’

Indeed, the commonalities are numerous.

Perhaps the most interesting of these was Nietzsche’s adoration for “the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory“.
While Nietzsche also referred to the “masters” (i.e., noble men, rulers, etc.) as “blond beasts,” this “blond brute” was something different.
He was Nietzsche’s superman, the ‘Übermensch’.
Of course, many apologists for Nietzsche argue that the criterion for defining the ‘Übermensch‘ was neither racial nor hereditary, however, Nietzsche frequently espoused eugenic concepts, suggesting that he did invest significant value in race and hereditary.
For instance, consider the following social mandate set forth by Nietzsche:
Society as the trustee of life is responsible to life for every botched life that comes into existence; and as it has to atone for such lives, it ought consequently to make it impossible for them ever to see the light of day: it should in many cases actually prevent the act of procreation, and may, without any regard for rank, descent, or intellect, hold in readiness the most rigorous forms of compulsion and restriction, and, under certain circumstances, have recourse to castration … ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ is a piece of ingenuous puerility compared with ‘Thou shalt not beget!!!’ … The unhealthy must at all costs be eliminated, lest the whole fall to pieces.”
Automatically, the astute reader will recognize the traditional themes of eugenics: Malthusian demands for the prohibition of procreation among certain populations.

Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was a British cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus became widely known for his theories about change in population. His ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man“.

Nietzsche asserts that eugenical regimentation should be implemented with no regard for “rank, descent, or intellect“, and he insists that there is an “unhealthy” population that “must at all costs be eliminated“.
Undoubtedly Nietzsche fear that such “dysgenics” would interbreed with those of healthier stock. Remember, Nietzsche’s remarks are made in conjunction with procreation, inferring that he believes in a definite connection between hereditary and the “unhealthy.”
Moreover, Nietzsche’s bestowal of primacy upon the social “whole” shows his collectivist, or völkisch concerns.
Hitler shared such ideas, as is evidenced by his virtual deification of the collective in ‘Mein Kampf‘:
The sacrifice of personal existence is necessary to secure the preservation of the species“.

Fascio
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While Fascism and National Socialism are only superficially similar, Fascism is a derivation of the Italian word fascio, which is translated as “bundle” or “group.”

National Socialism (a racialist variant of fascism) is derivative, in some respects, of such ideas.
Nietzschean concept of the “human herd” therefore is a societal paradigm that subordinates the individual to the collective.
Nietzschean philosophy comprises an ideational continuum binding Hitler, Socialism and nationalism together.
It is, however, paradoxical that Nietzsche harshly criticized socialism.
Yet, his ideas harmonized well with Socialism, whether disseminated on the popular level, or in a more complex and rarefied level in völkisch ideology.

Benito Mussolini

Interestingly, Mussolini, who was responsible for Fascism in Italy, read Nietzsche extensively.

In 1938, Hitler bequeathed a copy of Nietzsche’s ‘Collected Works’ to Mussolini on the Brenner Pass. Although socialism clearly was not the apple of Nietzsche’s eye, its inherent collectivism synchronized very well with the doctrine of the “human herd.”
In addition to the continuity of political and social thought that pervaded völkisch socialism, Nietzsche also provided a religious component.
The infamous declaration, “God is dead,” is but a segue for the introduction of a ‘new god’.
This god has had numerous manifestations, as is evidenced by the following delineation by W. Warren Wagar:
‘Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century thought teems with time-bound emergent deities. Scores of thinkers preached some sort of faith in what is potential in time, in place of the traditional Christian and mystical faith in a power outside of time.
Hegel’s ‘Weltgeist’, Comte’s ‘Humanite’, Spencer’s ‘organismic humanity’ inevitably improving itself by the laws of evolution, Nietzsche’s doctrine of ‘superhumanity’, the conception of a finite God given currency by J.S. Mill, Hastings Rashdall, and William James, the ‘vitalism’ of Bergson and Shaw, the ’emergent evolutionism’ of Samuel Alexander and Lloyd Morgan, the theories of ‘divine immanence’ in the liberal movement in Protestant theology, – all are exhibits in evidence of the influence chiefly of evolutionary thinking, both before and after Darwin, in Western intellectual history.
The faith of progress itself – especially the idea of progress as built into the evolutionary scheme of things- is in every way the psychological equivalent of religion.’

Walter Warren Wagar 

Walter Warren Wagar (June 5, 1932 Baltimore, Maryland – November 16, 2004 Vestal, New York), better known as W. Warren Wagar, was an American historian and futures studies scholar.

Nietzsche’s Ubermensch was but one more link in this ideational chain.
The thematic continuity is a religious faith in humanity’s evolutionary ascent towards apotheosis.
This is by no means new.
This doctrine of transformationism dates back nearly 6,000 years, finding its crucible in Mesopotamia.
It was the religious doctrine promulgated by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Hellenistic Mystery cults.
Masonic scholar W L Wilmshurst verifies this contention: “This – the evolution of man into superman – was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries“.

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst



Walter Leslie Wilmshurst (22 June 1867 – 10 July 1939) was an English author and Freemason. He published four books on English Freemasonry and submitted articles to The Occult Review magazine.

It comes as little surprise that Nietzsche viewed the gods of the Bacchic and Dionysian Mysteries so favorably.
They embodied his religious faith in humanity’s emergent deity.
Likewise, Hitler adhered to the religion of ‘apotheosized man’.
Hermann Rauschning

In Hitler Speaks, Hermann Rauschning quotes Hitler as having declared:

In his coming kingdom of deified humanity, the Führer envisioned a system where the “god-man” justifiably ruled the “mass of lower humanity”.
This was in many ways derivative of Nietzsche’s racialist vision for the future.
In ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power), Nietzsche declares:
A daring and ruling race is building itself up… The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for this new man, – most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man – and the elite around him will become the ‘lords of the earth‘”.
Again, Nietzsche is speaking about a specific ‘rasse’ race.
The racialist context is obvious and incontrovertible.
Of course, Nietzsche’s prophecy would become central to Hitler’s ultimate objectives.
Shirer writes:
Übermensch’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Such ideas from one of Germany’s most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler’s mind. At any rate he adopted them for his own. “Lords of the Earth” is a familiar expression in ‘Mein Kampf’.

Nietzsche’s apologists argue that the philosopher’s anti-nationalism was irreconcilable with National Socialism‘s fervent nationalist rhetoric.
Indeed, Nietzsche “even toyed with the idea of European union and world government“.
Yet, so did Hitler !
In fact, Hitler confessed that his ostensible nationalism was but the means to just such an end:
“I had to encourage ‘national’ feelings for reasons of expediency; but I was already aware that the ‘nation’ idea could only have a temporary value. The day will come when even here in Germany when what is known as ‘nationalism’ will practically have ceased to exist. What will take its place in the world will be a universal society of masters and overlords.”
So Adolf Hitler was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.
Hitler was only taking Nietzsche’s philosophy to its logical conclusion: a world oligarchy governed by a supranational Aryan elite.
Nietzsche was an elitist and his aristocracy was the ‘Übermensch‘, which represented the pinnacle of evolution.
Gnostic Scrolls

At this evolutionary plateau, the ‘Übermensch’ would “overcome” his own humanity.

For both Nietzsche and Hitler, this post-human condition represented godhood.
Inherent in this belief are Nietzsche’s Gnostic tendencies.
The triumph of the ‘Übermensch‘ over humanity reiterates the Gnostic theme of man as a higher being fettered by a corporeal prison (i.e., the body).
Nietzsche’s own version of Gnosis (revelatory experience) is the “transvaluation of values,” and the enthronement of self as the final moral authority.
In a Gnostic context, Nietzsche’s concept of  self-deification is analogous to the transformation of man’s sensate being.
In a Nietzschean context, Gnosticism‘s ” immanentized eschaton” becomes the governance of the “lords of the earth.
Not surprisingly, Hitler shared Nietzsche’s Gnostic views

Das Kloster von Lambach
Lambach Hakenkreuz

No doubt, these inclinations were related to  Hitler’s attendance at Benedictine Abby in Lambach.

Adorned by the occult symbol of the swastika, the Abby was little more than a Gnostic Mystery school.
The average German who was not initiated into esoteric culture was incapable of recognizing the semiotic Gnosticism that pervaded the Abby.
Lanz von Liebenfels
Ostara

In addition, of course, there is Hitler’s own reading of Liebenfel’s Ostara, and his involvement in the Thule Gesellschaft.

The Third Reich, therefore, represented an attempt to “immanentize the eschaton“, and tangibly enact Nietzsche’s own Gnostic realm of the Übermensch.
Shirer, like many scholars, claims that Nietzsche was never an anti-Semite.
Yet, Nietzsche considered Christianity as inextricably linked with Judaism, and derisively called the Jews a “nation of priests“.
Nietzsche’s hatred for the so-called “priestly caste” is well-known, – a historical fact evidenced by his own writings.

Nietzsche und Hitler
Thule Gesellschaft
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This is highly suspicious, to say the least.

If Nietzsche were not an anti-Semite, he certainly did very little to prevent his work from being interpreted as such.
Replete with bitter rebukes and accusations leveled directly at the Jewish people, it would be extremely easy for an anti-Semite to find all the justification needed for his beliefs.
It is time for Nietzsche enthusiasts to acknowledge the parallels between their idol and the development of völkisch ideology.
For some, Nietzsche shall remain a “misunderstood” and “distorted” philosopher.
For those who recognize the ideational continuity between Nietzsche and Hitler, Nietzsche can be seen a significant and welcome precursor of the völkisch philosophy of the Third Reich.

click below for a full biography, more images and resumes of Nietzsche’s major works
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Oswald Spengler – Der Untergang des Abendlandes

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Oswald Spengler   
‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’

Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher of history whose interests included mathematics, science, and art.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

He is best known for his book ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ – (The Decline of the West), published in 1918 and 1922, covering all of world history.

He proposed a new theory, according to which the lifespan of civilizations is limited and ultimately they decay.
He wrote extensively throughout World War I and the interwar period, and supported German hegemony in Europe.
As a precursor of National Socialism, in 1920 Spengler produced ‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’ (Prussia and Socialism), which argued for an organic, nationalist version of socialism and authoritarianism.

Biography
Blankenburg
Oswald Spengler
(29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936)

Oswald Spengler was born in 1880 in Blankenburg the eldest of four children, and the only boy.
His family was conservative German of the petite bourgeoisie.

His father, originally a mining technician, who came from a long line of mine-workers, was a post office bureaucrat.
His childhood home was emotionally reserved, and the young Spengler turned to books and the great cultural personalities for succor.
He had imperfect health, and suffered throughout his life from migraine headaches and from an anxiety complex.
At the age of ten, his family moved to the university city of Halle.
Halle Marktplatz

Here Spengler received a classical education at the local Gymnasium (academically oriented secondary school), studying Greek, Latin, mathematics and sciences.

Here, too, he developed his affinity for the arts – especially poetry, drama, and music – and came under the influence of the ideas of Goethe and Nietzsche.

Nietzsche
After his father’s death in 1901 Spengler attended several universities (Munich, Berlin, and Halle) as a private scholar, taking courses in a wide range of subjects. His private studies were undirected.
In 1904 he received his Ph.D.
He briefly served as a teacher in Saarbrücken and then in Düsseldorf.

Realgymnasium – Hamburg
From 1908 to 1911 he worked at a grammar school (Realgymnasium) in Hamburg, where he taught science, German history, and mathematics.
In 1911 he moved to Munich, where he would live until his death in 1936.
He lived as a cloistered scholar, supported by his modest inheritance.
He began work on the first volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ intending at first to focus on Germany within Europe, but the Agadir Crisis affected him deeply, and he widened the scope of his study.
The book was completed in 1914, but publishing was delayed by World War I.
Due to a congenital heart problem, he was not called up for military service.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
‘The Decline of the West’ is a two-volume work by Oswald Spengler, the first volume of which was published in the summer of 1918.
Spengler revised this volume in 1922 and published the second volume, subtitled ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World History), in 1923.
The book introduces itself as a “Copernican overturning”, and rejects the Euro-centric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-medieval-modern” rubric.
According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
He recognizes eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or “European-American.”
Cultures have a lifespan of about a thousand years.
The final stage of each culture is, in his word use, a ‘civilization’.
The book also presents the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian; Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian; and the modern Westerners being Faustian.
According to the theory, the Western world is actually ending and we are witnessing the last season – ‘Winterzeit’ – (winter time) — of the Faustian civilization.
In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.

General Context

Spengler relates that he conceived the book sometime in 1911 and spent three years in writing the first draft.
At the start of World War I he began revising it and completed the first volume in 1917.
It was published the following year when Spengler was 38, and was his first work, apart from his doctoral thesis on Heraclitus.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος—Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor.
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties.

The second volume was published in 1922.
The first volume is subtitled ‘Form und Aktualität’ – (Form and Actuality), the second volume is ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World-history).
Spengler’s own view of the aims and intentions of the work are sketched in the Prefaces and occasionally at other places.

The book received unfavorable reviews from most interested scholars even before the release of the second volume.
Spengler’s veering toward right-wing views in the second volume confirmed this reception, and the stream of criticisms continued for decades.
Nevertheless in Germany the book enjoyed popular success: by 1926 some 100,000 copies were sold.
A 1928 ‘Time’ magazine review of the second volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ described the immense influence and controversy Spengler’s ideas enjoyed in the 1920s:
When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so.”
Spengler presented a worldview that resonated with the post-WWI German mood  – a view of democracy as the type of government of the declining civilization.
He argued that democracy is driven by money-breeding, and therefore easily corruptible. Spengler supported the rise of a right wing, authoritarian government as the next phase after the failure of democracy.

Overview

Nietzsche
Goethe 

Spengler’s world-historical outlook is informed by many philosophers, Goethe and Nietzsche among them, and the former more than the latter.
He would later further explain the significance of these two German philosophers and their influence on his worldview in his lecture Nietzsche and His Century.
His analytical approach is that of “Analogy. By these means we are enabled to distinguish polarity and periodicity in the world.”

Morphology is a key part of Spengler’s philosophy of history, using a methodology which approached history and historical comparisons on the basis of civilizational forms and structure, without regard to function.
In a footnote, Spengler describes the essential core of his philosophical approach toward history, culture, and civilization:

Kant
Plato

‘Plato and Goethe stand for the philosophy of Becoming, – Aristotle and Kant the philosophy of Being… Goethe’s notes and verse.. must be regarded as the expression of a perfectly definite metaphysical doctrine. I would not have a single word changed of this: “The Godhead is effective in the living and not in the dead, in the becoming and the changing, not in the become and the set-fast; and therefore, similarly, the reason is concerned only to strive towards the divine through the becoming and the living, and the understanding only to make use of the become and the set-fast. This sentence comprises my entire philosophy.’

Sonnenuntergang – Sunset

Scholars now agree that the word “decline” more accurately renders the intended meaning of Spengler’s original German word “Untergang” (often translated as the more emphatic “downfall“; “Unter” being “under” and “gang” being “going”, it is also accurately rendered in English as the “going under” of the West).
Spengler explained that he did not mean to describe a catastrophic occurrence, but rather a protracted fall – a twilight or sunset. (Sonnenuntergang is German for sunset, and ‘Abendland’, his word for the West, literally means the “evening land“.)
Writing in 1921 Spengler observed that he might have used in his title the word Vollendung (which means ‘fulfillment’ or ‘consummation’) and saved a great deal of misunderstanding.
Nevertheless, “Untergang” can be interpreted in both ways and, after World War II, some critics and scholars chose to read it in the cataclysmic sense.


Spengler’s Cultures

The “Decline” is largely concerned with comparisons between the Classical and Western cultures, but some examples are taken from the Arabian, Chinese, and Egyptian formations. 
Each culture arises within a specific geographical area, and is defined by its internal coherence of style in terms of art, religious behaviour and psychological perspective.
Central to each one is its conception of space which is expressed by an “Ursymbol” (primeval symbol).
Although not amenable to a strictly logical examination, Spengler’s idea of the culture is, he claims, justifiable through the existence of recurrent patterns of development and decline across the 1,000 years of each culture’s active lifetime.
Spengler seems to ignore Southeast Asian and Peruvian (Incan, etc.) cultures, and he thinks the Russian culture is still defining itself.

The Meaning of History

Spengler distinguishes between ahistorical peoples, and peoples caught up in world-history. While he recognizes that all people are a part of history, he argues that only certain cultures imbue a wider sense of historical involvement.
Thus some people see themselves as part of a grand historical design or tradition, while others view themselves in a self-contained manner.
For the latter, there is no ‘Welt-Geschichtsbewusstsein’ – (world-historical consciousness).
For Spengler, a world-historical view points toward the meaning of history itself, by breaking the historian or observer out of his crude culturally-parochial classifications of history.
By learning about different courses taken by other civilizations, one can better understand his own culture and identity.
Those who still maintain a historical view of the world are the very same who continue to “make” history.
Spengler asserts that life and mankind as a whole have an ultimate aim.
However, he maintains a distinction between world-historical peoples, and ahistorical peoples – the former will have a historical destiny as part of a high Culture, the latter will have a merely zoological fate.
World-historical man’s destiny is self-fulfillment as a part of his Culture.
Further, Spengler asserts that not only is pre-Cultural man without history, he loses his historical weight as his Culture becomes exhausted and becomes a more and more defined Civilization.
For example, Spengler classifies Classical and Indian civilizations as ahistorical, whereas the Egyptian and Western civilizations developed conceptions of historical time.
He sees all cultures as necessarily placed on equal footing in the study of world-historical development.
From this idea flows a kind of historical relativism or dispensationalism.
Historical data, in Spengler’s mind, are an expression of their historical time, contingent upon and relative to that context.
Thus, the insights of one era are not unshakeable or valid in another time or culture – “there are no eternal truths.
Each man has a duty to look beyond his own Culture to see what men of other Cultures have with equal certainty created for themselves.
What is significant is not whether the past thinkers’ insights are relevant today, but whether they were exceptionally relevant to the great facts of their own time.

Culture and Civilization

Spengler adopts an organic conception of culture.
Primitive Culture is simply a collection, a sum, of its constituent and incoherent parts (individuals, tribes, clans, etc.).
Higher Culture, in its maturity and coherence, becomes an organism in its own right, according to Spengler.
The Culture is capable of sublimating the various customs, myths, techniques, arts, peoples, and classes into a single strong, undiffused historical tendency.
Spengler divides the concepts of culture and civilization, the former focused inward and growing, the latter outward and merely expanding, however, he sees Civilization as the destiny of every Culture.
The transition is not a matter of choice – it is not the conscious will of individuals, classes, or peoples that decides.
Whereas Cultures are ‘Dinge immer’ (things-becoming), Civilizations are the ‘Ding geworden’” (thing-become).
As the conclusion of a Culture’s arc of growth, Civilizations are outwardly focused, and in that sense artificial.

Practical Roman Civilization

Civilizations are what Cultures become when they are no longer creative and growing.
For example, Spengler points to the Greeks and Romans, saying that the imaginative Greek culture declined into wholly practical Roman ‘civilization’.

Spengler also compares the ‘Weltstadt’ (world-city) and province, as concepts analogous to civilization and culture respectively.
The city draws upon and collects the life of broad surrounding regions.
He contrasts the “true-type” rural born, with the nomadic, traditionless, irreligious, matter-of-fact, clever, unfruitful, and contemptuous-of-the-countryman city dweller.
In the cities he sees only the “mob“, not a ‘Volk’ (people), hostile to the traditions that represent Culture (in Spengler’s view these traditions are: nobility,  privileges, dynasties, convention in art, and limits on scientific knowledge).
City dwellers possess cold intelligence that confounds völkisch (peasant) wisdom, a new-fashioned naturalism in attitudes towards sex which are a return to primitive instincts, and a dying inner religiousness.
Further, Spengler sees in urban wage-disputes and a focus on lavish sport expenditures for entertainment the final aspects that signal the closing of Culture and the rise of the Civilization.
Spengler has a low opinion of Civilizations, even those that engaged in significant expansion, because that expansion was not actual growth.

Roman ‘Weltherrschaft
Roman ‘Weltherrschaft’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

One of his principal examples is that of Roman ‘Weltherrschaft’ (world domination).
It was not an achievement because the Romans faced no significant resistance to their expansion.
Thus they did not so much conquer their empire, but rather simply took possession of that which lay open to everyone.
Spengler asserts that the Roman Empire did not come into existence because of the kind of Cultural energy that they had displayed in the Punic Wars.
After the Battle of Zama, Spengler believes that the Romans never waged, or even were capable of waging, a war against a competing great military power.

Races, Peoples and Cultures

Eine Rasse (a race), writes Spengler, has “roots,” just like a plant.
It is connected to a landscape.
If, in that home, the race cannot be found, this means the race has ceased to exist.
A race does not migrate.
Men migrate, and their successive generations are born in ever-changing landscapes; but the landscape exercises a secret force upon the extinction of the old and the appearance of the new one.
However, a race is not exactly like a plant.
Science has completely failed to note that race is not the same for rooted plants as it is for mobile animals, that with the micro-cosmic side of life a fresh group of characteristics appear and that for the animal world it is decisive.
Nor again has it perceived that a completely different significance must be attached to ‘races’ when the word denotes subdivisions within the integral race ‘Man.’
With its talk of casual concentration it sets up a soulless concentration of superficial characters, and blots out the fact that here the blood and there the power of the land over the blood are expressing themselves – secrets that cannot be inspected and measured, but only livingly experienced from eye to eye.
Nor are scientists at one as to the relative rank of these superficial characters“.
Spengler writes that,
Comradeship breeds races… Where a race-ideal exists, as it does, supremely, in the Early period of a culture… the yearning of a ruling class towards this ideal, its will to be just so and not otherwise, operates towards actualizing this idea and eventually achieves it.
He does not believe language is itself sufficient to breed races, and that “the mother tongue” signifies “deep ethical forces” in Late Civilizations rather than Early Cultures, when a race is still developing the language that fits its “race-ideal.”
Closely connected to race is Spengler’s definition of a ‘ein volk’ (people), which he defines as a unit of ‘die Seele’ (the soul).
The great events of history were not really achieved by peoples; they themselves created the peoples. Every act alters the soul of the doer.
Such events include migrations and wars.
For example, the American people did not migrate from Europe, but were formed by events such as the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War.
It is not unity of speech that is decisive.”
What distinguishes a people from a population is “the inwardly lived experience of ‘we’,” which exists so long as a people’s soul lasts.
The name Roman in Hannibal’s day meant a people, in Trajan’s time nothing more than a population.
In his view,
Peoples are neither linguistic nor political, but spiritual units.”
“It is quite often justifiable to align peoples with races.
In race (Rasse haben) there is little material, but rather something cosmic and directional, the felt harmony of ‘ein Schicksal’ (a Destiny), the single cadence of the march of ‘geschichtliches Sein’ (historical Being).
To Spengler, ‘Völker’ (peoples) are formed from early prototypes during the Early phase of a Culture.
“Out of the people-shapes of the Carolingian Empire—the Saxons, Swabians, Franks, Visigoths, Lombards – arise suddenly the Germans.”
These peoples are products of the ‘geistlichen Rasse’ (spiritual race) of the great Cultures, and “people under a spell of a Culture are its products and not its authors.
These shapes in which humanity is seized and moulded possess style and style-history no less than kinds of art or mode of thought.
The people of Athens is a symbol not less than the Doric temple, the Englishman not less than modern physics.

“Man is a beast of prey.”

There are peoples of Apollinian, Magian, and Faustian cast… World history is the history of the great Cultures, and peoples are but the symbolic forms and vessels in which the men of these Cultures fulfill their Destinies.”

In attempts to tie race and culture together, Spengler is echoing ideas similar to those of Friedrich Ratzel and Rudolf Kjellén.
These ideas, which figure pro-eminently in the second volume of the book, were common throughout ‘Deutsch Kultur’ (German culture) at the time, and would be the most significant elements for the ‘völkischen Denker‘ and the National Socialists.
In his later works, such as ‘Mensch und Technik’ – (Man and Technics) and ‘Die Stunde der Entscheidung’ – (The Hour of Decision), Spengler expanded upon his ‘geistlichen’ – (spiritual) theory of race and tied it to his metaphysical notion of eternal war, and his belief that “Man is a beast of prey.

The State and Caesarism

Spengler sees a leader’s responsibility as only to a minority that possesses the proper breeding for statesmanship, and which represents the rest of the nation in its historical struggle. Most states, he argues, have only a single social stratum which, constitutionally or otherwise, leads politically.
That class represents the world-historical drive of a State, and within that stratum a skilled and self-contained minority actually holds the reins of power.
Spengler rejects Parliamentarianism as a distinct Civilizational stage, like the absolute Polis and the Baroque State.
Instead it represents a transitional period between the mature Late-Culture period and the age of state formlessness.
The transformation of a Culture into a Civilization he attributes partly to the bourgeoisie.
At the inflection point, he sees an independent and decisive bourgeois intervention in political affairs.
The bourgeois is hostile (often violently) toward the absolute state, which represents the traditional institutions, aristocrats, and cultural symbols.
Decline is also evidenced by a formlessness of political institutions within a state.
As the proper form dissolves, increasingly authoritarian leaders arise, signaling decline.
The first step toward formlessness Spengler designates Napoleonism.
A new leader assumes powers and creates a new state structure without reference to “self-evident” bases for governance.
The new regime is thus accidental rather than traditional and experienced, and relies not on a trained minority but on the chance of an adequate successor.
Spengler argues that those states with continuous traditions of governance have been immensely more successful than those that have rejected tradition.
Spengler posits a two-century or more transitional period between two states of decline: Napoleonism and Caesarism.

Caesarism

Caesarism is a form of political rule that emulates the rule of Roman dictator Julius Caesar over the Roman Republic, in that it is led by a charismatic strongman whose rule is based upon a cult of personality, whose rationale is the need to rule by force, establishing a violent social order, and being a regime involving prominence of the military in the government.
The most famous person who themselves espoused Caesarism, was Napoleon Bonaparte, who admired and emulated Caesar during his rule in France..

The formlessness introduced by the first contributes to the rise of the latter.

Spengler predicts that the permanent mass conscription armies will be replaced by smaller professional volunteer armies.
Army sizes will drop from millions to hundreds of thousands, however, the professional armies will not be for deterrence, but for waging war.
Spengler states that they will precipitate wars upon which whole continents – India, China, South Africa, Russia, Islam – will be staked.
The great powers will dispose of smaller states, which will come to be viewed merely as means to an end.
This period in Civilizational decline he labels the period of ‘Contending States’.
Caesarism is essentially the death of the spirit that originally animated a nation and its institutions.
It is marked by a government which is formless irrespective of its ‘de jure’ constitutional structure.
The antique forms are dead, despite the careful maintenance of the institutions; those institutions now have no meaning or weight.
The only aspect of governance is the personal power exercised by the Caesar.
This is the beginning of the ‘Imperial Age’.
Spengler notes the urge of a nation toward universalism, idealism, and imperialism in the wake of a major geopolitical enemy’s defeat.
He cites the example of Rome after the defeat of Hannibal – instead of forgoing the annexation of the East, Scipio’s party moved toward outright imperialism, in an attempt to bring their immediate world into one system, and thus prevent further wars.
Despite having fought wars for democracy and rights during the period of Contending States, the populace can no longer be moved to use those rights.
People cease to take part in elections, and the most-qualified people remove themselves from the political process.
This is the end of great politics.
Only private history, private politics, and private ambitions rule at this point.
The wars are private wars, “more fearful than any State wars because they are formless.”
The imperial peace involves private renunciation of war on the part of the immense majority, but conversely requires submission to that minority which has not renounced war.
The world peace that began in a wish for universal reconciliation, ends in passivity in the face of misfortune, as long as it only affects one’s neighbor.
In personal politics the struggle becomes not for principles but for executive power.
Even popular revolutions are no exception: the methods of governing are not significantly altered, the position of the governed remains the same, and the strong few determined to rule remain over top the rest of humanity.

Oswald Spengler – The Final years

When ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ was published in the summer of 1918 it became a wild success.

Treaty of Versailles 
Treaty of Versailles 

The perceived national humiliation of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ (1919) and later the economic depression around 1923 fueled by hyperinflation seemed to prove Spengler right.
It comforted Germans because it seemingly rationalized their downfall as part of larger world-historical processes.
The book met with wide success outside of Germany as well, and by 1919 had been translated into several other languages.

Max Weber
Thomas Mann

Spengler rejected a subsequent offer to become Professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen, saying he needed time to focus on writing.
The book was widely discussed, even by those who had not read it.
Thomas Mann compared reading Spengler’s book to reading Schopenhauer for the first time. Academics gave it a mixed reception.
Max Weber described Spengler as a “very ingenious and learned dilettante”, while Karl Popper, not surprisingly, described the thesis as “pointless“.
In 1931, he published ‘Der Mensch und die Technik’ – (Man and Technics), which warned against the dangers of technology and industrialism to culture.
The principle idea in this work is that many of the Western world’s great achievements may soon become spectacles for our descendants to marvel at, as we do with the pyramids of Egypt or the baths of Rome.
In Spengler’s mind, our culture will be destroyed from within by materialism, and destroyed by others through economic competition and warfare.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg

He especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile “Colored races” which would then use the weapons against the West.

This book contains the well-known Spengler quote ‘Optimismus ist Feigheit’ – (Optimism is cowardice).
Spengler voted for Hitler over Hindenburg in 1932, and met Hitler in 1933, and he became a member of the German Academy in the course of the year.
Spengler spent his final years in Munich, listening to Beethoven, reading Molière and Shakespeare, buying several thousand books, and collecting ancient Turkish, Persian and Hindu weapons.
He made occasional trips to the Harz mountains, and to Italy.
He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1936 in Munich, three weeks before his 56th birthday.

Deutsch Philosophie – German Philosophy

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

(GERMAN PHILOSOPHY)
  
‘Die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.’

(The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.)
German philosophy is undoubtedly the most influential of all philosophical traditions.
Immanuel Kant

In 1781, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) published his ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft’ (Critique of Pure Reason), in which he attempted to determine what we can and cannot know through the use of reason independent of all experience.

Briefly, he came to the conclusion that we could come to know an external world through experience, but that what we could know about it was limited by the limited terms in which the mind can think: for example – if we can only comprehend things in terms of cause and effect, then we can only know causes and effects.
It follows from this that we can know the form of all possible experience independent of all experience, but nothing else, but we can never know the world from the “standpoint of nowhere” and therefore we can never know the world in its entirety, neither via reason nor experience.
Since the publication of his ‘Critique’, Immanuel Kant has been considered one of the greatest influences in all of western philosophy. In the late 18th and early 19th century, one direct line of influence from Kant is ‘Deutsch Idealismus’ (German Idealism).

Deutsch Idealismus

Friedrich Schelling
Johann Gottlieb Fichte

German idealism is a speculative philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

It reacted against Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and was closely linked with both ‘Romantik’ (Romanticism) and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment.
The best-known thinkers in the movement were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.

The word “idealism” has more than one meaning.
The philosophical meaning of idealism here is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess “in themselves“, apart from our experience of them.
The very notion of a ‘Ding an sich’ – (thing in itself) should be understood as an option of a set of functions for an operating mind, such that we consider something that appears without respect to the specific manner in which it appears.
The question of what properties a thing might have “independently of the mind” is thus incoherent for Idealism.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Kant’s work purported to bridge the two dominant philosophical schools in the 18th century: 1) rationalism, which held that knowledge could be attained by reason alone ‘a priori’ (prior to experience), and 2) empiricism, which held that knowledge could be arrived at only through the senses ‘a posteriori‘ (after experience).

Kant’s solution was to propose that while we could know particular facts about the world only via sensory experience, we could know the form they must take prior to any experience.

That is, we cannot know what objects we will encounter, but we can know how we will encounter them.

Kant called his mode of philosophising ‘kritischen Philosophie’ – (critical philosophy), in that it is less concerned with setting out positive doctrine than with critiquing the limits to the theories we can set out.

The conclusion he presented, as above, he called transzendentalen Idealismus’ – (transcendental idealism).

This distinguished it from earlier “idealism“, such as George Berkeley’s, which held that external objects have actual being or real existence only when they are perceived by an observer.
Kant said that there are ‘Dinge an sich selbst’ (things-in-themselves), – ‘noumena‘, – that is, things that exist other than being merely sensations and ideas in our minds.
Kant held in the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ that the world of appearances (phenomena) is empirically real and transcendentally ideal.
The mind plays a central role in influencing the way that the world is experienced: we perceive phenomena through time, space and the categories of the understanding.
It is this notion that was taken to heart by Kant’s philosophical successors.

Arthur Schopenhauer

At the other end of the movement, Arthur Schopenhauer, however, considered himself to be a ‘transzendentale Idealist’ (transcendental idealist).

In his major work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) he discusses his indebtedness to Kant, and the work includes Schopenhauer’s extensive analysis of the ‘Critique’.
The ‘Junghegelianer’ (Young Hegelians), a number of philosophers who developed Hegel’s work in various directions, were in some cases idealists.
Kant’s transcendental idealism consisted of taking a point of view outside of and above oneself (transcendentally), and understanding that the mind directly knows only phenomena or ideas. Whatever exists other than mental phenomena, or ideas that appear to the mind, is a ‘Ding an sich’ (thing-in-itself), and cannot be directly and immediately known.
Kant had criticized pure reason.
He wanted to restrict reasoning, judging, and speaking only to objects of possible experience. The main German Idealists reacted against Kant’s stringent limits.

Hegel


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was undoubtedly one of the most influential of  German philosophers, and a major figure in German Idealism.
His historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized German and European philosophy.
Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or “system”, of Absolute Idealism to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy. In particular, he developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other.
Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immanence and transcendence.
Hegel influenced writers of widely varying positions, including both his admirers (Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, T. H. Green, Baur, F. H. Bradley, Croce) and his detractors (Schopenhauer, Herbart, Schelling,  Stirner and  Nietzsche).
His influential conceptions are of speculative logic or “dialectic“, “absolute idealism“, “Spirit“, negativity, sublation (Aufhebung in German), the “Master/Slave” dialectic, “ethical life” and the importance of history.

Childhood


Hegel’s Birthplace
Stuttgart

Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart, in the Duchy Württemberg in southwestern Germany.

Christened Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, he was known as Wilhelm to his close family.
His father, Georg Ludwig, was Rentkammersekretär (secretary to the revenue office) at the court of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg.
Hegel’s mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa (née Fromm), was the daughter of a lawyer at the High Court of Justice at the Württemberg court. 
She died of a “bilious fever” (Gallenfieber) when Hegel was thirteen.
Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Hegel had a sister, Christiane Luise (1773–1832), and a brother, Georg Ludwig (1776–1812), who was to perish as an officer in Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812.

At age three Hegel went to the “German School”.
When he entered the “Latin School” aged five, he already knew the first declension, having been taught it by his mother.
In 1776 Hegel entered Stuttgart’s Gymnasium Illustre.
During his adolescence Hegel read voraciously, copying lengthy extracts in his diary.
Authors he read include the poet Klopstock and writers associated with the Enlightenment such as Christian Garve and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

Tübingen (1788-93)


Tübinger Stift
At the age of eighteen Hegel entered the Tübinger Stift (a Protestant seminary attached to the University of Tübingen), where two fellow students were to become vital to his development—his exact contemporary, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, and the younger philosopher-to-be Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German Idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling’s philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its apparently ever-changing nature.
Schelling’s thought in the large has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world, as has been his later work on mythology and revelation, much of which remains untranslated. An important factor was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling’s ‘Naturphilosophie‘ also has been attacked by scientists for its analogizing tendency and lack of empirical orientation.

Sharing a dislike for what they regarded as the restrictive environment of the Seminary, the three became close friends and mutually influenced each other’s ideas.
They watched the unfolding of the French Revolution with shared enthusiasm.
Schelling and Hölderlin immersed themselves in theoretical debates on Kantian philosophy, from which Hegel remained aloof.
Hegel at this time envisaged his future as that of a Popularphilosoph, i.e., a “man of letters” who serves to make the abstruse ideas of philosophers accessible to a wider public; his own felt need to engage critically with the central ideas of Kantianism did not come until 1800.

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

The poetry of Hölderlin, widely recognized today as one of the highest points of German literature, was little known or understood during his lifetime, and slipped into obscurity shortly after his death; his illness and reclusion made him fade from his contemporaries’ consciousness – and, even though selections of his work were published by his friends during his lifetime, it was largely ignored for the rest of the 19th century.

‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’
Like Goethe and Schiller, his older contemporaries, Hölderlin was a fervent admirer of ancient Greek culture, but his understanding of it was very personal. Much later, Friedrich Nietzsche would recognize in him the poet who first acknowledged the Orphic and Dionysian Greece of the mysteries. For Hölderlin, the Greek gods were not the plaster figures of conventional classicism, but living, actual presences, wonderfully life-giving though, at the same time, terrifying. He understood and sympathized with the Greek idea of the tragic fall, which he expressed movingly in the last stanza of his “Hyperions Schicksalslied” (“Hyperion’s Song of Destiny“).
The emotional upheaval caused by the end of the impossible liaison had a detrimental effect on his health. In 1800, after his disillusionment with philosophy that led him to abandon any plans to find an academic position, he spent a year recovering in Switzerland and decided to devote the rest of his life to writing poetry. In 1802, his condition worsened although treatment enabled him to continue writing at intervals while working as a librarian in Homburg until 1807 when he became insane (though harmless). 

Bern (1793–96) and Frankfurt (1797–1801)


Having received his theological certificate (Konsistorialexamen) from the Tübingen Seminary, Hegel became Hofmeister (house tutor) to an aristocratic family in Bern (1793–96).
His relations with his employers becoming strained, Hegel accepted an offer mediated by Hölderlin to take up a similar position with a wine merchant’s family in Frankfurt, where he moved in 1797.
Here Hölderlin exerted an important influence on Hegel’s thought.
While in Frankfurt Hegel composed the essay “Fragments on Religion and Love”.

Jena, Bamberg and Nuremberg: 1801–1816


In 1801 Hegel came to Jena with the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who held the position of Extraordinary Professor at the University there.
Hegel secured a position at the University as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting a Habilitationsschrift (dissertation) on the orbits of the planets.
Later in the year Hegel’s first book, ‘The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Systems of Philosophy’, appeared.
He lectured on “Logic and Metaphysics” and, with Schelling, gave joint lectures on an “Introduction to the Idea and Limits of True Philosophy” and held a “Philosophical Disputorium”. In 1802 Schelling and Hegel founded a journal, the ‘Kritische Journal der Philosophie’ (“Critical Journal of Philosophy”) to which they each contributed pieces until the collaboration was ended by Schelling’s departure for Würzburg in 1803.
In 1805 the University promoted Hegel to the position of Extraordinary Professor (unsalaried), after Hegel wrote a letter to the poet and minister of culture Johann Wolfgang von Goethe protesting at the promotion of his philosophical adversary Jakob Friedrich Fries ahead of him.

Battle of Jena – 1806
Hegel attempted to enlist the help of the poet and translator Johann Heinrich Voß to obtain a post at the newly renascent University of Heidelberg, but failed; to his chagrin, Fries was later in the same year made Ordinary Professor (salaried) there.
His finances drying up quickly, Hegel was now under great pressure to deliver his book, the long-promised introduction to his System.
Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Hegel and Napoleon – Jena 1806

On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena.

Hegel recounted his impressions in a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer:
I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it . . . this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.’

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars in Europe.
As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815. His legal reform, the ‘Napoleonic Code’, has been a major influence on many civil law jurisdictions worldwide, but he is best remembered for his role in the wars led against France by a series of coalitions, the so-called ‘Napoleonic Wars’. He established hegemony over most of continental Europe and sought to spread the ideals of the French Revolution, while consolidating an imperial monarchy which restored aspects of the deposed ‘Ancien Régime’. Due to his success in these wars, often against numerically superior enemies, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, and his campaigns are studied at military academies worldwide.

Although Napoleon chose not to close down Jena as he had other universities, the city was devastated and students deserted the university in droves, making Hegel’s financial prospects even worse.
The following February Hegel’s landlady Christiana Burkhardt (who had been abandoned by her husband) gave birth to their son Georg Ludwig Friedrich Fischer (1807–31).
In March 1807, aged 37, Hegel moved to Bamberg, where Niethammer had declined and passed on to Hegel an offer to become editor of a newspaper, the ‘Bamberger Zeitung‘.
Hegel, unable to find more suitable employment, reluctantly accepted. Ludwig Fischer and his mother (whom Hegel may have offered to marry following the death of her husband) stayed behind in Jena.
He was then, in November 1808, again through Niethammer, appointed headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816.
While in Nuremberg Hegel adapted his recently published ‘Phenomenology of Spirit‘ for use in the classroom.
Part of his remit being to teach a class called “Introduction to Knowledge of the Universal Coherence of the Sciences“, Hegel developed the idea of an encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences, falling into three parts (logic, philosophy of nature, and philosophy of spirit).
Hegel married Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher (1791–1855), the eldest daughter of a Senator, in 1811.
This period saw the publication of his second major work, the ‘Science of Logic’ (‘Wissenschaft der Logik’; 3 vols., 1812, 1813, 1816), and the birth of his two legitimate sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813–1901) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814–1891).

Thought

Hegel’s thinking can be understood as a constructive development within the broad tradition that includes Plato and Kant.
To this list one could add Proclus, Meister Eckhart, Leibniz, Plotinus, Jakob Boehme, and Rousseau.
What all these thinkers share, which distinguishes them from materialists like Epicurus, the Stoics, and Thomas Hobbes, and from empiricists like David Hume, is that they regard freedom or self-determination both as real and as having important ontological implications, for soul or mind or divinity.

Aristotle
Plato

This focus on freedom is what generates Plato’s notion (in the ‘Phaedo’, ‘Republic’, and ‘Timaeus’) of the soul as having a higher or fuller kind of reality than inanimate objects possess.

Kant imports Plato’s high esteem of individual sovereignty to his considerations of moral and noumenal freedom, as well as to God. 
In his discussion of ‘Geist’ (Spirit) in his ‘Encyclopedia’, Hegel praises Aristotle’s ‘On the Soul’ as “by far the most admirable, perhaps even the sole, work of philosophical value on this topic“.
In his ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes‘,(Phenomenology of Spirit) and his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘, (Science of Logic), Hegel’s concern with Kantian topics such as freedom and morality, and with their ontological implications, is pervasive.

Emanuel Kant

Rather than simply rejecting Kant’s dualism of freedom versus nature, Hegel aims to subsume it within “true infinity”, the “Concept” (or “Notion”: Begriff), “Geist”, and “ethical life” in such a way that the Kantian duality is rendered intelligible, rather than remaining a brute “given.”

The reason why this subsumption takes place in a series of concepts is that Hegel’s method, in his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘ and his ‘Encyclopedia‘, is to begin with basic concepts like Being and Nothing, and to develop these through a long sequence of elaborations, including those already mentioned.
In this manner, a solution that is reached, in principle, in the account of “true infinity” in the Science of Logic’s chapter on “Quality“, is repeated in new guises at later stages, all the way to “Geist” and “ethical life“, in the third volume of the ‘Encyclopedia’.
In this way, Hegel intends to defend the germ of truth in Kantian dualism against reductive or eliminative programs like those of materialism and empiricism.
Like Plato, with his dualism of soul versus bodily appetites, Kant pursues the mind’s ability to question its felt inclinations, or appetites, and to come up with a standard of “duty” (or, in Plato’s case, “good“) which transcends bodily restrictiveness.
Hegel preserves this essential Platonic and Kantian concern in the form of infinity going beyond the finite (a process that Hegel in fact relates to “freedom” and the “ought“), the universal going beyond the particular (in the Concept), and Geist going beyond Nature.
And Hegel renders these dualities intelligible by (ultimately) his argument in the “Quality” chapter of the “Science of Logic.
The finite has to become infinite in order to achieve reality.
The idea of the absolute excludes multiplicity so the subjective and objective must achieve synthesis to become whole.
This is because, as Hegel suggests by his introduction of the concept of “reality“, what determines itself—rather than depending on its relations to other things for its essential character—is more fully “real” (following the Latin etymology of “real”: more “thing-like“) than what does not.
Finite things don’t determine themselves, because, as “finite” things, their essential character is determined by their boundaries, over against other finite things.
So, in order to become “real“, they must go beyond their finitude (“finitude is only as a transcending of itself“).
The result of this argument is that finite and infinite—and, by extension, particular and universal, nature and freedom—don’t face one another as two independent realities, but instead the latter (in each case) is the self-transcending of the former.
Rather than stress the distinct singularity of each factor that complements and conflicts with others—without explanation—the relationship between finite and infinite (and particular and universal, and nature and freedom) becomes intelligible as a progressively developing and self-perfecting whole.

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’


‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ (1807) is one of G.W.F. Hegel’s most important philosophical works.


It is translated as ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’.
The book’s working title, which also appeared in the first edition, was ‘Science of the Experience of Consciousness’.
On its initial publication, it was identified as Part One of a projected “System of Science”, of which the Science of Logic was the second part.
A smaller work, titled Philosophy of Spirit (also translated as “Philosophy of Mind”), appears in Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and recounts in briefer and somewhat altered form the major themes of the original Phenomenology.
It formed the basis of Hegel’s later philosophy and marked a significant development in German idealism after Kant.
Focusing on topics in metaphysics, epistemology, physics, ethics, history, religion, perception, consciousness, and political philosophy, ‘The Phenomenology’ is where Hegel develops his concepts of dialectic (including the Master-slave dialectic), absolute idealism, ethical life, and Aufhebung.
The book had a profound effect in Western philosophy.
In ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ , Hegel takes the readers through the evolution of consciousness.
In the work, the mind experiences different stages of consciousness.
It begins with the lower levels of consciousness and concludes with the higher levels of consciousness.

The Preface

The Preface to the Phenomenology, all by itself, is considered one of Hegel’s major works, and a major text in the history of philosophy, because in it he sets out the core of his philosophical method, and what distinguishes it from that of any previous philosophy, especially that of his German Idealist predecessors (Kant, Fichte, and Schelling).
Hegel’s approach, referred to as the ‘Hegelian method‘, consists of actually ‘examining consciousness’ experience of both itself and of its objects, and eliciting the contradictions and dynamic movement that come to light in looking at this experience.
Hegel uses the phrase ‘reines Zusehen‘ (pure watching or perception) to describe this method.
If consciousness just pays attention to what is actually present in itself and its relation to its objects, it will see that what looks like stable and fixed forms dissolve into a dialectical movement.
René Descartes
Thus philosophy, according to Hegel, cannot just set out arguments based on a flow of deductive reasoning.
Rather, it must look at actual consciousness, as it really exists.
Hegel also argues strongly against the epistemological emphasis of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant, which he describes as having to first establish the nature and criteria of knowledge prior to actually knowing anything, because this would imply an infinite regress, a foundationalism that Hegel maintains is self-contradictory and impossible.

René Descartes  Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: “Cartesian”; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’ continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution and has been described as an example of genius

Epistemology – from Greek ἐπιστήμη – epistēmē, meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and λόγος – logos, meaning “study of”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.
It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent to which a given subject or entity can be known.
Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.
The field is sometimes referred to as the theory of knowledge.

Rather, he maintains, we must examine actual knowing as it occurs in real knowledge processes.
This is why Hegel uses the term “phenomenology“.
Phenomenology” comes from the Greek word for “to appear“, and the phenomenology of mind is thus the study of how consciousness or mind appears to itself.
In Hegel’s dynamic system, it is the study of the successive appearances of the mind to itself, because on examination each one dissolves into a later, more comprehensive and integrated form or structure of mind.

Introduction to ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

Whereas the ‘Preface’ was written after Hegel completed the ‘Phenomenology’, the ‘Introduction’ was written beforehand. It covers much of the same ground, but from a somewhat different perspective.
In the ‘Introduction’, Hegel addresses the seeming paradox that we cannot evaluate our faculty of knowledge in terms of its ability to know the Absolute without first having a criterion for what the Absolute is, one that is superior to our knowledge of the Absolute.
Yet, we could only have such a criterion if we already had the improved knowledge that we seek.
To resolve this paradox, Hegel adopts a method whereby the knowing that is characteristic of a particular stage of consciousness is evaluated using the criterion presupposed by consciousness itself.
At each stage, consciousness knows something, and at the same time distinguishes the object of that knowledge as different from what it knows.
Hegel and his readers will simply “look on” while consciousness compares its actual knowledge of the object—what the object is “for consciousness“—with its criterion for what the object must be “in itself“.
One would expect that, when consciousness finds that its knowledge does not agree with its object, consciousness would adjust its knowledge to conform to its object, however, in a characteristic reversal, Hegel explains that under his method, the opposite occurs.
As just noted, consciousness’ criterion for what the object should be is not supplied externally, rather it is supplied by consciousness itself.
Therefore, like its knowledge, the “object” that consciousness distinguishes from its knowledge is really just the object “for consciousness” – it is the object as envisioned by that stage of consciousness.
Thus, in attempting to resolve the discord between knowledge and object, consciousness inevitably alters the object as well. In fact, the new “object” for consciousness is developed from consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of the previous “object.”
Thus, what consciousness really does is to modify its “object” to conform to its knowledge. Then the cycle begins anew as consciousness attempts to examine what it knows about this new “object“.
The reason for this reversal is that, for Hegel, the separation between consciousness and its object is no more real than consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of that object.
The knowledge is inadequate only because of that separation.
At the end of the process, when the object has been fully “spiritualized” by successive cycles of consciousness’ experience, consciousness will fully know the object and at the same time fully recognize that the object is none other than itself.
At each stage of development, Hegel, adds, “we” (Hegel and his readers) see this development of the new object out of the knowledge of the previous one, but the consciousness that we are observing does not.
As far as it is concerned, it experiences the dissolution of its knowledge in a mass of contradictions, and the emergence of a new object for knowledge, without understanding how that new object has been born.

Consciousness

Consciousness is divided into three chapters: “Sense-Certainty“, “Perception“, and “Force and the Understanding.

Self-Consciousness

Self-Consciousness contains a preliminary discussion of ‘Life’ and ‘Desire’, followed by two subsections: “Independent and Dependent Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage” and “Freedom of Self-Consciousness: Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciousness.” Notable is the presence of the discussion of the dialectic of the lord and bondsman.

Reason

Reason is divided into three chapters: “Observing Reason,” “Actualization of Self-Consciousness,” and “Individuality Real In and For Itself.”

Geist (Spirit)

Spirit is divided into three chapters: “The Ethical Order,” “Culture,” and “Morality.
Now, because the systematic statement of the mind’s experience embraces merely its ways of appearing, it may well seem that the advance from that to the science of ultimate truth in the form of truth is merely negative; and we might readily be content to dispense with the negative process as something altogether false, and might ask to be taken straight to the truth at once: why meddle with what is false at all?
The point formerly raised, that we should have begun with science at once, may be answered here by considering the character of negativity in general regarded as something false.
The usual ideas on this subject particularly obstruct the approach to the truth.
The consideration of this point will give us an opportunity to speak about mathematical knowledge, which non-philosophical knowledge looks upon as the ideal which philosophy ought to try to attain, but has so far striven in vain to reach.
Truth and falsehood as commonly understood belong to those sharply defined ideas which claim a completely fixed nature of their own, one standing in solid isolation on this side, the other on that, without any community between them.
Against that view it must be pointed out, that truth is not like stamped coin that is issued ready from the mint and so can be taken up and used.
Nor, again, is there something false, any more than there is something evil.
Evil and falsehood are indeed not so bad as the devil, for in the form of the devil they get the length of being particular subjects; qua false and evil they are merely universals, though they have a nature of their own with reference to one another.
Falsity (that is what we are dealing with here) would be otherness, the negative aspect of the substance, which [substance], qua content of knowledge, is truth.
But the substance is itself essentially the negative element, partly as involving distinction and determination of content, partly as being a process of distinguishing pure and simple, i.e. as being self and knowledge in general. Doubtless we can know in a way that is false.
To know something falsely means that knowledge is not adequate to, is not on equal terms with, its substance.
Yet this very dissimilarity is the process of distinction in general, the essential moment in knowing.
It is, in fact, out of this active distinction that its harmonious unity arises, and this identity, when arrived at, is truth.
But it is not truth in a sense which would involve the rejection of the discordance, the diversity, like dross from pure metal; nor, again, does truth remain detached from diversity, like a finished article from the instrument that shapes it.
Difference itself continues to be an immediate element within truth as such, in the form of the principle of negation, in the form of the activity of Self.

Geist‘ is a German word and depending on context it can be translated as the English words mind, spirit, or ghost, covering the semantic field of these three English nouns.
Some English translators resort to using “spirit/mind” or “spirit (mind)” to help convey the meaning of the term.
Analogous terms in other languages include the Greek word πνεύμα (pneuma), the Latin animus and anima, the French esprit, however, geist is a German word that can never be satisfactorily translated.
Geist is a central concept in Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit (Phänomenologie des Geistes).

According to Hegel, the Weltgeist (“World Spirit“) is not an actual thing one might come upon or a God-like thing beyond, but a means of philosophizing about history.
The Weltgeist is effected in history through the mediation of various Volksgeister (“Racial Spirits“), and the great men of history, such as Napoleon, are the “concrete universal“.
This has led some to claim that Hegel favored the ‘great man theory‘, although his philosophy of history, in particular concerning the role of the “universal state” (Universal Stand, which means as well “order” or “statute” than “state“), and of an “End of History” is much more complex.
For Hegel, the great hero is unwittingly utilized by Geist or Absolute Spirit, by a “ruse of Reason” as Hegel puts it, and is irrelevant to history once his historic mission is accomplished; he is thus submitted to the teleological principle of history, a principle which allows Hegel to re-read all the history of philosophy as culminating in his philosophy of history.
The Weltgeist, the ‘world spirit concept’, designates an idealistic principle of world explanation, which can be found from the beginnings of philosophy up to more recent time.
In the early philosophy of Greek antiquity, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all paid homage, amongst other things, to the concept of world spirit.
Hegel later based his philosophy of history on it.

Religion

Religion is divided into three chapters: “Natural Religion,” “Religion in the Form of Art,” and “The Revealed Religion.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
Criticism

Arthur Schopenhauer criticized ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ as being characteristic of the vacuous verbiage he 
(wrongly) attributed to Hegel.

Hegelian Dialectic

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.
Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant.
Carrying on Kant’s work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.
On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel’s most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete.
Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.
The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an Antithesis, however, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience.
For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation.
This is the actual essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.
To describe the activity of overcoming the negative, Hegel also often used the term ‘Aufhebung’, variously translated into English as “sublation” or “overcoming,” to conceive of the working of the dialectic.
Roughly, the term indicates preserving the useful portion of an idea, thing, society, etc., while moving beyond its limitations.
In the ‘Logic‘, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (Sein); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (Nichts).
When it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (in life, for example, one’s living is also a dying), both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming.
As in the Socratic dialectic, Hegel claimed to proceed by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage.
For Hegel, the whole of history is one tremendous dialectic, major stages of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens.
The Hegelian dialectic cannot be mechanically applied for any chosen thesis.
Critics argue that the selection of any antithesis, other than the logical negation of the thesis, is subjective.
Then, if the logical negation is used as the antithesis, there is no rigorous way to derive a synthesis.
In practice, when an antithesis is selected to suit the user’s subjective purpose, the resulting “contradictions” are rhetorical, not logical, and the resulting synthesis is not rigorously defensible against a multitude of other possible syntheses.
The problem with the Fichtean “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis” model is that it implies that contradictions or negations come from outside of things.
Hegel’s point is that they are inherent in and internal to things.
This conception of dialectics derives ultimately from Heraclitus.
Hegel has outlined that the purpose of dialectics is “to study things in their own being and movement and thus to demonstrate the finitude of the partial categories of understanding
One important dialectical principle for Hegel is the transition from quantity to quality, which he terms the Measure.
The measure is the qualitative quantum, the quantum is the existence of quantity.
The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realised. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, each claim an independent authority. On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. But if the quantity present in measure exceeds a certain limit, the quality corresponding to it is also put in abeyance. This however is not a negation of quality altogether, but only of this definite quality, the place of which is at once occupied by another. This process of measure, which appears alternately as a mere change in quantity, and then as a sudden revulsion of quantity into quality, may be envisaged under the figure of a nodal (knotted) line”.
As an example, Hegel mentions the states of aggregation of water:
Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase or diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice“.
Another important principle for Hegel is the negation of the negation, which he also terms Aufhebung (sublation): Something is only what it is in its relation to another, but by the negation of the negation this something incorporates the other into itself.
The dialectical movement involves two moments that negate each other, something and its other.
As a result of the negation of the negation, “something becomes its other; this other is itself something; therefore it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad infinitum“.
Something in its passage into other only joins with itself, it is self-related.
In becoming there are two moments: coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be: by sublation, i.e., negation of the negation, being passes over into nothing, it ceases to be, but something new shows up, is coming to be.

The Grave of
Georg Hegel
What is sublated (aufgehoben) on the one hand ceases to be, and is put to an end, but on the other hand it is preserved and maintained.
In dialectics, a totality transforms itself; it is self-related, then self-forgetfulrelieving the original tension.

To summarise – Hegelian Dialectics is based upon four concepts:
Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time.
Everything is composed of contradictions (opposing forces).
Gradual changes lead to crises, turning points when one force overcomes its opponent force (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
Change is helical (spiral), not circular (negation of the negation).

The concept of dialectic existed in the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, who proposed that everything is in constant change, as a result of inner strife and opposition.
Hence, the history of the dialectical method is the history of philosophy.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation), in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason’, which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.
He has influenced a long list of thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, (see below) Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and , of course, Adolf Hitler, who carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ with him throughout the First World War.

Brief Biography

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse (known in the present day as Św. Ducha 47), the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Kingdom of Prussia annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.
In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.
Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
As early as 1799, he started playing the flute.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of Aenesidemus, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Immanuel Kant.
In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin.
He scheduled his lectures to coincide with those of the famous philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, whom Schopenhauer described as a “clumsy charlatan.”
However, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.”
When he was forty-three years old, seventeen-year old Flora Weiss recorded rejecting him in her diary.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer. After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant, in honor of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
He left it in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned, and went to live with his mother. But by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the vain, ceremonious ways of the salon.
He was also disgusted by the ease with which Johanna Schopenhauer had forgotten his father’s memory.
Consequently, he attempted university life.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason).
His mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the “rubbish” she wrote would have been totally forgotten.
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on aging, were published posthumously under the title Senilia.

Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860, while sitting on his couch with his cat at home. He was 72.

Philosophy of the “Will”


A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’, the idea that society consisted of a collective consciousness which moved in a distinct direction, dictating the actions of its members.
Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason. 
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.
For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants”. 
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject”.
This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.
To Schopenhauer, the Will is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation”. Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘thing-in-itself.’ (see above). Nietzsche (see below) was greatly influenced by this idea of Will.


Friedrich Nietzsche

“Behind your thoughts and feelings there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage – whose name is Self. In your body he dwells. He is your body.”

                                                                                                                        Friedrich Nietzsche 

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist.

He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Nietzsche’s influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism.
His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth have resulted in much commentary and interpretation, mostly in the continental tradition.
His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the ‘will to power‘.
Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation”, which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be.

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy.
At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life.
In 1889 he became mentally ill, possibly due to atypical general paralysis attributed to tertiary syphilis.
He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, then under the care of his sister until his death in 1900.


Röcken Lutherischen Kirche
Nietzsches Geburtshaus

Born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony.

He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche’s birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, “Wilhelm”.)


Röcken Dorf

Nietzsche’s parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son’s birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850.

The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche’s paternal grandmother and his father’s two unmarried sisters.
After the death of Nietzsche’s grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house.
Nietzsche attended a boys’ school and then later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug, Rudolf Wagner and Wilhelm Pinder, all of whom came from very respected families.

Paul Deussen

In 1854, he began to attend Pforta in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally recognised Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864.

Here he became friends with Paul Deussen (see right) and Carl von Gersdorff.
He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions.





Schulpforta

At Schulpforta (see left), Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.
After graduation in 1864 Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn.

For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia.
After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.
David Strauss
This may have happened in part because of his reading around this time of David Strauss’s (see right) ‘Life of Jesus’, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche, though in an essay entitled ‘Fate and History’ written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity.
Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year.

There he became close friends with fellow-student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche’s first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading his ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung‘ (The World as Will and Representation) and later admitted that he was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator), one of his ‘Untimely Meditations’.

In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange’s (see left below) ‘History of Materialism’.

Schopenhauer and Lange influenced him. Schopenhauer was especially significant in the development of Nietzsche’s later thought.

Lange’s descriptions of Kant’s anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe’s increased concern with science, Darwin’s theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche.
Richard Wagner


The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.
In 1867 Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service.
Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner (see right) later that year.
With the publication of ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ – (Human, All Too Human) – in 1878 (a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes) Nietzsche’s reaction against the pessimistic philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident.
Nietzsche’s friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well.
In 1879, after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position at Basel.

(Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued him, including moments of short-sightedness that left him nearly blind, migraine headaches, and violent indigestion. The 1868 riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became impractical.)

Because his illness drove him to find climates more conducive to his health, Nietzsche traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in different cities.


Nietzsche the Man


Although Nietzsche is widely known as the ‘creator’ of the ‘Übermensch’ he was hardly the firm heroic ‘superman’ of his writings.

However, Nietzsche was capable of macho activity when it was required.
In 1867, as he approached the age of 23, Nietzsche entered his required military service and was assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg, during which time he lived at home with his mother (?).
While attempting to leap-mount into the saddle, he suffered a serious chest injury and was put on sick leave after his chest wound refused to heal.
While his military career was cut short, so was his academic career cut short, as a result of his later poor health.
Fortunately, however, for Nietzsche, he was provided with a more than adequate pension, although he always complained that he was short of money.
He was not poor, however, as he was well able to travel widely round Europe, living for most of the time in hotels and guest-houses.
In fact he spent most of his life ‘on holiday‘, apparently searching for the perfect climate for his health: filling his time with socializing, reading and writing.
As an indication that he was not poor, he had a nasty habit of releasing his writings, which for most of his life were ignored, in a series of short volumes, at ridiculously high prices, which had the effect of ensuring that only his most fervent followers were prepared to pay the exorbitant prices in order to discover the nature of Nietzsche’s latest insights..
He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo and Turin and in the French city of Nice.
In 1881, when France occupied Tunisia, he planned to travel to Tunis to view Europe from the outside, but later abandoned that idea (probably for health reasons).
His favourite area in Europe was the Engadin.

The Engadin 

The Engadin or Engadine (German: Engadin, Italian: Engadina, Romansh: Engiadina; tr: garden of the Inn) is a long valley in the Swiss Alps located in the canton of Graubünden in southeast Switzerland. It follows the route of the Inn River from its headwaters at Maloja Pass running northeast until the Inn flows into Austria, one hundred kilometers downstream. The Engadin is protected by high mountains on all sides and is famous for its sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and outdoor activities.

Although he championed the ‘Übermensch’, who was often interpreted as a boisterous ‘yea sayer’, almost everyone who met Nietzsche was surprised by, and remarked upon his exquisite manners, his soft, gentle, well modulated voice, and his subtle sense of humour.


Nietzsche’s Health 


Nietzsche’s headaches began when he was 9 years old.
These headaches were usually very severe and had a major impact on his daily life and later on his professional activities.
They were almost always located on the right side, mostly frontal and above the right eye, but also at the right hemicranium, and were typically associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Because of these headaches, he sometimes also kept his eyes closed to lessen the discomfort experienced from external light, suggesting photophobia, and he avoided physical activities and went to bed.
The headaches usually persisted for several hours or even days.
Often Nietzsche would have symptoms two or three times a week, but such outbreaks were usually associated with the sort of problems which were of particular concern to Nietzsche.
Such problems included dull, cloudy or wet weather, Cold weather or hot weather, delays in contacts with his publishers and printers, and even problems relating to his frequent travelling arrangements, such as an inability to find a porter or carriage for his bags, or missing a train connection.

Nietzsche’s visual problems also started at young age.
He mentioned them for the first time in 1856, when he was 12 years old.
As a child Nietzsche often complained about “bad light”, “tiredness of the eyes” and “episodes of eye weakness with altered vision”.
Nietzsche underwent repeated examinations by different ophtalmologists.

In 1882, Nietzsche began to show depressive symptoms with suicidal ideas.
These symptoms recurred intermittently and in 1887 Nietzsche described his mood as a persistent depression.
This depressive mood had a clear impact on his social and professional life. 
On several occasions Nietzsche expressed bizarre ideas that reflected delusions.
In 1883, he labelled his own mental state for the first time as madness and in several letters he expressed his worries about suffering from madness.

Nietzsche occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and, especially during this time, he and his sister (see left – Elizabeth Nietzsche) had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation.
He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends.
A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz – see right), became a sort of private secretary to Nietzsche.
To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends.
Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle.

‘Peter Gast’ – Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer. He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’. Gast was born in Annaberg, Saxony to Gustav Hermann Köselitz (1822–1910), the vice mayor (Vizebürgermeister), and his wife Caroline (1819–1900), a native of Vienna. 
From 1872, Gast studied music with Ernst Friedrich Richter at the University of Leipzig. He transferred in 1875 to the University of Basel, where he attended the lectures of Jacob Burckhardt, Franz Overbeck, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In Basel, a friendship developed between Gast and Nietzsche. Gast read for Nietzsche during the latter’s intermittent spells of near blindness, and also took dictation. Gast was instrumental in the preparation of all of Nietzsche’s works after 1876, reviewing the printer’s manuscript and sometimes intervening to finalize the text formatting. Nietzsche’s break with Wagner and his search for a ‘southern’ aesthetic with which he could immunize himself from the gloomy German north led him to over-appreciate Gast as a musician. As an amanuensis, however, Gast was invaluable; writing apropos ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’  Nietzsche claimed that Gast ‘wrote and also corrected: fundamentally, he was really the writer whereas I was merely the author‘. All the while, Köselitz worshipped his teacher, assisting him to the point of self-denial. Gast was financed by his father, and also intermittently supported by Nietzsche’s friend Paul Rée. In addition to being a musician and the editor of Nietzsche’s writings and letters, he worked as a writer under various pseudonyms, including: Ludwig Mürner, Peter Schlemihl, Petrus Eremitus.

Franz Camille Overbeck (16 November 1837 – 26 June 1905) was a German Protestant theologian. In Anglo-American discourse, he is perhaps best known in regard to his friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche; while in German theological circles, Overbeck remains discussed for his own contributions. Franz Overbeck was born in Saint Petersburg as a German citizen to Franz Heinrich Herrmann Overbeck, a German-British merchant, and his wife, Jeanne Camille Cerclet, who was born in Saint Petersburg to a French family. Consequently, his upbringing was European and humanistic: first taking place in Saint Petersburg, then in Paris from 1846 until the February Revolution of 1848, once again in Saint Petersburg, and after 1850 in Dresden. From 1856 until 1864, Overbeck studied theology in Leipzig, Göttingen, Berlin, and Jena. In 1859, he received his doctorate degree, after which he worked on his Habilitation on Hippolytus until 1864. After 1864, he taught as a Privatdozent in Jena. During his student time in Leipzig, he became close friends with Heinrich von Treitschke. After Nietzsche left Basel in 1879, he and Overbeck continued a personal friendship through regular correspondence. At the beginning of January 1889, Nietzsche sent letters to friends that exhibited symptoms of a mental collapse. After Overbeck received such a letter, he travelled to Turin the same day to retrieve the sick Nietzsche and his manuscripts. He continued to visit Nietzsche until the latter’s death in 1900.

Malwida von Meysenbug (28 October 1816 – 23 April 1903) was a German writer, who was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner. She also met the French writer Romain Rolland in Rome in 1890, and is the author of ‘Memories of an Idealist’. She published the first volume anonymously in 1869. Von Meysenbug was born at Kassel, Hesse. Her father Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots, and received the title of Baron of Meysenbug from William I of Hesse-Kassel. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. Von Meysenbug introduced Nietzsche to several of his friends, including Helene von Druskowitz. She invited Paul Rée and Nietzsche to Sorrento, a town which overlooks the bay of Naples, in the autumn of 1876. There, Rée wrote The Origins of Moral Sensations, and Nietzsche began Human, All Too Human.

Malwida von Meysenburg died in Rome in 1903 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in the city.

Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music-critic Carl Fuchs.


NIietzsche’s Writings


Nietzsche stood at the beginning of his most productive period.
Beginning with ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five.


In 1882 Nietzsche published the first part of ‘Die fröhliche Wissenschaft’ ** – (The Joyful Science).

Lou Andreas Salomé

That year he also met Lou Andreas Salomé, (see right) through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée.
Nietzsche and Salomé spent the summer together in Tautenburg in Thuringia, often with Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth as a chaperone.

Nietzsche, however, regarded Salomé less as an equal partner than as a gifted student.
Salomé reports that he asked her to marry him, and that she refused, though the reliability of her reports of events has come into question.
Nietzsche’s relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially because of intrigues conducted by Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth.
Amidst renewed bouts of illness, living in near isolation after a falling-out with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo.

Lou Andreas-Salomé (born Louise von Salomé or Luíza Gustavovna Salomé, Russian: Луиза Густавовна Саломе; 12 February 1861 – 5 January 1937) was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and author. Her diverse intellectual interests led to friendships with a broad array of distinguished western luminaries, including Nietzsche, Freud, and Rilke. Lou Salomé was born in St. Petersburg to an army general and his wife. Salomé was their only daughter; she had five brothers. Salomé’s mother took her to Rome, Italy when she was 21. At a literary salon in the city, Salomé became acquainted with Paul Rée, an author. After two months, the two became partners. On 13 May 1882, Rée’s friend Friedrich Nietzsche joined the duo. Salomé would later (1894) write a study, ‘Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken’, of Nietzsche’s personality and philosophy. The three travelled with Salomé’s mother through Italy. Arriving in Leipzig in October, Salomé and Rée separated from Nietzsche after a falling-out between Nietzsche and Salomé, in which Salomé believed that Nietzsche was desperately in love with her.  A fictional account of Salomé’s relationship with Nietzsche is described in Irvin Yalom’s novel, ‘When Nietzsche Wept’. A biography in Swedish on Lou Salomé, which also covers her relationship with Paul Rée, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud was edited in 2008 on Mita bokförlag by the Swedish author Mirjam Tapper. The title of the book is “Den blonda besten hos Nietzsche – Lou Salomé”.

Here he wrote the first part of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen’ (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) *** in only ten days.


After severing his philosophical ties with Schopenhauer and his social ties with Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends.


Now, with the new style of ‘Zarathustra’, his work became even more alienating and the market received it only to the degree required by politeness.


Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, though he often complained about it.
His books remained largely unsold.

In 1885 he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of ‘Zarathustra’, and distributed only a fraction of these among close friends, including Helene von Druskowitz.
In 1883 he tried and failed to obtain a lecturing post at the University of Leipzig.
It was made clear to him that, in view of the attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God expressed in ‘Zarathustra’, he had become in effect unemployable at any German University.


The subsequent “feelings of revenge and resentment” embittered him. “And hence my rage since I have grasped in the broadest possible sense what wretched means (the depreciation of my good name, my character and my aims) suffice to take from me the trust of, and therewith the possibility of obtaining, pupils.”
In 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner.

He then printed ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ at his own expense, and issued in 1886–1887 second editions of his earlier works (‘The Birth of Tragedy’, ‘Human, All Too Human’, ‘The Dawn’, and ‘The  Joyful Science), accompanied by new prefaces in which he reconsidered his earlier works. Thereafter, he saw his work as completed for a time and hoped that soon a readership would develop.
In fact, interest in Nietzsche’s thought did increase at this time, if rather slowly and in a way hardly perceived by him.

Bernhard Förster

During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller.
In 1886 his sister Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster (see left) and traveled to Paraguay to found Nueva Germania, a “Germanic” colony.
Through correspondence, Nietzsche’s relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but they would meet again only after his collapse.
He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887 Nietzsche wrote the polemic ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’.
During the same year Nietzsche encountered the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, with whom he felt an immediate kinship.

He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes.
Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would come to Copenhagen and read Kierkegaard with him.
However, before fulfilling this undertaking, he slipped too far into sickness.
In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of ‘On The Genealogy of Morality’) a new work with the title ‘The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values’, he eventually seems to have abandoned this particular approach and instead used some of the draft passages to compose ‘Götzen-Dämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert’ (Twilight of the Idols) and ‘Der Antichrist’ (The Antichrist) – both written in 1888.
His health seemed to improve, and he spent the summer in high spirits.
In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and “fate.”
He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, especially to the recent polemic, ‘Der Fall Wagner’ – (The Case of Wagner).
On his 44th birthday, after completing  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’  and  ‘Der Antichrist’, he decided to write the autobiography ‘Ecce Homo’.
In the preface to this work—which suggests Nietzsche was well aware of the interpretive difficulties his work would generate—he declares, “Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.”
In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages.
Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation ‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’ and of the poems that composed his collection ‘Dionysian-Dithyrambs’.

Mental Collapse and Death


On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse.
Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but an often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around its neck to protect the horse, and then collapsed to the ground.

In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings—known as the ‘Wahnbriefe’ (Madness Letters)—to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt).
To his former colleague Burckhardt, Nietzsche wrote: “I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.”
Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot, and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.
On January 6, 1889 Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche’s friends had to bring him back to Basel.
Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.
By that time Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of a serious mental illness, and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February 1890 the art historian Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the methods of the medical doctors were ineffective in treating Nietzsche’s condition.
Langbehn assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secretiveness discredited him.

In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg.

During this process Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche’s unpublished works.
In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’, by that time already printed and bound.
In February they ordered a fifty copy private edition of ‘Nietzsche contra Wagner’, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed one hundred.
Overbeck and Gast decided to withhold publishing ‘Der Antichrist’ and ‘Ecce Homo’ because of their more radical content.
Nietzsche’s reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

In 1893 Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva Germania (in Paraguay) following the suicide of her husband.
She read and studied Nietzsche’s works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their publication.
Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Gast finally cooperated.
After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including Rudolf Steiner (who in 1895 had written one of the first books praising Nietzsche – see right)) to visit her uncommunicative brother.
Elisabeth at one point went so far as to employ Steiner – at a time when he was still an ardent fighter against any mysticism – as a tutor to help her to understand her brother’s philosophy.
Nietzsche’s mental illness was originally diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, in accordance with a prevailing medical paradigm of the time.
Although most commentators regard his breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy Georges Bataille drops dark hints (“‘man incarnate’ must also go mad”) and René Girard’s postmortem psychoanalysis posits a worshipful rivalry with Richard Wagner.
The diagnosis of syphilis was challenged, and manic-depressive illness with periodic psychosis, followed by vascular dementia was put forward by Cybulska.
In 1898 and 1899 Nietzsche suffered at least two strokes, which partially paralysed him and left him unable to speak or walk.
After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900 he had another stroke during the night of August 24 / August 25, and died about noon on August 25.

Elisabeth had him buried beside his father at the church in Röcken bei Lützen.




His friend, Peter Gast (see right), gave his funeral oration, proclaiming: “Holy be your name to all future generations!

Nietzsche had written in ‘Ecce Homo’ (at the time of the funeral still unpublished) of his fear that one day his name would be regarded as “holy”.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.
Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen.
The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years.
There has been speculation that the relationship between Elizabeth and Fritz was so close that it was almost ‘incestuous’.
Nietzsche himself only ever had one romantic relationship with a woman – Lou Andreas Salomé, and it is significant that Elizabeth did everything in her power to bring the relationship to an end.
An early believer in the superiority of the Teutonic races, she married a Volkisch philosopher, Bernhard Förster.
In the 1880s they went to Paraguay and founded Nueva Germania, a  pure Aryan colony, but the enterprise failed, and Förster committed suicide.
She next served as Nietzsche’s guardian at Weimar after his mental breakdown in 1889.
On his death (1900) she secured the rights to his manuscripts and renamed her family home the ‘Nietzsche-Archiv’. 

Adolf Hitler and Elizabeth Förster Nietzsche
at the Nietzsche-Archiv
While Elisabeth gained a wide audience for her writings, in an effort to preserve her brother’s reputation, she withheld Nietzsche’s self-interpretation, ‘Ecce Homo’, until 1908.
Meanwhile, she collected many of his notes under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (“The Will to Power”) and presented this work, first as part of her three-volume biography (1895–1904), then in a one-volume edition (1901), and finally in a two-volume edition (1906) that was widely considered Nietzsche’s magnum opus.
Elisabeth was a supporter of the NSDAP; her funeral in 1935 was attended by Adolf Hitler and other members of the Government of the Third Reich.
Nietzsche’s Work

Nietzsche’s works remain controversial, and there is widespread disagreement about their interpretation and significance.
Part of the difficulty in interpreting Nietzsche arises from the uniquely provocative style of his philosophical writing.
Nietzsche frequently delivered trenchant critiques of Christianity in the most offensive and blasphemous terms possible given the context of 19th century Europe.
These aspects of Nietzsche’s style run counter to traditional values in philosophical writing, and they alienated him from the academic establishment both in his time and, to a lesser extent, today.
A few of the themes that Nietzsche scholars have devoted the most attention to include Nietzsche’s views on morality, his view that “God is dead” (and along with it any sort of God’s-eye view on the world thus leading to perspectivism), his notions of the ‘will to power‘ and ‘Übermensch‘, and his suggestion of ‘eternal recurrence‘.

‘Der Wille zur Macht’


A basic element in Nietzsche’s philosophical outlook is ‘der Wille zur Macht’ – (the will to power), which provides a basis for understanding human behavior. In a wide sense of a term, the will to power is a more important element than pressure for adaptation or survival.
According to Nietzsche, only in limited situations is the drive for conservation precedent over the will to power.
The natural condition of life, according to him, is one of profusion.
In its later forms Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power.
Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still, and speculated that it may apply to inorganic nature as well.
He transformed the idea of matter as centers of force into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to dispense with the atomistic theory of matter, a theory which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance.
One study of Nietzsche defines his fully developed concept of the will to power as “the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation” revealing the will to power as “the principle of the synthesis of forces.
Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power can also be viewed as a response to Schopenhauer’s “Will.”

Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial ‘Will’, thus resulting in all creatures’ desire to avoid death and to procreate.
Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer’s account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim—something necessary to promote one’s power.
Defending his view, Nietzsche describes instances where people and animals willingly risk their lives to gain power—most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare.
Once again, Nietzsche seems to take part of his inspiration from the ancient Homeric Greek texts he knew well: Greek heroes and aristocrats or “masters” did not desire mere living (they often died quite young and risked their lives in battle) but wanted power, glory, and greatness.
In this regard he often mentions the common Greek theme of ‘agon’ or contest.
In addition to Schopenhauer’s psychological views, Nietzsche contrasts his notion of the will to power with many of the other most popular psychological views of his day, such as that of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism—a philosophy mainly promoted, in Nietzsche’s days and before, by British thinkers such as Bentham and Stuart Mill—claims that all people fundamentally want to be happy. But this conception of happiness found in utilitarianism Nietzsche rejected as something limited to, and characteristic of, English society only.
Also Platonism and Christian neo-Platonism–which claim that people ultimately want to achieve unity with ‘The Good’ or with ‘God’ – are philosophies he criticizes.
In each case, Nietzsche argues that the “will to power” provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.

Übermensch

Another concept important to an understanding of Nietzsche’s thought is the Übermensch.
While interpretations of Nietzsche’s Übermensch vary wildly, here is one of his quotations from  ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ – (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (Prologue, §§3–4):

“I teach you the superman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?
What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to superman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape…. The superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the superman shall be the meaning of the earth…. Man is a rope, tied between beast and the superman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge, and not an end.”

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Oswald Spengler   
‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’

Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher of history whose interests included mathematics, science, and art.

He is best known for his book ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ – (The Decline of the West), published in 1918 and 1922, covering all of world history.
He proposed a new theory, according to which the lifespan of civilizations is limited and ultimately they decay.
He wrote extensively throughout World War I and the interwar period, and supported German hegemony in Europe.
As a precursor of National Socialism, in 1920 Spengler produced ‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’ (Prussia and Socialism), which argued for an organic, nationalist version of socialism and authoritarianism.

Biography
Blankenburg
Oswald Spengler
(29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936)

Oswald Spengler was born in 1880 in Blankenburg the eldest of four children, and the only boy.
His family was conservative German of the petite bourgeoisie.

His father, originally a mining technician, who came from a long line of mine-workers, was a post office bureaucrat.
His childhood home was emotionally reserved, and the young Spengler turned to books and the great cultural personalities for succor.
He had imperfect health, and suffered throughout his life from migraine headaches and from an anxiety complex.
At the age of ten, his family moved to the university city of Halle.
Halle Marktplatz

Here Spengler received a classical education at the local Gymnasium (academically oriented secondary school), studying Greek, Latin, mathematics and sciences.

Here, too, he developed his affinity for the arts – especially poetry, drama, and music – and came under the influence of the ideas of Goethe and Nietzsche.

Nietzsche
After his father’s death in 1901 Spengler attended several universities (Munich, Berlin, and Halle) as a private scholar, taking courses in a wide range of subjects. His private studies were undirected.
In 1904 he received his Ph.D.
He briefly served as a teacher in Saarbrücken and then in Düsseldorf.

Realgymnasium – Hamburg
From 1908 to 1911 he worked at a grammar school (Realgymnasium) in Hamburg, where he taught science, German history, and mathematics.
In 1911 he moved to Munich, where he would live until his death in 1936.
He lived as a cloistered scholar, supported by his modest inheritance.
He began work on the first volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ intending at first to focus on Germany within Europe, but the Agadir Crisis affected him deeply, and he widened the scope of his study.
The book was completed in 1914, but publishing was delayed by World War I.
Due to a congenital heart problem, he was not called up for military service.

‘The Decline of the West’ is a two-volume work by Oswald Spengler, the first volume of which was published in the summer of 1918.
Spengler revised this volume in 1922 and published the second volume, subtitled ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World History), in 1923.
The book introduces itself as a “Copernican overturning”, and rejects the Euro-centric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-medieval-modern” rubric.
According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
He recognizes eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or “European-American.”
Cultures have a lifespan of about a thousand years.
The final stage of each culture is, in his word use, a ‘civilization’.
The book also presents the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian; Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian; and the modern Westerners being Faustian.
According to the theory, the Western world is actually ending and we are witnessing the last season – ‘Winterzeit’ – (winter time) — of the Faustian civilization.
In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.

General Context

Spengler relates that he conceived the book sometime in 1911 and spent three years in writing the first draft.
At the start of World War I he began revising it and completed the first volume in 1917.
It was published the following year when Spengler was 38, and was his first work, apart from his doctoral thesis on Heraclitus.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος—Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor.
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties.

The second volume was published in 1922.
The first volume is subtitled ‘Form und Aktualität’ – (Form and Actuality), the second volume is ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World-history).
Spengler’s own view of the aims and intentions of the work are sketched in the Prefaces and occasionally at other places.

The book received unfavorable reviews from most interested scholars even before the release of the second volume.
Spengler’s veering toward right-wing views in the second volume confirmed this reception, and the stream of criticisms continued for decades.
Nevertheless in Germany the book enjoyed popular success: by 1926 some 100,000 copies were sold.
A 1928 ‘Time’ magazine review of the second volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ described the immense influence and controversy Spengler’s ideas enjoyed in the 1920s:
When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so.”
Spengler presented a worldview that resonated with the post-WWI German mood  – a view of democracy as the type of government of the declining civilization.
He argued that democracy is driven by money-breeding, and therefore easily corruptible. Spengler supported the rise of a right wing, authoritarian government as the next phase after the failure of democracy.

Oswald Spengler – The Final years

When ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ was published in the summer of 1918 it became a wild success.

Treaty of Versailles 
Treaty of Versailles 

The perceived national humiliation of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ (1919) and later the economic depression around 1923 fueled by hyperinflation seemed to prove Spengler right.
It comforted Germans because it seemingly rationalized their downfall as part of larger world-historical processes.
The book met with wide success outside of Germany as well, and by 1919 had been translated into several other languages.

Max Weber
Thomas Mann

Spengler rejected a subsequent offer to become Professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen, saying he needed time to focus on writing.
The book was widely discussed, even by those who had not read it.
Thomas Mann compared reading Spengler’s book to reading Schopenhauer for the first time. Academics gave it a mixed reception.
Max Weber described Spengler as a “very ingenious and learned dilettante”, while Karl Popper, not surprisingly, described the thesis as “pointless“.
In 1931, he published ‘Der Mensch und die Technik’ – (Man and Technics), which warned against the dangers of technology and industrialism to culture.
The principle idea in this work is that many of the Western world’s great achievements may soon become spectacles for our descendants to marvel at, as we do with the pyramids of Egypt or the baths of Rome.
In Spengler’s mind, our culture will be destroyed from within by materialism, and destroyed by others through economic competition and warfare.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg

He especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile “Colored races” which would then use the weapons against the West.

This book contains the well-known Spengler quote ‘Optimismus ist Feigheit’ – (Optimism is cowardice).
Spengler voted for Hitler over Hindenburg in 1932, and met Hitler in 1933, and he became a member of the German Academy in the course of the year.
Spengler spent his final years in Munich, listening to Beethoven, reading Molière and Shakespeare, buying several thousand books, and collecting ancient Turkish, Persian and Hindu weapons.
He made occasional trips to the Harz mountains, and to Italy.
He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1936 in Munich, three weeks before his 56th birthday.


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Hitler und Wagner

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Without Wagner would there have been a Third Reich – and what would Richard have thought about his greatest ‘fan’ – Adolf Hitler. ?
Undoubtedly much of Hitler’s weltanschauung (world view or world philosophy) was dictated by the music, librettos and writings of his favourite composer.

Adolf Hitler
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Wilhelm Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, “music dramas”). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’

Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung). His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music.

In addition there was a personal element to Hitler’s connection with Wagner.



Cosima, Siegfried and Richard Wagner
Siegfried and Winifred Wagner

Of course Wagner died in 1883, and Hitler was born in 1889 – so there could be no direct, personal connection – however Wagner had  a son, Siegfried, and Siegfried, despite his homosexuality, had sons – Wolfgang and Wieland.
After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner, Siegfried’s wife, took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.

Wolfgang and Wieland Wagner and Hitler
Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we know, greatly admired Wagner’s music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography ‘Mein Kampf’ was written.
In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with England.
Winifred’s relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.
‘Haus Wahnfried’, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.


Entrance Hall – Villa Wahnfried
The name of the villa Wahnfried, is interesting.
Wahnen means endless striving of an artist for the fulfilment of his aspirations and the triumph of his art.
So Wahnfried (Wahnen free) was the name chosen and even today we can see Wagner’s motto on the front: “Here where my delusions have found peace, let this place be named Wahnfried.”
Above the door to the villa  is a giant mural, depicting Wotan, King of the Gods and the philandering wanderer, being welcomed by classical women.
We should also note that Wotan was the name of Wagner’s beloved St Bernard dog.
The whole house was a place where Wagner could compose, raise his family and entertain guests.
The Grand Hall is the largest room in the villa, and is a two-storey space with a gallery around the second floor and a skylight in the ceiling. Furnishings include two of Wagner’s pianos and numerous busts. The specially designed Bechstein piano was the piano Wagner used when he was composing Meistersinger, part of Siegfried and Parsifal. It was a present from the endlessly patient, endlessly generous King Ludwig II for Wagner’s birthday in 1864.
In a shady grove beyond the garden, surrounded with ivy, is the tomb of Richard and Cosima Wagner. The stone is unmarked, because as Wagner insisted, as long as it remained, everyone would know who was buried there. 
But to begin at – almost – the beginning – 


The most momentous non-event of the century occurred in February of 1908.

And it occurred in Vienna to Alfred Roller. 
Today  Roller  is  not  so  much  underestimated as unknown, at  least outside a small  circle  of  opera  devotees.
Yet in 1908 he was one of the most important figures on the Viennese artistic scene. 
He  was  a  painter who, along with Gustav Klimt, organized the Vienna Se-cession.
He was also professor of fine arts and soon to be appointed director of the School of Applied Arts.
But above all he was a stage designer of great distinction.

Alfred Roller

Alfred Roller (2 October 1864, Brünn, Mähren — 21 June 1935, Vienna) was an Austrian painter, graphic designer, and set designer.

Roller’s Original Drawings for ‘Tristan’ – 1903
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Roller at first studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under Christian Griepenkerl and Eduard Peithner von Lichtenfels, but eventually became disenchanted with the Academy’s traditionalism. In 1897 he co-founded the Viennese Secession with Koloman Moser, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, and other artists who rejected the prevalent academic style of art. He became a professor of drawing at the University of Applied Arts Vienna (Kunstgewerbeschule) in 1899, and president of the Secession in 1902.
In his early career Roller was very active as a graphic designer and draughtsman.
He designed numerous covers and vignettes for the pages the Secessionist periodical Ver Sacrum, as well as the posters for the fourth, fourteenth, and sixteenth Secession exhibitions. He also designed the layout of the exhibitions themselves.
In 1902 Roller was introduced to the composer Gustav Mahler by Carl Moll. Roller expressed an interest in stage design and showed Mahler several sketches he had made for Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’. Mahler was impressed and decided to employ Roller to design the sets for a new production of the piece. The production, which premiered in February 1903, was a great critical success. Roller continued to design sets for Mahler’s productions. Eventually Roller left the Secession and his teaching post at the Kunstgewerbeschule to be appointed chief stage designer to the Vienna State Opera, a position he held until 1909.

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 – February 6, 1918) was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d’art. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body; his works are marked by a frank eroticism. Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary. His mother, Anna Klimt (née Finster), had an unrealized ambition to be a musical performer. His father, Ernst Klimt the Elder, formerly from Bohemia, was a gold engraver. All three of their sons displayed artistic talent early on. Klimt’s younger brothers were Ernst Klimt and Georg Klimt. Klimt became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 and of the group’s periodical, Ver Sacrum (“Sacred Spring”). He remained with the Secession until 1908.

Richard Wagner

In 1903, on the twentieth  anniversary of Wagner’s death, he  and Gustav Mahler initiated a cycle of the composer’s works in fresh  musical  and  visual  interpretations. 

Gustav Mahler


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. His family later moved to nearby Iglau (now Jihlava), where Mahler grew up. On 8 October 1897 Mahler was formally appointed to succeed Jahn as the Hofoper’s director. Early in 1902 Mahler met Alfred Roller, an artist and designer associated with the Vienna Secession movement. A year later, Mahler appointed him chief stage designer to the Hofoper, where Roller’s debut was a new production of ‘Tristan und Isolde’. The collaboration between Mahler and Roller created more than 20 celebrated productions of, among other operas.



‘Tristan und Isolde’

The  ‘Tristan  and  Isolde’  of  that  year  marked  the first  break  with  the  Bayreuth  tradition. 

‘Tristan und Isolde’

Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde, or Tristan and Isolda, or Tristran and Ysolt) is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to the work not as an opera, but called it “eine Handlung” (literally a drama or a plot), which was the equivalent of the term used by the Spanish playwright Calderón for his dramas.
Wagner’s composition of Tristan und Isolde was inspired by his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertory, Tristan was notable for Wagner’s advanced use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.

‘Der Rosenkavalier’ – Richard Strauss

That  production and  those  that  followed  –  in  particular  the premiere of ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ in 1911 made him the world’s most talked-about operatic producer.

In that first week of February, Roller received a letter  from  a  friend  declaring  that  a  young  man  of her acquaintance  was  a  great  admirer  of  his. 
The  lad  was an aspiring painter and loved opera; he would give anything, she  wrote,  to  meet  Roller  to  discuss  his  professional  prospects,  either  in  painting  or  in  stage  design.
Despite his heavy commitments, Roller generously agreed to meet him, take a look at some of his work and advise him on a career.

Young Hitler

The young man was overjoyed, and a short time later, with Roller’s reply and a portfolio of  his  works  in  hand,  went  to  the  opera  house. 

On reaching the entrance, so he later said, he got cold feet and  left. 
A  short  time  later  he  summoned  up  his  courage, returned and this time made it as far as the grand staircase, when he again took fright.
On a third occasion he was well on his way to Roller’s office when an opera house  attendant  asked  his  business. 
At  that,  he  turned on  his  heels  and  fled  for  good.
Now young Adolf was not a naturally timid young man – so what was it that prevented him from meeting Roller.
Was there some force, that prevented him from taking the critical that would have decisively changed world history ? 
But  he  never  forgot  the gesture, and  when  he  finally met Roller in 1934, he told him  the  story. 
The  young man was  now  chancellor of Germany.
If  only,  history  sighs, Roller and  Hitler  had  met in 1908 and Hitler had been taken on as an assistant at the opera, or enrolled at  the School  of  Applied  Arts. 
As Hitler himself remarked to his personal staff in 1942: ‘Without  a  recommendation  it  was  impossible  to  get anywhere  in  Austria.  When  I  came  to  Vienna  I  had  a recommendation to Roller. But I never made use of it. If I had gone to him with it, he would have taken me right off.  But  I  do  not  know  whether  that  would  have  been better  for  me.  Certainly  everything  would  have  been much easier. And  much  different.‘ 
In  any  event  Hitler  never  lost his admiration of Roller.
When Winifred Wagner decided in 1933 to stage a new production of Richard Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ at Bayreuth – the  first  since  the  original  of  1882  –  Hitler, not unnaturally   proposed Roller to do it, although he had other, more obscure reasons for making that request (see below) and she agreed.

Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English woman and wife of Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner’s son. She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945.
In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler, who greatly admired Wagner’s music. When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with Britain.
Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage. Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat. Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children solicitously.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades. Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred’s grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.

Haus Wahnfried – Führerbau

Wahnfried was the name given by Richard Wagner to his villa in Bayreuth. The name is a German compound of Wahn (delusion, madness) and Fried(e), (peace, freedom).
The house was constructed from 1872 to 1874 under Carl Wölfel’s supervision after plans from Berlin architect Wilhelm Neumann, the plans being altered according to some ideas of Wagner. The front of the house shows Wagner’s motto “Hier wo mein Wähnen Frieden fand – Wahnfried – sei dieses Haus von mir benannt.” (“Here where my delusions have found peace, let this place be named Wahnfried.”)
The grave of Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima lies on the grounds of Wahnfried. An extension to the house was built for Wagner’s son, Siegfried Wagner, and was later used by Hitler and was known as the Führerbau

So how did it all start ?
Hitler’s love affair with Wagnerian opera had begun in Linz in 1901 when at the age of twelve he attended his first opera.


Stadtwappen Linz
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Linz – 1900

Linz is the third-largest city of Austria and capital of the state of Upper Austria (German: Oberösterreich).
IAdolf Hitler was born in the border town of Braunau am Inn but moved to Linz in his childhood. Hitler spent most of his youth in the Linz area, from 1898 until 1907, when he left for Vienna. The family lived first in the village of Leonding on the outskirts of town, and then on the Humboldtstrasse in Linz. After elementary education in Leonding, Hitler was enrolled in the Realschule (school) in Linz with the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.  To the end of his life, Hitler considered Linz to be his “home town”, and envisioned extensive architectural schemes for it, wanting it to become the main cultural centre of the Third Reich.

The  performance  was  of  ‘Lohengrin’ and, as he later wrote in Mein Kampf,
I was captivated at once. My youthful enthusiasm for the Master of Bayreuth  knew  no  bounds. 
Again  and  again  I  was drawn  to  his  works  .  .  .  .’ 
From  that  moment  the  lad found himself addicted, literally so, to Wagner’s operas.
The  composer’s  musical  and  intellectual  influence  in Central  Europe  was  then  at  its  zenith,  and  Hitler  em-braced the cult as devoutly as anyone.

‘Gustl’ Kubizek
Linz Opera House

During the years following  the  ecstasy  of  that  first  ‘Lohengrin’  performance, Hitler returned to the Linz Opera house night after night.

It was there that he eventually met another opera enthusiast,  August  Kubizek. 

August (“Gustl”) Kubizek (3 August 1888, Linz – 23 October 1956, Eferding) was a close friend of Adolf Hitler when both were in their late teens. He later wrote about their friendship.





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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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The  slightly older August, although  training  to  follow  in  the  footsteps  of  his  father as  an  upholsterer, was a serious  amateur  musician, able to play several stringed and brass instruments.
In a short time he became the sole friend of Hitler’s youth.
It was  not  simply  the  mutual  interest  in  opera  that  drew them  together  but  the  compliant  Kubizek’s willingness – an absolute requisite for everyone else later as well – to listen in tacit agreement or at least silence as the domineering ‘Adi’ expatiated on whatever caught his fancy.

Albert Speer

According  to  Hitler’s  comments  to  Speer,  the two  young  men  spent  hours  wandering  through  the streets of Linz as he rambled on about music, architecture  and  the  importance  of  the  arts. 


Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Spee – March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981 – was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office.







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On  visiting  Vienna for the first time in 1906, it was to Kubizek that he wrote.

Vienna Opera House

Tomorrow I am going to the opera, ‘Tristan’, and the day after  ‘Flying  Dutchman’,  etc.,’  he  reported  soon  after  arriving. 
Later the same day he dispatched  a  second postcard  of  the  opera  house  on  which  he  had  written grandiloquently:
The interior of the edifice is not exciting. If the exterior is mighty  majesty,  lending  the  building  the  seriousness  of an artistic monument, one feels in the interior admiration rather  than dignity.
Only when the mighty sound waves flow through  the  auditorium  and  when  the  whisperings of the wind give way to the terrible roaring of the sound waves does one feel the grandeur and forget the surfeit of gold and velvet covering the interior

Academy  of  Fine  Arts – Vienna


On  settling  in  Vienna  the  following  year,  he  persuaded Kubizek,  who  had  been  admitted  to  the  Music  Conservatory,  to  join  him  there. 

The  two lived together until 1908 when Hitler, following the humiliation of his second rejection  by  the  Academy  of  Fine  Arts,  suddenly  vanished from his companion’s life.
Beyond his Wagnermania,  little  is  known  for  certain  about  Hitler’s youthful  activities. 
He  sang  in  a  church  choir at Lambach Abbey (Stift Lambach) – a Benedictine monastery in Lambach in Austria.




Stift Lambach

A monastery was founded in about 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg (later canonised), changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey ten year later. Since 1056 it has been a Benedictine abbey. During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family. Lambach escaped the dissolution of the monasteries of Emperor Joseph II in the 1780s. In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler had lived in the town of Lambach (with his parents). He went to the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed. 
Hitler had seen several swastikas each day as a boy in Lambach, when he attended the Benedictine monastery school, which was decorated with carved stones and woodwork that included the symbol.

Paula Hitler
Klara Hitler



On  leaving school,  the young Adolf  joined  a  music  club,  and  took  piano  lessons from October 1906 until the end of the following January from  a  man  named  Josef  Prawratsky. 

He  soon  quit because of  lack  of  money  as  a  result  of  the  expense  of  his mother’s  cancer  treatments, however,  his  sister  Paula recalled him ‘sitting for hours at the beautiful Heitzmann grand piano my mother had given him’.






Hitler’s Heitzmann 

Klara Hitler née Pölzl (12 August 1860 – 21 December 1907) was an Austrian woman, and the mother of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Paula Hitler (Paula Wolf)[1] (21 January 1896 in Hafeld, Austria – 1 June 1960 in Berchtesgaden) was the younger sister of Adolf Hitler and the last child of Alois Hitler and his third wife, Klara Pölzl. Paula was the only full sibling of Adolf Hitler to survive into adulthood.

In later years he occasionally  played  –  according  to  Winifred  Wagner fairly well – but what he played remains a mystery.

Kubizek’s  1954  book, ‘Young  Hitler’ indicates  that Hitler had a fairly solid musical background.

Anton Bruckner

Hitler  was  devoted  to  the  works  of  Haydn,  Mozart  and Beethoven as well as Bruckner, Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn,  Schumann  and  Grieg, and he  was  especially fond of Mozart and of Beethoven’s violin and piano concertos, and above  all  Schumann’s  piano  concerto.

The assertion that Hitler read Wagner’s prose  writings  and  everything  else  he  could  get  his hands  on by or about Wagner is contradicted by Franz Jetzinger, librarian at the Linz archive, that Hitler  did  no  serious  reading  at  all  at  the  time – however this has been strongly disputed (see below).

Brigitte Hamann

Franz Jetzinger (3 December 1882 in Ranshofen in Upper Austria – 19 March 1965 in Ottensheim in Upper Austria) was an Austrian clergyman, academic, politician, civil servant, editor and author. He remains especially famous as author of the book ‘Hitler’s Youth’
Jetzinger gained fame in 1958 through the English version of his book ‘Hitler’s Youth’, in which he could refute many of Hitler’s statements about his early years. Moreover, Jetzinger attracted attention by attacking an earlier published book ‘The Young Hitler I Knew’ by August Kubizek, whom Jetzinger accused of spreading falsehoods. While earlier Hitler biographers like Joachim Fest or Werner Maser adopted Jetzinger’s criticism as their own, Jetzinger’s crushing judgment of Kubizek’s credibility is now challenged by Brigitte Hamann, author of ‘Hitlers Wien’. Hamann asserts personal motives for Jetzinger’s tendency to illustrate nearly every statement in Kubizek’s book as an ex post modification of facts, claiming Jetzinger was economically motivated, because the previous release of Kubizek’s book supposedly undermined the sale of his own work. Many of Jetzinger’s statements have now been disscredited.

The  young  Hitler  was  undoubtedly  enthralled  by  Wagner’s  music and he was ‘transported into that extraordinary state which Wagner’s  music  produced  in  him,  that  trance,  that  escape into a mystical dream-world . . . . . . a changed man; his violence  left  him,  he  became  quiet,  yielding  and  tracta-ble . . . . intoxicated and bewitched . . . . . . willing to let himself be carried away into a mystical universe . . . . . . from  the  stale,  musty  prison  of  his  back  room,  trans-ported into the blissful regions of Germanic antiquity . . .‘ according to Kubizek.

Wieland  der Schmied

According to some sources Hitler wrote an opera, based on a prose sketch which Wagner had  developed,  but  abandoned,  entitled  ‘Wieland  der Schmied’ (Wieland the Blacksmith).
An entire chapter is devoted  to  the  story  and  tells  how  the  young  Hitler worked  out  leitmotifs,  a  cast  of  characters,  a  plot,  a dramatic  structure  and  a  rough  score. 

Even  after  the passage  of  forty-five  years,  Kubizek  was able to  recall  the  specific  names,  all  old-Teutonic,  of the characters. 
Within three days of conceiving  the  idea  of  the  opera,  Hitler  had  already  composed an  overture  –  in  Wagnerian  style  –  which  he  played for his  friend  on  the  piano  in  their  completely  darkened room. 
Eventually  there was produced a very serious sketch  for  a music drama  with Adolf  Hitler  as  its  composer.

In Germanic and Norse mythology, Wayland the Smith (Old English: Wēland; Old Norse: Völundr, Velentr; Old High German: Wiolant; Proto-Germanic: *Wēlandaz, from *Wēla-nandaz, lit. “battle-brave”) is a legendary master blacksmith. In Old Norse sources, Völundr appears in Völundarkviða, a poem in the Poetic Edda, and in Þiðrekssaga, and his legend is also depicted on the Ardre image stone VIII. In Old English sources, he appears in Deor, Waldere and in Beowulf and the legend is depicted on the Franks Casket. He is mentioned in the German poems about Dietrich von Bern as the Father of Witige.

National Socialist Symphony Orchestra

Kubizek also explains how Hitler dreamed up the  idea  of  a  ‘Mobile  Reichs Orchestra’ – or ‘Reich Symphony  Orchestra’  –  which was to tour German  provinces  and  perform  without charge. 

In 1928 an orchestra dedicated to  promoting National Socialist ideals was  organized and in 1931 it became, with Hitler’s approval, a travelling National Socialist Symphony Orchestra.

By  far  the  best  known  of  Kubizek’s  stories  relates to ‘Rienzi’.

Rienzi

Following  a  performance  at  the  Linz Opera of Wagner’s ‘Rienzi’, Hitler ascended to a  high  place  –  the  Freinberg  Hill  overlooking  the  city  – where he experienced an ideological epiphany.

‘Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen’ (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes) is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton’s novel of the same name (1835). Written between July 1838 and November 1840, it was first performed at the Hofoper, Dresden, on 20 October 1842, and was the composer’s first success.
The opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a late medieval Italian populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and then defeating the nobles and their followers and in raising the power of the people.


Inspired by  the  hero  of  the  opera,  a  simple  man  driven  by  a sense  of  mission  to  restore greatness  to  Rome,  Hitler fell  into  a  state  of  ‘complete  ecstasy  and  rapture’  and declared that he too was destined to lead his people to greatness. 
Kubizek  went on to  say  that  he  mentioned the episode to Hitler when they met in Bayreuth in 1939 and found that he recalled it.
In that hour it began,’ the Führer commented.
And it is a story that is anchored  in  fact
One  fact  is  that  the  opera  was  actually performed  at  the  local  opera  house  beginning  in  January  1905. 
Another  is  that  this  is  a   case  where  the book  and  the  ‘Reminiscences’  are  consistent.
When  a  skeptical  Jetzinger  read  that  passage  and  challenged  it,  Kubizek responded  in  evident  dudgeon,  ‘The  experience  after  ‘Rienzi’  really  happened.’ 
But  most  telling  is  Hitler’s  own testimony  to  Speer  in  1938,  a  full  year  before  Kubizek raised  the  topic  at  Bayreuth. 
Explaining  why  the  party rallies  opened  with  the  overture  to  the  opera,  he said it was  not  simply  because of the impressiveness of the music  but  also  because  it  had  great  personal  significance.
Listening to this blessed music as a young man in  the  opera  at  Linz,  I  had  the  vision  that  I  too  must some  day  succeed  in  uniting  the  German  empire  and making  it  great  once  more.’ 

Anschluß – 1938

Upon  the  annexation  of Austria,  Hitler  publicly  expressed  identical  sentiments, without the personal reference to ‘Rienzi’, telling an audience  in  Vienna,
‘I  believe  it  was  God’s  will  to  send  a youth  from  here  into  the  Reich,  to  let  him  grow  up,  to raise him to be the leader of the nation so as to enable him to lead his homeland back into the Reich’.

The Anschluß (German for “connection” or union), also known as the Anschluss Österreichs, was the reunion of Austria with the Third Reich in 1938.
With the Anschluß, the German-speaking Republic of Austria ceased to exist as a fully independent state.

In some sense,  then,  the  ‘Rienzi’  experience  marked  the  primal scene of his political career. 

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Hitler’s love of music was intense, – fanatical even.

But as in painting, his taste  was limited  to a specific  type.
Wilhelm Furtwängler learned this to his shock at a long meeting with the Führer in  August  1933. 

Wilhelm Furtwängler (January 25, 1886 – November 30, 1954) was a German conductor and composer. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Furtwängler became one of the leading conductors in Europe, as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922, as principal conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1922–26, and as a major guest conductor of other leading orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic. He was the leading conductor who remained in Germany during the Second World War.


Music, Hitler left him in no  doubt, meant opera, and  opera  meant Wagner and Puccini.


Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924), generally known as Giacomo Puccini, was an Italian composer whose operas are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire.
Puccini has been called “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”. While his early work was rooted in traditional late-19th-century romantic Italian opera, he successfully developed his work in the ‘realistic’ verismo style, of which he became one of the leading exponents.


Symphonies – initially – held little interest, and chamber  music  none  at  all. 

There  is  no  record  of  his ever  having  attended  a  chamber  concert  or a lieder recital.
His attendance at symphony concerts was increasingly rare as time passed and, when chancellor, he seldom  appeared  except  on  ceremonial  occasions. 

Hitler Listening to Records

He wanted music to be readily available, however, and after 1933 built  up a large collection of  phonograph  recordings at the Chancellery in Berlin, at the Berghof, on his  train and, later on, at his military  headquarters  on the Eastern front.

According to all accounts, these were outstanding  in  quality  and  quantity,  and  the  playing equipment  was  excellent. 
In  the  evenings  he  enjoyed hearing   short   excerpts and dramatic highlights of favourite  pieces.
Christa Schroeder

He  would  then  sit  back,’  according  to Christa Schroeder, and listen with his eyes closed.

Christa Schroeder (born Emilie Christine Schroeder; March 19, 1908 – June 18, 1984) was one of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s personal secretaries before and during World War II.

It was always the same recordings that  were  played,  and  usually  the  guests knew  the  number  of  the  record  by  heart. 
When  Hitler said,  for  example,  ‘Aida,  last  act: ‘The  fatal  stone  upon me now is closing’, then one of the guests would shout the  catalogue  number  to  a  member  of  the  household staff.

Record number one-hundred-whatever.
Aida – Giuseppe Verdi

’‘Before  long,’ according to Speer, ‘the  order of the re-cords became virtually fixed.

First he wanted a few bra-vura  selections  from  Wagnerian  operas,  to  be  followed promptly  with  operettas.’ 
All the while he would try to guess the  names of  the  singers  and, as Speer remarked, ‘was  pleased  when  he  guessed  right,  as  he frequently did’.

Aida – sometimes spelled Aïda – is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a scenario often attributed to French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. Aida was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo on 24 December 1871, conducted by Giovanni Bottesini.

Hitler was not genuinely fond of Beethoven and, as  time  passed,  his  attendance  at  performances  of  his symphonies was usually confined to official events.
This was  awkward. 

Ludwig van Beethoven

Traditionally  Germans  looked upon Beethoven   along   with   Goethe,   Rembrandt   and   Shakespeare as the supreme figures of modern Western culture. 

Unlike  the  others,  however,  Beethoven  was  never just  a  cultural  figure,  but  also  an  ideological  symbol,  invoked   by   every   political   movement.  
National Socialists, Rosenberg  in  particular,  claimed  the  composer  as  an Aryan  hero –  and  his  music  as  an elixir that would contribute to the nation’s renewal.

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 concertos for piano, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets. He also composed other chamber music, choral works (including the celebrated Missa Solemnis), and songs.

In his speeches Hitler consequently felt obliged to give the composer his due, but his praise rarely rose above the perfunctory. 

Richard Wagner

So if Hitler had his Wagner, the Party had its Beethoven. 

When  Hitler  ‘entertained’  on  state  occasions,  Wagner  was  performed;  when  the  party  ‘entertained’  on  party  occasions  Beethoven  was  played. 
And played  he  was,  more  often  than  any  other  symphonic composer. 
His  works,  above  all  the  Ninth  Symphony, were  the  pre-eminent  musical  set  pieces  for  important occasions.
When Hitler wanted to impress state visitors, he  hauled  them  off  to  a  gala  performance  of  a  Wagnerian  opera. 
Miklós Horthy

In  1938,  anxious  to  gain  Hungarian  support for his impending dismemberment of Czechoslova-kia;  he  invited  the  Prince  Regent,  Admiral  Horthy, to make a state visit.

Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (German: Nikolaus von Horthy und Nagybánya; 18 June 1868 – 9 February 1957) was regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the years between World Wars I and II and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. He was styled “His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary” (Ő Főméltósága a Magyar Királyság Kormányzója).

The social high point of the occasion was  a  stunning  performance  of  ‘Lohengrin’  –  a  rather tactless  choice  considering  the  opera  opens  with  a call to arms to defend Germany from the Hungarian invader.
The following year Prince Paul, Prince Regent of Yugoslavia,  was  invited  to  Berlin  for  similar  reasons, in  this case  the  imminent  invasion  of  Poland. 
He  was  treated to  the  happier  ‘Meistersinger  von  Nürnberg’. 

Adolf Hitler and Prince Paul of Yugoslavia

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, also known as Paul Karađorđević (Павле Карађорђевић, – 27 April 1893 – 14 September 1976), was regent of Yugoslavia during the minority of King Peter II. Peter was the eldest son of his first cousin Alexander I. His title in Yugoslavia was “Његово Краљевско Височанство, Кнез Намесник”, (His Royal Highness The Prince Regent). In 1939, Prince Paul, as acting head of state, accepted an official invitation from Adolf Hitler and spent 9 days in Berlin.

Hitler apparently believed that   outstanding   musical performances – like his  magnificent  works  of  architecture – would  leave  foreign  leaders  in  awe  of  the  greatness  of the Third Reich and incline them to support his policies.
Brahms  he  did  not  like. 

Hans  Severus  Ziegler

Hitler’s  admirers,  such as  Hans  Severus  Ziegler  and  Furtwängler,  traced  his antipathy  to  the  old  rivalry  between  the  Brahms  and Bruckner  camps  in  Vienna. 

Hans Severus Ziegler (13 October 1893 – 1 May 1978) was a German publicist, intendant, teacher and National Socialist Party official. A leading cultural director under the Nazis, he was closely associated with the censorship and cultural co-ordination of the Third Reich.
Ziegler played a leading role in promoting the Nazi vision of culture, particularly with regards to “degenerate” music. He was a strong critic of atonality, dismissing it as decadent “cultural Bolshevism”


In  an  attempt  to  have  him overlook  history,  and  concentrate  on  the  music,  they persuaded  him  to  attend  a  concert  of  the  Berlin  Philharmonic,  which  included  the  Brahm’s  Fourth  Symphony. 
But  when  he  blithely  commented  afterwards, ‘Well,  Furtwängler  is  such  a  good  conductor  that under such a baton even Brahms is impressive,’ they admitted defeat.

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist.
Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms’s popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.


Richard Strauss

Unfortunately  the  record  is  silent  on  what  Hitler thought  of  Richard Strauss’s  operas,  or  even  which  ones  he knew.

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Death and Transfiguration’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.
Strauss represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.


Salome – Franz von Stuck
The story that Hitler begged money from relatives to  attend  the  Austrian  premiere  of  ‘Salome’  in  Graz  in May 1906, an event that also drew most of the eminent composers  of  the  day,  is possibly apocryphal.

Salome, Op. 54, is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by the composer, based on Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of the French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Strauss dedicated the opera to his friend Sir Edgar Speyer.
The opera is famous (at the time of its premiere, infamous) for its “Dance of the Seven Veils”. It is now better known for the more shocking final scene (often a concert-piece for dramatic sopranos), where Salome declares her love to – and kisses – the severed head of John the Baptist.


Not until after the Anschluss  in  1938  did  he  even  visit  the  Vienna.
Hitler  liked the  best known  operas  of  Verdi  and  Puccini. 
In  fact,  a performance  of  ‘Madama  Butterfly’  at  the  Berlin  Volksoper in 1937 left him so delighted that he decided then and there to donate 100,000 marks a year to the opera company.

Heinrich  Hoffmann

Even so, when once attending a performance of  ‘La  Boheme’,  what  he  talked  about  during  the  intermissions  was  Wagner  and  Bayreuth.

Otherwise  there were  few  if  any  non-German  composers  whose  works he  could  abide. 
According  to  Heinrich  Hoffmann,  he especially  disliked  Stravinsky  and  Prokofiev,  and  when Hoffmann’s   daughter,   Henriette   von   Schirach,   presented  him  with  a  recording  of  Tchaikovsky’s  Sixth Symphony, he brusquely refused to listen to it.

Heinrich Hoffmann (September 12, 1885 – December 11, 1957) was a German photographer best known for his many published photographs of Adolf Hitler.  Hoffmann married Therese “Lelly” Baumann, who was very fond of Hitler, in 1911, their daughter Henriette (“Henny”) was born on February 3, 1913 and followed by a son, Heinrich (“Heini”) on October 24, 1916. Henriette married Reichsjugendführer (National Hitler Youth commander) Baldur von Schirach, who provided introductions to many of Hoffmann’s picture books, in 1932. Therese Hoffmann died a sudden and unexpected death in 1928. Hoffmann and his second wife Erna introduced his Munich studio assistant Eva Braun to Hitler. Braun later became Hitler’s female companion.

Anton Brukner

Hitler liked his music to be melodic, euphonious and accessible.

Hitler’s    taste    underwent    several    significant changes,  however. 
During  most  of  his  life,  Bruckner held little appeal.

Anton Bruckner (4 September 1824 – 11 October 1896) was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, strongly polyphonic character, and considerable length. Bruckner’s compositions helped to define contemporary musical radicalism, owing to their dissonances, unprepared modulations, and roving harmonies.
Unlike other musical radicals, such as Richard Wagner or Hugo Wolf who fit the ‘enfant terrible‘ mould, Bruckner showed extreme humility before other musicians, Wagner in particular. This apparent dichotomy between Bruckner the man and Bruckner the composer hampers efforts to describe his life in a way that gives a straightforward context for his music.


Hoffmann did not so much as mention the  composer’s  name  when  once  identifying  Hitler’s favourites.
Even  after  becoming  chancellor,  Speer  noted, his interest ‘never seemed very marked’.
The composer had,  however,  symbolic  importance  to  him,  both  as  a ‘home town boy’ and as a rival to Brahms, so beloved in Vienna.
It  was  a  fixed  part  of  the  Nuremberg  rallies  for the cultural session to open with a movement of one of his  symphonies. 

Hitler at the Regensburg Valhalla

In  June  1937  he  was  famously  photographed  paying  his  respects  to  the  composer,  standing in  mute  homage  before  a  monument  at  ‘Valhalla  hall of   fame’   near   Regensburg   as   Siegmund   von Hausegger  and  the  Munich  Philharmonic  played the magnificent Adagio   of   the   Seventh   Symphony.   
Why  Hitler  staged  that  event  is  not  known. 

Speculation  has ranged from the theory that it was intended as a cultural precursor of the annexation of Austria the following year, to the notion that it was out of nostalgia for his ‘beautiful time  as  a  choirboy’  and Lembach Abbey – with  its  Bruckner associations.
Undoubtedly  the  Hitler  felt  a  personal   kinship.
Both   had   come   from   small   Austrian towns,  grew  up  in  modest  circumstances,  had  fathers who  died  at  an  early  age,  were  autodidacts,  and  made their way in life despite great obstacles.
On a number of occasions   he   contrasted   the   Austrian   Catholic Bruckner,  whom  the  Viennese  shunned,  to  the north   German   Protestant   Brahms,   whom   they idolized. 
Then,  suddenly  in  1940  he  developed  a passion   for   Bruckner’s   symphonies.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

He   even began  mentioning  him  in  the  same  breath  with  Wagner.

He told me,’ Goebbels noted in his diary, ‘… that it was only now during the war, that he had learned to like him  at  all.’ 
The  enthusiasm  steadily  grew.

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers.

By 1942  he  placed  Bruckner  on  a  level  with  Beethoven, and categorized the former’s Seventh Symphony as ‘one   of   the   most   splendid   manifestations   of German   musical   creativity,   the   equivalent   of Beethoven’s   Ninth’.
His   feelings   about   Bruckner,  man  and  composer,  are  best  conveyed  by  remarks  he  made  after  listening  to  a  recording  of  the first   movement   of   the  Seventh  at  his  military headquarters in January 1942:
‘Those  are  pure  popular  melodies  from  Upper Austria,  nothing  taken  over  literally  but   ländler  and  so  on  that  I  know  from  my youth. What the man made out of this primitive material ! In this case it was a priest who deserves well for having supported a great master.

Bruckner Organ – St Florian 

The bishop  of  Linz  sat  for hours  alone  in  the  cathedral  when  Bruckner,  the greatest organist of his time, played the organ.

One can imagine how difficult it was for a small peasant lad when he  went  to  Vienna,  that  urbanized,  debauched  society.
A  remark  by  him  about  Brahms,  which  a  newspaper recently  carried,  brought  him  closer  to  me:  Brahms’s music  is  quite  lovely,  but  he  preferred  his  own. 
That  is the healthy selfconfidence of a peasant who is modest but  when  it  came  down  to  it  knew  how  to  promote  a cause  when  it  was  his  own. 
That  critic  Hanslick  made his  life  in  Vienna  hell.
But  when  he  could  no  longer  be ignored,  he  was  given  honours  and  awards.
But  what could  he  do  with  those? 
It  was  his  creative activity that should have been made easier.
Brahms  was  praised  to  the  heavens.’
From  then  on  Hitler  did  everything  possible  to  promote Bruckner  and  to  enlist  him  in  his  vendetta  against Vienna.
St  Florian,  where  the  composer’s  career  had  begun, was to be turned into a pilgrimage site in the manner  of  Bayreuth.
He  wants  to  establish  a  new  cultural centre  here,’  Goebbels  noted.  ‘Simply  as  a  counter-weight to Vienna, which must gradually be shoved aside .  .  .  .  He  intends  to  renovate  St  Florian  at  his  own  expense.
Accordingly, Hitler financed a centre of Bruckner studies  there,  had  the  famous  organ  repaired  and  augmented  the  composer’s  library.
He  even  designed  a monument in his honour to stand in Linz, and endowed a Bruckner  Orchestra  which  he  was  determined  to  make one of the world’s best.
The publication of the Haas edition  of  the  composer’s  original  scores  was  subsidized from  his  own  funds.
And  he  dreamed  of  constructing a bell tower in Linz with a carillon that would play a theme from the Fourth Symphony.

Franz Lehar

An even more startling transformation in Hitler’s musical  taste  was  a  growing  passion  for  operetta,  in particular Franz Lehar’s  ‘Die lustige Witwe’

Franz Lehár (30 April 1870 – 24 October 1948) was an Austro-Hungarian composer. He is mainly known for his operettas of which the most successful and best known is The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe).
Hitler enjoyed Lehár’s music, and hostility diminished across Germany after Goebbels’s intervention on Lehár’s part. The National Socialist regime was aware of the uses of Lehár’s music for propaganda purposes: concerts of his music were given in occupied Paris in 1941. Even so, Lehár’s influence was limited.

‘Die lustige Witwe’ is an operetta by the Austro–Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen’s attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L’attaché d’ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac.

The operetta has enjoyed extraordinary international success since its 1905 premiere in Vienna and continues to be frequently revived and recorded. Film and other adaptations have also been made. Well-known music from the score includes the “Vilja Song”, “Da geh’ ich zu Maxim” (“You’ll Find Me at Maxim’s”), and the “Merry Widow Waltz”.



.

There was a remarkable  irony  in  this.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss’s  ‘Fledermaus’

Although  Hitler  almost  always avoided  mentioning  the  names  of  contemporary  composers  and  their  works,  in  speeches  in  1920  and  1922 he  singled  out  ‘Die lustige Witwe’   as  a  pre-eminent  example  of  artistic  kitsch.

There  is  no  way  of  knowing when he changed his mind.
But some time in the 1930s that very opera became one of his favourites.
He never missed   a   new   production   of   either   that   or   Johann Strauss’s  ‘Fledermaus’,  and  drew  large  sums  from  his private  account  for  lavish  new  stagings.

Johann Strauss II (October 25, 1825 – June 3, 1899), also known as Johann Baptist Strauss or Johann Strauss, Jr., the Younger, or the Son (German: Sohn), was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 400 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as “The Waltz King”, and was largely then responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century.
Among his operettas, ‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Der Zigeunerbaron’ are the best known.

Eventually  Hitler  came  to  revere  Lehar  as  one of  the  greatest  of  composers.

Reichskulturkammer
Reich  Culture  Chamber – RKK
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So thrilled was he upon meeting the composer in 1936 at a session  of  the Reichskulturkammer that  he  talked about  the  experience  for  days  afterwards.

The Reichskulturkammer (RKK) (“Reich Chamber of Culture”) was an institution in the Third Reich. It was established by law on 22 September 1933 in the course of the ‘Gleichschaltung’ (meaning “coordination”, “making the same”, “bringing into line”) process at the instigation of Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels as a professional organization of all German creative artists. Defying the claims raised by the German Labour Front (DAF) under rival Robert Ley, it was designed to control the cultural life in Germany, promoting art created by “Aryans”, and seen as consistent with National Socialist ideals.
Every artist had to apply for membership on presentation of an ‘Aryan certificate’.

The RKK was affiliated with the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda with its seat in Berlin and was headed by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.

The  importance  of  Lehar’s  music  in  the  last  years  of  his  life  was evident  when  he  celebrated  his  birthday  in  1943  by treating  himself,  and  his  guests,  to  a  recording  of  ‘Die lustige Witwe’.

Clearly Hitler had a keen ear, but how much did he actually know about music ?
He possessed a powerful memory, and in fields that interested him he  often  befuddled  specialists  with  his  detailed,  even expert,  knowledge.
In  fact,  confounding  professionals, and  showing  off  to  his  entourage,  gave  him  wicked pleasure, and those around him occasionally suspected that he boned up on a topic only to bring the conversation round to it so that he could exhibit his ‘extraordinary knowledge’.

Richard Strauss

After  the  Viennese  premiere  of  Richard Strauss’s  ‘Friedenstag’,  Hitler  gave  a  reception  for the artists  at  which,  according  to  one  account,  ‘He  showed an  astonishing  array  of  musical  knowledge,  and  was able, for example, to remind Hans Hotter of what he had been  singing  ten  years  previously: 

“Isn’t  Scarpia  too high for you? That G-flat in Act II?”’
While confirming the story,  Hotter  commented  that  it  was  difficult  to  draw much  of  a  conclusion  from  it. 
Hitler  had  an  exception-ally good memory.
According to the nature of an event – in this case music – he would prepare himself by reading relevant  literature  and  surprise  everybody  by  his  insider’s knowledge.’

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ and ‘Salome’; his lieder, especially his ‘Four Last Songs’; and his tone poems and other orchestral works, such as ‘Tod und Verklärung’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘Eine Alpensinfonie’  and Metamorphosen. Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.
Strauss represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Friedenstag (Peace Day) is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss, his Opus 81, to a German libretto by Joseph Gregor. 
The opera was premiered at Munich on 24 July 1938 and dedicated to Viorica Ursuleac and her husband Clemens Krauss, the lead and conductor respectively. Strauss had intended ‘Friedenstag’ as part of a double-bill, to be conducted by Karl Böhm in Dresden, that would include as the second part his next opera ‘Daphne’.

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Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler
Bayreuth

Most accounts of his musical expertise relate to his   knowledge   of   Wagnerian   opera. 

Typical   was   a comment of Winifred Wagner (see above) who, as her secretary recorded,  ‘could  not  stop  raving  about  what  an  attentive listener  he  is  and  how  well  he  knows  the  works,  above all musically’.

Heinz Tietjen 
In the same vein, Heinz Tietjen remarked that  he  was  ‘amazed’  at  how  well  the  Führer  knew Wagner’s scores, citing as an example Hitler’s comment after  a  performance  that  the  oboe  had  not  played quite in  tune.
And  I  had  to  acknowledge  he  was  right,’  the impresario  said.

Heinz Tietjen (June 24, 1881 – November 30, 1967) was a German conductor and music producer.
Tietjen was the director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin between 1925 and 1927, then director of the Prussian State Theatre. From 1931 to 1944, he served as artistic director at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus for Winifred Wagner with whom he had a romantic liaison

Baldur von Schirach

More  convincing  are  the  comments  of Baldur von Schirach.

Writing after he had served twenty years in Spandau, he cannot be suspected of gilding the lily.
He  recalled  a  performance  of  ‘Die  Walküre’,  which Hitler had attended in Weimar in 1925.
Schirach’s father was managing director of the opera house and, after the performance,  Hitler  was  introduced  to him and went on at  great  length  about  what he had seen and heard in a way  that  demonstrated  he  really  knew  his  Wagner.
He compared the production with those he had attended in Vienna  as  a  young  man,  naming  singers  and  conductors,  and  so  impressed  the  elder  Schirach  that  he  was invited  home  to  tea.
After  he  left,  Schirach  père  was said  to  have  commented:
In  all  my  life  I  never  met  a layman  who  understood  so  much  about  music,  Wagner’s in particular.’

Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (9 May 1907 – 8 August 1974) was a Nazi youth leader later convicted of crimes against humanity. He was the head of the Hitler-Jugend (HJ, the “Hitler Youth”) and Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter (“Reich Governor”) of Vienna. Schirach was born in Berlin, the youngest of four children of theatre director Rittmeister Carl Baily Norris von Schirach (1873–1948) and his American wife Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou (1872–1944). Through his mother, Schirach descended from two signatories of the United States Declaration of Independence. He had two sisters, Viktoria and Rosalind von Schirach, and a brother, Karl Benedict von Schirach, who committed suicide in 1919 at the age of 19.
Schirach joined a Wehrjugendgruppe (military cadet group) at the age of 10 and became a member of the NSDAP in 1925. He was soon transferred to Munich and in 1929 became leader of the Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbund (NSDStB, National Socialist German Students’ League). In 1931 he was a Reichsjugendführer (youth leader) in the NSDAP and in 1933 he was made head of the Hitler Youth (Hitler-Jugend) and given an SA rank of Gruppenführer. He was made a state secretary in 1936.

Albert Speer

To this account, Speer added that at his  fiftieth  birthday  celebration  in  1939  Hitler  had  been particularly  excited  by  a  gift  of  some  of  Wagner’s original  scores  and,  as  he  leafed  through  that  of  Götterdämmerung, ‘showed  sheet  after  sheet  to  the  assembled guests, making knowledgeable comments

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer –  March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981 – was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office.
Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.

Which  were  Hitler’s  favourite  operas ?
Despite  the poverty of his Vienna years, he managed to attend ‘Tristan  und  Isolde’  alone  thirty  or  forty  times,  and  in the course  of  his  life  heard  it,  and  ‘Die  Meistersinger’,  probably  a  hundred  times.

‘Tristan  und  Isolde’

‘Tristan und Isolde’ is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting. Wagner referred to the work not as an opera, but called it “eine Handlung” (literally a drama. a plot or an action).
Wagner’s composition of ‘Tristan und Isolde’ was inspired by his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertory, ‘Tristan’ was notable for Wagner’s advanced use of chromaticism, tonality, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.



Joachim C. Fest
Otto Dietrich

According  to  his  press  chief, Otto Dietrich,  he  knew  ‘Die  Meistersinger’  by  heart  and  could hum or whistle all its themes.

‘Lohengrin’ no doubt held a special place in his heart.
According to Fest, Hitler considered  the  final  scene  of  ‘Götterdämmerung’  to  be  ‘the summit  of  all  opera’.

Joachim Clemens Fest (8 December 1926 – 11 September 2006) was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer.

He  further  cites  Speer  as  having told him,
In Bayreuth, whenever the citadel of the gods collapsed  in  flames  amid  the  musical  uproar,  in  the darkness  of  the  loge  he  would  take  the  hand  of  Frau Wagner, sitting next to him, and in deep emotion bestow a kiss upon it.
Be that as it may, it was ‘Tristan and Isolde’ that meant  most  to  him.
After  listening one evening in 1942 to  a  recording  of  the  ‘Prelude  and  Liebestod’,  he  com-mented, ‘Well, ‘Tristan’ was his greatest work.

Festung Landsberg 
Christa  Schroeder and Adolf Hitler

According to Christa  Schroeder, the  ‘Liebestod’  moved  him  so deeply  that  he  said  he  wished  to  hear  it  at  the  time  of his death.

And in a letter from Landsberg prison in 1924 he  wrote  that  he  often  ‘dreamed  of  Tristan’.
At  a  1938 Bayreuth  performance  Winifred  observed, 
He  is  over-joyed   at   each   beautiful   passage   that   he   especially loves;  then  his  face  just  shines.’ 
There  is  no  way of knowing whether it was the eroticism, the sense of longing, the triumph of sensuality over reason that – in contrast  to  his  own  repressed  sexual  instincts – appealed to him.
Possibly it was the cult of the night or the tragic end.
Maybe just the music.

Tannhäuser and Venus – Otto Knille

‘Tannhäuser’ engaged him less, and he was long familiar  only  with  the  composer’s  earliest  score,  the so-called  ‘Dresden  Version’. 

At  some  point  in  the  1930s he heard the later ‘Paris Version’, and was so taken with it that he ordered Goebbels and Goring to permit only that score  to  be  performed. 
Despite the fact that Hitler seemed to favour ‘Tristan’ the most significant of Wagner’s works for Hitler, despite his comments about ‘Tristan’ and  ‘Götterdämmerung’, was ‘Parsifal’ – and that  was  the  reason  he wanted  Roller  to  re-stage  it  at  Bayreuth.
Alfred Roller – ‘Parsifal’ – 1934

And  this  elucidates  Hans  Frank’s  story  that,  while  riding  on  his train through  the  Rhineland  in  1936,  Hitler  asked  to  have played  for  him  a  recording  of  Karl  Muck’s  performance of the Parsifal Vorspiel.

Afterwards, in a deeply contemplative mood, he  remarked, ‘Out of Parsifal  I  shall  make  for  myself  a  religion,  religious  service in solemn form without theological disputation.’ 
He recalled that the Vienna opera archive  held  sketches  of  Roller’s  1914  production  and he  commended  these  as  models  for  producers. 
Not waiting  for  the  final  victory,  Goebbels  passed  on  the word  to  his  ministerial  officials  with  instructions  to  have photographs  of  the  Roller  sketches  circulated  to  every opera  house.  Managers  were  informed  that  any  future staging  of  the  work  was  to  follow  the  Roller  model and ‘was no longer to be done in the Byzantine-sacred style that was common up to then’.

For Hitler the Gnostic themes of the Grail Quest, and the cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness were perfectly portrayed in ‘Parsifal’.
Being an occult initiate, Hitler was aware of the Gnostic message behind “the externals of the story, with its Christian embroidery… the real message was pure, noble blood, in whose protection and glorification the brotherhood of the initiated have come together.”




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Adolf Hitler’s Interpretation of Parsifal


  “I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.  Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero”  


                     ‘What is celebrated in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ is not the Christian religion of compassion, but pure and noble blood, – blood whose purity the brotherhood of initiates has come together to guard.
The king (Amfortas) then suffers an incurable sickness, caused by his tainted blood.
Then the unknowing but pure human being (Parsifal) is led into temptation, either to submit to the frenzy and to the delights of a corrupt civilisation in Klingsor’s magic garden, or to join the select band of knights who guard the secret of life, which is pure blood itself.
All of us suffer the sickness of miscegenated, corrupted blood.
Note how the compassion that leads to knowledge applies only to the man who is inwardly corrupt, to the man of contradictions.
And Eternal life, as vouchsafed by the Grail, is only granted to those who are truly pure and noble !

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Only a new nobility can bring about the new culture.
If we discount everything to do with poetry, it is clear that elitism and renewal exist only in the continuing strain of a lasting struggle.
A divisive process is taking place in terms of world history.
The man who sees the meaning of life in conflict will gradually mount the stairs of a new aristocracy.
He who desires the dependent joys of peace and order will sink back down to the unhistorical mass, no matter what his provenance.
But the mass is prey to decay and self-disintegration.
At this turning- point in the world’s revolution the mass is the sum of declining culture and its moribund representatives.
They should be left to die, together with all kings like Amfortas.’

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.
The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

Adolf Hitler


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It has sometimes been assumed that Hitler was attracted  to  Wagner’s  works  because  of  the  plots,  with their  classic  conflict  between  the  outsider  and  a  rigid social  order,  their  lonely  heroes  and  dark  villains,  their Nordic myths and Germanic legends.
However, (apart from ‘Parsifal’ – see above) there is no  record  of  any  comment  on  how  he  interpreted  the works,  or  whether  he  saw  in  them  any  ideological  message  – much  less  whether  he  envisaged  himself  as  Lohengrin, Siegmund, Siegfried, Wotan or any other Wagnerian  character.

‘Nordic Dreams’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Rheintöchter
Woglinde, Wellgunde undFloßhilde
 ‘Das Rheingold’

It  was  the  music  that  moved  him.
When I hear Wagner it seems to me like the rhythms of the  primeval  world,’  he  said.  ‘And  I  could  imagine that science  will  one  day  find  measures  of  creation  in  the proportions of the physically perceptible vibrations of the Rheingold  music.’ 

Perhaps  he  was  trying  to  say  what Thomas  Mann  wrote  in  ‘Dr  Faustus’  –  that  the  elements of music are the first and simplest materials of the world, and make music one with the world, that ‘the beginning of  all  things  had  its  music’. 
Christa Schroeder recalled his saying that ‘Wagner’s musical language sounded  in  his  ear  like  a  revelation  of  the  divine’.
The vocabulary  suggests  that  the  feelings  conjured  by  the operas  may  have  filled  the  void left by the conventional Catholic religious belief  he  lost,  or  never  really  had – and it is quite clear that Hitler saw ‘Parsifal’ in religious terms. 
In  one  of  his  earliest speeches  he  made  the  revealing  comment  that  in  their way  Wagner’s  works  were  holy,  that  they  offered  ‘exaltation and liberation from all the wretchedness and misery  as  well  as  all  the  decadence  that  prevails’,  and  that they lift one ‘up into the pure air’.
If escape and purification were part of the appeal, the operas also responded to  that  proclivity  for  the  overwhelming,  the  oceanic,  the romantic,  the  orgasmic  that  was  evident  in  his  public rallies, parades and spectacles.
Like Wagner himself, Hitler believed that music fully  realized  itself  only  when  it  fused  with  other  arts  in visible form on stage.

National  Theatre Weimar
National  Theatre Weimar

And, like Wagner, his interest extended  to  virtually  every  aspect  of  operatic  production, 

down  to  the  fabric  and  design  of  the  theatre  itself. 
He was  fascinated  by  backstage  operations,  including  the functioning  of  stage  machinery.  During  his  visit  to  Weimar in 1925, he asked to go behind the stage at the National  Theatre.  Schirach  was  with  him  at  the  time  and later remarked, ‘He was familiar with all sorts of lighting systems  and  could  discourse  in  detail  on  the  proper  illumination  for  certain  scenes.’

Berghof 

Hans  Severus  Ziegler recalled  taking  a walk with Hitler one night at the Berghof,  when  the  moon  suddenly  appeared  from  behind  a cloud and lit the surrounding meadow.

Hitler stopped in his  tracks  and  launched  into  a  discussion  of  the  colour of light necessary to achieve verisimilitude for moonlight on a stage, as in the concluding scene of the second act of  ‘Die  Meistersinger’.
He  was  insistent  that  it  should  be white;  but  ‘it  is  often  greenish  or  blueish  and  that  is wrong’, he complained. ‘That is just Romantic kitsch.
Already  in  his  youth  Hitler  had  made  sketches of  Wagnerian  stage  sets  that  he  imagined  or  actually saw. 
Although  a  drawing  of  Siegfried  holding  a  raised sword  is  a  Kujau  forgery,  several  authentic  sketches survive.
Alfred Roller – ‘Tristan und Isolde’
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Among  them  is  one  of  the  second  act  of  ‘Lohengrin’; others include his rendering of the second and third  acts  of  the  famous  1903  Mahler-Roller  production of ‘Tristan and Isolde’, which he had attended in Vienna.

This interest in stage design increased after he became chancellor,  and  reached  such  a  level  that  it was  common  knowledge  that  the  best  way  to  get  an appointment   with   him,   which   otherwise   might   take months,  was  to  let  him  know  that  you  had  photos  of a new  staging  of  an  operetta  or  opera,  particularly  Wagnerian.
An  invitation  was  almost  certain  to  follow,  and then  Hitler  would  spend  countless  hours  studying  the pictures.
Most of all he relished working with Benno von Arent,  and  together  they  designed  several  productions that he commissioned and paid for with his private funds – among them, ‘Lohengrin’ in 1935 at the German Opera in Berlin, ‘Rienzi’ in 1939 at the Dietrich Eckart Open Air Theatre  in  Berlin  and  ‘Die  Meistersinger’  in  1934,  and later  years  at  the  Nuremberg  opera  in  connection  with the party rally.

Benno von Arent

Benno von Arent (19 July 1898 – 14 October 1956) was a member of the National Socialist Party and SS, responsible for art, theatres, movies etc.
Arent was born in Görlitz, Prussia, on 19 July 1898. Self-taught, after various apprentice positions he obtained his first theater job in Berlin in 1923 and became a stage designer. He joined the SS in 1931 and the NSDAP in 1932. The same year, he was one of the founders of the “Bund nationalsozialistischer Bühnen- und Filmkünstler” (“Union of national-socialist stage and movie artists”), which was renamed “Kameradschaft deutscher Künstler” (“fellowship of German artists”) after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
Arent was appointed “Reichsbühnenbildner” (“Reich stage designer”) in 1936 and “Reichsbeauftragter für die Mode” (“Reich agent for fashion”) in 1939. He designed the diplomatic uniform of the Nazi diplomatic service. In 1944, he was given the rank of SS-Oberführer.
He is listed under ‘Kunstlerische Mitarbeiter’ in the 1938-39 catalog issued by Porzellan-Manufaktur Allach, Munich.

Speer recalled:
At the chancellery Hitler once sent up to his bedroom for neatly  executed  stage  designs,  coloured  with  crayons, for  all  the  acts  of  ‘Tristan  and  Isolde’;  these  were to  be given  to  Arent  to  serve  as  an  inspiration. 
Another time he gave Arent a series of sketches for all the scenes of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.
At lunch he told us with great satisfaction  that  for  three  weeks  he  had  sat  up  over these, night after night.
This surprised me the more because  at  this  particular  time  Hitler’s  daily  schedule  was unusually  heavy  with  visitors,  speeches,  sight-seeing and other public activities.
Undoubtedly,  Arent’s  work  reflected  Hitler’s  taste.

His setting for the second act of ‘Tristan’, for example, was similar to  Roller’s  Vienna  staging  that  Hitler adored.’ 

The  main  trait  of  the  Hitler-Arent  style  was,  as Speer  phrased  it,  ‘smashing  effects’,  and  Arent’s  productions  were  smashing.
Gigantic  choruses  and  parades, huge casts of extras and glitzy costumes characterized   ‘Lohengrin’   and   ‘Rienzi’. 
But   the   Hitler-Arent chef-d’oeuvre  was  their  1934  joint  production  of  ‘Die Meistersinger’.
This  culminated  in  a  third-act  meadow scene staged in the manner of a Nuremberg party rally, with  massed  banners  and  martial  chorus.
No  detail  of the production escaped Hitler’s eye.
He fretted over the moonlight scene in the second act and went into ecstasies  over  the  brilliant  colours  he  wanted  for  the  final scene  on  the  Mastersingers’  meadow,  and  over  the  romantic  look  of  the  little  gabled  houses  opposite  Hans Sachs’s  cobbler’s  shop.

Meistersingers – 1934

So proud of it was he that he sent it on tour – from Nuremberg  to  the  German  Opera  in  Berlin  in  1935,  then  to Munich  in  1936,  Danzig  in  1938,  Weimar  in  1939  and Linz in 1941.

It even enjoyed a measure of resurrection after  the  war  when  the  costumes  were  used  in 1951 at the Bayreuth Festival, then too impoverished to afford to make its own.
Hitler’s adulation of Wagner-the-composer probably developed   into   veneration   of   Wagner-the-man   rather quickly.
Except  for  Frederick  the  Great  and  Bismarck, on no other person did he lavish such repeated and fulsome praise.
‘I must be frank to say that Richard Wagner’s  personality  meant  more  to  me  than  Goethe’s,’ he remarked  on  one  occasion. 
The  Führer  talks  to  me  of Richard  Wagner,  he  reveres  him  and  knows  of  no  one like  him,’  Goebbels  once  recorded.
He  even  managed to  introduce Wagner’s  name  into  his  1923  putsch  attempt, telling  the  court  at  his  trial  that  he  had  been  partly  inspired  by  the  composer’s  example  of  preferring  deeds to words.

Wagner’s  Grave 

‘When  I  stood  at  Wagner’s  grave  for  the  first  time  my heart  just  overflowed  with  pride  that  here  rested  a man who  would  not  permit  the  inscription  on  his  tombstone: ‘Here  lies  Privy  Counsellor,  Music  Director,  His  Excellency Baron Richard von Wagner’.

I was proud that this man,  like  many  men  in  German  history,  was content to leave his name to posterity not a title.’

Emil Ludwig

In  the  early  1930s  it  was  being  argued that Wagner did not simply enchant Hitler with his music and  inspire  his  anti-Semitism,  stagecraft  and  political ideas,  but  also  that  he  helped  to  create  the  very  ideological  atmosphere  that  put  him  in  power.

Of  all  German  creative  figures,  Wagner is the real father of the current German state of mind,’ wrote Emil Ludwig.
It was not by chance, he went on, that Hitler was a Wagnerian. 
The  two  men  were  personally  alike. Moreover,  they  worked  the  same  material.
The  composer  took  the  German  sagas  just  as  they  were.  ‘Such  were  the  ideals  that  Wagner proffered  the  German  people.
But  it  was  not  just  the stories and the ‘musical sound’ that created a mood of ‘mystical rapture’ but also his use of  the  German  language. 
‘Only  Hitler’s  prose  could compete with his,

‘Lohengrin’
Thomas Mann

These  were  themes  developed  in  later years by Thomas Mann.

The novelist was scarcely less smitten by Wagner than was Hitler himself.
He too as a youth had haunted his local opera house, and ‘Lohengrin’ had  also  been  the  first  of  the  Master’s  operas  he  had attended.
Mann  spoke  of  the  composer  as  his  ‘starkstes,  bestimmendes  Erlebnis’,  his  strongest  and  most formative experience.
From the beginning to the end of his life he was enthralled by the music, and bewitched by the man. Wagner was the subject, or important theme, of nearly a dozen essays, any number of letters and countless  diary  entries.
But  while  Hitler admired everything  he  knew  about  the  composer’s  life,  character,  ideology  and  musical  creation,  Mann  was  in someways ambivalent  about  them.
Mann’s most important commentary on Wagner was an address to the Goethe Society of Munich in February 1933 on the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death.
Entitled ‘The Sufferings and Greatness of Richard Wagner’, it was a deeply searching and astute treatment of  Wagner’s  place  in  European  culture.
The  fruit  of years  of  thought,  it  placed  the  composer  among  the greatest of artistic figures.
In 1937  Mann  noted  in  his  diary  that on the  one  hand  that  he  found  ‘elements  of  a  frightening  quality’  in  a  poem  Wagner  had  written  for Cosima,  and  on  the  other  that  he  had  listened  to  a  re-cording of ‘Die Walkure’ ‘with admiration’.

Joachim C. Fest 

According  to  Joachim C. Fest  ‘the youthful Hitler succumbed  to  the  music  of  Richard  Wagner  .  …  The charged  emotionality  of  this  music  seemed  to  have served him as a means for self hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy . . . . ‘    Hitler himself in fact later declared that with the exception  of  Richard  Wagner  he  had  ‘no  forerunners’, and  by  Wagner  he  meant  not  only  the  composer  but Wagner  the  personality,  ‘the  greatest  prophetic  figure the German people has had’ . . . . The points of contact between  the  two  temperaments  –  all  the  more  marked because  the  young  painter  consciously  modelled himself after his hero – produce a curious sense of family resemblance.  

Joachim Clemens Fest (8 December 1926 – 11 September 2006) was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and the German Resistance. He was a leading figure in the debate among German historians about the Nazi period.

The  style  of  public  ceremonies  in  the  Third Reich is inconceivable without Wagner’s operatic tradition,  without  the  essentially  demagogical  art  of  Richard Wagner – for the ‘Master of Bayreuth’ was not only Hitler’s great  exemplar,  he  was  also  the  young  man’s  ideological  mentor.

Wagner’s  political  writings  were  some of Hitler’s  favourite reading, and his style unmistakably  influenced Hitler’s own grammar and syntax.
Those  political  writings,  together  with  the  operas, form much of the framework for Hitler’s ideology . . . . Here he  found  the  ‘granite  foundations’  for  his  view  of the world.
Nothing  could  have  symbolized  the  association  more provocatively  than  the  opening  scene  of  Hans  Jürgen Syberberg’s 1977 film, ‘Hitler’, in which the dictator rises ectoplasmically  out  of  Wagner’s  Bayreuth  grave.

‘Hitler: A Film from Germany’
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (born 8 December 1935) is a German film director, whose best known film is his lengthy feature, ‘Hitler: A Film from Germany’. Born in Nossendorf, Pomerania, the son of an estate owner, Syberberg lived until 1945 in Rostock and Berlin. In 1952 and 1953 he created his first 8 mm takes of rehearsals by the Berliner Ensemble. In 1953 he moved to West Germany, where he in 1956 began studies in literature and art history, completing them the following year.
He earned his doctorate in Munich. For Syberberg, cinema is a form of Gesamtkunstwerk. Many commentators, including Syberberg himself, have characterized his work as a cinematic combination of Bertolt Brecht’s doctrine of epic theatre and Richard Wagner’s operatic aesthetics. Well known philosophers and intellectuals have written about his work, including Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe.

Syberberg – Parsifal
Syberberg – Parsifal

In 1975 Syberberg released ‘Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975’ – a documentary about Winifred Wagner, wife of Richard Wagner’s son Siegfried. The documentary attracted attention because it exposed Winifred’s  admiration for Adolf Hitler. The film thus proved an embarrassment to the Wagner family and the Bayreuth Festival (which she had run from 1930 until the end of the Second World War).
Syberberg is also noted for an acclaimed visual interpretation of the Wagner opera ‘Parsifal’ in 1982.

What  Hitler  admired  in  the  composer  was what  he  admired  in  his  other  heroes,  courage. 
In  a speech  in  1923  he  defined  the  vital  quality  of  human greatness  as  ‘the heroic’ and attributed it to three men: Luther,  Frederick  the  Great  and  Wagner  –  the  reformer because  he  possessed  the  courage  to  stand  alone against the world, the king because he never lost courage  when his lot appeared hopeless and the composer, because  he  had  the  courage  to  struggle  in  solitude.
Each had fought, had fought alone and had fought ‘like a  titan’.
As  a  desperately  lonely  and  friendless  figure  in his  early  days,  Hitler  must  have  seen  his  own  situation mirrored  in  such  struggles.
Wagner  was  thus  a  symbol or, better, a model of someone who believed in his destiny and let nothing deter him from it.
It was no doubt in this  sense  that  he  considered  the  composer,  in  the oft cited phrase, his only forebear.

Wolfgang Wagner – Adolf Hitler – Wieland Wagner
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


Apart from his remarks about ‘Parsifal’, Hitler  never  ascribed  any  of  his views to Wagner, not in ‘Mein Kampf’, his speeches, articles  or  recorded  private  conversations. 
However,  there  are  many obvious parallels in outlook –  anti-Semitism, Hellenism, the belief that culture was the ‘summum bonum‘ of a civilization, the notion that the arts should never be hostage  to  commerce,  and  the  like.

Certainly  Wagner’s  pamphlet ‘Judentum  in  der  Musik’  resonates  in  Hitler’s  claim  that  Jews lack artistic creativity.

“Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”), is an essay by Richard Wagner which attacks Jews in general, and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (NZM) of Leipzig in September 1850 and was reissued, in a greatly expanded version, under Wagner’s name in 1869. It is regarded by some as an important landmark in the history of German anti-Semitism.

Some critics point out that Wagner’s opposition to Jews was not limited to his articles, and that the operas contained such messages. In particular the characters of Mime in the ‘Ring’, Klingsor in ‘Parsifal’ and Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger’ appear to be Jewish stereotypes, although none of them are identified as Jews in the libretto. 

Dietrich Eckart



However, at no time did he ever trace his anti-Semitism to the composer, not even in his 1920 speech ‘Warum sind wir Antisemiten ?’ (Why  are  We  Anti-Semites?),  in  which  he  expounded his views for the first time in public.
This is not surprising, as his ‘doctrinal’ anti-Semitism, was based on Gnostic and occult teachings, originating with Dietrich Eckart.

Kubizek does say, however,that  the  youthful  Hitler was said  to  have  read  every  biography,  letter,  essay,  diary and other scrap by and about his hero that he could lay his  hands  on.
So we are left with the apprehension that Wagner, and in particular his Bühnenweihfestspiel ‘Parsifal’, was a seminal influence on Adolf Hitler.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
PARSIFAL and the THIRD REICH


Wagner Geburthaus – Leipzig

On January 13, 1933 the newly-elected National Socialist Party celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Richard Wagner’s death by staging a grandiose memorial ceremony in Leipzig, the composer’s birthplace.
Adolf Hitler invited Siegfried Wagner’s widow, the English-born Winifred, and her son Wieland to be guests of honor at this event.
This tribute by Hitler was the continuation of a deep friendship that had begun in 1923 between the Führer and the Wagner family, forging a link between the new Germany and the country’s most revered composer.
Within weeks of becoming Chancellor of Germany, Hitler had appropriated Wagner and made him the Reich’s great beacon.
Each summer, from 1933 to 1939, Hitler attended the Bayreuth Festival, and he made the Wagner estate, Wahnfried, his second home.
Because she had been one of his earliest supporters, Hitler had great affection for Winifred. Hitler repaid the Wagner family gratitude by pledging his undying friendship, and his deepest devotion to Richard Wagner and Bayreuth.

‘Parsifal’ – Gralsburg – Paul von Joukowsky
Paul von Joukowsky

With the assistance of Dr. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s untiring propaganda minister, Richard Wagner became the legendary and ideological voice of the new party, and the musical standard by which all classical composers would, from now on, be judged.
Around the time that Hitler came to power, the Bayreuth ‘holy of holies‘ still existed: the original Paul von Joukowsky (1845-1912) sets used at the premiere of Parsifal.
They were still in use at the Festspielhaus even though they were falling apart and were dangerous to the singers.

Emil Preetorius

Realistically, the time had come to replace the production, and the logical person to design the sets would be Emil Preetorius.

The stage designer Emil Preetorius (1883-1973) was born in Mainz and was one of the most important stage designers of the first half of the 20th century.
He studied law and art history in Giessen and in 1909 he co-founded a school of illustration and the book trade in Munich together with Paul Renner. In 1928 Preetorius became a professor at the Munich “Hochschule für Bildende Künste”.
He became the head of scenery for the Bayreuth “Festspiele” in 1932. During the 1930s Emil Preetorius’s scenes, such as the rock of the Valkyrie for the “Ring des Niebelungen”, were among the most important and influential designs for Richard Wagner’s works.

A petition began circulating against this decision, after all, this was the scenery “on which the eyes of the Master had reposed,” and the conservative faction at Bayreuth believed that the scenery needed to be kept and revered like a holy icon.
Over a thousand signatures were collected, including those of Arturo Toscanini and Richard Strauss.
Winifred Wagner sent the petition to Hitler along with a pamphlet accusing Preetorius of being “un-German” and “under Jewish influence.”


Gralsburg – Alfred Roller – 1934
Gralsburg – Alfred Roller – 1934

Hitler, on the other hand, favored a new Bayreuth production of Parsifal, and selected Alfred Roller to design it.
The Führer was a great admirer of Roller’s work in Vienna.
Following all the controversy,. Alfred Roller’s production premiered in 1934.
There were, however,only a few changes to the overall designs that had originated with Paul von Joukowsky.
The temple cupola in the second scene of Act One disappeared, and this made many conservatives very disappointed.
Winifred once again appealed to Hitler that there should be yet another new production of ‘Parsifal’.

‘Parsifal’ – Gralsburg – Wieland Wagner 1937
Wieland Wagner

Hitler agreed, and suggested that Wieland Wagner design the new sets.
Hitler had always revered Siegfried’s son because he was a direct descendant of the Master. Once the war began, Hitler gave orders that Wieland should be permanently exempt from military service.
Young Wieland therefore designed the sets for the 1937 ‘Parsifal’.

Wieland was the elder of two sons of Siegfried and Winifred Wagner, grandson of composer Richard Wagner, and great-grandson of composer Franz Liszt through Wieland’s paternal grandmother.
In 1941, he married the dancer and choreographer Gertrude Reissinger. They had four children Iris (b. 1942), Wolf-Siegfried (b. 1943), Nike (b. 1945) and Daphne (b. 1946).
Winifred Wagner’s close friendship with Hitler meant that, as a teenager and young man, Wieland knew the dictator as “Uncle Wolf”. His family connections allowed him to avoid the draft in the war.

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