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Brownshirt Princess

Lionel Gossman

Introduction: An Unusual Book and a Strange Collaboration

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  • 1 On the Angelsachsen Verlag, see Herbert Schwarzwälder, Das Groβe Bremen- Lexikon (Bremen: Edition T (...)
  • 2 The drawing was published under the title Ekstase as the cover illustration of Die Aktion, vol. 4, (...)
  • 3 In addition to the copy in Princeton Universitys Firestone Library, in which the frontispiece illu (...)

1In the year 1921 a slim volume of verse entitled Gott in mir [God in Me] appeared in Bremen, Germany. (See online Appendix A). One of the first books to be published by the Angelsachsen Verlag [Anglo-Saxon Publishing Company], founded in 1921 by Ludwig Roselius, a wealthy Bremen merchant in the overseas trade,1 it consisted of 41 printed pages, interspersed by eight blank pages, along with a title page, a page containing an epigraph, and another containing an envoy of four well-known lines from Goethes West-östlicher Divan. A frontispiece illustration (fig. 1) – a somewhat altered version of a pen and ink drawing of 1914, entitled variously Neugeburt [New Birth], Ekstase [Ecstasy] and Eine Vision, that first appeared in Franz Pfemferts dissident, anti-militarist and anti-chauvinist weekly Die Aktion [Action] (fig. 2) and clearly purports to evoke the dawning of a new day, the beginning of a vita nuova – was by the then still well-known, Bremenborn Jugendstil artist Heinrich Vogeler, in the expressionist manner with which he was experimenting at the time.2 The spacious layout of the book, in no way cramped or economical, and the exceptionally high quality of the rag paper give no hint of the hard times Germany was going through when the book was produced. Everything points rather to a well-financed small edition for a select clientele. The book is in fact listed in only five library catalogues world-wide.3 The author is given as Marie Adelheid Prinzessin Reuß-zur Lippe.

  • 4 Achtzig Merksätze und Leitsprüche über Zucht und Sitte aus Schriften und Reden von R. Walther Darré(...)

2Gott in mir is of interest not so much because of its rarity as because it is an unusual testimonial to the situation in Germany at the time of its publication. The blue-blooded but rebellious God-seeking author (1895¬1993) subsequently became an ardent National Socialist, was employed as an aide to the Nazi Minister of Food and Agriculture, R. Walther Darré, one of the main ideologists of Blut und Boden [Blood and Soil], and dedicated her writing talent to the promotion of National Socialist ideals, especially those of Darré, in prose and verse. Copies of her other writings prior to 1945, though rare, are to be found in the collections of several libraries in the United States and Europe. They include an essay on Nordische Frau und Nordischer Glaube [Nordic Woman and Nordic Religion], published in 1934 by the neo-pagan Nordische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft [Nordic Religious Community, founded in 1927], Deutscher Hausrat [Setting up the German Household] an advice leaflet for the new German woman (Leipzig: Strauch, 1936), two edited collections of writings by her mentor Darré,4 and two novels, Mutter Erde [Mother Earth] (Berlin-Schöneberg: Verlag Neue Nation, 1935) and Die Overbroocks [The Overbroocks] (Berlin: Ährensen Verlag, 1942).

3A convinced and impenitent Party member, the Princess continued her extreme right-wing political activities after the Second World War, both as a writer and translator and as an active member of various neo-Nazi organizations. The German translation of the notorious Holocaust-denying Le Drame des Juifs européens [The Drama of European Jews] (Paris, 1964) by the French Socialist député and sometime Communist, Paul Rassinier, is her work (Das Drama der Juden Europas [Hanover, 1965]). She also published two more volumes of poetry. In Weltfrömmigkeit [Earthly Piety] (Hamelin: Verlag Soltsien-Der Gute Gabe, n.d. [1960]), she took up again the neopagan religious themes of Gott in mir, even borrowing several long passages from the earlier work. Eighteen years later, Freundesgruß: Rückblick auf sechs Jahrzehnte [Greeting from a Friend: A Retrospective View of Six Decades], richly illustrated with woodcuts by the Nazi artist Georg Sluyterman von Langeweyde, celebrated the idealism, courage, and dedication of those in the National Socialist movement. It appeared in a special number of Kritik: Die Stimme des Volkes [Criticism: The Voice of the People] (no. 46, 1978), a neo-Nazi journal with which the Princess was closely associated.

3. Heinrich Vogeler. Cover design for Deutsche
Kunst und Dekoration (1902).

4. Heinrich Vogeler. Design and illustration for R.M. Rilke, Die heiligen Drei Könige in Die Insel (1900).

5. Heinrich Vogeler. Title-page for Frühlingskranz by Clemens Brentano (1907).

  • 5 For a rapid overview of the German Revolution the German Socialist Party leaderships response to (...)
  • 6 Vogelers so-called Komplexbilder – montages of realistically painted fragments – were an attempt (...)

4In contrast, Heinrich Vogeler (1872-1942), the artist responsible for the frontispiece, had been elected in the revolutionary climate of November 1918 to the local Workers and Soldiers Rat or Council at Osterholz, the administrative center for the celebrated Worpswede artists colony, of which he had been one of the leading lights until he was transformed by his experience of the war from a Jugendstil aesthete (figs. 3, 4, 5) into a radical left-wing political dissident. Even though he did not personally participate in the government of the short-lived Räterepublik [Workers and Soldiers Council Republic, January-February, 1919] in nearby Bremen, where he was born and his mother still lived, he had been elected to the Bremen Workers and Soldiers Council. Moreover, he was so closely associated with many of the Republics leaders that he had to go into hiding after it was overthrown by a right-wing militia (one of the notorious Freikorps, under the command of Colonel Wilhelm Gerstenberg) acting on behalf of the middle-of-the road Majority Socialist central government that had come to power in Berlin in the wake of Germanys military defeat.5 Shortly afterwards, Vogeler turned his elegant property in Worpswede, the Barkenhoff, into a commune, a place of asylum for left-wing agitators and deserters (or men simply making their way back from the front as their units broke up), a home for the children of persecuted Communists, and a progressive school, before finally handing it over in 1924 to the Rote Hilfe, the German section of an international Communist relief organization. He had designed the Barkenhoff himself and built it in the decade before the war as an island of art, beauty and fantasy, a refuge from the ugly everyday reality of modern industrial society. His visiting friends here had included the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, the writer Carl Hauptmann and his now better-known brother Gerhard, and several students of Ferruccio Busoni (then at the height of his fame), in particular the pianist Egon Petri, who was to become a celebrity in his own right, and the avant-garde Jewish-American composer Louis Gruenberg. Vogeler also joined the Communist Party in the early 1920s, and from the end of 1923 until June 1924, headed the Art Department of the Communist University for Western Minorities in Moscow. In 1931, after visiting the country four times (1923-24, 1925, 1926, 1927), he emigrated definitively to the Soviet Union. During those years Vogeler experimented with new forms of art in an earnest, if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to devise a style appropriate both to his new political and philosophical convictions and to what he saw as an emerging new reality.6 After the National Socialists assumed power in Germany, he collaborated with the poet Johannes Becher, who had also left Germany for the USSR, on a collection of anti-Nazi poems, which he illustrated with cartoons, and when Nazi Germany invaded Russia in 1941, he broadcast from Moscow to the German troops on behalf of the Soviets. In late 1941, along with many other native Germans resident in the Soviet Union, Vogeler, already a sick man, was sent to Kazakhstan, where he died on 14 June 1942, destitute and lacking medical attention.

  • 7 These feelings were already evident in an anti-war tract of January 1918, duplicated on a hectograp (...)
  • 8 Friedrich Wolf, Briefwechsel: Eine Auswahl (Bonn and Weimar: Aufbau Verlag, 1968), p. 9, letter dat (...)
  • 9 See Bernd Stenzig, Worpswede Moskau: Das Werk von Heinrich Vogeler, Exhib. Cat. (Worpswede: Worpswe (...)
  • 10 Hingabe – Heinrich Vogeler, Friede (Bremen, 1922), p. 41, quoted by Bernd Stenzig in Heinrich Vog (...)

5In the years just before and after the German Revolution, however, (i.e. at the time he provided the illustration for the Princesss poem) Vogeler was not yet unequivocally a Communist. Like many other artists and intellectuals, he had been turned by the war into a pacifist and a socialist inspired by diffuse religious feelings of brotherhood, compassion and the unity of the entire cosmos.7 When you visit the Barkenhoff, the poet and playwright Friedrich Wolf – who later emigrated, like Vogeler, to the Soviet Union – wrote to his fiancée in June 1921, you will find in Vogeler a einen wahren Christus-Mensch [a genuine Christ-figure].8 Like many on the Left at the time, Vogeler opposed what he saw as the authoritarian tendencies of the recently constituted German Communist Party. Power, he insisted, should be in the hands of the free workers communities themselves, not vested in a centralized Party apparatus, and action should be spontaneous, not centrally planned. Equally, the Party, it appears, did not think much of him. Even the extreme non-Party Left (represented by anarchist newspapers like Der Syndikalist [The Syndicalist] or Der Freie Arbeiter [The Free Worker]) was not quite sure what to make of him.9 His artwork at the time carried titles like Werden [Becoming] (1921) and Die Geburt des neuen Menschen [The Birth of the New Man] (1923), and he gave similar titles to the numerous pamphlets he published in those same years: Das neue Leben [New Life] (1919) or Expressionismus der Liebe [Expressionism of Love] (1919). (Figs. 6, 7, 8, 9) His leading ideas, in his own words, and the foundation stone of his socialism, were Hingabe im Gesetz des Ganzen [surrender of the individual self according to the law of the Whole], innere Gesetzmäßigkeiten des Werdens [inner laws of becoming], and Frieden! Harmonie mit den Weltgesetzen des ewigen Werdens [peace – harmony with the universal laws of eternal becoming].10

6. Das neue Leben (1919)

7. Expressionismus der Liebe (1919)

8. Expressionismus: Eine Zeitstudie(1919)

  • 11 The form of the figure is that of the Algiz or Life rune . See other, related images in online (...)

9. Die Freiheit der Liebe in der kommunistischen Gesellschaft (1919)11

6Heinrich Vogeler. Cover illustrations for various pamphlets.

  • 12 Bernd Stenzig in Heinrich Vogeler: Vom Romantiker zum Revolutionär, pp. 126-28; Heinrich Wiegand Pe (...)
  • 13 See The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. Robert (...)
  • 14 S. D. Gallwitz, Dreißig Jahre Worpswede, pp. 34-35. See also Bernd Stenzig, Heinrich Vogeler: Eine (...)
  • 15 Zofia Marchlewska, Eine Welle im Meer, pp. 62-63. Harry Graf Kessler makes a similar observation ab (...)
  • 16 Heinrich Vogeler, Gott,” in Gallwitz, Dreißig Jahre Worpswede, pp. 79-81.
  • 17 In general, the ideological line between Right and Left was not always clearly delineated. As is we (...)

7Vogeler appears to have owed more at this time to the then pervasive Nietzsche-influenced doctrines of Lebensphilosophie, with their emphasis on Werden [Becoming] instead of Sein [Being], than to the highly systematic dialectical materialism of Marx. Likewise his vision of a communist society owed less to Marx than to the anarchist ideas of Prince Kropotkin, the German translation of whose Khlieb i volia [Bread and Freedom, 1892], first published in 1906 as Die Eroberung des Brotes: Wohlstand für alle [The Conquest of Bread: Wellbeing for All], was republished by the Syndicalist Press in Berlin in 1919 in an edition designed and illustrated by Vogeler.12 Typical of his position in those years was an oil painting of 1922, presently in the Katherine Dreier-Société Anonyme Collection at Yale University – one of a very small number of works by Vogeler in the United States, all of them acquired by Dreier in the 1920s. Entitled Eine Vision [A Vision], it combines a representation of the head of a sleeping Buddha, emerging from a background of plants, with a semi-abstract Soviet star motif.13 In a study of the Worpswede artists put out in 1922 by the same Angelsachsen Verlag that published Gott in mir, the popular Bremen writer S. D. Gallwitz wrote that while Vogeler enthusiastically called himself a Communist, his Communism was of a very individualist character. […] Organized, politically oriented Communism had so little use for him that it considered him a spoiler. […] The alpha and omega of all his demands was in the last instance religious in nature. 14 Vogelers second wife, Zofia (Sonja) Marchlewska – the daughter of a leading Polish Communist activist, art critic, and collaborator of Lenin – confirms that observation. Vogelers publications in the early to mid-1920s, she notes in her memoirs, were allcomposed in a mystical language that demonstrates how far the artist still was from understanding the ways and goals of Communism. 15 The future Communist who felt ein gesetzmäßiges Werden in mir [an orderly Becoming in me], who described the God of our Germanic forefathers with reverence as Odin, der Odem, der Atem, das indische Atma, der große Wind und Atem der Natur [Odin, Odem, Breath, the Indian Atma, the great wind and breath of Nature], and to whomthe two ravens on [Odins] shoulders, Hugin and Munin, symbolized the reconciliation in God of all seeming dualisms – inhalation and exhalation, high and low, day and night, summer and winter, sun and moon16 – was not yet perhaps too far removed in spirit from the future Nazi Princess who experienced ״Gott in mir. ״17

  • 18 Ludwig Roselius, Briefe, pp. 94-125, letters between Roselius and Vogeler, November and December, 1 (...)
  • 19 Wildnis: Geruhsame Abenteuer in Alaska (Bremen: Angelsachsen Verlag, 1925).

8As for the publisher of Gott in mir, Ludwig Roselius (1874-1943), besides being a highly successful businessman – the inventor of decaffeinated coffee, he founded and directed the internationally renowned firm of Kaffee HAG (fig. 10) – he was an active patron of the arts in Bremen and Lower Saxony and a champion of North German artists, especially those associated with Worpswede, such as the sculptor-architect-painter¬designer Bernhard Hoetger and the pioneering woman painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. He also supported Vogeler and continued to do so for some time even after the artist had moved to the radical Left – in the hope, as the correspondence between the two suggests, of weaning him back.18 For a while he even provided emergency subsidies to Vogeler’s agricultural commune at Worpswede, which was never economically viable. In addition, his pointedly named Angelsachsen Verlag [Anglo-Saxon Publishing Company] published in 1925 a German translation of Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska (1920) by the American artist Rockwell Kent, who was subsequently to become, like Vogeler, a man of the Left, close to the Communist Party.19

10. Advertisement for Roseliuss Kaffee HAG in Herwarth Waldens Der Sturm (1912). Roselius advertised his coffee regularly in this avant-garde art and literature periodical.

9Roselius was at the same time an ardent advocate of the theory that the Arctic region, the home of the ״Nordic race, ״ was the cradle of human culture, and that the island continent of Atlantis, whose Nordic inhabitants were supposedly dispersed after it was submerged beneath the waves, had really existed. The celebrated Atlantis House in Bremen, designed by his protégé Hoetger and completed in 1931, with the great expressionist sculpture of Odin (or Wotan), the Nordic Christ (fig. 11) on its façade, bears witness to his commitment to the Nordic Idea. (Damaged during World War II, it was rebuilt in 1965, but Hoetgers Tree of Life sculpture, dedicated to Odin, was not replaced. Though it is now one of the tourist attractions of Bremen, it is unlikely that all visitors know how the Haus Atlantis came by its name).

11. Bernhard Hoetger. ״Lebensbaum [Tree of Life] sculpture, ״dedicated to Odin, ״ originally on façade of Atlantis House (1931).
Destroyed in World War II.

  • 20 See Wir Bremer (originally published in the Deutsch-Amerika Zeitung, 1923) and other essays in hi (...)
  • 21 On Hitlers public denunciation of diese Art von Böttcherstraße-Kultur as degenerate at the Nurem (...)
  • 22 See Hitlers remarks in Mein Kampf (trans. Ralph Mannheim, [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1943], pp (...)
  • 23 See Margaret Bourke-White, Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly: A Report on the Collapse of Hitlers T (...)

10Roselius also subsidized the scholarly investigations of the Dutch philologist and archaeologist Herman Wirth, who was later (1935) appointed by Himmler to head his Ahnenerbe (full name: Ahnenerbe Forschungs- und Lehrgemeinschaft [Ancestral Heritage Society for Research and Teaching]) research foundation. The businessman subscribed to the scholars fantastic theories of Nordic preeminence, which in one form or another were widely shared in Germany at the time. In addition, he supported efforts to find, collect, and preserve the ancient artifacts of the Nordic peoples and to protect their traditions and racial purity in the hope that the decadent culture of the modern world might be regenerated by a revived Nordic race. In the aftermath of the First World War, he advocated a concerted effort by the Nordic peoples or Anglo-Saxons to establish dominion over the entire universe. (Like Julius Langbehn, the author of the vastly influential Rembrandt als Erzieher [Rembrandt as Educator], first published in 1890 and constantly reprinted afterwards, Roselius included in this category the North Germans, the Dutch, the English, the Scandinavians, and the Americans – viewed as Anglo-Saxon colonizers).20 A critic of liberalism in politics and economics – but not at all of capitalism as such – Roselius had helped in 1917, as popular discontent was on the rise and the socialists were gaining ground, to found a right-wing party that professed to stand above all classes and unite all true Germans. The leading figure in this Deutsche Vaterlandspartei [German Fatherland Party] was none other than Wolfgang Kapp, who three years later led a (failed) putsch against the Weimar Republic. Roselius sympathized with the goals of National Socialism from early in the movements history. He met with Hitler in the early twenties and later joined the NSDAP or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei [National Socialist German Workers Party]. His relations with the Party were not always smooth, both because of his continued support of Hoetger and celebration of Modersohn-Becker, whom he saw as quintessentially Nordic in their art but whose work was denounced as degenerate by the Nazis, and because of his commitment to Wirth, who fell out of favor in the late 1930s after he began promoting the idea that the earliest Germanic societies were matriarchies and lent his authority to a supposedly ancient Frisian chronicle that even many National Socialist scholars dismissed as a nineteenth-century forgery.21 (His learned Was heißt deutsch? [What Does Being German Mean?] [Jena: Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1931] carried the dedication Der deutschen Frau und Mutter [To the German Wife and Mother]; for the dedication of his edition of the Ura Linda Chronik [Ura Linda Chronicle] [Leipzig: Koehler& Amelang, 1933] he cited what he claimed was a first-century inscription from Cologne – Meinen Germanischen Müttern [To My Germanic Mothers]). In addition, some in the NSDAP, including at times Hitler himself, came to view excessive emphasis on theories of Nordic supremacy as divisive and not conducive to the aims of the Party.22 Roselius and his family nevertheless remained committed to National Socialism and to Hitler personally.23

11As a publishing venture, Gott in mir thus brought together three diversely talented individuals, who by 1921 were probably already evolving in different directions politically, but who might well still have felt that they shared similar ideals and aspirations. It stands as vivid testimony to the confused mix of anger, rebelliousness, and unorthodox political and religious fervor that characterized the immediate post-war period and was shared by many Germans – on both the Right and the Left. Though well rooted in the pre-war Wilhelminian period, these feelings were greatly aggravated by the disillusionment and disorientation of the last days of the First World War and the collapse of the Wilhelminian state. For some, especially in the officer class and the bureaucracy, it was the alleged betrayal of the army by Socialists and Jews in the rear (the so-called dagger in the back״) along with the prospect of ״Bolshevik״ revolution that stirred up feelings of outrage and revolt; for others, chiefly in the working class, it was the perception that they had been deceived by the former ruling elite and then betrayed by the Majority Socialist Party leaderships suppression of the grassroots revolution that had broken out in the wake of the military defeat and the abdication of the Kaiser; and for a few, chiefly younger members of the aristocracy, it was their own classs spineless response both to the military situation at the front and to the demand for the Kaisers abdication.

12My aim in this essay is not so much to conduct a detailed literary analysis of the Princesss poem as to provide an interpretative context for its main themes and invite reflection on what made the collaboration of three such diverse individuals possible. In Part I, I consider the title, the epigraph, the envoy, and the poem itself. In Part II, I outline the subsequent career of the Princess and offer an account of several of her later works. An Appendix contains a fasimile of the poem as originally published, a rough translation of it, and a portfolio of images. The aim of Part I, in short, is to use Gott in mir as an entry into the mental and cultural outlook that presided over its publication. The aim of Part II is to contribute, by way of an account of the Princesss career and writing, to our understanding of the attraction National Socialist ideology had for many Germans.


1 On the Angelsachsen Verlag, see Herbert Schwarzwälder, Das Groβe Bremen- Lexikon (Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2002), pp. 19-20.

2 The drawing was published under the title Ekstase as the cover illustration of Die Aktion, vol. 4, no. 22, 30 May 1914. (On Die Aktion, described by Pfemfert himself in the first number [February 1911] as an organ of honest radicalism,” see the Afterword in Franz Pfemfert, Die Revolutions G.m.b.H., ed. Knut Hickethier, Wilhelm Heinrich Pott and Kristina Zerges [Wissmar and Steinbach: Anabas Verlag Günter Kampf, 1973], pp. 169-96. Schmidt-Rottluff, Egon Schiele, and two younger men associated with Vogeler and with Worpswede, Georg Tappert and his student Wilhelm Morgner, were among other artists who contributed to the magazine.) Many years later, in an article written in the Soviet Union, after he had become a committed Communist, Vogeler looked back on this work (illustrated in the article and referred to there as Neugeburt [Rebirth]). Interpreting it as his own attempt to achieve rebirth by breaking radically with the Jugendstil that had been the hallmark of his art until then, he was also critical of it: Thus arose, in the midst of severe inner struggle, the etching. Neugeburt. Rays of light divide up the little world of the copper plate, illuminating its expressive essence. A hand emerges from the clouds, touching a young mother as if to awaken her. A newborn child lies in her lap. Under heavy clouds that are moving away, in the distance [i.e. in the upper right-hand corner of the picture] a man drags himself along almost crushed under the weight of a cross. Real-life experiences resting on completely abstract forms. For the first time, expressionist techniques are to be seen in the art of this painter. It was his passionate attempt to free himself from everything obsolete in bourgeois art, an attempt to destroy the Old. An attempt made on the level of form. For the content was still individualist, private, abstractly removed from the social. A revolution with no future and no goal. Yet there was something good in this attempt: it brought our painter powerfully back to reality, for his etching was, as he thought, an accounting, a line drawn under the past, marking its end. (Erfahrungen eines Mahlers: Zur Expressionismus-Diskussion [Experiences of a Painter: A Contribution to the Debate about Expressionism], Das Wort [Moscow], 3, 6: June 1938], pp. 84-94, on p. 86). What the work must have suggested to its early viewers was that salvation and a vita nuova will come, but not through Christianity. In the version that was used to illustrate the Princesss poem the child in front of the woman in the original drawing and in etchings made in 1915-16 is unaccountably missing. As Vogeler continued to use the mother-child image or the child alone in many paintings and drawings of this period as a symbol of rebirth, cosmic unity, and a new relationship among human beings, the elimination of the child from the 1921 frontispiece requires explanation. Did the artist intend to concentrate the viewers attention on the experience of the subject herself, as described in the Princesss poem? Or is there a simple technical explanation? The child is also absent from some of the twenty or so preparatory sketches for the etching. There is unfortunately no answer to this question anywhere in the extensive – and excellent – literature in German on Vogeler.

3 In addition to the copy in Princeton Universitys Firestone Library, in which the frontispiece illustration is hand-signed by the artist, Gott in mir is listed in the catalogues of Northwestern University Library, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek in Leipzig, the library of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, and the Stadtbibliothek in Magdeburg. The original owner of Firestones copy was a German bibliophile whose outstanding library of first editions of then contemporary German literature was acquired by Princeton in 1924. The book appears as no. 228 in the exhaustive catalogue of books illustrated by Vogeler in Theo Netelers Heinrich Vogeler, Buchgestalter und Buchillustrator: Mit einer Bibliographie (Fischerhude: Galerie- Verlag, 1991), pp. 108-47.

4 Achtzig Merksätze und Leitsprüche über Zucht und Sitte aus Schriften und Reden von R. Walther Darré (Goslar: Verlag Blut und Boden, 1940); Erkenntnisse und Werden: Aufsätze vor der Zeit der Machtergreifung (Goslar: Verlag Blut und Boden, 1940).

5 For a rapid overview of the German Revolution the German Socialist Party leaderships response to it, see especially Hans Mommsen, The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy, trans. Elborg Forster and Larry Eugene Jones (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996; orig. German 1989), pp. 15-50; the moving work of Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918-1919, trans. Georg Rapp (London: André Deutsch, 1973; orig. German Die verratene Revolution [Betrayal of a Revolution], 1969); and the still invaluable Harvard Ph.D. of Robert G. L. Waite, Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Postwar Germany 1918-1923 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952). For a vivid day-by-day account, see Harry, Graf Kesslers diary, Berlin in Lights: the Diaries of Count Harry Kessler 1918-1937, trans. and ed. Charles Kessler (New York: Grove Press, 2000). On the Revolution in Bremen, see Peter Kuckuk, Bremen in der deutschen Revolution 1918-1919 (Bremen: Bremen Verlagsgesellschaft Steintor, 1986) and Chris Harman, The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918-1923 (London: Bookmarks, 1982), pp. 99-103.

6 Vogelers so-called Komplexbilder – montages of realistically painted fragments – were an attempt to combine modernism and realism in an art adequate to the socialist reality the artist believed was in process of construction. See online Appendix B, Image Portfolio 1.

7 These feelings were already evident in an anti-war tract of January 1918, duplicated on a hectographic copier and illegally distributed in the last months of the War as a Letter to the Kaiser from a non-commissioned officer. The letter took the form of a fable, in which God appears as a wretched old man on the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, distributing leaflets that call for peace on earth and invoking the Ten Commandments, is arrested by the Police, and executed as a traitor. To the surprise of the bloodthirsty generals who promise peace and order but aim to do so only by bringing people to their knees at sword point, the old man, whom everyone believed dead, reappears. He briefly thinks he has been recognized, but in fact the generals and rulers only use his name in their telegrams, dispatches, and proclamations to give these an air of dignity and legitimacy. The letter concluded with an appeal to the Kaiser to become a prince of peace and place himself in the service of truth and humanity instead of violence, lies, and illusions. For his pains, Vogeler was discharged from the army and briefly hospitalized as a neuropath – which allowed the authorities to avoid the publicity and potential embarrassment of a court-martial. The little text was printed by the revolutionaries of November 1918 as a flyer with the title Das Märchen vom lieben Gott: Brief eines Unteroffiziers an den Kaiser im Januar 1918, als Protest gegen den Frieden von Brest-Litowsk [The tale of the good Lord: a letter from a non-commissioned officer to the Kaiser in January 1918, in protest against the Peace of Brest-Litovsk] (Bremen: Druck Arbeiterpolitik, 1919) and reprinted in S. D. Gallwitz, Dreißig Jahre Worpswede: Künstler, Geist, Werden (Bremen: Angelsachsen Verlag, 1922), pp. 33-34.

8 Friedrich Wolf, Briefwechsel: Eine Auswahl (Bonn and Weimar: Aufbau Verlag, 1968), p. 9, letter dated 9 June 1921. In his play Kolonne Hund (1926), based on his experience as a member of Vogelers commune, Wolf subsequently exposed the insuperable obstacles, material and psychological, to the viability and efficacity of communist islands in a capitalist sea. Like Vogeler, Wolf – who at one time was seen as a rival of Brecht – emigrated to the Soviet Union.

9 See Bernd Stenzig, Worpswede Moskau: Das Werk von Heinrich Vogeler, Exhib. Cat. (Worpswede: Worpsweder Verlag, 1989), pp. 136-38.

10 Hingabe – Heinrich Vogeler, Friede (Bremen, 1922), p. 41, quoted by Bernd Stenzig in Heinrich Vogeler: Vom Romantiker zum Revolutionär; Ölbilder, Zeichnungen, Grafik, Dokumente von 1895-1924 (Exhib. Cat., Bonner Kunstverein, 23 June-1 August 1982), p. 127; Gesetzmäßigkeit des Werdens – quoted by Zofia Marchlewska, Eine Welle im Meer: Erinnerungen an Heinrich Vogeler und Zeitgenossen (Berlin: Buchverlag Der Morgen, n.d. [1968]), p. 63. Frieden – from Christmas letter of the Barkenhoff Arbeitsgemeinschaft, 1920, reproduced in Walter Hundt, Bei Heinrich Vogeler in Worpswede. Erinnerungen, foreword by Bernd Stenzig (Worpswede: Worpsweder Verlag, Schriftenreihe der Barkenhoff Stiftung, 1981), p. 166.

11 The form of the figure is that of the Algiz or Life rune . See other, related images in online Appendix B, image portfolio 2 at:

12 Bernd Stenzig in Heinrich Vogeler: Vom Romantiker zum Revolutionär, pp. 126-28; Heinrich Wiegand Petzet, Von Worpswede nach Moskau: Heinrich Vogeler – Ein Künstler zwischen den Zeiten (Cologne: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1972), pp. 124-28. Rejecting as a caricature the image of communism presented by her husbands patron Roselius, Martha Vogeler advised Roselius to read Krapotkins Gegenseitige Hilfe in Tierund Menschenwelt.’” That work, she wrote, is closer to our will to life. (Martha Vogeler to Ludwig Roselius, 4 December 1918, in Ludwig Roselius, Briefe [Bremen: H. M. Hauschild, 1919], p. 125) Even Vogelers establishment of an agricultural and artisanal commune on the property of his once elegant Barkenhoff was not in itself an unequivocal sign of commitment to communism. Communes had been planned or founded by critics of the prevailing liberal-capitalist society on the Right as well as the Left: e.g. the Mittgart project of the eugenicist Willibald Hentschel, the Heimland settlement of the rabidly anti-Semitic Theodor Fritsch, Ernst Hunkels Donnershag. (See Ulrich Linse, Völkisch-rassische Siedlungen der Lebensreform,” in Handbuch zur Völkischen Bewegung 1871-1918, ed. Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, Justus U. Ulbricht [Munich; New Providence; London; Paris: K. G. Saur, 1996], pp. 397-410; also idem, Zurück, o Mensch zur Mutter Erde: Landkommunen in Deutschland 1890-1933 [Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1983]).

13 See The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné, ed. Robert L. Herbert, Eleanor S. Apter, Elise K. Kenney (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984), p. 711. For an illustration, see Online Appendix, section B, Image Portfolio 1. Along with the key notion of Werden [becoming] and the rejection of dualisms (separating God from Man, Spirit from Nature, etc.), Vogelers interest in Buddhism was shared by many in the politically opposite camp (e.g. Himmler, Rosenberg, Magda Goebbels); see Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Hitler-Buddha-Krishna: Eine unheilige Allianz vom Dritten Reich bis heute (Vienna: Verlag Carl Ueberreuter, 2002).

14 S. D. Gallwitz, Dreißig Jahre Worpswede, pp. 34-35. See also Bernd Stenzig, Heinrich Vogeler: Eine Bibliogaphie der Schriften (Worpsweder Verlag, 1994), Introduction, pp. vi-ix.

15 Zofia Marchlewska, Eine Welle im Meer, pp. 62-63. Harry Graf Kessler makes a similar observation about the entire leftwing orientation of German writers and artists, such as Vogeler. The weak spot of the Spartacist League [the revolutionary Spartakusbund, founded by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht during the First World War, and the matrix of the German Communist Party] is its disregard of economic facts and necessities. In that respect it is at the opposite pole from Karl Marx. It is remarkable that such a well-read and sharp Marxist as Luxemburg failed to see that. Nostitz [Alfred Nostitz, a Minister of the King of Saxony and longtime friend of Kessler] says...that poets like Paul Adler et al. have completely gone over to Spartakus. So too Vogeler and the Worpswede group in Bremen. It is the new religion of the young intellectuals and artists.” (Harry Graf Kessler, Das Tagebuch 1880-1937, vol. 7 (1919-1923), ed. Angela Reinthal [Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2007], pp. 116-17, entry for 31 January 1919) See also Walter Hundt, Bei Heinrich Vogeler in Worpswede: Erinnerungen on Vogelers relations with Richard Wilhelm, the eminent German Sinologist, Rudolf Steiner, and Martin Buber, who enrolled his son Rafael in the Barkenhoff school.

16 Heinrich Vogeler, Gott,” in Gallwitz, Dreißig Jahre Worpswede, pp. 79-81.

17 In general, the ideological line between Right and Left was not always clearly delineated. As is well known, there was a Left of the Right,” represented within the NSDAP by Gregor Strasser (murdered on Hitlers orders in 1934). Thus, for instance, the völkisch (on the term völkisch,” see below, chapter 2 n. 32) artist Hugo Höppener (Fidus), subsequently an ardent National Socialist, provided the illustrations for the German Socialist Partys May Day newspaper in 1905. (The main illustration was a light-shedding God of Spring – possibly intended to evoke the old Germanic Baldur – surrounded by naked figures and figures clad in Old Germanic costume). Wilhelm Schwaner, the völkisch author of a Germanen-Bibel and co-founder of the Germanische Glaubensgemeinschaft [Germanic Faith Community] was an intimate friend of the liberal Jewish statesman Walther Rathenau (see Part II of this essay) and was seen as a like-minded champion of the welfare of the people by Heinrich Vogelers close friend and patron, the humanitarian-socialist Jewish doctor Emil Löhnberg. Löhnbergs daughter remembers Schwaner in her memoirs as a neighbor of her family with ideas similar to those behind the British Workers Educational Association. Herr Schwaner,” she notes, describing a gathering Löhnberg hosted for Schwaner and thirty educationalists at the country house Vogeler had designed for him, had (I believe at the beginning of the century) adopted the symbol of the sun-wheel, found on very ancient oriental graves: the swastika. It was he who had revived this symbol in Germany. To him it meant that the light of education would shine into the minds of those who had been deprived of it. This naïve judgment of Schwaner tells much about contemporary perceptions of ideological currents now viewed as unequivocally rightwing. Nor was it altered when her father was physically attacked, in the mid-1920s, by two members of the NSDAP (Nazi Party). The meaning of the swastika had changed,” she writes. It was no longer the symbol of education and enlightenment of a Wilhelm Schwaner, but one of the German Master Race and aggression. (Marianne Walter, The Poison Seed: A Personal History of Nazi Germany [Lewes, Sussex: The Book Guild, 1992], pp. 68, 90) A third example of ambivalence is provided by another friend of Vogelers, the Worpswede sculptor-architect Bernhard Hoetger, who joined the NSDAP in 1934. Twelve years earlier Hoetger had offered an expressionist version of a Pietà sculpture to the workers of Bremen to serve as a Revolutionsdenkmal [memorial to the Bremen Revolution of 1919], and this gesture was cited against him when he was attacked in several issues of the SS magazine Das Schwarze Korps in 1935 for his alleged corrupting influence on German art (his work showed at one point the strong influence of so-called primitive African art) and opportunistic relation to the Party, and once again in a 1938 document justifying his expulsion from the Party. As if to respond to the attacks of 1935, Hoetger created a bas-relief of Michael der Lichtbringer, which was placed at the entrance to the celebrated Bremen architectural ensemble, the Böttcherstraße, in 1936 in order no doubt to flatter the Führer. In 1939 he received a commission for a bust of Hitler. (Bernhard Hoetger: Skulptur, Malerei, Design, Architektur, ed. Maria Anczykowski [Bremen: H. M. Hauschild, 1998], pp. 291, 498-99). To Vogeler, in contrast, the political choice had become clear by the mid-twenties, and Hoetgers refusal to make it placed him, in Vogelers eyes, in the camp of opportunists and Nazi sympathizers. (Heinrich Vogeler, Werden: Erinnerungen, mit Lebenszeugnissen aus den Jahren 1923-1942, new edn. by Joachim Priewe and Paul-Gerhard Wenzlaff [Berlin: Rütten und Loening, 1989], pp. 256, 265-66, 298-99).

18 Ludwig Roselius, Briefe, pp. 94-125, letters between Roselius and Vogeler, November and December, 1918; also Petzet, Von Worpswede nach Moskau, pp. 135-38, letters between Roselius and Vogeler, July 1920-March 1921.

19 Wildnis: Geruhsame Abenteuer in Alaska (Bremen: Angelsachsen Verlag, 1925).

20 See Wir Bremer (originally published in the Deutsch-Amerika Zeitung, 1923) and other essays in his Reden und Schriften zur Böttcherstrasse in Bremen (Bremen: Verlag G. A. v. Hallem, 1932). Ideas similar to Roseliuss were of course current also in England and the U.S. In his plans for the resettlement of the conquered territories in the East by Germanic farmer-warriors, Heinrich Himmler likewise allegedly foresaw calling on the Germanic race in all countries, the Norwegians and the Swedes, the Dutch and the Danes and even – in the midst of the Second World War – the English and the Americans. Thus a great Germanic International will be set against the Jewish and Communist one and the assault of Asia will break against the Germanic armed peasantry, who will simultaneously drive the plough and shoulder the musket. (Felix Kersten, The Kersten Memoirs 1940-1945, Introduction by Hugh Trevor-Roper, trans. by Constantine Fitzgibbon and James Oliver [London: Hutchinson, 1956], p. 138, entry dated 22 July 1942).

21 On Hitlers public denunciation of diese Art von Böttcherstraße-Kultur as degenerate at the Nuremberg Kulturtag in 1936, see Bernhard Hoetger: Skulptur, Malerei, Design, Architektur, p. 499. Roselius was able to salvage the Böttcherstraße in Bremen – his Gesamtkunstwerk, consisting of the Robinson-Crusoe-House, the Atlantis-House, the Paula Becker-Modersohn-House, and the Roselius-House, a 16th-century building converted by Roselius into a museum of North German antiquities – only on condition that it would be preserved, in Hitlers words, as a horrifying example for posterity of what was presented as culture and architecture in the years before our seizure of power. (Arn Strohmeyer, Parsifal in Bremen: Richard Wagner, Ludwig Roselius und die Böttcherstrasse [Weimar: Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, 2002], p. 168; see also Elizabeth Tumasonis, Bernhard Hoetgers Tree of Life: German Expressionism and Racial Ideology,” Art Journal, 1992, 51: 81-91) Roselius also agreed to change the inscription that he had designed in 1926 for the Paula Modersohn-Becker museum from Errichtet von Bernhard Hoetgers Hand/ Zum Zeichen edler Frau zeugend Werk,/ das siegend steht/ wenn tapfrer Männer Heldenruhm verweht [Erected by Bernhard Hoetgers hand/ In recognition of a noble womans productive work/ Which will still victorious stand/ When the fame of bold and heroic men has faded] to bis [until] tapfrer Männer Heldenruhm verweht. (See Herbert Schwarzenwälder, Berühmte Bremer [Munich: Paul List Verlag, 1972], p. 142) Doubtless the Nazis found the original inscription – which, according to Roselius himself, was meant to convey that Ein schwaches Weib ist stärker als ein tapferer Held, wenn ihr Geist sie zum Führer macht [A weak woman is stronger than a bold hero when her spirit makes her into a leader] (Reden und Schriften, p. 47) – too feminist and insufficiently respectful of male heroism. In the end, Roselius conceded that the Paula-Becker-Modersohn-House and the Tree of Life on the façade of the Atlantis House in no way conform to the artistic point of view of contemporary National Socialism. (Quoted in Susan Henderson, Böttcherstrasse: The Corporatist Vision of Ludwig Roselius and Bernhard Hoetger,” Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 1994, 20: 165-81, at p. 181). Among the reasons cited for Hoetgers expulsion from the Party in 1938, in addition to his allegedly opportunistic embrace of National Socialism, his corrupting influence on art, and his connections with Jewish art dealers and critics, was his promotion of a so-called Nordic orientation, which has been sharply criticized and rejected by the scholarly world and risks adulterating National Socialist ideas. (quoted in Bernhard Hoetger: Skulptur, Malerei, Design, Architektur, p. 498) On Wirths matriarchal theories and on the scandal provoked by his publication of the so-called Ura Linda Chronik, see Michael H. Kater, Das Ahnenerbe der SS 1935-1945: Ein Beitrag zur Kulturpolitik des Dritten Reiches (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1974), pp. 14-16; Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Hitler-Buddha-Krischna: Eine unheilige Allianz vom Dritten Reich bis heute, pp. 38-39; Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde: Magie und Politik zwischen Faschismus und neuer Gesellschaft (Vienna: Verlag für Geisteswissenschaftskritik, 1987); Peter Davies, ’”Männerbund und Mutterrecht: Hermann Wirth, Sophie Rogge-Börner and the Ura-Linda-Chronik,” German Life and Letters, 2007, 60: 98-115.

22 See Hitlers remarks in Mein Kampf (trans. Ralph Mannheim, [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1943], pp. 326-27): If anything is un-völkisch, it is this tossing around of old Germanic expressions which neither fit into the present period nor represent anything definite. […] I had to warn again and again against those deutschvölkisch wandering scholars […] [who] rave about old Germanic heroism, about dim prehistory, stone axes, spear and shield. Hermann Rauschning (admittedly not always reliable) reports hearing Hitler make a similar comment in early 1933: These professors and mystery-men who want to found Nordic religions merely get in my way. Why do I tolerate them? Because they help to disintegrate, which is all we can do at the moment. They cause unrest. And all unrest is creative. It has no value in itself, but let it run its course. (Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction [New York: G. P. Putnams Sons, 1940], p. 51) It would be a disaster, however, if ever our movement or the state itself was saddled with unclear tasks as a result of the infiltration of unclear, mystical elements. (From a 1938 speech, quoted in Manfred Ach and Clemens Pentrop, Hitlers Religion: Pseudoreligiöse Elemente im nationalsozialstischen Sprachgebrauch [n.p.: Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Religions- und Weltanschauungsfragen, 1977. Asgard Edition, 3], p. 62). In 1934 the Nordic Ring, in which the Princess herself was active, was disbanded by the Party; even the use of the Nordic names for the months (Weinmond, etc.) was banned. (Paul Weindling, Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989], p. 478). Later, Hitler also decreed that Roman typeface should be adopted in preference to traditional German Fraktur. On the complex relation between the various völkisch movements and National Socialism, see Hubert Cancik, ’”Neuheiden und totaler Staat: Völkische Religion am Ende der Weimarer Republik,” in H. Cancik, ed., Religions- und Geistesgeschichte der Weimarer Republik (Düsseldorf: Patmos Verlag, 1982), pp. 177-209, at pp. 204-06; Geoffrey G. Field, Nordic Racism,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 1977, 38: 523-40, at pp. 525, 533-35; Hans-Jürgen Lutzhöft, Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920-1940 (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett, 1971), pp. 155-57, 293-95; Bernard Mees, Hitler and Germanentum,” Journal of Contemporary History, 2004, 39: 255-70; Uwe Puschner, Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich: Sprache, Rasse, Religion (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001), pp. 10-12.

23 See Margaret Bourke-White, Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly: A Report on the Collapse of Hitlers Thousand Years (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), pp. 3-10, 134-37. The celebrated journalist and photographer had known Roseliuss daughter Hildegard briefly as a student of journalism at Columbia University before the War and looked her up in 1945 in Bremen. She found her unchanged in her approval of Hitler (The Führer had a strong manly handshake, the sort of handshake you like. A really good handshake. Everyone who met him liked him. He was very sincere, very frank. He believed in what he said. Adolf Hitler never knowingly told a lie), unrepentantly anti-Semitic (the Jews pushed America into the war), and completely convinced that it was not Hitler but England that actually started the War.” It had, moreover, been lost because of treachery (too many Poles and foreigners and too many people listening to the foreign radio). Hitler and Goebbels both paid tribute to Roselius on his death in 1943. See also the text of a glowing verse tribute to Hitler by Hildegard, dated 9 November 1933, cited by Arn Strohmeyer, Kunst im Zeichen der germanischen Vorfahren und der Wiedergeburt Deutschlands: Ludwig Roselius und Bernhard Hoetger,” in Arn Strohmeyer, Kai Artinger, Ferdinand Krogman, Landschaft, Licht und niederdeutscher Mythos: Die Worpsweder Kunst und der Nationalsozialismus, p. 79.

Table des illustrations

Légende 3. Heinrich Vogeler. Cover design for DeutscheKunst und Dekoration (1902).
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Légende 4. Heinrich Vogeler. Design and illustration for R.M. Rilke, Die heiligen Drei Könige in Die Insel (1900).
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Légende 5. Heinrich Vogeler. Title-page for Frühlingskranz by Clemens Brentano (1907).
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende 6. Das neue Leben (1919)
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende 7. Expressionismus der Liebe (1919)
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende 8. Expressionismus: Eine Zeitstudie(1919)
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Légende 9. Die Freiheit der Liebe in der kommunistischen Gesellschaft (1919)11
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Légende 10. Advertisement for Roselius’s Kaffee HAG in Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm (1912). Roselius advertised his coffee regularly in this avant-garde art and literature periodical.
Fichier image/jpeg, 116k
Légende 11. Bernhard Hoetger. ״Lebensbaum″ [Tree of Life] sculpture, ״dedicated to Odin, ״ originally on façade of Atlantis House (1931).Destroyed in World War II.
Fichier image/jpeg, 245k


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