Germany’s unique romanticism

“Romanticism took different forms in different national contexts but everywhere it was part of modernity. At its center stood the celebration of the self. In France and England, it partook of democratic and egalitarian traditions to a far greater degree than in Germany, where it combated such claims. No one understood this better than Thomas Mann. Commenting on the ‘melancholy history of German Innerlichkeit,’ he said that the ‘romantic counterrevolution against the Enlightenment’ had made decisive contributions to Weimar’s ‘old-new world of revolutionary reaction’ as well as to National Socialism. Speaking of Hitler’s Germany, he wrote that ‘there are not two Germanies, a good and an evil one, but only one, which through the cunning of the devil turned the best to the service of evil.’ National Socialism reconciled Innerlichkeit and modern technology. The reactionary modernists were German ideologists who selected from their own national traditions those elements that made these cultural reconciliations possible.”

Germany’s rapid urbanization and industrialization

“In 1870 Germany’s population was two thirds rural; by 1914 that relationship had been reversed, and two thirds of all Germans lived in an urban setting. In 1871 there were only eight cities with a population of over 100,000, whereas in 1890 there were twenty-six, and by 1913, forty-eight. By then twice as many laborers worked in industry as in agriculture, and over a third of the population consisted of industrial workers and their families. The concentration of German industry was another of its striking features. By 1910 almost half of all employees worked in firms using more than fifty workers, and the capitalization of the average German company was three times that of the average British firm.

The speed of urbanization and industrialization in Germany meant that many workers were first generation urban dwellers, confronted by all the attendant social and psychological problems that the shift from countryside to city entailed. The concentration of industry and population also produced the rapid growth of a managerial class, of service personnel, and of municipal and state bureaucracies. As Gesellschaft, or society, overwhelmed the sense of Gemeinschaft, or community, as speed and bigness became the dominant facts of life, work and social questions, ambition and job enjoyment became abstract notions, beyond the individual and his scale of personal reference, a matter of theory and intuition rather than experience and knowledge. The rural pre-industrial setting had been replete with its own social problems and indignities, but it is undeniable that industrialization, particularly the rapid industrialization undergone by Germany, brought with it a disturbing measure of depersonalization that material well-being could not expunge or rectify. The so-called new middle class — this enormous army of semiskilled white-collar workers involved primarily in management and service — was a sudden and direct offshoot of the later phases of industrialization and was perhaps even more prone to a sense of isolation and hence vulnerability, than the laboring classes. The concentration of industry and of commerce meant that this social group was particularly large in Germany.”

How did the Nazis come to power? “Fear and Hitler’s Instant Subversion of Freedom” (Fritz Stern lecture notes)

-National Socialism was a “temptation.”
-Persistent distortion of history got into the mainstream of German thinking, particularly the “stab in the back lie” (Marxists and Jews subverted the old regime and were an internal enemy). Liquidate the enemy at home before the enemy abroad, this notion nestled in elite German thought.
-It only took the Nazis 3-4 months to obtain totalitarian rule.
-Hitler was not elected chancellor. He was leader of the largest party but did not even seize power, it was handed to him by “conservatives.”

-In August 1914 Germany was divided and experienced mass delirium (context: “the sanctity of a soldiers death”).
-The military got more powerful through WW1.
-Sending Lenin to Russia and unrestricted submarine warfare were major mistakes of the German leadership.
-The German people had been misled and defeat “came as a total shock to people in grief and hunger.” The upper classes were stunned.
-“The hatreds that the war had spawned.” Germans were near unanimous in their hatred of Versailles, it epitomized humiliation.

-Weimar Germany suffered from Versailles and inflation but more importantly the German upper classes could not make peace with the new regime. The churches, the judiciary, academics etc. felt uprooted and had contempt for liberal practices.
-In 1930 foreign troops departed from German soil.
-“In Weimar, death itself was anti-democratic. The moderates dying young, the enemies living on past unrecognized senility.”
-The Great Depression.
-The Nazis made major inroads in local elections before the Great Depression, and in student elections.

-Hitler portrayed himself as hero who would save Germany from enemies, gain “Lebensraum” and put community over class.
-The Nazis undertook “astounding manipulation of the new media” and promoted a return to non-capitalist ideals.
-Germans harboured the dream of a new authoritarianism.
-Judges left over from the imperial regime dealt out justice favouring the right and punishing the left.
-Street fighting took place between communists and the right-wing. The divided right looked for an authoritarian solution.
-Social democrats were the “true and sole defenders of Weimar.” Communists attacked social democrats saying “after Hitler, us.”
-The left underestimated the psychological appeal of Hitler and the Nazis.
-National Socialism was “the enduring appeal to the swine in man.”
-“Hapless intriguers” in the conservative establishment handed Hitler the chancellorship.
-Hitler never received more than 37% of the vote in a free election.

-At the time Hitler was handed power civil society was still in place.
-People were deluded that some decency or “rule of law” would remain.
-It took Mussolini two and half years to establish complete power, it took Hitler a few months.
-The civil service was subservient.
-The “spread of ideology” was “a brute spectacle” that “touched the depths of desperate people.”
-Hitler moved with dizzying speed.
-Fear was rampant in Germany and for many reasons. Hitler spread and exploited fear. Concentration camps were publicly announced for purposes of fear and intimidation. Fear has a dumbing effect and is contagious.
-The SA were made auxiliary police, a white arm band sufficed.
-“Our own decency limited our imagination to think of what could happen.”
-“The themes of death and resurrection” acted to limit the “loyal christian patriot,” displaying and downplaying his antisemitism, and played into the virtues of “violence, war” and the “cult of death.”
-“The Nazis managed to combine to the appearance of legality with the reality of terror and intimidation, the former was important to maintain the self-respect of civil servants and the upper classes.”
-The Catholic party surrendered.
-The self-submission and self-censorship of the Germans was preemptive, even the Nazis were surprised.

Tyndale’s influence, the English Bible, Luther’s German Bible and colloquial speech

Quoted from The Reformation by Patrick Collinson

“Up to the mid-seventeenth century there were proportionally more Bibles printed and sold in England than anywhere else in Europe. The poetics of the seventeenth century, from John Donne to John Milton, is saturated with the richly tentacular tropes and metaphors of the Bible, while the speech of every day became peppered with scriptural phrases that rivaled Erasmus’s proverbs: ‘the burden and heat of the day,’ ‘filthy lucre,’ ‘God forbid,’ ‘the salt of the earth,’ ‘the powers that be,’ ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ —all are Tyndale’s inventions.

Luther’s German Bible was as large a landmark in the history of the German language as Tyndale’s was in English, the first work of art in German prose. Like Tyndale’s, Luther’s achievement was to pitch on a literary language that was close to colloquial speech, settling somewhere between the crudities of dialect and a language too elevated for ordinary mortals. He wrote, ‘One must ask the mother at home, the children in the street, the man at the market, and listen to how they speak, and translate accordingly.'”

German nationalism vs. France in the 19th century

Quoted from Jugendstil and Racism: An Unexpected Alliance by Angelika Pagel

“…hostility grew strong as a result of Napoleons occupation of Germany. The hoped for unification of the many petty German states under the leadership of Prussia and with the help of the French Revolution had not been achieved. The Vienna Congress of 1814-15 failed to establish a sovereign German nation-state with unified national politics and France, though defeated, even managed (through Talleyrand’s diplomacy) to emerge from the talks with its hegemony in Europe re-affirmed. Germany’s struggle for national unity would continue throughout the 19th century while the other major European powers had long since achieved this status. Disappointed and envious, Germans turned inward and backward, to ideas of tribal nationalism, of common ancestry in a shared Germanic past. Gradually, this idea of an integral German nation and people (Deutsche Nation und Volkstum) degenerated into the myth of blood-and-soil; antisemitism emerged as a “logical” consequence of this tribalism and the Nazi battlecry “One People, one Empire, one Leader” (Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer) epitomized the desire for national unity spanning the entire 19th century. Even after the Vienna Congress, the “glorious power of French nationhood” was experienced by the Germans in painful contrast to their own lack of national unity.”

Fritz Stern on “liberalism” as understood by the Germanic Ideology and the Conservative Revolution

The Germanic Ideology on liberalism

“Above all, these men loathed liberalism, Lagarde and Moeller saw in liberalism the cause and the incarnation of all evil. It may seem curious that they should have fastened on liberalism, the one political force in Germany that perpetually lost. To understand why they did this leads us to the core of their thought. They attacked liberalism because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it: the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sensed in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith.”

The Conservative Revolution on liberalism

“The chief target of the conservative revolutionaries, however, was liberalism. All the vast and undesirable changes in the lives and feelings of Western man they blamed on liberalism. They sensed that liberalism was the spiritual and political basis of modernity and they sought to equate liberalism with Manchesterism, with the disregard of man’s spiritual aspirations, with the acceptance of economic selfishness and exploitation, with the embourgeoisment of life and morals. They ignored -or maligned- the ideal aspirations of liberalism, its dedication to freedom, the hospitality to science, the rational, humane, tolerant view of man. For what they loosely called liberalism constituted little less than the culmination of the secular, moral tradition of the West.

That liberalism was much more than an economic or political philosophy has been recognized for a long time. In the 1860’s already, Cardinal Newman said of liberalism: “It is scarcely now a party; it is the educated lay world . . . it is nothing else than that deep, plausible scepticism, which I spoke about as being the development of human reason, as practically exercised by the natural man.” Nearly a centruy later, Lionel Trilling said of America that liberalism was our “sole intellectual tradition.” It was liberalism in this larger sense that the conservative revolution fought, and by doing so, it could most easily make the leap from cultural to political criticism.”