Show Less
Open access

"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.
Show Summary Details
Open access

Chapter 2: Völkisch Writers and National Socialist Kulturpolitik

← 98 | 99 → CHAPTER 2

Völkisch Writers and National Socialist Kulturpolitik

Stefan Breuer has pointed out that National Socialism has defined the way völkisch ideas in Germany have been viewed by history; under other circumstances the multiple forms and contexts in which they were manifested might have led to different approaches.1 It is worth noting that a differentiated understanding of the völkisch phenomenon lay behind its reception by contemporaries prior to 1945, both its adherents and opponents, and had a significant impact on the relationship between völkisch writers and the Nazis. It also underpinned völkisch interpretations of the Nazi regime following its downfall. Völkisch-nationalism was not a product of National Socialism, but did have a clear influence on Nazi ideology, rooting it in an older German tradition and providing an opportunity to appropriate widely recognised nationalist rhetoric. While some historians have pointed to a Nazi rejection of the ‘völkisch movement’, any stand made by the Nazis against völkisch-nationalism was at best contradictory and inconsistent, focused on a narrow understanding of völkisch ideology in terms of ‘Teutschtümelei’.2 Moreover, criticism of earlier völkisch organisations as ineffective was combined with the assertion that the Nazi movement itself was ‘Vorkämpferin’ and ‘Repräsentantin’ of the völkisch ideology because ‘only the work of the NSDAP’ made the term völkisch popular, endowing it with significant political weight.3

This chapter will consider the institutional landscape and some of the methods adopted by the Nazis to draw völkisch writers into the structures of the regime after 1933; those that follow will examine the responses ← 99 | 100 → of the writers in question to the regime in various contexts. In this way, a differentiated view of völkisch thinkers on the German right will be presented without neglecting the importance of the Nazis and their influence on the ongoing ideological and institutional development of the völkisch literary landscape.

Nazi Kulturpolitik before 1933

The foundations for the Nazis’ Kulturpolitik were laid in the Weimar Republic, not only within the NSDAP itself, but in the development of regulation of the cultural sphere, in particular the Republic’s censorship measures. While the constitution of the Republic upheld freedom of speech, in the course of the 1920s and early 1930s concern regarding the production of works considered dangerous for young Germans led to the passage of the ‘Law for the Protection of Youth against trashy and filthy Writing’ (Gesetz zur Bewahrung der Jugend vor Schund- und Schmutzschriften), and the establishment of an office to compile indices of unsuitable works.4 Most effective in censoring literary works in the Weimar Republic, however, were laws that legitimated prosecution of left wing and liberal authors for blasphemy and legislated against high treason and for the protection of the Republic. It was not, however, only the left-wing writers who suffered from the courts’ de facto censorship, but also writers who were in favour of the Republic: Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Carl von Ossietzky, Erich Maria Remarque and Carl Zuckmayer were all victims of the legal system, which continued to be dominated by conservative and nationalist officials.5 As a result, between 1918 and 1933 literary modernism faced significant institutional opposition from a censorship apparatus, on which the Nazis were able to build after 1933.

← 100 | 101 → At the Nuremburg Party Rally in 1927, it was decided that a National-Socialist Society for Culture and Science should be formed to counter the negative image of Party members as instigators of street violence and political agitation.6 Intended as a means to disseminate the National Socialist worldview to those who were not reached by the mass events of the Party, it sought in particular to appeal to the Bildungsbürgertum. In a letter to Hans Grimm, Alfred Rosenberg called for support for the new organisation, explaining the thinking behind the initiative: ‘As you will see from the enclosed, we are working to establish a National Socialist organisation, that plans to work on the foundations of our völkisch cultural work through lectures and similar events. It will be aimed less at the wider social classes, that can be won through mass assemblies, and more at the national intelligentsia, students etc.’7 It was officially called into being at the beginning of 1928 as the Nationalsozialistische Gesellschaft für deutsche Kultur, its name changing to the Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (KfdK) a year later in order to play down its association with the NSDAP. Alongside several Party functionaries, the dramatist Hanns Johst and the industrialist Wilhelm Weiß were both on the steering committee. Other members included Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer and Adolf Bartels, as well as the publishers Julius F. Lehmann and Hugo Bruckmann, and Winifried Wagner and Eva Chamberlain, widow of Houston Stewart Chamberlain.8 Hans Grimm did not become a member.

The new organisation’s debt to völkisch-nationalism was evident in its efforts to win support. A declaration enclosed with Rosenberg’s letter to Grimm argued that the assertion of völkisch values was part of a struggle that could be reduced to two basic factors: first, the need to counter internationalism with the idea of a racially defined Volkstum. The international idea was allegedly manifested in politics that aimed to dismantle völkisch boundaries, promoting the melting-pot idea and demanding a united states ← 101 | 102 → of the world. The last was presumably a reference to the League of Nations, associated on the German right with the victors’ justice of the Paris peace negotiations in 1919. Economically, it was evident in the separation of economic activity from its regional or local roots, placing it under the control of a few international trusts and world banks. This tendency, the declaration argued, would lead to a purely materialist order.9

Parallel to these forces, the same pamphlet argued, were attempts to transcend national art and national culture in favour of the so-called art and culture of humanity (Menschheitskunst; Menschheitskultur). The idea of ‘humanity’ (Menschheit) represented limitless and unbounded individualism. Just as the goal of the international economic system was focused on profit and the economic sustainability of the trusts and big banks, so the idea of ‘humanity’ taught that the individual should be able to establish his or her life without any obligations to race, Volk, state, language and history. There was, however, a growing recognition that these tendencies would lead to chaos, inspiring the gathering of forces to counter this negative trend. At the head marched the National Socialist movement. It represented a rounded expression of a new life experience, demanding complete re-evaluation of Germany’s economic, social and cultural life.10 Rosenberg’s declaration continued by stating that nationalism had been damaged by the materialism of the nineteenth century. Similarly, international Marxism had corrupted pure socialism, uprooting it from its foundations in the Volk, preaching the abnegation of race and Volkstum and canonising class struggle. For the National Socialist movement, therefore, the only prerequisite for the revival of the Völk and for the rebirth of true culture was the conjunction of nationalism and socialism. The nationalist idea needed cleansing of its profit orientation; the socialist movement required purification to remove the poison of internationalism, class struggle and materialist individualism. It would become evident that the essence of nationalism and socialism in their pure forms were the same: the care ← 102 | 103 → and cultivation of race and Volkstum. Cultural, political, economic and social concerns thereby intertwined, shaping the intellectual and physical existenc of each member of the Volk.11

The formal aim of the KfdK was ‘to defend the value of the German being in the midst of the cultural degeneration of today, and to promote every outward expression of German cultural life.’12 Rosenberg, already Chief Editor of the Völkischer Beobachter, was appointed director of the new organisation. Its tactics varied from articles in the Völkischer Beobachter’s cultural section, and other Nazi publications, to the production and promotion of National Socialist works designed to counter the degenerate effects of republican and humanist writers.13 A ‘Denkschrift’ of 21st June 1932 proposed the foundation of a Kampfbund für deutsches Schrifttum. This was to be led by Hanns Johst, who had himself suggested to Rosenberg at the beginning of that year that he be employed, at some considerable expense, by the Party as a cultural official responsible for monitoring the spheres of literature and theatre. A veteran of the First World War whose playwriting moved away from its Expressionist roots in the 1920s in response to Germany’s defeat and the revolutionary events of 1918–1919, Johst also campaigned for Hitler in the Presidential elections of 1932.14 While his proposal to Rosenberg was not adopted, Johst was already close to the Party leadership and his loyal involvement with the NSDAP in the Weimar Republic made him one of its most prominent members in the literary sphere and placed him in a prime position for advancement in the Third Reich. In the end power came with his role in the Reichsschrifttumskammer, dominated by Goebbels, rather than any of the institutions through which Rosenberg sought to wield influence.

Rosenberg’s völkisch message appealed to several prominent writers, including Kolbenheyer. And while Grimm, maintained his distance from the KfdK and never became a member of the Party, he did get involved ← 103 | 104 → informally with the NSDAP during the later years of the Weimar Republic. The inclusiveness that characterised Rosenberg’s declaration in 1927 was also evident in Goebbels’ contacts with Grimm. That it would give way to coercion after 1933 was not clear to the latter at this stage. In these years, therefore, a misconception found its roots, namely that the position of Grimm and his völkisch colleagues in relation to the NSDAP would remain unchanged after the Nazis came to power. They wrongly assumed that they would make an important and active contribution to determining the direction of German culture under the Nazis, who were not an end in themselves but would establish the necessary basis on which a truly völkisch social order could be achieved.

The Politics of Literature in the Third Reich

The instrumentalisation of völkisch writers was one of the goals of Nazi Literaturpolitik. In order for something to be instrumentalised, however, it must first exist in its own right. Völkisch literature was not a direct product of National Socialism and the creation of an institutional structure to encourage and coerce writers into cooperation did not necessarily guarantee their support. Like Hans Grimm, many felt that their leading position in the literary sphere, confirmed after 1933 by the interest shown by the new rulers in their work, or at least the prestige their names brought with them, endowed them with both the right and the responsibility to engage and comment independently on the state of Germany. Their support for the Nazi regime was, therefore, often expressed through a commitment to contributing to the völkisch revolution it promised by pointing out where development was still needed. As a result, doubts and internal resistance were evident even among writers who generally enjoyed a comfortable existence under the Nazi government. As we shall see below, Hans Grimm provides a useful example.

By January 1933 several cultural and literary institutions, as well as personnel, were already well established within the Nazi Party. Nevertheless, ← 104 | 105 → in order to execute their ideological aims, the Nazis had to expand the institutional structure which would govern German culture in the new Reich. This did not occur as a single action, but was the outcome of individual initiatives. The result was a collection of chaotic and often conflicting institutions and organisations whose spheres of activity and interests overlapped. For the Nazis literature was a tool for the dissemination of their Weltanschauung. In a speech to the Kulturtagung of the Party conference, delivered on 1st September 1933, Hitler laid down the principles on which Nazi cultural policies were to be based. He declared that National Socialism was the German Weltanschauung.15 He maintained that every Volk had its own Weltanschauung, passed on from generation to generation through the blood. That of the Germans had to be defended against outside threats and promoted by artists to ensure the German spirit would thrive in future ages.16 He concluded by inviting German artists ‘to join in taking on the proud defence of the German Volk through German art.’17 Hitler’s racial approach to art removed the need for originality. Instead of seeking to be progressive, he suggested that the primary purpose of art was to be an expression of the Volk, the essence of which was immutable and therefore not subject to the whims of fashion. For Hitler the will of the Volk, as well as its Weltanschauung, was represented by the Nazi Party. This meant that art, including literature, in the Third Reich was to reflect the standpoint of the Party. As a result, not only views that did not conform to the Party line, but also groups and networks that were not under Party control had to be stamped out in the literary sphere.

The relationships of individual writers with the regime were influenced to a large degree by the network of literary institutions in which a number of völkisch writers gained access to leading positions for the first time. Career advancement was not the only motivating factor for supporting the new government; it was natural for many völkisch thinkers to view the ← 105 | 106 → Nazi order positively. Moreover, it did not threaten all the institutions to which they belonged, introducing instead grades of Gleichschaltung: While political or ‘racially’ foreign organisations and individuals were removed; politically neutral independent organisations were sidelined. The Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts provides an example of the latter and will be examined in Chapter 3. In the practical regulation of the literary sphere, government machinery really functioned through new institutions created by the Nazis. Those appointed to head the most important were, on the whole, dedicated to the National Socialist movement; those who proved less reliable or effective, for example Hans-Friedrich Blunck in the Reichsschrifttumskammer (RSK), were removed, or encouraged to resign fairly early in the regime.18

The following sections will explore these frameworks, which were also those within which völkisch-nationalists were obliged to operate in the Third Reich. This will provide a basis for more detailed examination of specific cases in the following chapters, as well as an investigation of their post-war attitudes.


Nazi Kulturpolitik has been the subject of a number of scholarly studies. As Ketelsen notes, these have frequently tended towards an instrumentalist interpretation, stating that the arts were simply utilised by the Nazis to spread the National Socialist Weltanschauung.19 This suggests the existence of a homogeneous National Socialist ideology providing a yardstick against which literature and the arts could be measured and forced to conform. The biggest advocates of this theory were the Nazi propaganda ← 106 | 107 → and cultural officials themselves, who argued that the element of force required in order to reach a homogeneous system was justified by the unity of the ideological programme that the Nazis were working to implement. An instrumentalist interpretation is, however, too simple to describe the cultural scenery of the Third Reich. The Nazis did indeed deploy the cultural apparatus for political ends, seeking to achieve ‘a revolution in attitudes and values, a transformation of subjective consciousness more than of objective realities.’20 Nonetheless, the Kulturpolitik of the Third Reich was characterised by divisions and a lack of ideological agreement extending from the upper ranks of the Nazi Party to party functionaries at the humblest levels. Alfred Rosenberg’s long-running conflict with Goebbels is, for example, well documented.21 It is therefore vital to differentiate clearly between the way the Nazis portrayed themselves and their Kulturpolitik, and the reality of the system. The development of literary institutions in the Third Reich was complicated. Temporary constellations and alliances in the government, as well as the whims of Hitler and his closest associates, and finally the political and social situation in Germany, contributed as much as a logical plan for the establishment of a functioning bureaucracy.22

The literary sphere of Nazi politics was governed by three institutional frameworks: the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, the Reichskulturkammer, both dominated by Joseph Goebbels, and the Nazi Party’s internal ideological apparatus, dominated by Alfred Rosenberg. Subordinated to each was a large network of individual institutions intended to control every aspect of literary endeavour and the production of the written word. The sheer number of organisations operating to control literary production, combined with a lack of clear guidance, gave the literary sphere an arbitrary nature and limited their efficiency. In the specific case of literature, however, the situation was further complicated by the lack of detailed interest and clear guidance from Hitler and the ← 107 | 108 → Party leaders.23 Even Goebbels, whose professed interest in literary matters was apparently confirmed by his Ph.D. in literary history as well as the publication of several books, paid more attention to radio and film.24 As a result, the practical application of Nazi cultural policies in the literary sphere was left to a collection of Nazi bureaucrats aided by sympathetic writers, allowing some writers to manipulate the anomalies and vagaries of an increasingly bureaucratic system, while others fell victim to the confused government of the literary sphere.

Overall the RSK dominated the institutions of Literaturpolitik. This was largely thanks to the fact that membership was obligatory for all those involved in literary production in the Third Reich, making it the largest ← 108 | 109 → organisation in the literary sphere. Nonetheless, its power was not so absolute that it removed all confusion. Furthermore, a single ideological vision of National Socialism and its proper relationship with literature was lacking. While the Nazis’ declared goal was the deployment of the pen as one of the weapons of the Volksgemeinschaft, they were never successful in establishing a National Socialist literary genre.25 Instead they were forced to turn to existing nationalist literature to provide their Weltanschauung with a cultural underpinning. Völkisch-nationalism offered the Nazis a ready-made literary canon to support the regime, and several of their leading literary figures, including Hans Friedrich Blunck, emerged from this tradition.

Nonetheless, not all völkisch writers were prepared to subordinate their own ideals to those of the Nazis. The disparate nature of Literaturpolitik under the Nazis meant that the expectations of völkisch writers of the regime were badly managed, making it difficult for Grimm and his colleagues to identify their place in the new literary landscape. In the end, this lack of definition may have served the Literaturpolitik in the Third Reich, which aimed to gain control over groups that might prove subversive or simply outside Nazi control. By creating ambiguities and uncertainty, a climate of anxiety was established in which writers were never quite sure where they stood, thus forcing many to adopt a cautious approach. For those who refused to be sufficiently subservient, threats or actual punishment were available to force cooperation, as Goebbels attempted with Grimm in 1938.26 On an institutional level, the so-called Gleichschaltung of existing literary groups was one way in which Goebbels and Rosenberg sought to exclude unsympathetic authors, and break down well-established networks of writers of all political persuasions and replace them with new networks controlled from above. The literary institutions in the Third Reich did not only attempt to control literary output, but also made enormous inroads into the everyday lives and contacts of right wing, nationalist and völkisch writers.

← 109 | 110 → Three broad methods of control were employed: controlled entry into the literary professions; censorship; and threats and incentives. The impact of these methods, applied through the extensive institutional structure governing the politics of literature in Nazi Germany combined with Goebbels’ propaganda, was profound in German literary life. From the perspective of the Nazi government, literature was subsumed under the propaganda apparatus governed by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (RMVP). The Ministry was brought into being by a presidential decree on 12th March 1933 to be responsible for ‘the intellectual direction of the nation’. Its task was the dissemination of ‘enlightenment and propaganda within the population concerning the policies of the Reich Government and the national reconstruction of the German Fatherland.’27 The first business plan of the Propaganda Ministry, issued on 1st October 1933, included only a small literature division as part of the department for active propaganda. Its director, Dr. Heinz Wismann, was, however, responsible for a number of significant areas, including the ‘promotion of national literature; publishing; authors; book groups; public libraries; lending libraries; newspapers; the German Library in Leipzig; the Reichsstelle zur Förderung des deutschen Schrifttums’.28 The inclusion of the last in the plan was anomalous, given that it was financially dependent on the Propaganda Ministry, but not part of it. On 1st October 1934, Wismann’s literature division was finally established as an independent department for literature in the RMVP. In spite of its broad field of operation, however, with only three consultants the department remained on a weak footing in the Ministry.29

The close association of the Department of Literature with the Reichsschrifttumskammer (RSK), a division of the Reichskulturkammer (RKK) and the most powerful institution in the politics of literature in the Third Reich, also limited its field of operation. It might have been ← 110 | 111 → stronger had Goebbels not been both Propaganda Minster and President of the RKK, which meant his personal influence was not challenged by the strength of the latter. The RKK was established in September 1933 to further German culture and regulate the social aspects of cultural affairs. It was divided into seven divisions, each governed by a president who reported to Goebbels. These were the Reich Chambers for the press, radio, film, literature, theatre, music and fine arts.30 Literature was therefore closely associated with the overall body governing cultural activity in the Third Reich, and thus part of the wider programme of cultural control and propaganda.

The RSK was in turn an umbrella organisation for a number of smaller groups. Its competencies, overlapping with those of the Department of Literature, included the practical control of writers and reading material, and the production of books. It therefore played a central role in literary censorship. Promoting German culture in accordance with the directions of the Propaganda Minister, it was also designed to ease relations between the various interest groups within the book trade, ensuring equal economic and social conditions for its members and the avoidance of unnecessary conflicts in the literary sphere.31 Membership of the RSK was obligatory for all those involved in the production of the written word, the suitability of each individual being judged on their professional activities and racial background.32 The exclusion of a writer from the RSK therefore ← 111 | 112 → theoretically meant a prohibition on the legal publication of his or her work. In practice, however, the enormous bureaucratic machinery required to administer such an ambitious control mechanism meant that some writers slipped through the net. In addition, membership of one of the other chambers within the RKK often enabled publication; August Winnig was, for example, a member of the Reichspressekammer not the RSK.33 As membership of two chambers was prohibited, he was nonetheless able to publish his literary works.

While the business of the RSK was executed by bureaucrats, the prominent positions were occupied by literary personalities, largely representing völkisch, Blut-und-Boden tendencies in German literature. In November 1933 Hans Friedrich Blunck was appointed President. Both he and his successor, Hanns Johst, had had some success as writers prior to 1933 and were connected to völkisch-nationalist circles. Moreover, the body of men serving on the Präsidialrat of the chamber continued to include significant völkisch-nationalist representatives over the years. In addition to the original president, Blunck, the founding board consisted of Hanns Johst, already a member of the NSDAP, the publisher Friedrich Oldenbourg, the retailer Theodor Fritsch Jr., Hans Grimm, and finally Heinz Wismann representing the Propaganda Ministry.34

In addition to the RSK and the Propaganda Ministry, cultural and literary matters within the Nazi Party itself were directed by Alfred Rosenberg. According to the picture Cecil paints of him, Rosenberg ← 112 | 113 → idolised Hitler, and genuinely subscribed to the ideals he professed in his work, in particular his concern with the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and the replacement of the latter with a Germanic religion.35 He presented himself as the founder of a National Socialist canon of literature, his early journalistic work for the Party being consolidated with the publication of Der Mythos des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts in 1930.36 In the latter, he was not only influenced by völkisch thinking, but contributed to the corpus of völkisch literature himself. This book bears unmistakable similarities to Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s earlier Die Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts.37 In spite of the closeness of his ideological position to the völkisch-nationalist worldview, however, he was unpopular among many völkisch-nationalist writers, for whom he was neither able nor apparently willing to help in the achievement of their goals. In spite of his influence over Party ideology, strengthened by the founding of the KfdK before 1933, he also failed to gain a foothold in the highest echelons of the Party hierarchy before April 1941, when he became Minister for the Conquered Eastern Territories.38 He never succeeded in exploiting the full potential of his position in the nationalist literary sphere as the leader of the KfdK and the Reichsstelle zur Förderung des deutschen Schrifttums.39

The last was founded in 1933 to evaluate and deploy German literature in the struggle to free the Volksgemeinschaft from the cultural and intellectual legacy of the Weimar Republic. Its lack of success lay largely in the fact that its fields of interest conflicted with those of the RSK under Rosenberg’s long-standing rival Goebbels.40 Moreover it was neither registered as ← 113 | 114 → a private organisation nor recognised as an official party organ. Without the support of the Propaganda Ministry, it lacked both funds and a defined purpose. This problem was only partially solved in 1934 when Rosenberg was appointed the Führer’s Beauftragte der gesamten geistigen und weltanschaulichen Schulung und Erziehung der NSDAP on 6th June. Thereafter, the KfdK, the Reichsverband Deutsche Bühne and the Reichsstelle were amalgamated under his leadership in the NS-Kulturgemeinde. The new organisation was intended to govern cultural life within the Nazi Party. It nonetheless still bordered too closely on Goebbels’ sphere of influence for it to play a strong role in the literary sphere.41 Its competencies were also encroached upon by Phillip Bouhler’s Parteiamtliche Prüfungskommission zum Schutz des NS-Schrifttums (PPK). Unlike Rosenberg’s organisation, the PPK had a clear mandate from the Party. The manoeuvring of the leaders of the two organisations to gain the upper hand continued until the end of the Second World War.42 Likewise, the rivalry between Rosenberg and Goebbels remained unresolved to the end.43

The Säuberungsaktion to Cleanse German Literature

No event in 1933 exemplified the aggressively völkisch-nationalist atmosphere in Germany that accompanied the Nazis’ Machtergreifung more clearly than the ‘Day of the Burning of Books’ on 10th May. This was part of a four-week initiative by students against the ‘un-German’ spirit believed ← 114 | 115 → to have infiltrated German life. The initiative was taken by the apparently respectable Deutsche Studentenschaft, which was eager to outflank its Nazi rival, the Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, in its zeal for the new regime.44 The principles behind the students’ actions were outlined in a statement of twelve points issued by the Deutsche Studentenschaft on 13th April 1933.45 They were concerned with the protection of the German Geist in the universities and stated that the roots of language and the written word were in the Volk. In the preceding years a gulf was felt to have developed between the German people and literature, a gulf that had to be closed through the efforts of true Germans. The Jews were held responsible for this situation. Although Jewish writers might write in German, they could think only as Jews.46

In Berlin, students and other sympathisers burnt the works of twenty-four ‘undesirable and pernicious’ authors on a bonfire on the Opernplatz, near the university. A press report described the occasion: ‘During the burning of books the SA and SS bands played patriotic tunes and marches, until representatives of the Studentenschaft, to whom the works were allocated according to specific categories, committed the books of the un-German spirit to flames, accompanied by striking words.’47 The list of authors whose works were condemned to the flames included Marx and Kautsky, Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner, Friedrich Wilhelm Förster, Sigmund Freud, Emil Ludwig, Walter Hegemann, Theodor Wolff, Georg Bernhard, Erich Maria Remarque, Alfred Kerr, Kurt Tucholsky and Carl von Ossietzky, each representing one aspect of the perceived degeneration of German culture in Weimar Germany. Erich Kästner even ← 115 | 116 → watched his own books being burnt in the pageant that Bramsted has aptly described as an ‘orgy of exorcism’.48

The Nazis in general, and Goebbels in particular, were only too happy to identify themselves with the action. When the proceedings reached their height, the new Propaganda Minister appeared and attacked the Weimar Republic in a speech that was relayed across the nation on the radio. National Socialism, Goebbels declared, sought to give all classes one overriding German identity. The revolution of the Nazis was therefore cultural as well as political and economic, heralding the resurrection of the German spirit through which the nation should be united.49 Nonetheless, the fact that it was started by ‘non-Nazi’ students and was not seriously opposed by the universities and state officials reinforces the view that völkisch thinking was widespread in the Bildungsbürgertum. Goebbels’ speech was, therefore, both a demonstration of his skill in harnessing existing sentiments to the Nazi regime and an announcement of Nazi policy towards the literary sphere in the months that followed. In all, twenty thousand books were destroyed in one night, heralding a new phase in German literary history: the state would now decide what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad’ literature. German writers were obliged to subordinate themselves to the good of the nation, a sentiment Goebbels summed up three years later in his speech at the opening of the annual Week of the German Book in Weimar on 25th October 1936, when he declared: ‘Now the pen has been compelled to serve the nation like the sword and the plough’.50

Grimm’s post-1945 reflections on these events noted that, as far as he had been aware as a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, the book-burnings had not been instigated by the state. He played down both their significance and the extent to which they had spread across Germany, presenting them as isolated instances, the private enterprises of ‘a few confused minds’, desirous of recognition, who burned the contents ← 116 | 117 → of their own and friends’ libraries. These events, he maintained, had then been blown out of proportion by the Allied occupiers after the Second World War. He added that after 1945, similar efforts to remove books from circulation were instigated by the Allies; events like the Day of the ‘Free Book’ held in East Berlin on 10th May 1946 far outstripped any actions seen during the Nazi years. Grimm concluded by stating that he had never seen the list of banned books that the Propaganda Ministry was supposed to have introduced in the later years of the Second World War; as far as Grimm was concerned, it had been possible to buy any German book of ‘literary value’ as long as the buyer was known to the salesperson.51

Albeit selective, Grimm’s account still reflects the limitations of initiatives taken against ‘undesirable’ literature in the Third Reich. In practice the apparently revolutionary nature of the Bücherverbrennungen stood in sharp contrast to the organisational process behind the scenes. In fact, while censorship was quickly introduced following the Nazi Machtergreifung, it was some time before a workable system developed. The early work of compiling blacklists and establishing a system to ‘cleanse’ German literature of the ‘un-German Geist’ was a process of trial and error. In the first years of the Third Reich, a lack of central coordination was also evident.

The compilation of blacklists in the Third Reich took place on a regional and institutional level. In Hamburg, the staff of the Öffentliche Bücherhalle, led by Dr. Wilhelm Schuster, demonstrated early awareness of the demands of the new regime. The minutes of the meeting of directors on 18th March 1933 record a positive attitude to the task ahead and a high degree of preparedness:

The public library has to serve the entire Volk and to incorporate all in the development of essential and constructive intellectual currents. As these first found their downfall in literature, in the same way the stocks of books will become a mirror of the new intellectual movement. A perusal of the acquisitions of the last two years has fully confirmed this, in that the literature of the new Right was already acquired by the libraries on its appearance and as a result is available to the broadest mass of ← 117 | 118 → people. The political change of 5th March demands the removal from the holdings of such works that could be detrimental to the new will of the nation.52

The minutes of the same meeting went on to announce a discussion concerning the removal of unacceptable books from library collections. In the wake of the Reichstag fire, blamed by the Nazis on the Communists, and the elections of 5th March, most of those works included on the early lists were Marxist, pacifist or anti-religious. Entries for these books were to be removed from library catalogues or, where they appeared alongside other publications, crossed out. While the removal of the works was not emphasised in public, neither was it hidden. The instructions concluded by saying that public enquiries about these books should be met with a matter of fact statement that they had been removed and complaints dealt with at the discretion of the librarians.53

In Berlin in April 1933 the Ausschuß zur Neuordnung der Berliner Stadt- und Volksbüchereien also compiled blacklists. The committee worked its way through various categories, listing books to be removed from the city’s libraries. The subject areas included politics, art, history, literary history, geography and biography. In setting out to struggle ‘against the signs of corruption in our thought and lives, that means against the Asphaltliteratur, written predominantly for city people and designed to uproot them and confirm them in their alienation from their environment, from the Volk, and from any sense of community,’54 it echoed völkisch-nationalist ideals. Initially these lists were only valid in Berlin, but in May 1933 they were adopted by the Prussian Ministry of Culture for several public libraries in Prussia. They were the first indexes of banned books in the Third Reich and their use by the students in the ‘Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist’ meant that they were quickly disseminated beyond the boundaries of Prussia.

In adopting libraries as one of the focal points in their efforts to cleanse German literature in the Third Reich, the Nazis adopted a pragmatic ← 118 | 119 → approach to the problem of censorship. While their aim was to remove all traces of ‘un-German’ literature in German society, they began by seeking to limit the circulation of books identified as such. Even with a system of secret police and informers, it was impossible to police the reading habits of every German. Libraries, however, were by their very nature centres where one copy of a work could achieve wide circulation. It was also relatively simple to bring them under state control. They therefore received special attention.

In Thuringia, a censorship apparatus was developed that was intended as a model for the whole Reich. On 28th August 1933, the Thüringisches Volksbildungsministerium issued a set of guidelines for the cleansing of libraries. These declared that libraries needed to regard national renewal as their most important task. This would only be achieved through the purging of their holdings according to ‘volksbiologische und nationalpolitische’ principles. In the case of so-called ‘Schöne Literatur’ therefore,

The primary selection criterion must be: Only poets and writers who stand on the foundation of the Volksgemeinschaft defined by blood and type and feel themselves to be one with the fate of their Volk in their intellectual-spiritual position, belong in the German library. Works must be judged not only according to their form and literary worth, but at the same time, and in cases of doubt primarily by the compatibility of their character with the Volk and the value of their point of view.55

In contrast to the Hamburg and Berlin lists, moreover, in addition to removing the literature of Marxist, Communist and Jewish writers, the Thüringisches Volksbildungsministerium also explicitly adopted the völkisch-nationalist antipathy against the ‘spirit of the decadent, bourgeois subjectivity of literati foreign to the Volk, living in cities far from their native landscape’.56 Finally the works of non-German writers were only to be retained where they reflected the ‘Nordic spirit’. These principles were ← 119 | 120 → also applied to academic and scientific literature, in which, for example, works that reflected the democratic spirit of the Weimar Republic were to be removed as outdated, as were those that in any way expressed the ideals of the Enlightenment.57

Like libraries, bookdealers were also targeted by the Nazis in their efforts to gain control over the reading material available to the German public. This was carried out through a working committee composed of representatives of the Reichsverband Deutscher Schriftsteller (RDS), the book-trade, public libraries, the KfdK, as well as several literary personalities. On 13th July 1933 it presented the first results of its work to the Ministry of Propaganda: a list of ‘Schöne Literatur’ by those authors whose works should be removed from the traffic of books in the book-trade.58 The statement accompanying the list promised a second list of ‘Schöne Literatur für Volks- und Leihbüchereien’ within days and declared that work had already begun on a further list ‘Wissenschaft, politische Schriften etc.’ Also included was a report on the way the process had been carried out. The Party was not, it declared, required to provide reasons for censoring a particular work to satisfy individual citizens; its only duty was to serve the interests of the German Volk. The Volk had its roots in history and represented an ultimate truth, which was upheld by Nazi censorship. This was not designed to protect the peace of bourgeois existences, but to protect the fundamental existence of the Volk, to which every legitimate member of the German state belonged.59

Finally the RSK also maintained its own lists of ‘schädliche und unerwünschte’ literature consisting of works that contradicted the political and cultural goals of the Nazi Reich.60 These were also applied in Austria and the ← 120 | 121 → Eastern occupied territories in the late 1930s and during the Second World War. It was forbidden to publish, sell, distribute, lend, loan, exhibit, advertise, or possess these works. In addition the RSK maintained a separate list of works unsuitable for young people that were neither to be available in libraries nor exhibited in shop windows nor sold or supplied to anyone under 18 years of age. These lists were presented as protection for German youth, drawing on the laws against Schmutz- und Schundliteratur in the Weimar Republic. They were, however, also issued in conjunction with the establishment of comprehensive youth organisations and therefore intended to ensure that the next generation would only be exposed to literature compatible with Nazi ideology. Finally, the RSK also banned all works by Jewish and half-Jewish writers, whether they appeared on the lists or not. Breaching these rules would lead to exclusion from the RSK, a serious consequence for booksellers who were not allowed to practice their trade if they were not members.61

In the early years of the Third Reich Nazi rhetoric emphasised the exclusion of Jews not only from the RSK, but also from all literary organisations, including the German branch of the PEN Club.62 In practice, however, this was less clear-cut and there was some discussion among leading Nazis about the role of Jews in German literary life. The Schriftleitergesetz of the 4th October 1933 contained no explicit ‘Aryan’ clause, adding to the confusion about the way Jewish authors should be treated. Hans Grimm pleaded that Jews who wrote and whose work conformed to Nazi regulations, should be admitted to the RSK and allowed to practice their art. RSK President, Hans Friedrich Blunck, adopted the same opinion, writing to Grimm on 20th November 1933: ‘[…] unjust treatment of Jewish fellow citizens who distinguished themselves in the war, who have stood firmly in favour of our state and have not taken part in the propaganda of decadence, must be avoided under all circumstances […].63 It is likely that this conciliatory attitude towards Jewish writers, alongside the fact that he was not a member of ← 121 | 122 → the Nazi Party, cost Blunck his post as President of the RSK in 1935. At the end of May of that year, Wismann reported to Goebbels that the number of ‘non-Aryan’ writers in the RSK had been reduced to five. Nevertheless, 619 ‘non-Aryans’ were still active in the book trade.64 In 1938, moreover, there was still considerable concern about the second-hand books from ‘liquidated’ Jewish households making their way back onto the book market, which proved very difficult to control.65

By the beginning of 1935, with some exceptions, the work of cleansing German literature within the borders of the Reich was drawing to an end. On 1st January 1935, Dr. Heinl of the RSK reported that in Berlin the action had gone relatively smoothly. Of the 28,000 books to be removed from library collections, 21,000 had been delivered to the official depots, where they were disposed of under Party supervision. Overall, Heinl went on, the action had met with little resistance, although a few libraries had sold the banned books, and he projected a success rate of 85–90 per cent.66 On 8th January he reported that of a total of 5,000 libraries in the whole Reich, 3,875 had presented lists of the works in their collections that were no longer considered suitable for public consumption. Of these 3,290 had been checked by Party officials, leaving 1,125 to be handed in and a total of 1,710 to be checked.67 While books continued to be removed from circulation, from this point on, Nazi leaders increasingly turned their attention to maintaining the authorised canon of German literature by controlling the production of new books rather than the removal of those already in circulation. There was also increased concern about books being brought into Germany from abroad.68

← 122 | 123 → In spite of assertions of success, there were numerous inconsistencies in the censorship system and several writers managed to slip through its holes. Crucially, Nazi censorship was largely concerned with banning books rather than authors. The appearance of the work or works of particular authors in the lists of ‘schädliches und unerwünschtes Schrifttum’ did not necessarily mean that they were banned altogether. Often writers continued to work as usual, others were permitted to continue publishing under pseudonyms, while some found alternative employment as scriptwriters or journalists. The authorities guarding literature in the Third Reich were not therefore so much concerned with banning writers, unless they were Jewish, as controlling their output.69

It was also possible for bans on the work of particular authors to be lifted. For example, on 31st October 1935 six works by Waldemar Bonsels were included in the index but did not figure at all on the list made public on 31st December 1938. The reason given for this turn-around by the RSK was the good effect his works were having abroad. As a result, and given Bonsels’ preparedness to conform to the requirements of the regime, it was decided that no further obstacles should be placed in his path. Rosenberg’s Reichsstelle also agreed to this decision, although reservations concerning Bonsels remained.70

Ernst Wiechert provides another example of the changeable nature of Nazi attitudes to specific writers, illustrating the fine line they trod between not upsetting public opinion and gaining control over literary production. Their treatment of him shows the ongoing juggling between threats and incentives that the Nazi leaders were forced to undertake in running the politics of literature in the Third Reich. Wiechert’s lecture on the existential conflict of writers with the Nazi leaders, delivered at the University of Munich in April 1935, was held under the auspices of the KfdK. Der Dichter und die Zeit was a clear denunciation of Nazi cultural politics and the speech was never printed in Germany, although it later ← 123 | 124 → gained considerable attention abroad.71 Wiechert was allowed to continue lecturing, but his later speeches were closely monitored by the Gestapo. He was also denied permission by the RSK to undertake a lecture tour abroad, and the Langen-Müller Verlag rejected his 1937 novel, Der weibe Büffel oder Von der groben Gerechtigkeit, an anti-despotic tale. He nevertheless presented it in Cologne and elsewhere, as part of his continued activity against the Nazi regime. Eventually the authorities lost patience and Wiechert was arrested on 6th May 1938. His imprisonment was also intended as a warning to other writers who might be inspired by his example. In July he was sent to Buchenwald and was only released two months later after promising to stop criticising the regime. Following his release, however, everything was done to aid the publication of his future works, and in 1939 the Langen-Müller Verlag published his novel, Das einfache Leben. Wiechert remained under close observation, but as long as he withheld his political views he was allowed to work, and his books continued to appear in relatively high numbers up to the end of World War II.72

Promoting ‘German’ Literature

While the ‘cleansing’ of the German literary canon of Marxist, Communist and other books in direct opposition to the regime, as well as those of Jewish writers, was underway, the Nazis were faced with the corresponding challenge of identifying and promoting the literature that should represent the new Germany. As part of the cleansing of the libraries, the Nazi authorities issued lists of works to guide librarians in replenishing the stocks of the libraries after the ‘unerwünschte und schädliche’ books had been removed. The lists were produced by various institutions. In Thuringia as early as ← 124 | 125 → May 1933, Kurd Schulz, the director of the Landesberatungsstelle für volkstümliches Büchereiwesen und Jugendschrifttumspflege, began to encourage libraries to acquire copies of Mein Kampf.73 From the end of December of the same year, the Volksbildungsministerium began to produce ‘golden’ lists of books that should be held in library collections.

The first ‘golden’ list was published in the Amtsblatt des Thüringischen Ministeriums für Volksbildung on 2nd March 1934, and included a relatively broad selection of ‘German’ literature.74 Alongside writers like Heinrich Anacker, Hans Friedrich Blunck, Hans Grimm, Hanns Johst and Thor Goote, who, at least initially, openly supported the regime, it included völkisch and nationalist writers of earlier generations such as Moeller van den Bruck, Felix Dahn, Adolf Bartels, Artur Dinter and Gustav Frenssen. In addition the names of several writers, notably that of Ricarda Huch, stand out because they had already spoken out against the regime. A separation was therefore made between their personal opinions and the nature of their works. Overall, the emphasis was on ensuring the canon of German literature was sufficiently German. As a result, German mythology, like the Edda and the Nibelungenlied, and the works of ‘classic’ authors like Schiller and Goethe, Achim von Arnim and Kleist, as well as nineteenth century liberal-nationalists like Gustav Freytag, and the Heimatliteratur of writers such as Hermann Löns also featured on the list.75

While a blind eye was sometimes turned on writers whose attitude to the regime was ambiguous, on the whole the relationship of the writer to the Volk and the effect his or her books would have on the public were more important in the compilation of these lists than the quality of his or her work. This is underlined in the guidelines produced by Dr. Friedrich Lampe for the Hamburger Öffentliche Bücherhalle in January 1934. He emphasised that the artistic merits of a particular work were less important ← 125 | 126 → than its ideological content and potential for propaganda purposes. He declared that, in selecting books, it was necessary

to be constantly conscious that the standard for assessment for the public libraries is not absolutely aesthetic, but one of popular education; as a result works that are artistically very pure but which are accessible to only a small readership, or perhaps due to their intellectual position are even rejected for reasons concerned with the education of the Volk […]. Only a small number of readers is capable of appreciating the artistic in a novel, most stick to the subject matter and the problems presented therein and their practical moral for their own life. The library must now cater for them. Nonetheless, one thing should never be forgotten: a lowest limit must never be crossed: the weaker artistic works should also at least be real; anything kitsch, emotionally false, that distorts reality or is directed solely at suspense should be avoided where possible.76

This was in line with the task of the Volksbücherei as it was outlined by Dr. Krebs at the 37th meeting of the directors of the Hamburg public libraries on 16th October 1934. He emphasised the Führungsaufgabe of the libraries, which meant that they should be influencing rather than catering for the reading tastes of the German public: librarians were to steer the public towards books that would educate them regarding the National Socialist regime.77

The Nazis also went to considerable lengths to promote the works of established authors who placed themselves at the disposal of the regime. Among them was Adolf Bartels, whose work was well received in the Third Reich, where he was honoured as a Vorkämpfer of National Socialism. Some commentators, Fuller included, have suggested that although he was awarded many accolades, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Leipzig and, in 1937, the Adlerschild des deutschen Reiches,78 the Nazis did not allow him to participate actively in the German state. ← 126 | 127 → He never became a full member of the Nazi Party.79 The re-publication of most of his works after 1933, along with numerous commentaries and dissertations on them, suggest, however, that his contribution to the regime should not be underestimated. The Nazis were more than happy to use him as part of their attempt to give the regime roots in the culture of previous generations. In the end, it is most likely that the main impediment to Bartels’ more active participation in the cultural and literary life of the Third Reich was his age. In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, he was already 71 and in poor health.

The influence of Bartels’ literary criticism on literary thought in the Third Reich was clearly demonstrated in Gerhard Baumann’s Jüdische und völkische Literaturwissenschaft: Ein Vergleich zwischen Eduard Engel and Adolf Bartels,80 published by the Eher Verlag in 1936. Baumann, a minor party official, explained that he had come across Bartels’ work while he was working as leader of a local group of the Nationalsozialistischer Schülerbund. This, he said, led to his awakening with regard to Eduard Engel’s literary history. In his Geschichte der deutschen Literatur von den Anfängen bis in die Gegenwart, Engel placed particular emphasis on the importance of language for the völkisch identity.81 He was best known, both by his detractors and his admirers, for his campaign against the use of foreign words in German literature.

It therefore seemed surprising to Baumann that Bartels labelled Engel a Jew, a label that stuck although there appears to be no evidence to support this conclusion. According to Baumann, influenced by Bartels, this was clear simply on a closer examination of Engel’s book:

In this book [Jüdische Herkunft und Literaturwissenschaft] I came across a section on Eduard Engel. I knew his two-volume history of German literature, and I had flicked through its pages several times without knowing that the author was a Jew. ← 127 | 128 → On the contrary, I believed Engel to be a good German and was quite astonished to hear from Bartels that Engel was a Jew. After that I took a closer look at Engel’s literary history and above all examined his remarks about those poets and writers whose works I knew, for example Bartels, Chamberlain, Heine etc. Then my eyes were opened and I knew whose intellectual child Engel was.82

Engel’s alleged crime was twofold: First, he proved his Jewish ancestry by deriding good German authors like Bartels and Chamberlain, and defending Jewish writers like Heine. Second, he tried to disguise his background by campaigning against the adoption of foreign words in German literature and posing as a völkisch literary historian. According to Baumann, Bartels recognised that the true danger to German literature was not the use of foreign words, but the Jews undermining German culture from within.83

The case of Gustav Frenssen provides another example of the positive reception of older völkisch-nationalist writers in the Third Reich. Following a slump in his career during the Weimar Republic, during which he briefly flirted with republicanism, Hitler’s coming to power coincided with an upturn in Frenssen’s fortunes. Frenssen’s conscious efforts to gain the acceptance of the Nazi rulers paid off. The ideological and anti-clerical nature of the works he wrote after 1933, most significantly Der Glaube der Nordmark,84 ideally suited the needs of the Party. As a result, this work was commonly bought and presented by the Party to members of the HJ and BDM on the occasion of the Jugendweihe; a substitute Bible for the Nazis’ substitute confirmation. This accounts in part for its success: between its appearance in 1936 and 1938, 25 editions, totalling 100,000 copies, appeared, and by the end of the war the figure was at least 350,000 copies.85 While this success benefited Frenssen financially, it is impossible to assess how many of those who received a copy actually read the work. Newspaper reviews, moreover, offer only biased evidence of the reception of Frenssen’s works. With the exception of evangelical circles, and the Deutsche Christen, who ← 128 | 129 → expressed, in so far as they were able without arousing the displeasure of the Party, strong opposition to Frenssen’s anti-Christianity in these years, most publications reproduced the Nazi Party’s positive reaction to his writing.86

Literary Prizes

Literary prizes also played a significant role as tools used to promote suitable literature. They were intended to encourage German writers to produce works for the Third Reich and to contribute to drawing proven authors into the literary establishment of the regime. At the same time they also provided a source of financial support for writers, and offered the organisations and individuals who awarded the prizes the chance for publicity and self-promotion. Award ceremonies, moreover, provided an opportunity for cultural propaganda. While large cultural events allowed Nazi leaders to present the principles of cultural life in the Third Reich to the public, award ceremonies were a chance to demonstrate these principles in practice and at the same time to claim specific writers for the regime. The propaganda effect of literary prizes was further enhanced by the publicity they attracted; newspaper articles described the events and presented the lives and works of writers to the wider public, at the same time spreading Nazi values. The award and regulation of prizes was thus an important component in Nazi Literaturpolitik.

Prizes were, however, not new. In the Weimar period they already served as a way for organisations and political parties, as well as press, film and radio corporations, to encourage writers to deal with specific themes and to promote particular political and social issues in the public consciousness.87 The adaptation of existing prizes for the cultural policies of the Third Reich, therefore, had the additional advantage of allowing the Nazis to claim ← 129 | 130 → continuity with the longer cultural history of the German Volk. During the Weimar Republic, many literary prizes had furthered republican ideals and those honoured were frequently representatives of the literary modernism abhorred by the völkisch-nationalists and the Nazi Party. After 1933 prizes, like other literary institutions, were either gleichgeschaltet, abolished or newly established. Helga Strallhofer-Mitterbauer has noted that relatively few prizes fell into the first category: she lists the Goethe-Preis in Frankfurt am Main, the Literaturpreis in Munich and the Erzähler-Wettbewerb of the journal Die neue Linie as examples.88

The creation of new prizes took place on national, regional and local levels. Considerable weight was also given to literary prizes at the highest ministerial levels. As part of the earliest attempts of the Nazis to inculcate the population with the National-Socialist ideology, and to gain prominence in German life and culture, as well as politics, in July 1933 Goebbels instituted the National Book Prize worth 12,000 Reichsmarks, also known as the Stefan George-Preis, claiming the legacy of the poet who died in Switzerland the same year. The winners of this prize were: 1934: Richard Euringer for Deutsche Passion; 1935: Eberhard Wolfgang Möller for his volume of poetry Berufung der Zeit; 1936: Gerhard Schumann for his cantate Heldische Feier; 1937: Friedrich Bethge for the drama Marsch der Veteranen; 1938: A volume edited by Baldur von Schirach entitled Das Lied der Getreuen. Verse ungenannter österreichischer Hilter-Jugend aus den Jahren der Verfolgung 1933–1937; 1939: Bruno Brehm for his Austrian trilogy Apis und Este, Das war das Ende and Weder Kaiser noch König.89

Likewise Hanns Johst was rewarded for his dedicated work for the National Socialist cause with the Deutscher Nationalpreis für Kunst und Wissenschaft in 1938, a prize that was established to replace the Nobel Prize for Literature, which Germans were forbidden to accept following its award to Carl von Ossietzky in 1936. In recommending Johst, Ihde, the Geschäftsführer of the RSK, wrote:

← 130 | 131 → Hanns Johst is one of very few writers who most seriously sought to follow the political pioneers in his literary work and, clearly rejecting social-national [DNVP] ways of thinking, early on recognised in the teaching of National Socialism the rebirth of Germany. The fundamental principles of National Socialism and the work of the National Socialist movement itself became the redemptive moment for Hanns Johst. From this point his own literary work begins to grow. He lays it at the feet of his Führer in thanks.90

Following a commentary on Johst’s works, Ihde concluded by assuring a second nomination for Johst from Max Amman, Director of the NSDAP’s Eher Verlag, and stating: ‘“Dichter” and human being are unified in Hanns Johst through National Socialism and in this relationship Johst stands alone. Johst’s writing always testifies to the most intense experience, and this experience was for him National Socialism.’91

On a more regional level, for example, as part of the first Kulturwoche in the Gau of Saxony, the Reichsstatthalter, Martin Mutschmann, donated two prizes. The first was to be awarded to a Heimat novel set in Saxony that portrayed the characteristics of the Lausitzer, the populations of the Erzgebirge or the Vogtland, or the Dresdner or Leipziger. The second would be given for a comic drama that revealed the true humour of the German Volk.92 Thus, it was hoped a canon of National Socialist literature would emerge.93

Moreover, the literary institutions of the Nazi government sought to encourage the donation of prizes from private sources. During his time as President of the RSK, Blunck cultivated several potential benefactors for cultural and literary prizes. Significant among them were the prizes for the works of Auslandsdeutsche, awarded by the foundations established at the end of 1935 by the Hamburg businessman Alfred Toepfer, and his industrialist ← 131 | 132 → brother Ernst, based in New York. Between them they donated 1.25 million Reichsmark for initially eight and later ten prizes each worth between 5,000 and 10,000 Reichsmark. These were administered by two foundations, the Johann-Wolfgang-von-Goethe-Stiftung and the Hansische-Stiftung.94 The focus of these prizes corresponded with Alfred Toepfer’s particular concern for the status and wellbeing of Germans living outside the borders of the Third Reich. Thus, with the establishment of prizes for Germans in each of Germany’s neighbouring regions, and those peoples considered racially related, literature prizes once again reflected and propagated the Nazi ideology. While Blunck was closely involved in the foundation and administration of the prizes as President of the RSK, both Toepfer and the Nazi government went to great lengths to ensure that they retained the appearance of independence from the political arena, which would have weakened their effectiveness abroad. To heighten the image of autonomy from the government, they were awarded through German universities, which also lent them academic prestige. Nonetheless, the selection committees for these awards were heavily influenced by the RSK, and the awards reflected the concern for the ‘pan-German’ Volk that also informed Nazi attitudes to foreign affairs, as well as an older völkisch emphasis on the Great German Reich.95

A number of literary prizes and honours were similarly associated in the first instance with specific universities, or with cities or regions. Identification with a specific locality could also be a reason for choosing a specific writer as the recipient of a prize, as was the case with Wilhelm Schäfer and the Rheinischer Literaturpreis in 1937.96 These associations remained strong between 1933 and 1945. Thus the Rheinischer Literaturpreis ← 132 | 133 → was established in 1935 on the initiative of the Landeshauptmann of the Rhine Province, Heinz Haake. It was first and foremost a Nazi initiative and remained strongly tied to Party structures throughout its history. It was first awarded at the Rheinische Dichtertagung in Düsseldorf and Krefeld in October of the same year to Heinrich Lersch. Gertrude Cepl-Kaufmann has noted that from the time of the informal foundation of the Bund rheinischer Dichter in 1926 such events had gained substantial significance in the province. She goes on to argue that the prize served the Nazi government as a way of drawing existing institutions and structures into its ideological sphere of influence, noting that of the nine recipients of the prize between 1935 and 1943, only two, Hermann Stegumann and Curt Langebeck, had no apparent connection with the Bund rheinischer Dichter.97 From 1937, the year in which Wilhelm Schäfer was honoured, the prize-giving ceremony was held annually in the Gürzenich in Cologne, taking on an increased Nazi character that reflected not only the intensification of the Party’s control over literature prizes by the end of the 1930s but also the manner in which they could be used as instruments as propaganda.98

Existing prizes were also deployed in the service of the new regime, emphasising ongoing continuity in German culture. The Gleichschaltung of the Goethe-Prize was swift. In January 1933 writers like Edmund Husserl, Wilhelm Schäfer, Hermann Hesse, Rudolf G. Binding and Martin Buber were under consideration; with the appointment of the Nazi Fritz Krebs as mayor of the city and the simultaneous takeover of the presidency of the prize committee by Bernhard Rust, however, that year’s prize was finally awarded to völkisch Hermann Stehr. In the following years, the committee, which after 1934 also included Goebbels and the playwright and Gaukulturwart der NSDAP, Friedrich Bethge, selected, among others, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer (1937) and Wilhelm Schäfer (1941) as the recipients of this prize.99 Willi Emrich’s account of proceedings on the occasion ← 133 | 134 → of Schäfer’s award in 1938 remains relatively uncritical. He quotes the formal wording of the award, which stated: ‘Die Ehrung gilt dem dichterischen Gestalter deutscher Landschaft und deutschen Volkstums, dem Künder der deutschen Seele und Meister geprägter Sprachform, in dessen Leben und Werk sich der Begriff des Klassischen im Goetheschen Sinn rein und zuchtvoll verkörpert.’100 In accepting the award, Schäfer in turn placed significance on the line of continuity it represented from Goethe’s genius to the leading writers of the contemporary, Nazi-led era.101

Another significant recipient of the Goethe Prize was the East Prussian poet, Agnes Miegel, who had already been honoured with the Herder Prize, as well as a plaque donated by the NS-Kulturgemeinde to be mounted on the house of her birth. In addition, she was a member of the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts and had received an honorary doctorate from the University of Königsberg by the time she won the Goethe Prize in 1940, the same year she formally joined the NSDAP.102 The reports of her award demonstrate the way in which significant literary prizes had a wider significance in the Third Reich, providing opportunities to spread an ideological message, not least through the press.

In Miegel’s case, particular emphasis was placed on the theme of Heimat, which was imbued with particular significance in time of war. Thus, one newspaper commented that in committing her life and work to East Prussia, a region charged from early on in history with a heroic fate, Miegel was expressing her commitment to Germany.103 Out of love of the Heimat, and in its hour of need, the role of literature was, therefore, to give expression to the ultimate sentiment: duty to one’s Heimat. Agnes Miegel was responsible for making East Prussia, its landscapes and cities, known to Germans throughout the German Reich. Through her ballads and songs, ← 134 | 135 → she connected of the ‘new Reich’ with centuries past, whilst giving constant expression to the German present and future as only a women with her particular calling could do. The article further noted that she dedicated a number of ballads to those who had died in the Second World War, her poetry bestowing immortalilty on them.104

A clipping of a further article that has remained with Miegel’s papers, a handwritten note attributing it simply to the General-Anzeiger, emphasised similar themes. The reporter went to particular pains to link Goethe to Miegel, stressing the continuity in the German spirit that the award embodied.105 In presenting the award, Oberbürgermeister Staatsrat Dr. Krebs, on behalf of the city of Frankfurt, emphasised its significance for the Germany’s situation in the Second World War, in which the Germans were once again fighting for their future ‘with blood and iron’. Krebs noted that Miegel’s East Prussian homeland had been united once more with the rest of Germany as a result of German military victories:

She [‘Mother Germany’] did not forget the wistful call for help that could be heard coming from this German heartland over the course of many years of separation, the same call for help that found such moving expression in the poem by Agnes Miegel, ‘Ueber die Weichsel drüben’. It is, therefore, no coincidence that this year the unanimous choice of the curatorium for the Goethe-Prize fell on the poet Agnes Miegel from Königsberg, for alongside the recognition of her art in the spirit of Goethe it is also a strong recognition of East-Prussian Germanness, which through her work is brought in such a special manner to the consciousness of the whole community of the German Volk, with its single shared fate.106

In her response, Miegel thanked Krebs. She noted that the Goethehaus was the house of Goethe’s parents and remembered her own. The newspaper used this opportunity to communicate a racial message in line with ← 135 | 136 → Nazi ideology, noting that nothing could have given more straightforward or more honest expression to eternal ancestry.107 The Stuttgarter Neues Tagblatt also reported on Miegel’s award in its women’s pages, presenting a slightly different angle, but nonetheless remaining within the boundaries of propaganda. The article describes the simplicity of Miegel’s life, rooted in Königsberg. It was this place and the surrounding landscape that had formed Miegel’s work. Combined with her love of the classical world, the foundation of German culture, and her mastery of form, Miegel was a suitable successor to those who had been awarded the prize before her; what bound her to Goethe was the way in which ‘the smallest detail taken from everyday life can become the most complete portrait of the cosmos in her poetry, an eternal song of fate and the beauty of the whole world, of the sated fullness of existence.’108

Kolbenheyer was the recipient of the largest number of prizes of any writer during the Third Reich, receiving accolades at various levels from local to national. In 1933 he was awarded the Literaturpreis des Goethebundes Bremen, which, according to Helga Strallhofer-Mittermeier, was probably the only occasion on which it was awarded.109 More significant, perhaps, was the award of the Literaturpreis der Stadt München in 1936. First awarded in 1927, this prize counted among its pre-1933 recipients Hans Carossa, Willy Seidel, Josef Magnus-Wehner, Hans Brandenburg and Ruth Schaumann. As far as the Propaganda Ministry was concerned it was counted among the ‘reichsweite Kunstpreise’. New regulations drawn up in 1935 decreed that it could only be given to a German-speaking writer of ‘Aryan ancestry’ for a work of poetry, drama or epic. In addition recipients must have been resident in Munich for at least five years and have demonstrated potential for ongoing literary success. Moreover, the city authorities viewed the ideological standpoint of the recipients to be of ‘decisive importance’.110 ← 136 | 137 → Thus, the award of this prize, worth RM 2000, by the ‘Hauptstadt der Bewegung’ to Kolbenheyer was indicative of the regard he enjoyed in the Third Reich as an ideologically as well as culturally significant writer.

The following year, in 1937, he was similarly honoured with the Goethe Prize. According to Emrich, the prize was presented by Stadtrat Dr. Keller on behalf of the City Mayor at a reception on 28th August in the house of Goethe’s birth. Keller recognised Kolbenheyer as among the ‘best of the German Volk’ who had remained true to his German being. Keller added that as a German from the borderlands, in Kolbenheyer’s case the Sudetenland, Kolbenheyer’s path had been tougher than that of many others. His particular praise for Kolbenheyer’s historical novels, common in commentaries on his work at this time, reflects not only their status in these years, but also the fact that of all his works they were probably the most accessible and therefore best-known. For Keller, the heroes of these novels were ‘Faustian’ figures, ‘who at the turning points of history pointed the way towards the future and raised awareness of great changes on the way.’111 Thus Kolbenheyer’s work reflected the immutable nature of the völkisch character as it confronted historical turning points. The historical nature of völkisch existence was once again evident in the changes brought by the Nazi regime.112

Kolbenheyer’s post-1945 account of the award differs a little from that given by Emrich. Kolbenheyer noted that at the time the prize was held in high esteem and the list of prize-winners included a colourful range of writers. In selecting the recipient, he suggested, one of the main voices was that of the Regent of the Goethehaus, Prof. Ernst Beutler, who held this position from 1925 to 1960 and, according to Emrich, was a noted opponent of National Socialism. Kolbenheyer’s assumption was that Beutler had not personally read his work, but that Kolbenheyer’s position was such that he could not be ignored when considering possible laureates.113

← 137 | 138 → The evening before the award ceremony, Kolbenheyer was required to present a lecture on Goethe. In Goethes Denkprinzipien und der biologische Naturalismus he chose to discuss Goethe’s work in the light of his own philosophy of ‘biological naturalism’, which asserted the importance of examining the great German writer and his work from the point of view of the ‘psychogenetische Entwicklung des Genies’, rather than simply using the methods of conventional literary criticism. Kolbenheyer’s convoluted biological approach to Goethe served to tie the writer to the German Volk, in which he occupied in Kolbenheyer’s view the position of one of those men of genius who marked a turning point in the history of völkisch development.114 Kolbenheyer’s account claimed that his lecture had not been well received on the occasion in Frankfurt. Distancing himself from the establishment gathered to witness his award (and therefore those granting it), he may nonetheless have been right in suggesting that only the folk songs that were performed following his presentation provided his audience with the entertainment they were hoping for.115 All the same, his account reflected his efforts to counter post-war attempts to use the award as evidence of his subservience to the regime.116 Continuing his line of argument, Kolbenheyer recollected that the true meaning of the award had been revealed to him only the following day at the award ceremony itself in the house of Goethe’s birth. Suddenly, he stated, he was seized by the power of the place itself, and the connection with the generations that had gone before, right back to those who had inhabited the house when Goethe was born. This connection with the German spirit that had breathed through the place in those times was, Kolbenheyer suggested, his personal ceremonial moment. He was therefore also able to turn his account of the event against the Allies who had bombed the city of Frankfurt during the Second World War, destroying the original house in the process.117

← 138 | 139 → According to Emrich’s account, the press responded positively to Kolbenheyer’s award and the lecture he gave to accompany it. The Frankfurter Zeitung commented: ‘Wenn nunmehr Kolbenheyer eine der bedeutendsten Ehrungen erhält, die einem deutschen Schriftsteller zuteil werden können, wird damit öffentlich anerkannt, welcher Platz im deutschen Schrifttum der Gegenwart seinem Werk zukommt.’118 The case of Kolbenheyer highlights the drawbacks of Emrich’s efforts to address the cultural history of Germany’s recent past in the two decades after the fall of the Third Reich. Published in 1963, only a year after Kolbenheyer’s death, Emrich’s book offers an account of the award through each of its recipients between 1927 and 1961. It is another example of the challenges experienced by cultural commentators in trying to find a way to relate the history of the Nazi years in such a way that the errors of this period were acknowledged without ascribing direct blame to the German people as a whole, or the subjects of commentary in particular, many of whom remained active in German cultural life in the post-war years.119

During the Second World War, Kolbenheyer was honoured several times, not least with the Paracelsus Prize of the city of Villach in 1942. Kolbenheyer was judged to be a fitting inaugural laureate for this award largely as a consequence of his Paracelsus-Trilogie. When the decision was made, the Gauleiter of the Kärnten region in Austria, Friedrich Rainer, doubled the prize-money, which Kolbenheyer donated to the victims of the bombing raids on Munich. Two years later Rainer further hoped to increase Kolbenheyer’s links with the region by offering him the honorary direction of the newly created Paracelsus-Institute in Villach, which was established in 1944 as an institute of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Vienna.120 As far as it is possible to tell, given the late stage in the War, Kolbenheyer did not accept this offer, and it may have been this position that he later referred to in his defence against post-war accusations that he had supported the regime, when he declared that he had rejected the ← 139 | 140 → offer of a university professorship under the Nazis.121 In 1944, Kolbenheyer was also awarded the Grillparzer Prize of the City of Vienna.122

It was not only as a recipient of prizes that Kolbenheyer was tied into the literary establishment of the Third Reich. In 1941, for example, he was also named an honorary member of the Viennese Academy, and in 1944 a new prize bearing his name was established in his hometown of Karlsbad. The Kolbenheyer-Prize was awarded only once, to Robert Kampe.123 In addition, Kolbenheyer was also a member of the jury for the Eichendorff Prize, awarded by Toepfer’s Johann-Wolfgang von Goethe Stiftung to representatives of the ‘Deutsche Volkstum in der Tsechoslowakei’ between 1936 and 1944. In 1937 his fellow jurors included Herbert Cysarz and Otto Grosser, both from the University of Prague, Hanns Johst representing the RSK and Adolf Meschendörfer for the Auslands-Institut.124 Similarly, Hans Grimm sat on the jury for the Volksdeutscher Schrifttumspreis der Stadt der Auslandsdeutschen, Stuttgart when it met in May 1938. His fellows included Karl Strölin, the Lord Mayor of Stuttgart, Blunck in his capacity as former President of the RSK, Richard Csaki, director of the Deutschen Auslands-Institut in Stuttgart, Johst as President of the RSK, Gerhard Schumann, Reichskultursenator and a native of Stuttgart, and the writer Erwin Wittstock from Hermannstadt to represent Auslandsdeutsche themselves.125 While, as Strallhofer-Mittermeier points out, juries frequently only had an advisory role as far as prizes were concerned, and therefore did not have the privilege of deciding on the recipients, they remained another way in which individuals could represent the regime in cultural affairs. The inclusion of Hans Grimm is particularly notable given that he was not awarded a single prize during the regime. This has been put down as a ← 140 | 141 → sign of Grimm’s unpopularity with leading figures in the government, not least by Grimm himself; it is, however, more likely that it can be explained by the fact that he published little that was new in these years, and the works he did produce tended to be of a political nature, precursors to his post-1945 publications, rather than fiction.

In practice several drawbacks emerged regarding prizes in the Third Reich. Not least of these was the devaluation of the prestige attached to literary prizes in Germany, resulting both from the lack of ‘National Socialist’ authors to receive them, and from the large number of prizes at every level. In December 1937, Schrifttumsreferent Erckmann in the RMVP summarised the negative effects of the uncontrolled development of the literature prizes in a report for Goebbels. Conducting research with the regional offices of the Propaganda Ministry, Erckmann found that in the whole of the Third Reich about 70 literary prizes were being awarded.126 As this quantity bore no relation to the quality of writing being produced in Germany, many writers were the recipients of numerous awards and some new writers were being awarded prizes on the basis of only their first work. Erckmann concluded that the result was a devaluation of the literature prizes in the perception of the public. He therefore proposed a fundamental reform of the prize system. While reducing the prizes was not advisable economically, he recommended that a number of prizes should be turned into scholarships and one-off sums to assist writers. Goebbels reacted positively to his suggestion and on 26th January 1939 ruled that the award of prizes of more than 2,000 RM could only occur with his permission. The directors of the regional propaganda offices were to be members of the selection committees and a shortlist of candidates for each award was to be submitted to the Propaganda Ministry for its approval at least four weeks before the award ceremony.127

The administration of the prizes also created problems of coordination. A letter from the J. Engelhorns Nachfolger/Adolf Spemann Verlag ← 141 | 142 → of 1st September 1942, addressed to the Propaganda Ministry and copied to the President of the RSK, highlights both the problems and also the desired achievements of literary prizes. The publisher was responsible for the publication of the work Carl von Bremen by Wilhelm Hymmen, which won the Hermann-Löns-Prize of that year, named in honour of the Heimat author of Der Wehrwolf who was killed in the First World War. In this case the publisher complained that he was not given sufficient notification of the award and was therefore unable to make preparations for the increased demand it created: ‘[…] the point of such an honour is also to lead to a greater dissemination of the prizewinning books. The consequence therefore is almost always an increased demand. How, however, should the publisher meet this when he isn’t informed beforehand!’128 While prizes had an effect on the demand for particular works, bad administration could, it seems, sabotage their potential value to the government. In spite of the problems associated with the literature prizes, however, they were nonetheless still felt to be important during the Second World War. In 1939 Johst made the decision to continue them into the war years as part of the RSK’s war effort. At his request, Goebbels therefore wrote to private benefactors like Toepfer to encourage them to continue their patronage of prizes, which, on the whole, they did.129

Völkisch Writers and the Nazi Policy on Literature

Nazi policies towards literature never went beyond the development stage. When the Second World War broke out the institutions concerned with literature were still defining their roles. Even as late as 1945 the policies of the Nazi Party had still not been fully implemented, the wartime paper ← 142 | 143 → shortage having limited literary output. There was, moreover, never a cohesive Literaturpolitik in Nazi Germany. While it was agreed that Gleichschaltung should include the literary sphere, the concept was never clearly defined and was therefore subject to individual and often conflicting interpretations.130 As a result, there never emerged a literary corpus that could be described as ‘National Socialist’. Instead the Nazis adopted those trends in German culture that were compatible with their ideology, and attempted to stamp out any that were not.131 A comprehensive, smooth-running institutional machinery putting into practice well thought-out and cohesive policies did not exist in the Nazi regime. This was partly the result of the sheer size of the bureaucracy involved in executing legislation, but also partly due to the personal rivalries and conflicting interests that characterised all levels of Nazi Literaturpolitik.

The divisions that reigned in the cultural world of the Third Reich should not, however, be reasons to ignore the concrete elements that stood behind the politics of literature. The prejudices that ruled Nazi attitudes did form a basis for the actions of the leading Nazis in the literary world. Anti-Semitism governed the ‘Aryanisation’ of Jewish publishing houses. In a similar vein, writers who represented the liberal and democratic traditions of the Weimar Republic were ostracised and prevented from publishing their works. These actions served a practical goal in support of the Nazi regime, limiting oppositional voices. They also sought to ensure that the reading material enjoyed by the German population was in line with Nazi principles. It was, however, easier for the Nazis to remove the literature judged to be foreign to the Volksgemeinschaft than it was for them to put a National Socialist canon in its place. As the ‘golden’ lists issued for the rebuilding of library collections show, their failure to do so left them reliant on the works of völkisch-nationalist writers.

The diversity of the representatives of völkisch thought makes it unwise to generalise about their relationship with the Nazi Party. A number of ← 143 | 144 → commentators, and not only those on the extreme right with first-hand experience of Nazi literary life, have observed that this relationship was more complex than those seeking in völkisch activity the roots of National Socialism may have suggested.132 Two things are worth noting: first, to understand the writers that are the subject of this book it is necessary to differentiate between their ideological similarities with the Nazis and their personal attitudes towards the NSDAP. The latter were frequently based on their elitist social instincts. So, for example, Hans Grimm found the mass politics of National Socialism distasteful, warning against allowing the ‘movement’ to become part of the class struggle that was the basis of the Marxist workers’ organisations. At the same time, he expressed sympathy for the racial ideology that underpinned the NSDAP, seeing in it an expression of the ‘German’ cause for which he also stood.133

Second, a number of the writers in question reinterpreted their relationship with the Nazi regime after 1945. Unsurprisingly, these accounts tend to highlight the differences rather than the similarities between the two. The task of negotiating a path between the different perspectives on the German right after 1933 is complicated by post-war sensitivity to the negative consequences of association with Nazism, as well as the political agendas at work after 1945. Grimm and Kolbenheyer did not simply seek to clear their own names after the Second World War; their post-war commentaries were written with a political purpose, namely the application of their völkisch worldviews in opposition to both Bolshevism and the new Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The view of the Nazi Party and regime that they presented was coloured by their opposition to the systems that followed its downfall.

After 1945, völkisch writers’ efforts to combat association with the Nazi regime led them into confrontation with literary colleagues, journalists and other commentators in public life, particularly those returning from exile or incarceration, who viewed them as the literary representatives of ← 144 | 145 → the regime. And indeed, in many ways that is what they became between 1933 and 1945. But they were not products of National Socialism and they did not necessarily understand themselves as ‘Nazi’ writers. There is a danger that the automatic association of völkisch writers with National Socialism leads to an over-simplified understanding of cultural life in the Third Reich. While the Nazis certainly waged a crusade against writers whom they identified as politically unacceptable or racially foreign, those left behind continued to represent a spectrum of views and responded to the regime in a variety of ways. The differences in the perspectives of the individual writers considered here and the ongoing fluidity in relationships across the cultural sphere more generally after 1933, albeit within an altered, narrower ideological framework, also suggest the possibility of a nuanced spectrum of ‘acquiescent’ attitudes towards the regime among the population at large.

From the perspective of the Nazis, there was also some ambivalence towards the völkisch movement. Hitler’s declared attitude was critical rather than enthusiastic. Victor Klemperer noted in his examination of the language of the Third Reich that Hitler viewed the Völkischen as competition, rejecting their ‘folksy’ aspects, whilst seeking to instrumentalise some of their goals to benefit the National Socialist cause.134 Nonetheless, rhetorical rejection of völkisch thought does not negate the fact that the Nazis were also representatives of a völkisch worldview. Indeed, their concern was to draw leading writers like Grimm and Kolbenheyer into their own ranks. The tensions that emerged between Party representatives and several völkisch writers after 1933 resulted because the continued independence of the latter presented a challenge to the monopoly over racial nationalism the Nazis sought to establish; they did not represent fundamental ideological differences, but a struggle for intellectual control.

Given Hans Grimm’s popularity with Goebbels in the early 1930s, it was unsurprising that he was appointed to the board of the RSK following the Nazi Machtergreifung and the foundation of the RKK in 1933. Barbian suggests this was partly intended in recognition of his services to nationalist ← 145 | 146 → literature and National Socialism, and partly as a way of harnessing his reputation to the RSK.135 By 1942 Volk ohne Raum achieved total publication of 540,000 copies, the title providing the Nazis with a slogan for territorial expansion, albeit in Eastern Europe rather than Africa. At most, in the long term Africa might provide raw materials for the regime; it was not an area marked out for settlement. Grimm’s position regarding the policies of the regime was therefore ambiguous from the outset, even if many of his fundamental principles corresponded to Nazi thinking.136

Grimm does not appear to have understood the concerns of the propagandist. His efforts to provide support for the Nazi Party, particularly through election endorsements in the early 1930s were based on the idea that he would offer original and independent thoughts on the German situation and the Nazi contribution to it. In the course of time, Grimm proved an increasingly outspoken critic of the RSK, and the government. He believed his position on the board of the RSK obliged him to provide constructive criticism. Selected as a result of his proven literary achievements, Grimm assumed that he had been called to be a commentator on the progress of the new regime in the literary sphere. And to a significant degree he did become the mouthpiece of his völkisch-nationalist colleagues with the government in the early years of the Third Reich. On 23rd April 1935 he wrote to Blunck:

The men named above [Jünger, Kolbenheyer and von Salomon], and with them certainly nine tenths of all national writers of name, believe that as a member of the board of the chamber I have the opportunity and the duty to bring up things for discussion, which quite unnecessarily damage German cultural prestige, and as a consequence must also cause increasing political damage to the state.137

Grimm’s understanding of the purpose of the RSK and its constituent institutions did not mirror that of Goebbels and the Nazi leaders. While the latter ← 146 | 147 → were primarily concerned with questions of censorship, propaganda and control, Grimm took a more idealistic völkisch view of literary institutions, seeing their role as one of social and political representation of a clearly defined literary estate, or Standesvertretung. The organisation of German society according to estates was viewed by völkisch-nationalists as the basis for its healthy development in the future. Grimm adopted the idea as the basis for the formation of political institutions that would represent writers, and other professions in book production and the book trade, as their own social estates. Such representation would be concerned both with the wellbeing of writers and also the quality of the literature they produced.

Early on Grimm identified the lack of definition between the various organisations in the literary sphere during the Third Reich as the greatest impediment to achieving the goals of völkisch-nationalist writers in Germany. He did not hesitate to point out the problems he perceived to senior Nazis. On 24th April 1935, he let Goebbels know that ‘If things continue as they are, the estate will be increasingly gambled away, art will be hindered and the cultural reputation of the Third Reich pointlessly endangered.’138 He also reiterated opinions already made clear to Blunck in a letter of 23rd April 1935 at a meeting of the board of the RSK on 5th June 1935, comparing the RSK’s provision for the needs of booksellers with that for writers and concluding that the needs of the former were better met. He emphasised that writers, just as booksellers, should be recognised as a separate ‘estate’ and controversially suggested the Reichskammergesetz itself was the root of the problem, having resulted in a bureaucracy to control writers instead of a framework in which serious writers could exist as a social estate. He thereby directly criticised Nazi lawmaking. Grimm’s contribution to the meeting demonstrated his elitist attitudes. He suggested that ‘real’ writers should be separated from the masses, who simply earned a living with the pen, through the formation of an elite organisation. The members ← 147 | 148 → of the proposed organisation should, moreover, be allowed to decide for themselves who would join their ranks. Journalists and essayists were to be firmly excluded.139

Grimm also made himself unpopular with his criticisms of the way in which the Reichsverband der deutschen Schriftsteller (RDS) developed. Formed in June 1933 out of several previously existing organisations, the RDS was charged, among other things, with the establishment of a catalogue of names and addresses of all writers active in Germany, alongside an archive of newspaper clippings and other information on literary activities. It was therefore utilised by the government less as an instrument to support German writers, but rather to watch over and control them.140 With the passing of the RKK-Gesetz on 1st November 1933, the RDS in turn became the RSK, although a sub-organisation named the RDS remained present within the RSK.141 Its badly defined purpose provides yet another example of the institutional confusion that reigned in the literary world during the Third Reich.142

Grimm’s criticisms of the RDS differed little from his complaints about the RSK. On a superficial level, he objected to the inefficient and over-bureaucratic nature of the organisation.143 In the RDS, he argued, the men and women of German literature had been presented with a compulsory organisation run by bureaucrats wholly uninvolved in the creation of German literature. He further observed:

The office publishes a journal in very bad German, which is sent to us. The office has made a fantastic suggestion that the bad journal should be expanded without remuneration in order to compete with serious journals! […] The office has attempted ← 148 | 149 → to interfere in the affairs of our publishing houses and our royalties without any knowledge at all of these concerns. The office has recently tried to establish a pointless correspondence with the press. The office has, as it announced in print, recently decreed a – as far as I can see legally completely untenable – tax intention, according to which those of us true professionals are expected to contribute very substantial contributions from our gross income, doubtless above all to cover the expenses of the enterprises of the office; to put it mildly, whatever happens to this money, we members who provide it will not benefit. We writers will not gain any material, let alone ideological profit from the office. We only publicly share the responsibility for the ignorance of a central office, which […] is no longer even a subject of jokes.144

To solve the problem, Grimm suggested that the RDS should continue to exist as the first collection point for those who wrote for a living, and in so doing could continue to bureaucratise literary endeavour. In addition Grimm proposed the establishment of a separate organisation for ‘Dichter’, which would free its members from the obligation of membership in the RDS. Grimm was therefore concerned with gaining greater freedom for ‘Dichter’, as opposed to ‘Schriftsteller’, from the controls of the Third Reich.

Grimm’s criticisms, though received coldly by the Nazi leadership, did not fall on deaf ears. Secretary of State Funk noted in the margins of one of Grimm’s epistles: ‘The deficiencies of the chambers and the assemblies are evident all over the place!’145 The Nazis were aware of the problems of the RDS, its inefficiency and its lack of definition.146 In addition, with its formation the RDS took on the not inconsiderable debts of its predecessor organisations, the burden of which fell on the writers who were forced to contribute to it. These problems rendered it functionally impotent in the Third Reich and were among the reasons for its eventual abolition, announced on 30th September 1935 and carried out over the following twelve months. Its assets and members were directly transferred to the RSK, which itself underwent a streamlining process, in the course of which the identifiable competencies of the RDS were subsumed into what became the Gruppe Schriftsteller ← 149 | 150 → in autumn 1936.147 The fate of the RDS reflected the tendency of the Nazi government, particularly in the areas that Goebbels controlled, to allow controversial organisations to become marginalised. Its dissolution was due to its complicated financial situation. Hans Grimm emerged from the controversy over the RDS with a reputation as a trouble maker who refused to toe the line. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in March 1935 he was dismissed from the board of the RSK, the formal reason given being his age.148

Blunck too was replaced by Johst as President of the RSK in 1935, due both to his lenient attitude towards Jewish writers who had served in the First World War, and to the fact that he was not a member of the NSDAP.149 Further changes in the Präsidalrat also took place in the years that followed.150 By January 1939 it consisted of ten men, including Hugo Bruckmann, the publisher of Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s works and a long-time supporter of the Nazis.151 Likewise the list of members of the ← 150 | 151 → Reichskultursenat in the same year also included several prominent völkisch names, including Bruckmann and Emil Strauß.152

Hans Grimm’s position in the Third Reich was made more difficult by his inability to understand the limitations to his influence, particularly from the mid-1930s onwards. The cultural context changed under the new rulers. Grimm’s ongoing assertion that he should remain a sympathetic but critical commentator, outside the Party structures, was less enthusiastically received by Goebbels once he was Minister for Propaganda than it had been when public engagement with Grimm had the advantage of lending intellectual respectability to the NSDAP at a time when the Party was closely associated with outbursts of street violence in cities like Berlin. Once the NSDAP was in power, Grimm was expected to subordinate himself to the regime; his failure to do so led to problems that will be introduced here and discussed in more depth in subsequent chapters.

Grimm’s problems began in 1934 when he voted against the amalgamation of the offices of Reichspräsident and Reichskanzler in the referendum staged by the Nazis in August of that year. Writing after 1945, Grimm noted that already on the day of President Hindenburg’s death, Hitler called for the referendum. According to Grimm’s account this was to take place in line with the free and secret ballot outlined in the Weimar constitution, which was still officially in force. The 19th August was selected as the day on which the vote would be held. In early August Grimm received a request from both the Reichsrundfunk and the Propaganda Ministry asking him to contribute to the election campaign with two public statements on the radio endorsing the plan. He immediately responded by saying that he was unable to do so as he was not in favour of the proposition. As an explanation he suggested that Hitler’s presidency, which appeared to have the support of a large majority of the population, would only be useful under conditions that preserved the separate position and prestige of the Chancellor. Grimm felt that this was important both for Germany’s standing abroad and because the national revolution was not yet completed. In all revolutions, ← 151 | 152 → he argued, a certain amount of ‘dirt’ would be stirred up. The role of the Chancellor, therefore, was to catch the bullets, if necessary taking responsibility by resigning or accepting dismissal. Thus, the President – here Grimm appears to assume that this office would be occupied by Hitler – would remain untouched by the ‘dirt’. At the same time, Grimm informed the Propaganda Minister that he intended to vote ‘No’ on this question. In his post-war account, he added that in the two weeks that followed his letter, a campaign was pursued against possible ‘No’ votes. Grimm declared that his intentions had been known only to Goebbels and in two other offices in Berlin. On his way to the ballot, he recalled, he had met his son, who appeared downcast on returning from casting his own vote. Wernt Grimm reported that he had intended to vote in favour, but noted that the ballot paper carried indentifying marks. As a result he decided to vote against the proposition, as his father also went on to do. Grimm declared that when he arrived at the polling station he had noted nothing untoward with the ballot paper himself; nonetheless, the same evening, the names of those who had voted against the action were known in Lippoldsberg.

For Grimm, the way in which the regime manifested itself at a local level was important. He described a visit to the Nazi Ortsgruppenleiter the following day to find out what had gone on. He pointed out, he said, that breaching electoral secrecy was punishable with prison. The official denied all involvement. Grimm appears to have believed him; his post-war description of him as a decent man who, whilst still a young social-democratic factory worker, had served in the First World War, before discovering National Socialism as a member of the Freikorps fighting in the Baltic states and Silesia, is noticeably reminiscent of Cornelius Friebott, Grimm’s hero in Volk ohne Raum. Conveniently, in Grimm’s account, the Ortsgruppenleiter’s views appear to have overlapped with Grimm’s own; thus he prevented the public display of Der Stürmer in the village and ordered the slogan ‘Die Juden sind unser Unglück’ to be removed from the noticeboards constructed for this purpose.153

← 152 | 153 → As a result of the inconclusive nature of his meeting with the local Nazi official, Grimm wrote to Wilhelm Frick, responsible for electoral procedures as Reich Interior Minister, and in whose name, Grimm pointed out, the free and secret ballot had been guaranteed. Unlike Grimm’s post-war account, this letter suggests that the Ortsgruppenleiter appeared to know who had been responsible for the electoral irregularities and intended to present his own report on the matter. Grimm also outlined again his reasons for rejecting the proposition put forward in the referendum, before going on to emphasise the broader significance of such local instances, highlighting his concern about the direction in which Germany was going. Grimm’s concern, as he expressed it to Frick, was to ensure that the Party and the German revolution remained clean and untainted by corruption, thereby also preserving the faith of the German people.154 Grimm noted in his account of these events in Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin? that, while he knew Minister Frick to have been a man of honour, he did not receive a response to his letter. Neither was any action taken with regard to the question of the election. When it was clear that nothing was going to happen, he informed the Ortsgruppenleiter and the local group of the NSDAP that he would not participate in further electoral procedures until things had been set straight. He remained true to this intention, with three exceptions: he voted in favour of rearmament, the return of the Saar region to Germany, and the Anschluß with Austria, his mother’s homeland. Years later, Grimm reported after the Second World War, he learned that his letter of August 1934 and two further letters directed at Frick in 1936 had not reached the Minister. Instead, as became apparent in an uncomfortable meeting with Goebbels in 1938, discussed further in Chapter 4, they were passed on by an unknown official to be copied and kept on file for use against him should the occasion arise.155

The two letters sent to Frick in 1936 also dealt with a referendum process. On 28th March 1936, he raised his concerns regarding the way ← 153 | 154 → in which the question for the referendum held on foreign policy issues had been phrased. As Grimm later explained, as a consequence of the French-Russian Pact ratified in February 1936, the German population was asked to give its support to the government’s foreign policy, particularly its handling of the re-militarisation of the Rhineland and the abandoning of the Locarno Treaty. At the same time, however, the public was required to give its approval for the methods used by the Party domestically; it was not possible, and this was Grimm’s initial complaint, to vote in favour of the former without saying ‘yes’ to the latter as well. In his post-war commentary, Grimm presented a quotation from his letter, writing:

I stated: ‘I can only say yes, when it comes to opposing the Versailles Dictate. With this yes, I may hoewever mislead men like you, Herr Minister. I therefore point out that my yes, alongside the yes of millions of other silent Germans, is not a declaration of trust in the methods of the Party over the last three years … I would go as far as to say, Herr Minister, that the Volksgenosse is more hurt today by false propaganda, by innumerable individual negative instances and fear for job and bread than he was three years ago. Herr Minister, I desire the realisation of National Socialism. Herr Minister, help stop the destruction of the state and the incurable fragmentation of Germany due to a misapprehended Party … Please help to make sure that the Führersystem does not become a system of Führer, who end up destroying the Führer.’156

It is worth noting that while this version more or less mirrors the content and style of the original letter in Grimm’s papers, it is a selective quotation that includes some minor inaccuracies. Nonetheless, while differences are evident, overall it would seem that Grimm’s post-war representation of his 1936 position on this matter was quite accurate. It is also possible, as his handwritten corrections on the copy of the letter indicate, that there were minor differences between the version kept in his records and the one that finally made its way to the Interior Ministry.

The second letter of 1936, sent on 4th April, dealt with the same referendum. Grimm noted in his later account that the only ‘No’ vote in Lippoldsberg was cast by a 42-year-old worker, Friedrich Remhof. By now there was little pretence with regard to electoral secrecy. According ← 154 | 155 → to Grimm, Remhof sought to avoid voting altogether, but was forced to the ballot and therefore decided to vote against the motion. A local Obersturmführer in the SS, whose apparent Nazi enthusiasm, Grimm stated, had already done the reputation of the movement some damage, decided to act as judge and avenger. He pursued the unfortunate Remhof, bringing him before an ad hoc court before setting his comrades on him during the night, mishandling him severely. On hearing of these events the following morning, Grimm took it upon himself to visit the Public Prosecutor’s office in Kassel and persuaded him to press charges against the Obersturmführer for inflicting grievous bodily harm. He also informed the Minister of the Interior of the case in his letter of 4th April.157 In this case, the original version of the letter is more strongly critical than Grimm’s post-war account: Grimm described for Frick’s benefit and in considerable detail the ordeal of his fellow villager.158 The role Grimm appears to have adopted in this instance fits with that more generally seen in his relationship with the village and tells us a lot about the way in which he understood his own position in society: Grimm appears in these accounts as the village squire or aristocrat. He seems to have had a patriarchal sense of responsibility for his community, using his contacts and position on its behalf, but in a distant, moral spirit of one who exists in and with the community, but considers himself socially above those around him. He therefore added a paragraph towards the end of this letter to Frick that said: ‘Herr Minister, I have made the name of this village known and admired through the world. I want to rescue what can be rescued. I am the only one here who can still take this risk, I know that I put myself in danger in doing so.’159

In his post-1945 report, Grimm noted that this letter too went unanswered. From the public prosecutor’s office in Kassel he eventually received notification that the case had fallen under an amnesty and would therefore not be taken any further. Rudolf Hess, known to Grimm as a result of their correspondence regarding the ‘Bitte an den Nationalsozialismus’ in 1932, ← 155 | 156 → did take the matter up with the Party leadership. In spite of this, Grimm noted, the perpetrator of the violence in Lippoldsberg was only expelled from the SS several months later and after much prodding by Joachim von Ribbentrop. While the outcome was unsatisfactory from Grimm’s point of view, this instance suggests that, whatever difficulties he may have had in the Third Reich, he also benefited from the ongoing functioning of established networks.160 The character of these networks will be examined further in the chapters that follow.


1 Breuer, Die Völkischen in Deutschland, pp. 7–8.

2 Puschner et al., Handbuch zur ‘völkischen Bewegung’, pp. X–XI.

3 Quoted in Puschner, Die völkische Bewegung, p. 9.

4 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 49–51.

5 Ibid. pp. 49–51.

6 Rolf Düsterberg, Hanns Johst:‘Der Barde der SS’: Karrieren eines deutschen Dichters (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2004), p. 124.

7 Alfred Rosenberg to Hans Grimm, 11.10.1927, DLA, A: Grimm, Rosenberg to Grimm, 11.10.1927.

8 Düsterberg, Hanns Johst, pp. 124–125.

9 Alfred Rosenberg to Hans Grimm, 11.10.1927, DLA, A: Grimm, Rosenberg to Grimm, 11.10.1927.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Quoted in Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 57.

13 Ibid. pp. 56–61.

14 Düsterberg, Hanns Johst, pp. 128, 131.

15 Adolf Hitler, ‘Die deutsche Kunst als stolzeste Verteidigung des deutschen Volkes’ in Erhard Klöss (ed.), Reden des Führers. Politik und Propaganda Adolf Hitlers, 1922–1945 (Munich: dtv, 1967), p. 109.

16 Ibid. p. 116.

17 Ibid. p. 120.

18 Following his dismissal as President of the RSK Blunck engaged in ongoing initiatives that actively supported the Nazi regime.

19 Ketelsen, Literatur und Drittes Reich, p. 286.

20 Ian Kershaw, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria, 1933–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 1.

21 Reinhard Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner. Zum Machtkampf im nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftssystem (Stuttgart. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1970).

22 Ibid. pp. 294–298.

23 Spotts’ point that Hitler’s interest in literature was limited is corroborated by others who have investigated Hitler’s reading habits. See Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics (London: Hutchison, 2002), p. 16; also: Robert G.L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler (New York: Basic Books, 1977), p. 60. Hitler cultivated the impression that he was a wide reader, acquainted with the German classics as well as contemporary works in Mein Kampf (Munich 1926; Edition used: 1936), pp. 35–39. This is supported by the account of his childhood friend, August Kubizek, Hitler, mein Jugendfreund (Graz & Stuttgart: Stockerer, 1995), pp. 188–189. Nonetheless, Kubizek’s memoirs are notoriously unreliable, as is Hitler’s own account of his early life. Brigitte Hamann notes that it is more likely that Hitler came across quotations from the works of German masters like Goethe and Schiller in the German nationalist press in Austria. See Brigitte Hamann, Hitlers Vienna: A Dictator’s Apprenticeship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 74–76. With the exception of Karl May’s novels and an illustrated history of the Franco-Prussian War in his childhood, and later also the Flottenalmanach and numerous anti-Semitic pamphlets, there is little evidence of Hitler’s wider reading. See Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1898–1936: Hubris (London: Penguin, 1998), pp. 15–17. See also: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I. (Munich: Eher, 1925), p. 173; Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941–1944, with an introductory essay on ‘The Mind of Adolf Hitler’ by H.R. Trevor-Roper (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953), p. 316.

24 As well as his novel, Michael: Ein deutsches Schicksal in Tagebuchblättern (Munich: Eher, 1929), Goebbels published several political works, namely: Signale der neuen Zeit. 25 ausgewählte Reden (Munich: Eher, 1937); Kampf um Berlin (Munich, 1939). See also Jan Andres, ‘Die “Konservative Revolution” in der Weimarer Republik und Joseph Goebbels’ “Michael” – Roman. Überlegungen zu einer möglichen Verbindung’, in Jahrbuch zur Kultur und Literatur der Weimarer Republik (2007), pp. 141–165.

25 Uwe-K. Ketelsen, ‘NS-Literatur und Modernität’ in Wulf Koepke and Michael Winkler (eds), Deutschsprachige Exilliteratur, pp. 37–55.

26 See discussion of Grimm’s confrontation with Goebbels in 1938 on pp. 261–262.

27 David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 23.

28 Quoted in Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 164.

29 Ibid.

30 ‘Das Reichskulturkammergesetz’, 22nd September 1933, in Michaelis and Schraepler (eds), Ursachen und Folgen, pp. 501–502.

31 Draft description of the RSK, probably intended for the Handbuch der Deutschen Kunst, produced by Willy Dressler in Berlin around 1940, B.Arch.R56V–48.

32 Ibid. On the rules and debate over membership of professional organisations, including the RSK, see also Dr. Greiner of RMVP to the President of the RSK, 17.9.1938, B.Arch.R56V–51; Wilhelm Baur, Secretary of the RSK, to Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, 28.8.1940, B.Arch.R56V–51; Memorandum from RSK to Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda regarding ‘Die Beteiligung der Partei bei der Prüfung der Zuverlässigkeit von Mitgliedern’, End of May, 1938, B.Arch.R56V–51; ‘Mitteilung der Reichsschrifttumskammer, Gruppe Buchhandel an die Reichsschrifttumskammer, Berlin. Betr. Anfrage des Herrn Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda über die Beteiligung der Partei bei der Prüfung der Zuverlässigkeit von Mitgliedern’, 3.6.1938, B.Arch.R56V–51; RSK to Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda. Betr. Anfrage des Herrn Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung un und Propaganda über die Beteiligung der Partei bei der Prüfung der Zuverlässigkeit von Mitgliedern’ 7.6.1938, B.Arch.R56V–51. Finally on racially ambiguous cases, see, for example, letter from Friedrich Bethge, Gaukulturwart and Intendant des Frankfurter Theaters, to Hans Hinkel in the RSK, 28.7.1936, regarding possible RSK membership for the playwright Gottfried Stein, and temporary membership of the Reichstheaterkammer for Joachim Gottschalk, both of whom had Jewish wives, B.Arch.R56I–3.

33 Grimm and Co. to Rust, November 1934 in DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to ‘Deutschland, Deutsches Reich, Ministerium für Volksbildung’.

34 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 405.

35 Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology (London: Batsford, 1972), pp. 1–4.

36 ‘Lebensbeschreibung’ Alfred Rosenberg, B.Arch.NS8-101.

37 Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythos des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelisch-geistigen Gestaltenkämpfe unserer Zeit (Munich: Eher, 1930. Edition used: Munich: Eher, 1933).

38 It seems that Rosenberg’s late advancement within the party was linked to his failure to gain the personal liking of Hitler. Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race., pp. 105–133.

39 Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race, pp. 113–115; Ketelsen, Literatur im Dritten Reich, p. 291.

40 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 285.

41 For a more detailed account of the development and activities of the RFdS see Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 270–280.

42 On the Reichsstelle zur Förderung des deutschen Schrifttums and the Parteiamtliche Prüfungskommission, see Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 280–285.

43 This rivalry is evident in the diaries of the two men. See, for example, Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, 27.2.1942, part II, vol. 3, pp. 381–382; Hans-Günther Seraphim (ed.), Das politische Tagebuch Alfred Rosenbergs (Munich: Musterschmidt, 1964), pp. 108–109.

44 See Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1898–1936: Hubris (London: Penguin, 1998), p. 483; see also Gerhard Sauder, Die Bücherverbrennung (Munich/Vienna: Hanser, 1983); Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London: Penguin, 2003), pp. 426–431.

45 Twelve Points of the Deutsche Studentenschaft, 13th April 1933, in Michealis and Schraepler (eds), Ursachen und Folgen vom deutschen Zusammenbruch, vol. IX, pp. 486–488.

46 Ibid.

47 Press report on the book burnings in Michaelis and Schraepler (eds), Ursachen und Folgen, vol. IX pp. 487–488.

48 Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda, 1925–1945 (Ann Arbor: Michigan State University Press, 1965), p. 68.

49 Joseph Goebbels’ Speech, 10.05.1933, in H. Heiber (ed.), Goebbels Reden: Band I, 1932–1939 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1971), p. 109.

50 Quoted in Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda, pp. 68–69.

51 Hans Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?, pp. 179–180.

52 Minutes of meeting of the board of directors of the Öffentliche Bücherhalle in Hamburg, 18th March 1933, Hamburger Staatsarchiv: 614 – 1/38.

53 Ibid.

54 Quoted in Barbian, Literaturpolitik im ‘Dritten Reich’, p. 142.

55 ‘Vorläufiges Richtlinien für die Auslese der Bestände der öffentlichen Büchereien nach völkischen Gesichtspunkten’, Amtsblatt des Thüringischen Ministerium für Volksbildung, Jahrgang 12: Weimar, den 26. September, Nr.15, 1933, pp. 143–144, B.Arch.R56V–72.

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid.

58 Report accompanying initial black list presented by the working committee to the RMVP on 13.7.1933, B.Arch.R56V–70.

59 Ibid.

60 On 15th April 1940, the RSK issued a declaration regarding the censhorship of works which stated that the earlier declaration of 25th April 1935, published in the Völkische Beobachter on 8th May the same year, was also valid for the newly conquered Eastern Territories, B.Arch.R56V–48.

61 Anordnung betreffend Listen des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums. (Verkündet im Völkischen Beobachter vom 21.5.1940; Börsenblatt für den deutschen Buchhandel Nr. 117/1940.), B.Arch.R56V–48.

62 Blunck to Staatskommissar Wienhold, 1.5.1933, B.Arch.R56I–5.

63 Quoted in Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 366.

64 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 371.

65 See corrrespondence concerning the control of second-hand bookshops with regard to second hand books from Jewish households in B.Arch.R56V–196.

66 Dr. Heinl, Referent in der RSK, ‘Bericht über die Säuberungsaktion der Leihbüchereien am 1. Januar 1935’, B.Arch.R55–682.

67 Dr. Heinl, Referent in der RSK, ‘Bericht über die Säuberungsaktion der Leihbüchereien am 8. Januar 1935’ in B.Arch.R55–682.

68 For lists ca. 1937, especially of books imported into Germany from other countries, see: B.Arch.R56V–71.

69 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 368. See also Cuomo, ‘Hanns Johst und die Reichsschrifttumskammer’, p. 120.

70 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 411–412.

71 Ernst Wiechert, Der Dichter und die Zeit: Rede gehalten am 16. April im Auditoium Maximum der Universität München (Zurich: Artemie-Verlag, 1945).

72 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 399–403.

73 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 146.

74 ‘Aufbau der Bestände der öffentlichen Büchereien nach völkischen Gesichtspunkten’, Amtsblatt des Thüringischen Ministeriums für Volksbildung, 13. Jahrgang, Weimar, 2nd March 1934, pp. 32–39.

75 Ibid.

76 Dr. Friedrich Lampe, Gesichtspunkte für die Anfertigung von Bücherbesprechungen, January 1934, Hamburger Staatsarchiv: 614 – 1/38.

77 Protokoll der 37. Leitersitzung der Öffentlichen Bücherhallen, Hamburg, Hamburger Staatsarchiv, 614 – 1/38.

78 Schoeps, Literatur im Dritten Reich, p. 37.

79 Fuller, The Nazis’ Literary Grandfather, pp. 175–177.

80 Gerhard Baumann, Jüdische und völkische Literaturwissenschaft: Ein Vergleich zwischen Eduard Engel and Adolf Bartels (Munich: Eher, 1936).

81 Eduard Engel, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur von den Anfängen bis in die Gegenwart, 2 Volumes (4th Edition, Leipzig: Freytag, 1908).

82 Baumann, Jüdische und völkische Literaturwissenschaft, p. 5.

83 Ibid. pp. 7–10.

84 Frenssen, Der Glaube der Nordmark (Berlin: Truckenmüller, 1936).

85 Crystall, Gustav Frenssen, p. 499.

86 Ibid. p. 420.

87 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 450, 458.

88 Helga Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise für österreichische Autoren: Eine Dokumentation (Vienna: Böhlau, 1994), p. 12.

89 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 459.

90 Ihde to Goebbels, 1.07.1938, ‘Betr. Deutschen Nationalpreis für Kunst und Wissenschaft 1938’ in B.Arch.R56V–31.

91 Ibid.

92 Ibid. pp. 451–452.

93 For culture and literature prizes see also Jan Zimmermann, ‘Von deutschen Jugendherbergen zu europäischen Kulturpreisen’ in Georg Kreis et al. (eds), Alfred Toepfer, Stifter und Kaufmann: Bausteine einer Biographie–Kritische Bestandaufnahme (Hamburg: Christians, 2000), pp. 226–229.

94 For the extensive correspondence between officials in the RSK and Toepfer regarding the establishment and administration of prizes, see B.Arch.R56V–91.

95 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 461–462; Zimmermann, ‘Von deutschen Jugendherbergen zu europäischen Kulturpreisen’, pp. 211–251; Helga Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise für österreichische Autoren: Eine Dokumentation (Vienna: Böhlau, 1994, pp. 31–47.

96 Gertrude Depl-Kaufmann, ‘Der Rheinische Literaturpreis 1935–1944’ in Bernd Kortländer, Literaturpreise: Literaturpolitik und Literatur am Beispiel der Region Rheinland/Westfalen (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998), pp. 67–100.

97 Ibid., p. 67.

98 Ibid., p. 81.

99 Friedrich Bethge to Hans Hinkel, 28.7.1936, B.Arch.R56I–3; Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 460–461.

100 Quoted in Willi Emrich, Die Träger des Goethepreises der Stadt Frankfurt am Main von 1927 bis 1961 (Frankfurt a/M: Osterrieth, 1963), p. 171.

101 Ibid., p. 171.

102 ‘Der Goethepreis 1940 für die Dichterin der ostpreußischen Heimat,’ undated clipping from an unnamed newspaper (possibly the Volksblatt), 1940, DLA – A: Miegel, 3: Zum Leben und Werk.

103 Ibid.

104 Ibid.

105 ‘Feierstunde im Hirschgraben’ (Frankfurter?) General Anzeiger, 28.08.1940, DLA – A: Miegel, 3: Zum Leben und Werk.

106 From the speech delivered by Oberbürgermeister Stadtrat Dr. Krebs of Frankfurt am Main at the award ceremony to present Agnes Miegel with the Goethepreis der Stadt Frankfurt, reproduced in ‘Feierstunde im Hirschgraben’.

107 Ibid.

108 Dr. Ruth Hildebrand, ‘Agnes Miegel erhielt den Goethe-Preis’, Stuttgarter Neues Tagblatt, 31.08.1940, DLA – Dokumentationsstelle: Agnes Miegel 1: Material aus der Zeit vor 1945.

109 Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise, p. 87.

110 Ibid., pp. 30; 89–90.

111 Emrich, Die Träger des Goethepreises, p. 147.

112 Ibid., p. 147.

113 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, p. 344.

114 Ibid., p. 345.

115 Ibid., p. 346.

116 Ibid., pp. 346–347.

117 Ibid., pp. 347–348; quotation p. 348.

118 Quoted in Emrich, Die Träger des Goethepreises, p. 149.

119 Ibid., p. 109.

120 Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise, pp. 68–71.

121 Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 27.11.1947, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1946–1959.

122 Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise, p. 53; Strallhofer-Mitterbauer points out that in Literatur unterm Hakenkreuz, p. 503, Loewy mistakenly listed the year of Kolbenheyer’s award as 1943.

123 Strallhofer-Mitterbauer, NS-Literaturpreise, pp. 107–108.

124 Ibid., p. 46.

125 Ibid., pp. 106–107.

126 For lists of prizes, see B.Arch.R56V–91.

127 Undated memorandum in RSK, 1936: ‘Betr. Ständige Literaturpreise’, B.Arch.R56V–91; Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 464–469.

128 J. Engelhorns Nachf.-Adolf Spemann Verlag to RMVP and the President of the RSK, 1.9.1942, B.Arch.R56V–91.

129 Haegert (RMVP) to Johst, 20.12.1939, B.Arch.R56V–91.

130 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 836.

131 G.L. Mosse, The Culture of Western Europe: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries; an Introduction (London: John Murray, 1963), p. 371.

132 Puschner et al., ‘Introduction’ to Handbuch, pp. IX–X.

133 See, for example, the discussion of the ‘Bitte an den Nationalsozialismus’, published by Grimm and Winnig in 1932, on pp. 87–92.

134 Puschner et al., Handbuch, pp. ix–x.

135 Ibid. p. 404.

136 See Schoeps, Literatur im Dritten Reich, pp. 73–74, 78–79; Peter Zimmermann: ‘Kampf um den Lebensraum: Ein Mythos der Kolonial- und Blut-und-Boden-Literatur,’ in Denkler and Prümm (eds), Die deutsche Literatur im Dritten Reich., p. 170.

137 Grimm to Blunck, 23.4.1935, B.Arch.R56V–187.

138 Grimm to Goebbels, 24.4.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm / Regierungs- und Parteistellen – Briefe von ihm an Deutschland, Deutsches Reich, Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, 1931–1939; also quoted by Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 405.

139 Speech by Grimm at a Sitzung der RSK, 5.6.1935, B.Arch.R56V–187; see also Grimm to Blunck, 23.4.1935, B.Arch.R56V–187.

140 See report of an examination of the RDS by Arnold Stehlik, commissioned by the Geschäftsführer of the RSK and carried out between 29.3.1935–3.4.1935 and 17.4.1935–2.5.1935, B.Arch.R56V–73, p. 1 .

141 ‘Protokoll der Sitzung des Führerrats des Reichsverbandes Deutscher Schriftsteller e.V.’ on 20.9.1935, B.Arch.R56V–73, pp. 4–5.

142 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 837–838.

143 Ibid. p. 404.

144 Grimm to Blunck, 23.4.1935, B.Arch.R56V–187.

145 Quoted in Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 405.

146 See Stehlik’s report, B.Arch.R56V–73.

147 ‘Protokoll der Sitzung des Führerrats des Reichsverbandes Deutscher Schriftsteller e.V.’ of 20.9.1935, B.Arch.R56V–73, p. 1. See also: Letter from RSK to Finanzamt Charlottenburg-Ost, 5.1.1937, B.Arch.R56V–73; Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 207–212.

148 Grimm to Binding, 23.3.1935, DLA: Nachlaß Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935.

149 Barbian, Literaturpolitik, p. 405. See below, p. 175. Blunck’s removal from the position of President of the RSK is also commented on by Glenn Cuomo, ‘Hanns Johst und die Reichsschrifttumskammer: Ihr Einfluß auf die Situation des Schriftstellers im Dritten Reich’ in Jörg Thuneke (ed.), Leid der Worte., p. 112. Cuomo relies too heavily, however, on Blunck’s own account of the situation, in which he suggested that he protested against strengthened censorship, and more importantly against a renewed effort to exclude Jews from the RSK in 1935. See: Hans Friedrich Blunck, Unwegsame Zeiten: Lebensbericht, vol. 2 (Mannheim: Kessler, 1952), pp. 313–314. While his correspondence with Hans Grimm suggests that Blunck did indeed take a milder view of Jewish membership than Johst, Blunck’s account is unreliable, not least because it was first published in 1952, at a time when Blunck was trying (successfully) to revive his career.

150 See for example: Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, 25.11.1937, part I, vol. 3, p. 343; 4.12.1937, p. 355.

151 List of members and structures of the RSK, ca. January 1939, B.Arch. R56V–48: The ten men were: Staatsrat Hanns Johst, Gerhard Schumann, Martin Wülfing, Dr. Hans Friedrich Blunck, Karl Baur, Wilhelm Baur, Bürgermeister Krogmann, Theodor Fritsch, Hugo Bruckmann, Karl Heinz Hederich.

152 List of members and structures of the RSK, ca. January 1939, B.Arch.R56V–48.

153 Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?, pp. 175–177.

154 Hans Grimm to Wilhelm Frick, 25.9.1934, DLA, A: Grimm, Grimm to Frick, 1934–1936.

155 Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?, pp. 175–177.

156 Ibid., p. 177.

157 Ibid., p. 178.

158 Grimm to Frick, 4.4.1936, DLA, A: Grimm, Grimm to Frick, 1934–1936.

159 Ibid.

160 Grimm’s papers do not contain any correspondence with Rudolf Hess on this matter. It is possible, however, that Grimm spoke to Hess personally during one of his visits to Berlin. The same may be true for Ribbentrop, although it should be noted that the latter was German Ambassador in London at this time, which would have made a personal meeting more difficult. Nonetheless, Grimm may possibly have discussed the case with Ribbentrop during one of his lecture tours in Great Britain.