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"Völkisch" Writers and National Socialism

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


Guy Tourlamain

This book provides a view of literary life under the Nazis, highlighting the ambiguities, rivalries and conflicts that determined the cultural climate of that period and beyond. Focusing on a group of writers – in particular, Hans Grimm, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Wilhelm Schäfer, Emil Strauß, Börries Freiherr von Münchhausen and Rudolf Binding – it examines the continuities in völkisch-nationalist thought in Germany from c. 1890 into the post-war period and the ways in which völkisch-nationalists identified themselves in opposition to four successive German regimes: the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and the Federal Republic. Although their work predated Hitler’s National Socialist movement, their contribution to preparing the cultural climate for the rise of Nazism ensured them continued prominence in the Third Reich. Those who survived into the post-war era continued to represent the völkisch-nationalist worldview in the West German public sphere, opposing both the Soviet and liberal-democratic models for Germany’s future. While not uncontroversial, they were able to achieve significant publishing success, suggesting that a demand existed for their works among the German public, stimulating debate about the nature of the recent past and its effect on Germany’s cultural and political identity and position in the world.
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Chapter 3: The German Literature Academy: Control Mechanism or Cauldron of Dissent?

← 156 | 157 → CHAPTER 3

The German Literature Academy: Control Mechanism or Cauldron of Dissent?

In the early years of the Third Reich, völkisch-nationalist networks took on a new character. As many prominent writers went into exile or were excluded from Germany’s literary institutions because of their race or political views, the Nazis required the support of well-known nationalists to replace them and provide the new regime with literary representation. This was important for Germany’s image both domestically and abroad, and ensured these writers recognition as the nation’s literary elite.

In contrast to the Weimar Republic, against which völkisch-nationalist writers stood in clear opposition, the establishment of the Third Reich presented them with a völkisch state. It did not, however, represent the ultimate achievement of their goals. Instead, they viewed the Machtergreifung as a significant step in the ongoing progress of the völkisch revolution. Many greeted the Nazi regime enthusiastically as an opportunity to take control of the cultural leadership of the nation. They saw it as a chance to revive the true creativity of the Volk after an era of degenerate, liberal modernism in the arts. The Nazis’ own revolutionary rhetoric did little to discourage this view in 1933, and many adherents to völkisch-nationalism only acknowledged several years later that in reality they were powerless to create a völkisch state in accordance with their ideals; instead, they were harnessed by the Nazis to serve the regime’s propaganda needs.

This situation was clearly illustrated in the German Literature Academy, which was formed following the Gleichschaltung of the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1933. Most of its members belonged to the older First World War fighting generation. The presence of Ina Seidel and Agnes Miegel further contributed to the völkisch-nationalist character of the organisation. The new Academy was therefore informed by the common cultural background of its members, who displayed in their writing ← 157 | 158 → similar reactions to recent historical events. Their correspondence shows that their acquaintance rapidly moved beyond narrow Academy concerns as they sought to forge a place for ‘German’ literature in the new state.

After 1945 several writers involved in the Academy during the Third Reich referred to their failure to achieve their völkisch vision through this institution as evidence of their differences with the Nazis and their distance from the regime.1 Nonetheless, their position was more complex than they later suggested. Their initial sympathy for the Third Reich and their personal ambitions increasingly came into conflict with their elitist view of society and their place in it, making them unwilling to bend without question to the Nazi will. Applying the Führerprinzip, favoured by völkisch-nationalists and Hitler alike, they claimed a right to contribute independently to the regulation of German literature as the self-proclaimed intellectual elite of the völkisch-nationalist state.

In practice, therefore, the Academy produced conflicting results in the Third Reich. On the one hand, it won the regime the initial support of prominent völkisch-nationalist writers by providing them with membership of a historically prestigious institution. It also functioned to protect the Nazis’ ideological monopoly by containing independent nationalist voices in a single body in which differences of opinion could be controlled. On the other hand, it provided these writers with a forum in which to meet and discuss their ideas. As several became increasingly frustrated at their inability to achieve their ideal of an Academy above everyday politics, it became a seedbed for nationalist dissent.

The Völkisch-Nationalist Vision for German Literature

In the third volume of Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer’s post-war autobiographical novel Sebastian Karst über sein Leben und seine Zeit, substantial attention is devoted to the author’s role in the Third Reich. Published almost a ← 158 | 159 → decade after the denazification process from which he eventually emerged as a Mitläufer,2 this work demonstrates how little his perspective was changed by the western allies’ post-war efforts to re-educate the German people.

Highlighting Germany’s problems in the early 1930s, particularly the Versailles Treaty and the ‘short-sighted policies’ of politicians at home and abroad, Kolbenheyer suggests that those who were able to see beyond the power games of everyday politics in 1933 were right to view the new regime as the future not just of Germany, but of the whole of ‘white Christendom’. For Kolbenheyer as a Sudeten German it had promised to solve his overriding political concern: the unification of the Great German Reich.3

Kolbenheyer also emphasised his sense of obligation towards the German people.4 During a series of lecture tours in 1933 he had sought to issue a ‘public warning’ about the dangers facing the German Geist, reminding his audiences of the threat an immoderate emphasis on party politics posed to cultural and particularly literary life.5 He spoke to students and academics across Germany, in addition to members of the general public and on the radio.6 At performances of his play Das Gesetz in dir he delivered his lecture ‘Die nationale Revolution und das Aufleben des deutschen Geistes’. Here he outlined his vision for the German literary sphere. He compared the events of January 1933 with the Reformation, reasserting the völkisch-nationalist belief in revolution as necessary for the renewal of the German Volk. For Kolbenheyer, it was important that, like the Reformation, the ‘German revolution’ of 1933 was not inspired by the foreign ideas of freedom that had caused earlier ‘freedom movements’ to fail. Alien to German culture, the Enlightenment thought that had inspired the 1848 revolutions and the rational materialism of Marxism that inspired the revolutionary events after World War One were closed to the true nature ← 159 | 160 → of the Volk. By contrast, the new era was to draw its momentum directly from the German people.

For Kolbenheyer, the nature of the völkisch revolution was particularly important for understanding the role of German literature in society; the eternal values immortalised in true German literature would ensure that the new era was rooted in the Volk. Art and science did not result from general human activity; they were the products of a specific racial background: ‘A Paracelsus, a Luther, a Kant, a Rembrandt, a Beethoven, a Goethe remain German in their being and work, even if they have affected the whole of humanity. But one thing remains: They could not and could never be called party German. They were racial Germans, national in the broadest and highest meanings of the word.’7 Kolbenheyer compared their position not only with the internationalism in art and science that had been propagated during the Enlightenment, but also with the party politics that had led the Nazis to power.8 His interpretation of the events leading up to 1933 recognised that the revolution must first establish a political or organisational foothold through party political activity. Following the breakthrough in 1933, however, this revolutionary activity had to move beyond the pragmatic concerns of party politics to the biologically determined life of the Volk, outlined in his earlier philosophical work.9

Kolbenheyer, Grimm, and their colleagues in the German Literature Academy were convinced of their position in the ranks of great German cultural figures, past, present and future. In seeking to preserve the ‘überindividuelle Gedächtnisse’ of the Volk, contrasted by Kolbenheyer with the changeable and transitory nature of Weimar culture, they had a double function in the national revolution. In the pre-revolutionary period, they were responsible for preserving and building up an intellectual and cultural foundation to preserve and maintain the effectiveness of the ‘freedom movement’. They were the guardians of German culture and guarantors of Germany’s future. Now, in 1933, following the breakthrough of the ‘freedom ← 160 | 161 → movement’, they were responsible for communicating national liberation to the members of the Volk. The goal of the Volksgemeinschaft would only be achieved when the German revolution had been carried into those areas that revealed the innate nature of the Volk, which was manifested in the technical, economic and military spheres, as well as in its academic and artistic resources.

In the early months of the Third Reich, Kolbenheyer still emphasised the ideological similarities he shared with Germany’s the new leaders. His efforts nonetheless focused on the völkisch-nationalist vision of a socially, politically and spiritually united community, defined by blood. This eternal and absolute truth transcended everyday political concerns; the Volk was an organic entity possessing a Geist, or soul. Thus, the health of German literature and the arts, which carried the Volksseele from generation to generation, was vital for keeping it healthy. Literature could not afford to be subordinated to political ambition. Predictably this belief was not shared by the leading Nazis, who alternately applied incentives and threats in their attempts to keep the writers in line. The ambiguous relationship that developed as a result between the Academy’s völkisch-nationalist members and the government contributed to the failure of the Literature Academy, apparent in the unresolved debates over its place in the framework of the politics of literature in the Third Reich. These were further exacerbated by internal rivalries between leading government officials, not just between Goebbels and Rosenberg, but also Goebbels and Göring, with Rust, as Prussian Minister of Culture, also involved.

After 1945, Kolbenheyer suggested that his views had been a direct response to the Nazis. Nonetheless, assuming that the dates given in his autobiography for the first of his lecture tours are correct – 12th to 31st January 1933 – these activities were initiated before the Nazis came to power.10 He also misleadingly claimed in his autobiography that his first personal contact with National Socialism occurred at the beginning of a lecture tour in May 1933. In fact, Kolbenheyer had contributed to the activities of the KfdK from the late 1920s. Nonetheless, when he met ← 161 | 162 → the new Nazi Prussian Minister of Culture, Bernhard Rust, in Halle in early 1933, he responded hesitantly to the Minister’s request for assistance in reforming the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts for the new regime. According to Kolbenheyer’s account, he insisted first that the principles for the reconstituted Academy should be clearly defined. At this, he was asked to present his own suggestions for the shape it should take.11

Upholding ‘German’ Literature in the Weimar Republic

Kolbenheyer’s autobiography was written with the intention of clearing the author of charges of having been a Nazi. At the same time, he sought to present his völkisch-nationalist worldview in a way that made it acceptable in post-war Germany. Nonetheless, his claim that he hesitated to commit himself to the new Academy is probably true given his previous experiences as a member of the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts during the Weimar Republic. In the eyes of the German right, this organisation was closely bound to the republican regime. Founded on 19th March 1926, it was a battleground between völkisch-nationalist and republican writers from the outset and völkisch-nationalist commentators believed that, more than either of the older sections of the Academy,12 it represented liberalism, artistic modernism and republicanism in German culture.

Although völkisch-nationalists cited the Literature Section’s Jewish members as evidence of the Jewish domination of German literature before 1933, among its founding members Thomas Mann in particular was determined that it should represent the entire political spectrum in German literature. Following the election of twenty-four writers as members in ← 162 | 163 → November 1926, the völkisch-nationalist right was well represented by Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Wilhelm Schäfer, Josef Ponten, Emil Strauß and Hermann Stehr. Inclusion in the prestigious organisation was also recognition that these writers were accepted as serious, established literary figures during the Weimar period and contradicts their own complaints that the Weimar Republic was dominated by liberal, democratic writers. Moreover, there was no counterbalance in the section from the far left. Finally, the majority of members elected in 1926 had made their names before the War, leaving the modernist literature of the 1920s likewise under-represented.13

In the five years following its foundation, the völkisch-nationalist members of the Literature Section united in their desire to transform it into a German Literature Academy. To this end, in 1927 Kolbenheyer suggested the election of Hans Friedrich Blunck, Paul Ernst, Hans Grimm and Börries von Münchhausen as members. His suggestion was rejected. In 1928, Ponten’s nomination of Wilhelm Schäfer as the Section’s President, which likewise came to nothing, was predicated on his desire to increase the representation of Landschaft over Großstadt.14 By the annual general meeting on 27th and 28th October 1929, the divisions in the Section were entrenched. An attempt to address the problems with a proposal to increase membership and thereby the organisation’s effectiveness only led to further debate over whether an increase in membership should also involve opening the section to essayists and possibly even journalists. The völkisch-nationalists opposed the inclusion of professional writers, mere Schriftsteller, into a circle that should be reserved for Dichter.15

Broadly speaking, from the völkisch-nationalist point of view, the work of the Schriftsteller was based on intellect and reason, while the Dichter, whom they rated more highly, worked from instinct and feeling, rooted in ← 163 | 164 → his or her identity in the Volk.16 This distinction reflected the anti-rationalist opposition of völkisch-nationalism to the legacy of the Enlightenment, which, it was argued, determined modern society. At the meeting in October 1929, this was manifested in a disagreement over the name of the section. While Josef Ponten took the line of the völkisch-nationalists, who emphasised the importance of Dichtung, Thomas Mann proposed changing it from ‘Sektion für Dichtkunst’ into ‘Sektion für Literatur’, thereby opening its membership to the widest possible constituency. Kolbenheyer responded to Mann’s suggestion on 30th December 1929 in a letter circulated to all the members. He asserted the Section’s existence as the representative of the highest and most profound in German literature: Dichtung. Changing the name of the Section would be a public admission of the weakness of German culture.17

The debate gained public attention as a result of energetic efforts by völkisch-nationalists to publicise their position. On the day of the meeting itself, Wilhelm Schäfer expressed his dissatisfaction in the Frankfurter Zeitung und Handelsblatt, adding a further dimension by calling the Literature Section’s status as a state institution into question. He argued that while a state could support and protect an academy, it could not direct its activities; the members of an academy, he urged, had a higher responsibility to their art, and as a result the academy had to be autonomous.18 This view would re-emerge during the Third Reich among a number of Academy members, including Schäfer, who adopted it as the guiding principle for their actions.

← 164 | 165 → The Literature Section was, moreover, weakened by its lack of a clear constitution. By the 1930 annual general meeting the situation had become critical. Kolbenheyer reiterated the völkisch-nationalist case for a German Academy of Literature: ‘We need to ask ourselves: Has the German Volk already “authorised” our section, does it recognise it and sanction it?’19 By turning the emphasis of the Academy’s responsibility away from the Prussian state and towards the German people, the völkisch-nationalist bloc were seeking to counter the ‘international’ tendencies they perceived in the literary sphere in the Weimar Republic, and in the Academy itself. Seeking to turn the organisation into a German Literature Academy, they opposed the restriction of voting rights to those members resident in Berlin (based on the Academy’s position as a Prussian institution), a sign of their opposition to Berlin as the cradle of urban degeneration. They were supported, although for different reasons, by most of their colleagues in the Literature Section. As a resident of Munich Thomas Mann, for example, was not eligible to vote although he had been a founding member.

The decision taken at the meeting in October 1930 to grant voting rights to all members, initially agreed unanimously by those present, significantly strengthened the völkisch-nationalist position. Schäfer, however, irritated many members in a letter accompanying the minutes of a subsequent meeting that he, Döblin and Schickele attended with the Prussian Minister of Culture, Adolf Grimme, at which the decision was apparently given the official seal of approval. He admonished those like Hermann Hesse, who had hitherto maintained a passive membership, triggering Hesse’s resignation following its circulation.20 Thomas Mann also responded to Schäfer’s statement, threatening to ← 165 | 166 → resign if the new ruling was not repealed.21 Having initially supported the decision, the Berlin members voiced concerns at the dominant attitude adopted by the nationalist group. In a private meeting on 24th November 1930, Alfred Döblin, Walter von Molo, Oskar Loerke, Ludwig Fulda and Eduard Stucken declared the new regulations invalid. They were supported by Theodor Däubler and Wilhelm von Scholz. On 17th December 1930 their revised position was made official in the presence of Ministerialrat Dr. Haslinde from the Prussian Ministry of Culture and the völkisch-nationalist victory was reversed on the grounds that it was legally untenable. Kolbenheyer responded on 5th January 1931 by resigning from the Section. Schäfer and Strauß followed suit.22 Following their exit, Schäfer published an essay in Die Literarische Welt entitled Der mißglückte Versuch einer deutschen Dichterakademie, in which he presented himself and his nationalist colleagues as marginalised, disenfranchised members of the Section. He made it clear that his resignation was not due to the reversal of the decision on voting rights, but to the fact that he no longer saw a way for the Section to develop into a German Literature Academy.23 In the press, the developments were viewed, whether positively or negatively, as the victory of republicanism over völkisch-nationalist opposition. This was underlined by the election of Heinrich Mann on 27th January 1931 as chairman of the Section. Mann’s reputation as a political writer and supporter of the Weimar Republic seemed to confirm the Section as a republican institution, in spite of the election of Rudolf Binding, Gottfried Benn and Ina Seidel alongside Max Mell, Rudolf Pannwitz and Alfons Paquet as new members on 29th January 1932.24

← 166 | 167 → Gleichschaltung

The resignations of Kolbenheyer, Schäfer and Strauß and the subsequent identification of the Academy as a republican institution not only influenced the way several völkisch-nationalists responded to the invitation to become members of the Academy under the Nazis, but also informed the speed and manner in which Rust and the Nazis approached the Gleichschaltung of the Literature Section in 1933. The Gleichschaltung of literary institutions began almost immediately after the Nazis took power. The Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts was among the first to undergo the process, partly as a result of a proactive policy of the new government, but also because of actions taken by the members of the Section themselves.25

The catalyst for the Gleichschaltung of the Section was the forced resignation of Heinrich Mann as its chairman. This followed the appearance of his name endorsing an appeal by the Internationaler Sozialistischer Kampfbund which appeared across Berlin on 14th February 193326 calling for united action by the SPD and KPD against the political events of early 1933. On 15th February, Bernhard Rust, now Prussian Minister of Culture, threatened the President of the Academy, Max von Schillings, with its dissolution if Mann was not removed.27 In interfering in the affairs of an autonomous cultural organisation, Rust demonstrated the new government’s determination to bring all areas of German life under Nazi control. The events that ← 167 | 168 → followed showed no regard for the democratic constitution of the Weimar Republic, under which the Section was formed and which guarded the right of individuals to freedom of speech. Rust’s demand for Mann’s resignation therefore lacked a legal foundation. It was a challenge to the freedom of the Academy’s members to hold and express their private views. While it would remain officially autonomous, from now on the Academy was to be held accountable by the government for the actions and views of its members.

At an extraordinary assembly of the Academy called by Max von Schillings on the evening of 15th February, a majority of those present accepted Schillings’ emphasis on the need to save the Academy. Heinrich Mann did not join the general assembly, but was called for an interview with Schillings and Oskar Loerke. While Loerke’s records of this meeting were cursory,28 Mann himself summed up the conversation in an interview that appeared in Tempo the next day: ‘Schillings endeavoured to justify his position; I told him that it was unnecessary: it was his duty to safeguard the Academy – and it was mine to support him in doing so. I also made it clear to him that I am no communist, but that I had signed this appeal for unity of the left as a republican. I would resign.’29 Few of those present at the assembly expressed concern at the proceedings. Alfred Döblin’s request that Mann be allowed to enter the assembly to give his reasons for resigning was rejected, while Stadtbaurat Martin Wagner’s demand for a members’ vote on the legitimacy of Schilling’s actions was blocked by Gottfried Benn. Following a further defence of Mann from Ludwig Fulda, the meeting was quickly brought to end with the assurance that the Literature Section would meet to discuss the case further. A subsequent meeting five days later did not alter the situation.30

← 168 | 169 → Following the removal of Heinrich Mann events moved quickly. The same day, 15th February 1933, Hanns Johst, a long-standing and prominent member of the KfdK, published an article in that organisation’s newspaper, Deutsche Kultur-Wacht, on the Section’s future. His call for the replacement of ‘liberal-reactionary writers’ like Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Werfel, Kellermann, Fulda and Döblin represented the general attitude of the Nazi leadership.31 While there may have been differences of opinion over individual details, not least with regard to the inclusion of Thomas Mann among the unwanted writers, Johst’s views were more or less in line with those of many prominent völkisch-nationalist writers waiting to fill the seats of republican and Jewish colleagues whose future in the Academy now looked bleak.

The first phase of the cull of liberal, republican members was initiated in a meeting on 13th March 1933 at which Rudolf Binding took the chair.32 Benn once again seized the initiative, proposing that in light of the situation facing the Academy, it should take steps to formalise its position before being subjected to forced measures. He therefore proposed that each member should sign a declaration, which in its final form read:

In recognition of the changed historical situation, are you prepared to continue to make yourself available to the Prussian Academy of Arts? An answer in the affirmative to this question rules out any public action against the government and obliges you to cooperate loyally with the national, cultural tasks that, according to its constitution, fall to the Academy in the spirit of the changed historical situation.33

This initiated the resignations of Alfred Döblin, Thomas Mann, Alfons Paquet and, to the regret of those responsible, the conservative Ricarda Huch. In her letter of resignation, Ricarda Huch declared her support for ← 169 | 170 → the ‘national’ task, but refused to endorse any encroachment on the right to the freedom of expression. Attempts by Schillings to change her mind were unsuccessful. Nonetheless, her name continued to appear on lists of members in spite of her repeated protests, a sign of how important the support of suitable writers was to the Nazis.34

Further unwanted members were excluded by applying the spirit of the new Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums, which stated that non-Aryan and politically oppositional Beamte could no longer remain in the employment of the state. While this did not apply directly to members of the Academy, who were not Beamte, the spirit of the law was adopted in order to expel Leonhard Frank, Ludwig Fulda, Georg Kaiser, Bernhard Kellermann, Alfred Mombert, Rudolf Pannwitz, René Schickele, Fritz von Unruh, Jakob Wassermann and Franz Werfel.35

Of the 31 members of the Section at the end of 1932, therefore, 15 had now resigned or were expelled. The first phase of Gleichschaltung was completed extraordinarily swiftly, under pressure from the Prussian Ministry of Culture, but with significant co-operation from members of the Section itself. The second phase now began: the rebuilding of the Section with writers who would further the national cause. During the following months, after three rounds of elections, 24 were selected to join (or rejoin) the Section. Among them were many völkisch-nationalists, including Werner Beumelberg, Hans Friedrich Blunck, Hans Grimm, Hanns Johst, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Heinrich Lersch, Agnes Miegel, Börries von Münchhausen, Wilhelm Schäfer, Emil Strauß and Will Vesper. Hans Carossa and Ernst Jünger declined invitations to become members.36 Johst was elected as the President of the Section, with Blunck as his deputy and ← 170 | 171 → Beumelburg as secretary.37 A new senate for the Section was also named, comprising Johst, Grimm, Schäfer, Kolbenheyer, Münchhausen, Strauß, Miegel, Blunck and Beumelburg.

A Literature Academy for Germany

Like Kolbenheyer, Hans Grimm commented on the events in the Academy in his post-war account of the Third Reich, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?38 Reflecting on the re-constitution of the Literature Section, he pointed to the peer selection process to distance those involved in the Academy from the Nazi government and to emphasise its credentials as an independent representative body for ‘German’ literature. This strategy to claim the legacy of the Academy’s historic prestige was adopted by several völkisch-nationalists after 1945. It was important for their efforts to re-establish their credibility as serious writers in post-war Germany and strongly influenced their accounts of the organisation in the Third Reich.

In 1933, however, it could not be taken for granted that the newly elected writers would accept the invitation to join the Academy. Kolbenheyer was not alone in hesitating. Even writers who were ideologically acceptable to the Nazis were determined to retain the position and autonomy of the Academy, and with it their own influence over the literary sphere. On 10th May Münchhausen wrote to Grimm, emphasising his willingness to co-operate, but also expressing concerns regarding Rust and the Nazi government. His comment that ‘they hold attitude to be more important than artistic accomplishment’ highlighted his elitist, even aristocratic vision for the Academy. Echoing völkisch-nationalist objections to the inclusion of Schriftsteller during the Weimar Republic, he was concerned to ensure that membership should not be devalued through the inclusion of ← 171 | 172 → ‘dilettante’ writers.39 In contrast to the Nazi authorities, Münchhausen was not politically dogmatic. He described an academy of thirty members of the German Volk that would work together even if they represented different Weltansschauungen. This was reminiscent of Thomas Mann’s original conviction that the Academy should represent the entire spectrum of German literature. Münchhausen’s definition of German literature was, however, narrower than Mann’s; for Münchhausen race was decisive.40

Münchhausen made it clear in his response to Rust’s invitation to join the Academy that his main concern was to ensure that the writers therein were worthy of membership, and he believed two of the new members, in particular, to be unworthy: Johst and Beumelburg. Grimm, for one, agreed. Münchhausen also found common ground with his völkisch-nationalist colleagues over his concern about the space for independent action that would be conferred on the reconstituted Academy. In a letter to the Prussian Minister for Culture in May 1933, he noted that the newspapers had reported that Rust had ‘appointed’ the new members as the Curator of the Academy. Münchhausen therefore demanded to know whether and to what extent Rust’s opinion would count on Academy matters in the future.41

During preliminary discussions with Kolbenheyer and other völkisch-nationalists in the weeks leading up to the constitutional meeting on 7th June, Rust sought to ensure that he presented the writers with an appealing vision of the Academy’s future, and one that appeared to correspond with their ambitions. Following their meeting in Halle in May 1933,42 Kolbenheyer started work on a plan for the future Academy, as the ← 172 | 173 → Minister had requested. In his autobiography he wrote that he carried his draft programme with him around the cities in which he was lecturing during the week that followed – Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald, Lübeck, Kiel, Bremen and Bremerhaven – before arriving in Berlin the next weekend for a second meeting with Rust.

This second meeting did not go as Kolbenheyer had hoped; from the moment of his arrival it was clear that things had not developed positively in the week since their initial conversation. Also present this time were Stapel, Schäfer, Stehr, Strauß, Münchhausen, Blunck and Vesper, and Kolbenheyer learned that Hanns Johst and Walter von Molo had both had conversations with Rust during the previous week. Rust delivered an hour-long speech, after which he was visibly pleased with the impression he had apparently made on the assembled writers. According to Kolbenheyer’s post-war account, he had, however, only succeeded in dampening their enthusiasm. There was a significant pause before Stehr, the oldest, mumbled that Rust’s plans were acceptable. Kolbenheyer nodded his assent. Stapel then summed up the results of Rust’s lengthy presentation: the writers would be provided with complete freedom to establish the Academy. Rust confirmed that this was his intention. All that was left, Kolbenheyer concluded, was to decide the date of the constitutional assembly for the new Academy. He did not present his draft programme for the Academy on this occasion.

The business was followed by a cold buffet. In spite of the critical tone of his account, written in the 1950s when Kolbenheyer was seeking to distance his name from association with the Nazis, he was unable to resist noting that the invitation to lunch was a particular honour, being the first reception hosted by the Prussian Ministry of Culture under Rust. Overall, Kolbenheyer nonetheless suggested, this first encounter with the Nazi government was discouraging. He described Rust as a man who had been elevated to a difficult position from his previous occupation as a middle school teacher. He had not been given time to come to terms with the responsibilities of his office. During the meal, Kolbenheyer and Stapel talked to Rust’s wife. Kolbenheyer described her as bürgerlich, like her husband, and reluctant to talk about cultural topics. Nonetheless, she was clearly trying to assess the two writers’ political views. Rust’s adjutant, Zierold, was apparently engaged in similar observation of the other ← 173 | 174 → guests. Writing after 1945, Kolbenheyer suggests that Frau Rust’s verdict was unlikely to have been complimentary.43

Predictably perhaps, Kolbenheyer’s account of the meeting and subsequent events in the Academy presents its author as a reluctant actor in the organisation, and a consistent critic of the Nazis. At the same time it seeks to suggest that the political scenery was not solely negative; involvement in the Nazi regime, it is implied, did not mean acceptance of or culpability for the negative aspects of the twelve years of National Socialist rule. While claiming to have had a premonition of what was to come, Kolbenheyer concluded that he had been drawn in and now had to see the journey to the end.44

Addressing twenty-two of the section’s now twenty-eight members at the start of the constitutional meeting held on 7th and 8th June 1933 in Berlin, Rust, as Prussian Minister of Culture, responded to the newly constituted section positively and sought to allay concerns like those previously expressed by Münchhausen and Kolbenheyer. He stated that the encroachment into the autonomy of the Academy had been necessary in order to bring about something new, but it would not be repeated. He therefore formally returned the Academy’s autonomy to its members. Pre-empting the expected transformation of the Prussian Ministry of Culture into a German Ministry of Culture, which never came to fruition, Rust went on to declare that the Prussian Academy of Arts would become a German Academy, responsible as the representative of German literature to the German Volk. In recognition of this, he renamed the ‘Sektion für Dichtkunst’ the ‘Deutsche Akademie der Dichtung’. He thus appeared to fulfil the hopes of its völkisch-nationalist members, who had campaigned for this vision since its foundation in 1926.45

While Rust formally returned the Academy’s autonomy, he did not provide either a legal basis or the institutional space that would have allowed ← 174 | 175 → the Academy to exercise its independence. He ensured that the Academy remained subordinate to him as Prussian Minister of Culture by asserting the need for co-operation with his Ministry and by claiming a continued role for the Nazi state. Sticking to familiar völkisch rhetoric, which emphasised the geistig over more practical legal questions, he avoided addressing questions of the Academy’s legal basis and formal competencies.46

The Academy’s weakness was also apparent in Blunck’s suggestion that the members assembled on 7th June issue a declaration that ‘The actions of the Minister regarding the appointment of new members to the Prussian Academy of Arts are retroactively approved.’47 In accepting this, the members attempted to assert their autonomy, but they were not in a position to reject these changes, to which many of them owed their membership of the Academy in the first place.

A second declaration, also proposed by Blunck and accepted by the members present, made the creation of a German Literature Academy one of the foundations for the Section’s future work. This, Blunck suggested, should accord with the model suggested by Kolbenheyer, who proposed a German Academy that would include the ministers of culture of all the Länder as a curatorial body with the Prussian Minister as its chair.48 Thus Kolbenheyer hoped to solve the problem of the Literature Academy’s dual allegiance to Prussia and to Germany as a whole. Will Vesper pointed out that the question of the Academy was linked to the bigger question of a Reich Ministry of Culture. It was desirable, he argued, that the Prussian Ministry of Culture should be allowed to develop into such an institution. It was, therefore, not the intention of the Literature Section to distance itself from the Prussian Ministry. The assembled members agreed to both proposals. There was also apparent agreement that the new work of the Academy should not be based on the existing constitution. While the Literature Section would remain part of the Prussian Academy of Arts as it had been before – Benn pointed out that a formal dissolution of the ← 175 | 176 → old section had purposely not been declared – it would develop a new constitution on which its future would be built.49

The legal status of the new Literature Academy continued to cause considerable confusion and much debate in the days, months and years that followed. As President of the Prussian Academy of Arts, Schillings consistently sought to maintain the cohesion of its three sections. On 10th June 1933 he wrote to Ministerialrat Dr. von Staa, the legal and administrative advisor to the Prussian Academy, asking what the legal consequences of the decision to declare the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts a German Academy of Literature were likely to be. He enquired about the significance of the term reichszuständig (responsible to the Reich), which had been adopted by the Section.50 Von Staa’s response of 15th June declared unequivocally that the decision to change the Section’s name to the German Academy of Literature had no immediate legal implications. Likewise the term reichszuständig had little practical meaning as long as the Academy was dependent financially on the Prussian Academy of Arts and therefore the Prussian budget. That being the case, the term could only be interpreted as a statement that all the Volksstämme were represented through their writers in the Literature Section. The decision of the Academy to become a German Academy of Literature could therefore be viewed only as a programmatic declaration.51

The meeting of 7th and 8th June also highlighted the significant legacy of the Academy’s history in the Weimar Republic. In particular, the return of Kolbenheyer, Schäfer and Strauß to the Academy appeared, at least to themselves, to provide an opportunity to reassert their position under more favourable political and cultural circumstances and they brought with them earlier ambitions. These were centred around their desire to make the German Academy of Literature a reality. They found support and sympathy for their position from both the surviving members and those elected to ← 176 | 177 → the Academy for the first time. Remembering Paul Ernst, who had died on 13th May 1933, shortly after being called to join the Section, Schillings read from a letter from Ernst’s widow: ‘In the days of his last illness, the deceased spoke of the difficult task facing the Academy. He was convinced that it had to be a spiritual conscience for the entire German Volk.’52 The impact of this idea was underlined by Grimm in his reflection on the Academy after 1945, when he repeated this assertion as the guiding principle for the actions of the völkisch-nationalist bloc.53 Hermann Stehr also spoke positively, asserting that the intention to become a German Academy was unreserved and uncontested. For him, the members of the Section now already represented the German Academy; the problem facing them was to make this official.

On 7th June, Kolbenheyer also finally presented his proposal for a new constitution for a German Academy of Literature. His reminiscences emphasised the continuity with his work in the Academy during the Weimar Republic.54 Both the contents of Kolbenheyer’s programme and his tenacity in presenting it to the assembled members displayed his deep-seated concern that the new Academy should not suffer from the impotence he felt had plagued the old one, but instead should be effective in representing the pinnacle of German literature, at home and abroad.55 Like Münchhausen, he was critical of the mixture of artistic abilities represented among its new members in 1933.56 At the centre of his plan was the confirmation of the position and responsibilities of the Senate and the idea of the Academy as the mediator between German literature and the nation.57 He also expressed ← 177 | 178 → concern at the unclear legal basis of the Academy, pointing out that its authority was limited not only by Rust, but by its legal and institutional associations. While it defined itself as a German institution, it retained its previous legal status as part of the Prussian Academy of Arts. As a result, it faced the problem of finding a place within the institutional apparatus of the Third Reich and at the same time its position within the Prussian Academy was undermined. While it remained financially dependent on its parent institution, its remit stretched beyond the Prussian Academy’s bounds.58

Kolbenheyer’s vision for the Academy was, as he observed himself, actually realised more effectively six months later in the form of the Reichsschrifttumskammer under Goebbels. Kolbenheyer criticised the party political nature of that organisation and suggests that Hanns Johst was aware from the start of the direction things were taking behind the scenes in the government ministries. It was quickly clear to Kolbenheyer, according to his post-war account, ‘that I […] was not actually faced by an assembly that had any inclination to engage with the idea of an independent academy of writers. Fundamentally, all that was desired was an institution that would satisfy the vanities [of its members].’59

The election of Johst as President of the Literature Academy was evidence of the government’s determination to keep that body under its control. Nonetheless, Kolbenheyer and his secessionist colleagues from the old Academy still hoped to rescue the situation. The organisation had no statute once it was accepted that that of the old Prussian Academy of Arts was not valid for a German Academy of Literature. Moreover, Rust had promised the writers that they would have the power to shape the new institution themselves. Thus Kolbenheyer invited Schäfer and Strauß to join him to form a statute commission, along with Johst and Beumelburg, who were included in order to avoid contrivances against the commission’s work.60

← 178 | 179 → After the Second World War, Kolbenheyer described the times in which the new Academy was created as a period of change in which German life was to be transformed into a new reality. The revolution was to touch every corner of German existence. He suggested that he was aware that the uniformity these changes demanded would naturally act against the establishment of an autonomous Literature Academy. It was only possible to understand Rust’s promise of freedom, therefore, under the precondition that the institution would ‘naturally’ conform to the general basis of the new Germany. Nonetheless, defending himself and his colleagues, he stated that unquestioning conformity was likely to contradict the fundamental position of several important members. In taking on the work of providing the Academy with a new constitution, Kolbenheyer therefore wanted to present his colleagues with a statute they could accept, placing the decision-making powers of the Academy in the hands of the Senate. Thus, Johst as President, his deputy and the secretary would be contained as the executive organs of the Senate. Such a plan meant breaking with the Führerprinzip that was increasingly becoming the guiding principle of political organisation in Germany. The discussions over the new statute lasted three months, after which it was unanimously accepted by the members of the Academy. Officially, therefore, by the end of 1933 it provided the legitimate regulatory framework for the Academy.61


There are a number of similarities between the post-war accounts of the German Literature Academy written by Kolbenheyer and Grimm: both begin the relevant section with a description of the lecture tours they undertook in the first half of 1933; both emphasise the non-Nazi nature ← 179 | 180 → of their vision for the Academy; both present themselves as motivated by a feeling of obligation.

Grimm’s account begins with comments on the experience of a lecture tour in Upper Silesia. He talks of his experiences of the bravery and national stoicism of the Germans in Upper Silesia, cut off from Germany after the First World War. He also speaks of his concern for the problems they were facing in 1933, emphasising in particular their vulnerability to Polish encroachments, both physically and economically, and the inability of the German Reich after the Versailles Treaty to provide sufficient protection to these members of the German Volk. Grimm’s reflections on the situation in the region underline his view that radical political change was needed in Germany in 1933.62

Similarly, according to Kolbenheyer, the Revolution of 1933 placed the ‘geistiger Führer’ under increased pressure, presenting him [völkisch-nationalists always assumed that German leaders were male] with tasks that no political party could prescribe: the geistiger Führer could only be responsible to the Volk if the reactionary character of German life was to give way to action based on clarity of mind and purpose. Thus, German cultural leaders had to act according to their consciences. According to Kolbenheyer’s philosophy biological predeterminism governed the emergence of cultural leaders. Thus, their consciences could not be wrong.63

The process of Gleichschaltung, out of which the German Literature Academy emerged, by no means settled the form the Academy would take in the years that followed. Among the senators two broad blocs quickly emerged. While their edges were blurred, they can be divided crudely between those writers bent on furthering their political careers and those concerned with völkisch-nationalist writing as Germany’s truest and purest contribution to the literary arts. The former were often split further by professional jealousies and competition, and the latter by competing convictions regarding the role of literature and writers in German society. These personal differences only manifested themselves gradually, however, ← 180 | 181 → among writers who, already acquainted in many cases, had hitherto seen themselves as part of the same völkisch-nationalist struggle. Therefore, while dissatisfaction was evident from the start, and some of those who had been part of the völkisch-nationalist bloc in the Academy during the Weimar Republic viewed the project pessimistically, the central actors in this phase of the Academy’s history initially placed hope in the common ground they saw binding them together.

Before the German Literature Academy had time to find its feet, however, the foundation of the Reichsschrifttumskammer in November 1933 dealt it a definitive external blow. It followed only months after the Academy’s reconstitution, unleashing new uncertainties among its members, who had, as we have seen, expected the creation of a Reich Ministry of Culture, led by Rust. This would have provided the Academy with a comfortable institutional home as it too expanded to become the German Academy of Literature. Instead they were faced with a new government institution regulating the literary sphere in Germany under Goebbels in his capacity as President of the RKK and Minister of Propaganda. Within this framework there was no obvious place or function for the Literature Academy. While he did not immediately give up hope for the Academy, Schäfer painted a pessimistic picture of its position in a letter to Grimm in December 1933:

Our Academy was called by the state to be the highest authority in German literature; and the state has put the chair of the highest authority outside the door to its Chamber of Culture. Furthermore, the chair remains standing where we were invited to sit by Rust. With the Reich Chamber of Culture, the Reich Ministry of Culture has been proclaimed by Goebbels instead of Rust; we have been ushered to the wrong chair.64

Grimm, on the other hand, was more optimistic. Having accepted an invitation from Goebbels to join the Präsidialrat of the RSK, he defended his decision to Emil Strauß by asserting that the two organisations were functionally separate and could therefore co-exist in harmony. Like Schäfer and Strauß, he saw the role of the Academy to be on a higher plane than that of ← 181 | 182 → the RSK. Its job was to be the autonomous protector of German literature from corruption and dilettantism, independent of government interference. Its task was to uphold the independence and quality of German literature for the Volk. It should not be a political institution and its competencies did not include the day-to-day administration of the literature industry. That would be left to the RSK.65

Grimm’s optimism demonstrated the degree to which his belief in the good intentions of the new government at this stage clouded his judgement of their Literaturpolitik. The foundation of the RSK nonetheless showed clearly for the first time the discrepancy between the government’s ideas regarding the position and role of literature in German society and that of a large group of völkisch writers now in the Academy. As long as the state believed that the Academy was dependent on it for its survival, Schäfer argued to Grimm, the relationship between state and Academy was false. It would only be put right when the state realised it needed the Academy for its own survival.66 Schäfer linked the political survival of the Third Reich with the survival of the völkisch spirit. The goal of politics was to bring about and maintain the spiritual health of the people, from which its physical and economic health were inseparable. To that end, Schäfer and the other völkisch writers showed themselves willing to lend their support to the Nazis only as long as the latter appeared to be achieving this goal.

Ideologically, Grimm’s role in the RSK did not fundamentally separate his position on the Academy from that of Schäfer and Strauß. Like Schäfer, Grimm believed that only when the state recognised the need for literature on the part of the Volk would it sign a ‘concordat’ with ‘us’, meaning the writers, as its priests. He also agreed, continuing with the religious analogy, that the state would never sign a concordat with individual priests, but only with a church. Therefore, he argued, the Academy had to become a ← 182 | 183 → ‘church’. The state would be ready for such a concordat only in the moment the ‘church’ existed, for the men governing the state would only interact with opponents who really stood before them: ‘Once the Academy church exists, and it can only be created by us, things will immediately be different. They will listen very carefully to the church, and will be only too happy to reach a concordat.’67 In December 1933, however, Grimm agreed with Schäfer that the Academy was still only a shadow in the eyes of the state and the public.

In spite of the optimistic manner in which the new Deutsche Akademie der Dichtung had approached the new regime, therefore, the months following its initial Gleichschaltung did little more than highlight its lack of purpose. In February 1934, Blunck, now President of the Reichschrifttumskammer (RSK), could point to the nominal transformation of the Prussian section into a German Academy of Literature as its only achievement in the previous twelve months. He went on to suggest that the development of the RSK was of fundamental importance to the Academy, as the former institution would provide representation not only for literary works, but the complete literary profession, from the authors to the booksellers and publishers. At the same time he tendered his resignation as Vice-President of the Academy on the grounds that his responsibilities in the RSK were taking up too much of his time. Blunck thus demonstrated his awareness that the real power in the literary sphere lay in the RSK.68 In the course of the next two years his judgement was confirmed as the gap between the aspirations of the Academy’s members and the freedom they were allowed by the Nazis irreparably widened. Binding was chosen as his successor as vice-President with the support of the völkisch-nationalist faction that was developing in its ranks.69

← 183 | 184 → The ‘Munich Consensus’

As the weakness of the Academy became apparent, six writers (Hans Grimm, Rudolf G. Binding, Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Wilhelm Schäfer, Emil Strauß and Börries von Münchhausen) increasingly displayed the symptoms associated by scholars with ‘inner emigration’. They referred to themselves as the ‘Munich Consensus’ or Münchner, denoting the informal but close nature of their association, which arose from a series of meetings held in Munich beginning in 1934. Their partial retreat from public life towards the end of the 1930s has led historians, including Hildegard Brenner and Jan-Peter Barbian, to conclude that the Academy was increasingly insignificant in the Third Reich.70 On the other hand an unexpectedly advanced degree of intellectual opposition to the policies of the Nazi regime can also be seen among these same writers, despite the fact that they have typically been held to have represented the Third Reich in the literary sphere, both by their contemporaries and by later commentators. This opposition never amounted to outright resistance however; they were not alienated by the Nazi ideology or programme, but by the popular character of the Nazi movement and the failure of its leaders to recognise them above the masses. As the self-appointed literary judges in Germany, their antagonism towards the regime also possessed a moralising character as they sought to prevent German literature from degenerating into a political tool.

The formation of a group like the Munich Consensus within the literary structures of the Third Reich was made possible by the Academy’s marginal position in the institutional landscape of the regime. Having allowed the Academy little influence, the Nazis seem to have paid the private associations of its members little attention. As long as they did not appear to be contaminating the wider public with ideas that conflicted with the ideology of the regime they could be considered safely contained in the Academy. From the government’s point of view, moreover, their ← 184 | 185 → presence in the Academy was a sufficient public endorsement of the regime by the nation’s leading völkisch-nationalist writers. Paradoxically, it was the Academy itself that allowed their opposition to grow by providing a space in which they could discuss and exchange ideas. Even after the Academy had finally descended into political oblivion, these networks did not die out, but instead found new, less formal outlets for their expression. This was in part due to the role the Academy played in their development in the four years immediately following the Nazi Machtergreifung.

By the time the members of the ‘Munich Consensus’ were called to join the Academy, they were all in advanced middle age, if not elderly. With their most productive years of work already behind them, they were set in their ways and opinionated. Well established as the writers of the German right, they represented the völkisch literary tradition in the Third Reich. They were elitist and independent, refusing to bow without protest to the dictates of the Nazi government or to the demands of colleagues in the Academy. They believed they belonged to the organisation through ‘God’s grace’ rather than earthly appointment.71 Although their approaches to the issues they faced and their reactions to specific events often differed, the concerns of the members of the ‘Munich Consensus’ for the Academy and their belief in the role of German literature and the responsibility of German writers to the Volk provided them with a common foundation. They were bound together by their determination to create their version of a völkisch-nationalist state, which conformed to the völkisch model developed from the end of the nineteenth century. Finally, their associations from the pre-1933 era meant that their relationships were not based wholly in the Academy context. As a result their correspondence indicates a degree of trust that allowed sometimes surprisingly candid interactions.72

In addition to their common vision of the importance of völkisch literature for the future of Germany, the second major factor holding the ← 185 | 186 → Munich Consensus together was a feeling of dissatisfaction. The Munich Consensus grew out of and was an expression of the increasing antipathy of a group of leading völkisch-nationalist writers towards the Nazi regime. As early as July 1933, Grimm wrote to Binding: ‘I feel too tormented by the times I myself so longed for. But exactly because I longed for them I also feel responsible for their dreadfulness, for their tortuous, useless dreadfulness.’73 In the same letter, he described his disappointment in the Academy after the constitutional meetings of 7th and 8th June, expressing his dissatisfaction at the way in which competencies had been defined and offices distributed before the Academy was in possession of sufficient power to act.74 Any encouragement he gained from further meetings in October 1933, which indicated an improvement in the situation, was short-lived. In spite of Grimm’s initial welcome for the RSK, it was not long before its foundation had more or less crushed the optimism of the six writers, casting its shadow over the Academy.75 Nonetheless, their sense of responsibility not only for the shortcomings of the nationalist state but also towards the German Volk, to whom the Academy was accountable, drove them on.76 What began as a casual alliance in Academy meetings gradually became a recognisable bloc that increasingly stood apart from the more pragmatic politics of National Socialism, which left its members disillusioned and bitter.

Mittenzwei suggests that the ‘Munich Consensus’ was formed out of a ‘Kreis um Münchhausen’, or Münchhausen Circle, in the Academy. He places particular emphasis on the role of Münchhausen not only in the Academy, but also with regard to the relative influence of the writers in question on the literary sphere in the Third Reich as a whole.77 Münchhausen was indeed a significant figure in the völkisch-nationalist ← 186 | 187 → literary networks of the 1920s and early 1930s. His family connections, legal training and diplomatic manner enabled him to maintain contacts with many important literary and political figures. His völkisch-nationalist worldview, particularly the racist views he cultivated in the second half of his life, drew on a long family history and aristocratic upbringing which distinguished him from his colleagues in the Munich Consensus. His worldview was influenced by the attempt to reconcile the milieu from which he came with the world in which he lived. By 1933 he had moved far from the Bohemian circles in Berlin in which he moved in the first decade of the twentieth century. There, he had counted a number of Jews among his close friends. During the Third Reich, he took pains to distance himself from Juda, the anthology of ballads with Jewish themes he had published in 1900 and dedicated to the artist Ephraim Moses Lilien, who provided the illustrations.78 His increasingly conservative point of view and retreat from the city to his family estate at Windischleuba after the First World War were accompanied by the cultivation of an anti-Semitism that made him susceptible to National Socialism. Nonetheless, he particularly objected to the mass character of that movement.79 As we have seen, his aristocratic views also shaped his attitude to the Academy.

Münchhausen’s literary renown was based on his success as one of the revivers of the German ballad in the first decade of the twentieth century. His prominence as a poet had, however, already faded by 1920 when modernist forms of literary expression, particularly expressionism, overtook his nostalgic style.80 While he remained active in völkisch-nationalist circles during the Weimar Republic and Third Reich, on the literary front both Hans Grimm and Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer were more significant after 1918. While Kolbenheyer was the recipient of the largest number of literary prizes of any writer during the Third Reich,81 Hans Grimm’s identification ← 187 | 188 → as a political writer even before 1933 made his public support for the Nazis a significant prize for Goebbels.82 As a result, Grimm was rewarded in 1933 with his appointment to the Präsidialrat of the RSK. Münchhausen was, like Grimm, invited to join the Literature Academy, but he received little further recognition from the Nazi leadership.

Grimm’s best-selling novel Volk ohne Raum was among the most famous völkisch-nationalist works to emerge in the Weimar Republic.83 Its ca.1350 pages engaged directly with Germany’s ills and its success even surpassed that of Kolbenheyer’s Paracelsus-Trilogie, a work that also gained recognition for its author following its appearance in three volumes in 1917, 1921 and 1925 respectively. Finally, while Grimm’s publicly critical views of the Nazi regime, coupled with his continuous activity and the success of his Lippoldsberger Dichtertreffen between 1934 and 1939 caused him to fall from grace with the Nazi rulers, in particular Goebbels, they also meant that he retained a greater degree of independence than Münchhausen during the Third Reich. In particular, the Lippoldsberger Dichtertreffen not only remained independent of Nazi influences, unlike Münchhausen’s Wartburg Dichtertage, but also attracted widespread public attention.84 Grimm cannot therefore be written off as either a ‘Don Quichote’ or ‘Querulant’ among völkisch-nationalists, as Mittenzwei suggests;85 the impact of his activities meant that he was a greater force to be reckoned with after 1933 than Münchhausen.

With regard to the other members of the Munich Consensus, Münchhausen was more actively engaged in the political sphere than either Schäfer or Strauß, both of whom were older than he was. He also compromised his position with regard to the Nazis to a greater degree than his colleagues. While Strauß was the only member of the Munich Consensus who belonged to the NSDAP, this was little more than a sign of his initial enthusiasm for the Nazis in the early 1930s. He was not active in the Party. ← 188 | 189 → In comparison, Münchhausen worked hard, although not always successfully, to cultivate his acquaintances in the government, and appears to have been more open to the possibilities offered by the regime. His faith in Hitler remained strong up to 1945.86 In the final weeks of the war, he took his own life, rather than experience Germany’s defeat.

Schäfer produced little new work after 1933, but he continued to lecture to audiences across Germany. Sarckowicz and Mentzer quote a speech he gave at the Großdeutsches Dichtertreffen in Weimar in 1942 as evidence of his consistent support for the NSDAP. It is, however, important not to rush to this conclusion. The outbreak of the Second World War had provided him with the opportunity to reconcile himself with the regime by allowing him to concentrate on a familiar subject, namely war. In his speech, Krieg und Dichtung Schäfer drew on themes of war, literature and the German Volk that he had already addressed in Die dreizehn Bücher der deutschen Seele in 1922.87 In discussions over the Academy, however, Schäfer was among the first to express doubts about its situation. Alongside Grimm and Kolbenheyer his was among the loudest critical voices in the group.

Finally, the absence of Nazi representation at Binding’s funeral in 1938 should not be viewed as a sign of him lacking impact in Germany in the years before his death. Binding was consistently referred to with respect in newspapers and literary journals for his honourable character, and his work enjoyed steady success throughout the period.88 Like Grimm and Kolbenheyer, Binding maintained a worldview independent of that propagated by the Nazis. Mittenzwei argues that he was the outsider in the Munich Consensus, who never succeeded in gaining the absolute trust of his colleagues.89 If the contacts of the writers outside the Academy context are examined, however, a different picture emerges. In particular the correspondence of Grimm and Binding is evidence of the honest and ← 189 | 190 → open communication between the two men and a personal friendship that extended into their private lives.90

The Munich Consensus understood itself as an informal alliance of like-minded equals. Nonetheless, considering the impact of the individual members of the ‘Munich Consensus’ on the Literature Academy, in practice Hans Grimm, not Münchhausen, proved the most influential figure, in so far as the nature of their cooperation allowed or required anyone to adopt a leadership role.91 He turned his dissatisfaction with the regime into action more effectively than many, providing the Munich Consensus with much of its momentum. Alongside Grimm, Binding played an important role as Blunck’s successor as Vice-President of the Academy, seeking to shape that institution according to völkisch-nationalist principles. More generally, the question of the position of the Academy in the Third Reich led to general friction between the Munich Consensus and the Nazi rulers. In this respect, however, Münchhausen was the least independent of the regime, and the least affected. In spite of his contacts with a number of figures on the second rung of the government ladder, men like Schulte-Strathaus and Paul Schultze-Naumburg, his influence in völkisch-nationalist circles, and on the wider public, waned.92

The members of the Munich Consensus shared an ongoing sense of crisis that was never resolved in the Third Reich. Instead, it was further ← 190 | 191 → exacerbated by personal differences in the Academy, as the Münchner increasingly defined themselves against the political ambitions of Johst and Blunck. In particular, dissatisfaction with Johst’s leadership added grist to their mill. Initially, during the first year of the reconstituted Academy’s life, they sought to deal with the differences of its members by differentiating between the personal and the professional. Münchhausen therefore complained of Johst’s inclusion in the Academy on the grounds that he had not proved his worth as a writer. Nonetheless, he still rated him highly as a person and was willing to concede that he had demonstrated literary potential.93 Grimm too was critical of Johst’s style of leadership as President of the Literature Academy, but he nonetheless wrote to Binding on 23rd April 1934: ‘I too feel myself personally bound to Johst.’94

In the course of 1934, however, relations deteriorated. In a Rundschreiben circulated among the senators of the Literature Academy on 12th January 1934, Johst took the opportunity to reprimand those members of the Senate who had suggested that the Academy ‘is hanging in the air’ or that it was questionable ‘whether the Academy still exists at all’. He demanded a more constructive attitude and a united front among its members. He was determined there should be no doubt that in the future such divisions would not be tolerated. The president, his deputy and the secretary required absolute co-operation in building up the Academy from all its members. They should therefore refrain from pushing for rushed decisions and voicing criticism that endangered the Academy.95

← 191 | 192 → Instead of achieving the desired end, Johst’s demands elicited an angry response from the Münchner. Schäfer wrote informally to Grimm for reassurance: ‘I am writing this letter to you personally, without keeping a copy for myself, because I want nothing more than a human word from you: namely, whether you still believe in the possibility of maintaining more than just a fiction of a German Literature Academy. I can almost no longer do so […].’96 Grimm’s response to Schäfer, written the following day, demonstrated a more hopeful attitude. He admitted that he had not seen a copy of Johst’s Rundschreiben, but, having just returned from Berlin, he assured Schäfer of his continued belief in the role and importance of the Academy: ‘At the meeting of the [Reich] Chamber [of Literature] the Academy was mentioned several times, and was mentioned with respect as a sort of highest authority.’ A campaign by a group of young writers against the Langen-Müller-Verlag, which published the works of both Grimm and Schäfer, and against older writers and academicians, he argued, showed that the need for the Academy to uphold the standards of German literature was greater than ever. In order for the Academy to meet this need, however, greater communication and co-operation was required between its members.97

Less than two months later, however, Grimm too found occasion to criticise Johst, who, without consulting the other senators, had allowed Blunck to rejoin the Senate after his resignation as Vice-President. Grimm described his behaviour as the exercise of the Kommandoprinzip, which he argued was unacceptable in an Academy of equals.98 In response to these perceived grievances, Grimm intensified his demands for the formation of a clear programme for the German Literature Academy. Only when it could clearly present its position, he argued, would it be taken seriously by the government.99 To this end, on 25th February 1934 he suggested a private meeting of those members of the Academy whose views were closest to his own in order to form a common position and enable them to ← 192 | 193 → present a united front in Academy meetings.100 A week later Grimm again emphasised the importance of co-operative action in a letter to Binding, in which he went as far as to demand that they be prepared to resign their seats in the Senate should they fail to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement for the Literature Academy.101

Grimm was not alone in promoting the joint action of those who believed as he did, and thus the foundation of the Munich Consensus was laid. It was the result of a real agreement among its six members to build on the similarities rather than emphasise the differences in their visions for Germany and German literature. They thus entered into combat against the threat posed by those whose ambitions were not focused on the best interests of the German Geist and the German Volk. The Munich Consensus met for the first time on 29th March 1934 in the Regina Palace Hotel in Munich. At the meeting, which lasted, according to Münchhausen’s minutes, from ten o’clock in the morning until nine-thirty at night, a number of issues were brought to the table, concerns which had developed since the reconstitution of the Academy and which would continue to dominate their discussions in the years that followed. These included their dissatisfaction with Johst’s leadership, Kolbenheyer’s unratified constitution, as well as the position and autonomy of the Academy in the institutional framework of the Third Reich and in the public eye.102

The Munich Consensus continued to hold Johst responsible for the failing Academy. On 5th July 1934 Binding wrote to his five Munich colleagues to lend support to the suggestion initiated by Kolbenheyer and Grimm that the Münchner should meet for a second time. He argued that the meeting should take place immediately; swift action was necessary if they were to pull the Academy out of its frozen state. Johst, he argued, was incapable of protecting their interests; he lacked the courage and sharpness ← 193 | 194 → required to bring the necessary weight to the questions of the Academy and was a liability to its future.103

Binding’s reservations concerning Johst’s leadership continued after the latter’s appointment as President of the RSK in 1935. While Binding identified this as an opportunity to bring about an improvement in relations between the Academy and the RSK, he was not hopeful that this would be the outcome.104 In general, by the end of 1935 the Munich Consensus had lost faith in Johst’s motivation to find a cure for the Academy’s ills. While they rated him more highly than Blunck, there was little chance that he would use his appointment as President of the RSK to bring about a substantial improvement in the Academy’s position. As Blunck’s case had shown, the Academy was of no use to Johst’s political ambitions once he was in control of the RSK.105

Relations between the Münchner and Johst, however bad they became, nonetheless began on a basis of respect for his work, contrasting significantly with their attitude towards Blunck. In a letter of 5th January 1935 Grimm wrote to Binding, congratulating him on the sale of 15,000 copies of his new book between 21st November 1934 and Christmas. In comparison, he wrote of Blunck’s latest effort: ‘I have also received the unmatched “Blunckification” of the Nibelungenlied. I have not yet sent my thanks for it; I am uncertain how to do so.’106 Binding was also critical of Blunck’s work, asserting that he was a provincial writer, the sort promoted by the Nazis to reach out to the German middle classes on their own level.107 His letter highlights a further discrepancy between the Münchner and the regime. Contrasting themselves to Blunck, they saw themselves as German writers whose literature represented the spirit of the German Volk not only in Germany but also to the world.

← 194 | 195 → The character of the Munich Consensus was informed to a significant extent by the memory of the earlier alliance of Kolbenheyer, Strauß and Schäfer in the Academy before 1933. After its Gleichschaltung these men re-engaged in the Academy with the assumption that they would work together. In spite of their doubts about their position, they understood the period as one of on-going revolution and, for as long as their long-term aspirations remained focused on the Nazi regime, they maintained the hope that these weaknesses could be remedied. With hindsight, there was something quixotic about the meeting in March 1934, and subsequent meetings at which the writers attempted to form a group that could influence events positively from a völkisch standpoint. They acted in the belief that they had some power over the future of the Literature Academy. In fact, as the final outcome showed, they did not. The rhetoric of the völkisch-nationalist ideology nonetheless provided them with the rationale for continued action. As Grimm wrote to Binding on 4th March 1934, they were compelled to act because ‘The “Führerprinzip” grants the active everything, the passive nothing. I have not yet known it to be different.’108 It allowed them, too, to hold onto the belief that Academy members were equal. Grimm therefore declared that if they insisted on their position, Johst would have to change the style of his leadership. The job of the President of the Academy, he said, was to act as the liaison officer between the Academy and the state.109


The question of leadership was also a dominant theme in a lecture by Kolbenheyer that was banned by the authorities in Leipzig and Dresden in early 1934, with the intention that the ban should be valid across the ← 195 | 196 → German Reich.110 By the time the ban came into force, Kolbenheyer had already delivered the lecture in several German towns. Its publication under the title Der Lebensstand der geistig Schaffenden und das neue Deutschland was, moreover, unaffected.111 As a result, the ban was greeted by Kolbenheyer with indignation and by his Munich Consensus colleagues with incomprehension. Grimm noted to Schäfer that the content of the lecture appeared to be no different from thoughts voiced by Goebbels around the same period.112 This case therefore provides evidence of the way in which the members of the Munich Consensus interpreted the Nazi programme and an example of the ideas that underpinned their approach to the German Literature Academy.

Responding to an enquiry from his publisher in 1934, Kolbenheyer described the events surrounding the ban. According to his account, he had already delivered the lecture to great acclaim in nine towns when the leader of the student organisation at the University of Leipzig handed him a letter asking him to cancel his planned appearance at that institution, the university authorities fearing it would provoke unrest. Kolbenheyer pointed out that the speech had not previously caused disruption. Only in Munich and Jena had he encountered criticism, and this was laid aside during the public discussion that followed the formal lecture. He was later told by a journalist at the Völkischer Beobachter that the opponents he had encountered in Munich had taken their complaints to Minister Schemm, in charge of Culture and Education in Bavaria, who was then instrumental in pursuing the ban.113 Kolbenheyer’s private notes suggest, ← 196 | 197 → however, that Schemm himself attended the lecture in Munich, took part in the discussion, applauded vigorously and had even reported to a third person that he found it good.

It therefore remained unclear to Kolbenheyer where the objections to his speech in the Saxon cities had come from.114 The lecture appears to have aroused a suspicion that Kolbenheyer had accused Hitler of being insufficiently intellectual. Kolbenheyer countered this idea in his statement for his publisher: far from insulting Hitler, he had emphasised his gifts as a politician. He had suggested that Hitler’s great revolutionary deeds were of a political nature, not intellectual,115 and asserted that he was the victim of a misunderstanding; none of the Saxon authorities responsible had actually heard the speech or had first-hand knowledge of its content.

In his lecture, Kolbenheyer sought to solve the problems he identified in Germany by developing the idea of society based on the concept of the Stand or estate. He explained the division of society into estates in biological terms typical of the pseudo-scientific, social-Darwinist ideals that pervaded German intellectual activity, including the literary arts, in the Third Reich. There were, according to Kolbenheyer, four estates: the peasantry (‘Bauerntum’), the workers (‘Arbeitertum’), the administrators and executors (‘Verwaltungs- und Verkehrsstand’) and finally the spiritually creative (‘der Stand der geistig Schaffenden’).116 An individual’s place and function in society was inherited. One of the problems with democratic thought, he argued, was its failure to recognise this. Its emphasis on the individual equality of all people suggested a biological equality, which in turn led to class struggle.117 ‘Biological socialism’, as Kolbenheyer called his theory, on the other hand differentiated between functional groups built up genetically over generations as organs of the body of the Volk. It was through the co-operation of these biologically defined Lebensstände ← 197 | 198 → that society could function as an organic whole.118 Therefore, individuals had no right to choose their place in society, only the right and duty to fulfil their biologically determined task through their Lebensstand. This, he argued, was nationalism in its highest and most enlightened form.119

Kolbenheyer went on to argue that the time had come for the spiritually creative to recognise and fulfil their particular purpose within this social structure. Here he warned of mixing Geistigkeit with Intellektualismus, the latter being an evil of the republican age while the former was vital, particularly in this critical moment in the development of the Volk:

The spiritual creators are a vital element in the Volk. We must therefore speak of an estate of the spiritually creative in the fullest biological meaning of the word. – The estate of German bearers of the Geist has to be normatively maintained and perpetuated on its natural path through the recognition of developments in the life of the nation in all areas of the cultural and civilised sphere.120

Should the German Volk lose the ability to provide cultural leadership for the white race, Kolbenheyer continued, it would sink to a level at which it was vulnerable to the onslaught of its enemies. It is possible to infer that these included the usual targets of völkisch-nationalism, including the Jews, Republicans, Bolshevists, and Freemasons.

Having established the importance of the Stand der geistig Schaffenden, Kolbenheyer asked who should function as the Führer of the estate. It was time, he said, that a differentiation was made between Führertum and Kommando. The latter was an allotted task, making its holder responsible for leadership within the framework of an organisation. It did not, therefore, require leadership characteristics, just knowledge and decisiveness in order to maintain the organisation in its function. The Kommandant ‘does not create the organisation, he moves it and maintains it in appropriate readiness.’ By contrast the Führer created the organisation, which provided him with a tool to use in creative acts. While a Kommandant could be ← 198 | 199 → trained and allocated his role, the qualities of a Führer could not be learnt, but were innate to his being. These qualities would be apparent to his followers through his achievements, which would earn him his position.121

When applied to the Academy, the role of the Kommandant was exercised by the President, in this case Johst, who was ultimately responsible for the organisation’s smooth operation. On the other hand, Kolbenheyer claimed for himself and his colleagues the same rights as those on which the Nazis based their rule. The members of the Academy did not owe their position to any authority, but to their lifetime achievements for their Volk, giving them the right not only to autonomous regulation, but also to pronounce on literary matters in the whole Reich. Kolbenheyer and his colleagues were therefore to be represented as the Stand der geistig Schaffenden in the Academy. In their eyes it would thus fulfil its responsibility to the German Volk emphasised by Rust in his speech on 7th June 1933.122 By enabling the estate to carry out its duty in the organic whole that made up the Volk, the Academy would contribute to the overall wellbeing of the latter. These were also the principles that formed the basis of Kolbenheyer’s vision for the Academy outlined in his draft constitution. Such a view of the Volksgemeinschaft was, however, dangerous to the Nazis as it negated the power of the government to decide on intellectual or artistic matters.

The idea that writers formed an estate in German society and that the Academy should act as the representative body of this estate was common ground in the rhetoric of Nazi politics. It was, therefore, not unreasonable for the Münchner to think in these terms also. In his letter of resignation as Vice-President of the Academy, Blunck referred to the ‘ständische Neuordnung’ (reordering according to estate) of Germany, which in the cultural sphere, he suggested, was carried out through the foundation of the RKK and its subordinate chambers. Within this reorganisation, he declared, the members of the Academy pledged their loyalty to the Führer. He went on to say that the ‘ständische Neuordnung’ brought with it both dangers and advantages for German literature. The greatest advantage ← 199 | 200 → was that in the future police intervention to regulate the estate, while remaining a characteristic of the western democracies, would give way to self-regulation, requiring self-observation and the protection of their own honour and values. The supervision of literature would be the job of the RSK, with the expert advice of the Academy. Blunck therefore ascribed to the Academy an advisory role in the regulation of German literature.123

The Münchner viewed the situation differently. Grimm, for example, differentiated between the Stand and the Büro, the former being represented by the Academy, while the latter was manifested in the RSK.124 Binding commented that this differentiation was so self-evident it was difficult to understand how the Büro could see itself as the Stand. Implicit here was a criticism of Blunck and the RSK, which he felt had failed to take proper notice of these differences.125 As far as the Munich Consensus was concerned, moreover, the need for an independent Literature Academy went beyond the protection of individual writers’ interests. Writing to Schäfer in January 1934, Grimm quoted a letter from a young historian, whose identity remained undisclosed, but who had been a member of the NSDAP for several years. His letter was interpreted by Grimm as an appeal to those, like the Münchner, who sought not rank and position but to uphold the integrity of German literature: ‘To maintain a priesthood of the arts or science in this age of mass propaganda and against the stampede of triumphant superficial education of elementary school teachers and NCOs is very difficult. It must be attempted, even if we perish in the attempt.’126 The Literature Academy therefore had a role in protecting Germany from the evils of ‘democracy’, understood by the Munich Consensus as the influence of the masses rather than parliamentary institutions and political representation.

The paradox of a totalitarian, nationalist government whose dependence on the assent of the masses, however willingly or unwillingly given, led to the establishment of an all-pervasive propaganda apparatus presented ← 200 | 201 → certain dangers in the minds of the völkisch-nationalist writers. While they emphasised the Volk as the foundation of society, they did not believe in the self-determination of the people. Instead, they promoted a divinely ordained social structure to be determined and governed by an elite called to this task. As writers, the members of the Munich Consensus believed they belonged to this elite and were therefore not bound by the same authority that governed the masses. Instead, they stood outside and above the rest of society. They were the protectors of the spirit and integrity of the Volk, enshrined in German literature, in the face not only of the uneducated masses, but also of the propaganda measures needed to control them. While none of them denied the need for such measures, they sought to prevent the subordination of their own work to these ends.

While, to the rest of the Academy, the Münchner presented a united front based on a fundamental belief in their position in German society, among themselves the ban of Kolbenheyer’s speech unleashed new doubts regarding the practical responsibility of the new Literature Academy for representing its members in the state. While they unanimously approved of the speech’s message, they were divided over the appropriate response to the ban. Grimm was swift to voice his opinion that the Senate of the Academy should declare its support for Kolbenheyer;127 Münchhausen agreed.128 Schäfer, Strauß and Binding, on the other hand, adopted the opposite stance. Insisting that making the ban a formal matter for the Academy would be dangerous, Binding defined it as a local instance against which they were powerless.129 In contrast to Grimm, he viewed the ban as a minor discomfort of the völkisch revolution. Grimm, on the other hand, saw it as a more fundamental attack on the principles of the ‘Munich Consensus’, summing up his relationship with the revolution, which would remain consistent throughout the Third Reich: ‘I am in favour of the Revoluton, but I am not one of those people who can take part passively, ← 201 | 202 → but do so actively with pleasure.’130 Typically for the history of the Academy in the Third Reich, while its members spent their energy discussing how to respond to the ban, in the end it was lifted before they reached any decisions.131 Nonetheless, the discussions themselves provide an example of the efforts of the Munich Consensus to define their role as the representatives of German writers and the manner in which they exchanged their ideas within the framework of the Academy.

As far as Kolbenheyer himself was concerned, the ban of his speech confirmed the negative manner in which he was viewed by the Nazi leadership132 and was a sign of Nazi attitudes towards the völkisch-nationalist Academy concept, a connection that Kolbenheyer made in his post-war account of the period.133 After the Second World War, the ban of his lecture became a central element in his defence against accusations of collaboration with the Nazi regime. He presented himself as a fighter for intellectual freedom in an oppressive cultural environment. Alongside the large majority of ‘geistig people’, Kolbenheyer argued, he had been convinced that the Nazi Party was the only organisation that would be able to relieve the German Volk of its economic and political problems. At the same time, he argued that even in the first months of the ‘revolutionary government’ it was already clear that German intellectual life was threatened by the political radicalism of the government. This view was, he suggested, by no means limited to the writers and intellectuals who had been exiled during the Third Reich; the majority of German intellectuals were concerned for German intellectual life. The only exceptions were those who used the upheaval for personal gain.

Writing after 1945, he therefore also used the ban as an opportunity to attack those writers who had fled the Nazis. The apparent domination ← 202 | 203 → of German intellectual life by that group during the 1950s was a common grievance among völkisch-nationalists, who felt that they were victims both under the Nazis and in the post-war period. The difference between those who stayed behind and those who emigrated during the 1930s, Kolbenheyer argued, was that the latter had fled in fear for their personal safety and the profits they would be able to make for their work; the former, on the other hand, were concerned only for the wellbeing of the Volk.134

The End of the Struggle for Institutional Recognition

While the Munich Consensus asserted the autonomous nature of the Literature Academy, in practice it could not exist without some institutional backing. As part of the Prussian Academy of Arts, at the time of its Gleichschaltung it was clearly subordinate to Rust as Prussian Minister of Culture. The foundation of the RKK under Goebbels, however, complicated the situation. As 1934 dawned the Münchner became increasingly impatient for a decision that would resolve the Academy’s lack of institutional definition, which was holding up the ratification of their constitution at the ministerial level and therefore also the start of what they hoped would be their real work. The continued lack of institutional security was therefore a constant theme in their communications in 1933 and 1934. In December 1933, Strauß asserted the authority of the Academy in this matter: ‘We have a constitution, the Senate has accepted it, according to the power of our autonomy it is therefore binding for us – whether the curator has signed it or not – until it is repealed.’135 Nonetheless, as Schäfer made clear to Grimm on 20th December 1933,136 without Rust’s ← 203 | 204 → formal ratification of the constitution, the Academy remained impotent, as the years that followed were to prove. In a letter to Münchhausen on 23rd April 1934, Schäfer added that the situation of völkisch writers in Germany was no better under the Nazis than it had been in the Weimar Republic.137

On 12th January 1934, Johst reported that Rust had agreed in theory to the foundation of an Academy of German Arts out of the three existing sections of the Prussian Academy of Arts. An official statement from the Minister on Kolbenheyer’s draft constitution was expected soon. In the meantime, Johst instructed, the work of the Academy should continue as if the constitution were already in force.138 A letter from Rust of 16th April 1934 to Binding also noted the impatience of the Munich Consensus for a quick solution to the problem of the Academy’s situation. Placing the issue in the wider context of the changes occurring in the Reich as a whole, the so-called Reichsreform, Rust asked for patience and promised an answer within weeks.139 It nonetheless became increasingly evident that Kolbenheyer’s constitution was not going to be ratified by Rust, for whom, as Schäfer noted to Grimm, the Academy was no longer useful in the fight for influence against Goebbels. The foundation of the RSK removed the need for the Academy:

They will place us on a stool in the corner, just as Johst already speaks of us six Münchener as a group of old-fashioned men hungry for recognition. It seems to me to be unworthy to hold off this decision any longer. Would it not be better if we issued a declaration, in which we explicitly expressed our personal readiness to serve the state, but to abandon this fiction of an academy, which is no longer even mocked by the people, only viewed with pity?140

Schäfer therefore concluded: ‘We don’t fit into the system with our autonomy. The state can neither use nor develop us; it is adequately served by the R.Schr.Kr. [RSK].’141

← 204 | 205 → Like Schäfer, Kolbenheyer’s patience was also limited. In February 1934, he expressed his frustration, declaring that the Academy’s position was untenable. In Johst, he argued, the Academy had a President who was ‘a young writer whose achievements up to now can be taken, in the best case, as a sign of promise, but who possesses – as I see it – more sense for adventure sports than for the literary arts.’142 He therefore called for the question of leadership to be thrown open to the Senate. He also recognised the government’s attempts to break down the networks of völkisch-nationalist writers in the Academy. Writing to Grimm on 26th April 1934, he asserted the need for unity in the Munich Consensus against the methods of Rust’s ministry.143 By October 1934 his patience reached an end. Declaring his intention to withdraw from the constitutional committee and to resign his seat in the Senate, he protested against the Nazi authorities’ continued neglect of the constitution. At the same time he also hoped to force a confidence vote on the Academy leadership, informing Grimm that he would on no account take part in any more meetings chaired by Johst.144 Following his resignation,145 his place in the Senate was nonetheless kept open for him by his colleagues, the majority of whom were members of the Munich Consensus and reluctant to see what influence they had in the Academy lessened by the departure of one of their number.146

As long as the Academy existed in an institutional no-man’s-land between the increasingly redundant Prussian Ministry of Culture and Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry it would remain powerless. It appears ← 205 | 206 → that the question of situating it in the institutional landscape of the Third Reich was barely discussed by the government with its members. Instead the Academy became a pawn in the struggle between Goebbels, Rosenberg, Rust, and finally Göring for domination over the cultural sphere.

At the same time, the members of the Munich Consensus privately sought to arrive at their own solution. Their preferred option, although far from perfect, was to be placed directly under the authority of Hitler himself. Strauß formulated a plan to present the Academy’s function as the ‘Curator of the National Spirit’ that he hoped would provide them with the key to Hitler’s patronage. He was supported to this end by Schäfer, who wrote to Grimm on 27th February 1934: ‘According to my “optimism” we would have been able to rescue our existence if we had found a key direct to H. with the plan of our curatorship.’147 Grimm’s response to the plan was neutral. If the Academy were placed directly under Hitler, he argued to Binding, it would actually end up subject to a delegate, who would be in a position to dictate the limits of their competencies and existence. Should they protest, they would not be protesting for the Academy, but against the Führer’s delegate, making them ‘in the best case irritating and odd, in the worst and more likely case however we then appear to be rebels, who must be removed. This is the danger we are facing.’148 To Schäfer he also expressed his concern that the situation could quickly go seriously wrong if they did not clarify exactly what they meant by their autonomy.149

The other options, however, were still less appealing. Always the pessimist, Schäfer raised the dismal option of ending up under Rosenberg, writing to Grimm on 27th February 1934:

I expect that it will be the Reichsstelle under which the Academy (not only our section) will be subordinated. What that means is only too clear to me […]; we would be anything other than appointed ‘by God’s grace’ under Staatssekretär R.; Asiatic, ← 206 | 207 → Estonian air will blow away our German dreams. All we will have of the Academy will be that we are protected by our silence, in which all intellectuals will be included.150

This outcome would indeed have been welcomed by Rosenberg, who had enthusiastically promoted Johst, a long-standing member of the KfdK, as the president of the Literature Academy in the hope that through him he would be able to expand his own sphere of influence. Nonetheless, it does not appear to have been an option that was ever seriously considered by those in power. Likewise, the option of coming under the jurisdiction of Rudolf Hess, which was also briefly raised by Schäfer in the same letter, did not materialise as a serious possibility.

The Academy came close to being subordinated to Goebbels and the Propaganda Ministry, an outcome hinted at by Grimm on 27th June 1934 when writing to Binding to inform him that the fate of the Academy had appeared to be decided at a meeting with Rust the previous week.151 Contrary to the vision of an Academy that stood for German literature not as propaganda but as art, Grimm argued that placing it under Goebbels would be a clear sign of how little the Nazi government valued their literary endeavours. German literature was to serve the propaganda requirements of the Nazi Party, either as an endorsement of Nazism, or simply as entertainment designed to keep the population happy, a role that film and theatre were likewise expected to fulfil. The nation’s leaders were not interested in the eternal truths the völkisch-nationalist writers claimed to preach, but in the benefits their works could bring to the National Socialist state. In the end, the question of the institutional place of the Academy was only settled in 1937, when Hermann Göring was appointed Protektor der Preußischen Akademie der Künste, by which time the Literature Section was functionally crippled.

The main effect of Göring’s appointment was to bring to a head the tension that existed between Rust and Goebbels. It occurred at Rust’s initiative. After he had been named Minister für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung in April 1934, Rust continued to defend his position as ← 207 | 208 → curator of the Academy from Goebbels’ ambitions. The fact that, since the establishment of the RSK, the Academy had been of little use to him as a weapon against Goebbels in the scramble for power and influence in the government meant that he lost interest in its concerns until 1937 when it seemed likely that it would fall into Goebbels’ hands. To prevent this addition to Goebbels’ propaganda empire, Rust arranged for it to be offered to Göring.152 Goebbels’ enraged diary entries promised that Hitler would intervene to dismiss Rust and force Göring to dissolve the Academy.153 Hitler delayed his decision, however, providing Göring with an opportunity to initiate the ‘cleansing’ of the Sections for Fine Arts and Music.

The Literature Academy remained largely unchanged by these measures, unlike the other two sections of the Prussian Academy of Arts, which had not gone through the same thorough Gleichschaltung process in 1933. Göring’s appointment provoked little reaction from the Munich Consensus, whose hopes for the Academy had by now diminished to nothing: Grimm was more concerned with his private initiatives, Kolbenheyer had given up work on his constitution, the Academy no longer featured in Schäfer’s letters to his colleagues.154 Instead the Literature Academy was more severely affected by the death of Binding in August 1938, which left it without a Vice-President in Berlin and the Munich Consensus with one fewer influential member. Neither was able to replace him before the outbreak of the Second World War, which served only to formalise the inactivity. Not vital to the war effort, the government and the Academy’s members themselves now formally accepted what was already fact; the question of the status and function of the Academy was postponed until the war was over.155

← 208 | 209 → Inner Emigration

The disengagement of the Münchner from the immediate concerns of the Academy was not caused by its subordination to Göring, but was evident long before 1937. By the end of 1934, not yet two years after the reconstitution of the Literature Academy, a changed attitude among the members of the Munich Consensus was already discernable. Reflecting to an extent the tendencies of so-called ‘inner emigration’ among writers and intellectuals in the Third Reich, they became less concerned with the immediate communication of their values to the Volk. Instead they put their energy into becoming the guardians of those values for the future. They began to retreat from direct ideological engagement with the regime in favour of a concentration on activities based in the private sphere, postponing action in order finally to bring about the völkisch-nationalist revolution when the climate became friendlier.

On 28th October 1934, Schäfer declared that, while there could still be no talk of a real German Academy of Literature, to resign would only play into the hands of those who wanted to get rid of them. Institutionally, he suggested, they were strongest as a section of the Prussian Academy of Arts, where they were protected by Rust. He also suggested that Prussia’s power was growing in the Reich, and therefore counselled against distancing themselves from this last power base. Instead they should use their position in the Prussian Academy of Arts to achieve as much as possible. Outwardly therefore, they should accept their weak position. Among themselves, however, Schäfer proposed they form an Academy consisting of the six Münchner and Beumelburg, with the addition of Stehr and perhaps also Hauptmann. Johst and Blunck would not be included. Schäfer’s suggestion was radical. Finding themselves unable to fit their ideological beliefs into the institutional framework of the state, they should reject formal institutional definition: ‘As this Academy we will do absolutely nothing externally. Internally, however, we will prepare ourselves for the true task.’156 ← 209 | 210 → This true task he outlined borrowing the words of Paul Ernst: ‘We must know that the first step to higher humanity is that we mercilessly fight against our spiritual cowardliness.’157 Their association would therefore be based on the shared understanding of the purpose of German writers and the need to preserve the German spirit for the future. To this end, he asserted the importance of regular contact between the group, suggesting that they meet every quarter in the Academy in Berlin.158

Kolbenheyer likewise wrote to Grimm on 2nd May 1935, announcing that as he had laid down his seat as a Senator of the Academy, he no longer considered himself a member of the Munich Consensus, which, he argued, had been formed for the Academy. He expressed his overall concern about the state of German literature: ‘Gradually I am beginning to worry about our art. We, who have maintained standards and promoted many literary trends, appear to receive only every possible proof of contempt and our complete superfluity.’159 In responding four days later Grimm encouraged Kolbenheyer to maintain his co-operation with the Munich Consensus. He made it clear that the Munich Consensus had a task that went beyond the Academy, adding his voice to that of Schäfer the previous October:

The Munich circle absolutely must outlive the Academy. A chance for collective action of those truly called must remain. I therefore ask that you withdraw your declaration that you no longer belong to the circle. If your predictions come to pass, I would anyway like to suggest that we six resign. I would like to suggest further that we create some sort of fraternity out of about fifteen men, who would then have more weight than the Senate due to the names that belong to it. The fraternity should be no more than a friendly union.160

By 1935, therefore, the Munich Consensus had developed beyond the context of the Academy. Its members were not bound to each other through their ← 210 | 211 → institutional allegiances, but because they represented ‘German literature’. Acting as commentators within the system they placed themselves above the narrow world of government politics, working solely for the cause of the German Geist.

Meanwhile, the Academy had almost completely stagnated. One or two dying gasps were evident among its membership, but none amounted to anything other than a reassertion of its incapacity. In response to a letter from Rust, in which the Minister lamented the lack of activity in the Academy, Binding proposed to Grimm that the two of them cooperate on two lectures, to be delivered on consecutive days in early 1936. These were intended to improve the public perception of the Academy and to increase understanding of its purpose in the RSK and the Propaganda Ministry. The first, ‘Vom Recht der Dichtung’, would be presented by Binding and deal factually with the fundamental elements of an Academy. The second, ‘Vom nordischen Wesen und der nordischen Berufung’, would be given by Grimm, presenting the importance of German literature in an international context. Binding further suggested that they work with Johst on this project; the Academy’s President, he argued, would not fail to recognise its importance. It is likely that he wanted to create an opportunity to make the Münchner view of the Academy and its raison d’être clear to the President and to force his engagement for their purposes.161

Grimm’s response to Binding was unenthusiastic. He suggested that the Academy would never find favour in the leading offices of the Reich because it could never be active in the way they wanted. As the Third Reich progressed, the völkisch-nationalist writers in the Academy increasingly understood their task in broad terms of representing and protecting German literature, and thereby the German Geist, for future generations. The fact that the Prussian Academy of Arts, in which the Literature Academy still had its home, had already existed for 200 years made this long-term perspective historically justifiable. Grimm therefore told Binding that he recognised the general necessity of which the he spoke, but did not feel that the necessity was immediately applicable. More ← 211 | 212 → personally Grimm also declared that he could not consider undertaking the lectures as he needed to concentrate on writing his next book.162 Finally he suggested that his appearance on behalf of the Academy would not necessarily find a positive reaction in the government, a reference to his already controversial position with Goebbels in particular. Having been relieved of his position on the Präsidialrat of the RSK on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday on 22nd March 1935, ostensibly due to his age, but in fact the result his uncompromising and critical attitude to the RSK and the government, Grimm’s relationship with Goebbels did not improve in the years to come.

Grimm’s disenchantment continued into 1936. On 14th March of that year he received a letter from the Academy requesting him to sign yet another declaration, this time a public assurance of the loyalty of German writers to the Führer, to be published in conjunction with the Reichstag elections of 29th March: ‘In this historical hour it is the self-evident duty of the German writer to pledge himself without reservation to Adolf Hitler. The 29th March will prove to the world that intellectual Germany stands unflinchingly for the Führer, the Volk and the Party.’163 Grimm’s response was in many ways more extreme than might have been expected. Not least, he felt the declaration was a mistake from the point of view of foreign policy. Furthermore, while he declared himself prepared to publicly support Hitler in any action opposing the Versailles Treaty, he went on:

With regard to the Party, I cannot declare that I stand unflinchingly for the Party. I don’t belong to the Party. I wish that National Socialism should be achieved by a Volk united in mind and conscience. I am therefore unable to comprehend a distinction between Party members and other Germans. I also think that an avowal by the Academy to the Party would be inappropriate. The Literature Academy would thereby end up in the wrong place, namely in the avowed service of propaganda, and would lose the power to gain support for Germany, which it now has in spite of its latency.164

← 212 | 213 → The attitude Grimm expressed in this letter was not new. What was new was such a clear and open expression of his scepticism regarding the Nazi Party. His willingness to oppose it openly was not, however, necessarily a sign of courage, or of clear-sightedness regarding the dangers the Party posed for Germany. Grimm’s viewpoint was firmly embedded in his belief that he, and the other Münchner, constituted an elite that was not answerable to the government, but to the German Volk. As such he claimed a right to speak out in opposition to the regime.

Grimm had sought to institutionalise this position in the Literature Academy. His discovery that his name had been added to the declaration in spite of his refusal to sign it led him to consider resignation from the Academy. In a conversation with Binding, he learned that the project had been the work of Beumelburg and Johst, with the cooperation of Hinkel of the RSK, who had no formal relationship with the Academy. This represented the direct involvement of the RSK in the internal affairs of the Academy, a further sign to Grimm of its weakness. As a result, Grimm informed his Munich colleagues of his intention to resign.165 Both Binding and Schäfer recommended restraint.166 Schäfer also expressed surprise at seeing his own name included among those endorsing the declaration in the newspapers. Nonetheless, his letter to Grimm suggests confusion and bewilderment rather than anger.167

Grimm did not resign, but by the middle of 1936 the Munich Consensus had largely run out of ideas and energy. The question of the institutional home of the Academy remained unresolved, and its constitution unratified. Thus the politicians were victorious over the writers. Grimm’s protest had little impact.168 While he did not resign, he refused to attend any ← 213 | 214 → more meetings of the Academy while Johst and Beumelburg remained in office.169 By the end of 1936, his Munich colleagues were equally dispirited and increasingly their interest turned from the Academy to other matters.


The Munich Consensus should not be dismissed as a failure out of hand. It presented the Nazi government with a problem. Having already lost many prominent writers to exile, to exclude men like Grimm, Kolbenheyer, Binding, Schäfer, Strauß and Münchhausen would have been to exclude a significant proportion of the most prominent writers remaining in Germany. For German readers, moreover, their ideology, in so far as it was expressed in their writing, was indistinguishable from National Socialism. Therefore, as long as there was no one else to replace them, they were safe in the Academy. At the same time, by allowing the Academy to exist with the constant promise of further development, but never allowing that development to happen, the Nazis successfully contained the dissenting voices of these writers.

← 214 | 215 → In many ways the Munich Consensus became an Academy within the Academy. Only through their unofficial association did they make any progress towards achieving the independent and autonomous body they hoped to build. Without any real power in their struggle against the lack of interest in the Academy among Nazi politicians, their shared frustrations did much to cement their cooperation. In the end they were unable to carry out their plans for German literature without recognition from the government, but they did succeed in keeping an independent network alive, providing its members with a basis from which they sought other ways to achieve their goals. For this reason, it is not in the end appropriate to describe them as following a course of inner emigration. The Munich Consensus did not altogether remove itself from the political playing field. Their völkisch-nationalist creed made them feel responsible for the German Volk and demanded action from them. Their extra-academic activities will be examined in the following chapter. ← 215 | 216 →


1 Not least Grimm in Worum, – Woher – Aber Wohin?; and Kolbenheyer in Sebastian Karst.

2 After appealing the initial verdict of Schuldiger: See discussion of Kolbenheyers denazification, pp. 299–304.

3 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III., pp. 163–164.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 166.

6 Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, ‘Die nationale Revolution und das Aufleben des deutschen Geistes’ in E.G. Kolbenheyer, Gesammelte Werke in acht Bänden: Achter Band (Munich: Langen-Müller, pre-1945), pp. 434–447.

7 Ibid., p. 438.

8 Ibid., p. 435.

9 Kolbenheyer, Die Bauhütte.

10 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, p. 166.

11 Ibid.

12 The Prussian Academy of Arts was founded in 1696. In 1926, in addition to the new Literature Section, it consisted of two further sections for fine arts and music.

13 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 67–68.

14 Düsterberg, Hanns Johst, pp. 167–168.

15 An extract of the minutes of the meeting can be found in Inge Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, p. 125. See also Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 119–120.

16 Inge Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, p. 125. See also Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 119–120; Sontheimer, Antidemokratisches Denken, pp. 73–75. In the early 1920s Josef Ponten and Thomas Mann conducted a lively correspondence on this subject, with Ponten clearly favouring the Dichter while Mann was reluctant to draw such sharp distinctions between Dichter and Schriftsteller. See Hans Wysling (ed.), Dichter oder Schriftsteller? Der Briefwechsel zwischen Thomas Mann and Josef Ponten, 1919–1930 (Bern: Francke, 1988).

17 Kolbenheyer to the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts, 30.12.1929 in Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, p. 126.

18 Ibid., pp. 119–122, 150.

19 Quoted by Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, p. 125. See also the extract from the minutes of the meeting on 13th October 1930 in Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, pp. 137–138.

20 Wilhelm Schäfer, ‘Der mißglückte Versuch einer deutschen Dichterakademie’ in Die Literarische Welt 7 (1931), Nr. 5, p. 8; see also Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, p. 148.

21 Thomas Mann made his position clear in a letter to Loerke, referred to in Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, p. 128.

22 Ibid., pp. 127–130.

23 Wilhelm Schäfer, ‘Der mißglückte Versuch einer deutschen Dichterakademie’; Kolbenheyer also published his version of the events of the previous five years under the heading ‘Die Sektion der Dichter an der Berliner Akademie’ in the Süddeutsche Monatshefte, 28. Jg. (1930/1931), pp. 519–530.

24 Jens, Dichter zwischen rechts und links, pp. 159–162.

25 On the Gleichschaltung of the Literature Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts, see also Walter Huder, ‘Die sogenannte Reinigung: Die “Gleichschaltung” der Sektion für Dichtkunst der Preußischen Akademie der Künste 1933’, Exilforschung: Ein internationales Jahrbuch. Band 4: Das jüdische Exil und andere Themen (Munich, 1986), pp. 148–149.

26 Käthe Kollwitz, artist and member of the Sektion für Bildende Kunst in the Academy, also endorsed the appeal.

27 An article that appeared in the Deutsche Zeitung on 15.2.1933 reported on the speech delivered by Rust at the University of Berlin, in which he assured his audience that he would bring the scandal caused by Mann’s signature on the appeal to an end. See Wulf (ed.), Literatur und Dichtung im Dritten Reich, p. 16.

28 ‘Verhandelt in der Preußischen Akademie der Künste, Sitzung der Gesamtakademie am Mittwoch, den 15. Februar 1933’, in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, p. 29.

29 ‘Erklärungen von Heinrich Mann und Käthe Kollwitz’ in Tempo (Berlin), 16.2.1933, in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 36–37; see also Wulf (ed.), Literatur und Dichtung im Dritten Reich, pp. 17–19.

30 Hildegard Brenner, ‘Beginn der politischen Formierung: Das Ausscheiden von Heinrich Mann und Käthe Kollwitz’ in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution (Stuttgart, 1972), pp. 14–16, 18–19.

31 Quoted in Düsterberg, Hanns Johst, p. 168.

32 Only nine members of the Section attended, plus Max von Schillings. Those not resident in Berlin had been dissuaded by being asked to pay their own travel costs.

33 Declaration sent to members of the Sektion für Dichtkunst in the Preußischen Akademie der Künste, 14th March 1933, in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, p. 60.

34 Ricarda Huch’s several letters of resignation are reproduced in Wulf (ed.), Literatur und Dichtung im Dritten Reich, pp. 26–27.

35 The correspondence surrounding the resignation and expulsion of these members is reproduced in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 58–70.

36 For a full list of members of the Academy at this point see the press release of the Amtlicher Preußischer Pressedienst 9. Juni 1933: ‘Tagung der Deutschen Akademie der Dichtung’, in Brenner, Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 86–87.

37 Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, p. 21.

38 Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?.

39 Münchhausen to Grimm, 10.5.1933 DLA – A: Grimm, Münchhausen to Grimm, 1927–1945. See also Stephan Malinowski, Vom König zum Führer: Zum Verhältnis von Adel und Nationalsozialismus. Dokumentation einer Veranstaltung am 9. Juli 2004 im Studienzentrum Karl-Marx-Haus in Trier (Trier: Akademie Verlag, 2003).

40 Münchhausen to Grimm, 10.5.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Münchhausen to Grimm, 1927–1945.

41 Münchhausen to Rust, 10.5.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Münchhausen to Grimm, 1927–1945.

42 See p. 162.

43 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, pp. 167–169.

44 Ibid. p. 169.

45 Minutes of the Constitutional Meeting of the Literature Section in the Prussian Academy of Arts held in Berlin on 7th June 1933 in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 75–76.

46 Ibid., p. 77.

47 Ibid., p. 79.

48 Ibid., p. 79.

49 Ibid., pp. 78–79.

50 Max von Schillings to Ministerialrat Dr. von Staa, 10th June 1933, in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, p. 89.

51 Dr. von Staa to von Schillings, 15th June 1933, in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 89–90.

52 Minutes of the Constitutional Meeting of the Literature Section in the Prussian Academy of Arts, 7th June 1933 in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, p. 75.

53 Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin?, p. 162.

54 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, p. 174.

55 Minutes of the Constitutional Meeting of the Literature Section in the Prussian Academy of Arts, 7th June 1933 in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 80–83.

56 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, p. 174.

57 Minutes of the Constitutional Meeting of the Literature Section in the Prussian Academy of Arts, 7th June 1933 in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 80–83.

58 Press release of the Amtlicher Preußischer Pressedienst, 9th June 1933: ‘Tagung der Deutschen Akademie der Dichtung’ in Brenner (ed.), Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, pp. 86–87.

59 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, p. 174.

60 Ibid., pp. 174–175.

61 Ibid., pp. 175–176.

62 Grimm, Warum – Woher – Aber Wohin? p. 157.

63 Kolbenheyer, ‘Die nationale Revolution’, p. 436.

64 Schäfer to Grimm, 20.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

65 Grimm to Strauß, 21.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934, in answer to Strauß to Grimm, 10.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

66 Schäfer to Grimm, 20.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

67 Grimm to Strauß, 21.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934. Compare with Schäfer to Grimm, 20.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

68 Blunck, confidential report on Preußische Akademie der Künste and Reichsschrifttumskammer, 11. Hornung (February), 1934, B.Arch.NS8–101.

69 Grimm to Binding, 4.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

70 Brenner, Ende einer bürgerlichen Kunst-Institution, Introduction; Barbian, Literaturpolitik, pp. 71–79.

71 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

72 See, for example, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 11.9.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938. Also undated letter from 1933 from Grimm to Kolbenheyer in DLA: Nachlaß Grimm, Grimm to Kolbenheyer, 1933–1959.

73 Grimm to Binding, 5.7.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

74 Ibid.

75 Grimm to Strauß, 21.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

76 Further expressions of the dissatisfaction of the Münchner writers with the regime were evident, for example in Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 26.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

77 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 322–323.

78 Börries von Münchhausen, Juda: Gesänge (Berlin: Fleischel, 1900); Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 161–162, 373–374.

79 For Mittenzwei’s summary of Münchhausen’s early ideological development see Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 157–165.

80 Sarkowicz and Mentzer, Literatur in Nazi-Deutschland, p. 288.

81 Ibid., pp. 243–244.

82 See chapter two, pp. 155–157. Münchhausen is not, moreover, mentioned in Goebbels’ diaries.

83 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 191–195.

84 See Chapter 4.

85 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie. p. 377.

86 Ibid., pp. 372–375.

87 Wilhelm Schäfer, Krieg und Dichtung (Weimar: Gesellschaft der Bibliophilen, 1944); see also Sarckowicz and Mentzer, Literatur in Nazi-Deutschland, p. 303 and the discussion of Die dreizehn Bücher der deutschen Seele in this volume, pp. 81–83.

88 Sarkowicz and Mentzer, Literatur in Nazi-Deutschland, pp. 99–100.

89 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, p. 327.

90 For example, in a letter on 4.7.1937 Grimm thanked Binding for the hospitality the latter showed Grimm’s son, Wernt, who stayed with Binding in connection with a Hitler Youth trip to Bavaria, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1936–1937.

91 Börries von Münchhausen’s Nachlaß is spread over six locations: The Goethe-Schiller Archive, Weimar; the Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Jena; the Staatsbibliothek Berlin; the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach am Neckar; the Thüringisches Staatsarchiv, Altenburg; the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen. The holdings in Weimar and Altenburg are concerned with his estates and the Marbach collection is restricted to a limited amount of correspondence and some manuscripts. Likewise, the university library in Göttingen possesses only a small number of letters from Münchhausen. An examination of the family correspondence in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin and his correspondence with Hans Grimm in Marbach, has contributed to the conclusions presented here, alongside Mittenzwei’s account, which is based on research in the Münchhausen archive in Jena.

92 See Chapter 4.

93 Münchhausen to Grimm, 10.5.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Münchhausen to Grimm, 1927–1945.

94 Grimm to Binding, 13.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

95 Extracts of the Rundschreiben from Johst of 12.1.1934 were included in a letter from Grimm to Binding of 23.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934. At the time Johst wrote the Rundschreiben, Binding had not yet been appointed as his deputy and was still the only member of the Munich Consensus not on the Senate. In order to keep him up to date with Academy affairs, the other Münchner regularly informed him of developments, a further sign of the significant strength in the cooperation of the six men. In particular Grimm adopted this task, reflecting the friendship that already existed between the two men.

96 Schäfer to Grimm, 24.1.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

97 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.1.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950.

98 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934; Grimm to Binding, 4.3. 1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

99 Grimm to Strauß, 21.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

100 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934. As became the common practice among the Münchner, Grimm also sent copies of this correspondence to Binding, Strauß, Münchhausen and Kolbenheyer.

101 Grimm to Binding, 4.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

102 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 321–332; for details of the meeting, see pp. 327–328.

103 Binding to Munich Consensus, 5.7.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1933–1934.

104 Binding to Grimm, 21.11.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1935–1936.

105 Grimm to Binding, 22.11.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935.

106 Grimm to Binding, 5.1.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935, with reference to Blunck, Das Nibelungenlied: mit Bildern aus der hundeshagenschen Handschrift (Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, 1934).

107 Binding to Grimm, 10.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1935–1936.

108 Grimm to Binding, 4.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

109 Ibid.

110 Grimm to Schäfer, 11.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950.

111 Erwin Guido Kolbenheyer, Der Lebensstand der geistig Schaffenden und das neue Deutschland (Munich: Langen-Müller, 1934).

112 Grimm to Schäfer, 11.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950. Grimm also wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Academy, Werner Beumelburg, in which he defended Kolbenheyer’s speech, also in the name of Münchhausen: Grimm to Schriftführer der Deutschen Akademie der Dichtung, 18.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer – Erklärungen zu einem Vortragsverbot, 1934.

113 E.G. Kolbenheyer ‘Ueber Anfrage des Albert Langen / Georg Müller Verlages […]’, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer – Erklärungen zu einem Vortragsverbot, 1934.

114 ‘Notizen über das Verbot des Vortrages: “Der Lebensstand der geistig Schaffenden und das neue Deutschland”’, Solln, den 24.I.34, signed by Kolbenheyer, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer – Erklärungen zu einem Vortragsverbot, 1934.

115 E.G. Kolbenheyer ‘Ueber Anfrage des Albert Langen / Georg Müller Verlages […].’

116 Kolbenheyer, Der Lebensstand, p. 14.

117 Ibid., pp. 10–15.

118 Ibid., p. 11.

119 Ibid., p. 11.

120 Ibid., p. 14.

121 Ibid., pp. 18–19.

122 See pp. 173–175.

123 Blunck, 11. Hornung 1934, B.Arch. NS8 – 101.

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

125 Binding to Grimm, 2.12.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1933–1934.

126 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.1.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950.

127 Grimm to Schäfer, 11.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950.

128 Grimm to Schäfer, 16.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950. See also Grimm to Schäfer, 25.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

129 Binding to Grimm, 1.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1933–1934.

130 Grimm to Binding, 4.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934. Emphasis in original.

131 Ibid.

132 Kolbenheyer referred to the suspicion with which he was viewed in government circles in a letter to Münchhausen, 26.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

133 Kolbenheyer, Sebastian Karst, vol. III, pp. 177–178.

134 Ibid., p. 178.

135 Strauß to Grimm, 10.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

136 Schäfer to Grimm, 20.12.1933, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935. Strauß’s plan was to ensure that the Academy came under the direct jurisdiction of Hitler, rather than any specific ministry.

137 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, p. 345.

138 Extracts from the Rundschreiben from Johst of 12.1.1934 were enclosed in a letter from Grimm to Binding of 23.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

139 Rust to Binding, 16.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1933–1934.

140 Schäfer to Grimm, 28.8.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

141 Ibid.

142 Kolbenheyer to Schäfer, 24.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

143 Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 26.4.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

144 Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 12.10.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

145 Kolbenheyer to Münchner, 17.10.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

146 Grimm to Kolbenheyer, 16.10.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Kolbenheyer, 1933–1959.

147 Schäfer to Grimm, 27.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

148 Grimm to Binding, 4.3.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

149 Grimm to Schäfer, 25.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

150 Schäfer to Grimm, 27.2.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

151 Grimm to Binding, 27.6.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1933–1934.

152 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, pp. 385–387

153 Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part I, vol. 3: 16.7.1937, pp. 203–204; 29.7.1937, p. 216; 4.8.1937, pp. 224–225; 5.8.1937, p. 226; 7.8.1937, p. 229; 10.8.1937, p. 231; 11.8.1937, p. 232; 13.8.1937, p. 234.

154 Mittenzwei, Der Untergang einer Akademie, p. 394.

155 Ibid., pp. 408–409, 440–441.

156 Schäfer to Grimm, 28.10.1934, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935.

157 Ibid.

158 Ibid.

159 Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 2.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938.

160 Grimm to Kolbenheyer, 6.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Kolbenheyer, 1933–1959.

161 Binding to Grimm, 21.11.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1935–1936.

162 Grimm to Binding, 22.11.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935.

163 Quoted by Grimm in a letter to the ‘Schriftführer der Akademie der Dichtung’ (Beumelburg) on 15(?).3.1936, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Akademie, 1936.

164 Ibid.

165 Grimm to Munich Consensus, 3.4.1936, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Akademie, 1936; also in Grimm to Binding, 1936–1937.

166 Binding to Grimm, 26.3.1936, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm, 1935–1936.

167 Schäfer to Grimm, 6.4.1936, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1936–1948.

168 He also protested against the failure of his colleagues to support a proposed Academy declaration drafted by Kolbenheyer and himself. For the lengthy and inconclusive discussions on this declaration see: Kolbenheyer and Grimm, draft declaration of the Senate of the German Literature Academy, enclosed with Grimm to Binding, 23.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935; Grimm to Munich Consensus, 23.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Academy, 1935; Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 7.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Kolbenheyer to Grimm, 1918–1938; Binding to Grimm, 27.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Binding to Grimm 1935–1936; Strauß to Grimm, 28.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Strauß to Grimm, 1933–1956; Grimm to Binding, 29.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935; Schäfer to Grimm, 3.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935; Grimm to Schäfer, 6.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Schäfer, 1928–1950; Schäfer to Grimm, 26.5.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Schäfer to Grimm, 1911–1935; Grimm to Beumelburg, 6.7.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Academy, 1935; Grimm to Binding, 11.7.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1935; Grimm to Beumelburg, 19.9.1935, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Academy, 1935.

169 Grimm to Binding, 9.4.1937, DLA – A: Grimm, Grimm to Binding, 1936–1937.