Prussianism, Nazism, and Romanticism in the Thought of Victor Klemperer

by Lawrence Birken
Prussianism, Nazism, and Romanticism in the Thought of Victor Klemperer
Lawrence Birken
The German Quarterly
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Ball State University

Prussianism, Nazism, and Romanticism in the Thought of Victor Klemperer

The recent publication of Victor Klem- perer's Tagebiicher, 1933-1945, as well as his other diaries and memoirs, has forced us to re-evaluate the work of this half-for- gotten scho1ar.l Klemperer, a professional philologist of Jewish origins, was able to survive the Nazi era without leaving Ger- many largely because his wife was an "Aryan." Deeply patriotic, he was increasingly tortured by the question ofjust how closely the German culture he had always cham- pioned might be related to the Nazism he despised. While Klemperer originally be- lieved that National Socialism was nothing more than a mixture of undeutsch foreign doctrines crabbed together by a fraudulent government, he eventually decided that it was a German phenomenon after all. In the analysis of Nazi Language entitled LTI ("Lingua Tertii Imperii") which he devel- oped in his diaries and published in 1947, Klemperer thus attempted to formulate a coherent explanation of the relationship between German culture and National So- cialism by linking them both to Romanti- ~ism.~

But while the characterization of Germanic culture as "Romantic" foreshad- owed the theories of a plethora of post-war historians, it was also flawed. Ironically, Klemperer's own writings contain the ele- ments of a more radical if controversial characterization of National Socialism.

I. Nazism as Romanticism?

Michael Nerlich has called Victor Klem- perer "one of the last if not the last repre- sentatives of the French Enlightenment" in a National Socialist Germany increas- ingly under the spell of Romanti~ism.~

It was from the perspective of the Enlighten- ment that Klemperer asked the central question which has continued to haunt modern historians from Meinecke to Gold- hagen; namely, how could the Germans of Goethe's time have mutated into those of Hitler's Rei~h.~

To answer this question, Klemperer believed, it was necessary to trace the history of German antisemitism. As early as 1933 he had already noted that "the fate of the Hitler movement lies with- out question in Jewish affairs" ("liegt fraglos in der J~densache").~

InLTI, Klemperer went on to argue that "antisemitism constituted the central and in every respect decisive factor in Nazism." Not only was Jew-hatred the "Nazi Party's most effec- tive means of propaganda, its most effec- tive and popular means of concretizing the race doctrine," but it was actually "for the German masses identical with the race doc- trine" it~elf.~

While conceding that antisemitism had been too common a feature in history to blame it on the Germans alone, Klemperer also argued that the German antisemitism of the Nazi period was unique in three ways. In the first place, its sheer virulence was atavistic, harking back to Medieval times. In the second place, it arrived "not in the garb of the past, but in that of the most extreme modernity" ("sondern in hochster Modernitat"). Finally, it was ra- cial rather than religious, and thus irrevo- cable. What appeared to be a return to the

The German Quarterly 72.1 (Winter 1999) 33

Spanish doctrine of Limpieza de Sangre was now clothed in the language of zoology. This emphasis on racial antisemitism not only set Nazism apart from earlier forms of Jew hatred, but from other forms of fas- cism. Klemperer thus noted that although Italian fascism sought to restore the Ro- man state, it never taught that "the inhabi- tants of the reconquered domains would stand lower in the zoological scale than the descendants of Romul~s."~

But if Nazi antisemitism was unique, in what way was it particularly German? Klemperer attempted to answer this ques- tion by more or less distinguishingbetween general traits on the one hand and specific doctrines on the other. In the course of his experiences under Nazism, he came to be- lieve that the general traits of the Ger- mans included a proto-Romantic tendency toward a megalomaniac universalism, a Grenzenlosigkeit which manifested itself in taking things beyond their conventional limits, a "Grundeigenschaft der Mal3losig- keiLng In this context, Hitlerism exhibited a characteristically "Romantic" rejection of conventional boundaries, with its messi- anic pretensions and its fanatic agenda of "die ganze Welt oder Nichts." For Klem- perer the existence of this tendency toward Entgrenzung not only explained how the Germans could give credence to a Hitler, but also how they could take his ideas to their logical conclusion, in the process over- running all moral as well as political bor- ders.

But if the German tendency toward ex- tremes provided the antisemitic virus with what Klemperer called a "culture medium" (Nahrboden), was that virus itself a Ger- man creation?lO Here, Klemperer's argu- ment became more subtle. When the Nazis tried to trace their racial doctrines back to the days of Herder, Klemperer expressed doubts. It could be demonstrated, he be- lieved, that Herder's recognition of his own Germanness was merely a way of under- standing his humanity. While Herder be- lieved that each ethnic group recognized its humanity through its consciousness of it- self as apeople, he expressed thevoltairean sentiment that the true researcher "would have no favorite tribe, no favorite people on Earth" ("habe keinen Lieblingsstarnm, kein Favoritvolk auf der Erde").ll From Herder to Jahn, Klemperer conceded, there was a gradual sharpening of the dis- tinction between Germans and Jews. But this distinction, though no longer religious, was not yet racial. Rather, it was based on the emerging emphasis on language as a factor in national unification, an idea al- ready present in Herder but reinforced by the discoveries of those early nineteenth- century linguists such as the Schlegel brothers who began to distinguish between "Aryan" and "Semitic" tongues. Even then, Klemperer noted, a so-called "ultra-nation- alist" like Turnvater Jahn was still willing to accept German-identified but unbap- tized Jews into the Burschenshaften. Lan- guage and culture continued to count for something. As late as 1848, a genuine racial antisemitism was still missing from the German landscape. The theoretical frame- work for an antisemitism of blood only ap- peared with the publication of the French Count Gobineau's four volume Essai sur l'int!galitt!des races humaines in the 1850s, even though the Count himself was appar- ently no anti-Semite. Certainly, it would ap- pear, the Germans could not be blamed for this.12

Nevertheless, Klemperer had more doubts. For while Gobineau was legally a Frenchman, it turns out he was spiritually a German and a "Schiiler der deutschen Romantik" after all.13 According to Klem- perer, the aristocratic Gobineau was "con- vinced that he descended directly and with unmixed blood from the original French feudal and Frankish nobility" which had once imposed its rule on the racially infe- rior but more numerous Gallic inhabitants of the late Roman Empire. From the Count's perspective, the modern demo- cratic nation-states created in the wake of the French revolution represented the overthrow of this Germanic aristocracy and the consequent disintegration of Euro- pean civilization. Although nominally a "citizen" of France, Gobineau actually con- sidered himself a member of an interna- tional Germanic ruling class that transcended the boundaries of nineteenth- century states like France, Prussia and Austria, and adumbrated Hitler's Neue Ordnung.14 But even more significant to Klemperer was the fact that Gobineau's own world view was apparently shaped by his study of German Romanticism, with its disregard of conventional boundaries and its exclusivist universalism. With Gobi- neau, the opposition between German and Jews had been given a racial foundation in German Romanticism. But in a larger sense, Klemperer believed, Nazism was al- ready "embryonically contained [keimhaft enthalten] in the Romantic" with its "de- throning of reason," its "animalization of Mankind," as well as its "glorification of the power idea, the predator, the blond beast." So both the general traits and spe- cific ideology of National Socialism, both its mood and ideation, appeared to be Ger- man after a11.15

11. Prussianism and the Liberal State

Nevertheless, Klemperer's Romantic theory of Nazism is not without its prob- lems. To start with, "Romanticism" itself is a notoriously vague concept. The great historian of ideas, Arthur Lovejoy, thus ad- mitted that the word embraced numerous contradictory ideas, even if he did not take the next logical step of questioning whether it had any meaning at a11.16 More- over, Klemperer complicated matters both by over-identifying the Enlightenment withvoltaire and by tending to excise Rous- seau from the company of the philosophers. Klemperer's own work thus suggests how easy it is to create a "sanitized" Enlighten- ment simply by proclaiming all its negative features to be Romantic. In contrast, a case might be made that what many intellectual historians call "Romanticism" was less a revolt against than a variation in the larger pattern of the Enlightenment. Rousseau's thought offers us a perfect example of how what appears to be Romantic may actually be a sub-type of Enlightenment thought. Klemperer's tendency to see German Ro- manticism as a revolt against the rational may have thus been an expression of his desire to spare an idealized Aufilarung from any responsibility for the dilemmas of modernity.17

But if Klemperer sometimes empha- sized the link between Nazism and Roman- ticism, a careful examination ofhis thought suggests a more radical thesis; namely, that the upheavals of 1918-1945 were really a recapitulation rather than a repudiation of the events of 1789-1794. A close reading of Klemperer's own writings on French lit- erature actually reveals a tendency to dis- solve the concept of the Romantic into the larger ideal of Enlightenment. He thus di- vided the eighteenth century into two halves, the first dominated by the more rea- sonable Voltaire, the second by the more passionate Rousseau, a division that sug- gests that reason of the former somehow gave birth to the passion of the latter.18 Even this division was subverted by Klem- perer's early recognition of "how fanatic French reason is" and "how Cartesian and clear French feeling" ("wie fanatisch die franzosische Vernunft ist .. . wie kartesian- isch klar das franzijsische Gefuhl istn).lg Significantly, Klemperer noted that Auf- kldrer like Voltaire could themselves be re- proached for being fanatics, even if they would have defended themselves by claim- ing that their zeal for reason was necessary to fight the "enemies of reas~n."~O

There is thus a sense, although Klemperer never quite admitted it, in which even Hitler can be understood as a kind ofphilosophe. Cer- tainly, he appears as a later-day Jacobin in the Tagebiicher.

To understand how this could be so, we must recognize Klemperer's position in German society when the Fiihrer came to power. Converting to Protestantism during his youth, Klemperer totally identified with the Prussian-dominated German Em- pire of Bismarck and Wilhelm II.21 The budding academic's acceptance of Protes- tantism was thus nothing more than an act of faith in the Prussian state, reminiscent of the Jewish conversion to a "Christentum ohne Christus" first proposed by David Friedlander in the 1790~.~~

Klemperer grew up regarding this "Prussian Christi- anity" as identical with Deutschtum itself, even proclaiming that to him "German and Protestant always remained the same con- cept" ("immer blieben mir deutsch and protestantisch gleich Begriffe"). However, Klemperer's concept of Protestantism was essentially a secular one derived from Les- sing, so that he saw Protestant orthodoxy as "distorted" (entstellt) faith and Catholi- cism as alien doctrine. Indeed, since Prot- estantism was the "real German thought- form" ("die eigentliche deutsche Denk- form"), Klemperer believed that "even German Catholics were half Protestants and Heretics" ("dal3 selbst die deutschen Katholiken halbe Protestanten und Ketzer ~eien").~~

Klemperer's identification of Protes- tant Prussia with Germany as a whole was actually strengthened after he arrived in Munchen to study before the First World War. As Martin Walser has noted, Klem- perer echoed Heinrich Heine's 1828 senti- ment that "in Bavaria I became a Prussian" that his "partiality for Prussia" ("Vorliebe fur mein Preufien") during the First World War did not preclude his having sympathy with "grofideutschen Gedanken," he gave as an example of this sympathy his recog- nition of the Baltic Germans, forgetting that they would be mainly of concern to Pru~sia.~~

But Klemperer's "partiality for Prus- sia" may have grown even stronger after the War as an expression of his essential conservatism. Born during the consolida- tion of the Bismarckian state, Klemperer was sentimentally attached to its symbols. As a child and young man, official parades and military exercises gave him pleasure ("Vergn~gen").~~

He was impressed ("ein- gepragt") with the Kaiser's appearance at a ceremony, and deeply moved by the fu- neral of the Kaiserin years later. In April 1921, Klemperer noted in his Diary that the Kaiserdom was a flag which stirred in him "a longing for the old German power" ("Mir is das Kaisertum eine Fahne, ich sehne mich nach der alten deutschen Macht"). Yet Klemperer's attachment to the Prus- sian state was by no means an endorsement of the German people whom he was already beginning to distrust. On the contrary, in the very same entry, Klemperer noted "in how nauseating company one was with the German populists" ("in wie ekelhafter Ge- sellschaft ist man bei den Deutsch-Volki- schen) and, even more significantly, how much "more nauseating they will become, when we acquire Austria" ("sie wird noch ekelhafter werden, wenn Oesterreich zu

("Ich bin in Bayern Preufie ge~orden").~~ In upholding the essen-

uns k~mmt").~~

The Prussian student found Bavaria to be something like a foreign country, with its Catholic, peasant mentality.25 When war came, and he entered (like Hitler!) a Bavarian regiment, Klemperer was amazed at the "tension between the Prus- sians and the Bavarians," noting how one soldier complained that the war in East Prussia was no more relevant than China to Ba~arians.~~

In this context, it is signifi- cant that even when Klemperer claimed tially Prussian principle of State over the basically Gropdeeutsch ideology of "Volk," Klemperer foreshadowed his later critique of Nazism. Indeed, the young philologist was essentially suspicious of all post-war ideologies, noting in January 1919 that while "the proletarian feels himself part of the Masses [als Glied der Masse] ... I feel myself an individual [als Individuum]."30 In other words, the authoritarian "Old Re- gime" simply allowed the individual more freedom than would the coming totalitari- anism of the masses. "I myself dread the people" ("Mir selbst graut vor dem Pijbel") Klemperer noted in October 1923, only a few weeks before the Hitler Putsch.31

The year 1918 was thus a profound turning-point in Klemperer's life, a revolu- tionary year that saw the disintegration of the stable order of Throne and Altar and the coming of people's Will. At the very mo- ment when he was beginning to establish his academic career, the young professor was confronted with a slowly disintegrat- ing political situation. A decorated Freiwil- liger on the Western Front, and a member of the intellectual elite at home, Klemperer claimed to have experienced no antisemi- tism either at the gymnasium or in the trenches.32 All this changed after 1918. He thus noted how antisemitism "gradually" (allmahlich) began to appear as a "new and unconquerable obstacle" (neues uniiber- windliches Hindernis).33 In the same way, Klemperer onlygradually became aware of Hitler's importance, hardly noticing him before 1925. Even then, he saw the Nazis as no worse than the Communists, al- though "der Himmel mag uns vor beiden behiiten."34 Of more immediate concern to Klemperer was the growing significance of his Jewish background to other Germans. Long before Hitler came to power, the po- litical climate appeared to be turning nas- tier. Despite compiling a vast number of publications, Klemperer felt himself handi- capped by his ancestry, noting that while "reactionary" universities took no Jews, even the more "liberal" institutions took only took a couple.35 He thus felt stuck at the rather second-rate Technical College at Dresden, where he had taught since 1920, following a brief stint at the University of Munich. The Depression cast long shadows over the life that he and his wife had built, and the now middle-aged philologist was increasingly anxious about the political situation. By July 1931, Klemperer was an- ticipating the overthrow of the already shaky government in Berlin, without being sure who would come to power.36 By Au- gust 1932, Hitler was "at the gates" forcing him to ironically call himself a '3ewish Pro- fessor," if only because his identity had been decreed by his fellow germ an^.^^

111. Gro/3deutschJacobinism

From this perspective, Hitler's appoint- ment in January 1933 only accelerated the radicalization of the German Revolution. It was true that Klemperer's status as a Freiwilliger allowed him to remain at his teaching post until April 30,1935. This re- prieve was a direct result of the "Hinden- burg Exception" which allowed Jewish vet- erans to retain their jobs in spite of the Berufsbeamtengesetz, and thus upheld a vestigial notion of "Prussian" military honor over the claims of Nazi doctrine.38 Even after he was dismissed from his posi- tion, and he and his wife were subjected to the cruelest penalties, Klemperer contin- ued to distinguish between the compara- tively benevolent institutions left over from the Old Prussian-dominated Germany and the battalions of terror created by the Greater German Reich, claiming that the regular police (Kripo) were "al- ways polite, sharp contrast to the Ge- ~tapo."~~

In 1944, he was alarmed by the unprecedented use of the Nazi propaganda term "fanatic" in a Wehrmacht report, as if the army had up to then remained the last citadel of Prussian values in an age of spreading barbarism.40 After the war was over, he still dismissed the notion that Hitlerism was "in essence a militaristic Prussian, non-Catholic, non-Bavarian af- fair" by pointing out that Miinchen was its "Tradition~gau."4~

Klemperer was thus not only acutely aware that the Nazi take-over constituted a genuine revolution against the old order, but criticized it precisely because it was revolutionary. That his loyalties were to the Prussian "Old Regime" is not surprising. His beloved Voltaire had championed the right of Enlightened Despots to enforce the laws of nature and clear away the remnants of feudal obscurantism, even going so far as to support Louis XV's suppression of the French Parlements in the 1770~.~~

The francaphone internationalism of Frederick 11's court had provided a context for a "ra- tional" Enlightenment which had essen- tially advocated reform from above rather than an ultimately irrational revolution from below- a tradition that Bismarck con- tinued in the 1880s. Moreover, Frederick's Prussia also created a framework within which Christians and Jews might come to- Butjust as Voltaire was succeeded by Rous- seau, so both 1793 and 1933 brought about an intensification of revolutionary fervor culminating in dictatorship.

Within this context, the Nazi seizure of power represented the triumph of a Ger- man Jacobinism that branded Klemperer as a member of the Jewish "aristocracy," too educated and too refined to survive the coming terror, complete with the guillotine. Alexandra Przyrembel has thus noted that the most dramatic feature of Klemperer's Nazi diaries was his documentation of the "destruction of bourgeois [read: bourgeois-

gether on the basis of a deistic state ~ult.~3 aristocratic] existence from the dismissal

In her Jiidische Salons in alten Berlin, 1780-1806, Deborah Hertz thus delineated the key role that Jewish women played in the development of the Prussian nobility and its cosmopolitan culture in the late eighteenth century. Jewish merchants not only fueled the development of the Prussia by lending money to the state, but nour- ished the Prussian aristocracy by giving their daughters in marriage to financially strapped Junkers, a tradition mockingly from his job, the loss of his car, and his house, to his degradation as "Sterntrager."'47 Klemperer's gradual degrada- tion from a high estate to virtual house ar- rest had more in common with the later days of Louis XnT or Nicholas I than with the history of Jews outside the Reich. For Klemperer, the first crime of the Nazis was to turn German Jews against their own country. As early as June 1933, a friend thus noted that Jewish Germans had de-

criticized by Hitler in Mein K~m~f.~~

veloped an "Emigre Mentality [Emigran-

The so-called "German-Jewish" sym- biosis was, to a large degree, a Junker-Jew- ish symbiosis, exemplified by the relation- ship between Bleichrijder and Bismarck. Jews, especially if they became converses, might be welcome if they served the Prus- sian monarch. It is thus not surprising that Klemperer's investigation of the French Enlightenment eventually led him to see "a decisive relationship between the last decade of the ancien rkgime and the epoch of Wilhelm II."45 Like the court of Louis XVI, the Wilhelmine monarchy had actu- ally tolerated a multiplicity of opinions. Since Klemperer had served as a military censor on the Eastern Front during the First World War, he could even excuse war- time censorship as necessary and mild. Conversely, it was only the Revolutions of 1789 and 1918 that ultimately threatened free thought even if both appeared to ex- ten-Mentalitat]" not unlike that of the no- bility in the early years of the French Revo- lution. "We hope for rescue from outside [Germany]"Klemperer recorded his friend saying "the defeat of Germany, invasi~n."~~

In March 1934, Klemperer mused that since the Nazis were like the Jacobins one could only wonder "why should the German Jacobins last any longer than the Fren~h."~~

In July 1934 he compared the Nazis penchant for taking "Germanic" names to the invention of new months in the French revol~tion.~~

On Sept 12,1934, Klemperer thought about writing a book comparing the linguistic changes of the French Revolution to those of Fascism and Nazism.51 This theme is actually developed in the LTI where Klemperer noted that in all revolutions, there has been a tendency toward ransaclung the remote past for new models, words, and names with which to

pand it in their initial Voltairean pha~e.~6 criticize the recent past. The Cromwellian

Revolution thus used Old Testament names, the French Revolution Roman ones, and the Nazis Nordic names to radi- cally break with their respective "Old Re- gimes" and re-create the world.52

Klemperer's anti-Jacobinism also rein- forced his belief that Rousseau was in a certain sense a forerunner of Hitler. In his Tagebucher, Klemperer noted that thephi- losophe and the Fiihrer both shared an ad- miration for Spartan characteristics like the subjugation of the family to the state, and the preservation of "cultural au-tarky."53 The Social Contract was thus the "model" for Hitler, "whether the Fiihrer read it or not." But by utilizing modern technology, Hitler took Rousseau's classi- cal model of limited dictatorship and ex- panded it beyond all limits; Rousseau's "dictator" proclaimed his doctrines to an assembled people, the "new Fiihrer speaks alone."54 Despite this qualification, how- ever, Klemperer set both Hitler and Rous- seau against Voltaire and the Enlightened Despots.

IV.Grenzenlosigkeit and Revolution

Klemperer's identification with the lim- ited Prussian-centered state created by Bismarck explains his condemnation of Grenzenlosigkeit as the essence of Ger- manic evil. In Bismarck's Gedanken und Erinnerungen, the Iron Chancellor openly stated that his policy was merely to secure defensible borders for Prussia under the guise of apartial German unification. Since Bismarck's main purpose was to preserve the Prussian monarchy within the larger framework of the European balance of power, he sought to make Prussia large enough that the Hohenzollerns could domi- nate Central Europe but not so large that they would lose control of their own sub- jects. This was a policy of limits which rec- ognized that the unlimited acquisition of territory would be counterproductive since "German Austria we could neither wholly nor partially make use of' while "Vienna could not be governed from Berlin as a mere dependency," After 1871, Bismarck was thus content to pursue a policy of what was essentially Enlightened Despotism at home in order to give Prussia-Germany an edge in his chessboard diplomacy abroad.55

But Adolf Hitler not only condemned Bismarck's cautious foreign policy by criti- cizing the revanchist desire to restore the borders of Wilhelmine Germany, but out- lined an entire philosophy rejecting even the notion of fixed borders. From this per- spective, the kleindeutsch state was twice damned; first because it defied natural law by embracing only part of a people, and second because it treated its boundaries as the permanent perimeter of a "satiated state." In Mein Kampf Hitler thus noted that "Nature knows no political bounda- ries [Die Natur kennt keine politischen Grenzen]". First she puts living creatures on this globe and watches the free play of forces."56 In his Zweites Buch, Hitler fur- ther argued that "the territorial distribu- tion of the world at any time is the momen- tary result of a struggle [das augenblick- liche Ergebnis eines Ringensl ... which by no means is concluded, but ...which clearly continues further."57 While the kleindeutsch state was limited, the gropdeutsch state was potentially unlimited since, by applying the laws of nature described by Hitler, it has the potential to expand for- ever.

But there was also a more ominous rea- son why Hitler called upon the Germans to abandon "border politics" in favor of un- bounded expansionism. The Fuhrer be- lieved that the Jews had already escaped all territorial limits by unnaturally circum- venting the laws of nature and inserting themselves into the living space of other states.58 Klemperer was thus right to en- dorse the notion that "the immanent idea of Gropdeutschland pushed him necessar- ily further" into conflict since the Greater German Reich "could only exist as the nu- cleus ... of a New Reich" dominating Europe and eventually the world itself.59 The gropdeutsch idea transgressed the boundaries of the Second Reich to unite all Germanic Europe against the Jews as well as the states Hitler believed were domi- nated by them. It meant universal conflict and thus a secular form of "holy war."

But was this Romanticism? In his re- cently published magnum opus on the his- tory of fascism, Stanley Payne has argued that "all of Hitler's political and social ideas had their origin in variants of the eight- eenth-century Enlightenment." This in- cluded "the revolt against traditional cul- ture in the name of a revolutionary secu- larism," the idea of "a secular natural law," the "Deist concept of God," the contrast between "the productive and the unpro- ductive" and the belief in "the Rousseauian general will of the people. "60 Like Marx and many of the philosophers (though unlike Rousseau!), Hitler conceived of progress in highly material and even technological terms. A successful people, he believed, must ultimately seek to expand its terri- tory. The conquest of greater space would permit more population, thus increasing the potential for the most racially valuable individuals to emerge. These, in turn, would lead the charge for further expan- sion, starting the cycle all over again, until a single people would dominate the whole world and even move beyond it. Conversely, an unsuccessful people would lose territory, forcing it to limit births, thus precluding the emergence of racially valuable indi- viduals. Such a people would continue to lose territory until it disappeared from the Earth alt~gether.~~

As early as 1919, Hitler had therefore written in a letter to Staff-Captain Karl Meyer that the struggle against Jewry could not be based on emotion but on cold- blooded logic. Rejecting an "Antisemitis- mus aus rein gefuhlsmaigen Griinden" in favor of an "Antisemitismus der Vernunft," the future Fuhrer sought to eradicate the Jews in the name of nature and nature's God.62 Hitler's desire to achieve "a radical freedom for the German people," according to Payne, "carried the modern goal of breaking the limits and setting new records to an unprecedented point."63 The opera- tive word here is "modern." Modernity as a whole and not merely "Romanticism" has been fueled by a cult of "boundless" expan- sionism. And if Nazism exhibited a cold- blooded zealousness in its hunger for "power after power," it had its precedents in the Enlightenment and French Revolu- tion. Here was a rational fanaticism, remi- niscent of the cold-blood passion of Rous- seau.

In conclusion, Victor Klemperer's ideal Germany was the comparatively tolerant "Greater Prussia" created by Bismarck. In his 1939Diary (and in his Curriculum Vitae as well), Klemperer protested that "the es- trangement between Jews and 'Aryans,' the friction between them, was not half so great as that between Protestants and Catholics" ("die Fremdheit zwischen Ju- den und 'Ariern,' die Reibung zwischen ih- nen, war nicht halb so groI3 wie etwa zwi- schen Protestanten und Katholiken"), not only echoing Bismarck's own views six dec- ades earlier but directly contradicting Hitler'sgropdeutsch formulation that "the future of this earth does not lie in whether the Protestants defeat the Catholics or the Catholics the Protestants, but in whether Aryan man is preserved for the Earth or dies out" [ob Arische Mensch ihr erhalten bleibt oder ausstirbtl .64 Klemperer thus noted that what disturbed him the most about the triumphant Communism of fall 1945 was its "identification of the 'Prus- sian Spirit' [Preupengeist] with Nazi men- tality," an identification which the Nazis themselves had all too often passed off as the truth.65 In contrast, Klemperer had long identified Prussianism with the ra- tional Enlightenment, and Nazism with the unbounded aspirations of the Roman- tic. But if this distinction between Enlight- enment and Romanticism served a polemi- cal purpose, it also stood in the way of an even deeper understanding of the signifi- cance of the Nazi movement. Klemperer's own writings suggest just such an under- standing. What he called "Romanticism" was actually a further development of the Enlightenment, a revolutionary Enlight- enment which used fanaticism to destroy an older but weakened fanaticism, terror to destroy an older but milder "terror" both in 1793 and again in 1933. It was within this context that the Jews were treated as a secondary aristocracy whose persecution foreshadowed not merely the extermina- tion of Junkerdom after the attempted coup of July 20, 1944, but the destruction of all values at the end of the war. From this perspective, the "unbounded" charac- ter of Hitler's Gropdeutsch Revolution was not rooted in some eternal "Romanticism" of the German people but in the Pro- methean impulses of the Enlightenment it- self. Those who steal the fire of the gods may yet destroy the world; "Die vollends aufgekliirte Erde strahlt im Zeichen trium- phalen Unheils. "66


lSee Victor Klemperer, Curriculum Vitae: Erinnerungen 1881-1918, 2 Volumes. Ed. by Walter Nowojski (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1996), from here on referred to as CV I and CV ZZ; Victor Klemperer, Leben sammeln, nich fragen wozu und warum: Tagebiicher 1918-1932. 2 Volumes. Walter Nowojski, with the co- operation of Christian Loser (Berlin: Aufbau- Verlag, 19961, from here on referred to as TB 18-32 1 and TB 18-32 11;Victor Klemperer, Zch will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum Letzten: Tage- biicher, 1933-1945. 2 Volumes. Ed. by Walter Nowojski in collaboration with Hadwig Klem- perer (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1995, 1996), from here on referred to as TB 33451 and TB 33-45 11; Victor Klemperer, Und so ist alles schwankend: Tagebiicher Juni bis Dezember 1945. Ed. by Giinter Jackel with the coopera- tion of Hadwig Klemperer (Berlin: Aufbau-Ver- lag, 1997), hereafter referred to as TB 1945.

2Victor Klemperer, An Annotated Edition of Victor Klemperer's LTZ-Notizbuch eines Phi-

lologen. With English Notes and Commentary by Roderick Watt (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 19971, from here on referred to as LTZ. The text is in German and does not seem to vary from 1965 edition which I have also examined. Watt's notes (mainly brief explanations of names) are of limited assistance. The text as a whole remains, to the best of my knowledge, untranslated. However, the chapter on "Heroismus" (5-12) appeared in English in Victor Klemperer, "Heroism in the Third Reich," The Jewish Quarterly 43:4 (Winter 1996197) 18-21, and the chapters on "Armut" (29-36), "Tagebuch" (43-58), and "Fanatisch" (77-82) have appeared in French in Les Temps Modernes 45: 521 (December 1989) 94-119.

3Michael Nerlich, "Victor Klemperer Ro- manist-oder- Warum sol1 nicht einmal ein Wunder geschehen?" In: Hannes Heer, Zrn Her- Zen der Finsternis (Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 1995) 39.

4Klemperer,LTZ, 167. Klemperer thus asks "wie war der grauenvolle Gegensatz der deut- schen Gegenwart zu allen, wirklich allen Phasen deutscher Vergangenheit moglich . . . Gab es noch irgendeinen geistigen Zusammen- hang zwischen den Deutschen der Goethezeit und dem Volk Adolf Hitlers?"

5TB 3345Z,25.

6LTZ 170.

7LTZ 171-72.

8LTZ 170-71; TB 3345Z,21.

9LTZ 169,173.

1°LTZ 173.

llLTZ 174.

12LTZ 176-78; for a more recent discussion of linguistic antisemitism, see Jeffrey Gross- man, "Wilhelm von Humboldt's Linguistic Ide- ology: The Problem of Pluralism and the Abso- lute Difference of National Character, Or, Where Do the Jews Fit In?" German Studies Review 20:l (February 19971, 2347. As a phi- lologist, Klemperer was of course primarily concerned with language. Since this aspect of Klemperer's thought has been dealt with ex- tensively elsewhere, I have minimized the dis- cussion of linguistic issues in this article.

13LTZ 175.

14LTZ 17677.

15LTZ 178.

16See Arthur Lovejoy, "On the Discrimina- tion of Romanticisms." Essays in the History of Ideas (Baltimore: John Hopkins UF: 1948)

chen Hochwertes der Spartaner," Hitler is mainly interested in how Spartan institutions used the laws of nature, unsullied by Judeo- Christian conscience, to preserve this high ra- cial value. See Hitler, Zweites Buch 56-57. See also I?Villard, "L'antiquitk et Weltanschauung Hitlkrienne," Review de la 11 Guerre Mondiale 27 (1972), 1-18. Klemperer's emphasis on the Nordic character of Nazi names may have led him to underestimate Hitler's admiration for the classical world.

54TB3345 1,623-24; LTZ, 70.

55See Bismarck, Memoires 11 (New York: Howard Fertig, 1966), 50. This is a translation of "Deutsch-ostreich konnnten wir weder ganz noch theilweise [sic] brauchen ...Wien wird als ein Zubehor von Berlin aus nicht zu regieren sein", in Gedanken und Erinnerungen von Otto Fiirst von Bismarck Volume I1 (Stuttgart: J.G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachfolger, 18901,


56Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf. Trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943)

134. This seems to follow very closely the Ger- man edition of Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munchen: Franz Eher Verlag, 1934) 147.

57Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Secret Book, Trans. Salvadore Attanasio (New York: Grove Press, 19611, 88; Adolf Hitler, Hitlers Zweites Buch: Ein Dokument aus dem Jahr 1928. Ed. Ger- hard Weinberg (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags- Anstalt, 1961) 114.

58Hitler,Mein Kampf (1934), 331. "Daher ist auch" Hitler thus noted in the 1934 Franz Eher edition, "der judische Staat- der der le- bendige Organismus zur Erhaltung und Ver- mehrung einer Rasse sein soll- territorial voll- standig unbegrenzt."

59LTI 150.

GoStanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism, 191 4-1 945 (Madison: The University of Wis- consin Press, 1995) 483-84.

61For a further discussion of Hitler and classical thought, see Lawrence Birken,"The Political Economy of Adolf Hitler: Power, Plenty and Ideology." Craufurd Goodwin (ed.),

Economics and National Security: A History of Their Interaction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991) 179-89.

G2Adolf Hitler to Karl Meyer, quoted in Werner Maser, Adolf Hitler (Miinchen: Herbig, 1978) 175.

63Payne,Fascism 484.

64SeeTB 3345 1, 456-57, as well as CVI, 17; Hitler, Mein Kampf (1943) 536; Mein Kampf (1934) German ed., 630. In all these passages Klemperer also emphasizes that the "tension" (Spannung) or "friction" (Reibung) between Prussians and Bavarians is also greater than that between Jews and other Ger- mans, a sentiment that would have certainly enraged the Fuhrer.

650n September 10, 1945 Klemperer thus wrote: "Was mich an den Antifaschismus- Kundgebungen der KPD ...jedesmal am mei- sten stort, is die Identification von "PreuDengeist" [sic] und natsoc. Mentalitat. Das stimmt nich." TB 1945, 124.

66Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno,

Dialektik der Aufklarung: Philosophische Fragmente (Bonn: Suhrkamp, 1981) 19.

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