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Brownshirt Princess

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Lionel Gossman

Part II. Serving New Gods

9. Some Concluding. Reflections on the Brownshirt Princess

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  • 1 Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age, pp. 307, 362.

1Marie Adelheid Prinzessin Reuß-zur Lippe continued to write and publish neo-Nazi texts until 1990, never deviating from the line she had begun to trace in the long poem that Vogeler had illustrated and Roselius had published, seven decades earlier, in his Angelsachsen Verlag. By the time of her death in 1993 she had amply earned the sobriquet of ”die braune Prinzessin” [the brownshirt Princess] bestowed on her by posterity.1

2Even though our tendency is to dismiss Nazi art and literature as kitsch or propaganda – which they most often are – Marie Adelheid’s writing bears witness to a degree of earnest conviction that presents a challenge to the present-day reader. There seems to be little reason to doubt the sincerity of her desire to liberate women from traditional domesticity, for instance, or to rehabilitate the natural and physical aspects of human existence, or to resolve the destructive conflicts produced by laissez-faire economics and an oppressive moral code. How was it possible for a regime and an ideology of unparalleled inhumanity and destructiveness to persuade an educated and not unintelligent individual that it offered an answer to the problems of which she was so keenly aware, and to inspire in a writer of modest but real literary talent such fanatical loyalty and dedication? That is the question that seems to me to be raised by this account of the Princess’s Gott in mir and of her subsequent career.

3There is no simple or obvious answer. A part of the answer may, however, be found in the literary work itself. Most readers of the Princess’s writings will be struck by the prevalence of cliché formulae and the emphasis on subjective feeling in them. Intellectual analysis and understanding hardly figure in her work; if anything they are rejected as alien and alienating. The focus is at all times on intuited knowledge and understanding, the knowledge and understanding that are transmitted, as it were, through the blood of the community, and on the quality, intensity and authenticity of feeling, on feeling for its own sake. The occasions or objects of feeling are barely described or defined at all, but appear as vague, intuited entities, such as ”Volk,” ”Blood,” ”Soil,” which, despite their seeming earthiness, must strike the reader who does not share the Princess’s ideology, as belonging more to the world of the imagination than to that of empirical, physical experience. Death itself loses its empirical reality by being absorbed into the indefinite category of ”unending mutation,” through which change is conflated with permanence and transitoriness with eternity.

4What defines and distinguishes the ”free” and ”noble” personality in the Princess’s world, penetrated as it is by popular Nietzschean notions, is in fact its freedom from any external, objective constraint, such as logic, empirical evidence, religious doctrine or moral law. Religiosity, it has been said, religious feeling, is the hallmark of völkisch religions. It is certainly what Wilhelm Hauer, the founder of the Deutsche Glaubensbewegung, valued most. The specific content of any particular religious faith or doctrine was of secondary importance to him; indeed the less there was of doctrine, the more authentic, the more truly religious, in Hauer’s sense, the religion was likely to be. Similarly, in the Princess’s world, truthfulness matters more than truth, especially since objective or universal truth (even as the normative goal of an intersubjective concept of truth) is dismissed as a chimera.

5In short, the objective universe, standing over against the individual subject and assumed by many to be the creation of a transcendent God, is eclipsed by a universe in constant process of being created and recreated in and by the subject, in and by the Gott in mir. The object-universe is eclipsed by the universe as a work of art in never-ending process of self-creation. The world is discovered not by studying a supposedly fixed, created universe distinct from the self, but in the self, in virtue of its participation in the ever-changing universe. Objectivity and objective constraints exist in the Princess’s universe only in the form of species and races, which, though subject to mutation and degeneration, are presented as fundamental realities, an inscrutable and unintelligible ”fate” or ”destiny,” a kind of Law of the universe, which the truly noble, free individual does not suffer or submit to as an external imposition but joyfully and freely wills, inasmuch Concluding Reflections 129 as he or she is an integral part of the larger racial community of the volk and, beyond that, of an All or Cosmos which embraces every nation and indeed, every living thing. The law of the Cosmos, destiny, is thus also the law of the individual’s own nature.

  • 2 In several chapters of his Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left, and the Search for a ”Third Forc (...)

6Given this outlook, it is not surprising that little attention is paid to the characteristics of the objective, external world, except perhaps to certain physical characteristics of human groups and landscapes that supposedly reveal underlying energies and forces of the Volk or the Cosmos. This lack of attention to concrete empirical reality is a striking feature not only of the Princess’s poetry but, more surprisingly in view of the usual features of the genre, of her novels. The New Man proclaimed by the Nazis – like the New Man proclaimed several decades before them by Lebensreformers such as the Hart brothers – does not seek a deep empirical understanding of the moral and physical ugliness he deplores in the world around him in order to effect needed changes to that world. Were he to do so, were he to conduct what passes for a rigorous intellectual or scientific analysis of social and economic reality, he would be sucked, it was charged, into the very baseness, the very rationalizing, interest-driven, utilitarian, politically liberal system he longs to overcome – whereas the overcoming of baseness, it was held, can be achieved only internally, within each individual, by action of the will. Thus it is not necessary to dissect and reconstruct the external social and economic order using rational or scientific instruments of analysis; the attempt to do so would simply reproduce the evil that that order has created in another form, in the way that modern socialism was said by many of its Lebensreform critics, including some on the anarchist Left, to be simply another manifestation of the calculating materialism characteristic of modern capitalism, another form of that post-Enlightenment Western ”Zivilisation” that was constantly contrasted with holistic, communitarian (and primarily Germanic) ”Kultur.” The overcoming of materialism, utilitarianism, and egoism, the creation of the New Man and the New World, of the free human personality and the new community would thus be the product not of action guided by observation, reflection, and calculation but of the action of the will on the heart and soul. Such a vision of the New Man and the New World might well have been shared by the Princess and her Left-leaning contemporary Heinrich Vogeler before the latter finally adhered, not without struggle and ”backsliding,” to the strict doctrine of dialectical materialism.2

  • 3 Odal: Monatsschrift für Blut und Boden, 10: 536 (Heft 7, July 1941).
  • 4 Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Avon Books, 1971 (...)

7As feeling itself, the quality of feeling, is what counts, loyalty, heroism, self-sacrifice are released from their usual relation to specific objective and rationally or discursively justifiable goals and values. To the contrary, goals and values are themselves likely to be measured by the quality of the feelings – the intensity of dedication, loyalty, faith, and love of kin – that they inspire. In her tribute to Gobineau in July 1941, the Princess cited with admiration a passage in which Gobineau allegedly asserted that ”wherever the greatest things are at stake, we should not weigh or measure our hopes for victory; faith alone must do everything.”3 Thus it was possible, in the end, to view the death and misery of millions and the destruction of Germany itself as secondary to the heroism, the comradeship, and the self sacrificing devotion that the Party had been able to inspire in its members. How else can one explain the striking response of Hitler, as reported by Albert Speer, to Speer’s plea, in the very last days of the Second World War, that, in view of the inevitability of defeat, it was essential not to destroy the entire German infrastructure in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the victors, as Hitler had ordered, but to preserve as much of it as possible, so that Germany might be able to revive after the War had ended? ”It is not necessary to worry about what the German people will need for elemental survival,” Hitler is said to have replied. ”On the contrary, it is best for us to destroy even these things. […] Only those who are inferior will remain after this struggle, for the good have already been killed.”4

Notes

1 Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age, pp. 307, 362.

2 In several chapters of his Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left, and the Search for a ”Third Force” in Pre-Nazi Germany (New York: Howard Fertig, 1970) – especially chapter 5: ”The Corporate State and the Conservative Revolution in Weimar Germany” – George L. Mosse explores with remarkable even-handedness the implications of the völkisch revolutionaries’ preoccupation with ideology, with finding an ”idea” for Germany, and their accompanying contempt for empirical analysis of social and economic problems. As in the Princess’s novel Die Overbroocks, there was criticism of usury and finance but no comprehensive economic theory. Paul Krannhals, for instance, deplored the enslavement of man through money and credit. ”Just as the state had been separated from the volk by parliamentary government, so the economic system had been detached too, because money had become a value in itself and for itself alone. ‘Money and blood [the volk] are contrasting elements which could not be in greater opposition.’ Capitalist finance must be abolished and money made once again a reward for real work. Credit was the essence of unproductive capital – so thought the conservative revolutionaries. They were attracted by the clause in the first program of the National Socialist Party, which called for emancipation from the ”slavery of interest charges.” (Mosse, Germans and Jews, p. 131, citing Krannhals, Das organische Weltbild, 1928, p. 238) Economic problems would be resolved once individuals rediscovered the underlying unity of the volk and based their actions on it. The society ”beyond capitalism and Marxism,” in Mosse’s words, ”was basically a society held together not by an explicit social or economic aim, but by a romantic ideology.” (p. 136).

3 Odal: Monatsschrift für Blut und Boden, 10: 536 (Heft 7, July 1941).

4 Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Avon Books, 1971; orig. German 1969), p. 557.

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