The Darker Pages: The unconsidered world of Nazi Literature
By Malcolm Meyerson
Table of Contents Preface (An Improbable choice)……………………………………………………….. 3-4 Overview (The Rise of Nazi Literature in Germany)……………………………………5-9 Novel Analysis – Mein Kampf (Mein Kampf: The Nazi Bible)…………………………....10-15 Dramatic Piece Review – Schlageter (Schlaegeter)………………………………………...16-20 Poetry Analysis – Poetry in Praise of Adolf Hitler (Poetry in Praise of Adolf Hitler)………. .21- 27 Short Story Analysis – Der Giftpilz or The Poisonous Mushroom (The German Dragon)….... 28-35 Picture Citations………………………………………………………………………....36 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………..37
An Improbable Choice In general, literature and art connotes higher thought and the peaks of human achievement, at least in one aspect. Much like science, literature and art provide ways in which to capture and explain the world in various comprehensible forms. Of course, literature and art have their limits, just as the sciences do. The knowledge yielded by art often has limited practical use while science is stumped by whatever cannot be measured. However, science and literature have the same purpose: to provide an explanation for the world in which people live. So, as one looks to the tangle of lies and backwards horror in the Nazi regime, it can seem at odds with the progressive nature of literature. Especially because of its famous book burning campaigns. Of course, progress is relative; a pure expression of Nazi doctrines was as much a human triumph to a German of that time as Shakespeareâ€™s plotlines seem to contemporary scholars. This question of perspective is what first attracted me to study so obscure a topic. I desired to comprehend the standpoint of the Nazis and saw an opportunity in the texts they had written. Each text shared common themes that modern people have come to associate with Nazism. The most prevalent include anti-Semitism, German nationalism, and xenophobia. Finding useable works, however, was difficult. Mein Kampf immediately presented itself as an essential part of my study and filled the role of the novel well. Of course it was also the work that carved out the facets of Nazism and so was the obvious baseline for my research. However, I still needed to find a play, poetry, and a short story to fill out my project. Most searches I conducted initially yielded nothing but generic Nazi propaganda. The World Wide Web is filled with posters, and nonspecific information on the subject. My quest for literature and information brought me to the forums of White Power groups and Neo-Nazis, and Iâ€™m sure that anyone who did not know of my project would have called the police if they saw my browsing history. The play I chose, Schlageter, contained little of the Anti-Semitism to which I would have an instinctively bad reaction. As a result, I was able to sympathize with the characters and see them not as Nazi monsters, but as the patriotic youth of a country, bravely defending their home. 3
This viewpoint wasn’t new or something that I hadn’t previously considered. I knew that German boys believed in their country’s ideals as much as the Americans or the British did and I’ve walked the paths of Allied and Axis war cemeteries. This text reminded me to think again of the men in the other trench. However, before I got to read this play, I had to find a copy of it. I spent a lot of fruitless time on the internet. Finally, I found my salvation in the Brown Library, and after a short wait had my hands on the text. Mein Kampf was the only text I studied that was readily available. Attempting to find textual examples of Nazi literature showed me just how obscure an area I had chosen to study. However, I was able to find the other texts, specifically various examples of Hitler Youth poetry and Der Giftpilz, online, which made things much easier. In reading this you will be exposed to some of the most intense racial prejudice ever to exist. You will see the words of one man most people considered insane treated like any other author and his journey compared to the “American Dream”. At the very least, this will offer a different perspective and offer an education on Nazi doctrines. The final product is a result of many hours of work done over the course of the 2013-14 school year by myself, Mrs. Belinda Snyman and my parents, Fred and Laura Meyerson. I learned a great deal by undertaking this project and a result think differently about Nazism in general. I hope you all will get as much out of this as I did. Happy reading.
Figure 1: Hitler as he reads the newspaper
The Rise of Nazi Literature in Germany “I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations.” –Winston Churchill, November 7, 1938 It seems impossible to admire a man such as Adolf Hitler in any capacity. To most people, his very name bespeaks a monster, not a person. His trespasses on humanity have gained a legendary infamy, and his Nazi Party has become synonymous with reckless hate. Winston Churchill’s praise therefore appears to be unjustified. However the British Prime Minister was not referring to Hitler’s anti-Semitic doctrines or yet unlaunched war, but to what he did for the German economy and selfimage. His actions freed Germany from its repetitive stagnation and unified it after the period of confusion following World War I. The combination of Germany’s nationalism, destitution, and its love of Hitler spawned both the literature of Nazi Germany and the principles behind it.
Figure 2- Unemployed German men after the Wall Street crash of 1929 The first real Nazi literature, Mein Kampf, was written by Hitler to address Germany’s severe economic and social problems and offered egress from them. After he enacted many of the plans he 5
laid out in the book, the populace was ecstatic. They loved him for restoring national pride and prosperity. The message of Mein Kampf resonated with Germany’s people because prior to Hitler’s rise, the country was perilously close to anarchy. The defeat in World War I and the resulting Treaty of Versailles had gutted both Germany’s economy and military. All of this created a quagmire of bruised nationalism in Germany that fueled an atmosphere of recalcitrance. Bitter ex-soldiers lined the streets, determined to change something, but lacking a focus for their energy and ire. The feeble Weimar Republic faced an ever-increasing number of extremist political groups stalking the streets as it battled record-breaking inflation. Then, with the onset of The Great Depression, Germany faced crippling unemployment. Hitler, a former soldier and then a private citizen, took advantage of these problems, blaming them on everyone except the German people, a common strategy among the political parties of the day. The near universal hatred by Germans of The Treaty of Versailles made the signatories targets, and each group railed against its rivals on the political stage. Even though most factions were peddling similar theories, only the Nazi Party managed to take control of Germany. Its success was a result of something that would be a hallmark of Nazi Germany, propaganda. Propaganda is the answer to another question that seems utterly unanswerable from afar. How could the German people allow Hitler to undertake the largest genocide in human history? While anti-Semitism had deep roots in Germany, the country had never before reached the extremes of the Nazis, and most citizens did not hold such radical views. Even more surprisingly, Germany was not the most anti-Semitic country in Europe before the 1930’s; the people of France held much more contempt for the Jews. The horrors committed beginning with the anti-Jewish boycotts and culminating in the concentration camps were all justified to the Germans through propaganda. Though it may seem absurd that the written word would lead to such slaughter, it was truly a powerful engine for shaping human thought and conforming personal will. The constant 6
bombardment of people with an idea can hammer their thinking into its shape, perhaps without them quite realizing the effect. When stories of Jews conspiring against Germany appeared everywhere, and there was little to refute these claims, people began to believe the lies were true. The picture book Der Giftpilz, written by Ernst Heimer and published by Julius Streicher in 1938, provided dozens of fictitious examples of Jewish treachery. As a book of short stories for children, this book was especially effective since when taught something at a young age, children will often follow it blindly. This particular book, which translates to The Poisonous Mushroom, expressed every Jewish stereotype imaginable in its stories. However, to persuade Germans to initially accept the idea of Jewish racial inferiority, trust had to be established. Hitler, after having returned Germany to a place of wealth and power on the world stage, provided that trust. The Germans loved Hitler for more than just his ability to lead, however. This was readily apparent in some of the poetry Figure 3- Caricatures depicting Jews as wormlike and disgusting from the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer
written by the Hitler Youth. One line in the poem In Praise of the Führer expresses
this sentiment exactly, “My Führer, you alone are the way, the goal!” The blind praise and loyalty they showered on him and his success was a product of his revitalizing of Germany’s economy and military. As a result the most of the populace held a reverence for him bordering on worship, and he used his influence to sway the masses to his point of view on other issues. Books and poetry were
not the only mediums of pro-Nazi literature. The Third Reichâ€™s ideals were also present in German theater at the time. Hanns Johst was a well-known playwright in the 1920s, years before Nazism dominated German politics. His early work showed influence from the movements of impressionism and natural philosophy. As the Nazi Party grew in power, he joined an independent anti-Semitic group and later joined the Party itself. When the Nazis had completely seized power in Germany, he wrote one of the most famous Nazi plays, Schlageter. It was a theatrical performance of the life of Albert Leo Shlageter, a militant hero of the time. The story follows Schlageterâ€™s progression from a student, musing on his place in Germany, to saboteur of the French army as it occupies the Ruhr valley. At this point he is betrayed, captured and killed by the French. He became a martyr to the German people and, capitalizing on this sentiment, the Nazi party memorialized him. The German Communist Party, however, made every attempt to debunk the legend around him and so alienated certain sects of the German people. Schlageter was a representation of Nazi ideology, one of many works that would be written in the 1930s and 1940s. This genre sparked German nationalism and diverted the passions that came with it to create a strong and cohesive Germany. This method of unification was particularly effective because it harnessed the remnant resentments the aftermath of World War I and gave the German people new purpose. The Nazi Party was a light in the darkness for the German people. All that they had expected during the First World War never came to pass, and the very opposite did in many cases. The messages and ideas in Hitlerâ€™s book excited people, who might not have thought Germany would ever be great again. Schlageter showed Germans what it meant to be patriotic, and inspired them to serve their country, and give everything for it. The Hitler Youth Poetry shows the dedication of the German youth movement of the time, which was influenced by Nazi propaganda. Finally, Der Giftpilz was the German attempt to indoctrinate children from the earliest age possible, 8
and to so deeply ingrain anti-Semitic ideas that they could never believe anything else. The goal of the Nazi Party was to build a civilization to last a thousand years, and to do so they fed off the fears and desires of Germanyâ€™s people. However, to safeguard the Reichâ€™s control of its citizens it needed to intertwine Nazism with German culture, and what better way to do that than through literally rewriting it?
Mein Kampf: The Nazi Bible Germany after World War I was not the same place it had been before the war, but neither was the world. However, of all countries, Germany lost the most in World War I and paid the most for the losses of other nations. What brought Germany back to a place of prominence on the European political stage was the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s. This regime broke new ground for Germany, and with it came a wave of new literature that, for lack of a better term, can be categorized as Nazi Literature. Mein Kampf is by far the best example of Nazi Literature and the ideals
Figure 4- Mein Kampf
behind the Nazi Party. The novel was written by the very man who imprinted his ideas upon the Nazi party, and, for all intents and purposes, created it. Mein Kampf espouses the fundamental ideals and principles of Nazism and pronounced nationalism, racism, xenophobia and a complete denial of the validity of the “Treaty of Versailles’s”. Adolf Hitler’s journey and struggle, could be compared to the pursuit of “The American Dream”. His passage brought him from beggardom to becoming the most powerful man in Europe. His ideological development can be divided into three parts: childhood and his life on the streets of Austria, his time as a soldier in World War I, and his time in the German worker’s party. All parts of his life had a distinct effect on his character and ideas. Orphaned at nineteen and left with nothing but a mediocre education and a misguided sense of artistic purpose, he was forced to wander the streets of Vienna and live off small jobs and soup kitchens. This man, the future Chancellor of Germany, was sleeping on park benches. However, his days of squalor did not make him bitter. He 10
learned much from his days in the gutter, and through hunger and poverty, still managed to educate himself by buying books. “In those days, hunger was my faithful sidekick who never left me. When I bought a book, he shared it with me. A trip to the Opera would give me his company for days.” (Hitler, 59). During his childhood he developed the pronounced German nationalism that was so common in the youth of that day, and in Vienna a sense of contempt for the weak Austrian Hapsburg dynasty grew in him as did his famous anti-Semitism. Then, as World War I was beginning, he moved to Germany to escape being put in the Austrian army. It was not, however, an aversion to service he felt, just an aversion to Austria. He explains his allegiance to Germany by saying, “I would not fight for the Austrian Hapsburg State, but I was ready at any time to die for my people and for the German Empire they belonged to.” (Hitler, 157) He quickly enlisted in the German Bavarian Corps as an Austrian citizen. During the war years, his nationalism became even more prevalent in his life, and when Germany capitulated, he broke down in tears. He then subscribed to the common German belief that Marxist and Jewish traitors had organized Germany’s surrender from within and that its armies were truly undefeated on the battlefield. From then on Hitler took a hard stance against all things Marxist and Jewish; he even believed that they were one and the same, and that these twin evils sought to corrupt and weaken Germany’s Aryan race. In regard to what Kaiser-ruled Germany should have done during World War I, he says, “The Marxist parties should have been dissolved…” (Hitler, 162). With these views in mind, he joined the small German Worker’s Party. With his powerful oratory skills and strong convictions, Hitler rose quickly in party ranks, bringing with him an understanding of the importance of propaganda. He would eventually be elected chairman of the party renamed the “National Socialist German Workers Party” and Hitler tried to stage a coup named the “Beer Hall Putsch”. For that he was put in prison where he wrote
Mein Kampf. During this period in his life he formed his ideas for the future of Germany, its growth, its society, and what to do about the “Jewish problem”. Mein Kampf is an autobiographical explanation of his Nazi party’s ideology. He saw his story as representative of the German people because of his simultaneous love and despair for the future of his country. However, the ideas Hitler expressed in Mein Kampf are the most important part of its contents, not his personal story. His anti-Semitism went beyond that of any normal man. Average citizens might choose not to buy from a Jewish shop, or might even vandalize a Jewish shop, but despite their passion, their hatred of Jews was inexplicable to one who did not share it. Hitler, on the other hand, was able to articulate and explain his loathing for the people of Israel and so effectively work to spread anti-Semitism. In Mein Kampf he separates Jews from the rest of humanity as identifies them as innately being destroyers of the civilizations that Aryan peoples built. When describing his initial ignorance of Jewish ways, he claims Jews are a different species, “The city of Linz had only a few Jews. In the course of the centuries, they had become outwardly Europeanized and looked human. In fact, I even thought they were Germans.” (Hitler, 79) Although he never alludes to the mass killings and extermination of Judaism that he would undertake during World War II, he makes it clear he does not wish for Jews to stay in Germany. He also links them with the Marxists, calling Judaism and Marxism “twin evils”. He does not sit idle on his declarations against Marxism and Judaism, he proceeds to argue that they combined are the reason for Germany’s hardship. They attempted, and succeeded to a degree to destroy German culture and ruin the economic stability of the country. He also argues that the moral corruptions of the German people, alcoholism, prostitution and subscription to Marxism were the result of Jewish and Marxist influence. In addition, Hitler argues that it was the Jews who made Germany surrender unconditionally in World War I, and so cost Germany land and its position of power in European affairs. Hitler defends the main proponent of this theory, Erich Ludendorff, who was a general in 12
the German army of World War I by saying, “It took all the enormous lies of Jewry and its army of Marxists to put the blame for the collapse on the very man who was trying single-handed with super-human energy and will-power to prevent the catastrophe he had foreseen, and to spare the nation from its deepest degradation and shame”(Hitler, 205). This, of course, is the ultimate evil in the eyes of many Germans, and especially the Nazis, who were raised to believe all things German to be superior to everything else. Another point in Hitler’s plan was to acquire “Lebensraum” or living space for Germany. This referred primarily to reacquiring the lands lost by the Treaty of Versailles but was not necessarily limited to those lands. Hitler justified this expansion through his racial theories, reasoning that the superior Aryan race of Germany was right to take land from the inferior races surrounding it. “The stronger must rule. It must not unite with the weaker, thus sacrificing its own higher nature” (Hitler, 246). However, he understood that Germany’s military was in no state to conquer any new territory at the time he wrote Mein Kampf. It had only 100,000 men after all. Mein Kampf calls for massive military and weapons development, to the point of militarizing every German male at a young age. This belief is a clear remnant of the days when the Hohenzollern family was sovereign in Prussia; Hitler makes reference to it with the phrase “Prussian Militarism” (Hitler, 175). He also saw military strength as necessary because he believed that France would not rest until they saw Germany wholly unmade as a nation. Some of these ideas were radical, but most were easy for the German people to accept. Yet there were many other political parties that feared the Nazis and attempted to smother their power. However, they were foiled by a skill that Hitler would become famous for, his speechmaking.
Figure 5- Hitler speaking, note his passionate expression and use of his hands Hitler was an orator, a powerful orator. Even he was at first surprised by the power his tongue wielded, but he quickly put it to use in swaying those who would listen to his point of view. All of those around him remarked on his powerful presence, an almost gravity like force that drew people to him. He knew exactly how to rile up a crowd when necessary, and, ever the showman, he used his own trial for the failed coup to spread the Nazi message. So perhaps it is not surprising that Mein Kampf was not written but dictated by Hitler to a secretary he was allowed to employ in prison. As a result, it reads strangely and oftentimes can be confusing due to numerous run-on sentences, scattered uses of the passive voice, and agreements issues for both tense and gender. Hitler often diverges from his story to explain portions of his ideology. The treachery of Jews, for instance is frequently revisited. This repetition can be disorienting at times, because it can seem like rereading an earlier part of the text, but it does leave the reader with a certain knowledge of Hitlerâ€™s beliefs. These rant-like departures from his auto-biography often signal the end of a chapter or at least the 14
end of the intertwining of his personal story with his dogma. This suggests that when he came upon a subject that especially impassioned him, he was unable to contain his ideas until his energy for the matter had been expended. When he is not distracted by his ideas, chapters usually end more naturally with the completion of a period in his life. Another trait that separates this work from many others is the tone that Hitler takes in the novel. The tone feels intimate to the reader, somewhat like a father telling a story to his children, appropriate considering he was given the title of Fuhrer. Throughout the work, Hitler makes allusions to civilizations of antiquity, many that the English translation labeled as well-known German references. For example, when he describes Vienna he writes, “Five years of misery and wretchedness are encapsulated in the name of this Phaeacian city.” (Hitler, 59). Mein Kampf is Hitler’s story. The messages it brings are warnings against the evil influences of Jewish people and Marxists. Its lessons exhort the Aryan world to maintain pure blood lines or risk global decline in intelligence and innovation, and the tome calls Germany to rise. Through his unwavering adhesion to his ideals and the overwhelming repetition with which he lambasts his enemies and drives forward his points, Hitler firmly declared his principles, and set a standard for Nazi literature. Following Mein Kampf’s publication, other pro-Nazi writers followed suit, supporting the movement with their own works. These ideas may fall on unwelcoming ears today, but at the time and place it was written, Mein Kampf offered an escape from and an explanation for Germany’s hardships.
Schlaegeter “For Adolf Hitler with loving dedication and unswerving loyalty.” -Hanns Johst
The year is 1933, Nazism has swept over Germany and is hoisting the country out of its post-World War I slump. Its songs and ideals fill the throats of the beleaguered people, as they look towards the next thousand years of this German Reich. Striding bravely forward is Adolf Hitler, excising what he believes to be the countries weaknesses, and letting German blood fill the gaps. Hanns Johst, a known playwright and avowed Nazi, was as nationalistic as any German. He saw his chance to contribute to the fledgling Nazi government by paying tribute to its most famous martyr, Leo Schlaegeter. For that vast majority for whom this name is foreign, Schlaegeter was a German Soldier in World War I who, in 1923, performed acts of sabotage against the French as they occupied the Ruhr
Figure 6- Hanns Johst, a well-known Nazi playwright
Valley. The centerpiece of his efforts was the destruction of train tracks via explosives and the subsequent derailment of French trains. It was not a risk-free endeavor and his actions soon caught up to him as the French discovered his identity- most likely with the help of one of Schlaegeter’s friends- and arrested him. A death sentence was not expected since Schlaegeter had saved Frenchmen twice during Germany’s wars with Poland (Parkes-Perret, 1984). Nevertheless he was judged to be deserving of execution on the 7th of May 1923 and killed by firing squad on the 26th. Schlaegeter and his men had been part of the Nazi party and, not being ones to waste propaganda material, the right wingers polished his image and held its tragedy and sacrifice high for all to see. Johst’s play was performed for Hitler on his birthday and received exceptional praise inside 16
Germany, but was criticized elsewhere for clumsy writing and general lack of style (Parkes-Perret, 1984). This could be expected as Schlaegeter, the play, was primarily intended as a literary interpretation of Nazi ideology. It might not always be obvious to the 21st century eye that Schlaegeter is a form of propaganda for Nazis. Its references to anti-Semitism are few and it does not speak of Swastikas or Hitler. However, at the time it was written such blatant references would have made the play seem forced because the Nazi audience understood its subtleties. For example, when talking about the impotency and uselessness of the German government, Thiemann, Schlaegeter’s friend and war buddy, refers to the people who populate the government as “…those assholes in Berlin!”(Parkes-Perret, 81). Someone who had not recently brushed up on the history of the Weimar republic might have trouble understanding exactly at whom the comment was directed. Another, more subtle reference is made when Thieman is talking about how everything must be done with the country in mind. He says, “You can’t buy cigarettes or a bottle of cognac, or brandy, I mean, without it being a government act!” (Parkes-Perret, 86). He first said cognac, which is French and corrected himself by using the term “German brandy”. This instinctive desire for German things was encouraged by the Nazis. Throughout the play there are also constant references to the military, even on the same page as the brandy, mostly having to do with shooting and the beating of war drums. Hitler stressed the importance of the military in Germany and believed that having strong armed forces made a country strong. Even the play’s most famous line, which is still obscure to most people and often misquoted, “When I hear the word culture…, I release the safety on my Browning!” (Parkes-Perret, 89), has much to do with violence and guns. One of the characters even goes so far as to say, “Or
can you really name anything which has amounted to something on this earth without blood and well-marked fronts?” (Parkes-Perret, 90). The question of what a German is is discussed in the play, and of course it is decided that they are a superior people. On page101 we see one of the most direct references to the Nazi party in the whole play. When the characters are discussing what music they would like to listen to, they decide on the “Torgau March”, a favorite of the Nazi party. This play, although a Nazi work, makes anti-Semitic references rarely: the two clearest are when Jews are listed as enemies of Germany along with France and England, and when Alexandra, Schlaegeter’s love interest theorizes that he is still angry about the “Jewish Hegemony”. Although the play may not blatantly praise the Nazi party, it is still heavily entrenched in Nazism and ensures that Nazi sentiments are woven into its main message of nationalism. As he is about to be shot, Schlaegeter cries out, “One last word! One wish! Command!! Germany!!! Awaken! Catch fire!! Blaze! Burn from one end to the other!! (to the audience he commands) And you… fire!!” (Parkes-Perret, 189)
Schlaegeter, however, is not just another piece of Nazi propaganda. It is a complicated theatrical piece that includes a plot structure and themes dating back to the beginning of the 19th century play, William Tell, the story of a legendary Swiss marksman and his involvement in Switzerlandâ€™s struggle for independence. Both plays focus on a nationalistic protagonist who struggles against the oppression of a foreign power, Albert Leo Schlaegeter against France in Schlaegeter and William Tell against Austria in William Tell. The two men must master themselves and take action for their people; Tell through the assassination of Gessler, a tyrant Governor, and Schlaegeter through his sabotage
Figure 7- Lithograph of Leo Schlageter from an apologetic pamphlet made by the German Government
activity. At first the men are loathe to take such actions because of the violence, but as the story progresses, they come to believe that it is right and even necessary for their motherlands. A more direct parallel is drawn when Schlaegeter mentions that he is a sharpshooter, the very skill that William Tell was famous for. The plays also share the plot vehicle of a women with whom the male lead is romantically involved, Hedwig for William Tell and Alexandra for Schlaegeter. These women worry after their lovers and foreshadow their trouble with the antagonist. Traitors amongst the main characterâ€™s people are also present in both works. Finally, the most striking similarity is perhaps that neither of the main characters are the true heroes of the pieces. They do not lead their countries to freedom - all they do is ignite the passions of their peers. The people are the real liberators, an aspect that was particularly in line with the Nazi philosophy of German superiority. It is not surprising that
Johst was influenced so heavily by William Tell, as it was a play already deeply ingrained in German culture and considered by some as the German national play. However, it was not just old dramatic works from which Schlaegeter took influences. Hans Johst was an expressionist early in his life, and though he strayed from many of its ideals he held fast to a few. Expressionism spoke against much of European society’s values such as nationalism, militarism and most violence. It is apparent in Schlaegeter that Johst does not follow that line of European thought. Yet he does create the character of Schlaegeter in an expressionist manner. Schlaegeter is a former soldier and feels somewhat lost and lonely in a non-war situation, consistent with the expressionist views of wars depravity. Schlaegeter remarks that, “…we comrades are all very lonely.” (Parkes-Perret, 97). He is also fighting the foes of his fathers, the French, against whom he was sent to fight by an older generation. Finally, Schlaegeter is “The New Man” for Germany, a revolutionary human being. This sentiment is captured when he is called “The first soldier of the Third Reich”. Stage direction plays an interesting role in the performance of Schlaegeter. Throughout the play it is used to create a sense of comradery amongst the characters through constant physical contact. Yet in the final scene at Schlaegeter’s execution, the actors are aligned in such a way that as the French fire into Schlaegeter, the bullets continue into the crowd, symbolizing his death as an injury to all. Schlaegeter was a play meant to call attention back to the dark place Germany had been after World War I and show the German people what it had taken to crawl out it of it. While also celebrating Nazism and what it gave the country, Schlaegeter was meant to inspire more people to be like Schlaegeter, nationalistic, militaristic, and brave enough to give their lives.
Poetry in Praise of Adolf Hitler: The Infatuation of a Generation Nazi ideology was integrated into all parts of German life during the dominion of the third Reich. It was impossible to do much of anything without seeing a swastika or hearing someone chant the barking slogan, “Heil Hitler”. The inescapable presence of German fascism made it difficult to avoid indoctrination or perhaps a numb acceptance. The saturation of the atmosphere with Nazi propaganda was by design: Hitler greatly desired a populace either fiercely loyal to him or too intimidated by their social environment to undertake anti-Nazi action. For the most part, it worked: the combination of the social oppression and the threat of the secret police suppressed most potential rebels in Germany before they could act. Hitler’s Third Reich was planned to last “A Thousand Years”. An ambitious goal, yet it appeared that the Nazis hold on Germany was as solid and lasting. Hitler led a people who were not particularly anti-Semitic nor anxious to exterminate the Jews. It seemed that the Germans were willing to do anything for Hitler. It was hard to imagine the German’s giving up any of the ideals for which they had committed such atrocities against the Jews and other peoples. However, Hitler had studied history and was aware of the many ancient civilizations that had fallen despite plans of longevity. He knew those at the top were always poised to fall. His solution was to proselytize everyone from the youngest age possible.
Hitler was always thinking about the next generation of Germans. The future German sons and daughters would be purer and stronger than their fathers and would carry Nazism forward. They were the protectors of Hitler’s work. It wasn’t enough however, to surround these offspring with propaganda. A more personal connection created a better chance for universal loyalty. To accomplish this, Hitler created an organization called “The Hitler Youth.” The Hitler Youth was originally created to train boys to be recruited for the SA (Storm Troopers), a group that was called upon whenever the Nazis needed muscle to carry out a plan, but in 1933 its purpose was Figure 8-A portrayal of Hitler greeting young Germans
broadened to include education for the recruits about Nazi doctrines. During this time its membership expanded from 50,000 to 5.4 million in 1939 before membership became mandatory. During this time it won over and trained millions of young Germans. Although the imperative was expanded beyond recruitment to include ideological indoctrination, the Hitler Youth continued to operate with military influences. As with all instruction about Nazi ideals, racial theory and anti-Semitism was integral. Jews and Gypsies and other non-Nordic peoples were portrayed as lazy degenerates who were incapable of building either culture or civilization. The Aryans and Nordics, however, were glorified as
beautiful, noble, and intelligent. Children were also taught that purity was essential and to be proud of their own purity. For these children, Jews and many other races were de-humanized, making many actions that outside observers would call immoral seem like amoral issues to them. One of the most important goals of the “Hitler Youth” was to prepare German children for their role in society. Boys were to be the soldiers, the proud defenders of the fatherland. Strength, ferocity, and mercilessness were prized, especially because the “Hitler Youth” was encouraged to compete with and criticize other young men’s groups like the Boy Scouts or church groups. These other organizations often had their property vandalized or members were assaulted. The Hitler Youth dominance was a result of their strict fitness regime and physical training, as well as their numerical superiority. They were also given soldier-like drills, including rifle practice, and the members who showed the most promise were taken to special preparatory schools to develop their potential as officers in the Wermacht. German girls were also given instruction on how to best serve their country. Their primary responsibility was to bear sons for Germany and protect its cultural values, as well as produce strong healthy German children. Hitler considered this domestic effort to be as important as warfare because of the degradation of German culture that he believed had ruined Austria. The girls were given less strenuous exercises that helped them get ready for motherhood. These ideas are well expressed in a poem written by an unknown member of the Hitler Youth, presumably a female.
Figure 9- A German girl holding a Nazi flag, the text reads "Nuremburg Rally"
German Girls Address the Führer! We are the door that leads to the future. We are the tree on which fruit ripens, That which inspires us, that which is holy to us, Is planted once again, strong and pure, No one can take it from our soul. We carry in our hearts the light You spread to your people, We want to be its loyal guardians, Passing it on pure, unchanged, Through our bodies into new life.
This poem expresses enthusiasm towards all of the expectations placed on girls in Nazi Germany. German Girls Address the Führer! commences by proclaiming that German girls are the future of Germany. The breakup of stanzas seems to be designed to sort the girls’ desires into those of creation and those of protection, first and second respectively. There are several references to birth and pregnancy in the first stanza, “We are the tree on which fruit ripens” and “Is planted once again,” for example. These evoke the beauty and nobility of child birth, suggesting the author was eager to begin having children. In the second stanza the author also expresses their desire to protect “the light” of the German people. It can be interpreted as the hope of the German people or perhaps it is the culture of Germany. Both are viable. The word pure is also used several times. This is a call for pure Aryan bloodlines, something greatly desired by the Nazis. Finally, the repeated use of metaphor to compare the German girls to parts of Germany creates the feeling that they are integrated into the state, and are less individuals than working parts of a great machine.
The most important function of the Hitler Youth can be inferred from the name. The children were bombarded day in and day out with the idea of Hitler’s greatness. Textbook’s were thrown out and replaced with new state texts to help teachers convince their students of this truth more completely. Many textbooks described how excited children were to see Hitler for the first time, and this elation was emitted through the pages and absorbed by the readers and so became their own excitement. Portraits of Hitler hung in every classroom and students even celebrated his birthday as a national holiday. The poem Our Führer expresses the veneration of Hitler amongst the Hitler Youth. Our Führer There are so many people who bless you, Even if their blessing is a silent one — There are so many who have never met you, And yet you are their Savior. When you speak to your German people, The words go across the land And sink into countless hearts, Hearts in which your image long has stood. Sometimes the vision of you brings life To those in the midst of hard labor and heavy obligation ... So many are devoted to you And seek in your spirit a clear light.
The first stanza of this poem gives Hitler a divine aspect. He is painted as a kind of messiah. The second line suggests that there are many who believe in Hitler’s ideology, but are trapped in places where they cannot express it openly. It is unlikely that the youth who wrote this poem had much real knowledge of the outside world due to censorship and general lack of information, so it is
probably an idealized guess based on his own devotion. The stanza as a whole claims Hitler is saving people, and that many are clamoring for his salvation and the chance to meet him.
The second stanza describes the feelings of the people at home in Germany rather than abroad. They idolize Hitler and his words fill a void in their hearts. He has been accepted and admired for a long time. His words travel all across Germany and reach all of the people. This stanza gives the impression that love of Hitler is universal within Germany. Our Führer’s third Stanza explains how Hitler is a pillar of hope to those enduring hardship. That he “brings life” to those people, suggesting he is keeping them from depression and helps maintain a lively spirit within them. Both these poem’s come from a small anthology made up of twenty nine pro-Hitler Poems. The anthology was very popular and Joseph Goebell’s awarded it the National Book prize for 1937/1938 claiming that, “This book fulfills the goals of the book prize better than any other.” The English translation is literal sacrificing content for meter and rhythm, however Nazi ideals of the content are what is truly important in these poems. The Germans had a cult-like obsession with Hitler. Dedication to him was taught and sometimes beaten into them as soon as they were old enough to focus their eyes well enough to make out a face. It was nearly impossible to evade the constant presence of the hard eyed man who was loved by everyone.
The Hitler Youth felt this especially and idolized him even more than the older citizens. This was despite the treatment they endured, such as harsh punishments, or the encouraged abuse by the more senior members to the new and less experienced ones. The dream of most Hitler Youth members was to be allowed to meet Hitler in person. Hitler Youth lived for Germany and they would do anything that Hitler told them to. This willingness for self-sacrifice and lifelong service is best expressed in their poetry. After the war much of their fervor faded. However, during the era of the Third Reich, they were
Figure 10- Hitler Youth boys line up in military fashion
willing to die for Hitler, and, when Germanyâ€™s armies were depleted and the allies were advancing, they got their chance. Although the Third Reich lasted only 12 years instead of the planned millennium, the efforts to make it stable for generations to come bore their fruit almost immediately. Germanyâ€™s youth was infatuated and when one is captivated at a young age, it can be hard to shift o perspective. Following suit, the next generation would learn obedience to Hitler from their parents, and thusly it would have continued. This poetry demonstrates the powerful effect the Nazis had on the future of Germany and show how easily human morals can be manipulated.
The German Dragon: An analysis of Der Giftpilz “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan…” -Revelation 12:19 “...the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.” –Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
The tale of Saint George and the Dragon leaves little room for interpretation. Astride a magnificent horse sits the shining figure of Saint George, riding to the aid of Sabra, the fair maiden. The dragon is the antagonist in this tale, a venomous beast clearly labelled as not only foul, but also inherently evil. The dragon desires to eat Sabra, but is stopped and slain by St George. The knight is of course the “good guy”, because he stands against evil, being so conveniently defined by the dragon. The dragon is allowed no rebuttal, and anyone, especially a child reading this, would support the brave and honorable knight over the nasty venomous dragon. Everyone knows that the knight is good, and the dragon is bad - that is a given.
Figure 11-An image from modern day anti-Semitic site, Majorityrights.com, similar to a cartoon that might appear in Der Sturmer.
This use of a children’s story to encourage profiling bears a remarkable resemblance to the fear and hatred that the German propaganda machine instilled through its anti-Semitic short stories in Der Giftpilz or The Poisonous Mushroom. While there are differences, mainly that Der Giftpilz is a 28
targeted attack on Jews through multiple stories, and the dragon in Saint George and the Dragon is a metaphor for evil, the desired result is the same. Both Jews and dragons are identified with complete evil. Der Giftpilz is a collection of short stories, published in 1938, that attempts to undermine the innate trusting nature of children to turn them completely against Jews. Parents reading this to their children would also have a fear for their children instilled in them. Stereotypes and myths about Jews that had existed for centuries made up the body of the book, along with newly fabricated falsehoods. In its all-around condemnation of Jews, Der Giftpilz embodies the core elements of Nazi antiSemitism.
Figure 12- The cover of Der giftpilz, featuring several grotesque Jewish caricatures
Julius Streicher was the man who published Der Giftpilz. Prior to his political involvement, he worked as an elementary school teacher until 1909. He was a deeply dedicated Nazi and anti-Semite, and had been with the Party long before it came to power. In fact, after hearing Hitler speak in 1922 he was enamored of him, and subsequently merged the following he had gathered in the GermanSocialists and German Working Community parties with Hitlerâ€™s, doubling the size of the Nazi Party. Streicher founded the newspaper, Der StĂźrmer, which lay at the center of the Nazi propaganda effort.
Streicher, perhaps influenced by his time as a teacher of young children, published several children’s books that warned children about the dangers of Jews. Most of these books were authored by Ernst Heimer and illustrated by Phillip Ruprecht, both Nazis. Despite criticism from the German Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, the books were a resounding success. Der Giftpilz, or The Poisonous Mushroom involved the efforts of all three of the Der Stürmer contributors and was the most widely read of all. The central metaphor of the book of short stories is the poisonous mushroom, which is meant to represent Jews. The connotation is that while the mushroom looks aesthetically pleasing, it is in fact evil and harmful to the touch. In the first story, The Poisonous Mushroom, a mother and son pick mushrooms in the forest, and the mother takes the opportunity to instruct her son on the ways of the Jews. She compares the Jews to mushrooms, and to make sure her son understands that poisonous mushrooms will not always be easy to recognize, she says, “However they disguise themselves, or however friendly they try to
Figure 13- This illustration from Der Giftpilz shows a Germany mother educating her son about Poisonous Mushrooms
be, affirming a thousand times their good intentions to us, one must not believe them. Jews they are and Jews they remain. For our Volk they are poison.”
This insidious portrayal of Jews was common in Germany under the Nazis. Germany was not the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe prior to Hitler’s rise, Jewish emancipation in the country occurred in the late 1800’s, but afterwards it was undoubtedly so. For the Nazi anti-Semitic campaign to succeed, it was necessary to convince the German people that all the years they had been around Jews and not perceived them as especially malicious, that they had not been seeing the Jews’ true selves. One story, How To Tell A Jew, goes into detail as to how to recognize a Jew amongst the “Gentiles” (Aryans). German propaganda artists of the time were fond of making caricatures of Jews with hideous and somewhat comical features. The story is set in a classroom where the teacher asks his students to summarize what they have learned about identifying Jews. The students respond that most Jews have several basic attributes like hooked noses, curly hair and comically large ears. The teacher then prompts the students to explain why it is the word “most” is used. They respond, “Every Jew does not have these characteristics. Some do not have a proper Jewish nose, but real Jewish ears. Some do not have flat feet, but real Jewish eyes. Some Jews cannot be recognized at first glance. There are even some Jews with blond hair. If we want to be sure to recognize Jews, we must look carefully. But when one looks carefully, one can always tell it is a Jew.” This story expresses the idea that while Jews may look like normal people, they are not, Figure 14- This illustration from Der Giftpilz displays the moneycoveting stereotype of Jews
and that one cannot always see these differences and avoid their trickery. The separation of Jews from Germans, and in fact from all other people, was another point in the German’s Jewish policy. In the story How The Jews Came To Us, three Jews come into town, and children comment on their filth and general shadiness. They describe how though the Jews they see are poor, they will surely acquire money through unfair trading and then buy better clothes which they will use to disguise themselves as Germans, French, or Italians, depending on where they choose to reside. This story attempts to make Jews seem like parasitic foreigners wherever they live. It capitalizes on ignorant paranoia that makes people suspicious of immigrants and believe that they are taking advantage of their country. Other stories describe how even Jews see themselves as different from the Germans. What is the Talmud? captures a fictional conversation between a rabbi and a young Jew. The two discuss what it means to be a Jew, and in doing so they claim that Jews have a set of beliefs that is the complete opposite of German values. In this story two main points are illustrated: Jews may take advantage of Germans in any way they wish, and Jews do not have to follow German laws, and are in fact, above them. The first point is best represented with a supposed reading from the Talmud “The Gentiles are created to serve the Jews. They must plow, sow, weed, dig, reap, bundle, soft, and grind. The Jews are created to find everything ready.” This is not in fact a quotation from the Talmud, but a
complete fabrication, Germans reading it who had no knowledge of the Talmud’s content were outraged that the Jews seemed to truly believe that they were superior. Another false reading tries to paint Jews as completely backwards and evil, “It is permitted for Jews to cheat Gentiles. All lies are good.” The passage is read as a counterweight to the German proverb “Be ever loyal and upright. Honor is the surest defense.” This, if believed, leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that Jews are deceitful in nature, the opposite of good Germans. The second point of the Talmud
Figure 15- This illustration depicts a Rabbi relentlessly drilling evil doctrines into his young Jewish follower
story is to make sure the readers believe that one can never be both a German and a Jew. At one point in their conversation, the Rabbi asks the boy to recite more lines from the Talmud. He chooses, “Only the Jew is human. The Gentile peoples are not called people, rather they are named animals.” This claim would obviously be infuriating to the German people and would label the Jews as an enemy that must be overcome for the sake of humanity. Interestingly, the Nazi Party took a view on Jews very similar to the way the Germans are portrayed by the Jews in the Talmud story. They thought them to be sub-human. This idea was planted to make the German people believe that maybe they were really different from the Jews. However, by convincing the readers of the Jews’ backwards morals, it makes it clear that they are not only different, but inferior.
Each of the stories in Der Giftpilz attempts to convince the German people that the Jews are innately evil creatures. Many of the tales depict Jews swindling Germans in some way or another. In one story, How Two Women Were Tricked by Jewish Lawyers, the Jewish lawyers play two German women off of each other in order to extract more money from both of them. Not only does this story portray Jews as immoral and greedy, but it also introduces the idea that Jews can manipulate Germans and cause them to turn on each other. A centerpiece of Hitler’s ideology was that Jews and the Marxists had influenced Germans to essentially betray themselves in surrendering in World War I. Introducing the idea that Jews were a cause of internal strife would further turn Germans against them, especially because Germans were looking for a scapegoat to dispel the shame of losing the war. At the end of the story, the two women make up and pledge to never deal with Jewish lawyers again. Other tales also depict the natural aversion to Jews that the German people have. In How Worker Hartmann Becomes a National Socialist, a German man attends a Communist meeting, but turns away when he sees that the leaders are Jews who cry for the undoing of Germany. In How Jewish Traders Cheat, a German woman rejects the wares of a Jew proclaiming that Jews are all deceivers and that she must bring her business to a German shop. There are also stories that tell how Jews seek to physically harm Germans. The stories, Inge’s Visit to a Jewish Doctor and The Experience of Hans and Else with a Strange Man both present Jews as shady characters who attempt to abduct children. How the Jew Treats his Domestic Help expresses the dangers of how getting caught in the hands of Jews, a maid is trapped and mistreated by Jews and is only saved by a good German businessman. One story, How Jews Torment Animals, explains how Jews unnecessarily cause pain to the animals they slaughter. It also talks about “ritual murders,” alleged acts carried out by the Jews. 34
These murders were often objects of fear in medieval times. During the Naziâ€™s rise, Der StĂźrmer claimed that nearly every unsolved murder was an instance of this practice. Each story is accompanied by a picture that invariably depicts a fat rich Jew or a hideously ugly one. They often are doing something suspicious or malicious like expelling a German family from its farm. The Germans shown in these pictures are generally attractive and are, for the most part, Aryan. After each story there are a few lines of verse that highlight the key lessons of the tale. Though impossible to be certain based on the translation, it seems feasible that in German it might rhyme so as to be more easily remembered, like a saying or a short fable. These Giftpilz stories are intended to make Jews seem irrefutably evil to the children of Germany. In concert with the attempts of the Nazis to indoctrinate German adolescents through the Hitler youth movement, this book tries to condition the next generation for a Nazi world. However, unlike other examples of Nazi literature, these stories focus on only anti-Semitic material. Had the Reich lasted the thousand years that Hitler planned, the image of the Jew would have been as much a part of Nazi culture as the dragon is to contemporary people. In addition, Jews would have been just as scarce as dragons, had the Nazisâ€™ eradication campaign succeeded in its ultimate objective. The transformation of Jews into a mythical evil would make their resurgence in any place under Nazi control impossible, because the Germans would not have been willing to reexamine their views on Jews if they knew them to be evil. The goal of Der Giftpilz was to achieve permanent victory over the Jews, through an unshakeable belief in their evil.
Cover Page image: http://en.artintern.net/index.php/news/main/html/1/1012 Figure 1: http://bokertov.typepad.com/btb/2007/10/german-mothertu.html Figure 2: http://www.internationalschoolhistory.net/warfare/abyssinia/baldwin.htm Figure 3 : http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/sturmer/ds34-40.jpg Figure 4 : http://spitfirelist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/mein-kampf.jpg Figure 5: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2010/03/19/hitler-wanted-teach-troops-cricket Figure 6 : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-20071010-501%2C_Hanns_Johst.jpg Figure 7 : http://bio.bwbs.de/Albert_Leo_Schlageter_arrested_B768.html Figure 8: http://historyfollower.com/the-hitler-youth/ Figure 9 : http://www.pinterest.com/pin/68679963038667247/ Figure 10 : http://historyfollower.com/the-hitler-youth/ Figure 11: http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2009/06/critique-of-culture-of-kevinmacdonald.html Figure 12 : http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/giftpilz/scan1.jpg Figure 13 : http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/giftpilz/scan2.jpg Figure 14 : http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/giftpilz/scan15.jpg Figure 15 : http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/images/giftpilz/scan5.jpg
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