Hoisted from June 4, 2007: Con Artist Guenter Grass Surfaces in the Pages of the New Yorker

Weekend Reading/Hoisted: Nine from Fritz Stern's Memoirs

Nine from Fritz Stern's Memoirs http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/03/nine_from_fritz.html: Fritz Stern (2006), Five Germanys I Have Known (New York: FSG: 0374155402) http://amzn.to/2s6AuiG:

p. 101: Captain Hardinac von Hatten in 1933 on Fritz Stern's father, Rudolf Stern: "For [Rudolf Stern's] exemplary courage at the Somme and his commitment to duty, he was promoted to lieutenant of the reserve, and after the battle of Arras in the spring of 1917, I successfully recommended him for an Iron Cross, First Class. If every soldier of the German army had fulfilled his duty to the fatherland as loyally and courageously in the foremost position as Lieut. Stern did under my command in 1916-1917, we would have been spared the shame of the last fourteen years..."

p. 94: In subsequent decades, some Germans were upset when I insisted that you had to be a village idiot not to have known about Dachau and some of the other camps during the 1930s. Hence I was interested to read not long ago that in July 1933 the celebrated violinist Adolf Busch wrote to his brohter Fritz, the conductor, that Germans nowadays prayed: "Lieber Gott, much mich stumm, dass ich nicht nacht Dachau kumm." Lord, make me dumb [mute], so I to Dachau do not come...

p. 72: Even in those days [the 1930s], such writers and publicists as Carl Schmitt or Arthur van den bruck were called "neoconservatives"...

p. 95: It is all too often forgotten that the first victims of National Socialism were its domestic political enemies, the brave people who had fought and in previous elections sometimes bested the Nazis.... We need only recall the names of a few of these first victims: Social Democratic deputies such as Ernst Reuter, Kurt Schumacher, and Gustav Dahrendorf.... These men and women, officially placed in "protective custody"--the very term attests to the regime's cynical sneer--found themselves beyond the reach of justice, and only a very few people in all of Germany protested these breaches of right and law...

p. 60: [Thomas Mann] scattered a few sketches of rich, decadent Jews in his work and, during [World War I], wrote his anti-Western Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, a covert diatribe against his brother Heinrich, whose cosmopolitanism repelled him. For Thomas Mann, Heinrich represented the decadent Western life of civilization, whereas Germans nurtured a life of Kultur, the absolute freedom of Innerlichkeit. But precisely because he had dipped into the Germanic underworld of resentment, he early on recongized the political dangers on the right, and in 1922 avowed his faith in the German Republic, pleading, especially with the young, to cease thinking of the country's new order as run by "Jew-boys"...

p. 37: The German response [to the beginning of World War I] resembled a nationalist orgy, a morally-uplifting mixture of hyperpatriotism and religious passion. The other belligerent countries experienced milder versions of this divine madness but Germans seemed particularly vulnerable to mystical exaltation. The most important--and outrageous--example of this new spirit was the "Manifesto of the 93" of October 1914, a statement addressed to "The Civilized World" and signed by most of Germany's best-known artists and scientists, my grandparents' friends and intellectual heroes among them. It denied German responsibility for the outbreak of the war, defended the breach of Belgium's neutrality, and avowed the identity of German militarism and German culture. The "Manifesto" outraged the very people it was supposed to impress: elite opinion makers in neutral countries. Was this a sign of a political autism aggravated by war?...

p. 33: What mattered most to this cluster of quietly privileged people was their private life--family, career, friendship. The outside world may have seemed remote and unchanging, and yet German society--in which an ever-growing, organized, educated proletariat imbued with social-democratic hopes challenged the old elites who governed a semi-authoritarian monarchical state--was anything but stable. By 1912 the Social Democratic Party had the largest representation in the national parliament, the Reichstag, with limited but expanding powers. How long before radical reforms or revolution would threaten the social order? Imperial Germany was a strange hybrid, a magnificently disciplined modern society with an antiquated political order. As Walter Rathenau wrote in 1907, "What cultural criteria justify the fact that Germany is being governed more absolutistically than almost all other civilized countries?... We cannot maintain a separate climate for ourselves forever." And what about Germany's adventurous role in the world, its much-touted entry into world affairs, its high-sea fleet built to challenge British power, its imperial ambition, and its prestige-driven policies that affronted the other major powers? Wilhelmine arrogance was mixed with pervasive anxiety that Germany's powerful neighbors were "encircling" the country, trying to throttle its legitimate growth...

p. 200: My brief stay in Munich [in 1950] afforded me a lasting gain: I met Franz Schnable, the principal professor of modern history.... Schnabel... liberal by temperament but not ideology, had written a four-volume history of pre-1848 Germany, unorthodox... a Catholic, South German response to... Heinrich von Treitschke, who was fervently Prussian, militaristic, and anti-Semitic. Schnabel had been a reserved supporter of Weimar, aware that Democratic citizenship placed great responsibilities on the historian, the more so given the weaknesses of the German Bergertum, with its acceptance of material success and political passivity. In the last great crisis of Weimar, when in 1932 Chancellor Papen ousted Prussia's [social] democratic government, Schnabel had denounced the step:

Even if discussion should be closed and in the future everything should be dictated [from the top] in the German Fatherland, it still remains the duty of the intellectually leading group to raise its voice for as long as was possible. Even if every word was powerless as against previously-decreed decisions...

One still had to speak out. That of course was precisely what the great majority of German intellectuals did not do.

I went to hear him lecture.... He encouraged me... reminisced.... Thought too liberal by Catholic faculties and too Catholic by Protestant ones, he had begun his career in his native, liberal Baden as a Gymnasium teacher, later promoted to the Technical University of Karlsruhe, until the Nazis, in 1936, forbade his teaching altogether, banned his books, and didn't allow the completion of his projected fifth volume [of his history].

He told me with a touch of ironic pride that it had taken two wars and two revolutions for him to get a professorship at a regular university...

p. 216: All manner of political editing had gratuitously added anticommunist comments to my discussions of Nazism. When I refused to allow the altered piece to appear under my name, Elliot [E.] Cohen, Commentary's legendary editor, yelled at me over the phone. I was a mere refugee, I was acting "un-American," and he had the power to "make me" in public life if only I would be reasonable. This intimidation mixed with promised reward didn't appeal to me, and I stuck to my guns...

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