German Reactionary Modernism

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

To understand National Socialism one must consider the concept of `reactionary modernism’ – a concept which reconciles anti-modernism, romanticism, and tradition with modernity – and it is this apparently contradictory combination  of  traditional culture and aesthetics, and  a  modern reliance on instrumental reason and modern means that made the Third Reich a unique and highly effective political system.
Reactionary modernist tradition was an important component of German nationalism, and it was pervasive within the conservative revolution in Weimar, and in the cultural politics of German engineering from the 1870s to the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
Before 1933, the National Socialists were aware of the tradition, and were contributors to it.
The reactionary modernist tradition continued until the very end of the Third Reich.
It did not give way to rural nostalgia or post-ideological technocratic world views.
This is not to say that Luddites and technocrats did not exist in the Third Reich.
Rather, the continuity of ‘reactionary modernist’ ideology, after 1933, was both more pervasive than these other views, and more important in accounting for the primacy of ideological politics during those years.
The embrace of technology articulated by the reactionary modernists contributed to the technical innovation that characterized the Third Reich.
Development of a distinctive National Socialist view of technology began well before the seizure of power. 
At the centre of all National Socialist views on the subject stood a historical construction of a racial battle between Aryan and Jew – ‘Blut und Gold’ – (blood and gold).
National Socialism combined both anti-Semitism and thr approval of technological advance, which is important to note, given the frequency with which anti-Semitism and generalized rejections of industrial society have been associated with one another.

Alfred Rosenberg
Gottfried Feder

In the years immediately following World War I, Gottfried Feder, himself an engineer, dominated discussion on the subject in the NSDAP In the early 1920s, his pamphlet, ‘Das Manifest zur Brechung der Zinsknechtschaft des Geldes’ (The Manifesto on Breaking the Interest Slavery of Money) was, along with Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’, and Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Mythos der 20. Jahrhundert’ (Myth of the 20th Century), one of the party’s most important tracts.

Feder distinguished between “Jewish finance capital” and “national capital,” thereby encouraging anti-capitalist rhetoric that left actual property relations intact.
“Creative labor” and industrial capital would have to be liberated from the tentacles of international Jewish power.
His works borrowed from Marxist vocabulary, speaking of the “liberation of productive labour” and calling on the people to unite against the force of international finance.
In his 1923 pamphlet, ‘Der deutsche Staat auf nationaler und sozialer Grundlage’ (The German State on National and Social Foundations), Feder insisted that “the Jew” had remained remote from productive labour, and was the bearer of a parasitic spirit.
But at the same time he claimed that German big industry – Krupp, Mannesmann, Thyssen – and its property were “not at all in conflict with the interest of the totality.
The fundamental recognition of private property is deeply anchored in the clear awareness of the Aryan spiritual structure.”
Feder summarized his “theoretical” contribution to National Socialism in the formula, “creative versus parasitic capital” (schaffendes gegen raffendes Kapital), which appeared in his 1933 work, ‘Kampf gegen Hochfinanz’.
Creative capital was a source of utility, employment, and technological advance, whereas parasitic capital drained national resources for the benefit of a smaller number of international financiers.
Feder’s outlook served to shift the conflict between capital and labour into a nationalist idiom.
Describing capital as “creative” banished any talk of class conflicts arising from the labour process, blamed the banks for the problems of the whole economic system, and carried hints of the aestheticization of the labour process that the NSDAP made so much of in the Amt Schönheit der Arbeit.
In 1926, Hitler selected Feder as he final arbiter of disputes arising from formulation of the party’s twenty-five-point program.
Feder used this position to publish a series of pamphlets, the “National Socialist Library,” which set forth a National Socialist theory on economic organization and technology.
In July 1933, a published speech by Feder stated that National Socialism was compatible with the internal tradition of the engineers and with their desires to elevate “service” to the nation above individual profit.
In his view, National Socialism would fulfil the engineers’ demands for greater social recognition, and more state intervention to unleash technology.
He admitted that technology posed dangers, for example, undue dependence on foreign raw materials, an unhealthy urban atmosphere, and an excessive division of labour that might destroy the German “feeling for home” (Heimatgefühl).
But all of these problems could be surmounted if technology were placed in the service of the national “totality.”
In practical terms, this meant job programs, highway construction, and production of synthetic fuels to reduce German dependence on imported oil.
Feder’s National Socialist Library was the vehicle for the first “official” National Socialist statement on modern technology, which appeared in 1930.
‘Nationalsozialismus und Technik: Die Geistigkeit der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung’ (National Socialism and Technology: The Spirituality of the National Socialist Movement) was written by Peter Schwerber, a philosophically adept engineer who, four years earlier, had written that right-wing politics and Christian ethics were the path of salvation from the depravity of modern industrialism.
‘Nationalsozialismus und Technik’ was the earliest effort to synthesize Nazi ideology with the indigenous traditions of German engineers.

Oswald Spengler

Schwerber made reference to Dessauer, Zschimmer, and Spengler as well as to Feder and Hitler.

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.

His pamphlet rested on one main idea, namely, that racism was the logical end point of Germany’s reconciliation with modern technology.
Schwerber’s argument became a familiar one in Germany after 1933.
Far from being anti-technological, National Socialism was dedicated to liberating technology from the “domination of money” and the “fetters” of Jewish materialism.
Jewish abstraction” was alien to the “autonomous life element of the German Volk,” whereas technology was not only in tune with the Volk, but was something around which a whole world view could and ought to be constructed. 
Schwerber wrote that technology was more than a material foundation of National Socialism.
It was an “independent factor” of a new, post-liberal, post-materialist culture.

 Fronterlebnis 

It was the generation that survived the Fronterlebnis that really grasped the idea of freedom inherent in technology.

National Socialism was the product of this generation.
But the idea of freedom – from physical labour, and for free time – remained unrealized due to the “domination of a power alien to the essence of technology, that is, the power of money…the Jewish- materialist suffocating embrace [Umklammerung] of our life elements.”’
The really decisive contribution of National Socialism, Schwerber continued, lay not only in recognizing the “major cause of our misfortune,” but also, and more importantly, in moving to the level of the “decisive deed. . .the act of liberation.”
Only “blood” and action would prevail against “the titanic power of money.”
National Socialism was more than a collection of protests against materialism and the Jews.
Schwerber attributed to both technology and National Socialism a “primal life instinct.”
Both would join forces against “Jewish- materialist restrictions.”

Victory of Spirit Over Matter
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Like the engineering professors at the technical universities, Schwerber saw technology as a natural force, at once demonic and passionate, which sought a victory of “spirit over matter.”

But Schwerber introduced a new twist: Whereas the Jews destroyed and misused technology, the Nordic race was ideally suited to it.
Technical Geist and the Völkisch racial myth would form a common front against Jewish materialism.
National Socialism was dedicated to emancipating technology from capitalist exchange, a goal that bore striking similarities – at least on a rhetorical level – to the engineers’ own anti-capitalist language.
Schwerber’s protest was against insufficient rather than excessive technological progress.
If we substitute “relations of production” for “Jews” and “technology” for “forces of production,” Schwerber’s rendition of  Völkisch ideology amounts to an appeal to liberate a will or telos said to be inherent in the forces of production from restrictions imposed by the existing bourgeois social relations of production.
Removal of the Socialist and Communist parties and the trade unions, dissolution of parliament, and breaking the Versailles restrictions on German rearmament were the practical meaning of such a program.
This conception of the “primacy of politics” was simultaneously a plan for political reaction, and technological modernization presented as a cultural revolution from the Right.

Hermann Rauschning

At the centre of the Third Reich stood the figure of Adolf Hitler and his ideas.

The view, first expressed by Hermann Rauschning, that Hitler was an opportunist without scruple, has been effectively laid to rest by scholars such as Eberhard Jäckel and Joachim Fest.
Hitler’sWeltanschauung was both coherent and politically decisive.
At no time did he join in the hostility to technology found in some völkisch ideologies.
For Hitler, the decisive element remained the ideology of the will to power.

The ‘will to power’ (der Wille zur Macht) is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in humans: achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life; these are all manifestations of the will to power.



Arthur Schopenhauer
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche found early influence from Arthur Schopenhauer, whom he first discovered in 1865. Schopenhauer puts a central emphasis on Will, and in particular has a concept of the “will to live.”
Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer explained that the universe and everything in it is driven by a primordial Will, which results in all living creatures’ desire to avoid death and procreate.
For Schopenhauer, this will is the most fundamental aspect of reality – more fundamental even than being.
Hitler was deeply influenced by Schopenhauer’s writing and the concept of the Will.
For Nietzsche, however, the Will to power means self-perfection as well as outward, political, elitist, aristocratic domination. Nietzsche, in fact, explicitly and specifically defined the egalitarian state-idea as the embodiment of the will to power in decline.

If life and politics were essentially a struggle in which the strongest won, then in politics among nations the technologically weak would deserve to be defeated.
He insisted that the Germans must succeed in the battle against nature in order to win in the battle among nations and races.
As early as 1919, in a speech advocating German rearmament and abrogation of the Versailles treaty, Hitler said that “the misery of Germany must be broken by Germany’s steel. That time must come.”
In ‘Mein Kampf’, he divided humankind into three categories: founders, bearers, and destroyers of culture, and assigned these historical roles to the Aryans, the Japanese, and the Jews, respectively.

The Building of the Reich’s Chancellery – Erich Merke
‘Greek Spirit and Germanic Technology’

He went so far as to define Aryan culture as a synthesis of “the Greek spirit and Germanic technology.”

He also acknowledged his debt to Gottfried Feder’s ideas on “breaking interest slavery.”
This notion was :
a theoretical truth which would inevitably be of immense importance for the future of the German people. The sharp separation of stock exchange capital from the national economy offered the possibility of opposing the internationalization of the German economy without at the same time menacing the foundations of an independent national self-maintenance by a struggle against capital.
This selective anti-capitalism had been common in the völkisch tradition.
But where Sombart’s anti-capitalism attacked Jewish Geist, Hitler turned this cultural revolution into a biological revolt.

Die Ruinenwerttheorie
Adolf Hitler and Alber Speer

Hitler did not write extensively on the subject of technology.

Albert Speer reports listening to Hitler’s theory of “ruin value,” according to which the purpose of Nazi architecture and technological advance should be to create ruins that would last a thousand years and thereby overcome the transience of the market. (the juxtaposition of permanent technology and evanescent capitalism was an important theme among the reactionary modernists.)

Die Ruinenwerttheorie – (Theory of Ruin Value) is the concept that a building be designed such that if it eventually collapsed, it would leave behind aesthetically pleasing ruins that would last far longer without any maintenance at all. The idea was pioneered by German architect Albert Speer while planning for the 1936 Summer Olympics, and published as “The Theory of Ruin Value” (Die Ruinenwerttheorie), although he was not its original inventor. The intention did not stretch only to the eventual collapse of the buildings, but rather assumed such buildings were inherently better designed and more imposing during their period of use.

John Soane – Ruins of the Bank of England

The idea was supported by Adolf Hitler, who planned for such ruins to be a symbol of the greatness of the Third Reich, just as Ancient Greek and Roman ruins were symbolic of those civilisations.  Predecessors include a ‘new ruined castle’ built by the Landgraf of Hesse-Kassel in the 18th century, and the designs for the Bank of England built in the 19th century produced by Sir John Soane. When he presented the bank’s governors with three oil sketches of the planned building one of them depicted it when it would be new, another when it would be weathered, and a third what its ruins would look like a thousand years onward
Hitler accordingly approved Speer’s recommendation that, in order to provide a “bridge to tradition” to future generations, modern “anonymous” materials such as steel girders and ferroconcrete should be avoided in the construction of monumental party buildings, since such materials would not produce aesthetically acceptable ruins like those wherever possible. Thus the most politically significant buildings of the Reich were intended, to some extent, even after falling into ruins after thousands of years, resemble their Roman models.

Hitler was the first political leader of the twentieth century to use the air-plane extensively.

Hitler over Germany

The radio spread his voice and fast cars sped him over the Reichautobahnen.

His conversations with associates, published as the “table talks,” reveal a man fascinated with the details of military technology.
His embrace of modern technology as an expression of Aryan will was fully consonant with rejection of the Enlightenment and the social consequences of the French and industrial revolutions.
Given his outlook, Hitler never feared that a rearmed Germany would be a soulless Germany.

Mercedes-Benz

Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, devoted a great deal of effort to convincing the Germans that their souls were compatible with modern technology.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945.
As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous orations and antisemitism.
Goebbels earned a PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama – . he also wrote novels and plays.
He became a member of the NSDAP in 1924. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin. Goebbels despised capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core.
Goebbels rose to power in 1933 and he was appointed Propaganda Minister.
Goebbels exerted control over the media, arts and information in Germany.

Goebbels’s speeches on the subject are interesting because they were directed to the general public as well as to engineers, and thus combined elements of the conservative revolution, romanticism, and völkisch ideology with a cult of technological modernism.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

For example, in a speech in 1932, Goebbels echoed Hitler’s view that the true politician was an artist whose task was to give form to the “raw material” of the masses.

In the century of mass politics, the political leader must avail himself of the most modern means of propaganda, such as the radio, to encourage “spiritual mobilization” (geistige Mobilmachung).
In March 1933, he assured his audience that he was not “an un-modern man who is inwardly opposed to the radio. . . but a passionate lover of the press. . . theatre. . . radio.”
In his view, the radio should not be used to create an illusory objectivity, but to assist in the spiritual mobilization the National Socialist regime was fostering.
The Germans, he argued, must learn the primary lesson of World War I: Germany was defeated by deficiencies of the spirit rather than by material deficiencies.

German Troops Returning to Berlin from the Front

We did not lose the war because our cannons failed, but rather because our spiritual weapons didn’t fire.

The radio gave National Socialism unprecedented means for reaching the masses with this message of spiritual revolution.
From his earliest broadcasts to his last, Goebbels returned to a theme that reflected reactionary modernism.
In November 1933, he first celebrated a “steely romanticism” (stählerne Romantik) that had “made German life worth living again.”
This new romanticism did not hide from the “hardness of being”, or dream of escape into the past.
Instead it “heroically” faced up to the problems of modern times.

Die stählerne Romantik – Reichsautobahn
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Goebbels often discussed the meaning of stählernde Romantik, and his speeches were reprinted in ‘Deutsche Technik’ (German Technology), a monthly journal published from 1933 to 1942.

One particularly graphic example appeared in the February 1939 issue of this journal. 
The cover shows Goebbels delivering a speech, a Volkswagen on one side, Hitler on the other.
The following passage indicates Goebbels’s skill at administering a cultural tradition – what Horkheimer later called the bureaucratic dispensation of the revolt of nature: 
‘We live in an era of technology.
The racing tempo of our century affects all areas of our life.
There is scarcely an endeavour that can escape its powerful influence.
Therefore, the danger unquestionably arises that modern technology will make men soulless.
National Socialism never rejected or struggled against technology.
Rather, one of its main tasks was to consciously affirm it, to fill it inwardly with soul, to discipline it and to place it in the service of our people and their cultural level. 
National Socialist public statements used to refer to the steely romanticism of our century.
Today this phrase has attained its full meaning.
We live in an age that is both romantic and steellike, that has not lost its depth of feeling.
On the contrary, it has discovered a new romanticism in the results of modern inventions and technology.
While bourgeois reaction was alien to and filled with incomprehension, if not outright hostility to technology, and while modern sceptics believed the deepest roots of the collapse of European culture lay in it, National Socialism understood how to take the soulless framework of technology and fill it with the rhythm and hot impulses of our time.”
This is a remarkable condensation of reactionary modernist themes.
Over and over again, Goebbels claimed that the cultural crisis German conservatism had feared had been “overcome” by National Socialism.
Filling technology with soul was a practical matter as well.

KdF Wagen Poster

The Volkswagen meant that now modern technology was accessible to the masses, and accessible in a way that spread the “rhythm and hot impulses of our time.”

KdF Wagen Logo
Volkwagen
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

During the war years, Goebbels continued to boast that National Socialism had developed a “new ideal of cultivation” freed from the “false and saccharine romanticism” of the past.

In Heidelberg in July 1943, Goebbels elaborated on the theme of the kind of romanticism peculiar to National Socialism.
Every time has its romanticism, its poetic presentation of life. . . Ours does as well.
It is harder and crueller than a previous romanticism, but it remains romantic.
The steely romanticism of our time manifests itself in actions and deeds in service of a great national goal, in a feeling of duty raised to the level of an unreachable principle.

KdF Wagen
Volkwagen

We are all more or less romantics of a new German mood.

The Reich of droning motors, grandiose industrial creations, an almost unlimited and unenclosed space which we must populate to preserve the best qualities of our Volk – is the Reich of our romanticism.’
For Goebbels, the war years were a period “overflowing with deeds,” in sharp contrast to the “exaggerated intellectualism” of Weimar politics and culture.
German victories were possible only because German engineers and scientists approached their work with the “same fanaticism and wild determination” as did German soldiers, workers, and peasants.
In the last year of the war, Goebbels again turned to stahlernde Romantik.
The geistige Mobilmachung must again turn for assistance to the “German genius for invention” (deutsche Erfindungsgenie) to avoid impending defeat.

V-2 (A4) Rocket
V-1 Flying Bomb

In July 1944, Goebbels promised that Hitler’s leadership, the spirit of the Volk, and the V-1 and V-2 rockets would combine to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. There are two points to be made about these passages.

First, Goebbels spoke with slogans and stock formulas.
He was, in other words, an administrator of political meanings.
But however administered these meanings were, they were not arbitrary.
On the contrary, Goebbels spoke a language familiar to German engineers (among others), one stemming from traditions that really did, as he put it, “grow from the Volk.”
Without this cultural resonance, he would not have been the successful propagandist he was.
Second, it is difficult to determine the degree of cynicism or belief Goebbels aroused in his listeners, but we certainly ought not to rule out the possibility that he actually believed what he was saying.
Sociology has devoted much effort to measuring public opinion, but less thought has been given to the effect of political propaganda on the political elites that express it.
It is – and was – obvious to anyone with minimally unclouded vision that “fanaticism and wild determination” would do little to turn the tide of the war in 1944.

Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer

Hitler was an enthusiast of technical advance.

The reception of National Socialism among German engineers also appears to have been enthusiastic, but less so than that of the legal and medical professions, as indicated by the results of student elections at German technical universities in 1933. 
About 41 percent of the 10,000 students at the technical universities voted for the Nazis in student elections compared 48 percent of the 37,000 students at the non-technical universities.
Beyond the campuses, approximately 300,000 people were classified as engineers in 1933, including Germany’s 36,000 architects and 31,000 chemists.
Of this total, around 7,000 belonged to the NSDAP.
In January 1933, party membership stood at 720,000 (of a population of 32 million). 
Hence, about the same proportion of German engineers was drawn to membership in the NSDAP as German citizens generally, but less so than white-collar workers and independent professionals.
After 1933, the number of engineers in the NSDAP doubled, but the increase in the other middle-class professions was even greater (about 230 percent).
Only 13.1 percent of the leadership positions in the mid-1930s were held by engineers, compared to 56 percent for lawyers, and 15.5 percent for doctors.
Since their inception, the national engineering associations in Germany had bemoaned their lack of political influence and social prestige relative to the non-technical middle-class professions.
Both the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure(Association of German Engineers, VDI) and the cultural politicians publishing Technik und und Kultur called for a national office of planning for technical development, a Staatstechnik, which would coordinate state, industry, and engineering in the interests of the national community.
The overall leadership of the new regime’s efforts at “coordination” (Gleichschaltung) lay with Robert Ley, the director of the  Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF – (German Labor Front), whereas Feder directed the activities of the Reichsbund deutscher Techniker(RDT).

Robert Ley
Deutsche Arbeitsfront – DAF
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF – (German Labour Front) was the National Socialist trade union organization which replaced the various trade unions of the Weimar Republic after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Its leader was Robert Ley, who stated its aim as ‘to create a true social and productive community‘ (Smelster, 1988). The DAF existed to act as a medium through which workers and owners could mutually represent their interests. Wages were set by the 12 DAF trustees. The employees were given relatively high set wages, security of work, dismissal was increasingly made difficult, social security programmes were made mandatory by the Arbeitsfront, leisure programmes were instituted, canteens, pauses and regular working times were established, and therefore generally the German workers were satisfied by what the DAF gave them in repaying for their absolute loyalty.
Employment contracts created under the Weimar Republic were abolished and renewed under new circumstances in the DAF. Employers could demand more of their workers, while at the same time workers were given increased security of work and increasingly enrolled into social security programmes for workers. The organisation, by its own definition, combated capitalism and liberalism, The DAF prefered to have large companies nationalised by the German state, instead of privately owned companies.

Metropolis – Fritz Lang

Interestingly, the conclusion of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ can be seen as a precursor one of the main concepts underlying the activity of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront with regard to the reconciliation of the interests of the employers and the workers in the German economy. The main themes of Metropolis culminate in the final scene on the cathedral steps, where Freder fulfils his role as mediator (“heart”), linking the hands of Fredersen (the city’s “head”) and Grot (its “hands”), to bring them together. In this way Hitler, through the Deutsche Arbeitsfront can be seen as bringing all social classes together in a united purpose as part of the Völksgemeinschaft. Not surprisingly, Dr Joseph Goebbels was impressed – and took the film’s message to heart. In a 1928 speech he declared that:
the political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labor, to begin their historical mission“.

Feder wanted to replace the existing technical associations – Fachvereines – with  organizations focused on his version of German anticapitalism; Ley sought to integrate the existing engineering organizations into the German Labor Front.
The RDT had been founded in 1918 to foster the interests of engineers in national politics.
Although Feder envisaged a Front der Technik under leadership of the RDT, by the end of 1933 it had collapsed.
Some of its functionaries turned to the Deutsche technokratische Gesellschaft (DTG), founded in 1932 as an international Weltbund, organized around slogans of a technocratic socialism.
Although Feder saw the greatest opportunity for technocratic ascendancy in private or state capitalism, those who took seriously the goal of production for human needs over the needs of profit became increasingly uncomfortable with the National Socialist regime, especially after the announcement of the four-year plan directed at rearmament.
The DTG, whose Veblenian socialism of the technicians was utterly removed from the goals of the regime, ceased to exist in 1937.
The Gleichschaltung process of the engineers is a chapter in the story of the underestimation of Hitler by the conservative elites of German society.
Initially it entailed a trade-off between the regime and the engineering organizations. 
In exchange for accepting and assisting the new regime, the engineers sustained a semblance of organizational independence, which, however, was gradually whittled down to insignificance.
The leadership of the VDI (which now had about 30,000 members) informed the new government that it was ready to help deal with the problems of unemployment, energy, and rearmament and to work with the National Socialist’s own organization of engineers, the ‘Kampfbund deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure’ (KDAI).

Rudolf Heß

In April 1933, the KDAI membership included only 3 percent of Germany’s engineers, a fact that led Rudolf Heß and Fritz Todt to urge integration rather than destruction of existing organizations.

The leadership of the VDI viewed Feder as economically incompetent, and was more interested in placing the engineers’ technical skills at the service of the new regime through combining the energies of industry, engineers, and the state.
Hitler also regarded Feder’s anti-capitalist rhetoric as unhelpful when the regime was intent on convincing the existing organizations that their interests were best served by adapting to the program of the new regime.
Although not enamoured of Feder’s ideological pronouncements, the leaders of the VDI opted for political accommodation rather than resistance.
In exchange for offering their services to the new regime in a spirit of objective functionality – objektive Sachlichkeit – the engineering associations were able to survive as organizations, although the leadership positions were controlled either by members of the NSDAP or sympathizers.
The executor of the political coexistence of regime and the pre-existing engineering organizations was Fritz Todt.

Organisation Todt
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Fritz Todt

Fritz Todt (4 September 1891 – 8 February 1942) was a German engineer and the founder of ‘Organisation Todt’.
In World War I, he initially served with the infantry and then as front line reconnaissance observer within the Luftstreitkräfte (the German Air Forces – DLSK), winning the Iron Cross. After his military service, he finished his studies in 1920 and joined at first the “Grün & Bilfinger AG, Mannheim” company and, later, the civil engineering company Sager & Woerner (1921).
Following the appointment of Hitler as Reichskanzler on 30 January 1933, Todt became ‘Generalinspektor für das deutsche Straßenwesen’ (“Inspector General for German Roadways”) and was involved in the new construction company for the motorways (Reichsautobahnen).
He later became ‘Leiter des Hauptamts für Technik in der Reichsleitung der NSDAP’ (“Director of the Head Office for Engineering in the National Directorate of the NSDAP”) and ‘Generalbevollmächtigter für die Regelung der Bauwirtschaft’ (“General Commissioner for the Regulation of the Construction Industry”).
Todt was permitted to have considerable power, and was not necessarily immediately answerable to any of the Reich ministries. He was also appointed to the rank of Generalmajor of the Luftwaffe after its official promulgation in March 1935. Todt was awarded the ‘German National Prize for Art and Science’ by Hitler for his work on the autobahnen.
In 1938, he founded the Organisation Todt (OT), joining together government firms, private companies and the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service), for the construction of the “West Wall”, later renamed the “Siegfried Line”, for the defence of the Reich territory. On 17 March 1940, he was appointed Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition (“Reich Minister for Armaments and Munitions”) and oversaw the work of Organisation Todt in the occupied west.
He died in a plane crash on 8 February 1942.

In 1934, Hitler designated him as his representative for “all questions” concerning the organization and development of technology.
Todt, a party member since 1923, had strong and enduring ties to the engineering profession, and to its political and cultural traditions.
Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg also sang the praises of technology in National Socialist terms, but it was Todt, more than any other leading figure of the regime, who could truthfully claim roots in both the NSDAP and in the engineer’s cultural politics.
Following initial bureaucratic struggles with Feder, Todt assumed leadership of the ‘Amt der Technik’, the office charged with coordinating Hitler’s goals and the aspirations of the engineers.
Whereas Ley viewed the ‘Amt der Technik’ primarily as a tool for political control, Todt hoped to present this new political control as itself the outcome of the engineer’s own traditions.
To this end, he linked practical issues of raw material resources, new energy sources, and decreasing German dependence on raw materials with the ideological traditions that German engineers had themselves developed.
Todt urged his fellow engineers to consider political as well as technical issues and to favour both “revolution and tradition.”
In 1934, under the umbrella of the German Labor Front, Todt assumed leadership of the Amt der Technik, which in turn administered the Nationalsozialistischen Bund deutscher Techniker (NSBDT).
Members of the NSBDT were also members of the NSDAP, whereas most engineers were also required to join a broader front organization, the Reichsgemeinschaft Technischewissenschaftlichen Arbeit (RTA),and to pay dues to the all-encompassing Labor Front.
Thus Feder’s political demise did not mean that National Socialist ideology had given way to the solvent of industrial rationality.
His eclipse was accompanied by Todt’s ascendancy, and Todt was by no means an apolitical technocrat.
On the contrary, he understood that the price of formal autonomous existence for the Vereines was not a high price for the regime to pay for their political submission.
As part of this strategy of politicization, Todt used his office to publish the “technopolitical journal,” ‘Deutsche Technik’, from 1933 to 1941, a magazine of essays and photographs that sought to convince its approximately 80,000 readers that National Socialist ideology was compatible with modern technology.
Deutsche Technik thus supplanted , some of whose contributors were more taken with Feder’s anti-capitalism than with Todt’s emphasis on Staatstechnik.
By 1937, Todt announced with great pride that the “new ordering of German technology was complete” and that the NSDAP and the regime had completely integrated the organizations of German engineers that predated 1933.
The number of engineering organizations had been reduced from eighty to sixteen, and in 1937 these were placed under the control of a central government office called the Hauptamt fur Technik (Central Office for Technology).
About 81,000 of Germany’s 300,000 engineers participated in the schools and in propaganda efforts, and received journals published by the Hauptamt für Technik.

Reichsschule der deutschen Technik
Genossen Zimmer
Reichsschule der deutschen Technik

One of the most interesting examples of the amalgamation of ‘Modernism’ and ‘Tradition’ created by the Hauptamt für Technik was the ‘Reichsschule der deutschen Technik’ (The Reich School of German Technology – NSBDT) on the Plassenburg in Kulmbach, in the Gau Bayerische Ostmark.
The institution was founded by Fritz Todt.
A key task of the Reichsschule der deutschen Technik’ was to introduce various disciplines of engineering into the mindset of students so that major construction projects could be tackled holistically.
Significantly, rather that construct a new, modernistic building to house the Reichsschule, the architect Siegfried Schmelcher extensively remodeled and refurbished the medieval castle of Plass.

In 1939, Todt was elected chairman of the VDI.
By 1936, when Hitler announced a four-year plan of economic development, rationalization of industry, expanded development of synthetic energy substitutes, and rearmament, the Hauptamt für Technik and the NSBDT gave the regime an organizational monopoly over the technical instruments necessary for rearmament.
If up to 1936 the focus of National Socialist economic policy had been recovery from the depression, the four-year plan contained the additional goal of reducing German dependence on the world economy through technical innovation.
Fundamentalist slogans of national economic autarky went hand in hand with technical advances.
National Socialist publicists presented the plan as yet another act of liberation of technical workers from the tentacles of Jewish finance, and the leaders of the engineering associations extolled the ideal of placing their skills in the service of the Volk.
Pragmatic, rationalizing themes existed alongside traditional National Socialist ideology.
The propaganda of Todt’s office of technology insisted that there simply was no contradiction between developing new energy sources, building the Reichautobahnen, and rearmament, on the one hand, and serving the “general interest,” on the other. 
Whereas the National Socialists claimed that völkisch ideology and technical advance went hand in hand with Hitler’s ideology of the will, the engineers drawn to the regime believed that their sober commitments to technical rationality would finally be placed in the service of the state.
They also realized that their own power and importance would grow as the demands for armaments production expanded.
This history of organizational survival through political acquiescence reminds us that many German engineers remained outside the ideological disputes over the relation between technology and Germany’s soul.
The most that can be said on the basis of the evidence presented here is that in this period, when and if German engineers turned their attention to the connection between technology and Germany’s national identity, the terms of discussion were dominated by the cultural tradition of reactionary modernism.
The National Socialists were more successful at preserving their ideological souls than the engineers were at imposing pragmatism on the German dictatorship.
German engineers, however,  including Todt, subordinated their knowledge of technical realities to the demands of National Socialist ideology.
In the first issue of Deutsche Technik, published in September 1933, Todt wrote that the new “technopolitical journal” would make “German technology into a pillar of the total state” and place technology’s “cultural and spiritual outlook on the foundation of a pure National Socialist world view.”
Todt was able to speak in terms similar to the aesthetic and philosophical themes of the engineers’ traditions.

Reichsautobahnen

For example, the construction of the national highway system would be based on a unified plan, in sharp contrast to the chaos of the Weimar system.

It flowed from a unified Geist, and represented an artistic effort to give proper form to the German landscape.
Germany’s highways were to be far more than an engineering feat; they must be “an expression of the German essence.”
Todt argued that the “decisive” fact of the era for German engineers was that National Socialism was liberating technology from the “material bonds” that had restricted it for the last half century.
Here were both an opportunity and a necessity for “total engagement” by engineers in the nationalist revival.

Reichsautobahnen – Service Station
(note the ‘modernist’ architecture)

During the first years of the Third Reich, Todt pointed with pride to the construction of the Reichsautobahnen as evidence that the Nazis had rescued technology from an era that had treated it as an object without soul or spirit.

Like Freyer and Schmitt, Todt argued that now politics, not economics, was in command.
Aesthetic criteria were displacing the profit motive, and the National Socialists were demonstrating that technology did not consist of dead matter, but of “soulful cultural works” that grew organically from the Volk.

Reichsautobahnen – Under Construction

Todt also stated  that there was a specifically National Socialist conception of technology that elevated creativity over materialist considerations.

During these years, Deutsche Technik was filled with photographs of the highways gracefully weaving through valleys, mountains, and farmland.
These roads demonstrated that, as Todt put it, “the artistic and technical powers of invention and formation live together in the creative engineer.”
The following passage is typical of Todt’s view of technology as an art form:
The following are the features that make a road as a totality into an artwork that brings the environment joy through its intrinsic beauty and harmony with the environment: The direction of lines is bound to the land [landschaftsverbundene Lininefiihrung], Construction remains true to natural forms [naturformgetruere Erdbau]. Workmanship is based on the craftsman’s principles of building and implantation in the earth [bodenstände Bepflanzung‘.
If this was what highway construction was about, it hardly conflicted with the cultural revolution promised by National Socialism.

Reichsautobanen – Bridge

Building the “highways bound to the land” (landschaftsverbundene Strassen) and saving the German soul were mutually reinforcing projects.

Todt’s message was clear:
‘The new highways posed no threat to the German Volk.
On the contrary, they promised to restore the nation’s lost unity’.
As Albert Speer later put it, Todt did not see “brutal and loveless images of iron and cement” when he looked at highways, but rather deliverance and redemption from a fragmented, materialist era. 
As one of the official eulogies for Todt in 1941 put it, the National Socialists had learned to lift technology out of the web of “bureaucratism”, and had taught German engineers that “the language of technical works must rest. . .on the grammar of nature.”

Reichsautobanen 

Deutsche Technik is a striking document of the continuity of the reactionary modernist tradition after 1933.

The Zeitschrift des Vereins deutscher Ingenieure continued to appear in these years, but it was primarily devoted to technical discussions combined with promptings for loyalty to the Führer.
Deutsche Technik proceeded to adapt many of the themes that first appeared in.
Unlike Albert Speer’s Bureau of the Beauty of Labor, Deutsche Technik did not replace völkisch pastoralism with technocratic aesthetics but, as Todt urged, incorporated technology into the National Socialist Weltanschauung.
Articles were short, usually no more than three pages long.
The message of the journal was straightforward: Whatever had been posed as a problem before 1933 had now been solved.
At the Haus der deutschen Technik in Munich, the National Socialists presented annual exhibitions on the theme of art and technology.
Deutsche Technik reproduced many of these paintings as well as photographs of cars, planes, trains, and roads.
Typical of the commentary was a 1942 essay asserting that National Socialism understood that art infuses technical processes with Geist.
As a result of this understanding, German artists were “no longer out of step” with technology, but saw in it instead “the essential and necessary principle of our being,” which established law over arbitrariness, duty over selfishness.
Now that technology had become part of the Volksgemeinschaft, it had assumed clear and beautiful forms. 
Technical advance under the National Socialists was a cultural revolution that gave new meaning to cold steel.
Among the accomplishments of the Third Reich regarding technology were a “victory over the elementary,” “overcoming” the threat of Americanization, balancing city and country, and bringing to the surface a uniquely German “surrender” to technology.
Deutsche Technik elaborated the engineer’s view that there was a specifically German technology.
As contributors toTechnik und Kultur had done before them, the writers for Deutsche Technik traced technology back to famous figures of pre-industrial Europe, such as Leonardo da Vinci, who were stylized as models of the not-yet-divided engineer-artist or scientist-soldier.
The point of these accounts of the past was to stress links between the very old and the very new, and to root technology in pre-capitalist and pre-industrial traditions. 

Goethe der Technologe

A great deal was made of “Goethe the technologist.”

But the central message of Deutsche Technik was that National Socialism had indeed overcome the conflict between technology and culture.
An essay published in February 1943, “NS-Technik,” surveyed the first ten years of technology under Hitler.
Its argument was as follows: Before 1933, Germany and German technology had suffered from capitalist misuse, the Jewish financial “plutocracy,” American “de-souling” (Entseelung), and the threat of enslavement by the Bolsheviks.
National Socialism had made clear that it was the Germans who were the truly chosen people and had helped them construct a new German landscape saved from the “filth of civilization” and the “American-Jewish destruction of German nature.” 
Ferdinand Fried, editor of ‘Die Tat’ in the Weimar years, presented such views in several essays.
Although Germany’s “racial soul” was in tune with technical advances, technology had been “raped” by the Jewish Ungeist.
Under the National Socialists, the German soul was reasserting itself.

The Volkswagen, the Autobahnen, the air force, and Speer’s Bureau of the Beauty of Labour were all examples of a new NS-Technik.

Fried claimed that envy and resentment of Germany’s liberation from “the chains of Jewish money” were the real motivations of the Reich’s enemies. 
The danger of dehumanization at the hands of the machine or of destruction of the German landscape had been averted.
National Socialism meant deliverance from a wasteland.
Deliverance from the past only highlighted present dangers.
Like the reactionary modernists, the National Socialist propagandists transformed Germany’s geographical location into a cultural-political identity.
Germany, they said, as the country between East and West, was the only one to really grasp the “essence of technical creation.”
The Deutsche Technik authors repeated the complaints about American and British materialism, and Soviet-style dialectical materialism.
Only the Germans had synthesized technics and nature.
By the time Hitler’s armies dominated Europe from the Soviet Union to the Atlantic, such ideas were developed into a Grossraum Technik, a unified, integrated technological system in Europe, with Germany as its center.
The reader will recognize the familiar themes of reactionary modernism in these ideas. 
The National Socialist propagandists were administrators of already existing traditions.
But they were distinct within the panoply of German nationalism for the emphasis they placed on anti-Semitism, and the biological foundations they gave to German technological advance.
They wrote that the Nordic race had peculiar technical and scientific abilities.
Had Germany only been a nation of poets, philosophers, and artists, it would be defenceless.
Fortunately for the Germans, the Nordic race had a distinctive urge to dominate nature.
Unlike the Americans, or the Jewish-Bolsheviks, who introduced technology with murder and forced labor, the Nazis built on German racial foundations to ward off the threats from both capitalism and socialism. 
As one frequent contributor, Richard Grun, put it,
In this ruthless world, a nation of poets is defeated, a nation of philosophers hungers, a nation of aesthetes is subject to ridicule. Only a people able to produce arms, weapons, commodities, machines and knowledge is able to survive.”
Grun argued that Germany must compensate for its numerical disadvantages in relation to its enemies with its technical capabilities, and with efforts to increase the birth rate among the scientifically and technically talented.
Deutsche Technik, like Technik und Kultur earlier, published excerpts from books or from essays that later were expanded into books published in editions of about twenty to twenty-five thousand.
The continuities with reactionary modernist ideology are striking.
In 1936, for example, Fritz Nonnenbruch’s ‘Die dynamische Wirtschaft’ (The Dynamic Economy) was published by the National Socialists.
He wrote that National Socialism had overcome the abstract economic laws of a capitalism bereft of “ties to the Volk.”
The primacy of politics, not class conflict, had led to “the actual overcoming of capitalism.”
Nonnenbruch periodized the history of German capitalism in terms of predominance of either the Jewish or the Nordic spirit.
Whereas pre-1933 capitalism had been dominated by the spirit of the merchant and financier, he argued that after 1933 it was dominated by the spirit of the “Nordic peoples” and was therefore productive and favourable to the interests of German engineers.
Economic crises had been brought about by production for the market rather than for the needs of the nation.
But the economic recovery after 1933 was evidence of the affinity between “the Geist of technics and the Geist of the race.”

Ernst Jünger

In a manner reminiscent of Ernst Jünger, Nonnenbruch recalled the soldier formed by the Fronterlebnis as a “master of technology.”

The war had shown a generation of young Germans that technology need not be soulless and impersonal, but could be “great, manly, dangerous, free and wild. . .The will of the race speaks in highway construction.”
Like many other contributors to Deutsche Technik, Nonnenbruch argued that the National Socialist’s great accomplishment was to have restored a dynamic to capitalism without also restoring bourgeois rationalism.
Placing economics at the centre of attention would have been a purely “intellectual exercise.
But surrendering to the “will of the race for technology” would be a matter of the spirit and the soul, which are “superior to the intellect.”
“Where the race speaks, the intellect can offer no resistance. Appeals to the intellect bring dis-harmony. Appeals to the will of the race bring unity, harmony and creation.”
Nonnenbruch picked up on Goebbels’s efforts to recast romanticism for a technological age, thereby linking National Socialism to another German tradition: Technology is romantic but in a way that is totally different from any other kind of romanticism. It is not a flight from reality but a flaming illumination of reality.
Flying in an airplane, driving in a car, the thunder of the elevated railway, the various landscapes of the battlefield, the glowing stream of flowing iron in the ghostly night filled with steel ovens – all of these thing are incomparably more romantic than anything previous romantics could imagine.
Both Goebbels’s steellike romanticism and Nonnenbruch’s new romanticism were directed against those elements of the romantic tradition that supported a reconciliation with or return to nature.
There were only two alternatives for the reactionary modernists: effeminate and cowardly escape into the Asian or pastoral past, or masculine and courageous flight into the German future.

Carl Jung

In  a later of Technik und Kultur, Paul Ernst’s criticisms of the dehumanizing impact of the division of labour were rejected in favour of a Jüngerian celebration of the Gestalt of the worker.

Ernst was charged with escapism, having a merely “external” view of technology, and failing to recognize that technology was essential to the nation and grew out of the “inner necessity of our being.”
The process of selectively borrowing from past cultural traditions, in this case romanticism, is again apparent in these statements.
The reactionary modernist tradition would have been inconceivable without romantic legacies.
Nonnenbruch’s second book-length work, ‘Technik, Politik und Geist’, repeated many of the themes he had developed in ‘Die dynamische Wirtschaft’.
The immediate purpose of the book was to depict the four-year plan, in particular the achievements of the German chemical industry, as examples of a will-to-freedom present in the German nation.
Development of synthetic fuels would free Germany from foreign sources of raw materials, and state direction of the economy abolished restrictions on growth due to commercial greed.
In Nonnenbruch’s account, National Socialism was attempting to reverse the results of World War I by “unleashing” technology.
In so doing, the Nazis demonstrated that technology expressed the will of the Volk rather than the will of “international capitalism hostile to the Volk.”

Fronterlebnis

The synthesis of energy and organization in the four-year plan had been prefigured by the Fronterlebnis of World War I.

Like all of the National Socialist propaganda its effectiveness rested on the repetition of  metaphors and associations such as – Geist, Gemeinschaft, Schicksal (destiny), Heldentum (heroism), Opferbereitschaft (readiness for sacrifice), will, freedom, and race.
In this cultural perspective, rationalization of industry appears as a cultural revolt against the obsolete and historically bypassed liberal era.
‘Politik, Technik, und Geist’ is evidence of the reactionary modernist effort to preserve the charismatic experience of World War I, and of the persistence of reactionary modernism.
In 1937, Wilhelm Stortz, a professor of engineering at the technical university in Stuttgart, presented a National Socialist version of technological development in modern Germany, ‘Der Weg der deutschen Technik’.
His reconstruction was as follows:

Bismark

Nineteenth-century Germany was spared the full brunt of the soulless materialism that engulfed England, France, and the United States because its industrialization process was guided by the state under Bismarck, Germany’s “first National Socialist.” But by the turn of the century, “production of useful goods” (Gebrauchs gutererzeugung) was replaced by “commodity production” (Warenerzeugung), with a resultant decline both in the quality of goods and in the skills of the labor force, as well as growing unemployment. The years preceding World War I were characterized by the increasing predominance of “capitalist market calculation” over “technical quality.” But the war reversed this trend by wrenching technology out of the control of exchange relations and placing it in the service of the nation.

Treaty of Versailles

For Stortz, the tragedy of German technology was that at the very moment the generation formed by the war experience became aware of the value of technology for German nationalism, the Treaty of Versailles blocked German technical expansion.

The Weimar system once again established the primacy of “economic thinking” over that of technical idealism.

Oswald Spengler
No wonder Spengler’s pessimism found an echo.
Stortz saw in National Socialism a political movement that presented resistance to cultural pessimism and that averted the “escape from technology which threatened to strangle us before 1933.”
Stortz credited the National Socialists with having successfully incorporated technological advance into the spiritual renewal of a victorious national revolution. 
As with so many of the reactionary modernists who preceded him, Stortz saw in war and nationalism the ideological and political alternative to the culture and politics of the market.
Book-length expositions of reactionary modernist themes continued to appear during the war years.
Several works published from 1940 to 1943 deserve mention: Alexander Friedrich’s ‘Die unsichtbare Armee: Das Buch der Energie’ (The Invisible Army: The Book of Energy), Richard Grun’s ‘Wir und die Technik’, and Anton Zischka’s ‘Erfinder brechen die Blockade’ (Inventors Break the Blockade), and ‘Seig der Arbeit: Geschichte der fünftausendjährigen Kampfes gegen Unwissenheit und Sklaverei’ (Victory of Labor: The History of the 5ooo-year-long Struggle against Ignorance and Slavery).
All three authors continued to maintain that technology is not a threat to the German soul, and to insist that it is an expression of the heroic virtues of a united Volksgemeinschaft.
All of them attacked intellectuals and artists who have shown no appreciation for technics, and no understanding that “from Gutenberg and Luther through Hitler,” the Germans have used technology to advance national unity.
And all of them attacked those remaining humanist Luddites who, they believed, were incapable of grasping the higher laws working in technical processes.
These laws were not social or economic laws but determinations grounded in Germany’s racial soul.
For years German technology had suffered from the unproductive jüdische Geist, but those days of depraved commercialism were over.
Grun in particular stressed the masculine nature of technology.
The proper order of things suggested that men built technological artefacts, while women remained in the home.

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Further, he distinguished between tradition, which was good because it offered ties to the past and hope for the future, and reaction, which was bad because it stubbornly clung to obsolete methods of production and could thus harm the nation.
The National Socialists had addressed the engineers’ need for tradition by integrating technology into the traditions of the whole nation.
The calling of engineers demanded that they be innovators and revolutionaries, but this did not mean that they would be separated from the Volk.

Darwin

Recalling Todt’s words on nature and technical form, Grun celebrated the synthesis of a German feeling for nature with a no less German drive for technical progress. 

Finally, Grun wrote that National Socialism demonstrated that Social Darwinism, the laws of nature, and the laws of technological advance were compatible.
If the survival of the fittest was an unavoidable requirement of life, restricting technical progress would conflict with biological laws and make possible the triumph of those less racially fit.
The real National Socialist achievement was to have seen that technology was a biological rather than an economic phenomenon.
To have succumbed to the anti-technological currents within German nationalism would have meant rejecting National Socialism’s racial theory of history.

Synthetic Fuel Production

Zischka and Friedrich also attacked Jewish influence on German technology, praised Hitler for restoring technical progress in Germany, and advocated further development of synthetic fuels to overcome Germany’s paucity of natural resources. 

Both Friedrich and Zischka emphasized the importance of scientific and technical discoveries for Germany’s independence.

‘Erfindung liegt in unserem Blut’ – Die Glocke ?

As Zischka put it, Germany was strong because “invention lies in our blood.”

Now that the power of the Jews over German energy and technology had been broken, a bright future of national independence, technical advances, and authoritarian politics promised to sustain the Volksgemeinschaft indefinitely.
Germany’s enemies  – the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union — still laboured under the burden of the Jews.
The reactionary modernist tradition by no means faded away under the pressures of political rule and the conduct of war.
On the contrary, the National Socialists gave to the tradition both institutional and propagandistic expression.
The German soul and will proved tenacious but eventually woefully inadequate when confronted with the Allied arsenal. 

The reactionary modernist tradition was politically consequential in that it contributed to the technological strength that made the war conceivable, if not winnable.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
To understand National Socialism one must consider the concept of `reactionary modernism’ – a concept which reconciles anti-modernism, romanticism, and tradition with modernity – and it is this apparently contradictory combination  of  traditional culture and aesthetics, and  a  modern reliance on instrumental reason and modern means that made the Third Reich a unique and highly effective political system.

Gas Attack on the Western Front
People in Germany realised the importance of technology before 1914, but the First World War nevertheless came as a shock because it fundamentally questioned the widespread belief that technology was an occasionally difficult but potentially obedient servant of humanity.
Not only the common soldiers in combat felt the overwhelming power of modern weapons, but so also did the military and political leadership, who were forced to change all of their plans to adapt to the realities of industrial and technological warfare.
War was no longer a matter solely of the military sector as scientific achievements, the potential for industrial production, and the mental preparedness for war were at least as important for success as the armed forces themselves.
The pressure to attempt total mobilisation in modern warfare forced Germany to accept the industrial and technological logic unreservedly, that is to say, with all the often unwanted consequences a strong focus on efficiency implied.

Ernst Jünger
Ernst Jünger was one of the many middle-class volunteers who in 1914 saw the First World War as a chance to escape from the boredom of a secure everyday life.
He was motivated by the hope of finding his `true self ‘ and a more `elemental reality’ outside bourgeois society.
This hope and desire to engage on an adventurous journey to discover one’s authentic existence beyond the false conventions of civilised society was not a `pre-modern’ notion, but an expression of a `romantic individualism‘ originating in the artistic way of life of early romanticism, giving the central motif to many modern writings and representing a common ambition for the avantgarde and ‘life-reform’ movements at the turn of the century.
In a similar vein, Jünger believed that society in the `mechanical age‘ restricted the potential of a much richer self, while a more authentic life promised the discovery of one’s own individuality and the experience of the `multitude of life, its diversity and the glowing beauty of its intoxications’.
But Jünger was quickly forced to realise that his naive notions of a warrior’s life had little in common with modern warfare.
The desire for adventure and emotional intensity is an integral part of modernity, but for achieving success the industrial world demands, in war as much as in peace, the precise work of every soldier or worker as a small cog in a large technical system.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Inspired by Nietzsche, Jünger could not reject technology, which was clearly the prime instrument of the human `will to power’ in modern times.
As there was no escape from the all-pervasive power of technology, he had to find a way of integrating it into his world-view.
The acceptance that it was not the `abilities of the individual’ which counted in modernity (in particular in modern warfare), but `production, level of technology, education and railway systems’ was a difficult step for Jünger as it challenged his hope and desire for a less civilised space in which one could realise an adventurous path of life.
On the one hand, he admitted a `deep fear’ of modern technology, but on the other, his Nietzschean convictions forced him to embrace all aspects of the modern condition.
After a laborious struggle, he reached a position towards the end of the 1920s where he strongly rejected any glorification of nature or ‘rural life’ by critics of civilisation as sterile `romanticism’, demanding an unreserved acceptance of modern life instead.

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It was not the conservative acceptance of technology which was original about Jünger’s position, nor was it the attempt to integrate it into his world view and employ it as a means for his own objectives.
What was new about Jünger and other conservative revolutionaries at the end of the Weimar Republic were the two following convictions:
Firstly, while earlier conservatives had the confidence to believe that modern technology could be used at will, Ernst Jünger was correct in realising that technical developments and applications followed their own logic and thus placed demands on users.
Different technical means could not be employed by any person for any purpose, but only by people prepared to accept fully all demands of the technical age, because individual technical means are part of an interdependent technical system and cannot exist in isolation.
Furthermore he developed the conviction that a productive engagement with technology demanded a certain `language’.
As users have to follow a certain code to live in the technical world and make use of technical means, modernity turns them not `just into subjects of technical processes, but simultaneously into their objects’. `The application of these [technological] means demands a specific lifestyle, which encompasses every single aspect of life. Technology is thus by no means a neutral force, no reservoir of effective and simply convenient means, which any traditional power can take from at pleasure’.
The First World War had taught Jünger an important lesson which the Weimar Republic could only reinforce: that modern technology places precise demands on its users, produces unintended results and becomes a force in its own right, shaping history in unexpected ways.

Walther Darré
Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer
Equally, Hitler called himself a techno-enthusiast (`Narr der Technik’), Goebbels said programmatically that National Socialism `consciously approves‘ of technology, and a publication of the SS called it a `weapon in the struggle for life‘.
Himmler and Walther Darré were more critical, but Albert Speer, Fritz Todt and Robert Ley were also advocates of the unreserved embrace of modern technology.
Even one of the main representatives of the  völkisch wing, Alfred Rosenberg, saw technology as an expression of an `eternal Germanic drive’, and Peter Schwerber’s book `National Socialism and Technology‘, published in the official NSDAP series of pamphlets stressed technology’s positive role.

Essen Krupp Werke
While it attacked the banking system and the primacy of profits in the capitalist system as an expression of allegedly Jewish materialism and greed, it praised the potential of modern technology and the deeds of entrepreneurs such as Krupp.


The Krupp family, a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, have become famous for their steel production and for their manufacture of ammunition and armaments.



Adolf Hitler and Gustav Krupp
The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
Gustav Georg Friedrich Maria Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, (7 August 1870 – 16 January 1950) ran the German Friedrich Krupp AG heavy industry conglomerate from 1909 until 1941
Alfried Felix Alwyn Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was an amateur photographer and Olympic sailor, he was an early supporter of the NSDAP and, joined the SS in 1931, never disavowing his allegiance to Hitler.

At the center of National Socialist views on technology and modernism stood a mythic historical construction of a racial battle between Aryan and Jew, blood and gold.
However, the National Socialists accepted technology `consciously and happily‘ as the foundation of the nation, of a high standard of living and of military strength.

Reichsautobahn
Hitler Promotes the Reichsautobahnen
With an equally strong belief in the positive role of modern technology in changing society, Franz Lawaczeck, one of the three founding fathers of the National Socialist engineers’ association, ‘Kampfbund Deutscher Architekten und Ingenieure‘, believed that the Third Reich could generate an abundance of cheap electricity that would promote small farms and businesses and promote a decentralisation of modern society. In its presentation to the public, National Socialism also stressed its positive attitude towards technology.
With the slogan `Hitler above Germany’, National Socialism drew attention to his use of an aeroplane.
Hitler also presented himself  as the father of the autobahn, opened car exhibitions and promoted the idea of a cheap car for the mass of the people, not primarily for military or economic purposes.
He wanted to become a moderniser of German cities and had a book of photographs published in which he presented himself alongside cars, aeroplanes, ships and industrial sites.
Also, the hope that a `Wunderwaffe‘ might miraculously change the outcome of the war indicates a strong belief in the power of technology.

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While Ernst Jünger, and other conservatives in the Weimar Republic, had eventually realised that systematic work in large technological systems is a necessary prerequisite for efficiency under modern conditions (this was exactly their original contribution to a conservative understanding of modern technology), National Socialism largely maintained the belief held by earlier or less advanced techno-enthusiasts that exceptionally gifted personalities with strong will-power could overcome all the odds and turn technology into an obedient servant.
It neither saw the need to speak the `language‘ of technology, and adapt to its imperatives, nor did it realise the dialectical connection between using technology and submitting to a technological lifestyle.
On a more practical level, Nazi policy never aimed for the consistency and all- pervasive planning necessary to realise a technocratic state.
The National Socialist cultural policy was also marked by certain inconsistencies.
While the modernists on the left and right demanded that all cultural forms should reflect the functions of the technical age by abandoning all unnecessary decoration (`form follows function‘), National Socialism embraced more traditional styles.

Triumph des Willens
Triumph des Willens
In contrast to Jünger’s  futurist demand for a functional logic and a technical style, which was to penetrate and determine all aspects of society and human existence, National Socialism rejected such attempts to close the gap between technology and culture, favouring an undogmatic mix instead.
In literature, novels about exceptional engineers and technological achievements co-existed with stories about rural life.





Hitler Over Germany
Nürnberg Reichsparteitag in 1934
For the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag in 1934 (communicated to us mainly through the modern medium of film, via the famous ‘Triumph of the Will’ ) the historic city of Nuremberg was used as background for Hitler’s arrival in his aeroplane, for mass rallies and military parades with modern armaments.

Traditional Costumes
Adolf Hitler auf dem Bückeberg
The `beauty of work’ programme promoted swimming pools, grass and gardens, but also an increase in productivity; and the attempt to increase agricultural production was connected with an invention and promotion of traditions such as wearing traditional costumes, engaging in folk dance or accompanying the passing on of the farm to the son with a festive ritual.

From 1933 to 1937 the NSDAP arranged an annual Harvest Festival at Bückeberg, close to the city of Hamelin. More than one million people gathered there, dressed in elaborate traditional folk costumes, in order to celebrate the German peasant, and to listen to speeches. To manage this number of participants a special arena designed by Albert Speer was built. The site was intended to be one of the symbolically important in the Third Reich.

Entartete Kunst
This enhancement of modern reality with all forms available from past and present as well as the ousting of a more critical ‘Entartete Kunst’ (decadent art), was essential to National Socialist aesthetics and culture.

Traditional Regional Style Architecture
This is particularly clear in Nazi architecture.
It did not break completely with the modern functional style, but used it primarily for commercial buildings, in road construction and town planning.
Official buildings were designed in a refined classical or monumental style, and residential housing was ideally built in accordance with a traditional regional style.
While the industrial sphere was thus supposed to be functional and the political sphere awe-inspiring, the private sphere was aiming to give a feeling of warmth and gemütlichkeit.

Gemütlichkeit means a situation that induces a cheerful mood, peace of mind, with connotation of belonging and social acceptance, coziness and unhurry.

National Socialism accepted that even people who want to be heroes have secret selves, whose `tastes lie toward safety, soft beds, and beer‘.
National Socialists thus used heroic imagery on an ideological level, but sensibly tried to keep the sacrifices of their followers to a minimum.
Different opinions could exist, because technology was not seen as a the sole principal in society.
If one accepts that the creation of a ‘pure Aryan‘ race was the main goal of National Socialism, then the attitude towards technology could vary and alter, because its value was determined by the question whether it threatened or helped to achieve that goal.

Arischen Rasse
Some National Socialists were against technology, because they believed that it would undermine the strength of the ‘Arischen Rasse’ (Aryan race), but most were convinced that the National Socialist goals could only be achieved by means of a full embrace of modern technology.
Like the group of those right-wing extremists in the Weimar Republic which have been named `reactionary modernists’ (but also like many other conservatives), National Socialism accepted technology as an important tool in achieving their militaristic and racist goals.
But while the modernists on the right tried to face the fact that technology also places demands on its users and thereby alters them and society, National Socialism drew on less sophisticated beliefs more typical of conservatives in imperial Germany.

Relaxation and Distraction
Liegender Frauenakt – Ernst Liebermann
The technical age was accepted as a practical necessity, but not celebrated in a ‘technical style’; people had to fulfill their function, but relaxation and distraction were granted; and culture was consciously employed as an escape from a certain aspects of material reality.
In this respect, the National Socialists arrived at a more sustainable lifestyle within modern reality than the modernists: in their openness to compromise in all but their core beliefs they accepted that the demands of the modern functional age were only bearable if allowance was made for traditional values and culture.
National Socialism was popular and politically successful because it acknowledged and tolerated different forces and desires in human beings, thereby avoiding purist extremes.
Ironically, the National Socialists world-view (with their trust in the positive potential of a pure Nordic race) allowed them to absorb pragmatically a whole variety of impulses of the time, and thereby integrate different important social groups.

Olympia-Schwimmhalle – National Socialist Modernism
National Socialism cannot be understood as completely anti-modern, because it made full use of technology.
It is simply not strange or paradoxical to reject modernism and embrace technology at the same time.
National Socialism does not have just one cultural root.
It is eclectic, drawing on many different traditions and reacting pragmatically to the circumstances.
As its attitude towards technology is mainly pragmatic, it could take many different forms.
The requirement to maintain power and achieve its central policy goals largely determined its usage of technology, not a preconceived world view.
Thus National Socialism can be seen as the optimum position with regard to the apparently antagonistic positions of modernity and tradition.
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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
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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

Richard Strauss – der Meister Garmisch

die Musik von
RICHARD STRAUSS
der Meister Garmisch

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.

Richard Wagner
Gustav Mahler

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’, ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’, ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, ‘An Alpine Symphony’, and ‘Metamorphosen’.
Strauss was also a prominent conductor throughout Germany and Austria.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler (see left), represents the great late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner (see right), in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Staatsgartnerplatz – Munchen

Strauss was born on 11 June 1864, in Munich, the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich.
In his youth, he received a thorough musical education from his father.
He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and continued to write music almost until his death.

‘Tannhäuser’ 

During his boyhood Strauss attended orchestra rehearsals of the Munich Court Orchestra, and he also received private instruction in music theory and orchestration from an assistant conductor there.
In 1874 Strauss heard his first Wagner operas, ‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right).
The influence of Wagner’s music on Strauss’s style was to be profound, but at first his musically conservative father forbade him to study it.

‘Tristan und Isolde

Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of Richard Wagner was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Strauss was able to obtain a score of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

(The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been cited as a landmark in the development of Western music. Wagner uses throughout Tristan a remarkable range of orchestral colour, harmony and polyphony and does so with a freedom rarely found in his earlier operas. The very first chord in the piece, the Tristan chord, is of great significance in the move away from traditional tonal harmony as it resolves to another dissonant chord.)

Hans von Bülow


In later life, Richard Strauss said that he deeply regretted the conservative hostility to Wagner’s progressive works.

Nevertheless, Strauss’s father undoubtedly had a crucial influence on his son’s developing taste, not least in Strauss’s abiding love for the horn.
In 1882 he entered Munich University, where he studied Philosophy and Art History, but not music.
He left a year later to go to Berlin, where he studied briefly before securing a post as assistant conductor to Hans von Bülow (see right), who had been enormously impressed by the young composer’s Serenade for wind instruments, composed when he was only 16 years of age.
Strauss learned the art of conducting by observing Bülow in rehearsal.


Felix Mendelssohn
Robert Schumann

Bülow was very fond of the young man and decided that Strauss should be his successor as conductor of the Meiningen orchestra when Bülow resigned in 1885.
Strauss’s compositions at this time were indebted to the style of Robert Schumann or Felix Mendelssohn, true to his father’s teachings.
His remarkably mature Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11, is representative of this period and is a staple of modern horn repertoire.



Richard Strauss – Pauline and Franz
Pauline de Ahna

Richard Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on 10 September 1894.
She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, eccentric and outspoken, but the marriage, to all appearances, was essentially happy and she was a great source of inspiration to him. Throughout his life, from his earliest songs to the final ‘Four Last Songs’ of 1948, he preferred the soprano voice to all others, and all his operas contain important soprano roles.

The Strausses had one son, Franz, in 1897.

Solo and Chamber Works


Some of Strauss’s first compositions were solo and chamber works.
These pieces include: early compositions for piano solo in a conservative harmonic style, many of which are lost; a string quartet (opus 2); a cello sonata; a piano quartet; Violin Sonata in E flat (1888); as well as a handful of late pieces.
After 1890 Strauss composed very infrequently for chamber groups, his energies being almost completely absorbed with large-scale orchestral works and operas.
Four of his chamber pieces are actually arrangements of portions of his operas, including the superb ‘Daphne-Etude’ for solo violin, and the string Sextet which is the overture to his final opera Capriccio.
His last independent chamber work, an Allegretto in E for violin and piano, dates from 1940.

Tone Poems and other Orchestral Works

Alexander Ritter

Strauss’s style began to truly develop and change when, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter (see right), a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner’s nieces.
It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth, and begin writing tone poems.

Arthur Schopenhauer

He also introduced Strauss to the essays of Richard Wagner and the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal world.
Schopenhauer’s most influential work, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ – (The World as Will and Representation), claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.
His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fully satisfied.
The corollary of this is an ultimately painful human condition.
Schopenhauer’s metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and of course Richard Strauss.

Don Juan

Strauss went on to conduct one of Ritter’s operas, and at Strauss’s request Ritter later wrote a poem describing the events depicted in Strauss’s tone poem ‘Tod und Verklärung’(Death and Transfiguration).

The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded as Strauss’s first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem ‘Don Juan’ (1888) (see left), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner.

Richard Strauss –
Eine Alpensinfonie op. 64
Zugspitze

Strauss went on to write a series of increasingly ambitious tone poems:
‘Tod und Verklärung’, (1889), ‘Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks’ (1895), ‘**** ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (1896), Don Quixote (1897), ‘A Hero’s Life’ *(1898), Symphonia Domestica **(1903) and An Alpine Symphony (1911–1915). One commentator has observed of these works that “no orchestra could exist without his tone poems, written to celebrate the glories of the post-Wagnerian symphony orchestra.”


Solo Instrument with Orchestra

Strauss’s output of works for solo instrument or instruments with orchestra was fairly extensive. The most famous include two concertos for horn, which are still part of the standard repertoire of most horn soloists; a Violin Concerto in D minor; the Burleske for piano and orchestra; the tone poem Don Quixote for cello, viola and orchestra; the well-known late Oboe Concerto in D major; and the Duet-Concertino for bassoon, clarinet and orchestra, which was one of his last works (1947).

Opera
Around the end of the 19th century, Strauss turned his attention to opera. His first two attempts in the genre, ‘Guntram’ (1894) and ‘Feuersnot’ (1901), were controversial works: ‘Guntram’ was the first significant critical failure of Strauss’s career, and ‘Feuersnot’ was considered obscene by some critics.
In 1905, Strauss produced ‘Salome’, a somewhat dissonant modernist opera based on the play by Oscar Wilde, which produced a passionate reaction from audiences.
The premiere was a major success, with the artists taking more than 38 curtain calls.
Many later performances of the opera were also successful, not only with the general public but also with Strauss’s peers: Maurice Ravel said that Salome was “stupendous”, and Mahler described it as “a live volcano, a subterranean fire”.
Strauss reputedly financed his house in Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely from the revenues generated by the opera.
Strauss’s next opera was ‘Elektra’ (1909), which took his use of dissonance even further, in particular with the Elektra chord.
‘Elektra’ was also the first opera in which Strauss collaborated with the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 
The two subsequently worked together on numerous occasions.
For his later works with Hofmannsthal, Strauss moderated his harmonic language: he used a more lush, melodic late-Romantic style based on Wagnerian chromatic harmonies that he had used in his tone poems, with much less dissonance, and exhibiting immense virtuosity in orchestral writing and tone color.
This resulted in operas such as the beautiful ‘Rosenkavalier’ (1911) having great public success.
Strauss continued to produce operas at regular intervals until 1942.
With Hofmannsthal he created ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ (1912), ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ (1918), ‘Die ägyptische Helena’ (1927), and ‘Arabella’ (1932).
For ‘Intermezzo’ (1923) Strauss provided his own libretto.
‘Die schweigsame Frau’ (1934), was composed with Stefan Zweig as librettist; ‘Friedenstag ‘(1935–6) and ‘Daphne’ (1937) both had a libretto by Joseph Gregor and Stefan Zweig; and the wonderful ‘Liebe der Danae’ (1940) was with Joseph Gregor.
Strauss’s final opera, ‘Capriccio’ (1942), had a libretto by Clemens Krauss, although the genesis for it came from Stefan Zweig and Joseph Gregor.

Lieder

All his life Strauss produced lieder.
The incomparable ‘Four Last Songs’ are among his best known, along with “Zueignung”, “Cäcilie”, the uplifting “Morgen!”, “Allerseelen”, and others.
In 1948, Strauss wrote his last work, the masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’ for soprano and orchestra.
He reportedly composed them with Kirsten Flagstad in mind, and she gave the first performance, which was recorded.
Strauss’s songs have always been popular with audiences and performers, and are generally considered – along with many of his other compositions – to be masterpieces of the first rank.

Strauss and the Third Reich

Because of Strauss’s international eminence, in November 1933 he was appointed to the post of president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the State Music Chamber, which was a section of the Reichskulturkammer (RKK).
Strauss, who had lived through numerous political regimes and had little interest in politics, decided to accept the position.

In order to gain Goebbels’ cooperation in extending the German music copyright laws from 30 years to 50 years, in 1933 Strauss dedicated an orchestral song, ‘Das Bächlein’ (“The Little Brook”) to him.
The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics used Strauss’s monumental ‘Olympische Hymne’, which he had composed in 1934.
Strauss’s seeming relationship with the Nazis in the 1930s attracted criticism from some noted musicians, including Arturo Toscanini.

Late Works

Richard Strauss – Garmisch

Strauss completed the composition of ‘Metamorphosen’, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945.

The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work.
Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, ‘Metamorphosen’ contains Strauss’s most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion.
Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses in music Strauss’s mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture — including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation.
The metaphor “Indian Summer” is often used by journalists, biographers, and music critics to describe Strauss’s late upsurge of genius from 1942 through the end of his life.
The major works of the last years of Strauss’s life, written in his late 70s and 80s, have a luminosity which matches anything he had composed earlier in his life, and they surpass most of them in emotional depth.
These pieces include, among others, his Horn Concerto No. 2, ‘Metamorphosen’, his Oboe Concerto, and his masterful and haunting ‘Four Last Songs’.
The ‘Four Last Songs’, composed shortly before Strauss’s death, deal poetically with the subject of dying.
The last, ‘Im Abendrot’, ends with the line “Is this perhaps death?”
The question is not answered in words, but instead Strauss quotes the “transfiguration theme” from his earlier tone poem, ‘Tod und Verklärung‘ — symbolizing the transfiguration and fulfillment of the soul after death.

Death and Legacy

Richard Strauss Haus – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Richard Strauss died at the age of 85 on 8 September 1949, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany (see left).
Georg Solti, who had arranged Strauss’s 85th birthday celebration, also directed an orchestra during Strauss’s burial.

The conductor later described how, during the singing of the beautiful trio from ‘Rosenkavalier’, “each singer broke down in tears and dropped out of the ensemble, but they recovered themselves and we all ended together.”

Strauss’s wife, Pauline de Ahna, died eight months later, on 13 May 1950, at the age of 88.
During his lifetime Strauss was considered the greatest composer of the first half of the 20th century, and his music had a profound influence on the development of 20th-century music. There were few 20th-century composers who compared with Strauss in terms of orchestral imagination, and no composer since Wagner made a more significant contribution to the history of opera.
And Strauss’s late works, modelled on “the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness,” are perhaps the most remarkable works by any composer.

MAJOR WORKS

* ‘Tod und Verklärung’

‘Tod und Verklärung’, Op. 24, is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss.
Strauss began composition in the late summer of 1888 and completed the work on November 18, 1889.
The work is dedicated to the composer’s friend Friedrich Rosch.
The music depicts the death of an artist.
At Strauss’s request, this was described in a poem by the composer’s friend Alexander Ritter as an interpretation of Death and Transfiguration, after it was composed.
As the man lies dying, thoughts of his life pass through his head: his childhood innocence, the struggles of his manhood, the attainment of his worldly goals; and at the end, he receives the longed-for transfiguration “from the infinite reaches of heaven”.

Performance history

Strauss conducted the premiere on 21 June 1890 at the Eisenach Festival (on the same program with the premiere of his Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra).
He also conducted this work for his first appearance in England, at the Wagner Concert with the Philharmonic Society on 15 June 1897 at the Queen’s Hall in London.

Structure

There are four parts (with Ritter’s poetic thoughts condensed):
Largo (The sick man, near death)
Allegro molto agitato (The battle between life and death offers no respite to the man)
Meno mosso (The dying man’s life passes before him)
Moderato (The sought-after transfiguration)
A typical performance lasts about 25 minutes.
[edit]Instrumentation

The work is scored for a large orchestra of the following forces:
woodwind: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba
percussion: timpani, tam-tam
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii, violas, cellos, double basses.

*Ein Heldenleben


Ein Heldenleben Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss.
The work was completed in 1898, and heralds the composer’s more mature period in this genre.
Hero’s Life is a through-composed, circa fifty-minute work, performed without pauses, except for a dramatic grand pause at the end of the first movement.
The movements are titled as follows:

“Der Held” (The Hero)
“Des Helden Widersacher” (The Hero’s Adversaries)
“Des Helden Gefährtin” (The Hero’s Companion)
“Des Helden Walstatt” (The Hero at Battle)
“Des Helden Friedenswerke” (The Hero’s Works of Peace)
“Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung” (The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation)

A Hero’s Life employs the technique of leitmotifs that Richard Wagner used, but almost always as elements of its enlarged sonata-rondo symphonic structure.

1. “The Hero”: The first theme has been said to represent the hero. In unison, horns and celli play E-flat major triads ascending through an almost four-octave span. A contrasting lyrical theme first appears in high strings and winds in B major. A second motive appears, outlining a stepwise descending fourth. Trumpets sound a dominant seventh chord followed by a grand pause, the only prolonged silence throughout the entire piece.
2. “The Hero’s Adversaries”: The movement opens with chromatic woodwinds and low brass: multiple motives in contrasting registers are heard. It is said that the adversaries represented by the woodwinds are Strauss’s critics, such as 19th-century Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, who is memorably written into the score with an ominous four note leitmotif played by the two tubas in parallel fifths.
3. “The Hero’s Companion”: The movement features a tender melody played by a solo violin. In an extended accompanied cadenza filled with extremely detailed performance instructions by Strauss, after the fashion of an operatic recitative, the violin presents new motivic material, alternating with brief interjections in low strings, winds, and brass. During this section, the violin briefly foreshadows a theme which will appear fully later. The cadenza concludes and the new thematic material is combined in a cantabile episode commencing in G flat. Fragments of the motives from the previous movement briefly appear. A fanfare motive in offstage trumpets, repeated onstage, is then heard.
These three initial sections comprise an elaborate exposition, with elements of a multiple-movement symphony evident in their contrasting character and tempo. The remainder of the work will comprise development, recapitulation, and coda, with occasional new thematic material.
4. “The Hero’s Battlefield”: In this first extended development section of the work, percussion and a solo trumpet are heard in the first appearance of 3/4 time: a variation of a previous motive. A sequence of clamorous trumpet fanfares occurs as the music approaches a harmonic climax in G flat, and the related E flat minor. Percussion is pervasive throughout the movement. 4/4 time returns in a modified recapitulation of the first theme as it appeared at the beginning of the piece, this time with a repeated quaver accompaniment. A new cantabile theme makes its appearance in the trumpet, and an extended elaboration of this serves to preface the next section.
5. “The Hero’s Works of Peace”: Themes of previous works, including such works as Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Macbeth, Also sprach Zarathustra, Death and transfiguration, Don Juan, Guntram, the lied Traum durch die Dämmerung and Don Quixote, are heard in this movement. The melodies lead into the final section.
6. “The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation”: Yet another new motive appears, commencing in a rapid descending E-flat triad, which introduces a new development of the original theme: an elegy featuring harp, bassoon, English horn, and strings. The reappearance of the previous “Hanslick” motive brings in an agitato episode. This is followed by a distinctly pastoral interlude featuring English horn, reminiscent of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The descending triad now appears slowly, cantabile, as the head of a new, peaceful theme in E flat: this is the theme foreshadowed during the violin cadenza. In a final variation of the initial motive, the brass intones the last fanfare, suggesting the beginnings of another tone poem (Also Sprach Zarathustra, a work often coupled with Ein Heldenleben).

Instrumentation

The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn (doubling 4th oboe), E-flat clarinet, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 8 horns in F, E and E-flat, 3 trumpets (used offstage briefly), 2 trumpets in E-flat, 3 trombones, tenor tuba in B-flat (euphonium), tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tenor drum, tam-tam, 2 harps, and strings, including an extensive solo violin part.

 *** ‘Symphonia Domestica’

Symphonia Domestica, Op. 53 (Domestic Symphony) is a tone poem for large orchestra by Richard Strauss. The work is a musical reflection of the secure domestic life so valued by the composer himself and, as such, harmoniously conveys daily events and family life.

He worked on the piece during 1903, finishing it on New Year’s Eve, in Charlottenburg.
The piece is scored for piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, oboe d’amore, English horn, clarinet in D, 3 clarinets (1 & 2 in B♭, 3 in A), bass clarinet in B♭, 4 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 saxophones (soprano in C, alto in F, baritone in F, bass in C), 8 horns in F, 4 trumpets in F and C, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, antique cymbals, tambourine, glockenspiel, 2 harps, and strings.

Structure

The program of the work reflects the simplicity of the subject-matter. After the family has been introduced, the parents are heard alone with their child. The next section is a three-part adagio which begins with the husband’s activities. The clock striking 7am launches the finale.
The most detailed exposition of the work’s structure is that which was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:

I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes
The husband’s themes: (a) Easy-going; (b) Dreamy; (c) Fiery
The wife’s themes: (a) Lively and gay; (b) Grazioso
The child’s theme: Tranquil
II. Scherzo
Parents’ happiness. Childish play. Cradle song (the clock strikes seven in the evening).
III. Adagio
Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
IV. Finale
Awakening and merry dispute (double fugue). Joyous confusion.

**** Also sprach Zarathustra’

Friedrich Nietzsche
Also sprach Zarathustra

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise of the same name. The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour.
The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896.






Instrumentation

The orchestra consists of the following:
woodwinds: piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets in E-flat and B-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon
brass: 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, 2 tubas
percussion: timpani (2 players), bass drum, cymbals, triangle, glockenspiel, bell on low E
keyboard: organ
strings: 2 harps, violins i, ii (16 each), violas (12), cellos (12), double basses (8) (several with low C string).

Structure

The piece is divided into nine sections played with only three definite pauses. Strauss named the sections after selected chapters of the book:

Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang (Introduction, or Sunrise)
Von den Hinterweltlern (Of Those in Backwaters)
Von der großen Sehnsucht (Of the Great Longing)
Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften (Of Joys and Passions)
Das Grablied (The Song of the Grave)
Von der Wissenschaft (Of Science and Learning)
Der Genesende (The Convalescent)
Das Tanzlied (The Dance Song)
Nachtwandlerlied (Song of the Night Wanderer)

The piece starts with a sustained double low C on the double basses, contrabassoon and organ. This transforms into the brass fanfare of the Introduction and introduces the “dawn” motif (from “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, the text of which is included in the printed score) that is common throughout the work: the motif includes three notes, in intervals of a fifth and octave, as C–G–C (known also as the Nature-motif). On its first appearance, the motif is a part of the first five notes of the natural overtone series: octave, octave and fifth, two octaves, two octaves and major third (played as part of a C major chord with the third doubled). The major third is immediately changed to a minor third, which is the first note played in the work (E flat) that is not part of the overtone series.
“Of Those in Backwaters” (or “Of the Forest Dwellers”) begins with cellos, double-basses and organ pedal before changing into a lyrical passage for the entire section. The next two sections, “Of the Great Yearning” and “Of Joys and Passions”, both introduce motifs that are more chromatic in nature.
“Of Science” features an unusual fugue beginning in the double-basses and cellos, which consists of all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. It is one of the very few sections in the orchestral literature where the basses must play a contra-b (lowest b on a piano).
“The Convalescent” acts as a reprise of the original motif, and climaxes with a massive chord in the entire orchestra.
“The Dance Song” features a very prominent violin solo throughout the section.
The end of the “Song of the Night Wanderer” leaves the piece half resolved, with high flutes, piccolos and violins playing a B major chord, while the lower strings pluck a C.
One of the major compositional themes of the piece is the contrast between the keys of B major, representing humanity, and C major, representing the universe.
Because B and C are adjacent notes, these keys are tonally dissimilar: B major uses five sharps, while C major has none.

World Riddle Theme

There are two opinions about the ‘World Riddle Theme’. Some sources denote the fifth/octave intervals (C–G–C8va) as the World riddle motif, however, other sources refer to the 2 conflicting keys in the final section as representing the World riddle (C–G–C B–F♯-B8va), with the unresolved harmonic progression being an unfinished or unsolved riddle: the melody does not conclude with a well-defined tonic note as being either C or B, hence it is unfinished.The ending of the composition has been described:
But the riddle is not solved.
The tone-poem ends enigmatically in two keys, the Nature-motif plucked softly, by the basses in its original key of C—and above the woodwinds, in the key of B major.
The unsolvable end of the universe: for Strauss was not pacified by Nietzsche’s solution.
Neither C major nor B major is established as the tonic at the end of the composition.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

The ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ for soprano and orchestra were the final completed works of Richard Strauss, composed in 1948, when the composer was 84.
Strauss died in September 1949.
The premiere of the work was given posthumously at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 22 May 1950 by the soprano Kirsten Flagstad accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.
The songs are “Frühling” (Spring), “September”, “Beim Schlafengehen” (Going to sleep) and “Im Abendrot” (At sunset).

Joseph von Eichendorff

Strauss had come across the poem ‘Im Abendrot’ by Joseph von Eichendorff, which he felt had a special meaning for him.
He set its text to music in May 1948.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (10 March 1788 – 26 November 1857) was a German poet and novelist of the later German romantic school.
Eichendorff is regarded as one of the most important German Romantics, and his works have sustained high popularity in Germany from production to the present day.

Hermann Hesse

Strauss had also recently been given a copy of the complete poems of Hermann Hesse, and he set three of them – ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, and ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ – for soprano and orchestra.

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877 – August 9, 1962) was a German poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include ‘Steppenwolf’ and ‘The Glass Bead Game’, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

There is no indication that Strauss conceived these songs as a unified set.
The overall title ‘Four Last Songs’ was provided by his friend Ernst Roth, the chief editor of Boosey & Hawkes.
It was Roth who categorized them as a single unit with the title Four Last Songs, and put them into the order that most performances now follow: ‘Frühling’, ‘September’, ‘Beim Schlafengehen’, ‘Im Abendrot’.

Pauline de Ahna

The songs deal with death and were written shortly before Strauss himself died.
However, instead of the typical Romantic defiance, these ‘Four Last Songs’ are suffused with a sense of calm, acceptance, and completeness.
The settings are for a solo soprano voice given remarkable soaring melodies against a full orchestra, and all four songs have prominent horn parts.
The combination of a beautiful vocal line with supportive brass accompaniment references Strauss’s own life: His wife Pauline de Ahna was a famous soprano and his father Franz Strauss a professional horn player.

The most heart-rending moment in the ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ come when the soprano sings the line ‘Ist dies etwa der Tod ?’, and the orchestra gently intone the ‘Verklärung’ theme from ‘Tod und Verklärung’ – written so many, many years before !

Instrumentation

The songs are scored for piccolo, 3 flutes (3rd doubling 2nd piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F (also E-flat and D), 3 trumpets in C, E-flat and F, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, and strings.

‘Vier letzte Lieder’

‘Frühling’

In dämmrigen Grüften
träumte ich lang
von deinen Bäumen und blauen Lüften,
Von deinem Duft und Vogelsang.
Nun liegst du erschlossen
In Gleiß und Zier
von Licht übergossen
wie ein Wunder vor mir.
Du kennst mich wieder,
du lockst mich zart,
es zittert durch all meine Glieder
deine selige Gegenwart!



‘September’

Der Garten trauert,
kühl sinkt in die Blumen der Regen.
Der Sommer schauert
still seinem Ende entgegen.
Golden tropft Blatt um Blatt
nieder vom hohen Akazienbaum.
Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt
In den sterbenden Gartentraum.
Lange noch bei den Rosen
bleibt er stehn, sehnt sich nach Ruh.
Langsam tut er
die müdgeword’nen Augen zu.


‘Beim Schlafengehen’

Nun der Tag mich müd gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.
Hände, laßt von allem Tun
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken.
Und die Seele unbewacht
will in freien Flügen schweben,
um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.


‘Im Abendrot’

Wir sind durch Not und Freude
gegangen Hand in Hand;
vom Wandern ruhen wir
nun überm stillen Land.
Rings sich die Täler neigen,
es dunkelt schon die Luft.
Zwei Lerchen nur noch steigen
nachträumend in den Duft.
Tritt her und laß sie schwirren,
bald ist es Schlafenszeit.
Daß wir uns nicht verirren
in dieser Einsamkeit.
O weiter, stiller Friede!
So tief im Abendrot.
Wie sind wir wandermüde–
Ist dies etwa der Tod ?