A Clash of Styles – German Aesthetics – 1933-1945

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Emblem of the NSDAP



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




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

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


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

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

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

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

Richard Wagner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blut,Boden und Heimat

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

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

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

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels

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

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

Professor Paul Ludwig Troost
Haus der Deutschen Kunst 

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

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

Hitler and Frau Gerdy Troost

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

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


Adolf Hitler – Tag der Deutschen Kunst

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

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

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

Adolf Hitler at the UFA studios
Universum Film AG

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

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

Leni Riefenstahl’s
Triumph des Willens


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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




Goethe and Schiller
Weimar Classicism

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

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

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



Richard Wagner
Hans Erich Pfitzner

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


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




Adolf Hitler and Winifred Wagner
Adolf Hitler at Bayreuth

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

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

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





The Concept of Degeneracy

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

Paul Schultze-Naumburg


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

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


Thule Gesellschaft
Alfred Rosenberg

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

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

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National Socialist Aesthetics

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

Alpine Landscape – Adolf Hitler

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

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


 Idealizations of Purity,
Heroism and the Human Form.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitler with the Blutfahne

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

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

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag – Monumental Aesthetic

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

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

Deutsches Stadion – Albert Speer
North-South Axis – Germania

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

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

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

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

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

Cult of Athleticism
Aesthetic forms
deemed to be life-asserting

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

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

Reactionary Modernism

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

Charles Darwin

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

All these components were literally inconceivable before the 19th century.
Blut und Boden
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Certainly the ideology of National Socialism placed great emphasis on the concept of the superiority of the Aryan race and the heroic past of the Germans before their Europeanization and Judeo-Christianization, and on the values of ‘Blut und Boden‘ (Blood and Soil).
But these were not regressive, atavistic myths, but articulated in the spirit of the Conservative Revolution referred to above: the roots of the new order were to be extended as deep as possible into the past so that the tree of the organically conceived nation could grow as vigorously and high as possible.

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

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

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

KdF Volkswagen

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

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

‘Blut und Boden’

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

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


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

Bau der Neuen Reichskanzlei

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

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


Hitler-Jugend Sport Poster
Hitlerjugend Poster

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

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

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

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

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

Vincent van Gogh

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Omnipresent Swastika

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

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

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

Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism

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

Kritian Boy

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

Δορυφόρος
Doryphoros of Polyclitus

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Neue Reichskanzlei
Albert Speer

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

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

Proposed redevelopment of Linz
Professor Hermann Giesler

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Adolf Hitler


Himmler’s approach to aesthetics was very different.

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

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

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

Gothic Sculpture
William Dohme – der Braunschweiger Doml  – 1937

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

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


Wewelsburg – Paderborn 
SS Julleuchter
Neo-Gothic Art

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

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

Classical Art
Blut und Boden  Romantic Art

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

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

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

click below for a further discussion of

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.

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

The Enigma of Hitler – Léon Degrelle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

 Léon Degrelle

The mountains of books that have been written about Hitler  based on blind hatred and ignorance do little to describe or explain this enigmatic individual. How, I ponder, do these thousands of disparate portraits of Hitler in any way resemble the real man ? 
People have come to accept a fiction, repeated a thousand times over, as reality.
Yet they have never seen Hitler, never spoken to him, never heard a word from his mouth.
The very name of Hitler immediately conjures up a grimacing devil, the fount of all of one’s negative emotions.
Like Pavlov’s bell, the mention of Hitler is meant to dispense with substance and reality.
In time, however, history will demand more than these summary judgements.

Hitler was a man of peace in 1936,  a man of war from 1939
The first thing anyone noticed when he came into view was his small mustache.
Countless times he had been advised to shave it off, but he always refused: people were used to him the way he was.
He was not tall – no more than was Napoleon or Alexander the Great.
Hitler had deep blue eyes that many found fascinating and bewitching.
Some even said that there was an electric current that his hands were said to give off.
His face showed emotion or indifference according to the passion or apathy of the moment.
At times he was as though benumbed, saying not a word, while his jaws moved in the meanwhile as if they were grinding an obstacle to smithereens in the void.
Then he would come suddenly alive and launch into a speech directed at individual but, paradoxically, as though he were addressing a crowd of hundreds of thousands at Berlin’s Tempelhof airfield.
Then he became as if transfigured.
Even his complexion, otherwise dull, lit up as he spoke.
And at such times, to be sure, Hitler was strangely attractive, and as if possessed of magic powers.
Anything that might have seemed too solemn in his remarks, he quickly tempered with a touch of humor.
The picturesque word, the biting phrase were at his command.
In a flash he would paint a word-picture that brought a smile, or come up with an unexpected and disarming comparison.
He could be harsh, and even implacable in his judgments, and yet almost at the same time be surprisingly conciliatory, sensitive and warm.
After 1945 Hitler was accused of every cruelty, but it was not in his nature to be cruel.
He loved children.
It was an entirely natural thing for him to stop his car and share his food with young cyclists along the road. Once he gave his raincoat to a derelict plodding in the rain.
At midnight he would interrupt his work and prepare the food for his dog Blondi.
He could not bear to eat meat, because it meant the death of a living creature.
He refused to have so much as a rabbit or a trout sacrificed to provide his food.
He would allow only eggs on his table, because egg-laying meant that the hen had been spared rather than killed.
Hitler’s eating habits were a constant source of amazement to those around him.
How could someone on such a rigorous schedule, who had taken part in tens of thousands of exhausting mass meetings from which he emerged bathed with sweat, often losing two to four pounds in the process; who slept only three to four hours a night; and who, from 1940 to 1945, carried the whole world on his shoulders while ruling over 380 million Europeans: how could he physically survive on just a boiled egg, a few tomatoes, two or three pancakes, and a plate of noodles ? But he actually gained weight !
He drank only water.
He did not smoke, and would not tolerate smoking in his presence.
At one or two o’clock in the morning he would still be talking, untroubled, close to his fireplace, lively, often amusing.
He never showed any sign of weariness.
Dead tired his audience might be, but not Hitler.
Hitler’s most notable characteristic was ever his simplicity.
The most complex of problems resolved itself in his mind into a few basic principles.
His actions were geared to ideas and decisions that could be understood by anyone.
The laborer from Essen, the isolated farmer, the Ruhr industrialist, and the university professor could all easily follow his line of thought.
The very clarity of his reasoning made everything obvious.
His behavior and his lifestyle never changed even when he became the ruler of Germany.
He dressed and lived frugally.
During his early days in Munich, he spent no more than a mark per day for food.
At no stage in his life did he spend anything on himself.
Throughout his thirteen years in the chancellery he never carried a wallet or ever had money of his own.
Hitler was self-taught and made not attempt to hide the fact.
The smug conceit of intellectuals, their shiny ideas packaged like so many flashlight batteries, irritated him at times.
His own knowledge he had acquired through selective and unremitting study, and he knew far more than thousands of diploma-decorated academics.
I don’t think anyone ever read as much as he did.
He normally read one book every day, always first reading the conclusion and the index in order to gauge the work’s interest for him.
He had the power to extract the essence of each book and then store it in his computer-like mind.
he often talked about complicated scientific books with faultless precision, even at the height of the war.
His intellectual curiosity was limitless.
He was readily familiar with the writings of the most diverse authors, and nothing was too complex for his comprehension.
He had a deep knowledge and understanding of Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus Christ, as well as Luther, Calvin, and Savonarola; of literary giants such as Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, and Goethe; and of analytical writers such as Renan and Gobineau, Chamberlain and Sorel.
He had trained himself in philosophy by studying Aristotle and Plato.
He could quote entire paragraphs of Schopenhauer from memory, and for a long time carried a pocked edition of Schopenhauer with him. Nietzsche taught him much about the willpower.
His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable.
He spent hundreds of hours studying the works of Tacitus and Mommsen, military strategists such as Clausewitz, and empire builders such as Bismarck. Nothing escaped him: world history or the history of civilizations, the study of the Bible and the Talmud, Thomistic philosophy and all the master- pieces of Homer, Sophocles, Horace, Ovid, Titus Livius and Cicero. He knew Julian the Apostate as if he had been his contemporary.
His knowledge also extended to mechanics.
He knew how engines worked; he understood the ballistics of various weapons; and he astonished the best medical scientists with his knowledge of medicine and biology.
The universality of Hitler’s knowledge may surprise or displease those unaware of it, but it is nonetheless a historical fact: Hitler was probably one of the most cultivated men of this century.
Many times more so than Churchill, an intellectual mediocrity; or than Pierre Laval, with his mere cursory knowledge of history; or than Roosevelt; or Eisenhower, who never got beyond detective novels.
Even during his earliest years, Hitler was different than other children.
He had an inner strength and was guided by his spirit and his instincts.
He could draw skillfully when he was only eleven years old.
His sketches made at that age show a remarkable firmness and liveliness.
His first paintings and watercolors, created at age 15, are full of poetry and sensitivity.
One of his most striking early works, “Fortress Utopia,” also shows him to have been an artist of rare imagination.
His artistic orientation took many forms.
He wrote poetry from the time he was a lad.
He dictated a complete play to his sister Paula who was amazed at his presumption.
At the age of 16, in Vienna, he launched into the creation of an opera.
He even designed the stage settings, as well as all the costumes; and, of course, the characters were Wagnerian heroes.
More than just an artist, Hitler was above all an architect.
Hundreds of his works were notable as much for the architecture as for the painting.
From memory alone he could reproduce in every detail the onion dome of a church or the intricate curves of wrought iron, indeed, it was to fulfill his dream of becoming an architect that Hitler went to Vienna at the beginning of the century.
When one sees the hundreds of paintings, sketches and drawings he created at the time, which reveal his mastery of three dimensional figures, it is astounding that his examiners at the Fine Arts Academy failed him in two successive examinations.
German historian Werner Maser, no friend of Hitler, castigated these examiners: “All of his works revealed extraordinary architectural gifts and knowledge. The builder of the Third Reich gives the former Fine Arts Academy of Vienna cause for shame.”
Impressed by the beauty of the church in a Benedictine monastery where he was part of the choir and served as an altar boy, Hitler dreamt fleetingly of becoming a Benedictine monk.
And it was at that time, too, interestingly enough, that whenever he attended mass, he always had to pass beneath the first swastika he had ever seen: it was graven in the stone escutcheon of the abbey portal.
Hitler’s father, a customs officer, hoped the boy would follow in his footsteps and become a civil servant.
His tutor encouraged him to become a monk.
Instead the young Hitler went, or rather he fled, to Vienna.
And there, thwarted in his artistic aspirations by the bureaucratic mediocraties of academia, he turned to isolation and meditation.
Lost in the great capital of Austria-Hungary, he searched for his destiny.
During the first thirty years of Hitler’s life, the date April 20, 1889, meant nothing to anyone.
He was born on that day in Branau, a small town in the Inn valley.
During his exile in Vienna, he often thought of his modest home, and particularly of his mother.
When she fell ill, he returned home from Vienna to look after her.
For weeks he nursed her, did all the household chores, and supported her as the most loving of sons.
When she finally died, on Christmas eve, his pain was immense.
Wracked with grief, he buried his mother in the little country cemetery: “I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief,” said his mother’s doctor, who happened to be Jewish.
In his room, Hitler always displayed a picture of his mother.
The memory of the mother he loved was with him until the day he died.
She had blue eyes like his and a similar face.
Her maternal intuition told her that her son was different from other children
She acted almost as if she knew her son’s destiny.
When she died, she felt anguished by the immense mystery surrounding her son.
Throughout the years of his youth, Hitler lived the life of a virtual recluse.
He greatest wish was to withdraw from the world.
At heart a loner, he wandered about, ate meager meals, but devoured the books of three public libraries.
He abstained from conversations and had few friends.
It is almost impossible to imagine another such destiny where a man started with so little and reached such heights.
Alexander the Great was the son of a king.
Napoleon, from a well-to-do family, was a general at twenty-four.
Fifteen years after Vienna, Hitler would still be an unknown corporal.
Thousands of others had a thousand times more opportunity to leave their mark on the world.
Hitler was not much concerned with his private life.
In Vienna he had lived in shabby, cramped lodgings, but for all that he rented a piano that took up half his room, and concentrated on composing his opera.
He lived on bread, milk, and vegetable soup.
But he never stopped painting or reading.
Landlords and landladies in Vienna and Munich all remembered him for his civility and pleasant disposition. His behavior was impeccable.
His room was always spotless, his meager belongings meticulously arranged, and his clothes neatly hung or folded.
He washed and ironed his own clothes, something which in those days few men did.
He needed almost nothing to survive, and money from the sale of a few paintings was sufficient to provide for all his needs.
Hitler had not yet focused on politics, but without his rightly knowing, that was the career to which he was most strongly called.
Politics would ultimately blend with his passion for art.
People, the masses, would be the clay the sculptor shapes into an immortal form.
The human clay would become for him a beautiful work of art like one of Myron’s marble sculptures, a Hans Makart painting, or Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
His love of music, art, and architecture had not removed him from the political life and social concerns of Vienna.
When Hitler later said that he had formed his social and political doctrine in Vienna, he told the truth.
Ten years later his observations made in Vienna would become the order of the day.
Thus Hitler was to live for several years in the crowded city of Vienna as a virtual outcast, yet quietly observing everything around him.
His strength came from within.
He did not rely on anyone to do his thinking for him.
Exceptional human beings always feel lonely amid the vast human throng.
Hitler saw his solitude as a wonderful opportunity to meditate and not to be submerged in a mindless sea.
In order not to be lost in the wastes of a sterile desert, a strong soul seeks refuge within himself.
Hitler was such a soul.

The lightning in Hitler’s life would come from the Word.
All his artistic talent would be channeled into his mastery of communication and eloquence.
Hitler would never conceive of popular conquests without the power of the Word.
He would enchant and be enchanted by it.
He would find total fulfillment when the magic of his words inspired the hearts and minds of the masses with whom he communed.
He would feel reborn each time he conveyed with mystical beauty the knowledge he had acquired in his lifetime.
Hitler’s incantory eloquence will remain, for a very long time.
The power of Hitler’s word is the key.

Did Hitler believe in God ?
He believed deeply in God.
He called God the Almighty, master of all that is known and unknown.
He acknowledged that every human being has spiritual needs.
The song of the nightingale, the pattern and color of a flower, continually brought him back to the great problems of creation.
No one in the world has spoke so eloquently about the existence of God.
He held this view not because he was brought up as a Christian, but because his analytical mind bound him to the concept of God.
Hitler’s faith transcended formulas and contingencies.
God was for him the basis of everything, the ordainer of all things, of his destiny and that of all others.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

   

 “At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted.
My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

“When human hearts break and human souls despair, then from the twilight of the past, the great conquerors of distress and care, of shame and misery, of spiritual slavery and physical compulsion, look down and hold out their eternal hands to the despairing mortals. Woe to the people ashamed to grasp them !”


“He who would live must fight

And he who would not contend in this world of eternal struggle
Does not deserve to live.”

“I am founding an Order.
It is from the burgs that the second
stage will emerge – the stage of the Man-God, when Man will be the measure and centre of
the world. The Man-God, that splendid Being, will be an object of worship … But there are
other stages about which I am not permitted to speak …”


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

“Creation is not finished. Man is clearly approaching a phase of metamorphosis. The earlier human species has already reached the stage of dying out…. All of the force of creation will be concentrated in a new species… which will surpass infinitely modern man….  “

“We shall rejuvenate the world.  This world is near its end.”

“Do you now appreciate the depth of our National Socialist Movement?  Can there be anything greater and more all comprehending?  Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything of it.  It is more even than religion; it is the will to create mankind anew !”

“All of the force of creation will be concentrated in a new species… which will surpass infinitely modern man…. “

“The new man is living amongst us now! He is here!…I will tell you a secret. I have seen the new man. He is intrepid and cruel. I was afraid of him.” 

“We are at the outset of a tremendous revolution in moral ideas and man’s spiritual orientation. A new age of the magic interpretation of the world is coming, an interpretation in terms of will and not the intelligence.”

“The real destiny of man is something the average man could not conceive and would be unable to stomache if given a glance.

Our revolution is the final stage in an evolution that will end by abolishing history.
My Party members have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind or the grand design for the foundations that will have been laid before I die.
The world has reached a pivetol point and will undergo an upheaval which you unititated people cannot understand” 

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.

The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

for more information see
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
‘And the Will lieth therin, which dieth not.
Who knoweth the mysteries of the Will and its vigour ?
For God is but a great Will pervading all things by the nature of its intentness.
Man doth not yield himself to the Angels nor to Death uterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble Will !’

Joseph Glanvill – (1636–1680)

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Click here for August Kubizek’s own fascinating account of his friendship with Adolf Hitler
   
 Hitler Mein Jugendfreund
(Hitler – My Boyhood Friend)


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Sexuality and Gender in the Third Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Sexuality and Gender in the Third Reich

It is often thought that National Socialist ideology was primarily focused on removing the influence of Jews from all aspects of German society, however, Völkisch ideas and attitudes towards race were far more complex.

For the National Socialists, establishing a pure and thriving volksgemeinschaft was crucial to the survival of Germany and subsequently, the German people, therefore, the National Socialists saw themselves responsible for ensuring that the Germanic Aryan race flourished.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Volksgemeinschaft is a German-language expression meaning “people’s community”. Originally appearing during World War I as Germans rallied behind the war, it derived its popularity as a means to break down elitism and class divides. Upon rising to power in 1933, the National Socialists sought to gain support of various elements of society. Their concept of Volksgemeinschaft was racially unified and organized hierarchically. This involved a mystical unity, a form of racial soul uniting all Germans. This soul was regarded as related to the land, in the doctrine of “blood and soil”. Indeed, one reason for “blood and soil” was the belief that landowner and peasant lived in an organic harmony.
In order to achieve their racial ambitions, the National Socialists introduced a number of reforms that redefined Germany’s existing social structures.
These reforms also drastically limited personal freedoms of both Jewish and non-Jewish German citizens.
Moreover, due to the authoritarian nature of Nazism, the regime sought to control the behaviour of people both in and out of the public sphere.
During the Third Reich a person’s body was no longer considered their own.
Instead, the body was recognized as a public site.
As a result, established social conceptions on gender and sexuality became susceptible to Völkisch influence.
To achieve their ideological objectives, the Third Reich instituted a number of policies regarding gender and sexuality.
Ultimately, these policies had a significant impact on German society.
Gender Roles in Nazi Germany
For the National Socialists, existing social and behavioural norms that delineated gender roles in Germany were not conducive to their ideological ambitions.
During their time in power, the National Socialists worked to establish their own conceptions regarding gender in German society.

Nationalsozialistische Soldat
Richard Scheibe – ‘Kneeling Warrior’ 1937
Nationalsozialistischen ‘Neue Mensch’
‘Aryan Man’ – Arno Breker

Like other traditional right-wing movements the National Socialists subscribed to the idea of creating a ‘new man’ that would function as a symbol of the state.

In promoting the concept of creating a ‘new man’, the National Socialists redefined existing notions on manliness and masculinity.
According to Völkisch ideology, manliness could not be ascertained through “virtues that could be expressed in ordinary life.”
Instead, a man could only achieve true manliness by engaging in heroic activities.
Moreover, the National Socialists believed that manliness was determined by a man’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the state.
For the National Socialists the soldier embodied all the ideal characteristics associated with the ‘new man’.
Men were expected to embrace the soldier mentality and join male dominated organizations, such as  the SS (Schutzstaffel).
Furthermore, in order to fulfil their racial duties, men were also encouraged to marry ‘hereditarily fit’ German women, and establish kinderreich (rich in children) families.

Reichsbund Kinderreich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter

The Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter (Cross of Honour of the German Mother), referred to colloquially as the Mutterehrenkreuz (Mother’s Cross of Honour) was a state decoration and civil order of merit conferred by the government of the German Reich to honour a Reichsdeutsche (Imperial German) mother for exceptional merit to the German nation. Eligibility later extended to include Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) mothers from, for example, Austria and Sudetenland, that had earlier been incorporated into the German Reich.
The decoration was conferred from 1939 until 1945 in three classes of order, bronze, silver, and gold, to mothers who exhibited probity, exemplary motherhood, and who conceived and raised at least four or more children in the role of a parent.
It is estimated that up until September 1941 there were a total of 4.7 million recipient mothers honoured with the Mother’s Cross decoration.

In the family unit, men were expected to act as patriarchs, charged with instilling proper Völkisch values into their children.
Thus it is apparent that Völkisch attitudes towards masculinity and the role of the man subscribed to a Germanic ideal.
Völkisch views on the role of women also revolved around traditionalist ideals.

Deutsch Mutter und drei Kinder

According to National Socialist doctrine, “…to be a wife and mother is the German woman’s highest essence and purpose of life.” 

Essentially, it was the responsibility of the ‘hereditarily fit’ woman to birth and raise racially pure children.
As a result, femininity became synonymous with motherhood and fertility in the Third Reich. Furthermore, a high level of intelligence in a woman was no longer considered desirable trait.
For the National Socialists, “fertility, not intellectual abilities, was the key.”
It was also thought that women should remain inside the home or private sphere because the public realm strictly belonged men.
In penetrating the public sphere, it was understood that a woman would not be able to accomplish her stately duties of birthing and raising pure Aryan children.
In the home, women’s activities were regulated to “Kinder,” “Küche,” and “Kirche” (children, kitchen, and church).
By focusing primarily on the family and the home, the National Socialists believed a woman could simultaneously fulfill her own natural maternal instincts and serve the state to the best of her abilities. In National Socialist society, mothers were also to be accorded with the same honourable status as the soldier in the German Volk community.
For the National Socialists, in becoming a mother, a woman sacrificed her body and life for the good of the Fatherland, much like the soldier.
Motherhood was also compared to soldiering in that by brining a child into the world, a mother was thought to be fighting her own battle for the nation, therefore, in embracing motherhood, women were afforded due prestige in the Third Reich.
Origins of National Socialist Ideology on Gender
National Socialist attitudes towards gender and gender roles primarily stemmed from existing right-wing ideology and nineteenth century philosophy.
 Friedrich Nietzsche
One such philosopher that was fundamental in influencing the Völkisch view on gender, and the overall National Socialist rhetoric on the establishment of a ‘new man’ was Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet, and composer. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism.
Nietzsche’s key ideas include the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, the ‘Will to Power’, the “death of God”, the ‘Übermensch’, and eternal recurrence. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation”, which involves questioning of any doctrine that drains one’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those ideas might be. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary and his influence remains substantial, particularly in the continental philosophical tradition comprising existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s views on women have attracted controversy, beginning during his life, and continuing to the present.
After his father died when he was only five, Nietzsche was left to be raised in a household solely occupied by women (his mother, his sister, and two maiden aunts).
How much of an affect this had on developing the young man’s lifelong attitudes towards women is impossible to tell, but it would be disingenuous to dismiss it as a triviality.
Throughout his life, Nietzsche had few companions (of either gender), and virtually no real romantic relationships 
He frequently made remarks in his writing that may be viewed as misogynistic.
Nietzsche’s quote on women include:

‘The sexes deceive themselves about each other – because at bottom they honor and love only themselves (or their own ideals, to put it more pleasantly). 
Thus man likes woman peaceful – but woman is essentially un-peaceful, like a cat, however well she may have trained herself to seem peaceable.’

‘Woman’s love involves injustice and blindness against everything that she does not love… Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at best cows…’
‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ – On the Friend

Everything in woman is a riddle, and everything about woman has one solution – it is called pregnancy.’

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Old and Young Women, Friedrich Nietzsche 


Nietzsche says much the same of love in general in ‘The Joyful Science’
Finally: 
Woman! One-half of mankind is weak, typically sick, changeable, inconstant… she needs a religion of weakness that glorifies being weak, loving, and being humble as divine: or better, she makes the strong weak–she rules when she succeeds in overcoming the strong… Woman has always conspired with the types of decadence, the priests, against the “powerful”, the “strong”, the men.’
‘The Will to Power’ – 864
However, Nietzsche’s apparent misogyny is part of his overall strategy to demonstrate that our attitudes toward sex-gender are thoroughly cultural, are often destructive of our own potential as individuals and as a species, and may be changed.
What looks like misogyny may be understood as part of a larger strategy whereby “woman-as-such” (the universal essence of woman with timeless character traits) is shown to be a product of male desire, a construct
Lou Andreas-Salomé

Луиза Густавовна Саломе – (Lou Andreas-Salomé), who knew Nietzsche very well, and claimed that he had proposed to her (according to her, she refused him) claimed there was something feminine in Nietzsche’s “spiritual nature“, and that he had considered genius to be a feminine genius.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.
Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen.
The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years.
There has been speculation that the relationship between Elizabeth and Fritz was so close that it was almost ‘incestuous’.
Nietzsche himself only ever had one romantic relationship with a woman – Lou Andreas Salomé (see above), and it is significant that Elizabeth did everything in her power to bring the relationship to an end.
Nietzsche’s only other intense relationship (apart from that with Richard Wagner) – even to the extent of being described as ‘homoerotic’, was with ‘Peter Gast’ – Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer. He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’.

Peter Gast

In Basel, a friendship developed between Gast and Nietzsche.
Gast read for Nietzsche during the latter’s intermittent spells of near blindness, and also took dictation. Gast was instrumental in the preparation of all of Nietzsche’s works after 1876, reviewing the printer’s manuscript and sometimes intervening to finalize the text formatting.
Nietzsche’s break with Wagner and his search for a ‘southern’ aesthetic with which he could immunize himself from the gloomy German north led him to over-appreciate Gast as a musician.

Nietzsche states that a woman’s true source of power lies in her ability to bear children (essentially the power to grant life – which resonates with  Völkisch and National Socialist theories), and that this trait serves as her underlying motivation for dealing with men (who are dependent on women for the propagation of their bloodline – their physical immortality, so to speak).
Because of man’s dependence on woman in this regard, the masculine gender will readily deify womanhood (i.e. motherhood), to a higher realm of existence, a sentiment women will shrewdly use to “raise themselves higher,” to a plane of virtue that is beyond reproach.  

In the more general sphere, according to Nietzsche, willpower and healthy emotions should dominate over repression – even sexual repression.

In mastering his emotions, a man could then become ‘Übermensch’ or the “overman,” which is a type of superior human being that has achieved self-mastery and has balanced thoughts and feelings.

Italian Futurism
The idea of the ‘new man’ was first introduced in Italy by nationalists who wanted to establish a new Italy.
The ‘Futurists’, who had a significant role in the institution of fascism in Italy, also embraced the notion of creating a ‘new man’.
To the Futurists, the new Italian man was not weighed down by history “but could take off into uncharted spaces proclaiming Italy’s glory through his personal drive.
Furthermore, the Futurists believed that the ‘new man’ was to be disciplined, combative, and perceive the world in a way that accepted the new speed of time.
Therefore, in taking power, Mussolini adapted many of the existing theories on the ‘new man’ into fascist ideology.

Giovanni Papini
Benito Mussolini 

In creating a ‘Uomo Nuovo Fascista’ (fascist ‘new man’), Mussolini was also influenced by the work of Italian publicist Giovanni Papini who stated that men were to rid themselves of bourgeois icons such as family and love.

Giovanni Papini (January 9, 1881 – July 8, 1956) was an Italian journalist, essayist, literary critic, poet, and novelist.

Papini also emphasised that men must be forceful and energetic and approach life in a sober, unromantic manner.
Thus, when Mussolini came to power in Italy, establishing a fascist ‘new man’ was fundamental to his political agenda.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (29 July 1883 – 28 April 1945) was an Italian politician, journalist and leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country from 1922 to his ousting in 1943. In 1926 Mussolini seized total power as dictator and ruled Italy as Il Duce (“the leader”) from 1930 to 1943. Mussolini was one of the key figures in the creation of fascism.

Uomo Nuovo Fascista

Consequently, the concept of the ‘new man’ became a significant aspect of fascist ideology as a whole.

The glorification of the war also had a considerable impact on Völkisch gender ideals.
After the Great War, there was an extensive effort to redefine masculinity in Germany, and other various countries.
Ultimately, the National Socialists saw themselves as the “inheritors of the war experience.”
As a result, war became a significant factor in determining masculinity in the Third Reich.
According to the National Socialist, the soldier represented true manhood because he was not afraid to face death and was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the nation.
It was also thought that a man who survived the war knew how to truly live because he defied death, resulting in the idolization of veterans in the Third Reich.

Männerbund

The wartime camaraderie felt between men also appealed to the National Socialists.

To the regime, male bonding was considered to be the foundation of the state.
As a result, the idea of the ‘Männerbund’ (Männerbund – bond of men; it was a distinctly masculine mystique which became an essential part of SA ideology) was heavily promoted in the Third Reich.
Many of the  National Socialists’ concepts on war and masculinity were also garnered from the writings of Ernst Jünger.
For Jünger, war represented the end of the bourgeois era.
Correspondingly, much of Jüngers writings glorified that act of war and emphasised its masculine qualities.

Kameradschaft – Arno Breker

In In ‘Stahlgewittern’ (Storm of Steel), Jünger describes man as being “a compulsive sexual being who proves himself in war.”

Jünger also states that “for war, viewed from its centre…there is only one standpoint.
It is the most masculine one.”
Ernst Jünger
Therefore, combined with the glorification of the war experience, Jünger’s writing had a significant influence on Völkisch ideals regarding manhood and masculinity.
Ernst Jünger (29 March 1895 – 17 February 1998) was a German writer and philosopher. In addition to his political essays, novels and diaries, he is well known for ‘Storm of Steel’, an account of his experience during World War I.
The ontology of war depicted in Storm of Steel could be interpreted as a model for a new, hierarchically ordered society beyond democracy, beyond the security of bourgeois society and ennui.
Wappen Deutsches Reich
Weimarer Republik

National Socialist attitudes toward gender and gender roles were also affected by the Weimar Republic.

For the National Socialists, the Weimar Republic represented the cultural decay of German society.
In order to prevent further cultural decomposition, the regime rejected all things associated with the Weimar period, including the new freedoms experienced by women.

Women Munitions Workers
During the Great War, women were allowed leave the confines of the private sphere and seek employment in war-related industries.
Following the war, women achieved a number of political gains including the establishment of female suffrage during the national election in November 1918, which led to the popularization of the women’s emancipation movement.
The new political empowerment of women at the beginning of the Weimar years led to dynamic changes in their conduct and behaviour throughout the 1920s.

The Threepenny Opera
Goldene Zwanziger

During the Weimar period, women were allowed to smoke, drink, and dance provocatively in public. Women also started to use cosmetics more regularly, cut their hair into styles such as the pageboy and the bob, and adopted male clothing into their wardrobes.

Since the National Socialists believed that racial purity would solve all of Germany’s problems, they saw the ‘masculinisation’ of women as a significant threat.

1920s Fashion

Consequently, the National Socialists promoted the idea that feminism would destroy the German race and lead to the introduction of Bolshevism.

The National Socialists also denounced the women’s emancipation movement as being a construct of the Jewish intellect, furthermore, with the onset of the depression, the National Socialists endorsed the notion that in order for the nation to recover economically, the family must be stabilized, which meant that women must return to the private sphere, therefore, National Socialist ideals on the role of women in society were developed in reaction to the freedoms experienced by women during the Weimar period.

Ideology and Sexuality
Sexuality was also a significant aspect of Völkisch racial ideology.

1920s Mercedes benz
German Birth Rate

During the Weimar era, there was a considerable drop in birthrates, from 36 births per thousand inhabitants to 14.7 births per thousand.

The National Socialists attributed this decline to the extravagant lifestyles of Germans during the Weimar period, which encouraged the promotion of the individual over the collective.
For the National Socialists, the low birthrate among the German population endangered the continued survival of the Germanic Aryan race.
In order to promote a higher birthrate, the National Socialists worked to control people’s sexual behaviours.

‘Du und Ich’ – Arno Breker

Under National Socialist rule, the politicization of the body was incorporated in German societal discourses.

According the National Socialists, an individual’s body is a public site “whose purpose was to further the larger social organism.”
As a result, private human activities were given public significance.
To ensure the perseverance of the Germanic Aryan race, the National Socialists embraced conservative sexual values, which emphasised heterosexuality and chastity.
When it came to the actual act of sex, the National Socialists believed that people should approach sex with the purpose of fulfilling national goals rather than pursuing their own pleasure.
Ultimately, ‘supposedly’ immoral sexual practices, such as passive homosexuality, were blamed on the Jews.
To the National Socialists, the Jews sought “to strike the Nordic race at its most vulnerable point: sexual life.”
The National Socialists also argued that the Jews disregarded spirituality in exchange for sensuality and physical contact.
Thus, the National Socialists advocated the idea that proper sexual behaviours were devoid of Jewish influences.
Sexuality for the National Socialists also represented an area in which the regime could further consolidate its power.
For the National Socialists, regulating public discourse on acceptable sexual practices allowed the regime to be associated with sexual gratification.
By enforcing the idea that sex was a public service, the individual would then recognize their sexual satisfaction as being a part of their patriotic duty in supporting the State and its endeavours.
As a result, sex was considered to be a reward for the regime to grant to its supporters.
The National Socialists also worked to eliminate the existing taboos associated with sexuality.
They claimed that sexual taboos associated with the body were introduced into German society by the Jews, in an effort to disturb the natural order and undermine institutions such as marriage and the family.

Karl Truppe
Karl Truppe

The goal of the National Socialists was to restore notions of beauty and nobility back to the body.

In order to accomplish this task, the regime instituted specific standards about how the body, particularly the female body, should be portrayed in paintings and other artistic creations.
To the National Socialists artists were to strive to represent the purity of the body in its natural form in their work.

Karl Truppe (* February 9 1887 in Ebenthal
† February 22 1959 in Viktring ) was an Austrian painter and university professor. He portrayed among others , Emperor Charles I of Austria and Adolf Hitler.

‘Dianas Ruhe’ – Ivo Saliger

Thus many state-commissioned paintings feature psychically attractive women lying naked in the sun or in the sea, such as in ‘Dianas Ruhe’ – Ivo Saliger

Ivo Saliger was known both for his original etchings and paintings. He moved to Vienna in 1908 at the same time as Adolf Hitler but unlike Hitler he was admiited and studied painting and etching techniques at the Academy of Vienna, under some of Austria’s finest artists such as Ferdinand Schmutzer. Saliger completed his studies at the Academie Moderne, in Paris. He returned to Vienna in 1920 to assume the post of professor of art at the Academy. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Ivo Saliger developed strong Art Deco elements within his art.

Entartete Kunst 
All forms of artwork that did not fulfill the standards set in place by the Nazis were classified as ‘Entartete Kunst’ (degenerate art) because of its supposed advocacy of sexual deviance, pornography, and nakedness, therefore, by imposing their own ideals on sexuality onto society, the National Socialists presented themselves as the protectors of sexual morality and good taste.

Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the National Socialist regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art entirely.
While modern styles of art were prohibited, the Nazis promoted paintings and sculptures that were traditional in manner and that exalted the “blood and soil” values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience.

Although the National Socialist stance on sexuality appeared to be regressive and rigid, there were a number of contradictions between what the Nazis outwardly promoted and what was actually practiced.
In order to achieve their racial ambitions, the regime encouraged premarital sex and extra-marital affairs.
Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM)
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

While the National Socialists heavily advocated the idea of chastity, by 1934, members of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (Federation of German Girls) were instructed to engage in premarital relations

The Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM) or the League of German Maidens was the girl’s wing of the overall Nazi party youth movement, the Hitler Youth. It was the only female youth organization in Nazi Germany.
The League consisted of:
– Jungmädelbund ages 10 to 14
– Jungmädelbund ages 14 to 18
– Werk Glaube und Schönheit (added in 1938) ages 17 to 21

Although this directive was originally classified as “top secret,” by 1935 the population was well aware of what went on during meetings between the BDM and the Hitlerjugend (HJ) or Hitler Youth.

As a result of these illicit affairs, hospitals became overcrowded with adolescent girls, some as young as fifteen, who were pregnant.
Due to the influx of un-wed mothers during the mid to late 1930s, the National Socialists also worked to eliminate the stigma associated with single mothers and illegitimate children.
According to National Socialist Family Policy, “the National Socialist state no longer sees in the single mother the „degenerate’…It places the single mother who has given a child a life higher than the „lady,’ who has avoided having children in her marriage on egotistical grounds.”

Heinrich Himmler Reich führer SS

Moreover, during the war years, SS leader Heinrich Himmler even went as far as to endorse polygamy.

For Himmler, traditional marriages would not produce the amount of children needed to cement the future of the Germanic Aryan race.
Himmler believed that with having multiple wives, a man would be less tempted to stray because each wife would vie for his affections.
Therefore, it is evident that there was a specific duality between what the National Socialists preached and what they practiced in terms of sexuality.
This duality also existed when it came to Nazi attitudes regarding prostitution.
During the Nazi period, there was a wide-spread campaign to eliminate venereal disease (VD), which was deemed hazardous to the foundation of the state.
Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM)

In May 1933, revisions were made to the VD law, which was included in the Decree for the Protection of the Volk and State, and Clause 361 of the criminal code that allowed the Nazis to punish those “who publicly and conspicuously or in a manner likely to annoy the public incites immoral acts or offers immoral services.”

Those who were considered promiscuous or engaged in sexually deviant activities, such as prostitutes, were categorized as ‘asocial’ or people unwilling to integrate themselves into society.
The National Socialist ideology outwardly idealized chastity and moral sexual practices, but did not ban prostitution entirely.
While the National Socialist imposed heavy penalties on prostitutes who did not comply with health regulations, the regime was much more lax in enforcing laws against the establishment of brothels and red light districts.
Although health care experts argued that brothels and red light districts raised the risk of spreading VD among the population, the National Socialists condemned these reports.
Instead, the regime insisted that brothels and controlled prostitution protected public health because it ensured that soldiers were strengthened through their encounters with prostitutes because it enabled them to fight with more vigor.
Consequently, in 1936 the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht declared military brothels to be a necessity and a state run brothel system was introduced.
Enforcement
In order to indoctrinate their ideals on gender and sexuality into society, the National Socialists used a number of different methods.
One such method was the institution of laws and policies aimed towards achieving National Socialist racial ambitions.

Between the period of September to October 1935, the regime introduced several laws that effectively eliminated the freedoms associated with marriage in Germany.

Under the “Marriage Health Law,” couples who wished to be wed were forced to provide evidence that proved their hereditary fitness in order to demonstrate that their marriage would produce racially pure children.
Furthermore, during the war, military marriage regulations were instituted and brides were subjected to additional physical examinations, however, men who were qualified to serve in the military were declared fit for marriage and were not required to submit to further testing.
In 1941, the National Socialists also introduced the “Marriage Clearance Certificate,” which was specifically aimed towards women.
Since men in the military were considered ‘hereditarily fit’, this directive was enacted to prevent marriage fraud by women whose offspring would be regarded as undesirable.
Laws and policies were also set in place in an effort to rmove women from the workplace.
Under National Socialist rule, the policy against Doppelverdiener or ‘double earners’, which was first established during the Weimar period, continued to be enforced.
According to the National Socialists, married women who were employed in heavy industry limited available job opportunities for men and as a result, those unemployed men would not be able to provide for their own families.
Although women were not entirely banned from working in the industrial sector, they were encouraged to work in areas more suited to their ‘biology’, or to participate in tasks that would not distract them from their family duties, such as working in assembly lines.
The National Socialists also heavily employed propaganda in the form of images, films, and other media-based sources in an effort to instill their ideals in the German population.
Like other authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, the National Socialists understood the potential of propaganda to have a significant influence on the private lives of citizens.
In their propaganda campaign, the National Socialists idealized their ideology regarding gender and sexuality.
Mutter und Kind

In order to induce women to embrace motherhood and domestic life, propaganda materials, such as posters, often depicted women as mothers, basking in the joys of raising a family.

Women were frequently pictured breast-feeding a baby or surrounded by children in a traditional rural setting, which was meant to represent the National Socialist idea of ideal family life.
Men, on the other hand, were primarily depicted as soldiers prepared to go to war for the Fatherland, which emphasized the values of heroism and self sacrifice that the National Socialists associated with masculinity.
To symbolize the importance of family and racial purity, men with obvious Aryan characteristics were also included in pictures of the kinderreich family looking happy and healthy.
The National Socialists also published various kinds of propaganda literature in order to further indoctrinate the population.
Specialized women’s magazines that informed the reader about the joys of motherhood, gave marriage advice, and offered tips on how to manage the household were widely circulated.

Bauernfamilie
Adolf Wissel

These magazines also included articles geared towards men, such as “The Happy SS Father.”

The National Socialists also distributed pamphlets, created traveling art exhibits, and made radio broadcasts and public speeches to further promote their ideology on gender and sexuality, therefore, one can see that the National Socialists employed a number of different mediums as tools in their propaganda efforts.

Adolf Wissel (19 April 1894 – 17 November 1973) was a German painter.
Wissel, who was born in Velber, was a painter in the genre of  Völkisch Folk Art, the idea being that these paintings should show the simple, natural life of a farming family. The phrase ‘union with the soil’ best describes the subject of his art. Wissel idealised farming life for predominantly urban viewers. Exhibitions of paintings of this genre were meant to show the peasants and working class that they were just as good as the wealthy, and that they too deserved a pleasant life. These paintings were part of the Third Reich ‘Blut und Boden’ (Blood and Soil) campaign, designed to associate the ideas of health, family and motherhood with the country.
‘Blut und Boden’ refers to an ideology that focuses on ethnicity based on two factors, descent (blood) from the volk, and homeland/Heimat (Boeden). It celebrates the relationship of a people to the land they occupy and cultivate, and it places a high value on the virtues of rural living.
Wissel painted many pictures such as these, but his work contains subtle distortions and accentuations influenced by expressionism. He died in Velber in 1973.

The National Socialists also worked to indoctrinate German citizens through the use of educational programs.
According to Adolf Hitler, the goal of education was to teach girls and boys about becoming mothers and leaders.
As a result, the National Socialists established the HJ and BDM as institutions in which young Germans could be instructed on Völkisch ideology and molded into proper citizens of the Volksgemeinschaft.
In both organizations, girls and boys were instructed on their obligations to the Volk, and taught about health and racial purity, moreover, in the HJ and BDM, physical activity was emphasized with boys and girls being trained to endure a certain amount of physical activity.
Thus, members of the HJ and BDM were strictly disciplined into complying with organizational principles and National Socialist standards.
Educational programs were also directed towards adults, especially women.
Through the establishment of the NS-Frauenschaft, a Völkisch women’s organization, a “Mother Schooling Program” was introduced.

Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft
Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink
Reichsfrauenführerin
Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft

The Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft, abbreviated “NS-Frauenschaft” (National Socialist Women’s League) was the women’s wing of the NSDAP. It was founded in October 1931 as a fusion of several nationalist and National Socialist women’s associations.
The Frauenschaft was subordinated to the national party leadership (Reichsleitung); girls and young women were the purview of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM). From February 1934 to the end of World War II in 1945, the NS-Frauenschaft was led by Reich’s Women’s Leader (Reichsfrauenführerin) Gertrud Scholtz-Klink (1902–1999). It put out a biweekly magazine, the NS-Frauen-Warte.
Its activities included instruction in the use of German-manufactured products, such as butter and rayon, in place of imported ones, as part of the self-sufficiency program, and classes for brides and schoolgirls. During wartime, it also provided refreshments at train stations, collected scrap metal and other materials, ran cookery and other classes, and allocated the domestics conscripted in the east to large families. Propaganda organizations depended on it as the primary spreader of propaganda to women.
The NS-Frauenschaft reached a total membership of 2 million by 1938, the equivalent of 40% of total party membership.
The German National Socialist Women’s League Children’s Group was known as “Kinderschar”.

NS-Frauen-Warte

In enrolling in this program, women over the age eighteen were taught about their duties as a wife and mother, as well as instructed on how to properly care for their home and family.

By the end of 1936, over 150 schools were instituted, which eventually rose to 270, with 673 000 women attending.
The Reichsfrauenführung (National Women’s Leadership) also developed a new a branch within the Deutsche Frauenwerk (German Women’s Work) that worked to educate women about the regime’s autarky program.
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic systems. The latter are called closed economies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance or international trade. Autarky is not necessarily economic. Autarky can be said to be the policy of a state or other entity when it seeks to be self-sufficient as a whole.
In lectures hosted by this new department, National Economics/Home Economics (Vw/Hw), women were instructed on purchasing products that would contribute to the national good, such as refraining from buying goods from Jewish shops.
Women were also told to purchase only locally grown produce, such as apples, instead of imported fruits, as well as encouraged to recycle old clothes and household products.
Thus, it is evident that educational programs were an important source for imposing
Völkisch ideals onto the German population.
Impact
Adolf Hitler and Child

Völkisch ideology regarding gender and sexuality had a number of effects on the German population. Although the National Socialists considered the family the foundation of the nation, Völkisch attitudes towards gender and sexuality worked in some ways to undermine the family unit.

Ultimately, the emphasis placed on fulfilling a triumphant form of masculinity created tension between men and their families.
More specifically, there was, in some cases, a distinct rivalry between all-male party organizations and family life.
In joining such organizations as the S.A. or Sturmabteilung, men often faced the dilemma of living up to Völkisch ideals, associated with masculinity, and also honoring their obligation to establish a family and father racially pure children.
For members of the S.A., a man’s loyalty belonged to the state and as a result, there was little concern for the family.
It was also commonly understood that a man’s purpose in life was to serve the state.
Thus, a man could not be contained within the confines of the home.
This rivalry between the state and the family was represented in the film ‘Kolberg’ (1945), in which a German officer forsakes the love of an idealistic woman because he prefers the masculine world of fighting for the Fatherland over settling down and starting a family.
Youth organizations also worked to undermine the institution of the family in the Third Reich.
While the HJ and the BDM were established with the intention of supporting the family unit, many youths saw these groups as a means to gain a degree of independence outside of their families and contribute to the adult world.
Children were subjected to strong parental discipline and scrutiny, with boys and girls often feeling intimidated by their fathers.
As a result, some children joined these organizations as an act of rebellion against their parent’s authority.
The youth leagues in the Third Reich also worked against the institution of the family in that members were used as informants.
In joining the HJ and the BDM, inductees were made to swear an oath of allegiance to the Führer.
Also, in these organizations, members were expected to accept Völkisch ideology and their obligations to the Volksgemeinschaft (national community) unquestionably.
When conflicts arose between family demands and Völkisch ideals, children involved in the HJ and the BDM were instructed to take actions against their parents and notify officials.
By indoctrinating the youth, the National Socialists stripped parents of qualities that garnered respect from their children.
National Socialist laws and policies regarding gender and sexuality also had a considerable impact on the German population.
As an incentive to promote more marriages between ‘hereditarily fit’ partners, the National Socialists established the Law for the Reduction of Unemployment in June 1933 which allowed couples to apply for interest-free loans of up to RM 1000.
In order to acquire a marriage loan, however, the women would have to give up paid employment. 
Therefore, this law was instituted with the hopes that it would remove women from the public sphere and increase available job opportunities for men.
The National Socialists believed that the establishment of marriage loans would reduce the male marriage age and decrease a man’s need to engage in illicit sexual activities, such as prostitution.
Also, the National Socialists introduced a number of changes to the existing divorce laws in Germany. 
One such change was dissolving marriages based on infertility or the refusal of a spouse to procreate. 
According to the National Socialists  marriages that did not produce racially pure children were useless to the national community.
If no children could be produced either by circumstance or by choice, a wife or husband had legitimate grounds to divorce their partner.
While the new divorce laws were not meant to be biased towards a particular sex, men were more successful in incorporating National Socialist ideals into their complaints.
As a result, men were frequently granted divorces against their reluctant spouses.
Furthermore, Germans who failed to marry or remained childless faced various penalties.
Un-wed or childless women were pitied in public and in private, as well as subjected to public stigmatization for working against the nation.
Unmarried men and childless couples who ‘refused to multiply’ (Fortpflanzungsverweigerung), however, were required to pay additional taxes that amounted to ten percent of their income as punishment, therefore, laws and policies concerning gender and sexuality further enforced Völkisch ideals on acceptable gender roles, sexual practices, and racial purity.
Since gender and sexuality was a significant aspect of the National Socialist population policy, it is also pertinent to discuss the different ways in which the German population was affected by Völkisch attitudes concerning racial hygiene.
According to the National Socialists controlling people’s reproductive capacities would allow for the growth of a healthier and productive nation due to the purity of population.
Consequently, the National Socialists introduced the Law of for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in July 1933.
Under the jurisdiction of this law, those who were suffering from a ‘hereditary disease’, such as ‘congenital feeble-mindedness’, ‘chronic schizophrenia’, and ‘chronic manic depression’, were subject to compulsory sterilization.
Between the period of January 1934, when the law was officially implemented, and September 1939, approximately 320 000 Germans (0.5 percent of the population) were sterilized.
While compulsory sterilization applied to both of the sexes, more than two-thirds of people who were sterilized were women.
Völkisch  ideals concerning gender and sexuality also had a considerable effect on women in the Third Reich.
Although the National Socialist state was in many ways anti-feminist, they did provide welfare programs for mothers and their children.
Mothers, especially those who were unmarried, could apply for state welfare, although the assistance that was given to them was not in the form of financial aid.
Instead, the National Socialists supplied mothers with materials such as beds, linens, and children’s clothes.
Furthermore, women who were pregnant were visited by health care officials, such as nurses, and examined regularly in order to ensure that they did not miscarry. 
Despite the support provided by the state for mothers, a number of women still succumbed to the pressures of living up to the Nazi ideal.
Under the Nazi regime, recuperation centers were established for mothers who wished to leave their families for an extended period of time.
While women who attended these facilities were said to be on vacation, it is clear that many women were sent to recuperation centers because of their inability to fulfill all of their motherly duties.
As a result, these centers had a strong educational foundation in which women were instructed about their obligations to their families and the Volk community.
When these women returned to their families, it was thought they would have a renewed strength of spirit and a better understanding about their roles as wives and mothers.
Homosexuality
National Socialists ideology on gender and sexuality also resulted in considerable consequences for homosexual individuals.
‘Homosexuell Kultur’ was a relatively new phenomena in Germany and Austria in the 1930s.
It was only with the growth of industrialized cities in the 1800 that large numbers of men, some of who would now be described as homosexual, began to gather in the large conurbations.
It is these facts that explain the first known appearance of the term homosexual in print, found in a 1869 German pamphlet ‘143 des Preussischen Strafgesetzbuchs und seine Aufrechterhaltung als 152 des Entwurfs eines Strafgesetzbuchs für den Norddeutschen Bund’ (“Paragraph 143 of the Prussian Penal Code and Its Maintenance as Paragraph 152 of the Draft of a Penal Code for the North German Confederation”).
The pamphlet was written by Karl-Maria Kertbeny, but published anonymously.

Karl-Maria Kertbeny

Karl-Maria Kertbeny or Károly Mária Kertbeny (born Karl-Maria Benkert) (Vienna, February 28, 1824 – Budapest, January 23, 1882) was an Austrian-born Hungarian journalist, memoirist, and human rights campaigner. He is best known for coining the words heterosexual and homosexual.
The Benkert family moved to Budapest when he was a child — he was equally at home in Austria, Germany and Hungary. He translated Hungarian poets’ and writers’ works into German, e.g., those of Sándor Petőfi, János Arany and Mór Jókai. Among his acquaintances were Heinrich Heine, George Sand, Alfred de Musset, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.

The pamphlet advocated the repeal of Prussia’s sodomy laws.
Kertbeny had previously used the word in a private letter written in 1868 to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs.
Kertbeny used Homosexualität (in English, “homosexuality”) in place of Ulrichs’ ‘Urningtum’; Homosexualisten (“male homosexualists”) instead of ‘Urninge’, and Homosexualistinnen (“female homosexualists”) instead of ‘Urninden’.
Uranian is a 19th-century term that referred to a person of a supposedly third sex – originally, someone with “a passive female psyche in a male body” who is sexually attracted to men. (This definition is important to subsequent developments in Völkisch attitudes towards homosexuality). The German word Urning, which was first published by activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825–95) in a series of five booklets (1864–65) which were collected under the title ‘Forschungen über das Räthsel der mannmännlichen Liebe’ (“Research into the Riddle of Man-Male Love”). Ulrich developed his terminology before the first public use of the term “homosexual”, which appeared in 1869 in a pamphlet published anonymously by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824–82 – see above).
The word Uranian (Urning) was derived by Ulrichs from the greek godness Aphrodite Urania, who was created by Uranus out of his own body parts.

Even among the most revered German cultural idols support for ‘Hellenistic’ attitude towards male sexuality could be found.

Richard Wagner
An example is a section in Richard Wagner’s ‘Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft’ (The Art-work of the Future), where he comments on the love of comrades in Sparta:
This beauteous naked man is the kernel of all Spartanhood; from genuine delight in the beauty of the most perfect human body – that of the male – arose that spirit of comradeship which pervades and shapes the whole economy of the Spartan State. This love of man to man, in its primitive purity, proclaims itself as the noblest and least selfish utterance of man’s sense of beauty, for it teaches man to sink and merge his entire self in the object of his affection. . . . The higher element of that love of man to man . . . not only included a purely spiritual bond of friendship, but this spiritual friendship was the blossom and the crown of the physical friendship. The latter sprang directly from delight in the beauty, aye in the material bodily beauty of the beloved comrade.
And it should be remembered, of course, that Wagner was Hitler’s favourite composer, and the source of much of his Weltanschauung.
Wandervogel
Hans Blüher (1888-1955)

One of the most significant influences on the development of homoeroticism in Völkisch thinking was Hans Blüher (1888-1955).

Bluher was born in Freiburg in Schlesien in 17 February 1888. 
He was the first person to write a history of the ‘Wandervogel’ – the contemporary German youth movement.

Nackt Wandervogel Jungs

His history was published as a series of three pamphlets, the third of which was called ‘Die Deutsche Wandervogelbewegung Als Erotisches Phanomen’ (‘The German Wandervogel as an Erotic Phenomena’ – 1912).

In 1913 he set up the ‘Jung Wandervogel’ with Wilhelm Jansen, which, unlike most of the rest of the Wandervogel, was male-only.
In 1917 he wrote the first volume of his most important book, outlining his ‘masculinist’ theory in ‘Die Rolle Der Erotik In Der Mannlichen Gesellschaft: Eine Theorie der Menschlichen Staatsbildung’ The Role of the Erotic in Men’s Society: A Theory of Human State Education), followed two years later with the second volume.
As Bluher said at the time, “Before this book the idea of basing man’s existence in the State on Eros has never been coherently pursued”.
Bluher is generally thought of as within the ‘masculinist’, or ‘men’s movement’ tradition of thought.

Though largely neglected by historians, Blueher was enormously important to national Socialist Kulture. Blueher was adopted by the NSDAP as an apostle of social reform, and one of his disciples, Professor Alfred Bauemler became Director of the Political Institute at the University of Berlin.

‘Ordensburgen’
Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Blueher’s teaching was systematically inculcated by the National Socialist Press, especially Himmler’s official organ, ‘Das Schwarze Korps’, and was adopted in practice as the basis of German social organization.
The National Socialist élite were brought up in segregated male communities called ‘Ordensburgen’. These are to replaced the family as the groundwork on which the state was to rest
The all-male societies of these ‘Ordensburgen’ (Order Castles) were fashioned after the Wandervoegel.

In Germany at the turn of the last century, there were three main groupings within the men’s movement: 
Firstly, the intellectual tradition derived from Otto Weininger and the teaching tradition from Dr. Gustav Wyneken, which Bluher was to revolutionize.

Der Eigene

Second, the ‘Gemeinschaft der Eigenen’, founded officially by Adolf Brand in 1902 and which published its own magazine, ‘Der Eigene’, from 1899-1931.

Brand and ‘Der Eigene’ championed the anarchism of Max Stirner, as well as Bluher’s theories about the decisive role of the ‘Mannerbund’ – ancient warrior-band – in the creation of the State.
Of course, no-one ever argued that these ‘Mannerbund’ were exclusively homosexual, but rather that homosexuality was not the moral issue it had become with the arrival of Judeo-Christianity.
Wilhelm Jansen, who co-founded the Gemeinschaft with Brand, was introduced to the Wandervogel by Bluher, where he later became an important leader.
The Wandervogel and the Völkisch movement were intimately associated with a movement called Lebensreform.

Fruehlingssturm
 Ludwig von Hofmann  – 1894

Lebensreform (“life reform”) was a social movement in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany and Austria that propagated a back-to-nature lifestyle, emphasizing among others health food/raw food/organic food, nudismsexual liberation, alternative medicine, and at the same time abstention from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and vaccines

Gusto Graeser

A significant member of the movement was Gusto Graeser, thinker and poet, who greatly influenced the German Youth Movement and such writers as Hermann Hesse and Gerhart Hauptmann.
Other groups which were inspired by völkisch Romanticism gradually became part of National Socialist ‘Blut und Boden’  ideology by the 1930s.

Freikörperkultur

One of the most influential aspects of Lebensreform was Freikörperkultur or Nacktkultur (Nudism), and as early as 1907, Richard Ungewitter published a pamphlet called ‘Nacktheit und Kultur’ (Nudity and Culture) (which sold 100,000 copies), arguing that the practices he recommended would be “the means by which the German race would regenerate itself and ultimately prevail over its neighbours and the Jews, who were intent on injecting putrefying agents into the nation’s blood and soil“.
The Nationalist physician Artur Fedor Fuchs began the ‘League for Free Body Culture’ (FKK), giving public lectures on the healing powers of the sun in the “Nordic sky”, which “alone strengthened and healed the warrior nation“.

Han Sùren

Ancient forest living, and habits presumed to have been followed by the ancient tribes of Germany, were beneficial to regenerating the Aryan people, according to Fuchs’ philosophy.
Han Sùren, a prominent former military officer, published ‘Der Mensch und Die Sonne’ (Man and the Sun) (1924), which sold 240,000 copies; by 1941 it was reissued in 68 editions.
Sùren promoted the Aryan ‘master race’ concept of physically strong, militarized men who would be the “salvation” of the German people.

Hermann Göring

Nudism was often associated with homosexuality, and this may have been the reason while it was initially banned by Hermann Göring in 1933.
Subsequently this ban was lifted, and Freikörperkultur and Nacktkultur was supported by Heinrich Himmler and the SS (who also controlled many aspects of Hitler-Jugend and the Napolas – Heinrich Himmler, second in power only to Hitler, was publicly opposed to homosexuality, but was probably a closet homosexual himself, and served Roehm – a known homosexual – faithfully and loyally until Roehm fell out of Hitler’s favor).
Hitler himself, while never, as far as is known, espousing nudism, had an ambivalent attitude towards homosexuality and homo-eroticism.
There is some evidence that the Vienna Police Authorities had records that indicated that Hitler may have been known as an active homosexual in his youth – and there are many aspect of his relationship with August Kubizek which indicate that the relationship between the two youths homoerotic and possibility homosexual.
Hitler was a dandy in his teens and had a dandified best friend (Kubizek).
Hitler wrote a petulant, jealous letter to Kubizek, in which Hitler wrote to his friend about how much it upset him to see Kubizek  talking to others.

Emile Maurice
Ernst Schmidt (Schmidl)

In addition most of Hitler’s longer-term relationships – with Reinhold Hanisch, Rudolf Hausler, Ernst Schmidt (Schmidl), Emil Maurice and Rudolf Heß – were homosexual ‘love affairs’, and that as a youth Hitler was known as “Der Schoen Adolf” (“the handsome Adolf”).
Germany, of course, was the birthplace of homosexual movements, well prior to the rise of the National Socialism, and there were a number of homosexual activists and movements in Germany at the beginning of the new century, most notably “Hellenic revival” movements that regarded super-masculinity combined with pederasty to be an  ideal.

Ancient Greek Pederasty
Thomas Mann and the Staufenberg Boys 

Pederasty is a homosexual or homoerotic relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek (paiderastia) “love of boys”, a compound derived from παῖς (pais) “child, boy” and ἐραστής (erastēs) “lover”.
Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and practices within different cultures. The status of pederasty has changed over the course of history, at times considered an ideal and at other times a crime. In the history of Europe, its most structured cultural manifestation was Athenian pederasty, and became most prominent in the 6th century BC. Greek pederasty’s various forms were the subject of philosophic debates in which the carnal type was unfavorably compared with erotic yet spiritual and moderate forms.

Probably the most significant poet of the Weimar period was Stefan George.


Stefan George
George was born in Bingen in Prussia in 1868.
He spent time in Paris and began to publish poetry in the 1890s, while in his twenties. George founded and edited an important literary magazine called ‘Blätter für die Kunst’ (Magazine for the Arts).

Stefan George was also at the centre of an influential literary and academic circle known as the ‘George-Kreis’ (George Circle), which included many of the leading young writers of the day, (for example Friedrich Gundolf and Ludwig Klages).
In addition to sharing cultural interests, the circle reflected mystical and political themes.
Stefan George was a homosexual, yet exhorted his young friends to lead a celibate life, like his own.
In 1914 at the start of the war he foretold a sad end for Germany, and between then and 1916 wrote the pessimistic poem ‘Der Krieg’ (The War).
He died near Locarno in 1933.
George believed in the renewal of culture through the power of youth and beauty.
The strength of George’s belief in this cult of beauty is reflected not only in many of his later, quite monumental works, such as ‘Der Stern des Bündes’, and the prophetically titled ‘Das neue Reich’, but in the decisive `Maximin-Erlebnis,’ which provided the poet with inspiration and material for much of his later poetry.

Maximilian Kronberger

Some of his most significant work includes ‘Algabal’, and the love poetry he devoted to a gifted adolescent of his acquaintance named Maximilian Kronberger, whom he called “Maximin”, and whom he identified as a manifestation of the divine.-


Maximilian Kronberger, known familiarly as Maximin (April 15, 1888 — April 16, 1904), was a German poet and a significant figure in the literary circle of Stefan George (the so‑called George‑Kreis).

In 1903 George, during one of his frequent stays in Munich, became acquainted with the 15-year old Maximilian Kronberger: after encountering him on the street several times, George simply approached the young boy and introduced himself. Maximilian became George’s close friend and companion over the next year, and was admired by many members of the George-Kreis not only for his youth and beauty, but for his poetic talent as well. Indeed, George saw in Maximilian such perfection that he considered the boy to be an incarnation of the godhead, and worthy of absolute devotion. In 1904, Maximilian died of meningitis, an event which shattered George’s stability and drove him to the brink of suicide. Soon afterwards, however, a new focus for George’s work emerged: the series of Maximin-Gedichte center on George’s belief in the transcendence of Maximin’s earthy life – his idealized figure becomes for George the Stern des Bündes, “one of the new awakened spirits who would one day form the new kingdom on earth.”

He was idealized by George to the point of proclaiming him a god, following his death… the cult of ‘Maximin’ became an integral part of the George circle’s practice.

Albert Speer

George thought of himself as a messiah of a new kingdom that would be led by intellectual or artistic elites, bonded by their faithfulness to a strong leader.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer claims to have seen George in the early 1920s and that his elder brother, Hermann, was a member of his inner circle: George “radiated dignity and pride and a kind of priestliness… there was something magnetic about him.”
George’s late works include ‘Geheimes Deutschland’ (“Secret Germany”) written in 1922, and ‘Das neue Reich’ (The New Empire), which was published in 1928, which outlines a new form of society ruled by hierarchical spiritual aristocracy.


Claus von Stauffenberg

‘Das neue Reich’ (1928) is the title of the last published collection of poems by Stefan George .
Compared to previous works his these poems are less coherent in form and content, and its architecture looser. In addition to the role as time judge, George becomes the prophetic herald new values.
 Increasingly, Plato , and especially Friedrich Hölderlin become important influences..
The appreciation of irrational forces, and the ambiguous reference to the historical situation, led to George,   to be seen as an ideological precursor of the Third Reich.
These poems have always been associated with the brothers Berthold and Claus von Stauffenberg, Members of  George’s ‘circle’, and it was Claus von Stauffenberg’s disillusionment with the development of the Third Reich that led him to make an attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler.

Stefan George
and the Stauffenberg brothers

His poetry emphasized ‘self-sacrifice’, ‘heroism’ and ‘power’, and he thus gained popularity in National Socialist circles.
Along with the National Socialists, Stefan George had the ambition to revive a ‘Secret Germany’ that would sweep away the materialism of the Weimar Republic, and restore German life to its true spirituality.
Although many National Socialists claimed George as an important influence, George himself was aloof from such associations and did not get involved in politics. Although George was never a member of the NSDAP, his later works paved the way for the acceptance of National Socialist philosophy in upper class, intellectual circles, and his works were approved of by the hierarchy of the Third Reich, despite their obvious homoeroticism.

Not surprisingly, the core principles of the Völkisch movement were capable of arousing homoerotic tendencies, and many homosexual men were attracted to National Socialism because it emphasized virility, strength, and comradeship to forge a strong national polity.

The NSDAP actually began in what would now be termed a gay bar in Munich, and Ernst Roehm, Hitler’s right hand in the early days, was well-known for his taste in young boys.
William Shirer says in his definitive “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” not only that Roehm was “important in the rise of Hitler,” but also “like so many of the early National Socialists, he was a homosexual.”
Mannerbünd

The extreme masculinity of the Third Reich was based on the philosophical concept of the ‘Mannerbünd‘ (see above), a male-dominated elite united by devotion to a shared goal.

It is important to note, however, that for the National Socialists it was only men who engaged in passive homosexual activities who were considered to be ‘degenerate’, and ‘unhealthy‘.
As a result, such homosexuals were excluded from the Volksgemeinschaft because they could not fulfill their obligation to the nation by reproducing.
The National Socialists also believed that effeminate homosexual men were the antithesis of the masculine ideal because they lacked character and mental strength.
Passive homosexual men were also thought to be soft, effeminate, and unable to express the heroic and self-sacrificing qualities valued by the National Socialists.
People who were denounced as passive homosexuals often lost their jobs, homes and friends.
It was, however, not the goal of the National Socialists to eliminate homosexuals all together.
Primarily, the National Socialists promoted the idea that masculinity was determined by a man’s ability to express heroic and self-sacrificing qualities rather than his sexuality.
On the other hand, a woman’s femininity was defined by her embracing her maternal instincts and becoming a mother.
Völkisch attitudes towards sexuality were also conservative in nature, although there were numerous contradictions between Völkisch sexual ideals and what the regime actually practiced.
In order to enforce their gender and sexual values in the population, the National Socialists engaged a number of methods, including the institution of various laws and policies and the employment of propaganda.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


Martin Heidegger

   

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

MARTIN HEIDEGGER


Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the “question of Being”.

His best known book, Sein und Zeit’ – (Being and Time), is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.
In it and later works, Heidegger maintained that our way of questioning defines our nature.
It is argued that philosophy, Western Civilization’s chief way of questioning, had lost sight of the being it sought, in the process of philosophising.
Finding ourselves “always already” fallen in a world of presuppositions, we lose touch with what being was before its truth became “muddled“.
As a solution to this condition, Heidegger advocated a return to the practical being in the world, allowing it to reveal, or “unconceal” itself as concealment.
Writing extensively on Nietzsche in his later career, and offering a “phenomenological critique of Kant” in his ‘Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik’ – (Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics), Heidegger is known for his post-Kantian philosophy.
Heidegger’s influence has been far reaching, from philosophy to theology, deconstructionism, cultural anthropology, literary theory, architecture, and artificial intelligence.
Heidegger is a controversial figure, largely for his affiliation with the NSDAP, for which he neither apologized nor expressed regret.
The controversy raises general questions about the relation between Heidegger’s thought and his connection to National Socialism.

Overview

Heidegger claimed that Western philosophy since Plato has misunderstood what it means for something “to be“, tending to approach this question in terms of a being, rather than asking about Being itself.
In other words, Heidegger believed all investigations of being have historically focused on particular entities and their properties, or have treated Being itself as an entity, or substance, with properties.
A more authentic analysis of Being would, for Heidegger, investigate “that on the basis of which beings are already understood,” or that which underlies all particular entities and allows them to show up as entities in the first place (see world disclosure).
But since philosophers and scientists have overlooked the more basic, pre-theoretical ways of being from which their theories derive, and since they have incorrectly applied those theories universally, they have confused our understanding of being and human existence.
To avoid these deep-rooted misconceptions, Heidegger believed philosophical inquiry must be conducted in a new way, through a process of retracing the steps of the history of philosophy.
Heidegger argued that this misunderstanding, beginning with Plato, has left its traces in every stage of Western thought.
All that we understand, from the way we speak to our notions of “common sense“, is susceptible to error, to fundamental mistakes about the nature of being.
These mistakes filter into the terms through which being is articulated in the history of philosophy—such as reality, logic, God, consciousness, and presence.
In his later philosophy, Heidegger argues that this profoundly affects the way in which human beings relate to modern technology.
His writing is ‘notoriously difficult’, possibly because his thinking was ‘original‘ and clearly on obscure and innovative topics.
Heidegger accepted this charge, stating ‘Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy’, and suggesting that intelligibility is what he is critically trying to examine.
Heidegger’s work has strongly influenced philosophy, aesthetics of literature, and the humanities.
Within philosophy it played a crucial role in the development of existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, postmodernism, and continental philosophy in general. 
Heidegger and National Socialism

Heidegger joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1933, ten days after being elected Rector of the University of Freiburg. 
His involvement with National Socialism and the relation between his philosophy and National Socialism are still highly controversial, especially because he never apologized nor expressed regret.
Heidegger’s inaugural address as rector of Freiburg, the “Rektoratsrede“, was entitled “The Self-Assertion of the German University“.
This speech displayed the visible endorsement of National Socialism by Heidegger, giving the blessing of his philosophy to the new political party.
In this speech Heidegger linked the concept of “science” with a historical struggle of the German people:
The will to the essence of the German university is the will to science as will to the historical spiritual mission of the German people as a people [Volk] that knows itself in its state [Staat].
‘Together, science and German destiny must come to power in the will to essence.
And they will do so and only will do so, if we – teachers and students – on the one hand, expose science to its innermost necessity and, on the other hand, are able to stand our ground while German destiny is in its most extreme distress.’
Heidegger also linked the concept of a people with ‘Blut und Boden’ – (blood and soil).

The spiritual world of a people is not the superstructure of a culture any more than it is an armory filled with useful information and values; it is the power that most deeply preserves the people’s earth- and blood-bound strengths as the power that most deeply arouses and most profoundly shakes the people’s existence.
The rectorate speech ended with a call for the German people to “will itself” and “fulfill its historical mission“:
‘But no one will even ask us whether we do or do not will, when the spiritual strength of the West fails and its joints crack, when this moribund semblance of a culture caves in and drags all forces into confusion and lets them suffocate in madness.
Whether this will or will not happen depends solely on whether we, as a historical-spiritual people, still and once again will ourselves – or whether we no longer will ourselves. Each individual participates in this decision even when, and especially when, he evades it.
But we do will that our people fulfill its historical mission.’

Speech to Heidelberg Student Association – June 1933

‘We have the new Reich and the university that is to receive its tasks from the Reich’s will to existence.
A fierce battle must be fought against this situation in the National Socialist spirit, and this spirit cannot be allowed to be suffocated by humanizing, Christian ideas that suppress its un-conditionality.
Danger comes not from work for the State.
It comes only from indifference and resistance.
For that reason, only true strength should have access to the right path, but not halfheartedness.
The new teaching which is at issue here does not mean conveying knowledge, but allowing students to learn and inducing them to learn.
This means allowing oneself to be beset by the unknown and then becoming master of it in comprehending knowing; it means becoming secure in one’s sense of what is essential.
It is from such teaching that true research emerges, interlocked with the whole through its rootedness in the people (Volk) and its bond to the state. 
The student is forced out into the uncertainty of all things, in which the necessity of engagement is grounded.
University study must again become a risk, not a refuge for the cowardly.
Whoever does not survive the battle, lies where he falls.
The new courage must accustom itself to steadfastness, for the battle for the institutions where our leaders are educated will continue for a long time.
It will be fought out of the strengths of the new Reich that Chancellor Hitler will bring to reality.
A hard race with no thought of self must fight this battle, a race that lives from constant testing and that remains directed toward the goal to which it has committed itself. It is a battle to determine who shall be the teachers and leaders at the university.’

Heidegger supported the “necessity of a Führer” for Germany as early as 1918.
In a number of speeches in November 1933 Heidegger endorses the Führerprinzip (“leader principle”), i.e. the principle that the Führer is the embodiment of the people.
For example, in one speech Heidegger stated :
Let not propositions and ‘ideas’ be the rules of your being (Sein). The Führer alone is the present and future German reality and its law. Learn to know ever more deeply: that from now on every single thing demands decision, and every action responsibility.’
In another speech a few days later Heidegger said:

There is only one will to the full existence (Dasein) of the State. The Führer has awakened this will in the entire people and has welded it into a single resolve.

In late November Heidegger gave a conference at the University of Tübingen, organized by the students of the university and the ‘Kampfbund’, an NSDAP organisation.
In this address he argued for a revolution in knowledge.

We have witnessed a revolution. The state has transformed itself.
This revolution was not the advent of a power pre-existing in the bosom of the state or of a political party. The national-socialist revolution means rather the radical transformation of German existence.
However, in the university, not only has the revolution not yet achieved its aims, it has not even started.

Biography

Early Years

Geburtshaus – Martin Heidegger
Stadtwappen Meßkirch

Heidegger was born in rural Meßkirch, Germany.
Raised a Roman Catholic, he was the son of the sexton of the village church, Friedrich Heidegger, and his wife Johanna, née Kempf.
In their faith, his parents adhered to the First Vatican Council of 1870, which was observed mainly by the poorer class of Meßkirch.
The religious controversy between the wealthy Altkatholiken (Old Catholics) and the working class led to the temporary use of a converted barn for the Roman Catholics.
At the festive reunion of the congregation in 1895, the Old Catholic sexton handed the key to six-year-old Martin.

Meßkirch – Deutschland

Heidegger’s family could not afford to send him to university, so he entered a Jesuit seminary, though he was turned away within weeks because of the health requirement and what the director and doctor of the seminary described as a psychosomatic heart condition.
As a young man Heidegger became involved in an extreme right wing occult group (superficially Catholic) led by Richard Kralik Ritter von Meyrswalden, and called der Gral Bund.

Richard Kralik

Richard Kralik attended the elementary and high school of the University of Linz.
In addition to studying law, he devoted himself to philosophy and ancient oriental languages.
In addition, he pursued the study of art and music, and literature.
After studying in Vienna, he also studied at several universities in Germany.
Around 1905 he established the Gral Bund – a neo-romantic, occult group.
Heidegger was inspired by Kralik and this occult romanticism continued to affect his philosophy for the remainder of his life.
After studying theology at the University of Freiburg from 1909 to 1911, he switched to philosophy, in part again because of his heart condition.
Heidegger completed his doctoral thesis on psychologism in 1914 influenced by Neo-Thomism and Neo-Kantianism, and in 1916 finished his venia legendi with a thesis on Duns Scotus influenced by Heinrich Rickert and Edmund Husserl.
In the two years following, he worked first as an unsalaried Privatdozent, then served as a soldier during the final year of World War I, working behind a desk and never leaving Germany.
After the war, he served as a salaried senior assistant to Edmund Husserl at the University of Freiburg in the Black Forest from 1919 until 1923.

Marburg

In 1923, Heidegger was elected to an extraordinary Professorship in Philosophy at the University of Marburg.
His colleagues there included Rudolf Bultmann, Nicolai Hartmann, and Paul Natorp. Heidegger’s students at Marburg included Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Gerhard Krüger, Leo Strauss, Jacob Klein, Gunther (Stern) Anders, and Hans Jonas. Through a confrontation with Aristotle he began to develop in his lectures the main theme of his philosophy: the question of the sense of being.
He extended the concept of subject to the dimension of history and concrete existence, which he found prefigured in such Christian thinkers as Saint Paul, Augustine of Hippo, Luther, and Kierkegaard.
He also read the works of Dilthey, Husserl, and Max Scheler.

Freiburg

In 1927, Heidegger published his main work ‘Sein und Zeit’ (Being and Time).
When Husserl retired as Professor of Philosophy in 1928, Heidegger accepted Freiburg’s election to be his successor, in spite of a counter-offer by Marburg.
Heidegger remained at Freiburg im Breisgau for the rest of his life, declining a number of later offers, including one from Humboldt University of Berlin.
His students at Freiburg included Hannah Arendt, Günther Anders, Hans Jonas, Karl Löwith, Charles Malik, Herbert Marcuse, and Ernst Nolte.
Heidegger was elected rector of the University on April 21, 1933, and joined the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party on May 1 (see above).
In his inaugural address as rector on May 27 he expressed his support to a German revolution, and in an article and a speech to the students from the same year he supported Adolf Hitler.
Heidegger resigned the rectorate in April 1934, but remained a member of the NSDAP until 1945.
Heidegger died on May 26, 1976, and was buried in the Meßkirch cemetery, beside his parents and brother.

Philosophy

Being, Time, and Dasein

Heidegger’s philosophy is founded on the attempt to conjoin what he considers two fundamental insights: the first is his observation that, in the course of over 2,000 years of history, philosophy has attended to all the beings that can be found in the world (including the “world” itself), but has forgotten to ask what “Being” itself is.
This is Heidegger’s “question of Being,” and it is Heidegger’s fundamental concern throughout his work.
One crucial source of this insight was Heidegger’s reading of Franz Brentano’s treatise on Aristotle’s manifold uses of the word “being,” a work which provoked Heidegger to ask what kind of unity underlies this multiplicity of uses.
Heidegger opens his magnum opus, ‘Being and Time’, with a citation from Plato’s Sophist indicating that Western philosophy has neglected “Being” because it was considered obvious, rather than as worthy of question.
Heidegger’s intuition about the question of Being is thus a historical argument, which in his later work becomes his concern with the “history of Being,” that is, the history of the forgetting of Being, which according to Heidegger requires that philosophy retrace its footsteps through a productive “destruction” of the history of philosophy.
The second intuition animating Heidegger’s philosophy derives from the influence of Edmund Husserl, a philosopher largely uninterested in questions of philosophical history. Rather, Husserl argued that all that philosophy could and should be is a description of experience (hence the phenomenological slogan, “to the things themselves“).
But for Heidegger, this meant understanding that experience is always already situated in a world and in ways of being.
Thus Husserl’s understanding that all consciousness is “intentional” (in the sense that it is always intended toward something, and is always “about” something) is transformed in Heidegger’s philosophy, becoming the thought that all experience is grounded in “care.”
This is the basis of Heidegger’s “existential analytic“, as he develops it in ‘Being and Time’. Heidegger argues that to describe experience properly entails finding the being for whom such a description might matter.
Heidegger thus conducts his description of experience with reference to “Dasein,” the being for whom being is a question.
In ‘Being and Time’, Heidegger criticized the abstract and metaphysical character of traditional ways of grasping human existence as rational animal, person, man, soul, spirit, or subject.
Dasein‘ – (existence), then, is not intended as a way of conducting a philosophical anthropology, but is rather understood by Heidegger to be the condition of possibility for anything like a philosophical anthropology.
Dasein‘, according to Heidegger, is care. In the course of his existential analytic, Heidegger argues that ‘Dasein‘, who finds itself thrown into the world (Geworfenheit – thrownness) amidst things and with others, is thrown into its possibilities, including the possibility and inevitability of one’s own mortality.
The need for ‘Dasein‘ to assume these possibilities, that is, the need to be responsible for one’s own existence, is the basis of Heidegger’s notions of authenticity and resoluteness—that is, of those specific possibilities for Dasein which depend on escaping the “vulgar” temporality of calculation and of public life.
The marriage of these two observations depends on the fact that each of them is essentially concerned with time.
That Dasein s thrown into an already existing world and thus into its mortal possibilities does not only mean that Dasein is an essentially temporal being; it also implies that the description of Dasein can only be carried out in terms inherited from the Western tradition itself.
For Heidegger, unlike for Husserl, philosophical terminology could not be divorced from the history of the use of that terminology, and thus genuine philosophy could not avoid confronting questions of language and meaning.
The existential analytic of ‘Being and Time’ was thus always only a first step in Heidegger’s philosophy, to be followed by the “dismantling” (Destruktion) of the history of philosophy, that is, a transformation of its language and meaning, that would have made of the existential analytic only a kind of “limit case” (in the sense in which special relativity is a limit case of general relativity).

That Heidegger did not write this second part of ‘Being and Time’, and that the existential analytic was left behind in the course of Heidegger’s subsequent writings on the history of being, might be interpreted as a failure to conjugate his account of individual experience with his account of the vicissitudes of the collective human adventure that he understands the Western philosophical tradition to be.
And this would in turn raise the question of whether this failure is due to a flaw in Heidegger’s account of temporality, that is, of whether Heidegger was correct to oppose vulgar and authentic time.
There are also recent critiques in this regard that were directed at Heidegger’s focus on time instead of primarily thinking about being in relation to place and space.

Hölderlin and Nietzsche

Friedrich Hölderlin and Friedrich Nietzsche were both important influences on Heidegger, and many of his lecture courses were devoted to one or the other, especially in the 1930s and 1940s.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The lectures on Nietzsche focused on fragments posthumously published under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ – (The Will to Power), rather than on Nietzsche’s published works.
Heidegger read ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ as the culminating expression of Western metaphysics, and the lectures are a kind of dialogue between the two thinkers.

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

Nietzsche’s key ideas include the “death of God,” the ‘Übermensch‘, the ‘eternal recurrence‘, the ‘Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy’, and the ‘will to power‘. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation“, which involves questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. His influence remains substantial within philosophy, notably in existentialism, post-modernism, and post-structuralism, as well as outside it. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, especially in the continental tradition.

Friedrich Hölderlin

This is also the case for the lecture courses devoted to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin, which became an increasingly central focus of Heidegger’s work and thought.
Heidegger grants to Hölderlin a singular place within the history of being and the history of Germany, as a herald whose thought is yet to be “heard” in Germany or the West.
Many of Heidegger’s works from the 1930s onwards include meditations on lines from Hölderlin’s poetry, and several of the lecture courses are devoted to the reading of a single poem (see, for example, Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister“).

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.
Hölderlin was a poet-thinker who wrote, fragmentarily, on poetic theory and philosophical matters. His theoretical works, such as the essays “Das Werden im Vergehen” (“Becoming in Dissolution”) and “Urteil und Sein” (“Judgement and Being”) are insightful and important if somewhat tortuous and difficult to parse. They raise many of the key problems also addressed by his Tübingen roommates Hegel and Schelling. And, though his poetry was never “theory-driven”, the interpretation and exegesis of some of his more difficult poems has given rise to profound philosophical speculation by thinkers as divergent as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Neil Paul Cummins, Michel Foucault and Theodor Adorno.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Oswald Spengler – Der Untergang des Abendlandes

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

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

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Context

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

Heraclitus of Ephesus

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

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

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

Overview

Nietzsche
Goethe 

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

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

Kant
Plato

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

Sonnenuntergang – Sunset

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


Spengler’s Cultures

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

The Meaning of History

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

Culture and Civilization

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

Practical Roman Civilization

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

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

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

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

Races, Peoples and Cultures

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

“Man is a beast of prey.”

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

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

The State and Caesarism

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

Caesarism

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

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

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

Oswald Spengler – The Final years

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

Treaty of Versailles 
Treaty of Versailles 

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

Max Weber
Thomas Mann

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

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg

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

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

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 ?

Richard Wagner – Der Meister von Bayreuth

RICHARD WAGNER
Der Meister von Bayreuth

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they were later called).
Wagner Geburtshaus

Wilhelm Richard Geyer – later Wagner – was born at No. 3 (‘The House of the Red and White Lions’ – see left), the Brühl, in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner ?, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker.

Wagner’s father died of typhus six months after Richard’s birth, following which Wagner’s mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard’s father.
In August 1814 Johanna married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. Until he was fourteen, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer.
He almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father.
Geyer’s love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances.

Ludwig Geyer

The boy Wagner was hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel’s school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher.
He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.
Ludwig Geyer (see left) died in 1821, when Richard was eight.
Subsequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer’s brother.
The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as ‘WWV 1’) being a tragedy, Leubald, begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe.
Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons
By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig.
Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken in 1828–1831 with Christian Gottlieb Müller.
In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed in the Gewandhaus.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (see right) became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony.

He was also greatly impressed by a performance of the Requiem of Mozart.
From this period date Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures.

Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient 
In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (see left) on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera.
In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, “If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me.”
Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini’s ‘Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1831 where he became a member of the Studentenverbindung Corps Saxonia Leipzig.
He also took composition lessons with the cantor of Saint Thomas Church, Christian Theodor Weinlig.

Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner’s musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for Wagner’s piano sonata in B flat (which was consequently dedicated to him) to be published as the composer’s op. 1.
A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833.
He then began to work on an opera, ‘Die Hochzeit’ (The Wedding), which he never completed.
In 1833, Wagner’s older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as choir master in Würzburg.
In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies).

Carl Maria von Weber,

This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich shortly after the composer’s death in 1883.

Meanwhile, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg during which he wrote ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties.
Minna Planer

In 1834 Wagner had fallen for the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer (see right).

After the disaster of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ he followed her to Königsberg where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre.
The two married in Königsberg on 24 November 1836.
In June 1837 Wagner moved to the city of Riga, then in the Russian Empire, where he became music director of the local opera.
Minna had recently left Wagner for another man but Richard took her back; this was but the first debacle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.
 ‘Rienzi’

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors (debt would plague Wagner for most of his life).

‘Das Fliegende Hollander’
During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the inspiration for ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (see right) (The Flying Dutchman) with a story based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine.
The Wagners spent 1839 to 1842 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house, however, he also completed his third and fourth operas ‘Rienzi’ (see left) and ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ during this stay.
Wagner had completed writing ‘Rienzi’ in 1840.
Giacomo Meyerbeer

Largely through the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony.

In 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim on 20 October.
Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor.
During this period, he staged there ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (2 January 1843) and Tannhäuser (19 October 1845), the first two of his three middle-period operas.
Gottfried Semper

Wagner also mixed with artistic circles in Dresden, including the composer Ferdinand Hiller and the great classical architect Gottfried Semper (see right).

The Wagners’ stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard’s involvement in leftist politics.
A nationalist movement was gaining force in the states of the German Confederation, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of Germany as one nation state.
Proudhon
Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in the socialist wing of this movement, regularly receiving guests who included the radical editor August Röckel, and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. He was also influenced by the ideas of Proudhon (see left).
Widespread discontent in Dresden came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony rejected a new constitution.
The May Uprising broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role.
The incipient revolution was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussian troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries.
Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich.

Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile.
He had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence.
Liszt, who proved to be a true friend, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.
Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of.
Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become the four opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.
He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, ‘Siegfrieds Tod’ (Siegfried’s Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera ‘Der junge Siegfried’ (Young Siegfried) exploring the hero’s background.
He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for ‘Die Walküre’ and ‘Das Rheingold’ and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.
Meanwhile, his wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression and then Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health which made it difficult for him to continue writing.
Wagner’s primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of notable essays: “The Art-Work of the Future” (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art”, in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; “Judaism in Music” (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and “Opera and Drama” (1851), which described the aesthetics of drama which he was using to create the Ring operas.

Wagner began composing ‘Das Rheingold’ in November 1853, following it immediately with ‘Die Walküre’ in 1854.
He then began work on the third opera, now called ‘Siegfried’, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: ‘Tristan und Isolde”
Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

Arthur Schopenhauer 

The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life.
His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer’s philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition.
He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer, who was also Hitler’s favourite philosopher, for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.
One of Schopenhauer’s doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts.
He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world’s essence, which is blind, impulsive Will.
Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in Opera and Drama, that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama.
Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.
Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner’s subsequent libretti.
For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, generally considered Wagner’s most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.

Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner’s second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck (see right), the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck.

Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zurich in 1852.
Otto, a fan of Wagner’s music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal.
During the course of the next five years, the composer was eventually to become infatuated with his patron’s wife.
Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardizing her marriage.
Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and began work on Tristan, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.
While planning the opera, Wagner composed the ‘Wesendonck Lieder’, five songs for voice and piano setting poems by Mathilde.
Two of these settings are explicitly subtitled by Wagner as ‘studies for Tristan und Isolde ‘.

The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde.
After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice, where he sojourned in the Palazzo Giustinian.
The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich.
The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco.
Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.
The political ban which had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was lifted in 1861.
The composer settled in Biebrich in Prussia, where he began work on ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, the idea for which had come during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks.
Despite the failure of ‘Tannhäuser’ in Paris, the possibility that ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ would never be finished, and Wagner’s unhappy personal life at the time of writing it, this opera is his only mature comedy.
Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have ‘Tristan und Isolde’ produced in Vienna.
Despite numerous rehearsals the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being “impossible”, which further added to Wagner’s financial woes.
In 1862, Wagner finally parted with Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866.

LUDWIG II  

König Ludwig   von Bayern
Ludwig and Wagner

Wagner’s fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II (see left) succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner’s operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich.
He settled Wagner’s considerable debts, and proposed to stage ‘Tristan’, ‘Die Meistersinger’, the ‘Ring’, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography, ‘Mein Leben’, at the King’s request.

for more information about Ludwig II see

Wittlesbach Arms
König Ludwig
von Bayern

To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Meyerbeer, noting ungratefully that “this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day”.

After grave difficulties in rehearsal, ‘Tristan und Isolde’ premiered at the National Theatre in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years.

Cosima von Bülow
Hans von Bülow

The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow (see left), whose wife Cosima (see right) had given birth in April that year to a daughter, named Isolde, the child not of von Bülow but of Wagner.

Cosima was 24 years younger than Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt.
Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends.
The indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavour among members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king.
In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich.
He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

Villa Tribschen

Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.

‘Die Meistersinger’ was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premièred in Munich on 21 June the following year.
In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but this did not materialize until after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of ‘Meistersinger’, and a son Siegfried, named for the hero of the Ring.
Minna Wagner had died the previous year and so Richard and Cosima were now able to marry.
The wedding took place on 25 August 1870.
On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the ‘Siegfried Idyll’ for Cosima’s birthday.
The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner’s life.

Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle.
At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially designed opera house.
In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (see right) (“Festival Theatre”) was laid.

In order to raise funds for the construction, “Wagner Societies” were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts.
However, sufficient funds were raised only after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874.

Villa Wahnfried
Villa Wahnfried

Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried (see left) (“freedom from delusion/madness”).

The expenses of Bayreuth and of Wahnfried however meant that Wagner still sought other sources of income by conducting or taking on commissions like the Centennial March for America.
The Festspielhaus finally opened on 13 August 1876 with ‘Das Rheingold’, now taking its place as the first evening of the premiere of the complete Ring cycle, and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival ever since.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus – Plan

The Festival has been overseen since 1973 by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner’s descendants.

 ‘Parsifal’ – Closing Scene

Following the first Bayreuth festival Wagner began work on ‘Parsifal’ (see left), his final opera.
The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons.
During this period he also wrote a series of essays, including some reactionary writings on religion and art which recanted his earlier views.
Many of these—including “Religion and Art” (1880) and “Hero-dom and Christendom” (1881) —appeared in the journal ‘Bayreuther Blätter’, founded in 1880 by Wagner and Hans von Wolzogen for Wagnerite visitors to Bayreuth.
Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera which was premiered on 26 May.
Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks.

Gondola
Ca’ Vendramin Calergi

During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion.

After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter.
Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine on 13 February 1883 at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 16th century palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Franz Liszt’s two pieces for pianoforte solo entitled ‘La lugubre gondola’ evoke the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola (see right) bearing Richard Wagner’s remains over the Grand Canal. Wagner was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Wagner’s operatic works are his primary artistic legacy. Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as “poems”. Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra’s role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra’s dramatic role, in the later operas, includes the use of leitmotivs, musical themes that can be interpreted as announcing specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interweaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama. Ultimately he urged a new concept of opera often referred to as “music drama”, (although he did not use or sanction this term himself) in which all musical poetic and dramatic elements were to be fused together—the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Wagner’s compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.

‘Tannhäuser’ 
‘Das Fliegende Hollander’

Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (see left) and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right) which were in the romantic traditions of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”).

This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.
Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.

‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’

However, his thoughts on the relative importance of music and drama were to change again and he reintroduced some traditional operatic forms into his last few stage works including ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (see left).

Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.

‘Tristan und Isolde’
Opening Bars
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which contained many novel design features.

It was here that the ‘Ring’ and ‘Parsifal‘ received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants. Wagner’s views on conducting were also highly influential.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His extensive writings on music, drama and politics have all attracted extensive comment; in recent decades, especially where they have antisemitic content.

Wagner’s late dramas are considered his masterpieces.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology—particularly from the later Norse mythology—notably the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Volsunga Saga, and the Middle High German Nibelungenlied.
They were also influenced by Wagner’s concepts of ancient Greek drama, in which tetralogies were a component of Athenian festivals, and which he had amply discussed in his essay “Oper und Drama”.

Richard Wagner
The Ring

The first two components of the Ring cycle were ‘Das Rheingold’ (The Rhinegold) (completed 1854) and ‘Die Walküre’ (The Valkyrie) (completed 1856).

In ‘Das Rheingold’, with its “relentlessly talky “realism” [and] the absence of lyrical “numbers” “, Wagner came very close to the pure musical ideals of his 1849 – 51 essays.
‘Die Walküre’ (see left), with Siegmund’s almost full-blown aria (‘Winterstürme’) in the first act, and the quasi-choral appearance of the Valkyries themselves, shows more ‘operatic’ traits, but has been assessed as “the music drama that most satisfactorily embodies the theoretical principles of “Oper und Drama”.
A thoroughgoing synthesis of poetry and music is achieved without any notable sacrifice in musical expression”.

Siegfried – Richard Wagner

While still composing the Ring, (leaving the third Ring opera ‘Siegfried’ (see right) uncompleted for the while), Wagner paused between 1857 and 1864 to compose the tragic love story ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and his only mature comedy ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), two works which are also part of the regular operatic canon.

‘Tristan und Isolde’ uses a story line deriving from the poem ‘Tristan und Isolt’ by the 13th century poet Gottfried von Strassburg.
Wagner noted that “its all – pervading tragedy […] impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details.
This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a “serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde.
The work was first performed in Munich on 10 June 1865, conducted by Hans von Bülow.
Tristan is often granted a special place in musical history.
It has been described as “fifty years ahead of its time” because of its chromaticism, long-held discords, unusual orchestral colouring and harmony, and use of polyphony.
Wagner himself felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of “the art of transition” between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.
‘Die Meistersinger’ was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant to Tannhäuser.
It was first performed in Munich, again under the baton of Bülow, on 21 June 1868, its accessibility making it an immediate success. It is “a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired for its warm humanity“; but because of its strong German nationalist overtones, it is also held up by some as an example of Wagner’s reactionary politics and antisemitism.

Götterdämmerung 

When Wagner returned, with the added experience of composing ‘Tristan’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’, to write the music for the last act of ‘Siegfried’ and for ‘Götterdämmerung’ (Twilight of the Gods), as the final part of the Ring was eventually called, his style had changed once again to one more recognisable as ‘operatic’ (though thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer, and suffused with leitmotivs) than the aural world of ‘Rheingold’ and ‘Walküre’.

This was in part because the libretti of the four ‘Ring’ operas had been written in reverse order, so that the book for ‘Götterdämmerung’ was conceived more ‘traditionally’ than that of Rheingold; still, the self-imposed strictures of the Gesamtkunstwerk had become relaxed.
However, the differences are also because of Wagner’s development as a composer during the period in which he composed ‘Tristan’, ‘Meistersinger’ and also the Paris version of ‘Tannhäuser’.
From Act III of ‘Siegfried’ onwards, the Ring becomes chromatic, and both harmonically more complex and more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.
Having taken 26 years from the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until the completion of ‘Götterdämmerung’ in 1874, the Ring represents in all about 15 hours of performance, the only undertaking of such size to be regularly represented on the world’s stages.

Parsifal

Erlösung dem Erlöser ! 
 ‘Parsifal’ 

Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal‘ (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a “Bühnenweihfestspiel” (festival play for the consecration of the stage), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail.

It also however carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner’s readings of Schopenhauer.

Holy Spear – Parsifal
Wagner described it to Cosima as his “last card“.
The composer’s treatment of Christianity in the opera, its eroticism, and its relationship to ideas of German nationalism and  anti-Semitism have continued to render it controversial for non-musical reasons.
However, musically it has been held to represent a continuing development of the composer’s style , with “a diaphanous score of unearthly beauty and refinement“.
It is undoubtedly Wagner’s greatest opera – his masterpiece.

click here for more information about ‘Parsifal

Writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life.
His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas.
Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

He also wrote various autobiographical works, including “My Life” (1880).
In his later years Wagner became a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals and in 1879 he published an open letter, “Against Vivisection”, in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.
There have been several editions of Wagner’s writings, including a centennial edition in German edited by Dieter Borchmeyer (which however omitted the essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik”).
The English translations of Wagner’s prose in 8 volumes by W. Ashton Ellis, (1892 – 99), are still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies.
A complete edition of Wagner’s correspondence, (estimated to amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 surviving items), of which the first volume appeared in 1967, is still under way.
Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
Wagner’s protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue.
The Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was part of Wagner’s inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ proposed Wagner’s music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian rationalist decadence.

Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Wagner’s final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure with the later Wagner in “The Case of Wagner” and “Nietzsche contra Wagner“.
Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine worshipped Wagner.
Edouard Dujardin, whose influential novel ‘Les lauriers sont coupés’ is in the form of an interior monologue inspired by Wagnerian music, founded a journal dedicated to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, to which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa contributed.
In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived”, while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels.
He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce.
Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, which contains lines from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Götterdämmerung’, and Verlaine’s poem on ‘Parsifal‘.
Many of the Wagner’s concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.
Adolf Hitler and Winnifred Wagner

In a long list of other major cultural figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee includes D. H. Lawrence, Aubrey Beardsley, Romain Rolland, Gérard de Nerval, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rainer Maria Rilke and numerous others. Wagner’s operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (for the design of which he appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience. Adolphe Appia’s stagings of Wagner operas at Bayreuth had far reaching consequences in theatre practice generally.

Following Wagner’s death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner’s comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their influence on Adolf Hitler.

Wagner and Hitler

Wagner’s operas had an almost religious effect upon Hitler; Wagner’s skill for drama and dramatic music no doubt underscored the impact of the legends already known to Hitler from youth. 

Hitler and many of his associates shared a fascination with the history and mythology of the German Volk, and the following discussion will focus on examples of “mythical influences”, and how they helped shape the personal and political activities of these men. 
Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) most famous works are undoubtably his music dramas.

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (left ‘Das Rheingold’) and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (right – model stage-set) and most importantly, ‘Parsifal’, (below – ‘Die große Gralsszeneare’), the works that are widely acknowledged as being of great musical significance
The development and use of the leitmotif, the parts written for the heldentenor, the manipulation of chromaticism in the tonal system, and the development of the music drama itself are all very important aspects of Wagner and his music.
The ancient sagas that Wagner used as a 
basis for these music dramas held for him revealed truths and insights into human behavior and emotions. He has not been alone in his interest and opinions.These myths have been used as an argument for, or illustration of, various beliefs and ideologies. ‘The Ring’ has been variously interpreted as a look into the human psyche; a means of promoting socialism; a prophecy of the fate of the world and humankind; and a “parable” about the industrial society that was coming of age in Wagner’s lifetime.
It was also used by the Nazi party to justify and glorify racism, and to supply a basis of fanatic loyalty in the Schutzstaffel, or SS.
The legends of German mythology are essentially the same as the old Nordic legends; many of the proper names are the same in both cultures, and most of the remaining names are very similar to the Norse versions, differing only in spelling. 

Thus the Norse Odin, the ruler of the gods, becomes Woden, (or Wotan), further south in the Germanic regions. In the same fashion, the Norse heroes known as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun become Siegfried, Brünnhilde, (see right ‘Wotan &  Brünnhilde), and Günther in the German stories. 
The extremely close parallels between the two cultures makes it an absolute certainty that both the Germanic stories and the earlier Norse legends were derived from the same ancient tales.
These early legends are known to the modern world from two collections: the Elder Edda, which is written in verse, and the Younger Edda, (consisting of the sagas), which is written in prose. The dating for these collections seems to be in some dispute; in Bulfinch’s Mythology rather specific dates are assigned: 1056 for the Elder Edda and 1640 for the Younger Edda. However, in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she speaks of the oldest manuscript of the Elder as dating from circa 1300, some three hundred years after the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, and almost three hundred years after Bulfinch’s date.
Hamilton does state, however, that all of these legends are completely pagan in nature, (thus predating Christianity), and that almost all scholars agree the stories must be much older than the oldest manuscript.
The dates for the Younger Edda are likewise apparently uncertain; Bulfinch’s date of 1640 is hard to reconcile with Hamilton’s statement that the Younger was “written down by one Snorri Sturluson in the last part of the twelfth century.”
Regardless of date, it is agreed the most important collection is the Elder Edda.
These two very long epics furnish the material for almost all of the presently known myths and legends about the ancient gods of the North. 
Unfortunately, as Christian missionaries from the Mediterranean area journeyed further north, they systematically destroyed all the pagan artifacts they could find in a remarkably successful attempt to completely obliterate all remnants of the belief system they were replacing.
Only a few fragments of the entire northern European prehistoric collection of myths have been preserved. The legend of Beowulf in England and the Nibelungenlied in Germany are two tales that survived the zeal of the missionaries. 
The Eddas are known only from Iceland; apparently Icelandic missionaries were less influential than their counterparts on the continent of Europe — Iceland was one of the last European countries to be Christianized.
All of these surviving legends are essentially gloomy and pessimistic in nature; depressingly so to modern readers.

In Nordic and Germanic mythology the Earth, (Midgard), and Heaven, (Asgard), were destined to be utterly destroyed by the Frost Giants, (who lived in Jötunheim), in a final great battle between Good and Evil, called Ragnarok, (Ragnarok is paralleled by Götterdämmerung in Wagner’s Ring Cycle – see right).

In this final battle, Evil was predestined to win, and the entirety of creation was to be destroyed. The only bright factor in this thoroughly depressing viewpoint was the belief that, in spite of all, if one could die a courageous, heroic death, then all else faded into insignificance. 
It is of interest to realize that the Western ideal of heroism and heroic deeds in the face of certain death springs almost entirely from these Nordic myths, and not from the Greek and Roman mythology that most people are more familiar with. (The Greek gods were remarkably un-heroic in their conduct), and of course, this idea of heroism and fighting to the death against any odds would fit very well with the kind of fanatic loyalty sought by Hitler and Himmler.
When Richard Wagner embarked upon the composition of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, (around 1849), he chose as his framework the Teutonic epic of the Nibelungenlied, (The Norse version of this legend is called the Volsungasaga).
Wagner finished the first two segments, (‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’), and part of the third, (‘Siegfried’), by 1857, but seventeen years would go by before he would finish the great work with the completion of ‘Siegfried’ and the final music drama in the cycle: ‘Götterdämmerung’.
As mentioned earlier, the Teutonic versions of these myths are very similar to the Nordic versions, differing chiefly in descriptions of climate, and social condition. The Teutonic versions were generally slightly less violent than their Viking equivalents.

In turn, it seems apparent that Wagner again tempered the German tales somewhat; in ‘Tristan und Isolde’, after the hero Tristan is mortally wounded, he is kept alive by the power of love until he is united with his lover, Isolde. After Tristan’s demise in her arms, she is overcome by waves of ecstatic love, and she dies. 

As discouraging as this ending may seem, Wagner saw it as the triumph of love in the face of all adversity; not even death could truly defeat it. 
Of course, the story steps outside of the bounds of reality somewhere along the way, but this only adds to the transcendent quality of the story and of the music drama itself.
Adolf Hitler’s attraction to Richard Wagner’s music began at an early age. At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted. My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

Adolf Hitler

In 1905, at the age of sixteen, Hitler left school – ostensibly because of illness – and was able to spend his time as he wished – which he later described as the happiest time of his life.

Two of his favorite pastimes were aimlessly roaming the streets of Linz (see right), and attending the opera at night.
He had a passion for music; most especially the mystic operas of Wagner, which he would attend night after night.
His meager supply of pocket money was spent mainly on the opera, (a standing-room ticket cost only the equivalent of ten cents), and on purchasing books on German history and mythology, which he would read for hours at a time.

His fascination with Wagner’s operas seems to have had a profound effect upon him.

His only friend from this period of his life was one August Kubizek, (nicknamed “Gustl”), who gave an interesting description:

“The charged emotionality of this music seemed to have served him as a means for self-hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of bourgeois luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy”.
Kubizek goes on to relate the events of a particular evening spent in Hitler’s company.
They had attended a performance of Wagner’s ‘Rienzi’, and according to “Gustl”, Hitler had a quite powerful reaction to the opera.
The youthful Adolf was “overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality” of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was “destroyed by their incomprehension”. After the opera …
“… Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people”.
Thirty years later, the boyhood friends would meet again in Bayreuth, and Hitler would remark: “It all began at that hour !”.
More convincing evidence of Wagner’s influences can hardly be wished for after a statement such as this one, but there is more.
Between 1909 and 1913, a time which Hitler described as “the saddest period of my life”, he resided in Vienna.
It was here, by his own statement in Mein Kampf, that he became a confirmed anti-Semite.

The anti-Semitic opinions Richard Wagner had held were no secret, and the concurrence of opinion between these two men could only have served to pull Hitler closer to a greater regard for Wagner.
Indeed, Hitler claims to have heard ‘Tristan und Isolde’ thirty to forty times during his years in Vienna.
(During these years in Vienna, at the Hofoper opera house alone, at least 426 evenings featured performances of works by Wagner).

In 1923, just before the abortive “Beer-Hall Putsch”, Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family.

There he met Siegfried Wagner, (Richard Wagner’s only son), and Siegfried’s English born wife Winifred (*see below).
He is said to have sought out the Master’s study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner’s grave in the garden for a long time. 
Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain (**see photo below & ‘AN ENGLISHMAN AT THE COURT OF THE KAISER), (Richard Wagner’s English born son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. Chamberlain later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler’s goals and ideas. 

Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were “a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself”.

Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner, and it is rumoured that he had a relationship with Winifred after Siegfried’s death.




Hitler also became a favourite ‘uncle’ (uncle Wolf), to the Wagner’s two sons, Wieland (left) and Wolfgang (right).

His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in ‘Götterdämmerung’, and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and “breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it”.
By this time he had seen all of Wagner’s operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’ over a hundred times each.

Other indications of Wagner’s influences are furnished by Albert Speer, who began as Hitler’s chief architect and ended as Reich Armaments Minister.
He speaks of the interior furnishings of Hitler’s country house, the Berghof at Obersalzberg.
The salon was furnished, along with normal items of furniture, with a “sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long” which was used to store phonograph records. Against another wall was “a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker“.
The admiration Hitler had for Wagner was reciprocated by the Wagner family; when furnishing this dwelling, the Wagners donated linens and china, and sent Hitler a complete set Richard Wagner’s works, along with a page from the original score of Lohengrin.

There is yet another facet of Hitler’s dwelling at Obersalzberg that shows his sense of unity with Germany’s “heroic” past: the view.

Obersalzberg, as one might imply from the name, is a mountain; high enough to give a good view of the surrounding area.
The Berghof, which was designed by Hitler himself, featured a large picture window which offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg.

Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps in the Untersberg, but will someday awaken and restore the German Empire to its past glories.
Hitler didn’t hesitate to apply this prophecy to himself: “You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it”.
On the eve of World War II, Hitler’s forces reoccupied the Rhineland. Returning from a triumphal trip through this area, and jubilant over the Allies’ weakness, he requested that some Wagner be put on the phonograph. Listening to the vorspiel to Parsifal, he remarked:

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

The record continued to play. 
The next selection was the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, and brought forth the following comments from Hitler:
I first heard it in Vienna – at the Opera – and I still remember as if it were today“.
The Germanic myths and the dramatic presentation of these myths by Richard Wagner were, very obviously, a central tool of the Nazi Party.
The psychological effects of these music dramas and stories on the principal figures of the Third Reich are equally obvious, when they are looked for. 
In Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler, there are no fewer than thirty-four references to Richard Wagner or his music.
And of course, one cannot help but wonder what Richard Wagner would have thought about Adolf Hitler, one of his all-time biggest fans ! However, it was Richard Wagner who declared in his ‘music dramas’ that the coming master race was that of the Germans.

Originally, Nietzsche had delighted in Wagner’s music, but the latter’s obsessive anti-Semitism and conversion to an Aryanised Christianity caused him to denounce the composer with every twist of biting irony at his command.
The great mass of people, however, were to respond more to Wagner’s music than to Nietzsche’s difficult writings, partly because it was great and inspired music and partly because its maker had resurrected the mythology of the German race.
It is said that myths are the truest expression of a race’s spirit and culture, and in ‘The Ring’ the Teutonic ‘Supermen’ bestrode a stage, wherein was war, treachery, courage, blood and fire, climaxed with a stupendous ‘Götterdämmerung’.
The world of Wotan and Thor, heroes and giants, great deeds, great victories, and great destruction had never been expressed with such power.

The beauty of Wagner’s music moved men to such an extent that Hitler would declare that to understand National Socialist Germany one must first know Wagner.
For Wagner believed that the virtues of the Teuton tribes had atrophied with the coming of industrial civilisation; that courage and will had been poisoned or emasculated by capitalism and race pollution; that the Jews were responsible for the enervation and enslavement of the German spirit; and that a new Siegfried must arise to lead the Germans to an awareness of their greatness and their glory.
Schopenauer (see right) destroyed the meaning of values, Nietzsche proclaimed the need for passing beyond them, and Wagner supplied a new set to replace the old.
These three men, renowned more posthumously than in their own lifetimes, challenged the world of 1889 and became, in time, the favourites of Adolf Hitler.
From them he derived what fundamental values he possessed.
It is impossible to tell whether these men expressed what they felt around them, or what they sensed would be the future; or whether they were determined to stamp their wills upon the world.
Were they prophets? Or were they magicians?
We know that Nietzsche derived much of his inspiration from mystical trances which possessed him without warning, and that his greatest work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, was inspired by one such experience in the winter of 1882-3.
We know also that Wagner claimed that the sources of his inspiration flowed from similar supra-rational experiences, and the effect of this can be seen in that extraordinary mystical opera, ‘Parsifal’.
Whatever the truth, it is at least certain that much of what they foretold, later came to pass.
Yet the world of 1889 ignored these insignificant portents of change.
People continued to live as though nothing important had happened or would happen, and no one so much as deigned to notice the birth of Adolf Hitler.
Treaties and contracts were made and broken; money was won and lost; children were educated as though all was absolutely certain.
Books were written and read which taught Christian, bourgeois, industrial capitalist, materialist, humanist European values as if no other could ever be of the slightest relevance.

And yet it was these books which lacked all relevance.
Nietzsche, (see left and NIETZSCHE – CREATOR OF THE ÜBERMENSCH ), who knew the true spirit of his age and of the age to come, wrote:
‘And what doeth the saint in the forest?’ asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: ‘I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
‘With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?’
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: ‘What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!’
And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: ‘Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that God is dead!”

click below for a fascinating insight into the early life and personality of Adolf Hitler

Der Bayreuther Kreis

Der Bayreuther Kreis (The Bayreuth Circle) was a name originally applied by some writers to devotees of Richard Wagner’s music who attended and supported the annual Bayreuth Festival in the later 19th and early twentieth centuries.
Many of these devotees espoused nationalistic German politics, and  were supporters of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s onwards, and therefore this group of people were directly associated with the rise of Nazism.
There was never any organisation named Der Bayreuther Kreis, or any group of people who identified themselves by that name; but the term has been used by many historians as a convenient label for Hitler supporters associated with Wagner and Bayreuth.
Examples of such association are given in the following citations:
‘Only with timely support from the Bayreuth circle, especially Houston S. Chamberlain, Winifred Wagner, and henchmen like Dietrich Eckhart in the Thule Society, could Hitler assume the public image of a Wotan/Siegfried figure, complete with telling nickname: “Wolf.” ‘
‘Thus Hitler himself admitted: `It was Cosima Wagner’s merit to have created the link between Bayreuth and National Socialism’.
‘It was the Bayreuth circle which raised Wagner’s message to the status of gospel, manoeuvring his ideas into a Germanic doctrine of salvation.’

Significant Operas

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’

   

The cycle is a work of extraordinary scale.
Perhaps the most outstanding facet of the monumental work is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera, with a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor’s pacing.
The first and shortest opera, ‘Das Rheingold’, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, ‘Götterdämmerung’, takes up four and a half hours.
The cycle is modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one satyr play.
‘The Ring’ proper begins with ‘Die Walküre’ and ends with ‘Götterdämmerung’, with ‘Rheingold’ as a prelude.

Wagner called ‘Das Rheingold’ a Vorabend or “Preliminary Evening”, and ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’ (see left below) and ‘Götterdämmerung’ were subtitled First Day, Second Day and Third Day, respectively, of the trilogy proper.

The scale and scope of the story is epic.

It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic Ring that grants domination over the entire world.
The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.
The music of the cycle is thick and richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds.

Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments such as the ‘Wagner tuba’ (see left), bass trumpet and contrabass trombone.

Remarkably, he uses a chorus only relatively briefly, in acts 2 and 3 of ‘Götterdämmerung’, and then mostly of men with just a few women.
He eventually had a purpose-built theatre constructed, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, in which to perform this work.
The theatre has a special stage that blends the huge orchestra with the singers’ voices, allowing them to sing at a natural volume.
The result was that the singers do not have to strain themselves vocally during the long performances.
Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle begins when the dwarf Alberich rejects love in order to gain unlimited power over the world by forging a Ring of Power from the Rhinegold.
The rejection of love is the only possible way of seizing this gold from the Rhine Maidens who had teased and taunted Alberich’s love.

Once Alberich has seized the gold he forges it into a ring and a magical helmet (the Tarnhelm) that allows all who don it to shift shape at will and cross great distances in an instant.
When the god Wotan is himself allured by the wealth of the gold and power of the ring – stealing them from Alberich in order to pay for a great hall of the gods (Valhalla), the embittered dwarf curses the ring with a spell – ensuring that it will henceforth bring about the death and downfall of all who wear it.
Only the Earth goddess Erda, embodiment of primordial wisdom, and Loge – the luciferic fire spirit upon whom Wotan has relied – recognise the full pathos of what will befall both gods and mortals if the Ring is not returned to its source in the Rhine.
This is ultimately achieved not by the naïve and fearless hero Siegfried, nor by his loveless rival, the son of Alberich but by Siegfried’s lover Brünnhilde – (see right).
She is a female warrior, a ‘death angel’ or Valkyrie born of Erda’s violation by Wotan. 
In the symbolism of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, rejection of love in favour of power over, and the enforced submission of female gods and mortals combine to bring about a loss of inner power and knowledge.
In the end Wotan regains the wisdom lost to Erda only by willingly submitting to the fate imposed by the power of the Ring.
He does so by encouraging Brunnhilde to follow her own loving instincts for both Siegfried and himself – knowing full well that this will eventually bring about the downfall or ‘Twilight’ of the gods, but knowing at the same time that only this will save mankind and redeem the world.
The epic ends with Brünnhilde flinging the ring back into the Rhine – whose luciferic flames then rise to engulf Valhalla and cause its collapse.
The gods – hitherto embodiments of inner power and knowledge – fall prey to the allure of outer symbols of that power and knowledge (gold, heroic victory in war, and the grand fortress of Valhalla that is home to dead heroes).
Thus bringing about their own downfall, they now await their return – no longer as gods but as human beings – loving men and women of inner power and inner knowledge.

Parsifal

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.

It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.

It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.
At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera. Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by an erroneous etymology of the name Percival deriving it from a supposedly Arabic origin, Fal Parsi meaning “pure fool”.
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Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English-born Welsh woman married to Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner’s son
She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945, and a close friend of German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Winifred Williams was born Winifred Marjorie Williams in Hastings, England, the daughter of John Williams, a writer, and his wife, the former Emily Florence Karop.
Winifred lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a series of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner.
The Bayreuth Festival was envisioned as a family business, with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to his son Siegfried Wagner, but Siegfried, who was secretly homosexual, showed little interest in marriage.

It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she was called at the time, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914.A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried’s homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals, and provide an heir to carry on the family business. Following their marriage on 22 September 1915, they had four children in rapid succession: Wieland (1917–1966), Friedelind (1918–1991), Wolfgang (1919–2010) and Verena (born 1920). After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we have seen earlier, greatly admired Wagner’s music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with England. Although Winifred remained personally faithful to Hitler, she denied that she had ever supported the Nazi party. Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.

‘Haus Wahnfried’, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.
Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children, particularly Wieland and Wolfgang solicitously.
According to biographer Brigitte Hamann, Winifred Wagner was reported to be “disgusted” by Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In one notable incident, in the late 1930s, a letter from her to Hitler prevented Hedwig and Alfred Pringsheim (their daughter Katia was married to Thomas Mann) from being arrested by the Gestapo.
According to Gottfried Wagner, Winifred’s grandson, she never admitted the error of her ways. After the war, her posthumous devotion to the man she cryptically referred to as “USA” – for ‘Unser Seliger Adolf’ (our blessed Adolf) – remained undimmed.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades.
Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred’s grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.


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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


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Parsifal und die Deutsche Seele – Richard Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


(Parsifal and the German Soul)

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.
It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.
It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Metropolitan Opera House – New York

Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.

At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera.

Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by the etymology of the name Percival, deriving it from an Arabic origin, ‘Fal Parsi‘ meaning “pure fool”.

Wagner first read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s poem Parzival while taking the waters at Marienbad in 1845.

Arthur Schopenhauer

After encountering Arthur Schopenhauer’s work in 1854, Wagner became interested in oriental philosophies, especially Buddhism.

He was particularly inspired by reading Eugène Burnouf’s “Introduction à l’histoire du buddhisme indien” in 1855/56.
Out of this interest came “Die Sieger” (“The Victors”, 1856) a sketch Wagner wrote for an opera based on a story from the life of Buddha.
The themes which were later explored in Parsifal of self-renouncing, reincarnation, and exclusive social groups (‘castes‘ in ‘Die Sieger’, the ‘Knights of the Grail‘ in ‘Parsifal’) were first introduced in “Die Sieger”.






Mathilde Wessendonk
Asyl

According to his own account, recorded in his autobiography ‘Mein Leben’, Wagner conceived Parsifal on Good Friday morning, April 1857, in the ‘Asyl‘ (German: “Asylum”), the small cottage on Otto von Wesendonck’s estate in the Zürich suburb of Enge, which Wesendonck – a wealthy silk merchant and generous patron of the arts – had placed at Wagner’s disposal. 

The composer and his wife Minna had moved into the cottage on 28 April:




Minna Planer

“… on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise.

Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram’s Parzival.
Since the sojourn in Marienbad [in the summer of 1845], where I had conceived ‘Die Meistersinger’ and ‘Lohengrin’, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts.”

Wagner did not resume work on Parsifal for eight years, during which time he completed ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and began ‘Die Meistersinger’.
Then, between 27 and 30 August 1865, he took up Parsifal again and made a prose draft of the work; this contains a fairly brief outline of the plot and a considerable amount of detailed commentary on the characters and themes of the drama, but once again the work was dropped and set aside for another eleven and a half years.
During this time most of Wagner’s creative energy was devoted to the ‘Ring’ cycle, which was finally completed in 1874 and given its first full performance at Bayreuth in August 1876.
Only when this gargantuan task had been accomplished did Wagner find the time to concentrate on ‘Parsifal’.
By 23 February 1877 he had completed a second and more extensive prose draft of the work, and by 19 April of the same year he had transformed this into a verse libretto (or “poem”, as Wagner liked to call his libretti).

In September 1877 he began the music by making two complete drafts of the score from beginning to end.
The first of these (known in German as the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ and in English as either the ‘Preliminary Draft’ or the ‘First Complete Draft’) was made in pencil on three staves, one for the voices and two for the instruments.
The second complete draft (‘Orchesterskizze‘, ‘Orchestral Draft’, ‘Short Score’) was made in ink and on at least three, but sometimes as many as five, staves.
This draft was much more detailed than the first and contained a considerable degree of instrumental elaboration.
The second draft was begun on 25 September 1877, just a few days after the first: at this point in his career Wagner liked to work on both drafts simultaneously, switching back and forth between the two so as not to allow too much time to elapse between his initial setting of the text and the final elaboration of the music.
The ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of Act III was completed on 16 April 1879 and the ‘Orchesterskizze’ on the 26th of the same month.
The full score (‘Partiturerstschrift‘) was the final stage in the compositional process.
It was made in ink and consisted of a fair copy of the entire opera, with all the voices and instruments properly notated according to standard practice.
Wagner composed ‘Parsifal’ one act at a time, completing the ‘Gesamtentwur‘ and ‘Orchesterskizze‘ of each act before beginning the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of the next act; but because the ‘Orchesterskizze‘ already embodied all the compositional details of the full score, the actual drafting of the ‘Partiturerstschrift‘ was regarded by Wagner as little more than a routine task which could be done whenever he found the time.
The ‘Vorspiel of Act I’ was scored in August 1878.
The rest of the opera was scored between August 1879 and 13 January 1882.

The Premiere

Paul von Joukowsky

On 12 November 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich (see left).
The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on 26 July 1882 under the baton of the conductor Hermann Levi.
Stage designs were by Max Brückner and Paul von Joukowsky  who took their lead from Wagner himself.


The Grail hall was based on the interior of Siena Cathedral (see left) which Wagner had visited in 1880, while Klingsor’s magic garden was modelled on those at the Palazzo Rufolo in Ravello (see right).
In July and August 1882 sixteen performances of the work were given in Bayreuth conducted by Levi and Franz Fischer.
The production boasted an orchestra of 107, a chorus of 135 and 23 soloists (with the main parts being double cast).
At the last of these performances, Wagner took the baton from Levi (see right) and conducted the final scene of Act 3 from the orchestral interlude to the end.

At the first performances of ‘Parsifal’ problems with the moving scenery during the transition from Scene one to Scene two in Act 1 meant that Wagner’s existing orchestral interlude finished before Parsifal and Gurnemanz arrived at the Hall of the Grail.
Engelbert Humperdinck (see left), who was assisting the production, provided a few extra bars of music to cover this gap.
In subsequent years this problem was solved and Humperdinck’s additions were not used.

Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, which is crucial, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians.

In his library, now situated in Bayreuth, and open to the public, there are translations of the ‘Upanishads’ and the ‘Mahabharata’, which were just being published in his time.

The Upanishads are a collection of Sanskrit philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion.
They are also known as Vedanta, (the end of the veda).

The Upanishads

The Upanishads are considered by orthodox Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman), and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha).
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads.
Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period to the early centuries BCE, however, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads.

Chariot of Krishna and Arjuna
Bhagavad Gita

Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, and of course Wagner, among others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant.
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or purusharthas (12.161). Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata is the superlative ‘Bhagavad Gita’ – ‘The Song of the Lord’, often considered as work in its own right.

Richard Wagner undoubtedly had exceptional intuitive abilities, and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye.

Amfortas 

It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas – (see right): Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them.
The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion.
Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places – without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.
A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work.
First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology.

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Parsifal Vorspiel – Leitmotiven

A leitmotif  is a musical term referring to a ‘short, constantly recurring musical phrase’, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.
It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or ‘motto-theme’.

Richard Wagner

The term itself is an anglicization of the German ‘Leitmotiv’, literally meaning “leading motif”, or perhaps more accurately, “guiding motif.”
A musical motif has been defined as a ‘short musical idea…melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three’, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: “the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity.”
In particular such a motif should be ‘clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances’ whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be ‘combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition’ or development.
The technique is notably associated with the ‘music dramas’ of Richard Wagner.

The Vorspiel to “Parsifal” is based on three of the most profound leitmotifs in the entire work.

It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament, over which, when it is repeated, arpeggios hover, as in the religious paintings of old masters angel forms float above the figure of virgin or saint.
Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered.
This motive leads to the Grail Motive, effectively swelling to forte and then dying away in ethereal harmonies, like the soft light with which the Grail illumines the hall in which the knights gather to worship.
The trumpets then announce the Motive of Faith, severe but sturdy — portraying superbly the immutability of faith.
The Grail Motive is heard again and then the Motive of Faith is repeated, its severity exquisitely softened, so that it conveys a sense of peace which passeth all understanding.
The rest of the Vorspiel is agitated. That portion of the Motive of the Sacrament which appears later as the Spear Motive here assumes through a slight change a deeply sad character, and becomes typical throughout the work of the sorrow wrought by Amfortas’s crime.
I call it the Elegiac Motive.
Thus the Vorspiel depicts both the religious duties which play to prominent a part in the drama, and unhappiness which Amfortas’s sinful forgetfulness of these duties has brought upon himself and his knights.

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The Grail Legend

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival

Every German schoolboy knew the great folk tale of the Grail by heart.

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival was one of the greatest works of literature in the German (or any other) language.
On the surface it is a familiar tale of a pure knight’s search for perfect love and redemption.
Few pieces of heroic literature had more impact on the nation-conscious Germans than Parzival.

The Grail legend is interpreted in two ways.
Generally, it is viewed as a story of Christian love and the redemption of mankind.
The second is the mythical interpretation.
The Grail is said to contain a coded message known only to a few, and understood by a tiny number.
It is this interpretation which is accepted by Ravenscroft in ‘The Cup of Destiny’ (1981) and Angebert in ‘The Occult and the Third Reich’ (1974).

Lucifer – Prince of Heaven

Lucifer was a Prince of Heaven before his sin prompted God to cast him to Hell.

On the descent to the Underworld his crown fell to earth, and from it a huge emerald.
This was used by men of antiquity to fashion a drinking cup to be used in occult rituals.
Here we find the most ancient relic accepted by both Christians and gnostics.
The cup was ringed with the usual special signs, symbols, runes and the like, all depicting the ascent of man through various stages to a final state of blessedness.
The Grail had become the sacred vessel of Initiate Knowledge.
It contained on its exterior the great trove of primordial knowledge and tradition which linked the past to the future. 
hat primordial knowledge can bring man back into the natural and only true condition for him, the primordial state of consciousness.
Within Germany many regarded the Grail as the lost, secret book of the Aryan race.
It had been entrusted to them since eons past, and was lost and recovered on occasion.
What precisely it contained was unknown, and since it was written in symbols, the interpretation given these runes may have differed from age to age.
It was the one great treasure of all Aryans, at all times.
From age to age it had been the uniting factor, the one artifact that provided a rationale for the existence of the race.
The Grail predated Christianity.
This is an absolute whose acceptance is necessary for understanding the importance of it as an artifact to the NSDAP and its leaders, notably the SS.
In Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Myth of the 20th Century’ the Grail may be viewed as the cause of German objection to some aspects of Christianity, notably to Roman Catholicism.
It may be viewed as having provided direction to the German people, or at least a significant portion of it, when the people were confronted by orthodox Western church teachings which were alien to them.

The Grail

The Grail, the cup which Jesus used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth (see left).
Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity.
The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.”
That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self.
As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.”
The Grail is entrusted to Titurel.
He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.


A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus (see left) who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood.
It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.
A third central symbol is the swan (see right), denoting the north.
Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel.
In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, close to Montsalvat (see left), begins with trombones sounding the reveille.

Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it !
That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call.
At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events.
In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear.
Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal.
This wound is the pivot of all further action.
It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with sexual desire.
Gurnemanz and the squires try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail.
They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments.
Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.”
When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.
Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next.
She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed.

Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time.

On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses.
Wagner remarks that the black magician “beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.”
A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire).
The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:
Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there.
Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.’
Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear from Amfortas.
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