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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Notes on von Leers' Efforts to link Nazi anti-Semitism with Praise of Arabic Islam

It is generally accepted, not only by the public here in North America but also by many academics that the Nazi German conception of the Jew was that of a degenerate, racially inferior, or stupid individual on whom one could hang all the clichés about what was disliked in a defeated country: communism, internationalism, capitalism, intellectual and/or religious exploitation, and so on. In fact, the very hard core Nazis and, indeed, the SS thought quite the opposite and it is that which made them so dangerous. Goebbels, for example, had no illusions about Jewish competence, talent, and intelligence. In his Diary he recorded that one could not win an argument, least of all a rational one, with Jews – hence he called for people with imagination, for political priests that might harness people's passions in other ways to do away with Jewish might.

The point is also made by Johannes von Leers. Indeed, the latter adjusted his hate from year to year in accordance with Nazi Party needs. Thus at one point von Leers argued that Stöcker’s crude “movement against Jews” (judengegnerische Bewegung) with “its birth certificate of Anti-Semitism” was ineffective. By contrast, so von Leers, Theodor Fritsch researched Jews “soberly” against “the background of economy and politics” so that his knowledge came from practice. According to von Leers, Fritsch owned an office in Leipzig that advised millers about technical milling problems and observed that millers were "suffocated by Jewish grain traders, bankers," and so on. Consequently, he started his “Hammer Verlag” in 1880 and took up the fight against Jews with publications in 1887 like his Antisemitismuskatechismus (the Catechism of Anti-Semitism) and Handbuch der Judenfrage (Manual for the Jewish Question). Leers quotes Fritsch as having said “Jews built a Rassebund that sits on their hate of all non-Jewish people.” And, citing various others like Gregor Schwartz-Botunit, Leers talks about “Jewish imperialism” (von Leers, my notes p. 47/49). The use of the imagination that Goebbels asked for increased.

Von Leers was of course part of the SS when he received a letter from an SS Obersturmführer about the supposed discontinuation of a youth journal called Hilf mit, (Cooperate) published by Verlag Braun & Co in conjunction with the NS-Lehrerbund (Teacher Association). In the letter, he was informed that the journal reached about two million students. In addition, it provided an information service to teachers that enabled them to present questions concerning history, race politics, and Volkstum-politics totally in the SS sense. Now (in 1937) they were forbidden to continue publishing. He wanted von Leers to find out why.

Instead of waiting for an answer from von Leers, the SS Oberturmführer answered it himself. It was the Catholic clergy (Dunkelmänner) who complained that the SS portrayed the church fathers as criminals and saw the Nordic race as the centre of history. Just as the clergy did not like that history teachers were criticized for glorifying the “history of the Volk of Israel.” Naturally, the SS Obersturmführer dismissed the complaints of the Catholic clergy arguing instead that the SS correctly portrayed the church fathers as a "chain of criminal gangsterism." By contrast, he described the "good spirit of the SS and its upright attitude toward völkisch questions about life" (von Leers, my notes p. 15/17).

Indeed, there was no answer from von Leers. But Hirsch who wrote Grimm 19.91.1954 provided one. In 1934 Hitler saw the experiment of German-Christians, that is Nazis using church structures (Deutsche Christen) to achieve political ends, as having failed. Thereupon he appointed Rosenberg as the guardian and keeper of the National Socialist worldview. By 1936, major changes occurred in the relationship between for example Hauer’s German Faith Movement and the SS so that Hauer had to resign. And by 1938, Hitler and Goebbels determined that while the Church would still receive subventions from the state, it was separated from public life. There was even talk of eliminating theological faculties from universities and holding Confessional literature distinct and separate from German literature. Since the mid-1930s even Günther’s works on race were out of favor with the NSDAP because he recognized race differences within the German population. As well, Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss was side-lined in 1935 because his wife denounced him for his relationship with Margarete Lande who, though Christian, was re-defined by the Nazis as being Jewish. Mind you, Clauss quickly found a new home in the SS.

Basically, between 1934 and 1938 there is a sea change in attitude of Hitler and his cohorts in the NSDAP. Völkisch and Christian issues were sidelined. The National Socialist (Aufbruch) awakening process was replaced by callous racial politics, on the one hand, and by research of sagas and fairy tales as a means to write local and general history and to mobilize local populations, on the other (Letter, von Leers, my notes p. 31). Referrals of the Goethe-Medaille for “deutsches Schrifttum” (German literature) to writers like Gustav Frenssen (who rejected his Christian faith growing up with liberal theology that triumphed with Harnack) and Hans Friedrich Blunck continued.

Around this time, the Arabic or Islamic theme appeared as well. Thus von Leers discussed famous German physicians who supposedly learned from the Arabs. Arabs took over medicine from classical Greece and kept more of it alive than did Christian Europe. Naturally, von Leers discussed primarily those people, namely Iranians (Persians), who were said to have Nordic roots but converted to Islam and continued medical research in the Arabic language (von Leers, my notes p. 41). Thus he mentions Abu Bekr Mohammed Zakkariya known as Rhazes–different spellings—and Abu Ali Husain Abdullah ibn Sina known as Avicenna. Iran is perhaps highlighted because at this time von Leers wrote about Graf Gobineau (1816-1882) who, in the 19th C was a French diplomat to Iran and raised questions about its demise. Gobineau blamed it on racial mixing and its consequent loss of creativity and talent (my notes, p. 60).

In 1941, on the day of Günther’s 50th birthday (b.1891), von Leers returned to the theme of the old Iranians, the Volk of Zarathustra, who were honored by Günther as the first Nordic world power under Persian kings (my notes p.55/7). (Günther held Christianity responsible for destroying the Germanic race, p.58 my notes). Günther who honored Iran was a friend and university classmate of Clauss who honored Arabs and Islam. Both were students of Husserl who did not, however, share their racial views.

Von Leers’ hate of Christianity, which in his mind is a Jewish phenomenon, is expressed blatantly, for example, in a letter dated in 1936 addressed to a woman who had written a novel of which he disapproved. Thus he stated that he “detests the thousand year curse of our Volk” and writes that for those of us, who want a real völkisch renewal from the depth of our blood and our Art "the streams of jewification of the soul that come from the houses of the clergy is most harmful." And he ended his letter, “I see in Christianity the murdering deadly enemy of the Germanic and Nordic race (Art)” (my notes p. 6/7).

So much for but the most explicit element of the propaganda of hate against Jews.

--- Notes for work in progress --