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The Fate Of The German-Speaking People…

The Fate Of The German-Speaking People…

The Fate Of The German-Speaking People And Their Plight – Is There A Way Out? (Das Shicksal des deutschen Volkes und seine Not – Gibt es einen Ausweg?) Karl Heyer, Dr. jur. Et phil.

Reviewed by Daniel Hindes

This interesting book, a pamphlet really, was published in 1932. The title page indicates that this is the second printing. Dr. Karl Heyer, as the cover informs us, held a PhD in law and another in Philosophy. He was a follower of Rudolf Steiner, and has several dozen books to his name. Another one of his books, a collection of essays titled after one: Who was the German Folk Spirit has been held up as an example of Anthroposophist fascist leanings. This pamphlet, and especially its date of publication, shows why the Nazi party was hostile to Anthroposophy. It must have taken a certain amount of courage to publish such a document in 1932. Although the Nazi party is not directly mentioned, the ideology is attacked as “leading to disaster” and not the proper direction for Germany. Just a few years later the Brown Shirts would forcibly close the publishing house. It says on the copyright page: “From public lectures by the author in various German cities”. Contrary to the assertion that Anthroposophists were passive or even encouraged the Nazi rise to power, the author of this pamphlet actively opposed the Nazi ideology. The pamphlet starts off:

“The fate of the German people weighs heavily on all of us today; we have experienced and suffered it for years and now in the present it has reached new depths. Today it stands directly before us as a terrible economic disaster. Certainly this is just a part of a larger world-crisis, however Germany is especially heavily impacted. Previously we experienced the political catastrophe; the loss, after a heroic defense, of the World War, ending with the political capitulation of the German peoples to the American President Woodrow Wilson and his famous, or infamous “14 Points” and the further capitulation in the “peace” treaty of Versailles. This double – political and economic – decline stands clearly before our gaze. Yet many people are far from sufficiently clear about what preceded this, and I mean over the course of many hundreds of years, and where one should look to find the causes that work so tragically to bring such a disaster, a disaster that is suffered later by the German people, that today breaks upon us in such terrible ways. These causes should not be sought in either the political or economic sphere, these causes lie much more convincingly and finally in the spiritual sphere. And today in the commemorative year of Goethe, Hegel and von Stein and other German spirits the German people in truth have every reason to, in all earnestness, become conscious of these spiritual-cultural causes of their current situation.”

Heyer then investigates the conditions that he feels are responsible for the then-present conditions. The height of German culture was the period of German Idealism, around the turn of the 17th to 18th Centuries. This was the age of Goethe, Fichte, Lessing, Shelling, the Freiherr von Stein, and Wilhelm von Humbolt, among others. German-ness was expressed entirely in the cultural sphere, and not in the political sphere. In politics there were many small states, most trying to emulate the French model of Louis XIV. After the Napoleonic Wars there was an attempt to reform political relationships to a form more appropriate to German ideals, that is more respectful of individual freedom in the relationship between the individual and society. This ultimately failed in the turmoil of 1848, and political relationships continued in the mode of Louis XIV.

At that point, the question of a German national state to unite all German-speaking people and give a space for specifically German social, economic and political forms arose in many quarters. This nationalist sentiment found partial fulfillment in 1871, but was in Heyer’s opinion an utter failure, for it manifested the wrong political structure – an absolutist state, and not one that was true to the intentions of the German Idealist Philosophers, where the individual would be respected and allowed to flourish.

From 1848 another trend accelerated, that of materialism, and especially materialism of the tyranny of economic affairs. Economic considerations dominated the average person’s life during that period, overwhelming the cultural impulses, something Heyer traces to an English influence. Both these trends – French style absolute monarchy and English style economic materialism, along with a decline of uniquely German culture, intensified up to the start of the First World War, and represented a failure on the part of the German-speaking people to realize their true and ideal social, cultural and political intentions. For example, when Liberalism appeared, in Germany and Austro-Hungary it quickly turned from a political movement to an economic one.

This is Heyer’s explanation of the cause of the First World War and the post-war disasters. Notable is what is missing. There is no mention whatsoever of Jews. No elaborate conspiracies involving Freemasons. The cause of the German disaster is laid quite plainly at the feet of the Germans themselves. Germany has not lived up to its spiritual ideals, has not developed political or economic structures to match its cultural ideals (or even really matured its cultural impulses) and has brought disaster upon itself.

Addressing some of the themes that were in vogue at the time, Heyer continues:

“Many people in Germany today feel these dangers [Americanism and Bolshevism]; they feel the threat of the oppressing force of “materialism.” And many of these seek to create a counter-force and believe that they can find this in blood-ties. They want to call on blood-ties as an elemental force against those forces that draw their strength from the mechanization of life. Certainly in ancient times blood-ties were fundamental to social life; in all community-building the blood-ties held people together in smaller and larger groups: from the family to the tribe to the Folk and finally the race. Individuals felt themselves primarily as a member of their blood-based group…

But the history of the world is the history of the emancipation of the individual personality from the group-based ties of blood. The human being gradually becomes a self-conscious I-being that stands for itself purely from spiritual strength, independent of blood-ties…

The transition from the old blood-ties to the new individual consciousness is especially clear to study in the Germans (Germanen). Formerly group-bound, in blood-ties – so it appears to us in Tacitus – becomes gradually the ground for the unfolding of a higher individual spirituality over the course of the centuries. From the Germanic soul the German spirit unfetters itself, within which the “I” realizes itself as a spiritual being in the free spiritual world.

This development cannot be reversed, and where this is attempted, disaster would necessarily follow. And it would be anything but a healing if, against the threatening forces of collectivism of our times – the collectivism of bolshevism or Americanism – one would attempt to set up a blood-based collectivism, or to call against the destructive passions of class struggle the passions of blood-ties.”

The only way forward for Heyer is Anthroposophy – the recognition of the spiritual worth of every individual and social, political and economic structures that are true to this. He does not give any programs, no concrete steps to fix Germany, only a warning that the German people need to wake up to the ideals of the German Idealistic Philosophers, including individual freedom, and seek change in that direction. In 1932 this can only have be considered a direct attack on the Nazi’s and their ideology, and given the situation, must have taken considerable courage to argue publicly.  How much more the irony, then, when the author is accused today of being a fascist and responsible, along with others, of causing the holocaust! Those leveling such accusations feel that anyone who adheres in any way to an idealist form of philosophy is ultimately co-responsible for National Socialism. Heyer shows that it is possible to be an idealistic philosopher and still abhor just about every tenet of National Socialism.

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