German culture and literature

HANS FRIEDRICH BLUNCK
Honorary President of the Reich Chamber of Literature, Member of the Reich Culture Senate and of the Senate of the Academy of Literature

At first glance it may seem strange that a poet and writer of fairy-tales has been chosen to write this article on German culture policy, when so wide a choice from among leading politicians was available. Perhaps, however, the selection was symbolic, because creative artists in Germany to-day are concerning themselves, as never before, with the rising and falling fortunes of their fellow-countrymen. Certainly that romantic age which consigned the writer to an isolated garret existence has gone for ever. If only in this respect, we, in Germany, have turned from the romantic period of Europe to the classic, when some of the great creative thinkers were also leading personalities in the State.

Another motive made me particularly happy to accept the invitation to co-operate in the writing of this book. I was born in Schleswig-Holstein, a country jealous of its Anglo-Saxon heritage, where we are all intensely aware of our relationships and where also, since the time of Storm and Kroger, we have been fully alive to the dual nature of the creative artist’s work. This duality, so frequently found in England, is probably a common inheritance.

Galsworthy, who was my friend during the last year of his life, always seemed to me to be the perfect example of a well-balanced individual, who possessed at the same time the attributes of a strong leader. He was an Anglo. Saxon of the type that we, in this Hanseatic land, appreciate and love – not only from personal sympathy, but also for old sake’s sake.

Occasionally I discussed with Galsworthy the part that writers could play in our restless Europe, and I still remember the tolerant smile with which he said that we writers would never be able to act and write as statesmen, because our ideals, conceptions and convictions must always be bound by some inward necessity. Perhaps, he said, our position may be, for this reason, particularly strong, and perhaps it may not be a bad thing for the people of our respective countries if, by using our imaginations, we can cover with some sort of nobility even the coldness and self-seeking prevailing in European politics.

In considering Germany’s present culture policy, a starting-point must not be made at the complacent and satisfied Europe which was commonly shown to the British and French reading publics before the German revolution. Instead, we must examine those terrible times through which our country passed, when it seemed impossible that it could ever rise again from defeat and hopelessness, especially the latter. A military collapse can never produce such bad effects as an injustice; the broken promise that lay between the Armistice and the Peace Treaty was probably that which most deeply hurt the feelings of our humanitarian population, and indeed still does. For long it seemed that all attempts to build up a new Reich were condemned to failure, and as if a death dance had begun which would end in the complete ruin of our thousand-year-old State. Let it not be forgotten that the Communists were on the point of securing the largest representation in the Reichstag and that all the restraints of the old order were breaking down. The middle classes, supporting a liberalism which they did not understand, and pervaded with the instinct of self-seeking and self-preservation, were apparently no longer in a position to offer any resistance. The currency, after one breakdown, was threatened with yet another collapse. Thousands of peasants were driven from their homesteads, which thus became the property of the mortgagees, and the workers – sick of unfulfilled promises – were definitely hostile to the bourgeoisie. Hundreds of pretentious developments in the sphere of the arts were hailed for a moment as substitutes for religion, only to disappear a few weeks later. Words and figures were bandied about, only to sink again into obscurity, like spooks which had strayed for a moment from the land of shadows. A small gang of alien immigrants from the east drew their profit from the sorrows of a whole nation, spreading like a blight over the country. The cradles stood empty, and everyone lived for the hour or the day because there seemed to be no future. Whatever sensibility or pride remained was destroyed by humiliations suffered through our foreign policy.

These were the conditions out of which National Socialism arose, and beneath its wing our “Wartburg Circle,” literature’s adventure against the forces of decay, was formed. The “Academy” remained firmly a left-wing institution, while the powers of progressive conservatism collected around Johst, Beumelburg, Münchhausen, Kolbenheyer, Grimm, Schäfer, and Vesper (the author of this article is, of course also a member of this group). The glowing poetry of certain younger men, amongst thern Anacker, Schumann, Böhme, Möller, Nierentz, Eggers Meusel, Brockmeier, Oppenberg and Helke formed an accompaniment to the political development of the times. Amongst the dramatists, I would specially mention Rehberg, Bethge, and Langenbeck.

There is no doubt that these groups were the first to awaken a response in the minds of the common people throughout the country. Post-war artistic achievement had no wide appeal, based, as it was, either on eroticism, or concerned with expressionism or cubism, and directed only towards a small public. The right-wing opposition, however, succeeded in winning the appreciation of the youth. Readers, turning away in disgust from the eternal psycho-analytical studies, found a young art flourishing in their midst, that reminded them of their national history, that made their country-side bloom again and whose subject matter was not limited to descriptions of city life. Here were poems, tales and essays for which the man in the street, almost unknown to himself, had had a secret longing. In short, the rift between writers and people, that had yawned wider and wider during the post-war years, started to close again. Here was a literature which – though not ignoring the old forms – was rooted in the countryside, was closely in touch with the feelings of the people but was also vitally connected with the political happenings which were then heralding a new era.

The culture policy of the State has shown clearly enough that the debt of gratitude to creative artists has not been forgotten.

Perhaps it should first be made clear what is meant by this expression “culture policy,” for misunderstandings arise only too easily in the babel of modern Europe.

It is the duty of the State to cultivate harmony between the political and private life of the people – neither more nor less. Therefore, without limiting, or acting against, the achievements of the individual, it seeks to promote the broad conception of “People’s Culture,” to encourage their inherent taste for decoration, for picturesque celebration and for their own ancient customs, and to direct these so that they conform to those “Christian ethics” which are valid throughout Europe. The German State also accepts it as a duty to discover those who are capable of speaking for the people, and who, every now and then, have tried to gain the light of day, only to be overshadowed by the acceptance, formerly so readily accorded, of foreign values. Those who wish to know something of this subject should read the book, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany, published by the Cambridge University Press. German history can reveal over and over again how the so-called educated classes kept their distance from the mass of the people, and attempted to form their own autocracy. The present Government, on the other hand, seeks to emphasise the connection between the old literature and the new, and the relationship of both to the people. This is not achieved by laying a compulsion of any sort upon the creative worker. The Government does reserve to itself, however, certain rights of choice and the right to issue recommendations. What other more fortunate nations accept as a matter of course, namely the possession of an art inherently national had still to grow up in Germany and to be assiduously cultivated.

This problem was solved in 1933 with comparative ease, largely thanks to the opposition of the “intellectuals” to the former regime, an opposition that had sprung up before the revolution.

Thanks are also due to the energetic preparation of the ground and to the intellectual values which the modern conceptions “Nationalism” and “Socialism” had been given in Germany since the pre-classic, the Sturm und Drang period, and since the time of Herder and the youthful Goethe.

Nothing, surely, could make a stronger appeal to the artist’s sense of justice than Herder’s conception of “Nationalism” – that is to say, the ordering of Europe in accordance with the self-governing rights of the nations, and the refusal to recognise any interference on the part of neighbouring States. I am well aware that the word “Nationalism” has a different meaning in every European country, and it is one of the Continent’s greatest misfortunes that this apparently universal expression creates nothing but misunderstanding and that we all mean something different when we use it. Nationalism in England means more or less the same as “Imperialism”; in France it means “Chauvinism”, while in Germany it means exactly the opposite, namely, the right of all nations, in the sense of Volkstümer, to develop along their own lines, within their borders. In Germany, in fact, it means nothing but an aspect of the old longing for freedom, the dream of a Europe in which the free nations live peacefully as neighbours.

Again, the religious sensibilities of the artist cannot be more profoundly stirred than by the conception of true Socialism, as the fittest expression of national solidarity. The rationalist, or Marxist, foundation of Socialism was overthrown because it was based on class warfare, but it was a Socialism grounded in religion that attained power in Germany with the arrival of National Socialism. I must go further: I must maintain that it did not only attain power, but it gave Europe the most perfect example of living Socialism extant, so far, of course, as this could be achieved by a people which disposed of no raw materials. It is hardly a matter for surprise that the artist, who ever inclines towards the essentials of faith and pity, eagerly embraced the theories of the new State, that he accepted Nationalism as self-government of the people, Socialism on religious grounds, and that at the same time he rejoiced exceedingly over the new and intimate relationship with all his countrymen, without the barrier of class prejudice that was the gift to him of the new State. I will not conceal that it was the younger writers of the new movement who passionately accepted the change, which was a difficult matter for those who had fought hard and long in the ranks of the opposition, and upon whose individualistic ideas the demands of the time placed hardships, which forced them for a space into loneliness. It may seem paradoxical, but I am quite sure that the new leaders of Germany are fully aware of the essential loneliness of the creative artist. All the same, however, German writers to-day know what happiness it means to stand before a crowded, youthful audience on a winter evening and to read to them ballads, stories or essays that meet with true appreciation. The writer who stands up and reads his works to a crowd of factory workers, and who sees the meaning of his words truly understood by them, realises enough to want to hold firmly to the relationship between writer and people, which seemed at one time to have been utterly lost.

Perhaps I have dwelt too long on the consideration of that background against which the astonishing change in Germany took place. I thought it necessary because so many of my English friends interest themselves in various details of the organisation of the Third Reich, but know little of the intellectual “behind the scenes” of the change; I might jestingly say that we, the third – or continental – Anglo-Saxon group, feel that we have a certain responsibility towards the Reich on behalf of our next of kin in the United Kingdom, and that we would so gladly restore the bridge that existed for five centuries between England and Germany, so perhaps my discursiveness may be pardoned. In compensation, I will answer more pointedly the questions – What were the practical measures taken in connection with culture policy in new Germany? and How was the close relationship between the State, the people and the artists – desired by National Socialism – achieved? For (and of this there can be no doubt) the relationship exists, even though the voice of complaint is now and again raised, and even though there are aspects of the achievement that could be improved. These things are unavoidable when sweeping changes take place. On the other hand, there is no organised opposition group, a fact that has led our neighbours (who cannot believe that it is really lacking) to suppose that it does indeed exist, but has been artificially suppressed. My friends, anyone who knows anything about the soul of a writer and about the courage of the creative worker, must surely also know that a real opposition cannot be suppressed, and must realise that the wonder of the German unity is that it is actually based upon true community of heart.

This miracle of which I speak is the more remarkable in that the economic situation of the artist was anything but rosy – as is probably always the case in times of revolution and change – during the first few months of the new regime. Adherence to it was, therefore, a sacrifice rather than an exploitation. It must be admitted at once that the State very soon took steps to ameliorate the initial difficulties, but such emergency assistance is not to the taste of the artist, who wishes to live by his work. Nevertheless, financial assistance given to artists during the first two years of National Socialism amounted to more than had been available for two decades before – a sign of how seriously the situation was taken. It was not long before the new theatre replaced the old organisation destroyed by the revolution, and before Kulturgemeinden (Culture Communities) were created which, even in the smallest German towns, invited writers to deliver lectures and readings, and made them the principal speakers at country gatherings. At the earliest possible moment attempts were made, through the organisation Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy), to bring to the ordinary workers their past and present heritage in literature, music and art. From the moment that National Socialism achieved power, it strove to make of the “proletarian” the “fellow-countryman,” equal heir with all to Germany’s intellectual kingdom. In 1936, no fewer than two million workers visited exhibitions and attended plays, and often lectures, organised in the factory buildings. Two literary “agencies” were set up, and helped in their own way: endless patience was expended in the reading of manuscripts, and it was recently announced that all the writings “hidden away in Germany’s old chests and cupboards” had now been examined as to their literary merit. Everything of value was handed to one or another of the great publishers, but in future it will be the task of the latter alone to make their selections.

Among the great organisations in modern Germany, there is scarcely one that has not concerned itself, either more or less, with the arts: they all possess literary departments. Successes have not everywhere been equal, but this was hardly to be expected during a period of four years of drastic change. However, good will has nowhere been lost, and we must realise that when we see excellent cheap reproductions of the classics and the best of the moderns being eagerly read in peasants’ houses, in the labour camps and in the barracks; our public buildings decorated by the work of living sculptors, and finally, the love of music being cultivated in villages as well as in city concert halls, then we must also see that work of much value is being done, which outbalances the occasional failures. This revolution, that outwardly forced political aims and social necessity so much into the foreground, and that found so many bitter words to utter against the “anti-social influence” of the arts, has, in spite of everything, greatly profited from the teachings of history. It is fully aware that artistic achievements alone are able to justify to posterity a change in the form of government. This new Government, composed as it is of members half of whom are men who originally intended to devote themselves to some creative work, knows, because of its inward religious convictions, the importance of artists as mediators. This government, rooted in opposition against rationalism, is well aware of the nameless longings of the people it governs, of their dreams that sway between heaven and earth, which can be explained and expressed only by the artist.

Perhaps more important than anything else that has been mentioned so far is the legislative attitude of the State towards the sphere of the arts. The position of the arts in the State was defined by the Chamber of Culture Law of October 1933, which represents something entirely new in Europe.

Probably the clearest description that I can give of this law is that it has given practical shape to the establishment of an artist’s guild or corporation.

The principle of the Corporate State, which has been applied to some of the changes made in Germany, has, for many decades past, been expressed in political writings. Other countries than Germany have concerned themselves with this idea: Literary Congresses in various countries have constantly urged that the relationship between the arts and the State should be defined, British and French delegates having been particularly insistent on this. No better solution has, however, as yet been found than to demand an unlimited “liberalism”- whilst the corporate suggestion was consistently rejected.

The newer governments have sought another way out by reviving the idea of autonomic “Companies of Artists” such as existed in medieval times. The Chamber of Culture raises the groups of artists from the ranks of the people, and makes them self-governing. The duty of self-observation is also laid upon them. For the present the State has withdrawn various privileges, a withdrawal which certain individuals regard as limiting, and which they describe as “bureaucracy.” These privileges have been replaced by a Corporate Constitution, providing for several sub-Chambers, each of which is entrusted with the task of ordering the professional relations between its members and of assuming responsibility for their professional affairs. Each is invested with full legislative power. It should be mentioned that the activities of the Chamber are limited to German nationals, and that artists of foreign extraction are directed to set up their own organisations.

Altogether there are seven such sub-Chambers, those of Music, the Plastic Arts, Literature, Wireless, Press, Theatre and Cinematograph. They are united under the control of a central authority, whose decisions are binding upon all. A Reich minister stands at the head of the Chamber, and the individual sub-Chambers are mostly under the presidency of creative workers. For instance, the architect, Herr Hönig, was at the head of the Chamber of Plastic Arts and Richard Strauss was the former president of the Chamber of Music, which is now under the leadership of Peter Raabe. For two years I was privileged to be President of the Chamber of Literature, and I was succeeded by Hanns Johst, the famous dramatist and lyricist. Another writer, Rainer Schlösser, is at the head of the Theatre Chamber, but the Radio and Press are managed by experts in each subject, rather than by artists.

The decrees made by the Press Chamber have received more attention than those received by any other. There has been approval as well as disapproval. The latter is doubtless caused by certain hardships that are bound to be the result of any revolution: nevertheless we have through these prevented our revolution from assuming the proportions of the one in Spain, and I am convinced, however much the duress may irk the individual artist, that, even in this, we have pursued the right path. The great change in the press that has so served to stimulate and refresh us, is what I might call the” publicity” of subscribers and editors, which has completely swept away the influence formerly exerted by anonymous contributors of money, by certain economic circles and by interested denominational groups. The reconstruction is proceeding apace, and is based on the principle of the personal responsibility of the newspaper proprietor and his editors. Anyone acquainted with our press as it was towards the end of the parliamentary democracy must be well aware to what a degrading dependence upon industrial concerns it had sunk, and how many cliques – preserving touch with our foreign enemies – attempted to influence home policy in order to serve their private ends. All who lived through those times realise to-day how sane an effect the application of the principle of personal responsibility for word and deed has had.

I have nothing to hide or to extenuate, and I am perfectly aware that, at the inception of the revolution and for a short period afterwards, it was impossible to express a free opinion. This has rapidly changed. So long as attacks are not made on the State itself, and so long as nothing is published that could lead to a disturbance of the public peace, there is no ban placed upon the free expression of opinion. Do not let us always return to times that lie behind us, but when did the makers of any revolution permit any opposition propaganda to be published? Let us rather compare soberly the question of dependence and independence as it works out in Europe to-day, and, if we do so, we must admit that in the majority of countries around Germany (I forbear to mention names) where the press is still in the pay of economic groups and political parties, the freedom and security of an editor are far more severely restricted than in Germany. I think that in this respect (as in many others) the fact is not sufficiently appreciated abroad that a strong opposition is lacking not because it is suppressed in Germany, but because the conviction of opposition is also lacking.

The number of newspapers sold, which decreased between 1933 and 1934, has once more gone up, so that in many cases the original sale of the papers has been greatly increased. The attitude of the general reading public is most clearly indicated by their demand for those publications known to be free from any suspicion of outside influence, i.e., periodicals, magazines, etc. In 1935, their sales figures increased by 9 per cent. as compared with 1934, and a further increase of 15 per cent. is estimated to have taken place in 1936. These figures apply in connection with about 1,500 important magazines and periodicals. The Press Chamber, like the Chamber of Literature, dispenses a considerable relief fund, which expended over two million marks in 1934, and the same sum in 1936. An Act that came into force in April 1938 provides pension schemes for all editors of newspapers.

The Chamber of Music, apart from giving great support to the cultivation of music throughout the country, has issued regulations governing the fees paid to musicians. The International Congress for the Protection of Authors’ Rights, which recently met at Berlin, confirmed the fact that Germany had found the surest and quickest way of dealing with this distracting task. If we should now approach our neighbours with a legislative suggestion to make authors’ rights more secure internationally, we should do this not so as to snatch at a leading position for ourselves, but simply because, so far, we have in this respect gone further than any other country. What is probably the greatest proof of this statement is that unemployment amongst our German musicians, which amounted in 1934 to 50 per cent., is to-day insignificant. Every British visitor to Berlin, Munich or Hamburg knows that the repertoire of operas has been enlarged and that our opera houses are often “sold out” long before the dates of the performances, whilst – in 1932 – our actors and actresses frequently played before empty or half-empty houses.

The most difficult position in those earlier days was doubtless that occupied by the Chamber of Plastic Arts. The bourgeoisie that, perhaps without much taste, took pleasure in supporting the efforts of sculptors and painters, withdrew the greater part of its custom in this respect after the economic crisis of 1929, which led not only to the unemployment of the artisan, but also to that of the artist. The new Government felt itself compelled to set an example, and very soon no public building was planned without an artist having a share in its design.

The State has erected many buildings in the past few years, but the position is still very difficult. The new stratum which is to give private orders and commissions to the artist is forming very slowly. During the year 1935, the Chamber of Plastic Arts, apart from large sums expended on travelling, provided 800 old and young artists with holidays varying between fourteen days and four weeks in length. Further sums, reaching a very high total, were also spent in giving relief to artists who had fallen into poverty, and the Chamber instituted, or provided the stimulus for, between three and four hundred competitions offering valuable chances and prizes. The chief work in this connection is the provision of new facilities for exhibition and the training of a new class of would-be purchasers, a task which has met with very considerable success during the past couple of years. Europe’s finest exhibition building, the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, at Munich, was inaugurated by the Führer himself in 1937.

The Chamber for Wireless reports that the number of listeners increased from about 4,000,000 to 7,500,000 within the space of four years. I do not know whether this increase corresponds to those recorded in other countries. But I do know, from what I heard when I paid visits abroad, that the German programmes are popular outside the borders of the Reich, especially those broadcast by the Deutschlandsender and the short-wave transmitter, which are designed to keep our countrymen abroad in touch with the mother country.

There is little to say regarding the activities of the Cinematograph Chamber, under the first-rate managership of Professor Lehnich: the international prizes awarded to German films are sufficient witness of their effectiveness. The number of people who go to the cinemas has increased by 10 per cent. per annum since 1935.

The Chamber of Culture Law has probably been most effective in the domain of the Theatre and in that of literature. The theatres, which after 1928 grew emptier and ernptier, and which could attract a public only by producing the most sensational plays, were not in 1933 instantly able to win back their audiences. The continuous appeals of the new Government to the theatre-going public to encourage the arts, and the influence exerted by the theatre-goers’ organisations (which, for the first time, included the workers) little by little produced a change. The visitor to Berlin to-day is frequently surprised to find that all 40 theatres of the capital are playing to full houses, and that the theatre is actually in the midst of a great boom. The number of State or municipally owned theatres mounted from 155 to 178 between 1933 and 1936, and the number of people employed in theatres increased from 20,000 to 26,000. State subsidies to the theatre amounted to 12,000,000 marks a year, and were principally placed at the disposal of theatres with ancient traditions, which had fallen on evil days, but which nevertheless remained fully conscious of their local or classical importance. I have not space here to relate anything about the new plays that have been performed, or about the open-air theatre or the people’s theatre, which can accommodate up to about 5,000 persons. It would be better to hear an expert in these subjects, and still better if English people would make a trip through Germany and see for themselves what is being done.

Under the Chamber of Literature are organised not only writers, but also booksellers and libraries and everything that has to do with the production and distribution of books. When the Chamber of Culture Law was passed, the book trade had an ancient organisation of its own, and there was also an Authors’ Society of little importance, which concerned itself solely with financial matters, and which was becoming more and more an institution of the great cities alone. It is putting the situation in a nutshell when it is said that the movement of 1933 was nothing more nor less than a rising of the regional instinct against the exaggerated centralisation in the capital. It is certainly true that literature very plainly revealed that its support was for the healthy movement, rooted and grounded in the people and the country, against the circles of eastern emigrants and undesirable groups in the capital. In spite of the unrest of the times, a strong impetus has been given again to regional forces in literature.

Economic protection remains, of course, an important part of the Chamber’s work. The advisory bureau on legal matters has been re-established, and disputes between publishers and authors mostly yield to arbitration, both parties being members of the same Chamber.. Subsidies from the State, and privately offered contributions, make it possible to give assistance in cases of real distress, through the instrumentality of the Chamber.

All these, however, are means that were employed before, and they do not suffice for the work of the present Chamber. Soon after it came into existence and was provided with full power under the Chamber of Culture Law, it started to fight for the new rights of the arts. It has opened its own book trade school, at which hundreds of young people not only learn to know the literature of the Middle Ages, the Classical period and the Romantic movement, but learn also to form their own opinions regarding our present-day literature by discussing it with their fellows. Not only this, it has caused the 10,000 lending libraries of Germany, some of which catered for a very inferior taste, to increase their stock by about 33 per cent., in which they had to include the classics and some at least of the best modern writings selected from the literatures of all nations. The Chamber of Literature was also able in 1935 to offer a number of prizes, which were the result of private subscriptions and which represented a value of about 2,000,000 marks.

One of its best ideas has proved to be that Book Week, organised each autumn, in which everyone is asked to examine his books and to buy whatever he can afford to improve his library. Book-buying, which had markedly suffered, has, since 1934, increased each year by about 15 per cent. This is a large increase when it is considered that political books, which were heavily bought during the pre-revolutionary years, monthly lose in popularity, and that book-buyers are found more and more amongst the youth of the country, who are eager purchasers of the omnibus collections published by the Insel-Verlag, the Diederichs-Verlag and the Müller-Verlag.

The passing of the Chamber of Culture Law was followed up by the formation of a Reich Senate authorised to deal with Germany’s cultural problems. It is composed of the presidents of the various sub-Chambers and a number of the foremost young writers and artists. From amongst these, experts are chosen to see that the new law is properly applied, and from them the State seeks to forge the instrument by which the intellectual leadership of the people may be made to march side by side with the political.

This is the position after four years of ceaseless, breathless action. We know, of course, that changes which give specific rights to the company of artists, the effect of which can hardly be appreciated as yet, need a decade or two in which to develop. We are pleased that, during these vital years, we have laid the foundations for the new order. We know that we have made a great many mistakes, but it is surely better to achieve something, even if mistakes happen, than to sit with folded hands awaiting the fate that seems to threaten the whole Continent.

Germany’s revolution is not yet over: the smoothing of the paths, the rounding off, is just beginning. We know that every revolution produces a number of restless spirits who have to sow, as it were, their wild oats before they can adjust themselves to the new order of things. Our task is not over: it has only just begun. But we are pursuing a road that daily becomes clearer. We are in the midst of a time which is characterised by a will, surely everywhere perceptible, to create juster principles of religious brotherhood and freedom amongst the nations, a Weltanschauung by which the arts are no longer regarded as belonging exclusively to the intellectuals, but as instruments in the hands of an all-pervading Power that guides our human destinies.

I have often spoken about these things with my friends abroad, many of whom still seem to think that the writer should be lying in the sun when he is not puzzling his brains at his desk. How in the world, they say, can you, for instance, who have just read us your poems and fairy- tales, possibly occupy yourself with matters of State? What have they to do with you?

I have already told of Galsworthy, who felt differently about this, and who devoted a great part of his life and his writings to the service of his people. I believe that we, the peoples inhabiting countries whose shores are washed by the North Sea, hold similar views on these matters, and that we also understand the dual task which has been laid upon our shoulders. And if people go further, and ask me whether I approve the restraint that is used and the “Prussianising” of the arts, then I, poor innocent, merely shake my head over the wisdom to be found in this world. Does anyone really believe that we, with our solid peasant stock and honest bourgeoisie, would permit restraints to be placed upon us that we did not voluntarily accept as a means to bridge over the difficulties of the moment? Does anyone believe that we – who, after many a hard struggle, have just regained our national unity – would be content with the policy pursued by the new Reich if, in our hearts, we disapproved of it? Does anyone think that we artists are so unemotional and passionless that we would calmly tolerate circumstances we were unable to support with all our belief-belief in a better world and a new fulfilment of our God-ordained task?

We will not utter reproaches, though it is often a bitter thing to be misunderstood. We want nothing but to build up our own State without external interference, and in the way we think best both for our people and for the young art that is flourishing with us now. May people learn to leave us alone, if they cannot understand us, because we have no designs on them and only desire to complete in peace the great work we have undertaken. But where we find sincere friendship we return it with friendship, and we only ask our friends to be patient for a little while, if they cannot comprehend everything that happens in the Reich. Our people, since 1918, have been compelled to bear almost unendurable burdens – is it then surprising that they are longing for a newer and juster world? We have won through to inward and are now awaiting outward peace and justice. We artists are probably the most strongly desirous of peace, because we are building the new homes of the four arts, and believe we are building them well.

Does this sound arrogant? I do not think so. We should learn to be more tolerant not only of the old, but also of the young. It should be realised that the spirit permeating our continent is one that has many aspects, and that it is variously expressed in every nation. Let us also always remember that the nations are not really so far apart from each other as jealousy and unrest would have them believe, and let us hope that the feeling of European solidarity, which our thousand-year-old history has taught us to appreciate and in the development of which we Germans would like to take our share, may once more be awakened. We artists of the Reich are teaching this creed to the children of our people. But we still miss the outside response.

Adolf Hitler – speech at the Great Exhibition of German Art – 10.07.1938

Munich, July 10, 1938

Scarcely six years have passed since the National Socialist Movement, following many years of struggle, was finally entrusted with the leadership of the Reich. Nonetheless, today we can already state that rarely in the history of our Volk has there been a comparably eventful period of peace as in these past five and a half years, an epoch of National Socialist leadership which was inaugurated on that memorable January 30, 1933. How many realms of our lives have witnessed radical change since then, a resurgence of life which had been declared completely impossible just a few years earlier by those who had felt themselves “called upon.” The Party which had been decried as a threat to the inner peace in fact bestowed true inner peace upon the German Volk in the first place.

A regime that supposedly would precipitate economic collapse pulled the German Volk back from the brink of economic ruin and saved it. That very National Socialism, which was assumed to spell a disastrous defeat in matters of foreign policy, has uplifted the German Volk from the most dreadful defeat in its entire historical existence, has restored its proud self-confidence and has led Germany to become a highly-respected force in the world. There is hardly one realm in which the prophecies of our opponents were not revealed as lies.

During these months, we have borne witness to the fact that the economic philosophy of National Socialism, which ten years ago had been decried as pure stupidity and only five years ago was termed a criminal act or madness at least, that this philosophy is now gradually being adopted by other states as well- albeit in omission of copyright charges. [-] The cultural program of this new Reich is of an unparalleled grandeur in the history of our Volk. Success will come about as a matter of consequence as it already has in all other realms of our lives. However, we are fully aware that in this instance the initial time period by nature will be a longer one than the ones to date.

In the twentieth century, the German Volk is a Volk of a resurrected affirmation of life, enchanted in its admiration of the strong and beautiful and hence of what is healthy and capable of sustaining life. Power and beauty are the slogans of our time. Clarity and logic reign supreme in our efforts. Whoever wants to be an artist in this century must wholeheartedly pledge himself to this century.

There is no room for any Neanderthal culture in the twentieth century, no room for it at least in National Socialist Germany. We rejoice that the democracies are opening their progressive doors to these degenerated elements for, after all, we are not vindictive. Let them live, we do not mind! For all we care, let them work-but not in Germany! In 1937, 1 felt the time to have come for a clear decision in this matter as well. Naturally, this entailed a severe intervention. Whether or not we can today call geniuses of eternal standing our own is as always difficult to judge, but in the end it is of little consequence for our actions. What is of great consequence, however, is the preservation of an environment in which true genius can be nurtured. To this end, it is imperative to uphold the solid and decent underpinnings of the common artistic heritage of a people out of which develops true genius. Genius is not synonymous with insanity, and above all genius is not synonymous with fraud. To the contrary, genius manifests itself through extraordinary accomplishments which are easily differentiated from the common.

This prejudice threatened to pervade the entire nineteenth century [in the time of decline]. The decent, or let me say well-intentioned naive average of that century, has nonetheless furnished that ground from which arose many a great artist. A century that can claim so many great musicians, great poets and thinkers, renowned architects, wonderful sculptors and painters, towers way above the stupid profanities of an epoch of noise-makers in the Dadaist tradition, formers of plaster in the Cubist mode and colorers of futurist screens.

Of course, the nineteenth century also brought forth many an average performance and even more performances ranking below average. However, that is the mark of any century of achievement. How many people wander through life and how few of them are able to run a marathon, and how many actually win the race? Yet these victors are but the fastest runners of humankind. However, if these men would hop around crazily instead of walking like ordinary men, then their performance would equal that of our cultural geniuses of the time of disintegration. They would be no better than these because they, too, would lack the basis for the creation and assessment of supreme achievements.

Hence in the course of the past year, I resolved to clear a passage for the honest and decent average performance. Already at the exhibition prior to the last, we warranted the joyful premonition that one or the other artist was well capable of even greater achievement in the future. Developments since then have proven this assessment correct. Our suspicions were, moreover, reinforced by the winter exhibition on German architecture and the products of our arts and crafts.

These days I greatly rejoice in having been able to afford the German Volk this magnificent work of eternal beauty to be placed in the capital of its arts thanks to the truly magnanimous permission granted by the Italian Government. May none of you who visit this house fail to go to the sculpture gallery. May you all then realize how glorious man already was back then in his corporeal beauty, and that we can speak of progress only if we have attained like perfection or if we manage to surpass this level.

Above all, may the artists appreciate how great the sight and the artistic ability of this Greek named Myron must have been as it reveals itself to our eyes today. How marvelous an achievement of that Greek who created a statue two and a half millenniums ago, a statue the Roman copy of which still elicits stunned admiration on our part. And may all of you take this to heart as a standard for the tasks and accomplishments of our time. May you all strive for beauty and perfection so that you shall also stand the test of time both before the Volk and the ages. [-] I have no doubt that you will be moved by the same sensations that moved me when I first saw this unparalleled testimony to eternal beauty and achievement.

You will perhaps then, too, be able to sense what I feel on this day as I declare open this second art exhibition in the Reich and as I compare it to what existed just a few years before we came.

Waffen-SS Brigadeführer – a Profile

Published in „Siegrunen“ Magazine – Vol. 7, No. 6, Number 42,
January – March 1987

There were 52 Waffen-SS Brigadeführer, the oldest of whom was Friedrich Tscharmann (an SS HQ staff officer), who was born in 1871 in Saxony, while the youngest was Wilhelm Mohnke (commander of the 1st SS Division „LAH“ in late 1944, early 1945), who was born in Lübeck in 1911. Twenty-three of the Brigfhr. were born in the decade from 1890 to 1900, while another 20 were born in the years from 1901 to 1911. Thirty, including two born in Alsace-Lorraine, were of Prussian descent, while six came from Bavaria, four from Saxony, three from old Austro-Hungary, three from Hamburg, two each from Hesse and Baden, and one from Wuerttemburg along with one Dane.

Eighteen of the 52 Brigfhr. retained their religious affiliations, of whom 13 were Evangelical Lutherans. One of the Brigfhr. came from the upper class (Gustav Lombard, whose father was a nobleman), while another 12 were derived from the upper middle class, and 19 others had middle class backgrounds. Thirteen Brigfhr. had lower middle class origins, while the remaining SS Major Generals came from farming, laboring or lower class families. Among the latter were Theodor Wisch (1st SS), Kurt Mayer (12th SS), and Sylvester Stadler (9th SS). The upper middle class Brigfhr. included Peter Hansen (29th SS), Gottfried Klingemann (2nd SS Bde.), Gustav Krukenberg (33rd and 11th SS), Heinz Lammerding (2nd and 38th SS), Ritter von Oberkamp (7th SS), Juergen Wagner (23rd SS) and Joachim Ziegler (11th SS).

Twelve of the SS-Brigfhr. had higher academic learning, while another 21 had some degree of higher education. Thirteen others had graduated from cadet or trade schools. Only five of the Brigfhr. were considered poorly educated. Four of the SS Major Generals (von Dufais, Kryssing, Vahl, and Ziegler) had been career Army officers all of their adult lives. Five others (Freitag, Kraemer, Neblich, Schmedes and Voss), were career Army officers who went into the German Police when the Reichswehr was curtailed in size by the notorious Treaty of Versailles. Gustav Krukenberg started off as a career Army officer and became a government functionary.

Eleven SS-Brigfhr. were career Army officers up to the 1918-20 era, when Army cutbacks began. They subsequently followed business or agricultural pursuits, mostly with good success. Seven of the Brigfhr. became medical doctors, while another eight of them were salesmen. Two (Augsberger and Lammerding), were architects; one (Otto Kumm), was a typesetter, and one (Sylvester Stadler), was an electrician. Another Brigfhr. (Lombard), had worked for an American automobile firm, both in the U.S. and abroad, while another (Gaertner), was a low-level government bureaucrat. Five of the SS-Brigfhr. had begun their careers as NCOs: Helmuth Becker, Wilhelm Keilhaus, Kurt Meyer (Police), August Schmidhuber and August Zehender. One Brigfhr., Joachim Rumohr, was a farmer before becoming an SS officer.

Rumohr also held the lowest SS number in the group, this being Nr. 1 280, while the highest SS number went to Joachim Ziegler at Nr. 491 403. Fifteen of the SS- Brigfhr. had SS numbers below 100 000; ten were in the 100-200 000 range and 26 were above 200 000. The numbers, of course, indicated seniority or lack of it in the SS organization. Brigfhr. Kryssing, a Danish citizen, had no SS number. The lowest N. S. Party number belonged to Gaertner at 35 359, with the highest going to von Dufais, who held 5,276,395. Twenty SS-Brigfhr. had party numbers in excess of 1 000 000, while eight (Hampel, Harmel, Kryssing, Stadler, Tscharmann, Vahl, Zehender and Ziegler), were not party members at all.

Five SS-Brigfhr., Heinz Harmel (10th SS), Otto Kumm (7th and 1st SS), Kurt Meyer (12th SS), Sylvester Stadler (9th SS), and Theodor Wisch (1st SS), were decorated with the Knight’s Cross, Swords and Oakleaves during the war. Another five, Joachim Rumohr (8th SS), Juergen Wagner (23rd SS), Fritz Witt (12th SS), August Zehender (22nd SS), and Joachim Ziegler (11th SS), received the KC with Oakleaves. Eight others were decorated only with the KC (no mean feat in itself!): Franz Ausberger (20th SS), Helmuth Becker (3rd SS), Fritz Freitag (14th SS), Desiderius Hampel (13th SS), Frtiz Kraemer (l.SS Pz.Corps), Heinz Lammerding (2nd SS), Gustav Lombard (31st SS) and Herbert Ernst Vahl (4th SS).

Four of the Brigfhr. took their own lives: Freitag, Neblich, Schwedler and Rumohr; the latter only after having been badly wounded during the Budapest Breakout attempt, and even then he was not fully successful, since he did not die until a day later. Five Brigfhr. were killed- in-action: Augsberger, Ernst Fick (in the Battle of Berlin), Witt, Zehender and Ziegler. Two more were executed/ murdered in enemy captivity: Becker in the Soviet Union and Bernhard Voss (commander of the SS Troop Training Grounds at Beneschau near Prague), in Czechoslovakia. Three others, all exceptionally fine soldiers and human beings, were sent to Tito’s executioners by the Americans and British. They were then tortured and murdered, all without the slightest „legal“ justification. They were: Juergen Wagner („Nederland“ Div.), Ritter von Oberkamp (7th SS „Prinz Eugen“ Div.) and August Schmidhuber (7th SS Div. and 21st Albanian SS Div. „Skanderbeg“). Their blood remains a permanent stain on the hands of the so-called „Allies“!

Wir Machen Musik (1942)

(We Make Music)

Directed by: Helmut Käutner
Written by: Manfried Rössner (play)
Hans Effenberger
Erich Ebermayer
Helmut Käutner
Cinematography: Jan Roth
Edited by: Helmuth Schönnenbeck
Production company: Terra Film
Distributed by: Deutsche Filmvertriebs
Release dates: 8 October 1942
Running time: 95 minutes
Country: Germany
Language: German

Starring:

Ilse Werner: Anni Pichler
Viktor de Kowa: Paul Zimmermann
Edith Oß: Trude, trumpeter
Grethe Weiser: Monika Bratzberger
Georg Thomalla: Franz Sperling
Rolf Weih: Peter Schäfer
Ilse Buhl: Alto-saxophonist
Sabine Naundorff: Tenor saxophonist
Hilde Adolphi: Trombonist
Gertrud Leonhardt: Guitarist
Eva Gotthardt: Bassist
Kurt Seifert: Hugo Bratzberger
Victor Janson: Director Pröschke
Lotte Werkmeister: Karls Zimmerfrau Frau Zierbarth
Helmuth Helsig: Chimney-sweep
Ewald Wenck: Gasmann Knebel
Wilhelm Bendow: Theater stage director
Klaus Pohl: Stage doorman at the opera
Sonja Kuska: Music student Barbara
Otto Braml: Chairman of the Board of Examiners
Curt Cappi: Waiter Neumann
Friedrich Wilhelm Dann: Train conductor
Hanne Fey: Secretary of the music publisher
Robert Forsch: Music publishing director
Karl Hannemann: Director of the opera stage
Sonja Kuske: Barbara, music student
Karin Luesebrink: Music student
Artur Malkowsky: Opera singer at the premiere
Maria von Höslin: Peters Braut
Helga Warnecke: Music student

Plot

It is a revue film, loosely based on the stage work Karl III. and Anna von Österreich by Manfried Rössner. Karl Zimmermann, a composer whose idols are Johann Sebastian Bach and classical composers, dreams of being successful with his own opera and composes popular music for fun, but does not try to distribute it for reasons of honor. His wife, Anni Pichler is a popular singer and secretly sells his popular songs so that they can make a living. When he finally completes his opera and it is rejected by the public, he realizes that his true talent is composing popular music and not dishonorable.