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The Passion of Max von Oppenheim

Lionel Gossman

IV. Oppenheim’s Relation to the National Socialist Regime in Context

16. Some Individuals: Schoeps, Pevsner, Kantorowicz, Landmann

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  • 1 Cit. Robertson, The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749–1939, p. 384.

1Some individual cases reveal a similar pattern of acceptance, even sympathy, despite questions and misgivings. Rabbi Leo Baeck accompanied a protest against the boycott of Jewish stores with the assurance that German Jews longed to “take part in the renewal and resurgence of the German people.”1 Probably Hans-Joachim Schoeps (1909–1980) is the best known of Jewish apologists for the new regime. The son of a patriotic Prussian Jew who had served as an army medical officer in World War I, Schoeps could claim to be descended, on his mother’s side, from a Jewish volunteer in the War of Liberation of 1813. In February 1933 Schoeps — then a student of religion, history, and literature with a recently acquired (1932) doctorate in the philosophy of religion from the University of Leipzig and expectations of an academic career (he did go on to become the author of several scholarly books on Judaism, Christianity, and Prussia, some translated into English) — founded a deliberately small and select association, to which he gave the name Der deutsche Vortrupp: Gefolgschaft deutscher Juden [The German Advance Guard: A Loyal Following of German Jews].

  • 2 Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach (Berlin: Haude (...)
  • 3 “Das neue Gesicht der Politik,” one of a selection of articles, originally published in various jo (...)
  • 4 “Der Nationalsozialismus rettet Deutschland vor dem Untergang; Deutschland erlebt heute seine völk (...)

2Schoeps was a complex figure. Brought up, as he himself relates, in a home where religion played almost no role, he was nonetheless unwilling, because of his carefully thought-through conservatism, to ignore or deny his Jewish origins. Indeed, it was because of his Jewishness (so he claimed) that he was naturally and profoundly conservative.2 On the one hand he remained deeply committed to an idea (or ideal) of Prussia as a state based on the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) and on government by an elite dedicated to the good of the state as a whole, yet respectful of particular spheres of human interest and action, such as religion, the arts, and local communities. On the other hand, he was convinced that the upsurge of popular energies and drives in National Socialism had been necessary to bring about the overthrow of the corrupt and selfish liberal regime that had taken the place of the old Prussian state. “One can think what one likes of Adolf Hitler,” he wrote in January 1933, “but there is no belittling what he has succeeded in achieving politically; he has pulled people out of the isolation of their individual fatesand bound the masses, through his own person, to the nation again.”3 “National Socialism,” he declared unequivocally in a later article entitled “The Jew in the New Germany” (October 1933), “is saving Germany from ruin. Germany is today experiencing the regeneration of the entire Volk.”4

  • 5 Schoeps, “Jugend und Nationalsozialismus” (September 1930) in “Bereit für Deutschland!”, p. 60. Se (...)
  • 6 Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!”, pp. 60–62, 68, 71, 74–78, 90–91, 94, 106–07, 225 et passim. Se (...)

3Fully aware, from the perspective of his political conservatism, of inadequacies and dangers in National Socialism, Schoeps was convinced of the need to support the movement in order to secure its victory over both Bolshevism and western-style liberalism. However problematical the “Positiva” of the new force that had broken into the established social and political order might be, they had the merit of challenging the liberal idea of the state as grounded in “Besitz und Bildung” [“property ownership and education”] and having as its primary function the protection of the interests of consumers. As a revolt against the “Sinnlosigkeit unseres allzuvernünftigen Lebens” [“the senselessness of our all too rational way of life”], and the “bedrohlich amerikanisierte Wirklichkeit unseres Daseins,” [“the menacingly americanized reality of our existence”],5 National Socialism was a healthy development — arising from the depths of the national soul — that might eventually be made to evolve in the direction of an authoritarian rather than a totalitarian state, a state founded on order and history rather than popular impulse and “Blut und Boden” [“blood and soil”].6

  • 7 Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach, pp. 81–82, 85 (...)
  • 8 See Schoeps’s own account of this rescue operation, ibid., pp. 108–13.
  • 9 Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!”, pp. 99–103. A stoical attitude, similar to that recommended by (...)
  • 10 Karl A. Schleunes, The Twisted Road to Auschwitz, pp. 192–200. Schleunes cites an SS order of Apri (...)
  • 11 Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach, pp. 100–01.

4Schoeps’s vision of a reborn Germany is very close to that of traditional German conservatives. It also bears some resemblance to the “New Reich” prophesied by Stefan George and embraced as an ideal by the poet’s disciples. While pursuing his doctorate in Leipzig Schoeps had in fact formed a friendship with Wolfgang Frommel, a leading advocate and champion of George’s ideas, albeit never a member of the poet’s inner circle, and he had been admitted to Frommel’s own circle. He also frequented other, more traditional conservative milieux.7 In 1938, Schoeps — like Hans Rothfels, the Jewish historian who had also been favourably disposed (He was able to reach sanctuary in Sweden thanks to the active intervention on his behalf, at some risk to himself, of none other than Werner Otto von Hentig.8) Until the last minute, however, he did everything he could to win support for National Socialism among patriotic German Jews. Even when it became impossible not to recognize that racial anti-Semitism would not be eradicated from the Nazi programme, he urged these Jewish patriots to respond to the humiliations they were having to endure at the hands of their fellow-Germans by resolutely insisting on their “German-ness” and refusing to leave their homeland, even while harbouring no illusory hope that their increasingly difficult loyalty would have any practical salutary effect.9 This he did in the face of the evident displeasure with which such urgings were viewed by the Nazi authorities. The goal of the Nazis, after all, was to make Germany “judenfrei” and efforts to achieve this goal had even led to limited co-operation at certain points with the Zionists.10 On his return to Germany in 1945 Schoeps understandably felt intense remorse at having encouraged “national German” Jews to remain in their homeland and accept their tragic destiny instead of advising them in good time to flee at any price.11


  • 12 I have been a close friend of Pevsner’s son Dieter and the latter’s wife Florence, since the mid-1 (...)

5The case of Nikolaus Pevsner, the art historian from Leipzig, who, after emigrating to England, became a pillar of the British art and architecture establishment and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969, is no less instructive, despite significant differences. As the present writer knew Pevsner personally, and as recent biographical studies have shed much light on his early life and career, his relation to National Socialism will be examined here in some detail.12

  • 13 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life (London: Chatto and Windus, 2011), pp. 36, 38. Nikolaus (...)
  • 14 Quoted by Robert G.L. Waite, The Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Postwar Germany, 1 (...)

6Nikolai (familiarly “Nika,” later Germanified to Nikolaus) Pevsner was born into a Jewish family of relatively recent immigrants. His father Gilel (i.e. Hillel, the name of the great Jewish sage from Babylon), later changed to Hugo Pewsner was in the fur trade and had come to Leipzig from White Russia (today’s Belarus). The family of his mother, Annie Perlmann, had moved to Germany from Poland at a somewhat earlier date and could count some scholars among its members. The home of Hugo and Annie Pevsner at the time of Nikolai’s birth was in the Waldstrassenviertel, a heavily Jewish section of Leipzig. Subsequently, as Hugo’s business flourished and as the Pevsners became more integrated into German society, they moved to the elegant Konzertviertel where the celebrated Gewandhaus is situated. Though he had a “heart of gold,” Hugo Pevsner was “not very cultured,” according to his son, and his “bad German,” spoken with a Russian accent, together with his general “lack of polish,” was an embarrassment. On the other hand, the circle of poets, philosophers, musicians, academics, and artists that his mother, who had artistic interests, intellectual ambitions, and left-liberal political leanings — she was a pacifist during the First World War, held the Kaiser responsible for it, and shared the antipatriotic sentiments of her oldest son Heinz — had gathered around her was “too democratic and unpatriotic” in the eyes of the young Nikolaus. It may well also have included too many Jews for his comfort. According to his exceptionally well-informed biographer, Susie Harries, “the only constant in the thinking” of Nikolaus Pevsner, coming as he did from a family that belonged to neither orthodox Jewish nor German Christian society, was “the kind of patriotism that stems from a desire to belong.”13 Walther Rathenau’s characterization of himself probably corresponds quite well — except for the open avowal of “Jewish descent,” which Pevsner preferred not to mention or hear mentioned — to the way Pevsner wanted to think of himself: “I am a German of Jewish descent, my people is the German people, my fatherland is Germany, my religion that Germanic faith which is above all religions.”14

  • 15 Pevsner quoted in Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, p. 47; Arendt quoted ibid., p. 39.

7The desire to belong, to be fully German, could conceivably have been one factor — besides the young woman’s good looks, charm, and intelligence — in the young Pevsner’s choice of Karola (“Lola”) Kurlbaum to be his bride. At the same time, his decision to marry into a long-established German Lutheran family was probably made easier by the fact that his father-in-law, Alfred Kurlbaum, was known to be especially friendly to Jews, had taken a Jewish girl as his second wife, and could thus be trusted to be free of anti-Semitic prejudice. The desire to belong certainly underlay Nikolaus Pevsner’s decision to convert to Lutheranism, which he himself described as an “act done for me to become a normal German,” and not to tell his three children of their Jewish ancestry. It also caused him to regard the “Ostjuden” or Eastern European Jews, with their foreign looks and strange ways, as not only many German Christians but many assimilated German Jews did, with dislike and disdain. “Assimilation,” according to Hannah Arendt, “is only possible if one assimilates oneself to anti-Semitism.”15

  • 16 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, pp. 39–40. For these brief biographical details about t (...)

8And Pevsner did. He not only feared anti-Semitism in others, he felt it in himself. “Dostoievsky believes that the destructive elements of Russian and German socialism are peculiarly unwestern,” he noted in his diary. “I think this must be right because so many of the leaders are in fact Jews, and the Jews are the most non-western element.” “I am […] a strong anti-Semite and can only get over this by becoming a christened non-Jew, amongst other non-Jewish Jews. Once I can ignore the solidarity that is being forced on me, then perhaps this anti-Semitism will become less raw and aggressive.”16 In addition, the “desire to belong” influenced his political views, orienting him toward a fervent nationalism at odds with his mother’s far more radical and leftist stance. Above all, it seems to have had some influence on his views as a scholar and teacher of art history.

  • 17 Even in 1940, when Britain and Germany were at war, Pevsner was a refugee in Britain, and Pinder’s (...)
  • 18 An Outline of European Architecture, 5th edn (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1957), p. 2 (...)

9The greatest influence on Pevsner, most scholars agree, was that of Wilhelm Pinder, with whom he studied at Leipzig. Pinder was interested in the relationship between art and the general “spirit of the age” and between art and national character. Art history to him was thus a form of Geistesgeschichte [History of the human and national spirit].17 Pevsner took this view over and combined it with a strong commitment to the ideas and ideals of Bauhaus modernism. Modern art and architecture should reflect the essential character of twentieth-century society and twentieth-century society (in contrast to that of the nineteenth century) was characterized — in Pevsner’s view — not by individualism, consumerism, free trade, and free enterprise (“Manchestertum”), but by anonymity, collectivism, planning, and functionality. “The Modern Movement is a genuine and independent style,” he wrote in the last paragraph of his now classic Outline of European Architecture, and “this fact is full of promise.” “For over a hundred years,” he explained, “no style in that sense had existed. As Western civilization had become more and more subdivided it had lost its faculty to create a language of its own. An atomised society cannot have an architectural style. Can we not take it then that the recovery of a true style in the visual arts, one in which once again building rules, and painting and sculpture serve, […] indicates the return of unity in society too?”18

  • 19 “Um die Kunst des endenden 19. Jahrhunderts in ihrer ganzen Entartung zu erkennen, muss man vom So (...)
  • 20 Quoted, with the permission of Dieter Pevsner, from the typescript of an unpublished paper, Kunst (...)
  • 21 “To assess the art of the end of the nineteenth century in all its decadence, it has to be approac (...)

10That statement, in a book published by Penguin in England in 1943, at the height of the war against Nazi Germany, defines Pevsner’s lifelong vision of the relation of part and whole, individual and society, the individual work of art and the total culture of which it is taken to be (and, in his opinion, should be) a part. An “atomised” society — that is, a Gesellschaft, a constructed union, in contrast to an organic Gemeinschaft, in the terms made famous by the great turn-of-the-century German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies — is a society, in which the function of the state is simply to facilitate and to regulate (to the minimum degree necessary) the competing drives and demands of the original, autonomous, individual units constituting it. Such a society cannot have a unified “style,” according to Pevsner. Its artists, enjoying the freedom guaranteed by liberal constitutions, will conceive of their work not in its relation to a social whole of which they and their art are part, but as a free, independent activity (“l’art pour l’art”), the products of which are informed exclusively by individual feelings and perceptions, address only other individuals as individuals, and generally aim to provide sensuous pleasure or stimulation rather than meaning. French Impressionism is often held up (and denounced) by Pevsner as the leading example of this kind of art.19 In such circumstances, the arts themselves become independent of each other. Pevsner would go so far as to assert that “as long as there was a genuine style in art, the representational arts were in the service of architecture. […] In Germany, the Gesamtkunstwerk — which for Wagner, from within an all-encompassing liberalism, was later an object of longing and striving — was a reality until the end of the Baroque, that is to say until the bourgeois revolution. In Wagner’s time, however, and more crassly still, in the Wilhelminian age, painting attracted all the greatest talents.” To Pevsner, in contrast, “all healthy art is [grounded] in architecture” and the autonomization of painting was “a symptom of life-threatening disease.”20 Painting, in short, is related to architecture as part to whole. It follows that paintings belong in buildings, as part of a total design, not in art galleries and museums.21 A true “style” in art develops only in the context of an integrated community, which its members, including architects and artists, naturally and instinctively feel themselves called upon to serve.

  • 22 Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 20.
  • 23 Deutsche Zukunft, 2 (4 February 1934): 15. The editor of this weekly was Fritz Klein, a journalist (...)

11Pevsner’s position, as an art historian and judge of art, was thus anti-individualistic and anti-liberal. “Whoever feels with joy that he is part of a Gemeinschaft, in which he is ready to lose his particularity, must give up belief in English liberalism and individualism along with the idea that every man’s home is his ‘castle,’” he declared. “To such a person, the uniform is a garment of honour.”22 The community Pevsner envisaged was defined, as it was for Pinder, not in the universal humanitarian terms of the political Left, but in terms of national or ethnic groups — French, German, Italian, Spanish, English. Whence the celebrated, and to many English people themselves, somewhat mystifying title of his 1955 B.B.C. Reith lectures: “The Englishness of English Art.” These were, in fact, an extensive development of lectures which he had given during his brief stint in the early 1930s as a Privatdozent at the University of Göttingen and of which he had presented a summary in the form of a talk at the University of London in January 1934. The summary was also published a month later in Germany as a short article, entitled “Das Englische in der englischen Kunst,” in the weekly magazine Deutsche Zukunft.23

  • 24 Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 19.
  • 25 The terms “cold as steel and glass” and “totalitarian” come from the final section, on Gropius, in (...)
  • 26 Pioneers of Modern Design, pp. 7–19.

12Since art, in Pevsner’s view, is the expression of an age, a social structure, a people, and a culture, its regeneration — its return to “health” — will be achieved only through the regeneration of the people and the social structure whose life and values it expresses. No purely artistic movement can cure the “extravagant individualism” which continues to plague even the German Expressionists, despite their angry revolt against “l’art pour l’art.” “Only the regeneration of man in the new spirit of the new state can” [“allein die me²nschliche Wiedergeburt im neuen Geiste des neuen Staates”].24 Pevsner was thus brought face to face with the politics of Germany in 1933 and with the claim of the National Socialists that they were about to bring about the transformation he desired. For a time he appears to have believed that the new order they were introducing was a significant step toward the modern century, “cold as steel and glass,” of which the modern style in art and architecture — collectivist, anonymous, and “totalitarian,” in his own words — was the full and appropriate expression.25 After all, with Peter Behrens and (above all) Walter Gropius, German architects had taken over the lead in defining the modern style from pioneering, but still hesitant and in some respects backward-looking, English figures like William Morris, Norman Shaw, and Charles Voysey.26 As architecture and society were intimately related, might not the bold, young National Socialist German state be the truly modern state that was destined to replace the tired, ageing, fractious, and disintegrating liberal societies of the West, and especially of England, the “spirit” of which was resistant to radical change and new beginnings? To be sure, it was necessary to defend Gropius and the modern movement from the attacks of some Party leaders, including Hitler himself, but the modern movement that Pevsner fearlessly defended stood for a unified, functional, standardized style appropriate to a mass society. Toward the products of the broader, highly differentiated movement we today mostly think of as “modern,” he often expressed feelings of impatience and disdain, albeit he demonstrated greater understanding than the Nazis for the predicament of the alienated artists who created such products.

  • 27 Pevsner completed a doctorate on baroque architecture in 1924; after a stint as an assistant curat (...)

13It is not altogether surprising therefore that, as a young teacher of art history at Göttingen,27 Pevsner was not at first ill-disposed to the new National Socialist Germany. For there was nothing democratic (in our usual Western sense of the word) about his ideal of a totally planned, healthy, environment, every part of which has been designed with an eye to an orderly, well functioning whole; there was nothing democratic about his conception of a whole in which everything and everyone has a proper place, contributes to the whole and is in turn sustained and protected by the whole. There was no suggestion in his writing of input from democratically elected bodies in the making of planning decisions. Pevsner was not a social democrat and he was certainly not a Communist. Had he not complained that his mother’s circle was “too democratic and unpatriotic”? Like a fair number of better-off, educated, and assimilated Jews, he was a nationalist and a conservative. But he agreed with the otherwise much-feared extreme Left that the liberal era belonged to the past and he may well have hoped that Germany, which he claimed had taken the lead in overcoming the individualism, historicism, and eclecticism of the liberal era in architecture, would also take the lead in designing a new, modern social order, free from the chaotic irregularity and discord of liberalism. The corporate state — “cold as steel and glass” and “totalitarian” — could have been seen by Pevsner as the political equivalent of the modern movement in architecture and design to which he was so completely committed.

  • 28 Pevsner on Art and Architecture: The Radio Talks, ed. Stephen Games (London: Methuen, 2002) Introd (...)
  • 29 Edeltrud König in an interview with Games, reported in Stephen Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, p. (...)

14“During the 1920s and 1930s,” according to Stephen Games, “Pevsner was as excited by the Nazis as his fellow countrymen, and for the same reasons”28 — the most important of which, it needs to be emphasized, was seeing his country finally emerge from the humiliation and chaos imposed on it, in the eyes of the vast majority of Germans, by the Versailles treaty. One of the young scholar’s colleagues from his time as Privatdozent at the University of Göttingen — his first teaching position, obtained in 1929 — is reported by Games to have said that “Pevsner felt sympathy for Hitler’s national feelings. He felt like a German, agreed that Hitler represented a turning point in Germany’s history and felt grateful for him after the humiliation of Versailles. Hitler traded on national sentiment and that’s what Pevsner was in contact with too when talking about art and national characteristics.”29 Pevsner seems not to have been unduly perturbed by the anti-Semitic element in Hitler’s speeches and writings, dismissing it, as others did at the time, as “propaganda” primarily intended to win popular support. The daughter of an Englishman in the English department at Göttingen University with whom Pevsner was friendly tells of a rather “heated argument” her father and Pevsner had “about Hitler’s intentions toward the Jews”:

  • 30 Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, p. 180.

My father said to Pevsner “What do you think about the Nazis?” and Pevsner said “They’re a good thing: we need a bit of self-confidence.”And my father said “Have you actually read Mein Kampf?” and Pevsner said “It’s just propaganda: it’s not to be taken seriously.” He couldn’t believe there could be any terrible repercussions. He was very typical of Jewish intellectuals who thought themselves completely German. My father was amazed at his obstinacy and refusal to take the threat seriously.”30

  • 31 Ibid., p. 184.

15Perhaps, in addition, as Games suggests, “Pevsner felt safe because he was no longer Jewish.” His older son Tom, who had been brought up in ignorance of his Jewish background, told Games: “I never felt threatened by the Nazis. I remember on one occasion, that there were police sirens and asking what they were and being told that they were going to a Lokal [bar] to beat up Jews. I was never aware that any of this affected us. It was never an issue.”31

  • 32 Ibid., p. 186.

16Even the suspension of the Göttingen University mathematician Richard Courant, along with several other Jewish faculty members in April 1933, appears not to have been seen by Pevnser as a danger signal. “We knew lots of people in Göttingen who lost their jobs,” the English lecturer’s daughter recalled. “Professor Courant was my father’s greatest friend. He lost his job on the first day of the new law [the Civil Service Law of 7 April]. It should have been a warning to Pevsner.”32 Pevsner decided, however, to stay put if possible and support the changes.

17This reaction was noted with surprise by the English lecturer’s sister-in-law, Francesca Wilson, a Quaker, who in April and May 1933 was travelling in Germany to find out what help the Society of Friends could give to Germans whose life had been made difficult by the new regime. At a garden party given by her lecturer brother-in-law, Wilson met Pevsner and immediately took to him. A brief account of their encounter was included in an article she wrote about her visit to Germany for the Birmingham Post:

  • 33 Extracts from Francesca Wilson’s Birmingham Post article cited in Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, (...)

One of the most interesting conversations I have had […] was with a Privatdozent, who the day before had been asked not to lecture. He was tall and blonde — only a German with a sixth sense for a Jew would have known that he wasn’t Aryan — dignified and refined, not only in appearance, but in cast of mind. He told us of his bewilderment. He had no Jewish affinities. He had been brought up as a German in German culture. […] “I love Germany,” he said. “It is my country. I am a Nationalist, and in spite of the way I am treated, I want this movement to succeed. There is no alternative but chaos. […] There are worse things than Hitlerism; I think your Press in England does not realise that. […] And there is much idealism in the movement. There are many things in it which I greet with enthusiasm and which I myself have preached in my writings. I consider compulsory labour which is to start next January an excellent thing. All young men will have six months’ service for the state, and no matter what their rank in life they will all work together. Hitler is planning public works on a vast scale to cure the unemployment problem. […] Then there is much that is puritan and moral in the movement — a great drive is to be made against luxury, vice and corruption. For fifteen years we have been humiliated by the outside Powers. No wonder that Hitler appeals to our youth when he tells them to believe in themselves again, that the future is theirs to mould, that if they are united Germany will no longer be the pariah of the world. […]33

18Francesca Wilson also apparently accepted the explanation Pevsner gave her of the Nazi movement’s anti-Semitism:

  • 34 Cit. Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, pp. 187–88.

The anti-Semitic propaganda of the last twelve years was largely directed against Polish Jews. […] There were many of them — poor, uneducated, half-civilized people, who, with their inborn skill as moneychangers, made their fortunes during the inflationary period and earned their unpopularity by their noisy nouveau riche airs and still more by being mixed up in all sorts of corruption scandals and swindles. […] Many of them vanished when the mark was stabilized and went off to reap the harvest of the falling franc or to America. Men of this kind are now confused with Jews long established in this country with the highest traditions of loyalty and good citizenship. A large percentage of people recognize this mistake, though they can only say so in private.34

19Like so many others, including perhaps Oppenheim, Pevsner could well have thought or hoped that violent, rowdy, and indiscriminate anti-Semitism would subside as the regime became established and more self-confident, and that it would cease to affect assimilated German Jews, especially those who had renounced their Judaism and converted in order to become fully German. Or, alternatively, he might not unreasonably have wondered, given the instability of the Weimar years, how long the new regime would last.

  • 35 “I know he saw all the positive sides of National Socialism, which were probably the economic ones (...)

20Lola Pevsner’s younger sister may have hit the nail on the head when she reported to one of Pevsner’s recent biographers that the political views of her brother-in-law, about which there was seemingly no secret, were a reflection of his personality: he was a man who liked order.35

  • 36 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, p. 129.

21However much Pevsner may have sympathized with the new regime, he too was informed at the end of April 1933 that the courses he had planned to give in the summer semester had been suspended. In September of the same year, he was officially dismissed from his position as Privatdozent at Göttingen and encouraged to resign from all professional bodies and associations in Germany.36 The regime’s anti-Jewish legislation had now affected him directly and as he depended on his teaching for his livelihood, the prospect of no longer being able to teach in Germany forced him to consider emigration. In addition, there was no sign of any abatement of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. On the contrary, even the schooling of the Pevsner children was becoming a problem. At first Pevsner tried to find a position in Italy. At least that was not too far from Germany. Clearly, Italian fascism did not bother him, and — like Paul Oskar Kristeller, the well-known German Jewish Renaissance scholar — he approached Giovanni Gentile, the philosopher and the author in 1925 of the Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals, for help. It was only somewhat grudgingly, when an Italian position did not work out, that he agreed to go along with Lola’s preference and look for a position in England. In October he went to England to see what could be done and managed to obtain an eighteen-month research fellowship for 1934–1935 in the Commerce Department at the University of Birmingham, funded in part by the Academic Assistance Council. This led to his meeting the enlightened furniture designer and manufacturer Gordon Russell, and to his securing an appointment as design adviser to the firm — the only source of regular income he had for several years, even though he soon made a mark as a writer of articles in the Architectural Review. Finally, he brought his family over (March 1936) and in October 1942 he was appointed to a part-time lectureship at Birkbeck College in the University of London (at the princely salary of £100 per annum), thus beginning his long association with the college and a brilliant career in the land in which he had so unenthusiastically sought refuge. Until the outbreak of war in 1939, however, the ties with Germany were not completely broken. The Pevsner children went back on holiday to visit members of their parents’ families who were still there. In fact Uta, Nikolaus and Lola’s daughter, was stranded in Germany without a proper exit visa when war broke out and spent the war years there in semi-hiding.

22While waiting for the results of his job search in England, moreover, Pevsner intervened in a widely publicized debate that had flared up between Goebbels and Wilhelm Furtwängler, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. The position he took in that debate — essentially a defence of Goebbels’ view that art is not autonomous but should spring from the experience of a people and be in the service of the state in which that people is organized as a polity — may seem surprising, even somewhat shocking. It needs to be emphasized, however, that it was not inconsistent with the aesthetics Pevsner championed throughout his life and that it represents an entirely coherent view of art and its relation to society. It should not be imagined that Goebbels had a monopoly on this view — it was widely held on the Left, including the moderate Left, as well as on the extreme Right — and it is not discredited by the fact that Goebbels expounded an ugly, racist version of it. In the circumstances it was undoubtedly poor moral and political judgment on Pevsner’s part to engage in the debate, and it is hard to imagine that there was not a streak of opportunism in his decision to do so, a hope of convincing the new rulers of Germany that he was in no way a critic or enemy of the regime. But there is no intellectual duplicity in the argument itself that he presented. And its coincidence, superficially at least, with important aspects of the position expounded in the debate by Goebbels can help to explain the positive attitude Pevsner exhibited, for a time, toward the new regime.

23As conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Furtwängler, who, on the whole, accepted the new order in his native land, had to intervene repeatedly to defend, as best he could, the Jewish musicians in his orchestra threatened with dismissal — among them, his extraordinarily gifted 24-year old Polish-born concertmaster, Szymon Goldberg. In a letter to Goebbels, Furtwängler criticized the Civil Service Law of 7 April barring non-Aryans from employment in theatres and other arts institutions in receipt of national, state or municipal funding. “I feel that I am first and foremost an artist,” he wrote, “and that I am therefore apolitical in the sense of party politics.”

  • 37 QuotedbyFredPrieberg,Trial of Strength: Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Third Reich (London: QuartetBo (...)

Art and artists exist to create love, not hate; to unite, not to divide. Ultimately, there is only one dividing line I recognise: that between good and bad art. However, while the dividing line between Jews and non-Jews is being drawn with merciless theoretical precision, that other dividing line, the one that in the long run is so important for our music life, yes, the dividing line between good and bad, seems to have far too little significance attributed to it. […]
Music cannot be made contingent in the same way as other essentials such as potatoes and bread. If concerts offer nothing, then people will not attend. That is why the question of quality is not just a nice idea; it is of vital importance. If the fight against Jewry concentrates on those artists who are rootless and destructive and who seek to succeed through kitsch, sterile virtuosity and the like, then that is quite acceptable; the fight against those people and the attitude they embody (which unfortunately many non-Jews also do) cannot be pursued thoroughly or systematically enough. If, however, this campaign is also directed at truly great artists, then it ceases to be in the interest of Germany’s cultural life. […]
It must therefore be stated clearly that men such as [Bruno] Walter, [Otto] Klemperer, [Max] Reinhardt [the theatre director] and others must be allowed to exercise their talents in Germany in the future as well, in exactly the same way as Kreisler, Huberman, Schnabel and other great instrumentalists of the Jewish race. It is only just that we Germans should bear in mind that in the past we had in Joseph Joachim one of the greatest violinists and teachers in the German classical tradition, and in Mendelssohn even a great German composer.
Therefore I repeat, our fight should be against the rootless, subversive and destructive spirits, but not against the real artist, who in his art […] is always a creative figure […] and as such helps build up our culture. That is what I mean when I make my appeal to you, in the name of German art, in the hope that perhaps irreversible damage […] can be prevented from taking place.37

24As Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, Goebbels responded:

  • 38 Quoted by Roger Sessions, “Music and Nationalism,” pp. 5–6.

I, as a German political man, cannot recognise only the one line of demarcation that you would establish: that between good and bad art. Art must not only be good; it must be conditioned by the needs of the people — or, to put it better, only an art which springs from the integral soul of the people can in the end be good and have meaning for the people for whom it was created. Art in an absolute sense, as liberal democracy knows it, has no right to exist. Any attempt to further such an art would in the end cause the people to lose its inner relationship to art, and the artist to isolate himself from the moving forces of his time, shut away in the airless chambers of “art for art’s sake.” Art must be good, but beyond that must be conscious of its responsibility, competent, close to the people, and combative in spirit.38

  • 39 The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, for instance, (which, despite its far-Right conservative slant, o (...)

25The exchange of letters was published in several Berlin newspapers on 11 April 1933, no doubt with the intention of creating the impression, especially in the outside world beyond Germany, that the regime was willing to engage in open discussion of its principles and policies. Comment was thus in a way invited, and did immediately fill the news media.39 As an art historian with strong views on the issue under discussion, Pevsner was naturally moved to intervene. He did so twice, first in a four-page article, “Zum Briefwechsel Furtwängler-Goebbels” [“On the exchange of letters between Furtwängler and Goebbels”], which appeared under the rubric “Randbemerkungen” [“Marginal Comments”] in the theological journal Zeitwende for July 1933, and then in the March 1934 number of the strongly nationalist Der Türmer. (This was a magazine that devoted many pages to the arts and architecture, inclined in general toward conservative artistic practices, such as “Heimatkunst,” and had veered still further to the Right under its newly appointed [1933] editor Friedrich Castelle, a prolific writer, journalist, and early member of the NSDAP.) In addition, the Furtwängler-Goebbels exchange was referred to directly in an unpublished paper by Pevsner entitled “Kunst der Gegenwart und Kunst der Zukunft” [“Art of the Present and Art of the Future”] and indirectly in the article on “Das Englische in der englischen Kunst,” referred to earlier.

26In the Zeitwende article, Pevsner first states what the controversy is about. It is, he writes, exclusively about the fundamental question of the mission of art, its capacities, its aims, and its goals. The radically opposed views expressed by the musician and the politician, it is emphasized, reflect not an opposition of two individuals or even of two social groups, but rather a fundamental historical shift from the era of nineteenth-century liberalism to that of a new conception of the state and its relation to the people and the national will. Furtwängler “nobly” defends the liberal position, according to which art is its own highest ideal (hence the primary and exclusive discrimination among works of art between “good” and “bad”), and which culminates at the turn of the century in the doctrine of “l’art pour l’art” elaborated and defended by writers such as Paul Verlaine and Oscar Wilde, and by artists such as Max Liebermann and James McNeill Whistler. Wilde is quoted as having declared that there are neither moral nor immoral books, only books that are well written and books that are badly written. Likewise, Liebermann, the follower of the French Impressionists, is cited, here and in several other Pevsner essays, for his remark that “What is represented in a work of visual art has absolutely no bearing on its merit.” Goebbels is adroitly, if somewhat crassly, complimented: “Knowledgeable as he is in art history, he recognized the deeper significance of Furtwängler’s argument. For his reply was not an anti-Semitic pamphlet [kein antisemitisches Thesenblatt], but a little essay in art theory.” The crux of Goebbels’s argument is then summarized: “Art should not only be good, but should be seen to have a relation to the people; in other words, only an art that is created out of a deep connection with the people can, in the end, be good, and have meaning for the people for which it was created. There is no place for art in the absolute sense in which it is understood by liberal democratism. Attempts to promote such an art would result only in the people’s having no inner relation to art and in the artists’ themselves being shut up in the airless domain of ‘l’art pour l’art.’ Art has to be good, but it also has to be conscious of its responsibilities, technically skilful, close to the people, and combative.”

27As an art historian, Pevsner points out that Furtwängler’s view of art as the highest human ideal, as autonomous, and indeed as standing above the state, “arose around 1800.” From the perspective of the fourth decade of the twentieth century, however, it “belongs to the past. In today’s thinking, the state — or, rather, the people whose will is organized in the form of the state — has become the higher ideal, art the subordinate one; it follows that the artist who personally has no connection with the state will receive no support from the state, no matter what the artistic merit of his work. Artistic ability can never serve as an excuse for a defective outlook.” Prudently, Pevsner adds that “equally the artist’s outlook cannot be an excuse for lack of artistic talent” and points out that Goebbels acknowledges this. The lesson Goebbels wants to communicate is that “works of art should no longer be approached in a spirit of aesthetic ataraxy; that what is presented to our eyes or ears should no longer be disregarded as of no significance; that the only relevant question should no longer be whether the work is ‘good’ or ‘bad’; and finally that art too should be seen as serving an end beyond itself.” According to Pevsner, these views are supported by a long, indeed by “the best” tradition:

  • 40 “Randbemerkungen: Zum BriefwechselFurtwängler-Goebbels,” Zeitwende, 9 (July-December 1933): 67–71 (...)

All the great art of the Middle Ages served an end beyond itself; the Catholic art of the Baroque and French art of the Classical Age served. Turning passionately around 1810 against the easy-going ‘liberal’ painting of the Rococo, the German Nazarene painters longed to serve. It was only in the 19th century that portrait, landscape, and still life came to occupy centre stage in the visual arts. But the new spirit of the present time will assuredly bring forth a new history painting. Even if that involves at first some sacrifice of artistic quality, at least a healthy relation will have been re-established between those who produce and those who consume art. And this remembrance of the past had to happen now. Goebbels’s position is related not only to past centuries of art, but to the living momentum of the art of the last few decades. For in the opposition to Impressionism around 1890 and then again in the art that has been produced since 1905–1910 there was a re-evaluation of content and of meaning in the work of art. In the visual arts, one has only to think of van Gogh’s longing for a new religious art, of Klinger and Hodler, Munch and Ensor. And are not the improperly named “Neue Sachlichkeit” [a movement in art and literature], political poetry, the Reportageroman [the documentary novel], the political film, the musical organizations among today’s youth, highly varied expressions of a common longing to reunite with the driving forces of the age and with the struggle on their behalf?40

28The article “Kunst und Staat” [“Art and State”] in Der Türmer opens on a programmatic statement: “In an authoritarian state the relation to art has to be different from what it is in a liberal state. Accordingly, compared with the 19th and early 20th centuries, there is bound to be fundamental change in this domain too at the present historical moment.” The aim of the essay, the reader is told, is to investigate “what art may expect from the state today and what the state may expect from art.” A brief history of the relation between art and the state follows. In the Middle Ages it is not possible to speak of the state. The masters of iron or glass works and of the guilds received commissions from the local Cathedral chapter or monastery, from the Kaiser, the king, noblemen, cities, and guilds. Neither Raphael nor Dürer ever received a commission from the state. This situation changed only with the absolutist regimes of the Baroque Age. Regulation of economic activity by the state in mercantilism had its inevitable counterpart in state organization and regulation of art. At the Court of Louis XIV of France it was deemed necessary to employ every possible means in order to exhibit and represent the power of the monarch. Hence it was essential that the monarch have at his disposal an art capable of satisfying this need. That was the underlying reason for Colbert’s establishing the Académie de peinture et de sculpture in 1648. The Academy’s task, in line with the policy of mercantilism, was to promote high-quality home-produced art and thus halt the import of foreign products. At the same time, it was expected to propagate a particular style, “le grand goût,” and by training the young in it, ensure its spread. Artists who refused to conform to the new court and state-sponsored style were marginalized. “By strictly applying this policy the French state and the Paris Academy certainly blocked the free development of individual genius, but they also ensured a generally high level of quality and a unified style and, above all, set up a healthy relationship between artistic demand and artistic production.”

29The seventeenth-century citizens’ republic of Holland stood in stark political contrast to France, Pevsner goes on. “Correspondingly, the relation of art and the state in Holland was completely different from that which obtained in France. The Court and the city governments were only to a very limited extent a source of commissions. The market for art consisted of a mass of citizens with little structural unity or unity of taste. The Dutch artists’ community was likewise a swarm of the most heterogeneous individual personalities. Each individual painted whatever caught his fancy. It was thus not to be expected that the supply of pictures produced in the artists’ studio would correspond in any reliable way to demand. Thus a proletariat of artists arose, for the first time, in the Holland of that period, but so too did the figure of the genius who is not understood by his society. Rembrandt created what his inner voice prescribed. The works of his mature and late periods are not directed toward any public. He was demonstrably not interested in taking account of the public’s wishes. In this way the natural balance between art and the public domain, which had been so much a matter of course in the Middle Ages, was destroyed.”

30With this uprooting of the artist, seventeenth-century Holland “anticipated a situation that became unavoidable throughout the entire Western world […] in the 19th century.” Though ecclesiastical art still flourished in eighteenth- century Germany in conditions similar to the Middle Ages, it was around 1800, in German Classicism and Romanticism, that the theoretical basis of a new view of the relation of art to the state was developed, above all in the work of Friedrich Schiller. The artist was seen as divinely inspired, the equal of kings and princes, and the great educator of mankind. Art, therefore, should not serve, it should rule. Indeed, art allows us to imagine an ethical state in the future, but it should on no account submit to any existing state. “The sacred autonomy of art was thus established and its superiority to state and society proclaimed.” As an example of the new outlook, Pevsner cites the defiant rejection of the authority of the Prussian state and the Berlin Academy of Art by Asmus Carstens, the neo-classical artist, who in 1796 told the Chief Minister of Prussia Friedrich Anton von Heinitz that he belonged not to the Academy (from which he received a pension) but to Humanity and that he alone was responsible for seeing that the talent God had entrusted to him was put to proper use. Again the Nazarene artists are invoked as exceptions to the artists’ new view of themselves, inasmuch as they looked back for inspiration to an earlier time when the artist still served “Truth” in the form of Biblical history and the teachings of the Church.

31“But as of the 1830s, the triumph of democracy and individualism […] became unstoppable. The Impressionist art of the last third of the century is its monstrous product. Art was now no longer, as the educator of humanity, the highest ideal, but existed only for its own sake. That was the Gospel taught by Gautier, Verlaine, and Wilde. As far as painting is concerned, the only point of it was to reproduce the impressions nature made on an individual painter at a particular moment in time. Hence – extreme individualism and extreme relativism. Such an art could not be relevant to the state and could not be affected by a big idea. ‘Painters with big ideas are always bad painters,’ Max Liebermann was not ashamed to declare. Conversely a strong, self-confident state would naturally not know where to begin with this kind of artistic practice.” Thus Bismarck’s Empire, faced with the demand that it employ artists in the national enterprise, had to fall back on painters of the caliber of Anton von Werner and on sculptors like Reinhold Begas and his students. More talented artists, which also meant artists more sensitive to the spirit of their time, would not have let themselves be employed on grand prestige projects like the Siegesallee; as prisoners of the age of liberalism in which they had come into the world and achieved greatness, they were inevitably individualists. There was no way in which they could be induced to submit to the will of the state. So if anybody or anything is to be reproached, it is not the state, but the age itself, along with the artists who, proud of their exceptional status, stood fully behind it.

32The Impressionists looked down with contempt on history painters [peintres d’histoire, Historienmaler]: “German history, but bad pictures,” they would say. Anyone would have been taken for a fool who, pointing to one of their productions, dared to retort, in the spirit of the Middle Ages, “A good picture, but only a bunch of asparagus.” Even today, Pevsner complained, all too few artists are willing to embrace such a revaluation of values, despite having had the experience of Expressionism — which paved the way for such a revaluation through its re-engagement with the moral and political issues of public life and a return to firmness of line and strong, pure colours (even though the Expressionists themselves could not escape the individualism of their atomized society). Likewise, the emergence of a new unified architectural style determined by the needs of a building’s inhabitants and a revival of respect for craft and applied art — as opposed to the dominant historicism in architecture and the nineteenth-century disdain for all forms of applied art — are signs of the rejection of an individualism that has outlived its day.

33To these symptoms of rejuvenation must be added the growing role of “militant art,” political painting and poetry, propaganda posters, and the like. As in the Zeitwende essay, Pevsner acknowledges here the danger of kitsch; he even suggests that it will be necessary for contemporary art to go through a stage of kitsch before it is restored to health. After all, he argues, the ideologically motivated painter of today’s kitsch has at least an important advantage over the artistically gifted and esoteric Cubist in that his production corresponds to a clear demand.

34Art, in short, must once again become a users’ art [Gebrauchskunst] as it was in the Middle Ages and in the Age of the Baroque. For a use is served not only by knives and forks, cushions and houses, but by the national and social novel, the altarpiece, and the political painting, the only difference being that in one case the end being served is material and in the other it is mental or spiritual. In the earlier periods, the leading ideas were religious; in the present time they are political. The implication of this for art, Pevsner insists, cannot be disregarded. At this point in the article, he naturally enough evokes the Furtwängler-Goebbels exchange: “The new men in the German Reich require that art be political, just as they require that science be political. That position was clearly articulated for the first time from the side of the authorities by Dr. Goebbels on April 11th of last year in his reply to Furtwängler. It was not decreed thereby that in the future all art is to have a political slant […] but rather that the future development should be seen, after the total dominance of pure painting in Impressionism, as tending decisively in favor of a return to painting with a purpose, hence to history painting. […] This ‘militant’ art will therefore certainly enjoy the fullest encouragement of the state. And by encouraging what serves it, the state will be in a position to form an authentic style encompassing all forms of artistic creation as in the Middle Ages and the France of Louis XIV.”

  • 41 Nikolaus Pevsner, “Kunst und Staat,” Der Türmer, 36 (March, 1934): 514–17.

35In return, art is entitled to expect assistance from the state in carrying out its own internal reforms, such as basing art education on craft and thus reuniting so-called “free” and “applied” art. In addition, Pevsner adds in an important concluding paragraph, an art that is joyfully dedicated to the service of the state is entitled to expect that the artist’s creativity will be given as much freedom as it needs for its full development. In so arguing, Pevsner emphasizes, he is not trying to smuggle the idea of “free” or “pure” art back into the picture: “There can be no question of that. The demands of the state take precedence over those of art.” But the inflexible application of a policy can result in so restricting the creativity of the artist that it fades and withers away: “Here it is one of the duties of the state to act generously and with understanding.” It has to win the co-operation of art and artists, all too many of the best of whom, in recent years, have chosen to stand aside: “Winning them over is a task worthy of statesmen.”41

  • 42 Cit. in Prieberg, Trial of Strength, p. 50. On Kreisler’s Jewishness — his father was apparently J (...)
  • 43 Biancolli, Fritz Kreisler, pp. 199–201. He also renounced his Austrian citizenship at this time an (...)

36From our present perspective, as suggested earlier, Pevsner’s intervention in the Furtwängler-Goebbels debate and the sympathetic understanding he showed in both the 1933 and the 1934 articles for Goebbels’ position can only be considered, at best, moral and political misjudgements, even if the case he made for re-establishing a strong relation between art and the people was in itself entirely defensible. In addition, in 1933–1934, Pevsner might still have hoped that his positive appreciation of Goebbel’s position — together with the fact that he was a convert to Lutheranism and did not in any way identify as a Jew — might convince the authorities to reconsider his dismissal from his position at Göttingen and permit him to start teaching again and so support his family in Germany. Moreover, he was not the only non-Aryan in the art world to see some good in the new regime and want to give it a chance. When a rumour was spread (probably at Göring’s instigation) that Furtwängler, who was about to succeed Toscanini in 1936 as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, had agreed to resume the podium at the Berlin State Opera, there was an outcry in the U.S. against the appointment of a man who had apparently made his peace with the Nazis. Several musicians also tried to get Toscanini to cancel a scheduled appearance as conductor at Bayreuth and threatened to cease performing with him if he did not. At that point Fritz Kreisler, the celebrated Austrian violinist (who, though he never identified himself as a Jew and was in fact raised as a Catholic, was generally regarded as at least half-Jewish) protested publicly: “The musicians concerned do not understand the meaning and the dynamic strength of the national movement which the current German government has brought to life. The nationalist sentiments which now hold sway over the German people have overcome the lethargy and blank despair into which the vast majority of the people had sunk in the post-war period.”42 Kreisler, who had made his home in Berlin, did finally leave Germany himself in 1938 — not, however, it appears, because of harassment by the Nazis but, after the Anschluss of that year, in order to avoid being drafted, as an Austrian citizen, into the German army.43


  • 44 Though such cases, as need hardly be emphasized, were not common, they are revealing; see Daniel A (...)
  • 45 According to Rainer Kolk, one quarter of the forty to forty-five individuals admitted to the Georg (...)
  • 46 For excellent short summaries of George’s ambivalent attitude to the National Socialist regime, se (...)
  • 47 Landmann, Gespräche mit Stefan George, p. 209. Landmann herself had noted in an appreciation of th (...)

37Two further cases, both from the circle of disciples of the poet Stefan George, will round out this admittedly “unscientific” [unwissenschaftlich] sampling of relatively favourable responses by Jews and part-Jews to the new National Socialist regime, in its early stages at least.44 Jews, as is well known, were prominent in the narrow circle of George’s “chosen” and counted among those closest to him.45 In fact, some non-Jewish members complained about this to the Master, who reassured them that he would be careful not to allow Jews to outnumber others among his intimates. On his own attitude toward Jews, toward the anti-Semitism of the National Socialists, and — in spite of many pleas from Jewish members of his circle that he announce his position publicly — toward the anti-Jewish legislation passed in Germany in the last year of his life, the poet-prophet was characteristically reticent or equivocal. He died in Switzerland in 1933 without ever having taken a clear stand on any of the burning issues of his time, not least among them the Nazi regime and its anti-Semitic policies.46 Maintaining the integrity of his own circle, as Ulrich Raulff has demonstrated, was always his top priority. His realm, he would emphasize, in the face of repeated attempts to identify the Third Reich with his “New Reich” and Hitler with the prophesied “Führer,” was of the spirit and no material, historical reality could ever correspond directly to it — though some might well come closer than others. For that reason he also discouraged those admitted into his circle from taking a stand in the ideological and political controversies of the time. This did not prevent him from defending his younger disciples, many of whom supported the National Socialist “revolution,” against criticism from the older disciples, or from observing that “it was the first time that the views he had held had had an external resonance,” or from responding to Edith Landmann, when she pointed to the brutal form this “resonance” had taken, that “in the realm of politics, things were different.”47

38The anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi regime, however, did not allow his Jewish devotees the luxury of distance and non-commitment enjoyed by the Master himself. Among those still living (Friedrich Gundolf had died in 1931 and Berthold Vallentin a month after Hitler came to power) the poet Karl Wolfskehl left Germany for Switzerland in 1933 and later emigrated to New Zealand; Ernst Morwitz moved to the United States in 1936; Edith Landmann (one of a small number of women close to George) joined her son in Basel, Switzerland, where her late husband, another George admirer, had occupied the chair of economics (1910–1927); Erich von Kahler left for his native Prague in 1933, moved from there to Zurich, and finally emigrated to America in 1938; and Ernst Kantorowicz fled to England via Holland in 1938, after Kristallnacht, and from there also emigrated the following year to the United States.

  • 48 Norton, Secret Germany, pp. 667, 670.

39Kantorowicz’s immensely successful Kaiser Friedrich II, first published in 1927, has been described as “meant both to endorse George’s vision of absolute power as embodied in a single, heroic figure and to instil in its readers an active enthusiasm for its forms and expressions”; as “overtly and intentionally political”; and as “a prescription in historical guise, an instruction manual on the language, character, and style […] of heroic, messianic leadership”;48 in short, as an elegantly written, scholarly anticipation of what was to transpire, albeit in crass and vulgar form, in 1933. The author himself was at first exempted from the provisions of the 7 April Civil Service Law banning non-Aryans from public service positions. In his own words, “as a volunteer in the war from August 1914, as a soldier at the front for the entire duration of the war, as a fighter after the war against Poland, the Spartacists, and the Soviet Republics in Posen, Berlin, and Munich, I do not have to face removal from service because of my Jewish descent.” He nevertheless felt morally obliged to ask for a leave of absence from Frankfurt University, where he was then teaching, and to protest against the law and the racist ideology that inspired it in a letter dated 20 April (not, probably, by accident Hitler’s birthday) to the Prussian Minister of Science, Art, and Education [Wissenschaft, Kunst und Volksbildung], in the name of “every German and truly nationally minded Jew.”

  • 49 Cit. in Eckhart Grünewald, Ernst Kantorowicz und Stefan George: Beiträge zur Biographie des Histor (...)

…Although, in view of my publications about the Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II, I need no papers bearing a specific date, be it the day before yesterday or yesterday or today, to guarantee my attitude toward a Germany that has recovered its national orientation; although there has been no wavering, even in the face of recent events, in my fundamentally positive position, which is not grounded in or influenced by any tendencies of the times or events of the day, toward a nationally ruled Reich, […] I nevertheless feel obligated, as a Jew, to draw my conclusions from what has happened and to request a leave of absence beginning with the upcoming summer semester. For as long as every German Jew — as in the present period of revolution — can be considered a “traitor” solely on the basis of his Jewish descent; as long as every Jew, because he is a Jew, is judged racially inferior; as long as the mere fact of having any Jewish blood in one’s veins implies a defective attitude; as long as every German Jew sees himself exposed to daily violations of his honour without the possibility of obtaining personal or legal satisfaction; […] and as long as every Jew, precisely when he declares his full support of a national Germany, comes inescapably under suspicion of acting out of fear or of only seeking personal advantage in announcing his convictions, or […] of wishing to secure his economic existence; as long, therefore, as every German and truly nationally minded Jew, in order to avoid that kind of suspicion, has to hide his national convictions in shame instead of being able to make them known freely and spontaneously, it seems to me incompatible with the dignity of a university professor to carry out in a responsible manner the duties of his office, based as they are solely on inner truth, and it also seems that to resume teaching in silence, as if nothing had happened, would be a violation of the students’ sense of shame.49

40This was certainly a courageous gesture on Kantorowicz’s part. Aside from the rejection of anti-Semitism, however, the values his statement expresses and the terms (“honour,” affirming a “national Germany,” “national convictions”) in which it is couched demonstrate considerable proximity to the values and terms trumpeted by National Socialism. Moreover, the writer explicitly asserts his “positive position” toward a “nationally ruled Reich.” In a second gesture that must have taken considerable courage, Kantorowicz gave a provocative lecture in Frankfurt six months later, on 14 November, in which he in effect denounced the Third Reich — not, indeed, for being authoritarian or undemocratic or repressive or for its persecution of non-Aryans, but for being a false and deceptive version, a betrayal of George’s dream of a “New Reich” to be inspired and led by Germany, as once before a great Reich had been led by Frederick II.

  • 50 Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, p. 157.
  • 51 Cit. ibid., p. 161. See also Manfred Riedel, Geheimes Deutschland: Sefan George und die Brüder Sta (...)
  • 52 Cit. in Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, p. 163. It is hard to convey Kantorowicz’s highly inventive, p (...)

41Some of the older and many of the younger members of the George Circle were inclined not to highlight the differences between Hitler’s Third Reich and George’s “New Reich” but, on the contrary, to soften the boundary line between the two and to present the Master reverentially as the visionary who had foreseen the great future that was in fact presently beginning to be realised.50 “Eka” (as Ernst Kantorowicz was called in the Circle), however, went to great pains in what Manfred Riedel describes as “eine fulminante Abschiedsrede” [an explosive farewell address] to emphasize precisely that difference. George’s “Secret Germany,” Kantorowicz proclaimed, was “like a Last Judgment and Resurrection of the Dead, always immediately close, indeed present,” for it is “the secret community of the poets and wise men, of the heroes and holy men, of the sacrificers and the sacrificed, whom Germany has brought forth for itself and who in turn have brought forth Germany. […] As a community, it is a realm of Gods like Olympus, a realm of the spirit, like the medieval state of saints and angels, a realm of mortal men like Dante’s […] ‘humana civilitas,’ […] a realm both of this world and not of this world… at once here and not here… a realm at once of the Living and of the Dead, a realm that changes and yet is eternal and immortal.”51 As Ulrich Raulff notes, before an audience that was certainly familiar with his book on Frederick II, “Kantorowicz dared to speak of a Germany that had nothing in common with the empirical reality of the Third Reich. His Germany is in fact a polemical construct directed against that current Reich,” Raulff argues, for, in Kantorowicz’s words, “it is a realm of the soul in which at all times and for all time the same deeply German Emperors rule and reign, unique in rank and kind. To be sure, the entire nation has never yet bowed enraptured under their sceptre. Nevertheless, their reign is eternal and perpetual and goes on in deepest concealment in opposition to the external reality of the day and thus for the sake of eternal Germany.” It is not possible “to take possession of these monarchs of ‘secret Germany’ by dragging their image through the streets, making them over so that they will please the marketplace and then celebrating them as one’s own flesh and blood.”52

  • 53 Ibid., p. 168. Likewise, Manfred Riedel, Geheimes Deutschland: “Kantorowicz’s lecture still retain (...)

42As in the letter to the Prussian Minister of Science, Art, and Education, however, Kantorowicz’s opposition is, as Raulff puts it, “contaminated by the poison it rejects”53 — i.e. the Messianic, soteriological enthusiasm of both George’s élitist vision and the cheap, mass-produced counterfeit visible on the contemporary German street and marketplace. Moreover, between the letter to the Prussian Minister of Science, Art, and Education and the lecture in Frankfurt on 10 July 1933, Kantorowicz had written a birthday greeting to the Master himself in which he at least entertained the possibility that the Third Reich might, after all, be the path to the fulfilment of the Master’s prophecy. If that were the case, heconceded, then all “German and truly nationally minded Jews” would have to welcome it and stoically accept their fate, which, he suggested, might well be suicide.

  • 54 Letter from Kantorowicz to George, 10 July 1933, cit. Grünewald, Ernst Kantorowicz und Stefan Geor (...)

“May Germany become as the Master has dreamed!” And if current events are not merely the grimace of that desired ideal but really are the true path to its fulfilment, then may everything turn out for the best. And then it is of no consequence whether the individual can — or more accurately, may — join in the march, or steps aside instead of cheering. “Imperium transcendat hominem,” Frederick II declared, and I would be the last person to contradict him. If the fates block one’s entrance to the “Reich” — and as the “Jew or Coloured,” as the new linguistic coupling has it, is necessarily excluded from the state founded on race alone — then it will be necessary to summon amor fati and make decisions accordingly.54

  • 55 Ibid., p. 126.
  • 56 Yakov Malkiel in Arthur R. Evans Jr., ed., On Four Modern Humanists, p. 195, note 30.

43It is only fair to add that Kantorowicz’s last letter to George, dated 26 November 1933, testifies to a less fatalistic determination to defend “secret Germany” against the “new” Germany using the weapons available to him, i.e. works of scholarship and public lectures. “After disgust, shock, and pain,” he writes “hatred is beginning to prove productive.”55 On 22 February 1935, Kantorowicz did in fact deliver one of the midnight lectures broadcast on Wolfgang Frommel’s cautiously independent program on Frankfurt Radio.At once “erudite” and“bursting with timely innuendoes,” it has been said, this radio lecture, entitled “Deutsches Papsttum” [German Papacy], was delivered by “a daredevil Kantorowicz under dramatic circumstances, outwitting the Third Reich’s monitoring officers.”56

  • 57 Ibid., pp. 193–94.

44It is surprising that Frommel dared to invite a Jewish scholar to broadcast on his programs (Jews were prohibited from publishing and all forms of public address); it is no less noteworthy that Kantorowicz did not leave Germany definitively until the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 forced him to flee. His property (a comfortable apartment in Berlin’s West End and a small estate in the lake-studded Mecklenburgische Schweiz) had not been confiscated; he was still able to carry on his research thanks to the politeness of gentlemanly archivists and palaeographers; he may have thought it his duty as a loyal member of the George Kreis to stand firm in Germany, doing what he could to counter the current distortion of the Master’s teaching; and “finally,” as a young colleague from his later years at Berkeley pointed out, “there may have been a glimmer of hope” — which significant numbers of patriotic, conservative German non-Aryans as well as Gentiles appear to have entertained for varying periods of time — “that the nightmare would soon come to a harmless end.”57

  • 58 Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, pp. 149–50.

45Another Jewish devotee of George, the philosopher Edith Landmann, came to the same conclusion Kantorowicz had reached in his fatalistic letter to George of 10 July. In the face of the Master’s silence on the question of the Jews, she thought seriously of suicide. She rejected this solution, however, as a “betrayal” of the Master, to whom unconditional loyalty and devotion were due.58 Even if he did not raise his voice in the vulgar marketplace, had he not made his position clear over many years by selecting a large number of Jews as well as Christians to be the “bearers of his Reich,” the repositories of “secret Germany”? In her determination that she should not be separated from George by the slightest crack, Landmann even expressed some understanding of anti-Semitism, inasmuch at least as it was directed toward “Ostjuden,” Zionists, and Communists — rather as Naumann and his followers, in their determination not to let the slightest distance separate them from the German Volk, sought to distance themselves instead from those same social groups. In an address to other troubled Jewish servants of “secret Germany” (Omaruru. An die deutschen Juden, die zum geheimen Deutschland hielten), composed in the summer of 1933, Landmann stated:

  • 59 Quoted ibid., p. 150, footnote 102.

You all know that, with regard to the kind of Jews who spread across Germany after the War and indeed long before it, I was, like you, an anti-Semite out of love for the German Volk. Do you seriously believe that it was possible for me to feel any kind of community with that kind of Jews or, for that matter, with today’s Jewish youth which, having grown up with nothing but Zionism and Communism, has as little sense of the German spirit as the Germans themselves.59


  • 60 Quoted ibid., p. 151, footnote 103.

so many of the ideas of the Third Reich, however distorted the form in which they now come to us, were long the ideas that filled our hearts. […] Anyone who has been carried away by this shattering of the entire world-structure of liberalism, by this enraged and resolute turning away from the 19th century, by this frenzy of unity and purity, anyone who believes that, out of shared hostility [to the world of liberalism] or for whatever other reason, and with whatever inner reservations, he may not stand aside from the great German breakthrough, cannot deny the necessity of a policy with regard to the Jews.60

  • 61 Quoted ibid., p. 152.

47Should one then give up one’s Jewishness? That is not really an option, Landmann acknowledges: “With all our immersion in the German spirit, we cannot drive the Jewish blood from our veins. Should we then drive out the German spirit in us, transform ourselves back into pious old Jews or make ourselves over into modern nationalist or internationalist Jews?” Suicide would be preferable to that: “It would be better for us to do ourselves in.”61 Landmann’s desperate clinging to the German spirit, as communicated to her through George, is demonstrated in the wildly Utopian solution she proposed in her tract to those Jews who “remained faithful to ‘secret Germany’”: the founding of a settlement of German Jews in the former German colony of South-West Africa (present-day Namibia), where, as in a cloister, the Master’s dream would be preserved from contamination by the “karikatur und pöbelhaftigkeit” [“caricature and loutish demagogy”] that had overwhelmed Germany itself. Jews, who had always been faithful to the Law and carried it with them into all the lands where they settled, might well be especially suited to be the guardians of the Master’s vision in drastically unfavourable times.

  • 62 See Michael Landmann’s text and the extracts from his mother’s letters in Michael Landmann, Erinne (...)

48From the outset, however, Landmann knew her scheme was impractical. George’s death in December 1933 seemed to her to mark the death of Germany: “Germania fuit.” She moved to Basel and, after much soul-searching, in due course became a Zionist.62


1 Cit. Robertson, The ‘Jewish Question’ in German Literature 1749–1939, p. 384.

2 Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach (Berlin: Haude & Spenersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1963), p. 72.

3 “Das neue Gesicht der Politik,” one of a selection of articles, originally published in various journals and reproduced in Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!” Der Patriotismus deutscher Juden und der Nationalsozialismus: Frühe Schriften 1930 bis 1939, p. 76.

4 “Der Nationalsozialismus rettet Deutschland vor dem Untergang; Deutschland erlebt heute seine völkische Erneuerung” (Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!”, p. 106).

5 Schoeps, “Jugend und Nationalsozialismus” (September 1930) in “Bereit für Deutschland!”, p. 60. See also “Das neue Gesicht der Politik” (January 1933): “If the state in the Age of Liberalism was considered the agent of society and, at the same time, of culture, new forces have today broken into the depoliticized space of culture and society. The positive aspects of these new forces may well be problematical, but with respect to the ideologies of Liberalism, they are at one in rejecting the view that the role of the state is simply to guarantee satisfaction of the demands of consumers. With the bankruptcy of liberal social thought” the liberal credo that “political commitment and responsibility develop only through the possession of culture and property [Bildung und Besitz] has simply been eliminated.” Equally, the new forces are opposed to socialist “collectivism”: “The situation today has given rise to a new reality, viz. that the principle behind clubs and fraternities [das ‘bündische’ Prinzip] is gradually assuming a political form as the absolute opposite of the socialist collective” (“Bereit für Deutschland!”, pp. 71–72).

6 Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!”, pp. 60–62, 68, 71, 74–78, 90–91, 94, 106–07, 225 et passim. See also Carl J. Rheins, “Deutscher Vortrupp. Gefolgschaft deutscher Juden 1933–1935,” especially p. 217.

7 Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach, pp. 81–82, 85–87.

8 See Schoeps’s own account of this rescue operation, ibid., pp. 108–13.

9 Schoeps, “Bereit für Deutschland!”, pp. 99–103. A stoical attitude, similar to that recommended by Schoeps, was expressed by the Jewish scholar and member of the George Circle, Ernst Kantorowicz (see below).

10 Karl A. Schleunes, The Twisted Road to Auschwitz, pp. 192–200. Schleunes cites an SS order of April 1935: “The attempts of German-Jewish organizations to persuade Jews to remain in Germany is […] in direct contradiction to National Socialist principles and must, therefore, be prevented in any form.” See also Francis R. Nicosia, “German Zionism and Jewish Life in Nazi Berlin,” in Jewish Life in Nazi Germany, Dilemmas and Responses, ed. Francis R. Nicosia and David Scrase, pp. 89–116.

11 Schoeps, Rückblicke. Die letzten dreissig Jahre (1925–1955) und danach, pp. 100–01.

12 I have been a close friend of Pevsner’s son Dieter and the latter’s wife Florence, since the mid-1950s when Dieter and I were graduate students at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. I also knew Nikolaus Pevsner personally, heard him lecture, and once showed him around Baltimore when he was to give a talk there and I was teaching at the Johns Hopkins University. From my then strongly left-leaning perspective I admired his work and shared many of his views on art and architecture, in particular his concern with the place of art in society. To a considerable degree, I still share that concern, to which a couple of modest recent contributions to the study of the so-called “Nazarene” artists of early 19th century Germany testify, though I had no idea at the time of writing these of Pevsner’s interest in and respect for that much neglected school of artists.

13 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life (London: Chatto and Windus, 2011), pp. 36, 38. Nikolaus received lessons in Hebrew from a black-bearded Dr. Kohn, doubtless in anticipation of his bar mitzvah (“the Jewish first Communion,” as he described it himself) but he did not complete the course and the ceremony never took place (Stephen Games, PevsnerThe Early Life: Germany and Art [London and New York: Continuum, 2010], p. 40). In general, the Pevsners were not practising Jews, but Nikolaus acknowledged that his father, though he never said anything about it, was probably upset by his son’s not going through the traditional Jewish rite of confirmation.

14 Quoted by Robert G.L. Waite, The Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Postwar Germany, 1918–1923 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952), p. 219.

15 Pevsner quoted in Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, p. 47; Arendt quoted ibid., p. 39.

16 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, pp. 39–40. For these brief biographical details about the young Nikolaus Pevsner and his family I am completely indebted to Harries, who kindly made an early typescript of the first chapters of her richly informed biography of Pevsner available to me over a decade ago when she began work on her book and asked me for my recollections of Pevsner’s visit to Baltimore. I consulted this typescript while awaiting delivery of her book. Most of the material derived here from the typescript is to be found in Chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 1–41) of the printed book.

17 Even in 1940, when Britain and Germany were at war, Pevsner was a refugee in Britain, and Pinder’s allegiance to the National Socialist regime had been made unequivocally clear, Pevsner dedicated his Academies of Art, Past and Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940), which, by his own account in the Preface, was largely written in Germany in the early 1930s, to “W.P. in grateful and faithful remembrance of the past.” Pinder, we are also informed, is “the greatest of living German art historians” (p. 13).

18 An Outline of European Architecture, 5th edn (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1957), p. 285.

19 “Um die Kunst des endenden 19. Jahrhunderts in ihrer ganzen Entartung zu erkennen, muss man vom Soziologischen und nicht vom Ästhetischen her an sie herantreten” [“To assess the art of the end of the nineteenth century in all its decadence, it has to be approached from the angle of sociology, not esthetics”]. (“Kunst der Gegenwart und Kunst der Zukunft,” p. 2; see note 20 below). The term “Entartung” was to acquire a particularly unfortunate resonance as a result of the notorious 1937 exhibition of “Entartete Kunst” organized by the Nazis in Munich.

20 Quoted, with the permission of Dieter Pevsner, from the typescript of an unpublished paper, Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft (circa 1934; copy communicated to me by Susie Harries circa 1999), p. 4. Pevsner never abandoned the core views expressed in this paper. A decade later, in the Introduction to An Outline of European Architecture (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1943; 2nd revised edn, 1951), he wrote: “An age without painting is conceivable, though no believer in the life-enhancing function of art would want it. An age without easel-painting can be conceived without any difficulty, and, thinking of the predominance of easel-pictures in the 19th century, might be regarded as a consummation devoutly to be wished” (p. 20); and in the Introduction to the 5th edition (1957): “The very fact that in the 19th century easel-painting flourished at the expense of wall-painting and ultimately of architecture, proves into what a diseased state the arts (and Western civilization) had fallen. The very fact that the Fine Arts today seem to be recovering their architectural character makes one look into the future with some hope” (p. 24).

21 “To assess the art of the end of the nineteenth century in all its decadence, it has to be approached from the angle of sociology, not esthetics. What the painter painted arose for his personal amusement and not in relation to the public, that is, to a totality [Gesamtheit] he wanted to serve because he felt himself to be an integral part of it. Pictures were conceived and produced in the studio or in nature. They were then displayed in their hundreds at art exhibitions, which by their very nature were visited by extremely small numbers of persons. Thus the people came into contact with the products of art only when these came into the possession of public collections. There they were met with understandable horror by all who saw things quite differently and who wanted quite different things to be represented in pictures from what the artists in their isolated circles had produced. […] The task to which the Impressonist painters devoted their energies engaged and pleased only the most sensitive, delicate, and high-strung viewers, for the sole object worthy of painting was held to be the representation of any thing in the environment, however insignificant, as it appeared to the eye of a particular painter at a particular, fleeting moment and in a particular, rapidly changing light. Sublimated materialism, extreme individualism, pure nineteenth century. All higher purposes of representational art are rejected with unforgivable frivolity and criminal superficiality” (Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 2). Pevsner’s position was not as eccentric as it might at first seem. One is reminded of Quatremère de Quincy’s celebrated critique of Napoleon’s pillaging of the art works of Italy in order to fill his museum of world art in Paris. The paintings were integral parts of the buildings — mostly churches — for which they had been made, Quatremère objected; removing them in order to display them in a museum was an act of vandalism. The revival of mural painting in the 1920s and 1930s (the Mexican Mural movement, the Public Works of Art project under the New Deal, and the experiments of Heinrich Vogeler at Worpswede in Germany) indicates that Pevsner’s ideas were far from idiosyncratic in his own time. As he himself declared, “Longing for the mural, for monumentality of format and content, has now seized hold of artists too,” even if it is still “rarely satisfied” (Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 18).

22 Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 20.

23 Deutsche Zukunft, 2 (4 February 1934): 15. The editor of this weekly was Fritz Klein, a journalist known for his nationalist and conservative political stance. Pevsner’s article took the form of a review of a current exhibition of “British Art” at the Royal Academy in London. In addition, the Reith lectures drew on a number of short articles on different aspects of English art that Pevsner published in English in 1941.

24 Kunst der Gegenwart, Kunst der Zukunft, p. 19.

25 The terms “cold as steel and glass” and “totalitarian” come from the final section, on Gropius, in Pevsner’s Pioneers of the Modern Movement (London: Faber and Faber, 1936, p. 206). “The artist who is representative of this century of ours must needs be cold, as he stands for a century cold as steel and glass, a century the precision of which leaves less space for self-expression than did any period before. However the great creative brain will find its own way, even in times of overpowering collective energy, even with the medium of this new style of the twentieth century which, because it is a genuine style as opposed to a passing fashion, is totalitarian” (p. 206). In postwar editions of this work, such as Pioneers of Modern Design from William Morris to Walter Gropius (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1949), “totalitarian” was prudently softened to “universalist” (p. 135).

26 Pioneers of Modern Design, pp. 7–19.

27 Pevsner completed a doctorate on baroque architecture in 1924; after a stint as an assistant curator at the celebrated Dresden Gallery, he obtained a position as Privatdozent at Göttingen, where he worked in close association with the Institute for English Studies and taught courses on English art and architecture.

28 Pevsner on Art and Architecture: The Radio Talks, ed. Stephen Games (London: Methuen, 2002) Introduction, p. xxiv.

29 Edeltrud König in an interview with Games, reported in Stephen Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, p. 178.

30 Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, p. 180.

31 Ibid., p. 184.

32 Ibid., p. 186.

33 Extracts from Francesca Wilson’s Birmingham Post article cited in Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, pp. 187–88, and in Pevsner on Art and Architecture: The Radio Talks, Introduction, p. xxiv. See also Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, pp. 125–26.

34 Cit. Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, pp. 187–88.

35 “I know he saw all the positive sides of National Socialism, which were probably the economic ones,” Games quotes her as saying, “but that was because of the sort of person he was. He got annoyed when students walked out of the room during his lectures. That annoyed him and he always said ‘What I’d really like is to lock them in. Once they’re inside, that’s where they should stay’” (Games, PevsnerThe Early Life, pp. 188–89).

36 Susie Harries, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life, p. 129.

37 QuotedbyFredPrieberg,Trial of Strength: Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Third Reich (London: QuartetBooks,1991;orig.German1986),Ch.2,p.340,note27;also,morebriefly,byRoger Sessions, “Music and Nationalism,” in the American League of Composers’ quarterly Modern Music, 11 (November-December, 1933): 3–13 (pp. 5–6); and Harvey Sachs, “The Furtwängler Case,” Furtwängler maintained his position in a 1934 exchange with Goebbels over the official banning of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler and in his own private notebooks, where in 1933 he wrote: “The nationalisation of music […] leads everywhere to its ruin,” and in 1939: “People imagine it is possible to eliminate liberalism, intellectualism, individualism, and lack of connection in art by an act of violence. That may well work in politics, but in art, as in love, there are no acts of violence” (Wilhelm Furtwänglers Aufzeichnungen 1924–1954, ed. Elisabeth Furtwängler and Günter Birkner [Wiesbaden: F. A. Brockhaus, 1980], pp. 95, 190). On the Furtwängler-Goebbels exchanges, see also Sam H. Shirakawa, The Devil’s Music Master: The Controversial Life and Career of Wilhelm Furtwängler (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 150–57.

38 Quoted by Roger Sessions, “Music and Nationalism,” pp. 5–6.

39 The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, for instance, (which, despite its far-Right conservative slant, occasionally ran foul of the Nazis and had several issues banned) commented: “It is a welcome surprise to find that in the new Germany men of such dignity and standing can debate issues of cultural and political importance in public. Wilhelm Furtwängler showed admirable indifference to public unpopularity by courageously and openly defending his Jewish colleagues and fellow-artists. […] and Propaganda Minister Goebbels was equally admirable both in his forthright statement of his own position and the way in which, where he felt able to do so, he was ready to acknowledge points of agreement. Above all, one must laud the way in which neither man made use of political or artistic jargon or claptrap, preferring instead to use those intellectual weapons of thesis and antithesis in what was truly an intellectual duel” (DAZ, 12 April 1933, cit. Prieberg, Trial of Strength, p. 52).

40 “Randbemerkungen: Zum BriefwechselFurtwängler-Goebbels,” Zeitwende, 9 (July-December 1933): 67–71 (p. 71).

41 Nikolaus Pevsner, “Kunst und Staat,” Der Türmer, 36 (March, 1934): 514–17.

42 Cit. in Prieberg, Trial of Strength, p. 50. On Kreisler’s Jewishness — his father was apparently Jewish, his mother may have been a Christian, he himself was raised as a Catholic, not a Jew — see Amy Biancolli, Fritz Kreisler: Love’s Sorrow, Love’s Joy (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1998), Ch. 8 (“Kreisler the Catholic, Kreisler the Jew”), pp. 183–208.

43 Biancolli, Fritz Kreisler, pp. 199–201. He also renounced his Austrian citizenship at this time and accepted a longstanding offer from the French government to become a French citizen.

44 Though such cases, as need hardly be emphasized, were not common, they are revealing; see Daniel Azuélos, L’entrée en bourgeoisie des Juifs allemands et le paradigme libéral (1800–1933) (Paris: Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne, 2005), p. 79.

45 According to Rainer Kolk, one quarter of the forty to forty-five individuals admitted to the George circles in Heidelberg, Marburg, and Berlin were Jewish (“‘Verkannte Brüder’, Entjudete Juden,” in Gert Mattenklot, Michael Philipp, Julius Schoeps, eds., Stefan George und das deutsch-jüdische Bürgertum zwischen Jahrhundertwende und Emigration [Hildesheim, Zurich and New York: G. Olms, 2001], p. 56. For material on Ernst Kantorowicz and Edith Landmann, I am indebted to Robert E. Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2002) and especially Ulrich Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister: Stefan Georges Nachleben (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2009).

46 For excellent short summaries of George’s ambivalent attitude to the National Socialist regime, see Yakov Malkiel’s essay on Kantorowicz in Arthur R. Evans, Jr., ed., On Four Modern Humanists: Hofmannsthal, Gundolf, Curtius, Kantorowicz (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 197–99; Michael Landmann, Erinnerungen an Stefan George. Seine Freundschaft mit Julius and Edith Landmann (Amsterdam: Castrum Peregrini, 1980), pp. 47–52; for a more extensive treatment, see Martin Ruehl, “‘In this Time without Emperors’: The Politics of Ernst Kantorowicz’s Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite reconsidered,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 63 (2002): 187–242. See also on his elusiveness in the matter of the Jews, the last page of Edith Landsmann’s Gespräche mit Stefan George (Düsseldorf and Munich: Helmut Küper, vormals Georg Bondi, 1963), p. 209.

47 Landmann, Gespräche mit Stefan George, p. 209. Landmann herself had noted in an appreciation of the recently published (1928) vol. 9 of George’s Collected Works, that George’s “New Reich” appeared at an historically opportune moment. Announced by an angel of destruction that warns: “Ich bin gesandt mit Fackel und mit Stahl,/ Dass ich Euch härte, nicht dass Ihr mich weichet” [“I have been sent with blazing torch and steel,/ So I should harden you, not so you should soften me”], the New Reich of the poet’s vision, according to Landmann, was not an abstraction but appropriate to the times: “However deeply rooted the New Reich was in the inner being of the poet, perhaps its hour had at last come from the outside. This mind that had taken such care to set itself apart from the world was acutely sensitive to the particular historical moment in which it was placed and to the demands and possibilities of the time. A clear, unblemished space for the new was created only after the War had removed all traces of the old” (“Stefan George. Das Neue Reich,” Logos: Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie der Kultur, 20 [1931]: 88–104 [pp. 96, 104]). Landmann’s son, Georg Peter Landmann, likewise noted, referring to George’s poem “Der Täter” [The Doer, Activist, Perpetrator, identified by George himself in another poem, “Jahrhundertspruch,” as follows: “Vielleicht wer jahrlang unter euern mördern sass/ In euren zellen schlief: steht auf und tut die tat” — “Perhaps he who for years sat among your murderers,/ Slept in your prison cells, will stand up and do the deed”] that “George trug die Elemente des Täters stark in sich, und die Versuchung, aus dem Kreis der Kunst in handelnde, etwa gar ins politische Leben hinauszutreten, war ihm nicht fremd, aber er beschränkte sich und blieb der Dichter” [“George had strong elements of the Täter in himself, and the temptation to step out of the circle of art into active, even into political life, was not unknown to him. But he restrained himself and remained the poet”] (G. P. Landmann, Vorträge über Stefan George [Düsseldorf and Munich: Helmut Küpper, formerly Georg Bondi, 1974], p. 205).

48 Norton, Secret Germany, pp. 667, 670.

49 Cit. in Eckhart Grünewald, Ernst Kantorowicz und Stefan George: Beiträge zur Biographie des Historikers bis zum Jahre 1938 und zu seinem Jugendwerk, “Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite” (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1982), pp. 114–15.

50 Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, p. 157.

51 Cit. ibid., p. 161. See also Manfred Riedel, Geheimes Deutschland: Sefan George und die Brüder Stauffenberg (Cologne, Weimar and Vienna: Böhlau, 2006), p. 14.

52 Cit. in Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, p. 163. It is hard to convey Kantorowicz’s highly inventive, poetic, and prophetic language in translation. Only someone with a literary talent equal to his could translate it adequately.

53 Ibid., p. 168. Likewise, Manfred Riedel, Geheimes Deutschland: “Kantorowicz’s lecture still retained Georgian visions of a past and future Reich originally of European genesis and stamp. But it was borne along by an eschatological faith and delivered in the emotional tones of a prophetic conviction that was not too far removed from the emotional rhetoric of the speaker’s political opponents” (p. 14).

54 Letter from Kantorowicz to George, 10 July 1933, cit. Grünewald, Ernst Kantorowicz und Stefan George, pp. 122–23; note that Kantorowicz appears to particularly resent the “new linguistic coupling” of “Jew and coloured,” rather as other German Jews resented being “coupled” with “Ostjuden.” On Kantorowicz’s ambivalent response to National Socialism, see especially Martin Ruehl, “‘In this Time without Emperors’: The Politics of Ernst Kantorowicz’s Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite reconsidered,” pp. 225–36.

55 Ibid., p. 126.

56 Yakov Malkiel in Arthur R. Evans Jr., ed., On Four Modern Humanists, p. 195, note 30.

57 Ibid., pp. 193–94.

58 Raulff, Kreis ohne Meister, pp. 149–50.

59 Quoted ibid., p. 150, footnote 102.

60 Quoted ibid., p. 151, footnote 103.

61 Quoted ibid., p. 152.

62 See Michael Landmann’s text and the extracts from his mother’s letters in Michael Landmann, Erinnerungen an Stefan George. Seine Freundschaft mit Julius und Edith Landmann (Amsterdam: Castrum Peregrini Press, 1980).


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