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Brownshirt Princess

Lionel Gossman

Part II. Serving New Gods

7. Die Overbroocks

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  • 1 Page references are to Marie Adelheid Prinzessin Reuß-zur Lippe, Die Overbroocks, 2nd edn. (Berlin (...)

1Eight years after Nordische Frau und Nordischer Glaube and nine years into the Nazi regime, a woman is again at the center of the novel Die Overbroocks, which the Princess dedicated to her son Heike. An incarnation of ”Mother Earth,” as the reader quickly learns, and at the same time an evident projection of the author herself, Irene von Werth is the daughter of an upstanding general in the Kaiser’s army. Her life is set to be spent in rounds of receptions and parties attended by the members of other ”good families.” Though she is restive in this decorative and, in her own eyes, meaningless role, her parents – especially her mother – believe, as does virtually everybody in their social milieu, that the practice of a useful profession is inappropriate for a person of their daughter’s station in society. (pp. 8, 17)1 For such a young woman to take art lessons does not contravene social convention, however, and it is at art school that Irene meets the man who will help her to discover her true destiny and to break with the codes of behavior adhered to by her family and class.

2Unlike Irene, who has been permitted to study art because it is regarded in her world as decorative, not a serious activity, Christian Overbroock is a dedicated artist. His art, he tells Irene in the exchange of letters between the two fellow-students on which the novel opens, is the alpha and omega of his existence, the one thing that gives it meaning. Nor is Christian a member of a privileged social class; he is the descendant of generations of ”rough, rugged, faithful, and loyal […] peasants” who had tilled ”the sacred earth,” borne children, and ”fought for their land” for six centuries on the same farm in Lower Saxony – until a time came when they succumbed to the lure of the city, lost their roots, and no longer had the strength ”to let the fruit ripen slowly on the tree.” (pp. 5, 23) Christian’s father, a pastor, had inherited the farm from his older, childless brother, but had sold it, we learn, because – in his son’s reproachful words – ”he loved his profession more is what his name implies by tradition and upbringing, but in his deepest being he is a son of the ”holy” North German earth). Thus ”the land plowed by generations became a memory in the family’s blood-heritage.”

3Christian, however, feels the call of his blood intensely and is possessed by the desire and duty, as the last surviving male member of his family’s ”stock,” to rescue and restore it by returning it to its ancestral roots in the harsh Northern land of Lower Saxony. In addition, following another inner call, ”from which there is no escape – the call of blood,” Christian has volunteered for military service in the imminent European war. It was not all the heroic talk about sacrifice, he writes Irene in August 1914, that moved him to enlist, but something much more real and serious: ”a longing for authenticity,” (p. 14) for ”the overthrow and destruction of our well-mannered, deeply immoral civilization, the construction of a new and nobler social order, [and] the elimination of class distinctions and snobbery” in favor of a society in which people will be ”valued for their character and their contributions.” (p. 8) An alien, artificial, liberal-capitalist civilization, still clad in the tatters of an obsolete aristocratic order, will be replaced, in other words, by an authentic, communal, organic culture. Therein lies the true reason for the war, he asserts. It will be fought ”so that truth can finally find a home again in the world.” (p. 14) Having participated in the oath-swearing at the great meeting of German youth on the Hoher Meißner in 1913, he has no doubt that the goal must be ”to liberate the German people from the spirit of the foreigner, from fawning and flattering and bowing and scraping, and from the riff-raff of foreign blood that is destroying everything we hold sacred.” (p. 9) He often reflects, he tells Irene, on the Edda, the Old Norse saga he – like the author of Nordische Frau und Nordischer Glaube – considers ”the noble remnant of the Bible of Germanic heathendom.” ”Out of destruction,” he explains, ”a new, more beautiful world is born, for which Modi (Courage) and Magni (Strength) rescue the life-giving hammer of Thor. That is what must come and what will come, if only we truly and earnestly will it.” (p. 15) For this, Christian is prepared, indeed fully expects, to die. He also does not believe, as so many people seem to do, that the war will be over in a month. ”What kind of frivolous Jingoism is that! If the goals are great, it will take years to realize them.” (p. 11) When Irene complains that he dwells too much on his own death, he replies that he does so because he has a deep intuition about it, not because he desires to die. No one loves life more than he, he protests, the more so as he believes in no world beyond this one, no Heaven and no Hell. ”To me the visible and the invisible world constitute a single, great All, in which my own life is like a drop of blood in the incomprehensibly sublime divine pulse-beat. The meaning of my existence, my creative participation in the course of events lies in giving rich content and conquering strength to this pulse-beat of the Divine.” (p. 16)

  • 2 The Princess may have read the contribution of Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, founder of the Ordo Novi (...)

4Christian finally persuades Irene that ”the law by which [she is] governed – that is, [her] blood – is an extraordinarily exacting and unconventional one” and that she should take part in the ”All” by bearing him a son, who will one day restore the Overbroocks to their ancestral soil. ”I have followed the path my blood prescribed, Christian,” she tells him as she yields to his appeal. He falls into her lap murmuring ”Mutter Erde! Mutter Erde!” [Mother Earth! Mother Earth!] (pp. 28-29)2 At that moment he realizes that a sculpture of ”Mutter Erde” on which he has been working has the features of Irene.

5Almost immediately afterwards, Christian departs for the front. His letters to Irene express his admiration for her and a sense of partnership with her in a common cause. She is a true soldier’s daughter, he tells her. ”You followed the path you recognized was the right one for you deliberately, with a clear head, and a sense of purpose.” (p. 34) He will always carry the memory of her at the moment of their parting – pale, but without tears, and even a smile on her lips. On 8 November 1914 she writes to him that she is pregnant with his child. ”Now I can fulfill the deepest wish of your heart, Christian. The Overbroocks will not wither away like autumn leaves. No, they will bloom with the freshness of spring.” (p. 41) She signs herself ”Mutter Erde.” A week later she receives news of Christian’s heroic death – at which point the epistolary form adopted hitherto by the author is replaced by a third-person narrative.

6Irene gives birth to twin sons, whom she names ”Kraft” and ”Hartmut” [Strength and Valor or Resoluteness] – no doubt with Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor in Christian’s beloved Edda in mind. The narrator now communicates Irene’s thoughts as she reflects on what she sees as the task that has fallen to her. ”It was essential that this race of Overbroocks, to which Irene was to give new life, become better, more noble, more free, and more bold than the mass that the German Volk had been rolled into.” (p. 57) Unwillingly, to placate her parents, she agrees to have the twins baptized, but ”handing them over to [this ritual], the moral basis of which repelled her, felt like a crime against truthfulness. For it was impossible to burden these two beautiful creatures with the weight of original sin.” (p. 79)

7Meanwhile, the war is grinding on. Writing in 1942, by which time the ”dagger in the back” theory of the 1918 defeat had become official history, the Princess presents her heroine as outraged by the ”defeatist” talk she hears around her from ”mass-men and profiteers,” people with ”no sense of purpose, no higher goals.” (p. 61) By 1917 Irene has identified these as Jews and possibly – though this is not spelled out – capitalists and socialists. The urgent need of supplies, she complains, has provided an opportunity for ”a small circle of hoarders with crooked noses and a business-sense they carry in their blood to size up the situation and exploit it to their advantage […] In part deliberately, in part unconsciously, they thereby assist those forces that are working to bring this Volk, heroic beyond all measure and supremely capable of resistance, down to defeat.” (p. 80) Those at home, she notes, are more despondent and defeatist than the men in combat at the front. ”The body of the people is growing sick: Hatred is beginning to strike its blows internally instead of directing them outward to the enemy.” (p. 82) In these circumstances, she feels more and more estranged from her own class. At a large, lavish party to celebrate the von Werths’ silver wedding anniversary in the Adlon hotel, the best in Berlin, she feels isolated and imagines what Christian would have thought of the triviality and superficiality of those around her. Yet her own sister is obviously in her element and a cousin, who asks her why she is so withdrawn, is uncomprehending when she responds that she is pondering how even the war has changed nothing in these people. ”No doubt he is a brave officer,” she reflects with the same compassionate contempt the author of Gott in mir expressed for her family or the author of Nordische Frau und Nordischer Glaube for women unable to free themselves from Christianity. ”One cannot demand more of him.” Still, ”Kraft and Helmut, her two blond-headed ones, have got to become like their father, not like those people here.” (p. 86) To ensure that this will happen she brings them up in freedom, in the country, in a manner directly and deliberately opposed to her own upbringing. Often the freedom she gives them is dangerous, but she accepts that. On the contrary, her aim is to encourage them to be fearless and resolute.

8To Irene, what we now refer to as the November Revolution of 1918 is simply an opportunity for every evil human instinct to throw off the inhibiting yoke of discipline. The end of the war is a humiliation: ”not even a defeat redeemed by heroic combat, but a voluntary surrender out of weakness of will.” The Kaiser’s ”departure and the abdication of all the princes, not a single one of whom had the strength to put his life on the line in support of the hereditary distinction of spirit [Geistesgnadentum] so often touted in good times,” might well, she reflects, be ”evidence enough that a certain historical period is – rightly – coming to an end.” Hitherto she had hoped that people would be transformed by the war itself and that the inner hollowness of the ruling class would be filled with a new, nobler spirit, its thoughtless self-centeredness replaced by a deeper wisdom. But had she not had to observe over and over again that in all these years nothing had changed fundamentally? Had she not again and again wondered to herself: ‛What still needs to happen for these people to recover authentic being?‛” [damit diese Menschen wesentlich werden]. She re-reads Christian’s letters and is ”shattered to discover what he wrote about the nobility and the existing social order. How right he had been […]. Yes, the old order had to collapse and be swept away so that there would be room for the New, the Greater Order to grow. If the coming time brought hardship, that had to be. Too much wrong had to be atoned for, too much that had been suppressed and buried had to be brought up into the light. But one day Spirit and Soul would be victorious over darkness and selfishness. When would that be? Would she live to experience it – an order in which each would greet the other in the light of the Sun as a brother in equality, in love, and in selfless devotion to a common goal named Germany?” (p. 96)

9She now finds the traditional virtues of her class – stoic fortitude and obedience – insufficient, even reprehensible. During the revolutionary days in Berlin, her father is insulted by ”two strangers dressed as sailors” It has become dangerous for an officer to walk in the street, she notes. Yet her father continues to serve the Majority Social Democratic government, ”even though those currently occupying the seats of power stand for a view of the world directly opposed to his.” ”Just obey, always and to the letter,” she reflects. ”The main thing is that someone should be giving orders, it doesn’t matter what one thinks of that person. So long, above all, as one doesn’t have to make a decision oneself and act accordingly. But they all know how to complain. That they are good at.” (pp. 97-98)

10To bring up the ”blond-headed” twins, as she wants to, and to fulfill what she feels deeply is her promise to her slain hero-husband, Irene has in the meantime gone to Süderhude in Lower Saxony to see whether she can acquire the Overbroocks’ ancestral farm. She has come to love the strange, flat landscape, where ”one learns to understand the concept of infinity” and has been moved by the tough, hardy inhabitants. She has even tried to learn their Low German dialect. But the farm is now occupied by a Catholic family from Silesia. Even though this does not sit well with the locals, it takes time and perseverance before Irene finally succeeds in buying back the farm and settling on it with her two boys. (pp. 62-73)

11Shortly afterwards she receives a visit from an army comrade of Christian’s, an officer angered and embittered by the contempt he and his comrades have met with on their return from the front. The officer tells Irene that he has responded by joining in the fight against Spartakus, the communist league allegedly at the heart of the 1918 Revolution, and recounts ”with hate-filled pleasure the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.” (p. 108) Irene admonishes him not to give up serving Germany: ”Now, especially, that Germany is sick and suffering, she needs our love so that the New Order that is about to come can fight its way out of the darkness.” Hohmann, the officer, asks what this ”New Order” is and protests that he wants the old order back. ”If the old order had been so good and had proved its value, it would not have disappeared so quickly from the scene,” Irene replies. ”I do not think it will ever come back. Moreover I do not wish it to.” The officer springs to his feet in anger: ”How can you, the widow of Christian Overbroock, who so loved his fatherland, say such a thing!” ”I say it precisely because I am the wife of Christian Overbroock,” is the answer. ”You are very mistaken if you imagine that [Christian] fought and died for what you call the good, old and tried order. He fought for something he expected could only emerge out of the ruins of a dying age, for something brand new and hitherto unknown, for the victory of truthfulness and a better, nobler humanity.” (p. 109) The officer begins to read the books in Christian’s library –”socialist, philosophical, theological writings that he had hitherto steered clear of.” (p. 112) He grows ever closer to Irene and asks her to marry him, but she refuses. ”I am the mother of the Overbroocks.” She cannot even be his ”wife” for one night, though she admits that she is powerfully attracted to him. ”There is no genuine love unless there is a readiness to let it bear fruit.” How right Christian was to name you ”Mother Earth,” the officer replies sadly and admiringly. (pp. 109-12)

12Meantime Irene is not finding it easy to run the farm. The locals respect her resourcefulness, resilience, and willingness to do hard physical work, but they are wary of her outspokenness, which they are unaccustomed to in a woman, and of her undisguised lack of interest in traditional religion. Though these peasants are by no means devout churchy types [Betschwestern], the narrator explains – on the contrary, they are ”as sober, clear-headed, and heroic” in this area of their lives as in all others – it was a centuries’ old tradition among them that children be baptized and raised in religion and they are outraged when Irene demands that her boys be excused from religious instruction in the local school. When she attends a political meeting and speaks out, ”it sounded like the purest communism,” and they begin to wonder whether ”the owner of the Overbroocks’ farm might be a Bolshevist.” (pp. 119-20) Still, they gradually get used to her. Though she remains the ”foreigner,” they cease to be suspicious of her independent ways. On her side, Irene becomes more and more attached to the farm; it is not only the home of her sons and the object of a promise made to Christian, she herself feels rooted in the land and her own life seems to her to have adopted its rhythms. It is becoming more and more difficult for her to run the farm, however, for in its dire need of money to pay off the cruelly high reparations debt imposed by the victors, the post-Armistice Weimar regime fleeces its own impoverished population. Moreover, the legal system is weighted against the peasant farmer. (p. 125)

13At this difficult point, two young men named Karl and Wilhelm – a student of theology and a student of architecture – arrive at the farm and offer their services to her as farmhands. They explain that they are from the Artam League, founded in 1924 with the aim of promoting land settlements and encouraging German men and women to leave the cities and return to their homelands as farmers working the native soil. (p. 127) In defiance of their parents’ wishes, Karl and Wilhelm have temporarily abandoned their professional studies and devoted themselves to studying and solving the agrarian problem, as well as the problem of race. ”For the first time in all those years,” the narrator comments, ”Irene found justification of the path on which she had intuitively set out and of her desperate struggle for the native soil.” (p. 129) The two idealistic young students seemed to her like a bridge between the time of the pre-war Wandervögel and other youth groups, who had already deliberately set out to combat a corrupt bourgeois world-view, and the point in time to which Hartmut and Kraft belonged. (p. 130) Even with the help of the two Artamans, however, she has to take out a loan in an effort to save the farm and in the end cannot meet her payments. Before the loan company can repossess the farm, Karl and Wilhelm want to burn it down, but Irene stops them. ”That must not be. This farm and this earth, on which it stands, are eternal. We ourselves live only a short span of time, but long after we are gone the farm will still be there, a home for German men and women. What is happening now is only a transition. We [as individuals] do not count. It is the farm that must be preserved. As soon as Germany has re-risen, the farm too will rise again. And it is your task to see that that happens. Your job is to build. Negation is death, affirmation is life.” (p. 136)

14Having lost the farm, Irene has to move with the twins to a working-class neighborhood of Bremen, where the youngsters attend a Gymnasium and are struck by the contrast between the poor children they live among and ”the spoiled sons of wealthy patrician families” they encounter at school. ”Are they all part of the same people?” they ask themselves. As the years pass, Irene realizes that her boys have been transformed from children into fighters capable of building Germany’s future. She notes with satisfaction that they have chosen to side with the disinherited youth of their own neighborhood and have turned away ”almost with repugnance from the spoiled sons of the upper classes.” (pp. 140-41)

15Around this time, she receives a letter from relatives of Christian who, like many farming families from Lower Saxony, had emigrated to America. Now well-established and well-to-do farmers in Wisconsin, they have heard of her hardships and offer to pay the passage for her and the boys to emigrate and join them in Wisconsin. To Irene’s great satisfaction, the boys refuse to leave Germany. At this very point, ”something new and important takes center stage in her life”: Kraft and Helmut join the Hitler Youth. (p. 143) Irene knew of the National Socialist Party, having heard about it from Karl and Wilhelm as early as 1928. She knew what its program was, had read a number of political pamphlets, and was awaiting further developments with eager anticipation. She had been turned off by the political squabbling of the 1920s, but she was still not completely won over to the Party, despite its massive growth. ”As a North German born and bred, she looked with suspicion on anything that came from the South.” (p. 144) Kraft and Helmut, however, are filled with enthusiasm. To them, ”the fight for a Germany without the class hatred and snobbery they had observed in the two worlds they moved in, the Gymnasium and the working-class Bremen neighborhood where they lived, for a Germany in which there would be no more exploitation and no more usurious lending of the kind they had experienced on the Overbroock farm, for a Germany in which the dispossessed and despised proletariat would at long last find the way back to its native soil – to them that struggle seemed worthy of their infinite youthful capacity for dedication and self-sacrifice.” (p. 144) It became the most important thing in their lives. They spent so much time with the Hitler Youth that in 1932 they were not promoted to the top grade in the Gymnasium. ”Their teachers and classmates had felt not the slightest breath of the spirit of a new age.” (p. 147) Moreover, the teachers had been displeased by the boys’ constantly questioning them and challenging them. Finally Kraft and Helmut ask their mother if she will allow them to leave school in order to devote themselves entirely to the Party. Might they not later hold it against her that she had permitted them to cut short their education, she asks. No, they protest, their work for the Hitler Youth is more important than school. Irene grants them their wish. (p. 148)

16Then one evening the boys fail to return home. The countryside is combed, every square inch of heath and moorland. Everyone participates in the search, especially the members of the Hitler Youth. But no trace of the boys is to be found. Soon winter sets in and snow begins to blanket the earth. A young lad suddenly appears to tell Irene that her boys will never be found. He insists that he himself had ”nothing to do with it.” But he belongs to a Communist youth group. The inevitable conclusion is drawn: Kraft and Helmut have been murdered by Communist youths. Karl and Wilhelm, who had been models for the twins, return and the search resumes, this time for the boys’ bodies, but ”the last resting-place of Christian’s sons remained unknown, like that of their father, who also had died for Germany.” (p. 160) Irene has become like a shell. She is tormented by doubts. Should she not have contented herself with having realized Christian’s desire to ensure the continuity of his ancient peasant line? Why did she allow the boys to become involved in politics? On the other hand, she reflects, they had been so carried away by enthusiasm; and had not Christian himself said, ”Many must fall”? (p. 161) She contemplates suicide. She has earned the right, she feels, to cast off the burden of life. She is held back by the thought ”that it might be said of her that her godlessness and rejection of the Church had deprived her of solid ground beneath her feet and thrust her into the dark night of despair. No,” she resolves, she will ”not allow those hypocritical weaklings to celebrate a triumph.” (p. 162) As she recalls passages from Christian’s letters, she hears, like a fanfare sounding in her brain and overcoming everything else. ”You, Irene, shall live. You must and will carry on the fight for Good in the world!” (p. 163)

17With joy she learns the ”great news” of the seizure of power on 30 January 1933. ”That evening the bells rang out from every tower and steeple and rejoicing filled the streets.” (p. 165) Wilhelm comes to her. She reaches out by the arrival of the Overbroock relatives from Wisconsin, Georg and Lina. Though a great sadness clouds their lives – they are childless – they are so thrilled by the new Germany that they contemplate staying. At one point Lina – who, the narrator tells us, looks out on the world like an authentic peasant woman, ”through wise eyes […] firmly and clearly” – tells Irene that she now understands why Christian and his sons gave their lives for Germany. ”One could never do that for America,” she remarks. (p. 173)

18Between Georg and Irene an unusual closeness develops. He feels that ”when he takes her hand in his, he is holding Germany,” and ”when he gazes on her golden-haired beauty at his side, it is Germany that he sees walking in step with him.” (p. 174) Lina senses Georg’s happiness, but feels no jealousy. Suddenly, Irene wonders whether this man has a right to let his bloodline die out just because his wife is so dear to him that he will not abandon her. Lina herself had said that he should take a woman who can bear him children. (p. 176) As Irene and Georg stand together before Christian’s sculpture of ”Mutter Erde,” she suddenly has a thought ”so frightening and monstrous that she instinctively shut her eyes as though blinded by it. ‛Not that; anything, but not that,’ she feels her whole being cry out.” (pp. 179-80) Later, she recalls Christian’s words to her: ”I consider you capable of taking on an extraordinary destiny.” Has my destiny not been extraordinary enough, she asks herself. ”Why am I always called on to do more?” Again she hears Christian’s voice: ”I have chosen you to be my wife and the mother of the Overbroocks.” ”Is my faithfulness to you worth so little?” she demands. ”For nineteen years I have been faithful and God knows it was not always easy.” (No doubt she is thinking of Hochmann). Christian’s spirit, living within her, responds: ”There is a fidelity that is greater than that.” After a long, tense conversation with Christian’s spirit, she capitulates. ”Christian, dear Christian…I will do it all. You are right, a thousandfold.” At this point Georg enters the room. She tells him he must buy the farm. ”The homeland is calling on its sons.” Soon afterwards, she adds, ”You must have an heir, Georg.” He is taken aback. ”Irene!” ”The homeland needs the ancient tree. It may not die,” she responds. ”Only one woman can give me that heir, Irene. Do you love me?” In response she looks directly at him and he ”draws back before the bold expression in her eyes, which took in the reality of their present situation clearly and precisely.” She explains to him that Lina wanted her to marry him, but that she cannot contemplate it. ”I am the wife of the dead man and I cannot be the wife of another, but I can become the mother of the Overbroocks with his blessing [...]. The child will be yours, and Lina will be its mother.” (p. 184)

19Georg sails back to America to sell the farm in Wisconsin, taking with him the knowledge that Irene is pregnant with his child. (p. 186) Georg and Lina buy the Overbroocks family farm and recover their German citizenship. After three days in labor, Irene brings a son into the world. She spends four weeks in the hospital, recovering only very slowly. As soon as she can, she gives the child to Lina: ”This is my and Georg’s son and the heir to the Overbroock farm. Accept him, Lina, I beg you, as a gift from me and protect him as best you can. He is now unconditionally yours.” (p. 191) Lina is taken aback. She knew nothing. Even Georg had not been informed of the child’s birth, since Irene wanted Lina to be the first to learn of it. But Lina weakens. She feels excluded and for the first time experiences jealousy. Irene reasons with her: her readiness to sacrifice her marriage to Georg for the sake of the family has earned her the right to be the mother of the Overbroocks’ heir. ”Don’t spoil everything with silly jealousy. Besides, is this about you, about us? The farm and the family line are far more important than us and our petty feelings, for we are like flies with a lifespan of a day.” (p. 192) Lina accepts the child and names him Oldwig – the old term, she says, for the native soil and hearth.

20On 21 June, the birthday of Kraft and Hartmut, ”the fires of the summer solstice celebration were lighted all over Germany. Hundreds of young voices intoned the old festive songs, swore allegiance to Germany, and leapt as they did so through the flames as a symbol of purification and sloughing off of all everyday pettiness. It was as though in that hour every one was joined in a single chain throughout the entire Reich and a single great sacrificial pyre marked Germany’s honor and revival.” (p. 196) Irene came on the festivities as she emerged from the woods where she had been walking ”and she saw that all was well.” ”Now I want to sleep, Christian,” she murmurs. ”I am very, very tired, and I think I have fulfilled my promise.” From inside her consciousness, however, Christian tells her that she may yet again be needed. ”No one may drop out before the hour has struck.” She protests: ”What you ask of me is superhuman, Christian.” ”Nothing is superhuman,” he retorts. ”Everyone lives the destiny allotted to him. There are no limits, except those that you set yourself through weakness or strength.” ”I cannot go on any more, Christian,” she responds. ”I cannot, and I will not.” ”You should not forget that you are a soldier’s daughter, Irene,” he answers. But this time, the narrator tells us, Irene could not obey Christian. It was enough. She had done her duty, fulfilled her destiny. It was so quiet in the woods – how much more peaceful still it would be in eternal sleep. She felt happy, kissed the dewdrops on a wild rosebush, took off her clothes and untied her hair, ”so that nothing added by man to nature would remain on her.” Slowly she began walking into a lake. Suddenly, however, she is pulled back by the call of a lark, like the cry of a child. She realizes that she cannot simply abandon Oldwig. ”No, she had to stand by him, and watch over him from afar.” She writes to Karl, Wilhelm’s friend, to say that she has decided to accept his invitation to come and live with him and his family.

21The novel closes on the greeting ”Heil Hitler!” and the signature: ”Mutter Irene.” (p. 200)


1 Page references are to Marie Adelheid Prinzessin Reuß-zur Lippe, Die Overbroocks, 2nd edn. (Berlin: Verlag C. V. Engelhard, 1943).

2 The Princess may have read the contribution of Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, founder of the Ordo Novi Templi in 1900 and one of the leading Viennese advocates of restoring racial purity in the period before World War I, to a volume on the problems of modern marriage: ”Das Wesen, der Begriff, und der Zweck der Ehe ist: Rassenreinzucht” [The essence, concept, and goal of marriage is the raising up of a pure race]. ”Love” is secondary and ”cannot be the goal or central feature of marriage” (in Ferdinand Freiherr von Paungarten, ed., Das Eheproblem im Spiegel unserer Zeit, pp. 55-56). Such notions cannot, of course, have been unfamiliar to her as a member of one of the great princely families of Germany.


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