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The Undergraduate Journal of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto


Copyright © 2014 by the Authors All rights reserved Published by Coach House Press, Toronto Canada First printed May 2014 ISSN 2292-9789 Typeface Helvetica Neue and Minion Pro Cover image by Tobias-René Wilczek Cover design by Eriks Bredovskis

CONTENTS page FOREWORD .....................................................................................................1 ESSAYS ...............................................................................................................3 Fascism and the Ego: An examination of the rendering of Freudian theory in Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment Banafsheh Beizaei ..................................................................................5 Art and Responsibility to the Other Alexandra Berceanu ............................................................................17 Die Bedeutung der Mauer bei Peter Schneider und Ulrich Plenzdorf Robert Muff ..........................................................................................23 Ostberliner Perspektiven Jill Evans ...............................................................................................31 Memorials in Germany Emily Tsui..............................................................................................36 Dürer’s Four Apostles: The Visual Manifestation of a Moment in Time Ariella Minden .....................................................................................37 German Unification, Prussia, and the Zollverein Felix Walpole .......................................................................................53 AFTERWORD .................................................................................................65

EDITORIAL BOARD EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Tobias-René Wilczek LAYOUT DESIGNER Eriks Bredovskis EDITORS Sara Abhari Eriks Bredovskis Norman Chung Jill Evans Rihana Mahmoud Jennifer Mak Christopher Joseph Nazar Christine Pitson Peter Povilonis Emily Tsui Tobias-René Wilczek Eric Williams

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Arts and Sciences Students’ Union (ASSU) Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES) Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures Department of Political Science German Consulate of Toronto University of Toronto’s Dean’s Student Initiative Fund



FOREWORD Dear Reader, We are delighted to offer you Zeitgeist, the first Undergraduate Journal of German Studies at the University of Toronto. We established Zeitgeist in order to provide an opportunity for students to publish German Studies related work. As you will notice, its content encompasses a breadth of disciplines including works from Art, Contemporary Issues, Critical Theory, History, Literature, and Philosophy. We seek to express the diversity of German Studies as something more than language acquisition. Through the academic range of our authors, Zeitgeist amalgamates the diversity of German Studies into a comprehensive perspective on the spirit of our time (Zeitgeist). We cannot express enough thanks to the people who have made this journal possible. For your hard work, dedication, and passion, thank you: Sara Abhari, Eriks Bredovskis, Norman Chung, Jill Evans, Rihana Mahmoud, Jennifer Mak, Christopher Joseph Nazar, Christine Pitson, Peter Povilonis, and Emily Tsui. This journal would also have not been possible if we had not received the support from the following institutions: Arts and Sciences Students’ Union (ASSU), Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES), Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Department of Political Science, German Consulate of Toronto, and the University of Toronto’s Dean’s Student Initiative Fund. Zeitgeist will be an annual publication, with its next installment for the 2014/2015 academic year, and will retain its bilingual (English and German) format.

Tobias-René Wilczek Editor-in-Chief, 20 April 2014









Fascism and the Ego: An examination of the rendering of Freudian theory in Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment Banafsheh Beizaei


n this essay, I aim to examine the way in which Freudian theory is used in the interpretation of fascism put forth in Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, paying close attention to the employment of psychoanalytic theory in the chapter on antiSemitism. My primary focus will be on the relationship of fascism, and its necessary instrument, anti-Semitism, to the Freudian notions of ego-formation, mimesis, and regression, as overarching themes in the history of Western civilization. It is perhaps uncontroversial to claim that the Dialectic of Enlightenment posits a continuity between enlightenment and fascism. The nature of this continuity, however, is far from simple: was enlightenment reason inevitably bound to culminate in the National Socialist project, or was the latter a product as much of modernity as of the desire to undo modernity? While affirming that fascism developed out of the logic of enlightenment and that fascist rule lay on a continuum with other forms of domination prevalent throughout history, the Dialectic does not embrace such a dichotomy, not least because the ‘Enlightenment’ spoken of in the book is traced to mythic times and encompasses the whole of human history.




While the capitalist mode of production can in many ways be seen as the culmination of the instrumental reason that characterizes enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer have an ambivalent attitude towards the continuities between fascism and capitalism: “while they regarded fascist state capitalism as the most recent outcome of capitalist logic,” write Van Reijen and Branson in “The Disappearance of Class History in ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment’,” “they believed that this outcome manifested a new quality: the dominance of politics over economics.”1 To insist on the anti-modern tendencies of fascism, on the other hand, ignores the fact that the problem and its solution form an indissoluble whole: reducing “the means of opposing evil,” write Adorno and Horkheimer in an aphorism in the final chapter of the Dialectic,” would amount to the reduction of “evil itself.”2 If one were to posit modernity and reason as the ‘solution’ to the reactionary and irrational ‘problem’ of Nazism, one would be ignoring the modern roots of the binary to begin with. Moreover, the distinction between the ‘modern’ and the ‘anti-modern’, between ‘reason’ and ‘unreason’, is not so obvious if one ascribes to Adorno and Horkheimer’s view that enlightenment and myth are intertwined, that reason has an age-old complicity with power. In examining the Dialectic’s treatment of fascism, then, I aim to focus on the ways in which Adorno and Horkheimer see the logic of enlightenment reproduced in fascism, while keeping in mind the latter’s historical specificity as a movement that came into being at a particular juncture and only in certain parts of the ‘enlightened’ world. In paying particular attention to their Freudian analysis of fascism, I hope to stay true to Adorno and Horkheimer’s own desire to avoid reducing the genesis of fascism into mere subjective and psychological orientations. As Rabinbach writes in “Anti-Semitism in Dialectic of Enlightenment,” Adorno and Horkheimer, while refusing to assume an economic-determinist attitude towards the rise of antisemitism, “situated racial prejudice in the context of an objectively oriented critical theory of society.”3 “In contrast to a certain economic orthodoxy,” wrote Adorno in an essay in 1968, “we did not take an aloof attitude toward psychology but gave it its due place in our sketch as a moment of enlightenment. Never, however, did we leave any doubts as to the precedence of objective factors over psychology. […] We regarded social psychology as a subjective mediation of the


objective social system: without its mechanism subjects could not have been kept in their place.”4 Anti-Semitism, Adorno wrote in 1941, “marks the focal point of injustice” in the world, and any diagnosis of the latter would have to centre around this most recent manifestation of its irrationality: “society itself can be properly understood only by anti-Semitism.”5 According to Axel Honneth, Adorno viewed the fascist present as bringing to light the “hidden logic of the whole process of civilization.”6 Whitebook characterizes the central question of the Dialectic as follows: “How was it that the process of enlightenment and the conquest of nature, which according to both the liberal and the Marxian tradition, were intended to emancipate humanity from centuries old bondage, had resulted in a new and historically unprecedented form of barbarism?”7 To explain how fascism came to be is, arguably, the core drive of the entire book. The answer to this question, Whitebook argues, lies in the fact that mastery of outer nature was accompanied—indeed made possible by—the domination of humanity’s inner nature.8 Viewed in this light, “the Nationalist Socialist terror was not an aberration of modern history,” as Noerr points out in his afterword to the Dialectic, “but was rooted deeply in the fundamental characteristics of Western civilization.”9 Fascism, in this sense, can be understood as a form taken “by a return of repressed nature.”10 The culture industry under late capitalism bears similarities to fascism in this respect: “the culture industry is the regression, operating with enlightenment means in restricted form, from the effort of cultural sublimation.”11 In fascism, the same regressive mechanism is taken to deadly extremes. The totalitarian state system, “consented to by the suppressed subjects” around the world, is mirrored in the “regressive mode of reception” characterizing the American culture industry, where “aesthetic enjoyment is fused with the mere consumption of commodities.”12 It’s the examination of repressed inner drives that provides the entry point for psychoanalysis in Adorno and Horkheimer’s treatment of fascism. If the ego is understood as the product of the compromise between the id (the human’s basic and unhindered drives) and the superego (internalized social and cultural forces indented to repress the naked drives) carried out for the sake of survival, then enlightenment reason, understood as instrumental, self-preserving




reason, can be identified with ego-formation. The link between the mastery of nature and the formation of the ego is characterized by Honneth as follows: “the cognitive leap, in which the acting subject learns to perceive his natural environment from the fixed perspective of control, must be interpreted as the beginning of that free association between outer sense impressions and inner sensory experience in which the autonomous ego grows.”13

In the Dialectic, all domination is viewed through the prism of the domination of nature: the domination of inner drives and the subsequent “rigidification of ego identity”14 as well as social forms of domination are both traced to, and metaphorically explained through, the survival-driven control and objectification of nature. As such, Adorno and Horkheimer see “the unity of a single process of domination within the arena of political power systems ranging from the Stalinist Soviet Union through fascist Germany, to the state capitalism of the United States.”15 The domination of nature, the ego, and totalitarian domination are, as such, closely related. In interpreting the link between anti-Semitism and the ego, it is important to understand Adorno and Horkheimer’s rendering of the Freudian concepts of mimesis and projection. In “Elements of AntiSemitism: Limits of Enlightenment,” Adorno and Horkhimer argue that through false projection, the fascist recognizes mimetic traits in the Jew. In Totem and Taboo, Freud discusses mimicry in the context of ritualized sacrifice where a member of a clan “imitates an exterior similarity by dressing himself in the skin of the totem animal, by having the picture of it tattooed upon himself, and in other ways.”17 He later writes: “we have the clan, which on a solemn occasion kills its totem in a cruel manner and eats it raw, blood, flesh, and bones. At the same time the members of the clan disguised in imitation of the totem, mimic it in sound and movement as if they wanted to emphasize their common identity.”17

Adorno and Horkheimer similarly regard mimesis as “directly connected to the substitution that occurs in ritual sacrifice, the


appeasement of the gods with an animal that is both representative and surrogate.” Mimesis, according to Freud, understood as the prehistoric human’s attempt to overcome nature by resembling it, was intended to free humans from the yoke of violent nature. Mimetic behavior unleashes the domination of (and, consequently, alienation from) nature that characterizes the driving force of Western civilization: “where the human seeks to resemble nature, at the same time it hardens itself against it.”19 The logic of mimesis is at work in the formation of ego, as well: the shaman pretends to be part of nature in order to keep it at a distance, while the ego is formed through the recognition of drives as being dangerous but, at the same time, as something to be reproduced in order to be rendered harmless. Mimesis is replaced by civilization, first with the magic ritual, which is the “organized manipulation of mimesis,” and then with “rational praxis, work”, which places a prohibition on “uncontrolled mimesis.”20 Thus, through the process of dominating nature, the human species “transform[s] mimetic modes of reaction into instrumental acts of control.”21 Regression can be said to aim at prehistoric mimesis, which bears the promise of a time when it was still possible to “submerge” oneself “in the ebb and flow of surrounding nature.”22 Work, understood as sublimated mimicry, is thus “manipulated regression.”23 The bourgeois mode of production, while bearing the ageold mark of sublimated mimesis, is oblivious to its own heritage. “Those blinded by civilization have contact with their own tabooed mimetic traits only through certain gestures and forms of behavior they encounter in others, as isolated, shameful residues in their rationalized environment.” They are, as such, repelled by mimetic traits, which they believe the Jew displays, much in keeping with Freud’s characterization of the ‘uncanny’ as “that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar”25: Of the anti-Semite’s aversion toward the Jew, Adorno and Horkheimer write, “In being made aware, through his very difference from the Jew, of the humanity they have in common, the rooted Gentile is overcome by a feeling of something antithetical and alien.”26 What is suppressed by civilization (undisciplined mimicry) is thus disavowed by the civilized, who both long for a return to it and are angered by it “because it puts on show, in face of the new




relationships of production, the old fears which one has had to forget in order to survive them.”27 The idiosyncratic aversion of the anti-Semite to the Jew is determined by the ‘uncanny’ in two ways: first, the mimetic impulse, which causes rage, is discerned in (in fact, projected onto) the Jew; second, the mimetic impulse, itself repressed by the fascist, finds short-lived expression and fulfillment in the anti-Semite’s mockery of the Jew: “all the gesticulations devised by the Führer and his followers are pretexts for giving way to the mimetic temptation without openly violating the reality principle.”28 The two ways in which mimesis figures in the anti-Semitic psyche are closely related: “rage, mockery, and poisoned imitation are fundamentally the same thing.”29 AntiSemitism can, in this sense, be viewed as an expression of the selfhatred of the fascist masses, a projection of their repressed impulses onto the Jews through a process that amounts to imitating those very impulses in what Adorno and Horkheimer call “the mimesis of mimesis”:30 “Disguised as accusation, the subliminal craving of the indigenous population to revert to mimetic sacrificial practices is joyously readmitted to their consciousness.”31 In recognizing mimetic behaviour in the Jew, the anti-Semite is engaging in what Adorno and Horkheimer term “false projection”:32 “impulses which are not acknowledged by the subject and yet are his, are attributed to the object: the prospective victim.”33 Freud defines projection as follows: “an internal perception is suppressed, and, instead, its content, after undergoing a certain degree of distortion, enters consciousness in the form of external perception.”34 Taking a Kantian approach to perception, Adorno and Horkheimer posit, “in a certain sense, all perception is projection.”35 This differentiates projection from false projection, attributing to anti-Semitism only the latter. The self is understood, in keeping with Kant’s account of self-consciousness, as constituted retroactively through the synthesis of the manifold received via perception: the ego, in other words, is a product of projection.36 It is the product of the process through which the subject, severing itself from nature and thus objectifying it, learns to differentiate between inner sense and outer sense. It is reflection on the antithesis between the subject and the world, which the former has “within its own consciousness and yet recognizes it as the other” which is the “the life of reason.”37 Such conscious projection



is differentiated from false projection in that the latter excludes reflection from its operation. “Paranoid” projection is thus a form of fixation in which “the ego projects aggressive urges emanating from id which, through their strength, are a danger to itself, as malign intentions onto the outside world.”38 Since such urges cannot be avowed, the subject “assails the other with jealousy or persecution.”39 The cognitive process, even in its ‘healthy’ exercise, contains a moment of such “unreflecting naivety, which tends toward violence.”40 Here then is a moment of continuity between the logic of enlightenment and fascism: “the unconditional realism of civilized humanity, which culminates in fascism, is a special case of paranoid delusion.”41 There is an element of paranoia in all judgment, since imagination is involved in the production of truth through conferring synthetic unity to the manifold of perception. Though “paranoia is the shadow of cognition,”42 Adorno and Horkheimer are adamant to rescue thought from the derangement of fixed judgment: it is the “self-reflection of the mind,”43 “the negating step beyond the individual judgment”44 which “counteracts paranoia.”45 It is precisely this step that is missing from the anti-Semitic fixation, which consists of “judgment without judging.”46 Western reason, thus, “originates in mimesis, in the act to master nature by becoming like it but it culminates in an act of projection which, via the technology of death, succeeds in making otherness disappear.”47 Indeed, the “original mode of domination”, that of the mastery of nature through “the subsumption of the particular under the universal”48 is reproduced in every subsequent instance of domination, including in the fascist system of rule. On the most basic level, one can argue that anti-Semitism can be traced to the mythic-enlightenment urge for totality which, equating the particular with the universal through the principle of immanence, denies the subjectivity of the Jew by seeing only the ‘genus’ in looking at him. The Jews are subjected to the same fate as is met by rebellious nature (both within and without): “they are sacrificed by the dominant order when, through its increasing estrangement from nature, it has reverted to mere nature.”49 Through false projection, “humanity’s sharpened intellectual apparatus is turned once more against humanity, regressing to the blind instrument of hostility it



was in the animal prehistory, and as which, for the species, it has never ceased to operate in relation to the rest of nature.”50 The fascist present is repeatedly characterized as a state of regression throughout the book; the nature of this regression, however, merits further investigation. According to Honneth, in the Dialectic “the progress of civilization is exposed as the concealed process of human regression.”51 In Disenchantment and Ethics, Bernstein argues that for Adorno, regression did not refer to “a relapse into either an earlier phase of the individual’s development or an earlier phase of collective development.”52 The regression spoken of is, in other words, “neither ontogenetic nor phylogenetic” but “refers to processes that displace extant possibilities of thought and action.”53 Buck-Morss takes this idea further by arguing that the main purpose of the Dialectic was to “dismantle the myth of history as progress.”54 Such a negative task, however, does not amount to putting forth any positive claims about the direction (albeit backward) of history, not least because “the truth of any past phenomenon [is] not static, not outside of history, but immanent and hence mediated by a constantly changing present.”55 Hullot-Kentor argues that in Adorno’s view, regression “is not to be understood concretely, as traveling back to an earlier period, but as the manifestation of conflicts that were never resolved in the first place.”56 This is in keeping with Freud’s theory that the infantile past of humanity remains active within both the individual and society, at times finding conscious resurgence. In collapsing the myth-enlightenment dichotomy, then, it can be argued that Adorno and Horkheimer are also undermining the archaic-modern binary: “the most recent history [is] exposed as archaic barbarism, while the archaic, the epic poem of the Odyssey, [is] read as an expression of the most modern, with Odysseus being the ‘prototype of the bourgeois individual.’”57 Regression, in this sense, is ever-present in the history of humanity, and the progressive history of Western civilization can at the same time be viewed as a history of sublimated regression, starting with Odysseus’ (unfulfilled) temptation to regress into the prehistoric past symbolized by the enchanting song of the sirens. Fascism, then, can be said to be an expression of the historical regression of the human species that was set in motion with the formation of the ego and the prohibition of mimesis.



Notes Willem van Reijen and Jan Branson, “The Disappearance of Class History in Dialectic of Enlightenment,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment, by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Stanford: University of Stanford Press, 2007), 248.  2 Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic, 198.   3 Anson Rabinbach, “Why were the Jews Sacrificed?” New German Critique, no. 81 (2000): 50.  4 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 231.   5 Rabinbach, “Why were the Jews Sacrificed?” 54.  6 Axel Honneth, The critique of power: reflective stages in a critical social theory, trans. Kenneth Baynes (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991), 37.  7 Joel Whitebook, “Fantasy and Critique: Some Thoughts on Freud and the Frankfurt School,” in The Handbook of Critical Theory, ed. David M. Rasmussen, (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), 288.   8 Ibid.  9 Gunzelin S. Noerr, Afterword to Dialectic, 218.  10 Ibid.  11 Ibid., 230.   12 Honneth, Critique of Power, 33.   13 Ibid., 45.  14 Ibid., 46.  15 Ibid., 35.  16 Sigmund Freud, Totem and taboo: resemblances between the psychic lives of savages and neurotics, trans. A. A. Brill, (New York: Vintage Books, 1946), 136.   17 Ibid., 181.  18 Rabinbach, “Why were the Jews Sacrificed?” 55.  19 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 148.  20 Ibid.  21 Honneth, 48.   22 Ibid.   23 Ibid., 149.   24 Ibid.  25 Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny,” in Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud, Volume 4, trans. Joan Rivere (London: Hogarth Press, 1934), 369-70.  26 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 152.  27 Ibid., 149-50.  28 Ibid., 151.  29 Ibid., 152.  30 Ibid.  31 Ibid., 153.  32 Ibid. 155.  33 Ibid., 154.  1



Sigmund Freud, Three case histories, trans. Philip Rieff, (New York: Collier Books, 1963), 142. 35 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 154.  36 Ibid., 155.  37 Ibid., 156.  38 Ibid., 158.  39 Ibid., 159.  40 Ibid., 156.  41 Ibid.  42 Ibid., 161.  43 Ibid., 163.  44 Ibid., 160.   45 Ibid., 163.  46 Ibid., 167.  47 Seyla Benhabib, “Critical Theory and Postmodernism: On the Interplay of Ethics, Aesthetics and Utopia in Critical Theory,” in The Handbook of Critical Theory, 332.  48 Honneth, Critique of Power, 42.   49 Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic, 153.  50 Ibid., 156.  51 Honneth, Critique of Power, 37.   52 Jay M. Bernstein, Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 86.   53 Ibid.   54 Susan Buck-Morss, The origin of negative dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute, (New York: Free Press, 1977), 60.   55 Ibid.  56 Robert Hullot-Kentor, Things beyond resemblance: collected essays on Theodor W. Adorno (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 9.   57 Buck-Morss, The origin of negative dialectics, 59. 34



Bibliography Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. The Dialectic ofEnlightenment. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: University of Stanford Press, 2007. Benhabib, Seyla. “Critical Theory and Postmodernism: On the Interplay of Ethics, Aesthetics and Utopia in Critical Theory.” In The Handbook of Critical Theory, Edited by David M. Rasmussen, 327-339. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. Bernstein, J. M. Adorno: disenchantment and ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Buck-Morss, Susan. The origin of negative dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute. New York: Free Press, 1977. Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” In Collected Papers of Sigmund Freud, Volume 4. Translated by Joan Rivere. London: Hogarth Press, 1934. Freud, Sigmund. Totem and taboo: resemblances between the psychic lives of savages and neurotics. Translated by A. A. Brill. New York: Vintage Books, 1946. Freud, Sigmund. Three case histories. Translated by Philip Rieff. New York: Collier Books, 1963. Honneth, Axel. The critique of power: reflective stages in a critical social theory. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991. Hullot-Kentor, Robert. Things beyond resemblance: collected essays on Theodor W. Adorno. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Noerr, Gunzelin Schmid. Afterword to Dialectic of Enlightenment, by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, translated by Edmund Jephcott, 217-247. Stanford: University of Stanford Press, 2007. Rabinbach, Anson. “Why were the Jews Sacrificed?” New German Critique, no. 81 (2000): 49-64.



Van Reijen, Willem and Bransen, Jan. “The Disappearance of Class History in ‘Dialectic of Enlightenment,’” by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, translated by Edmund Jephcott, 248-252. Stanford: University of Stanford Press, 2007. Whitebook, Joel. “Fantasy and Critique: Some Thoughts on Freud and the Frankfurt School.” In The Handbook of Critical Theory. Edited by David M. Rasmussen. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1996, 287304.



Art and Responsibility to the Other Alexandra Berceanu


rguably one of the most important ethical thinkers of the 20th century, Franz Rosenzweig’s conception of art as an alternative language and mode of creation gives rise to an ethical responsibility for the other. In Part II of The Star of Redemption, Rosenzweig explores the redemptive category of aesthetics and addresses the question of difference and alterity by suggesting a bridge can be formed between “isolated selves” through works of art. On the other hand, idealist aesthetics entails the rejection of God’s creation, revelation and language in favour of logic which Rosenzweig points out as a blind appreciation for fine arts. Art as an alternative language and as a mode of creation which can be revelatory (albeit not on par with the word of God) facilitates a dialogue with the other, which ultimately seems to entail an ethical responsibility for the other, similar to Levinas. Western philosophy may be offered as a testament to the failure of attaining a ‘complete’ knowledge of everything. By grounding itself in scientific or philosophical logic, this longstanding trend in philosophy of stepping outside the mind, in order to create a generalizing system58, demands a kind of death from the philosopher, which Rosenzweig calls ‘suicide’ (the negation of identity, of doing



away with the subject himself or herself).59 Specifically, Rosenzweig rejects Hegel’s notion of the ‘all’ where particulars are derived from and are subordinate to the whole or universal (A = B), and operate as copies of these so-called objective principles.60 He establishes a metaethics which begins with the study of what he calls “character” or simply put, decision-making—an expression of concrete intentionality where will is directed towards something. Acts of will are inherently unique and cannot be made universal. This insight leads into metalogic; Rosenzweig likens this new framework of being and thought to a fresco, in that it is an expression of the inability to separate the fresco from the wall in reality, and the inability to conceptually unify it. On the contrary, the philosophy of the ‘all’, in its efforts to cognize everything, has alienated itself from life or the life-view as Rosenzweig would term it, just as Faust fatefully separated himself from the rest of humanity. Rosenzweig takes the reader on a Faustian journey throughout The Star of Redemption in order to reject a totalizing framework (the synthesis of everything into a single whole) in favour of a new philosophy which emphasizes our unassimilable differences and ethical responsibilities. Goethe’s Faust is an excellent example of the historically defiant way in which pre-metalogical philosophy seeks to acquire knowledge; Mephistopheles offers a positive knowledge, which one is quite often tempted to accept, especially in the tendency to deduce supposed universal truths from ordinary human perception and experience.61 He ends his introduction to The Star of Redemption with Mephistopheles’ tempting offer: “Disappear then into the abyss! I could also say: arise!”62 The reader plays the role of the insatiable Faust, guided into the abyss, driven by a desire to know and experience the ‘all’. To understand reality, we must separate or alienate ourselves from it, and descend along with our guide, Rosenzweig (Mephistopheles). Greek tragedy is where idealistic aesthetics (fine arts) fails to relate to the world. The heroes are silent and solitary—these shortcomings are attributed of a kind of primitive idealism, in that they are unable to facilitate a dialogue with the other. By not questioning their fate, they remain isolated from us, never moving beyond the Self. More importantly, idealist aesthetics is not revelatory like Rosenzweig’s counterpart; by “expanding one’s mind beyond the



material reality of a regular human being”, so to speak, it fails to relate to the average person in a meaningful way.63 Similarly, the tragic hero, reminiscent of a marble statue in his rigidity, is mute to the other, unable to interact with his external environment.64 Idealist aesthetics is a show of logic and rationalism, such as that of Hegel, Schelling or Plato—in its quest for systemization and order, it does not act as a dynamic and emotional setting for making a meaningful connection to the next, or the other. Instead, aesthetics is a language unto itself: “there exists a world where this silence itself is already speech,”65 The ‘wordless’ understanding between artist and spectator is something that can only be expressed through art.66 This understanding forms a bridge, a connection between the Self and the other; “Not a sound pierces this silence, and yet everyone at every moment can experience within himself the innermost of the other.” A profound and phenomenological understanding takes place.67 Aesthetics builds a bridge between otherwise “isolated selves”, and, while it cannot tell us anything ‘positive’ about the world, it succeeds in communicating certain ‘moments’ and experiences which philosophy is unable to do.68 “Even before all the real human language, art creates a language of the inexpressible… beneath and alongside the real language.”69 Without speaking, without language, for a few moments, individuals are connected through art. He says, “The Self does not speak and yet is heard. The Self is seen.” For Rosenzweig, art is a cultural and political phenomenon; it allows us to find and explore one another’s humanity in fundamental ways. By crossing from the private to public sphere, the artist communicates a unique perspective; he or she can communicate equality in humanity (das Gleiche71). The artist presents the Self as human for the other. This creates a visibility, a transparency between Self and other—an exchange of emotions and feelings. While each self exists in isolation, art resonates with them even though individuals are unable to ‘hear’ an ‘other’ self. In other words, art promotes the sense or feeling of commonality and helps realize Self-identity. Poetry, music and song all foster a sort of silent speech which has the potential to be revelatory when rendering itself imperfect, calling from within us, in order to humanize; art is invaluable in this sense; and like actual speech, one is intuitively made aware of the other.



Rosenzweig’s description of the poet and the artist interestingly points out their ‘likeness’, inasmuch as their belonging to a family or style, while nevertheless reiterating no unifying or overriding universality to their works. This pluralism is key to understanding how art can ground ethical relationships. Creativity is what defines the artist and emerges out of their humanity. Revelation as an aesthetic category lies in the author’s or artist’s process of creation; they are completely absorbed in this ‘labour of love’. Art that creates common understanding can be revelatory and redemptive. Rosenzweig moves from the spoken word to that of song, specifically the Song of Songs, and so shifts from an idealist mode of thought to that of revelatory thought. The Song of Songs concerns the revelatory aspects of love, of God’s love for humanity—at once both lyrical and intimate, the relationship between lover and beloved.72 The Song of Songs can be said to be a phenomenological account of this relationship.73 Lover and beloved, according to Rosenzweig, is the revelatory relationship between God and human (the soul), respectively. It is an ever-renewing love that, occurring only in the present moment, transforms: “Love in the man is ephemeral self-transformation, a selfrenunciation; he is no longer anything other than lover when he loves; the I … disappears entirely in the moment of love.”74 The admission of this love then provokes a kind of redirection; the beloved turns her attention to the other. To understand the other is to love the other; this entails a denial of the Self to meet his or her needs; in this selfconscious responsibility to the other, Rosenzweig aims to give a kind of phenomenological account of a just society through revelation. It is the ability to do justice to the other by attending to him or her in a meaningful way that is key. By addressing anonymity and concern for the other, their particularities are preserved. Yet, they stand united in their responsibility for one another—such is the chorus of voices, or “community of song,”75 where voices act in unison whilst maintaining their individual identities, “The voices, which at the beginning were mutually invited by each other to give thanks, are united in the powerful unison of the ‘We’.”76 It is this chorus and concern for the other which creates a ‘public sphere’ that embraces difference and the inability to totalize the other. In light of the phenomenology of art as language and its



redemptive potential, Book III presents a social theory which introduces the possibility of redemption through interpersonal relationships. The soul moves from seclusion to the public domain. This love of the nearest stands in stark contrast to Kantian ethics, where one freely chooses to love instead of obeying a law, commandment or universal moral maxim out of necessity.77 The act of loving and being loved carries its risks, but also its rewards. While vulnerable, the individual is exposed to an array of emotions which can only be possible in this genuine relationship; its unpredictability not only lends to the absolute alterity of the other, but also fosters a community based on trust and mutual respect, with the Song of Songs at its core. Modern tragic drama and other art forms (Faust enters the picture again) enters with us in dialogue; the hero takes part in genuine human conflict, and in turn the spectator is also conflicted. The hero is fluid, in a state of change and becoming, perhaps even undergoing an ethical transformation: “[The hero] is thrown into the world that comes and goes, he is thoroughly alive with impressions and desires, and he does not at all hide his terror before the open grave.”78 The multiplicity of standpoints of modern tragedy, and more importantly the hero’s ‘clarity’ through consciousness enables us to listen and respond to the desires of the other as our awareness of them heightens.79 Faust’s failure to accomplish this task means he remains in tragic isolation; his futile pursuit of the absolute illustrates the limited nature of his endeavour. Ironically enough, however, Mephistopheles has best illustrated the revelatory purpose of the three ‘nothings’ (man, world, God) and allowed the reader, as Faust, to love the other. Art reflects our knowledge of the world, as well as communities of diverse individuals. In the final chapter of Part II, Book III, Rosenzweig’s kingdom is a community of song which thrives on the attending care or justice for others; this poetic ending enables us to see the transformative potential of human action; art as redemption culminates in a reality of moments and the shared experience of particulars; it is a testament to life, growth and humanity. In the inability to totalize the other, and in the appreciation of identity and difference, Rosenzweig has created an aesthetic and ethical heart to his work.



Notes Examples would be Cartesian doubt or skepticism, or Plato’s Theory of Forms.  Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 60-61.  60 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 13.  61 Ibid., 60-61.  62 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 29.  63 Ibid., 158.  64 Ibid., 225.  65 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 89.  66 Ibid.  67 Ibid., 90.  68 Samuelson, 77.  69 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 90.  70 Ibid.  71 German for “the same”.  72 This is specifically Rosenzweig’s interpretation of the relationship between God and the individual.   73 Lover and beloved.  74 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 177.  75 Ibid., 259.  76 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 254.  77 See Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (New York: Random House, 2000).  78 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 225.  79 Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005: 226. 58 59

Bibliography Rosenzweig, Franz. The Star of Redemption. London: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. Samuelson, Norbert M. Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. Surrey: Psychology Press, 1999.



Die Bedeutung der Mauer bei Peter Schneider und Ulrich Plenzdorf Robert Muff


ie Mauer hat zwei verschiedene Bedeutungen in Der Mauerspringer von Peter Schneider und Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. von Ulrich Plenzdorf. Der Protagonist in Ulrich Plenzdorfs Buch Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. ist ein junger Mann, der im Osten Deutschlands lebt. Er ist mit der DDR aufgewachsen und kennt auch nichts anderes. Seine Sicht auf die Mauer und auf Westdeutschland ist geprägt durch den Osten und daher eingeschränkt. Er hat keine offene Meinung und sieht, beeinflusst von der Ideologie der DDR, die Existenz der Mauer nicht. Dagegen kann der Erzähler in Der Mauerspringer unbeeinflusst auf beide Seiten von Deutschland blicken. Er erkennt, dass die Mauer Probleme hat und sieht die verschiedenen Perspektiven von Ost- und Westdeutschland. Er ist wie ein Mann, der auf der Mauer steht – er kann beide Seiten unbeeinflusst beobachten und darüber urteilen. Die zwei verschiedenen Perspektiven werden in diesem Essay gezeigt und es wird demonstriert, wie die Mauer beide Erzähler beeinflusst. Der Erzähler in Der Mauerspringer hat eine übergreifende Sicht auf West- und Ostdeutschland. Er pendelt zwischen den beiden Seiten als würde er zwei unterschiedliche Welten betreten. Durch



die unterschiedlichen Geschichten vom Osten und Westen ist er aufgeklärt über die gesamten Umstände: „Der Mauerspringer ... durch deutsch-deutsches Bewusstsein und Befinden in den getrennten Stadthälften Berlins trifft Schneider immer wieder auf die Mauer in den Köpfen, auf Verhaltensweisen, Denk- und Gefühlsprägungen, die der jeweilige Staat zementiert hat: Staat und Einzelner, Kollektiv und Individuum, Über–Ich und Ich – ihr Verhältnis hat eine je nach Stadtteil jeweils eigene Färbung.”80

Dieses Zitat von Stephan Reinhardt zeigt die Überlegenheit des Erzählers. Obwohl die Mauer zwei Welten und Ideologien trennt, kann der Erzähler neutral urteilen. Der Anfang des Buches leitet diese Überlegenheit ein wenn er über Berlin fliegt: „[Der Reisende kann] den Schatten des Flugzeugs beobachten, der zwischen beiden Stadtteilen hin und her huscht.” 81 Durch einen Blick von oben kann er Berlin vereinen. Aber er kann die Mauer nicht übergehen. Der Erzähler realisiert, dass auf dem Boden zwischen der Mauer Probleme sind und zwei fremde Systeme existieren. Die Mauer trennt zwei Welten und zwei unterschiedliche Ideologien. Mit Beispielen stellt Schneider beide Meinungen der unterschiedlichen Seiten dar. Er zeigt zum Beispiel wie der Osten den Westen nicht anerkennt und wie der Westen die Mauer versucht zu verdrängen: „Auf dem Westberliner Stadtplan lässt sich die Mauer kaum finden. Nur ein zartes, rosa gestricheltes Band zerteilt die Stadt. Auf dem Ostberliner Stadtplan hört die Welt an der Mauer auf.“82 Er erwähnt den kalten Krieg zwischen Westdeutschland und Ostdeutschland, wie die Mauer ein früheres Land in zwei neue geteilt hat: „Westgesichter starren in Ostgesichter, wie Menschen Menschenaffen betrachten.“83 Durch die Perspektive auf beide Seiten von Deutschland bleibt der Leser neutral und kann sich seine eigene Meinung bilden. Edgar in Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. hat keinen gesamten Überblick so wie der Erzähler in Der Mauerspringer. Identisch zu seiner lieblings Romanfigur „Robinson Crusoe”84 ist Edgar durch die Mauer isoliert und gefangen. Er wohnt im Osten von Deutschland und kann das Leben auf der anderen Seite der Mauer nicht ergreifen.



Das Regime und die Propaganda der DDR beeinflussen ihn und geben ihm vor was er glauben soll. Die ersten Seiten des Buches symbolisieren die Subjektivität und die Propaganda, die in der DDR herrschten. Der Staat beeinflusste seine Bürger im täglichen Leben. Er kontrollierte was in den Nachrichten erzählt wurde und was in den Schulen unterrichtet wurde. Das Buch beginnt mit einem Zeitungsartikel der von Edgars Tod berichtet.85 Aber der Leser erfährt nicht die genauen Ursachen, sondern lernen Edgar erst beim weiterlesen des Buches kennen. Genauso hat auch die DDR Nachrichten verschwiegen und ihre Einwohner manipuliert. Diese Idee ist in Thomas Flemmings Buch Berliner Mauer: Geschichte eines politischen Bauwerks verstärkt: „Während die Bilder der Wut und des Protestes der WestBerliner um die Welt gehen, dringt über die Situation im Ost-Sektor kaum etwas nach außen. Die DDR-Medien verbreiten nur Propaganda-Meldungen.”86

Die Mauer beeinflusste die Menschen und ihre Ansichten. Die Menschen wurden durch Propaganda manipuliert bis jeder glaubte, dass sein System das Beste sei: „die Mauer wurde den Deutschen im Westen zum Spiegel, der ihnen Tag für Tag sagt, wer der Schönste im Lande ist.“87 Edgar sagt daher zum Beispiel: „Ich hatte auch nichts gegen den Kommunismus.“88 Edgar ist im Osten aufgewachsen, er kennt nur eine Seite von Deutschland und ist deswegen auch nicht negativ eingestellt. Peter Brenner schreibt dazu: „[Edgar bekundet] seine prinzipiell positive Einstellung zur sozialistischen Gesellschaft.”89 Die Geschichte spielt sich im Siebzigerjahren ab; das bedeutet, dass Edgar mit der Mauer geboren wurde. Er kennt nichts anderes, er ist von Anfang an von dem DDR Regime beeinflusst. Er ist zu jung, um zu wissen wie das ungeteilte Deutschland früher war und akzeptiert das System auch wenn er nicht komplett zufrieden ist.

Thomas Flemming kommentiert:

“Die Mauer schnitt ins Fleisch einer lebendigen Stadt. Sie trennte Familien, Freundschaften, Liebesbeziehungen. Vor der Grenzschließung hatten täglich hunderttausende



Berlinerinnen und Berliner im anderen Teil der Stadt Verwandte und Freunde zu besuchen,”90

Doch diese Erfahrung hatte Edgar nicht weil er mit dem System der DDR aufgewachsen ist. Für alle anderen war es eine Trennung und das erklären die hohen Flüchtlingszahlen: „Der Verlauf der Flüchtlingszahlen in den fünfziger Jahren war von den politischen Entwicklungen maßgeblich beeinflusst. Besonders harte Repressionsphasen, verstärkter gesellschaftlicher Transformationsdruck von Seiten der SED sowie ökonomische und deutschlandpolitische Krisensituationen führten zu entsprechenden Schüben der Fluchtbewegung.”91

Der Erzähler in Der Mauerspringer erkennt dieses Problem. Eigentlich fragt er sich was ‚deutsch‘ bedeutet und was Deutschland ist. Er bemerkt, dass jede Seite ihre eigene Identität hat und sich versucht vom ‚anderen Deutschland‘ zu trennen. Er sucht nach Gemeinsamkeiten von den zwei unterschiedlichen Staaten, die früher ein gemeinsames Land bildeten. Er versucht zum Beispiel eine Ähnlichkeit durch die gleiche Sprache zu finden: „Solange ich von einem Land namens Deutschland spreche, spreche ich weder von der DDR noch von der BRD, sondern von einem Land, das nur in meiner Erinnerung oder Vorstellung existiert.“92 Aber sogar eine Sprache kann die beiden Seiten nicht verbinden, die durch die Mauer getrennt sind. Die unterschiedlichen politischen Meinungen trennen sogar eine gemeinsame Sprache: „Und wie vor 1000 Jahren kann der Versuch, eine gemeinsame deutsche Sprache zu sprechen, nur mit einer Weigerung anfangen: mit der Weigerung, das Kirchenlatein aus Ost und West nachzuplappern.“93 Wegen der Mauer sind die Menschen in entweder Ost- oder Westdeutschland geboren und dadurch ist ihre Ideologie und das jeweilig herrschende System vorbestimmt. Dieses Schicksal teilt Edgar aus Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.- er hinterfragt nicht das System und denkt nicht an ein nationales ‚deutsch‘ Verständnis. Edgar ist nicht gegen die Regierung aber er ist gegen die Regeln der DDR. Er ist von der Einschränkung genervt, dass er keine Waren aus dem Westen kaufen kann. Er denkt daher



an seine bedrückende Situation als ein Individuum im Osten und versucht sich deswegen durch westliche Dinge zu identifizieren; Peter Brenner erklärt: „Identifikationsmöglichkeiten für die Jugendlichen in Ost und West bietet Edgar mit seiner Vorliebe für lange Haare, für Jazz und, natürlich, für Blue Jeans, die ihm weniger Kleidungsstück als eine ‚Einstellung‘ sind.“94

So trägt Edgar zum Beispiel Jeans aus dem Westen, die für ihn Freiheit symbolisieren: „Ich meine, Jeans sind eine Einstellung und keine Hosen.“95 Das Buch Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. ist ein Beispiel dafür, dass die Mauer Menschen einschränkt. Edgar ist vom Westen isoliert und kann nicht sich selbst sein: „Als echter Vorbildknabe durfte ich in Mittenberg natürlich keinen Kanten haben und eine Innenrolle schon gar nicht.“96 Für ihn bedeutet die Mauer Gefangenschaft und Freiheitsbeschränkung. Letztendlich ist die Mauer der Grund für ein schlechtes Ende in beiden Geschichten. Schneider, der Autor von Der Mauerspringer, sagte 1982, sieben Jahre bevor die Mauer fiel, im letzten Satz seiner Geschichte, dass die Mauer immer anwesend sein wird: „Nur die Stadt draußen mit ihren Brandmauern, Hinterhofmauern, Grenzmauerndiese Mauern werden noch stehen, wenn niemand mehr dasein wird, der hindurchgehen könnte.“97 Physisch wird die Mauer weg sein, aber die Ideologien, die die Mauer erstellt hat, werden immer in den Leben der Menschen präsent sein. Sogar bevor die Mauer fiel, hat Peter Schneider etwas in der New York Times über die Frage “Was wäre, wenn die Mauer fällt”98 verfasst. Er glaubt, dass die Wiedervereinigung nicht eine Verbindung ist, sondern immer noch zwei verschiedene Staaten: „zielt nicht auf ‚Wiedervereinigung‘, sondern ... auf eine ‚schrittweise Konföderation‘ zwischen den beiden deutschen Staaten, deren Bewohner in vierzig Jahren Trennung ebenso viele Unterschiede wie Gemeinsamkeiten ausgebildet haben.“99

Nach seiner Meinung ist mit der Entstehung der Mauer ein Land



zerteilt worden, das nie wieder zusammen heilen kann. Es entsprangen zu viele gravierende Unterschiede. Genauso düster ist es auch in Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.; Edgar hat es nie geschafft, seine Erfindung zu entwickeln, und stirbt letztendlich. Er konnte nie begreifen, wer er wirklich ist, da er durch die Mauer keine Zugehörigkeit zu einer der beiden Seiten spüren konnte. Er war kein Westdeutscher, aber er konnte sich auch nicht mit der ostdeutschen Gesellschaft identifizieren. Er scheitert auf der Suche nach seiner eigenen Individualität und stirbt. Siegfrieds Mews merkt an: „die Frage nach den Gründen für Edgars Tod erwies sich als das Problem, von dem her sich die Stellung des Individuums in der Gesellschaft definieren ließ.“100 Er erklärt auch: „das Thema der Selbstverwirklichung ein dem Autor aus der Literatur, aus der DDR-Wirklichkeit und aus seinem eigenen Schaffen vertrautes Problem.“101 Edgars Tod repräsentiert Kritik des Systems, weil er nicht sich selbst sein konnte. Schließlich hinterlässt das Ende wie in Der Mauerspringer eine dauerhafte Wirkung. Im Fall von Edgar, ist diese Wirkung das endgültige Ende: sein Tod.



Notes Reinhardt, Stephan. „Die Mauern im Kopf “. in Peter Schneider. Riordan, ColinEd. (Llandybie, Great Britain: Dinefwr Press, 1995), 41.  81 Schneider, Peter. Der Mauerspringer: Erzählung. (Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1982), 6.  82 Schneider, 12.  83 Schneider, 10.  84 Plenzdorf, Ulrich. Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag, 1973), 33.  85 Plenzdorf, 7-8.  86 Flemming, Thomas. Die Berliner Mauer: Geschichte eines politischen Bauwerks. (Berlin: Bebraverlag GmbH, 1999), 13.  87 Schneider, 12.  88 Plenzdorf, 80.  89 Brenner, Peter J. Plenzdorfs „Neue Leiden des jungen W.“. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag, 1982), 40.  90 Flemming, 38.  91 Eisenfeld, Bernd und Engelmann, Roger. 13.8.1961: Mauerbau: Fluchtbewegung und Machtsicherung. (Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2001), 21.  92 Schneider, 117.  93 Schneider, 118.  94 Brenner, 33.  95 Plenzdorf, 27.  96 Plenzdorf, 61.  97 Schneider, 127.  98 Reinhardt, 41.  99 Reinhardt, 42.  100 Mews, Siegfried. Ulrich Plenzdorf. (München: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1984), 41.  101 Mews, 34. 80

Bibliography Brenner, Peter J. Plenzdorfs „Neue Leiden des jungen W.“. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag. 1982. Eisenfeld, Bernd und Engelmann, Roger. 13.8.1961: Mauerbau: Fluchtbewegung und Machtsicherung. Bremen: Edition Temmen. 2001. Flemming, Thomas. Die Berliner Mauer: Geschichte eines politischen Bauwerks. Berlin: Bebraverlag GmbH. 1999.



Mews, Siegfried. Ulrich Plenzdorf. M체nchen: Verlag C.H. Beck. 1984. Plenzdorf, Ulrich. Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Verlag. 1973 Riordan, Colin- Ed. Peter Schneider. Llandybie, Great Britain: Dinefwr Press. 1995. Schneider, Peter. Der Mauerspringer: Erz채hlung. Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. 1982.



Ostberliner Perspektiven Jill Evans


n Berlin I was constantly reminded, especially as I walked through the East side of the city, that the Wall had come down less than twentyfive years earlier. Pieces of it were everywhere, often reconstituted as artworks, serving as slowly crumbling monuments to the very recent past. But I had not expected that the architecture of the DDR would also remain, sometimes so well-preserved that the curtains had not yet fallen down from its windows. I expected museums, and perhaps the odd Soviet-era Plattenbau. I was not prepared to find that, in today’s Berlin, the past continues to stand solidly beside the rapidlygentrifying present in the form of abandoned office buildings, derelict factories, and huge stretches of empty, dusty space. In the summer of 2013, twenty-four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I wandered through an old office block on Stralauer Platz, through a small jungle that had grown up in the space around it, through rooms upon rooms of freshly painted artwork. Across the river, having turned off the sidewalk onto a dirt path and across a barren field at the edge of Kreuzberg, I found an ancient-looking building known as the Eisfabrik. Half of it was full of squatters who kept candles in their open windows; the other parts allowed



in youths, myself among them, usually carrying bottles of beer. We would congregate on the roof, looking out over old Kreuzberg communes and new flats, the River Spree, and the far-off shining orb of the Fernsehturm. The view from the Eisfabrik was a living example of Berlin’s astonishing willingness to acknowledge and preserve even the unhappiest parts of history—allowing a difficult past to prop up a hopeful present.


“Verlassenes Gebäude am Stralauer Platz, Innenraum # 1,” Photo by Jill Evans. 2013.




“Verlassenes Gebäude am Stralauer Platz, Innenraum # 2,” Photo by Jill Evans. 2013.


“Türöffnung in der Eisfabrik,” Photo by Jill Evans. 2013.

“Verlassenes Gebäude am Stralauer Platz, Ausblick von der Straße” Photo by Jill Evans. 2013.




“An abstract sculpture in Dresden built upon the ashes of WWII bombings.” Photo by Emily Tsui, 2011.

“A view from one of the rows of thousands of concrete blocks from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.” Photo by Emily Tsui, 2011.



Dürer’s Four Apostles: The Visual Manifestation of a Moment in Time Ariella Minden


lbrecht Dürer gained his reputation as one of Germany’s most prominent artists of the early sixteenth century through his woodcut prints. He also worked as a painter, producing a highly accomplished oeuvre of oil paintings reflective of the mathematical precision and compositional astuteness of his travels through Venice and his native German style. The most notable of his paintings is his last large-scale work, The Four Apostles (1526).102 This piece demonstrates a profound interconnectivity between artistry, intellectualism, theology, and civic governance. Dürer was part of the humanistic circles of Nuremburg and as such was actively engaged in the theological debate that had arisen in the wake of the Reformation. The Four Apostles acts a visual manifestation of Luther’s doctrine, simultaneously, the painting’s dedication to the city council of Nuremburg commends and celebrates its good governance. Furthermore, the painting conveys a personal statement of Dürer’s own artistic legacy and his contribution to the arts of Nuremburg. The Four Apostles are twin panels depicting four of the authors of the New Testament. On the left are St. John the Evangelist and St. Peter and on the right are St. Paul and St. Mark. The four saints are absorbed in a dark, undefined background that establishes



a sense of drama and gravity. The bleak, monumental rendering of these four holy men has been subject to much discussion in the context of Dürer’s oeuvre. Erwin Panofsky connects Dürer’s uptake of Lutheranism to a shift in style from “scintillating splendour and freedom to a forbidding, yet strangely impassioned austerity.”103 Dürer’s stylistic shift has also been described as transition from ‘humanities’ to ‘humilitas’104. Indicating a shift from the vibrancy Dürer absorbed in his Venetian travels to a more reserved mode. There is a sculptural quality to each of the saints that provides a sense of monumentality. The power of St. Paul and St. John is heightened by their dramatic, fully articulated mantels, which stand as carefully defined forms in stark contrast to the dark background. St. Paul’s mantle is rendered in a grisaille tone, which mirrors his attribute of martyrdom, the sword, and enhances the image of Paul as a pillar of the church. Paul is the only saint to actively engage with the viewer; through the sculpture-like rendering of his mantle and the urgency of his expression, he emanating a forbidding impression of offering a ‘divine warning’.105 The warm red of St. John’s mantle acts as a counterpart to Paul’s garment, dominating the opposite frame through its comprehensive rendering. The full-bodied fabrics and books create a horizontal axis to counterbalance the predominant vertical axis created by the long panels.106 While the saints in the foreground initially appear equals, upon closer examination St. Peter appears timid, almost entirely eclipsed by St. John and outweighed by the dramatic expressiveness of St. Mark. While St. Peter holds his attribute, the key, each of the other saints hold the Word of God: Paul, the Bible; St. John, his gospel; St. Mark, a scroll inscribed with the name of his gospel. At the bottom of each panel is scripture authored by each of the fours saints (see Appendix B). These inscriptions were sawed off in 1627 by Maximilian I of Bavaria, a Catholic ruler who viewed the passages as a form of religious dissent, and were only reattached in the first quarter of the twentieth century. This two-panelled work has created dissonance among art historians. Panofsky, in his comprehensive volume on Dürer, writes that the tall, narrow panels are clear indicators of an unfinished triptych that was no longer required in the wake of religious turmoil.107 In his hypothesis, Panofsky states that St. Paul was originally intended to be St. Philip as a side panel for a sacra conversazione altarpiece.108



His theory has been widely discredited among scholars, who assert that the visual unity of the panels and the symmetrical arrangement of the figures, with the perspective naturally lowering towards the saints in the distance,109 form a unified composition. Perhaps Dürer used this unusual format to reflect the motif of the Word of God. The two tall panels present a visual parallel to the tablets of the Ten Commandments, invoking the written Mosaic Law fundamental to the Abrahamic religions. While the vertically compressed panels are unconventional, when considered coupled with the books of the gospels and the inscriptions at the bottom, it is clear that the format was thoughtfully created to further emphasize the primacy of God’s testaments. In the decades prior to the Reformation, a sense of apocalyptic doom swept across northern Europe, causing devotional anxiety and resulting in an emphasis on morality in art.110 The Four Apostles should be examined in this context, as Dürer himself was a Lutheran and prior to the Reformation he was a strong proponent of the devotio moderna. The extent to which The Four Apostles is a testament to Dürer’s Lutheran convictions has been debated. Jane Campbell Hutchinson contends that Lutheranism could not have consumed the artist’s mindset given that he died two years prior to the Council of Augsburg, which officially created the alternative to the Roman Church.111 Similarly, Donald Kuspit does not place the work in the context of Lutheranism, aligning it instead with the devotio moderna. David Hotchkiss Price challenges that view arguing that the painting asserts the authority of Luther’s doctrine.112 There is strong evidence in the six years prior to the dedication of the painting to support The Four Apostles as a display of Dürer’s commitment to Luther’s doctrine. Records show that the artist owned sixteen Reformation treatises by Luther, and his followers including one of the first copies of Kaspar Nützel’s German translation of Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses.”113 On 17 May 1521, while in the Netherlands, Dürer wrote a diary entry that has come to be known as the “Lament for Martin Luther” based on the false assumption that Luther was arrested on his travel home form the Diet of Worms. In this entry Dürer writes of a “holy, pure Gospel, which is not darkened by human teaching.”114 He goes on to connect the purity of this gospel to Luther’s teachings, writing: “May every man who reads Dr. Martin



Luther’s books see how clear and transparent his teaching is when he sets forth the Holy Gospel.”115 This underscores Dürer’s personal religious convictions, providing background for the prominent role of scripture within The Four Apostles. In 1519 Willibald Pirckheimer recorded that Dürer was in ‘bad shape,’116 which has been interpreted by Panofsky to mean that the artist was experiencing a crisis of faith. Fredja Anzelewsky also subscribes to this idea that the political and religious events that were radically transforming the face of Germany and Dürer’s home of Nuremburg took a deep psychological toll on the artist.117 Of this Kuspit writes: “He was not trying to reconcile Luther and the Pope, not trying to synthesize contending doctrines in an official new truth, but trying to secure his own footing in Christianity. The Reformation meant Christianity had been thrown into question, and Dürer had to conquer his doubt with a new affirmation of faith.”118

In trying to reconcile his own faith, Dürer also had to come to terms with the role of art in Luther’s doctrine. While Luther never took a particularly strong stance against art, writing only ‘occasional pieces’119 on the role of art in worship, some reformers saw religious art as idolatrous, believing that devotional art detracted from the true nature of worship. This was deeply troubling for Dürer as he struggled to understand the theological grounds for opposition to art. In an unpublished prologue to his Teaching of Measurements (1525) Dürer wrote: “Although there are people here and now who despise the art of painting very much and say it is idolatrous any Christian man is as little drawn to superstition by a painting or portrait as a pious man is drawn to murder just because he carries a weapon by his side. Only a truly senseless man could worship a painting or an image made of wood or stone. A painting which is well made and fashioned with wonderful art improves a man rather than gives him pleasure.”120

Here, Dürer explicitly makes the point that images should be a form



of self-improvement and those that truly understand the faith will understand the purpose of images as a form of self-enhancement rather than idolatry. On the same topic Dürer also wrote: “Oh dear Holy Lord and Father, let them not for the sake of evil destroy so despicably the noble invention of art, which is brought together with so much trouble and work. For art is great, serious and good, and we can and would like to use it most honourable to praise God.”121

In both these passages Dürer’s distress is evident as he works to reconcile his own beliefs with his profession and prove the continued utility of art in a religious context. Nowhere does Dürer better attempt to visually resolve this conflict than in The Four Apostles where he represents the infallibility of the unadulterated Word of God with the motif of the book. David McColl describes the painting as being ‘controlled by texts’122 because the horizontal axis is created through the use of scripture carrying across the message of text as the premier form of worship. This idea is further enhanced by Dürer’s depiction of St. John, whose gospel is open to the first sentence in the Lutheran translation: “In the beginning there was the Word…” The book held by John replaces his traditional attribute, the chalice; with this change Dürer has asserted “the eternity of God’s word” as the “foundation of religious renewal.”123 Johann Neudörffer, a professional calligrapher, provided inscriptions from Luther’s 1522 New Testament (Appendix B) which work to enforce the control the text holds over the composition. On the left panel a prologue based upon the book of Revelations enforces St. John’s message above to heed only to the word of God. Below the prologue are texts from the gospels of John and Peter, which both reiterate the prologue’s warning of ‘false prophets’ and the Antichrist. These specifically treat Luther’s doctrine, calling for the faithful to believe only in the Word in order to maintain both spiritual and secular order. These texts are a cry against religious extremism. The inscriptions send a general anti-sectarian,124 rather than purely antipapist message, that was intended to speak against all radicals. 125 The writings on the right panel are from the epistles of Paul and the gospel of Mark, and deal with morals, specifically the repercussions



of not leading a life according to scripture. Although the texts are not a natural connection to the images of the saints, they work in conjunction with the painting to encourage the viewer to both emulate the piety of the four men and to live life under the control of the Word. The final component of The Four Apostles that is convincingly Lutheran is the configuration of the saints in a distinctly non-Roman manner. The heroic nature of the figures is representative of the solid footing upon which the faith, in particular the scripture, stood.126 However, instead of filling this role with St. Peter and St. Paul, the traditional pillars of the Church, St. Peter’s role has been assumed by St. John the Evangelist, reducing him to a lesser role. This was new, even for Dürer, who portrayed the two traditional pillars of the church as equals in the woodcut St. Veronica Between St. Peter and St. Paul from the Small Passion (1510). In The Four Apostles it is John who acts as a foil to Paul in form, expression, and palate, leading Panofsky to claim that “both of them exemplify human nature at the height of its powers, and religious faith at the height of its assurance and intensity; perfect youth and dignified virility - gentle, yet unshakable devotion and stern, yet self-possessed strength.”127 This is a distinctly ‘Protestant hierarchy,’128 where the order of saints is representative of the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul as the “very core and marrow”129 of Lutheran teachings on salvation. Panofsky sees the composition of saints as a form of ‘subtle discrimination’130 which was significant in the context of the contemporary theological debates surrounding ‘Primatus Petri.’131 Not only is Peter’s position in the painting significant, but his physiognomy as well. Though he is portrayed in his standard form it should be noted that he is significantly older than the three other saints, perhaps representative of an aged church in need of reform. It is also remarkable that Peter is the only saint not to be equipped with any form of scripture – instead he holds only the key, suggesting that the Bible be removed from ‘papal control.’132 This image stands in contrast his traditional counterpart, St. Paul, who Lüdecke describes as “massive, militant, unyielding, a born leader of men.”133 Paul is equipped with a sword that figures prominently, emphasizing the idea of ecclesia militans. Another interpretation of the configuration of the saints has to do with the four temperaments. Johann Neudörfer wrote of the



painting that Dürer had chosen to represent the varied saints as the embodiment of the four humours.134 Wölfflin does not subscribe to this view, arguing that Dürer’s interest in the apostles as authors of the scripture was far too serious to repurpose the saints for any other cause. Countering this argument, Panofsky does not see mutual exclusivity between religion and the temperaments, explaining instead that the saints and their temperaments were a way to denote four different forms of religious experience.135 The humours are arranged in a humanistic hierarchy with John as the sanguine and Paul as the melancholic, the two humours most favourable to learned men of the 16th century. Sanguine was considered the most balanced, “the happy condition of man before the fall,”136 and melancholic had strong associations with genius. The Four Apostles must also be taken into consideration as a bridge between civic and religious authority, as Dürer had gifted the piece to the Nuremburg town council a year after they adopted Lutheranism as their official religion. In the civic context the prophets signify a ‘collective wisdom’137 that praise the Nuremburg council for good governance while also calling for continued strength in leadership. The suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt on 14 July 1526 was dealt with swiftly by the Nuremburg Council, but wreaked havoc in other parts of the Holy Roman Empire. The monumentality of the saints, their assuredness and the scripture can be read as representative of the need for stability in the wake of chaos. The idea of the four saints standing as pillars in a world of chaos has been formally assessed by A.M. Vogt who regards the geometrically conscious rendering of the mantles as the basis of order in the composition: “Just as the figures of Dürer’s apostles preserve their saintly calm amid all the turmoil and confusion of the times, so the strict geometrical patterns of the folds of their garments defies the essential fluidity of the material.”138 The inscriptions also support the idea of a civic dimension of the painting, as the prologue begins: “In the dangerous times all secular rulers should exercise caution…”139 The introduction is directed at the civic leaders, ensuring that the passages bear direct relevance to contemporary needs in leadership. This is further corroborated by the placement of the panels in the council chamber,140 suggesting that it was Dürer’s intention that the council members contemplate the deeds of the four saints as part of their civic decisions.



Finally, this work should be examined as Dürer’s last testament. As previously noted, the subject was one that struck a chord with Dürer, acting as a memorial to his belief in the ‘validity’141 of Christian art at a time when this was not unanimous. In a larger context it was representative of Dürer’s commitment to a pious, Christian life.142 Through his dedication of the work to the city council, Dürer firmly established his place as the preeminent artist of Nuremburg in the first quarter of the 16th century. His letter of dedication (Appendix A) is filled with flattering rhetoric. Dürer subscribes to the antiquarian tendency of the search for perfection through painted human form, aiming to rival and surpass the perfection achieved by the ancients. The artist sees The Four Apostles as the embodiment of perfection, something he had been chasing for the duration of his career. Dürer is known to have translated classical perfection into biblical perfection in his treatises. It is fitting that it is a religious work that epitomizes his ascension into the realm of perfection – not only through the skilful rending of forms, but also through the subject which embodies the perfection and purity of the Word of God. The personal dimension of the work also comes across in the medium in which it was rendered, oil paints. Dürer was and is most celebrated as a graphic artist, who was instrumental to the enhancement of printmaking from a craft to an Art. So why would he chose a painting as his own memorial? The advantage of printed works is that they can be widely distributed to a large population. Therefore, in choosing to create a singular painting, Dürer intentionally limited his audience, directing his message towards a select few in creating a private memorial for the town which fostered his career. On this topic Christensen writes: “Dürer’s presentation has been viewed as the first example of a Northern master dedicating his artistic testament to the secular authorities rather than the church. Inspired by the ideals of the humanists the great artist strengthened his claim to worldly immortality by arranging his greatest work to be hung in a place of honour in the City Hall.”143

Jeffery Ashcroft alleges that as the result of new doctrines, limits were placed on Dürer’s artistic output after 1520. The Four Apostles



demonstrates that this was not the case. The multidimensional painting has a potent religious message, while at the same time exhibiting a powerful civic overtone; both features contribute to the great personal significance that the work held to the artist. The monumentality of the composition creates a piece that spiritually, morally and civically represents the period in which Dürer was working: one of great change and lasting impact.

Notes Although St. Mark is not in fact an apostle I shall use his most commonly accepted English title throughout my essay.   103 Erwin Panofsky, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), 199.  104 Donald Burton Kuspit, “Dürer and the Northern Critics, 1502-1572” (PhD. Diss, The University of Michigan, 1971), 240  105 Heinz Lüdecke, Albrecht Dürer trans. Richard Ricket (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972), 44.  106 Wölfflin, Heinrich, The Art of Albrecht Dürer, Translated by Alastair and Heide Grieve (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1971), 273.  107 Panofsky, Life and Art, 232-233.  108 Ibid., 230-231.  109 Carl C. Christensen, Art and the Reformation in Germany (Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1979), 183.  110 C.R. Dodwell, Essays on Dürer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), 34-35.  111 Jane Campbell Hutchinson, Albrecht Dürer: A Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 178.  112 David Hotchkiss Price, Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism, Reformation and the Art of Faith. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2003), 258.  113 David A. McColl, “Through a Glass Darkly: Dürer and the Reform of Art”. Reformation and Renaissance Review 5, no. 1 (2003): 56.  114 Campbell Hutchinson, Dürer: A Biography, 165.  115 Ibid.  116 David A. McColl, “Through a Glass Darkly”, 61.  117 Fredja Anzelewsky, Dürer: His Art and Life, trans. Heide Grieve (London: The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd, 1980), 234.  118 Kuspit, “Northern Critics”, 240-241.  119 Christensen, Art and the Reformation, 54.  120 McColl, “Through a Glass Darkly”, 67.  121 Lynne J. Miles-Morillo, “Composing a Self: Traslation and Transformation in Durer’s Humanism”. Prose Studies 37, no. 2 (2010): 137.  122 McColl, “Through a Glass Darkly”, 78.  102



Christensen, Art and the Reformation, 189.  Some scholars believe the texts to be directed specifically against the Anabaptists, but given the context it is likely that a strong anti-papist sentiment is also present.   125 Wölfflin, Albrecht Dürer, 20-21.  126 Kuspit, “Northern Critics”, 242.  127 Panofsky, Life and Art, 235.  128 Hotchkiss Price, Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance, 258.  129 Lüdecke, Albrecht Dürer, 44.  130 Panofsky, Life and Art, 234.  131 Ibid.  132 Kuspit, “Northern Critics”, 239  133 Lüdecke, Albrecht 44  134 Hotchkiss Price, Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance, 269.  135 Panofsky, Life and Art, 235.  136 Ibid.  137 McColl, “Through a Glass Darkly”, 78.  138 Lüdecke, Albrecht Dürer, 46.  139 Hotchkiss Price, Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance, 264.  140 Ibid., 269.  141 Christensen, Art and the Reformation, 203.  142 Kuspit, “Northern Critics”, 249.  143 Carl C. Christensen, “Durer’s ‘Four Apostles’ and the Dedication as a Form of Renaissance Art Patronage”. Renaissance Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1967): 327. 144 Jeffery Ashcroft, “Black Arts: Renaissance and Printing Press in Nuremburg, 1493-1528”. Forum for Modern Language Studies 45, no. 1 (2008): 11.  123 124

Bibliography Anzelewsky, Fredja. Dürer: His Art and Life. Translated by Heide Grieve. London: The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd, 1980. Ashcroft, Jeffery. “Black Arts: Renaissance and Printing Press in Nuremburg, 1493-1528”. Forum for Modern Language Studies 45, no. 1 (2008): 3-18. Campbell Hutchinson, Jane. Albrecht Dürer: A Biography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Christensen, Carl C. Art and the Reformation in Germany. Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1979.



Christensen, Carl C. “Durer’s ‘Four Apostles’ and the Dedication as a Form of Renaissance Art Patronage”. Renaissance Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1967): 325-334. Dodwell, C.R. Essays on Dürer. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973. Hotchkiss Price, David. Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism, Reformation and the Art of Faith. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2003. Kuspit, Donald Burton. “Dürer and the Northern Critics, 1502-1572”. PhD. Diss, The University of Michigan, 1971. Lüdecke, Heinz. Albrecht Dürer. Translated by Richard Rickett. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972. McColl, David A. “Through a Glass Darkly: Dürer and the Reform of Art”. Reformation and Renaissance Review 5, no. 1 (2003): 54-91. Miles-Morillo, Lynne J. “Composing a Self: Traslation and Transformation in Durer’s Humanism”. Prose Studies 37, no. 2 (2010): 134-142. Panofsky, Erwin. The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955. Wölfflin, Heinrich. The Art of Albrecht Dürer. Translated by Alastair and Heide Grieve. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1971.



Appendix A: Dürer’s Letter of Dedication Prudent, honourable, wise, dear Masters. I have been intending, for a long time past, to show my respect for your Wisdoms by the presentation of some humble picture of mine as a remembrance; but I have been prevented from doing so by the imperfection and insignificance of my works, for I felt that with such I could not well stand before your Wisdoms. Now, however, that I have just painted a panel upon which I have bestowed more trouble than any other painting, I considered none more worthy to keep it as a reminiscence than your Wisdoms. Therefore I present it to your Wisdoms with the humble and urgent prayer that you will favourably and graciously receive it, and will be and continue, as I have ever found you, my kind and dear Masters. Thus shall I be diligent to server your Wisdoms in all humility. Your Wisdoms’ humble Albrecht Dürer Source: Christensen, Carl C. “Dürer’s ‘Four Apostles’ and the Dedication as a Form of Renaissance Art Patronage”. Renaissance Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1967): 325-334.

Appendix B: The Inscriptions Left Panel Prologue based on Revelations 22:18-19 In these dangerous times all secular rulers should exercise caution that they do not receive human deception for the word of God. For God wants nothing added to his word or taken away from it. Hear therefore these excellent four men, their warning.” ADR264-265 Source: Hotchkiss Price, David. Albrecht Dürer’s Renaissance: Humanism, Reformation and the Art of Faith. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2003.


Peter says in his 2nd epistle in the 2nd chapter: There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bing in damnable heresies even denying the Lord that bough them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgement now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. ARG184 John in his 1st epistle in the 4th chapter writes thus: Beloved, believe not every spirit but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Source: Christensen, Carl C. Art and the Reformation in Germany. Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1979.




Right Panel

In the 2nd epistle to Timothy in the 3rd chapter St. Paul writes: This know also, in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, holy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come back to the knowledge of truth. St. Mark writes in his Gospel in the 12th chapter: He said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the market-places, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts; which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. Source: Christensen, Carl C. Art and the Reformation in Germany. Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1979.


Albrecht D端rer, The Four Apostles, 1526, oil on lindenwood, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.






German Unification, Prussia, and the Zollverein Felix Walpole


n January 18, 1871 the German Empire was declared from within the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles following the crushing defeat of France and the Austrian Empire, Germany’s two chief rivals on the continent. In many respects the Kleindeutsche ‘solution’ to German unification under Prussian rule appears to have been the result of Otto Von Bismarck’s Realpolitik, the consequence of a campaign forged from Blood and Iron. A historical survey of the decades following the unification of 1871 supports such an interpretation as many facets of unified Germany remained incomplete. Although King Wilhelm I had proclaimed the existence of the second Reich, Germany arguably failed to become a nation state for years to come. This research paper aims to supply a comprehensive analysis of the principal social, economic and political themes that lay under the surface of Bismarck’s unification. It aims to focus specifically on the role of the German Customs union, (Zollverein), to assess to what extent it economically and politically unified Germany under Prussian rule. The paper will maintain the position that the Zollverein did not inevitably determine the unification of Germany, but that it had a considerable social, political, and economic influence which



merits an objective historical analysis. This research paper will attempt to objectively denounce an exclusively ‘Bismarck, Blood and Iron’ approach to examining German Unification by considering important socioeconomic factors that made unification possible while carefully maintaining a balance between leaning too far in an reactionary direction that would claim unification to have been inevitable with or without Bismarck. The historiography of German Unification is a massive and ongoing conversation which contains various contrasting opinions that require careful scrutiny. There is danger of attributing an overzealous character to the Zollverein, and to ‘economic visionaries’ like Friedrich List who was arguably instrumental to its conception. The infamous German historian and politician Heinrich Von Treitschke referred to the Zollverein as “a glorious beginning of a glorious history”.145 Treitschke’s historical analysis of the role of the Zollverein can best be portrayed as Prussia utilizing its position in the customs union from its conception to triumph over the other German states and achieve unification. Historians throughout the mid-20th century continued this trend to varying degrees. Some important early 20th century historians, like William O. Henderson were quick to question Treitschke’s concept of the ‘Prussian way’ of achieving modernity, on the other hand others including Martin Kitchen, Frank Tipton or Emmanuel Rousakis have supported theories that attribute a causal influence to the Zollverein.146 By considering the theses of respected and contemporary German historians such as John Breuilly, Abigail Green and Thomas Nipperdey, the paper will take caution from both ends not to adopt an anachronistic conception of the Zollverein. The essay will examine three historical periods to assess the overall impact of the Zollverein on the unification of Germany. Analysis will begin with an overview of the geopolitical effects of the Napoleonic Wars and the resultant Congress of Vienna. Such an outline will allow for a contextualization of the foundation of the customs alliances in 1818 as well as an assessment of key ‘visionaries’ such as Friedrich List. A detailed analysis of the ‘trade wars’ fought between the German states between 1818-1834 will follow, in which it will be considered to what extent Prussia utilized its economic strength to influence other states to ally with her and consolidate the Zollverein. Finally, An overview of the influence and impact of the



economic boom and railway project of the 1850’s will be considered in relation to the period between 1853 and 1867 in which Austria was barred from entering the Zollverein. It will be analyzed to assess to what extent such customs policies influenced Bismarck’s plans for war that ultimately achieved unification. The Napoleonic Wars, and the Congress of Vienna had a substantial impact on the German lands that would eventually be unified under Prussian rule in 1871. Napoleon’s defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1806 put an end to the organizational structure of the Germanic speaking lands that had existed for centuries.147 In 1807, Prussia suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Napoleon who essentially used the German lands, the Rhinebund, as military satellites until 1813.148 The Germanic princes participated in resisting Napoleon’s influence as much as possible, and the people participated in the consolidation of a concept of ‘Germaneness’ to a growing collective anti-French identity. Historians such as John Breuilly claim this phenomenon can be seen as an important precursor to German nationalism. 149 As a result of its defeat, Prussia undertook many reactionary reforms that had significant economic ramifications. A particularly relevant reform was the Prussian edict of September 1811 which essentially abolished serfdom and provided a basis for modernization and economic growth.150 The abolishment of the guild system that had held a monopoly on economic matters in many urban areas since the Middle Ages was another important reaction as the guild system had been seen to restrict economic development. Prussia’s defeat of the Napoleonic army at Leipzig in 1813 returned its status to a great power, yet as a power that found itself in a very different geopolitical and social situation that had existed prior to 1807.151 The Congress of Vienna is significant to German history for various reasons. It rearranged the German lands into the German Confederation, while retaining the reduced number of German states initiated by Napoleon.152 It had territorially and politically empowered Prussia, whilst Metternich returned Europe to the status quo antebellum by restoring power to absolutist rulers.153 At Vienna, it had been agreed that the German Confederation should have a common policy for trade, transportation, and customs duties, but plans for the Bund had little foreseeable economic impact.154 It is



essential to note that at this point, the purpose of the Bund was to tie states together to prevent radical change. There was not yet a Zollverein that aimed to economically unify Germany under Prussian rule as described by Treitschke, but a conservative measure orchestrated by Metternich.155 Not only were smaller states jealous and suspicious of nationalism, customs duties formed a large percent of revenue for smaller states and were therefore unwilling to endorse the concept of a larger customs union.156 While the British had been experiencing a massive urbanization process starting in the 1780’s, Prussia cannot be said to have begun industrialization until at least the 1830’s.157 By 1815, Three quarters of the total population of the German lands, 23 million lived in rural areas, almost half of whom resided within Prussia.158 Many of the German lands had suffered terrible agricultural losses due to the catastrophic effects of the Napoleonic Wars fought throughout the continent. The winter of 1816 had further decimated German agriculture.159 The years after Vienna also showed the negative implications of economic particularism. Austria for instance, was forbidden by tariff law to export corn when prices began to rise due to poor harvests, and they refused to listen to the pleas of the German states to remove them.160 German states, small, economically backward, and divided amongst themselves, seemed helpless against the overpowering strength of the British Industry that was flooding into the German states.161 German manufacturers, especially the textile industry, began to demand protection which was becoming more popular as the German lands failed to recover from the postwar slump.162 Small German states would come to fight fierce economic battles over passing customs borders which made transportation of goods slow and expensive, which consequently slowed economic progress. Free trade was only backed by the Junkers, the landed aristocracy and commercial bourgeoisie. They argued for economic liberalism which most German people could hardly fathom.163 The Customs Law of 1818 saw a victory for the liberals and inspired the creation of groups such as the Association of German Industrialists, and the German Association of Trade and Enquiry in which Friedrich List was instrumental. It is within this context that the Zollverein, and economic ‘visionaries’ such as List and finance minister Von Motz must be considered. These were attempts to deal with the many difficult economic obstacles that German states



struggled with and it can be asserted that by 1815, demands for greater economic unification were indeed present. After the Congress of Vienna, Prussia’s westernmost lands were divided from the rest of the state. As a result, Prussia’s central provinces geographically and economically surrounded smaller central German states.164 Tariff controls between the states hindered trade and made transportation expensive. Therefore it was in Prussia’s interest to remove barriers that hindered their economic growth.165 By 1828, Prussia had incorporated the enclave states and by 1832 they had been directly connected its eastern and western borders.166 It is necessary to ask to what extent these events that have been described as a ‘customs war’ within Germany were related to the Zollverein that was officially recognized in 1834. After establishing a trade union with Schwartzburg-Sonderhausen in 1819, followed by SchwarzburgRudoldstadt in 1822, Prussia can be seen to have already controlled and used central trade routes to enforce heavy taxes upon smaller states.167 Smaller states had the option to either join Prussia’s customs union or band together with other states to form an alternative union. During the 1820’s, the southern German states took the initiative to form a customs union that was more autonomous from any seen previously, yet it remained relatively weak as it was only able to create a frail alliance between Wurrtembourg, Baden, and Bavaria in 1828.168 However, it also occurred in 1828 that Hesse-Darmstadt left negotiations with the southern states and joined an alliance with Prussia. This would have been a highly significant affair in which finance minister Von Motz was instrumental.169 Central German states attempted to form a union yet appeared to have realized the importance of doing so too late. Therefore by 1828 there existed three customs unions: a central German, a southern German, and a Prussian. In 1831 Prussia had formed a union with Hesse-Cassel which completed the land bridge between western and eastern Prussia. In 1833 the southern union joined Prussia, with Saxony and Baden, Nassau and Frankfurt following soon after.170 The alliance that came into effect as of January 1834 is regarded by most contemporary historians as the true beginning of the customs union known as the Zollverein, a marked difference to many early 20th century historians who considered it to have started in 1818. To make clear the relevant details concerning these contrasting attitudes it is necessary to return



to the legend of Friedrich List. Both Henderson and Price have written extensively about the role of the Zollverein, and about Friedrich List. List participated actively in the formation of the trade industries which can be considered as one of the first important organizations of the middle class in Germany that dealt with the economic problems within the German states. This included the early ‘customs wars’ fought between the German states. He believed passionately in the need for a united German market, in which all customs and trade barriers between the member states of the German confederation should be removed and German industry protected against foreign competition by regulated national tariffs.171 Although List may have envisioned such a policy, it does not necessary mean that Prussia did. Historians such as Roussakis, Kitchen, and Price, appear to have overextended the influence that List’s vision had on Prussia’s economic development. As argued by Price and Kitchen, Metternich disliked the revolutionary attitude of List and his vision of unification. He thus encouraged the central German states to adopt anti-Prussian trade policies and tried to discourage the south from creating a union with Prussia because he could appreciate the potential impact of List’s vision of unification.172 The British also feared such possibilities of unification, and List even had to flee to America from 1821-24 due to his radical views.173 The aforementioned historians take this as hard evidence to support a vision similar to Treitschke’s in which List was given far too much influence. Although it is possible to construct a logical argument that the Zollverein was being utilized by Prussia to support a policy of free trade based around its powerful economy and thereby led the way towards a modernized unification of Germany, it is a far too simplistic argument that results in an anachronistic portrayal of history. Even in midst of the 1848 revolutions where many liberal nationalists had supported the idea of the Zollverein acting as a model that could procure a nation state, the customs agreements orchestrated by Prussia were centered around fiscal benefits for individual states and not concepts of developing a national arena.174 However, such clarifications do not imply that the Zollverein was not important to the expansion and eventual economic domination of Prussia within the German states. As noted by Thomas Nipperdey, who argues



firmly against the inevitably of the Zollverein fabricating unification, ‘the creation of the Zollverein counted as the single greatest success of Prussia’ in between the years 1815-1848.175 Yet there were other various contributing factors that influenced Prussia’s development during these pivotal years. Even by 1848 in the midst of revolution, the customs union was neither a significant aspect of Germany’s foreign policy, nor part of a major plan to unify Germany.176 Now that the details concerning the foundation of the Zollverein and an overview of the ‘tariff wars’ fought between the German states have been clarified, it is possible to consider how the Zollverein influenced the Prussian economic boom of the 1850’s, and its influence on foreign relations with Austria. During the first half of the nineteenth century, monumental economic developments had transpired within the German Confederation. Many policies were implemented by Prussia, with many being inspired by economic visionaries such as List and Von Motz. It has also been shown that conservative powers such as Metternich had been instrumental in supporting some measures of free trade policy to contain Prussia. The Southern states had in fact been the first to create an autonomous trade union, notwithstanding the Zollverein.177 However, by 1848, Prussia had incorporated 29 of the 39 German states into the Zollverein, and by the 1850’s Prussia was a world leading industrialist state.178 An unprecedented boom had occurred within Prussia, which after a worldwide economic crisis in 1857, returned the country to an economic upturn that lasted throughout the 1860’s until 1873.179 Some contemporary historians such as Abigail Green argue that the success of the Prussian economy that really began to present itself in the late 1850’s occurred twenty years after the creation of the union. This therefore denounces arguments that the union acted as a catalyst for economic growth.180 However, member states did become financially dependent on the union, and it fiscally benefited Prussia. As to how much the boom of the 1850’s is responsible for the consolidation of trade union remains uncertain. Prussia had established an impressive railway transport system that outmatched the United States which was arguably the most important component of the boom. The Empire had also undergone banking reforms to regulate the Prussian Thaler, and later creation of the Vereinsthaler, which generated pressure to compel member states



to standardize currencies. The Zollverein thus had many influential constituents. Its history is a complex and open-ended process, with institutional, political, economic, and fiscal components.182 It is undeniable that the Zollverein created an environment that was favorable to further integration, and which could have been used to Prussia’s advantage. Yet it is important again to deny causal agency to the customs union: it was not used from its inception as a form of ‘power politics’.183 The transition from economic unification to political unification remained far from certain. As further argued by Green, the Zollverein was certainly an important supportive factor in German unification, but the Zollparlament, which truly signified an economic unification of Germany, was arguably far less significant than Bismarck’s strategic wars of unification.184 As the 1850’s continued, there is evidence to suggest that the Zollverein began to be incorporated into Bismarck’s foreign policy. Contemporary and well respected German historians such as Green, Henderson, and Breuilly have decisively downplayed the significance of such findings, and yet the evidence that appears appears to merit a brief consideration. Plans were first put forward for Austria to join the Zollverein in 1849 as part of the proposed Grossdeutch solution that would combine 70 million people under Austrian rule.185 During the 1850’s, the Austrian economy began to fall behind the other German states. By the 1860’s Prussia was economically dominant within the German lands.186 In 1853, the German southern states made a bid to admit Austria into the Zollverein which rendered unsuccessful. Further plans were made to discuss the issue again in 1860 but were dismissed, by this point Prussia would not even consider Austria’s inclusion.187 Thomas Nipperdey highlights the aggressive stance taken by Bismarck concerning Austria’s exclusion from the Zollverein to argue that Prussia recognized the instrumental value of economically excluding Austria. Even when most of the member states of the customs union favored Austria’s inclusion, Prussia appeared to have utilized its economic might to curb the enthusiasm of the member states by threatening to withdraw countless times.188 How much of this process can be attributed to Bismarck’s future plans for war and unification is unclear; it remains likely that Austria’s exclusion was simply a fiscal matter as it had little to offer the union. Such a method of reasoning is argued by both Breuilly, and David Williamson; that 181



the importance of the exclusion termed as Austria’s ‘Konnigratz’ is likely overstated.189 They stress the vital point that although Austria in the 1860’s may have been considered ‘economically backwards’ while the Prussian economy continued to expand, it was not therefore inevitable that Prussia would assume leadership in the movement towards unification simply because of its favorable economy. As has been a reoccurring theme throughout the essay, when considering Prussia, the Zollverein, and German unification, it is vital to keep separate the notions of economic and political power. This research paper concurs with the prevailing contemporary assertion that the Zollverein did not causally construct the unification of Germany that occurred in 1871. Although the customs union had considerable social, economic, and political effects, historians should be cautious to attribute political unification as an inevitable outcome of Prussia’s economic success within the German Confederation. Contemporary historical analysis of the German ‘tariff wars’ has shown that some historians may have misrepresented Prussia’s utilization of the customs alliances that existed before the consolidation of the Zollverein in 1834, and have attributed too much causal influence to legendary economic ‘visionaries’ such as List. It is also pertinent to note that it remains unclear to what extent the economic success in the 1850’s can be attributed solely to the Zollverein. There is evidence to support further research concerning Bismarck and his possible utilization of the Zollverein to exclude Austria from unification, but such arguments may be deemed inconsequential in comparison to the significance of Bismarck’s Realpolitik, and his wars for wars for unification.

Notes Pierenkemper, Toni. Tilly, Richard. The German Economy During the Nineteenth Century. (Berghahn Books: New York, 2005.), 3.  146 Ibid.  147 Abigail Green. Fatherlands: State-Building and Nationhood in NineteenthCentury Germany. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2001.), 5.   148 John Breuilly. Austria, Prussia, and the Making of Modern Germany 1806-1871. (Longman & Pearson: London, 2002.), 12-13.   149 Ibid.  145



Frank Tipton. Regional Variation in the Economic Development of Germany During the Nineteenth Century. (Wesleyan University Press: Connecticut, 1976.), 15.  151 Thomas Nipperdey. Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck. (Gill & Macmillan: Great-Britain, 1996.), 82.  152 John Breuilly. Austria, Prussia, and the Making of Modern Germany 1806-1871, 16-17.  153 Ibid.  154 Martin Kitchen. The Political Economy of Germany 1815-1914. (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1978.), 29.  155 John Breuilly. Austria, Prussia, and the Making of Modern Germany 1806-1871, 33.   156 Pierenkemper, Tilly, 31.  157 Kitchen, 22.  158 Emmanuel N. Roussakis. Friedrich List, The Zollverein and the Uniting of Europe. (College of Europe Press: Bruges, 1968.), 27.   159 Kitchen, 35.  160 Roussakis, 28.  161 Kitchen, 36-37.  162 Ibid.  163 W.O. Henderson. Friedrich List, Economist and Visionary, 1789-1846. (Cambridge University Press: 1983), 20.  164 Breuilly, 32.  165 Pierenkemper, Tilly, 7-8.  166 Pierenkemper, Tilly, 9.  167 Kitchen, 39.  168 Breuilly, 33.  169 Kitchen, 32.  170 Breuilly, 32.  171 Price, 42. & Henderson, 90-91.   172 Kitchen, 37. & Price, 79.  173 Henderson, 59.  174 John Breuilly. The Formation of the First German Nation State, 1800-1871. (Macmillan Press Ltd: Great Britain, 1996.), 23.  175 Nipperdy, 293.   176 Breuilly, Austria, Prussia, and the Making of Modern Germany 1806-1871, 62.  177 Breuilly, 32.  178 Kitchen, 40.  179 Nipperdey, 177.  180 Green, pp. 227.  181 Pierenkemper, Tilly, 37-38, & Nipperdey, 175, & Kitchen, 42.  182 Green, pp. 227.  183 Green, pp. 228.  184 Ibid.  185 Breuilly, The Formation of the First German Nation State, 1800-1871. pp. 39. 150

ZEITGEIST Ibid.  Nipperdey, pp. 610.  188 Nipperdey, pp. 611.   189 David G. Williamson. Bismarck and Germany, 1862-1890, Third Edition. Pearson Education Limited: Great-Britain, 2011.), 33-34. & John Breuilly. The Formation of the First German Nation State, 1800-1871. (Macmillan Press Ltd: Great Britain, 1996.), 39.  186 187

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“Every editor adopts roles that are close to those of singers, poets, or authors and that, without taking this step, the role of the editor does not even begin to exist [...] Editing is a multilayered process of choosing [...] Text editing is about roles and not authentic identities, and this could almost be a deifinition of philological tact.” Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. “Editing Texts” in The Powers of Philology. Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.