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"Völkisch" Writers and National Socialism

A Study of Right-Wing Political Culture in Germany, 1890–1960


Guy Tourlamain

This book provides a view of literary life under the Nazis, highlighting the ambiguities, rivalries and conflicts that determined the cultural climate of that period and beyond. Focusing on a group of writers – in particular, Hans Grimm, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Wilhelm Schäfer, Emil Strauß, Börries Freiherr von Münchhausen and Rudolf Binding – it examines the continuities in völkisch-nationalist thought in Germany from c. 1890 into the post-war period and the ways in which völkisch-nationalists identified themselves in opposition to four successive German regimes: the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and the Federal Republic. Although their work predated Hitler’s National Socialist movement, their contribution to preparing the cultural climate for the rise of Nazism ensured them continued prominence in the Third Reich. Those who survived into the post-war era continued to represent the völkisch-nationalist worldview in the West German public sphere, opposing both the Soviet and liberal-democratic models for Germany’s future. While not uncontroversial, they were able to achieve significant publishing success, suggesting that a demand existed for their works among the German public, stimulating debate about the nature of the recent past and its effect on Germany’s cultural and political identity and position in the world.
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← vi | vii → Acknowledgements

This book would not have been possible without the help of many people. I owe particular thanks to Anthony Nicholls at St Antony’s College, Oxford, who, with his knowledge of German history, patiently guided me through my doctoral thesis, the starting point for this work. I would also like to thank Axel Schildt and Uwe Lohalm at the Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg, Christoph Kleßmann of the Institut für zeithistorische Forschung in Potsdam and Siegfried Lokatis at the University of Potsdam, all of whom have given me the benefit of their advice. Peter Pulzer and Jeremy Noakes examined the original thesis, provided rigorous criticism and generous suggestions. Similarly, my thanks go to the editors of the Cultural History and Literary Imagination book series at Peter Lang, David Midgley and Christian Emden, for their careful reading of the text and comments based on their very considerable knowledge of the field. Yoav Alon, John Appleby, Frank Druffner, Jocasta Gardner, Randall Hansen, Bernhard Fulda and Zoe Waxman all read chapters at various stages. I am extremely grateful for their insights; any remaining flaws are my own.

I am also grateful to the staff of numerous libraries and archives in Germany, in particular the staff of the Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg and the German Federal Archives in Berlin. Above all, without the help of the staff of the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar this book would never have been completed.

One of the greatest challenges for such a project is that of funding. I am therefore extremely grateful to the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S., whose award of a ‘Hanseatic Scholarship for Britons’ allowed me to spend two years studying in Hamburg and Berlin. I would also like to thank the Deutsche Schillergesellschaft Marbach, which provided me with a ‘Marbach Stipendium’ and two postdoctoral grants in order that I might carry out research at the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar. Finally, a visiting research fellowship at the SFB 640 ‘Repräsentationen ← vii | viii → sozialer Ordnungen im Wandel’ at the Humboldt University in Berlin in the autumn of 2011 provided much needed resources and writing time.

Colleagues at Liverpool Hope University were also sources of advice and support, in particular John Appleby, Rachel Cowgill, Patrice Haynes, Jan Jobling, Terry and John Phillips and Fiona Pogson. The list of remaining friends who have kept me going is long. I thank them all! Steven and Jake gave me hospitality for a summer in San Francisco, where sections of the book were written; discussions with James Hanvey, Frank Gehring, Katharine Gilmartin, Philip Kennedy, Christian Könne and Kevin Kornegay provided feedback, encouragement and stimulus; John Worthen and Cornelia Rumpf-Worthen provided meals and a desk for the final phase. Finally this work would not have been possible without the support of Stefan Kirmse, who accompanied its production over many years.

I would like to thank all my family, but in particular, my uncle, Gordon Tourlamain, and his late wife Pauline, for both their moral and financial support, which made it possible to embark on this project in the first place.

I dedicate this book to my parents, John and Moyra Tourlamain.