Academic journal article Humanitas

Metapolitics Revisited

Academic journal article Humanitas

Metapolitics Revisited

Article excerpt

There are now three changed editions of my Metapolitics, with varying subtitles. Written between 1936 and 1941, while the author was an undergraduate and graduate at Harvard and Oxford, the first edition appeared with Knopf in mid 1941 (before Pearl Harbor and written--or overwritten--in the anguished emotional context of Hitler seemingly winning). This first edition was accepted as my Harvard Ph.D. thesis in January 1942. The second edition, a Putnam Capricorn paperback, appeared in 1961 and 1965, the original text unchanged but with several key appendices (Wagner, Jahn, Alfred Rosenberg, etc.) and with a new (1961) preface (in the calmer context of Hitler's defeat).

The present third edition, prepared in 2002 and released in 2004 by Transaction Publishers, is--in effect--a new book. It leaves unchanged the 1941 original (whose mood of crisis cannot be recaptured or rewritten now), its index, and the 1961-65 appendices and preface. But it adds well over a hundred completely new pages as part 2, headed "Discoveries in German Culture." The latter comprises essays on Albert Speer, Claus von Stauffenberg, Georg Heym, and Stefan George, culminating in a brief assessment of Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The publisher's suggestion was to supply the contexts (and contradictions?) of my thoughts ranging from 1936-41 (late teen-age, early twenties) to 2004 (at age eighty-eight)--a sixty-eight year palimpsest.

My bibliographies aim not at completeness nor up-to-dateness (anybody can copy off a library list). They aim to show the books on which (aside from my many interviews with Germans) I based my research. Not listed are the hundreds of books and articles on Wagner and on Hitler that have appeared thereafter and are thus irrelevant to my argument. The 1941 edition has its share of prophecies (e.g., of Hitler's later use specifically of gas chambers, cf. "The Rooted German," page 317). Tampering with first editions can lead, among other things, to a seeming precognition.

Too late for inclusion in my earlier editions were Cosima Wagner's diaries about her husband Richard, long suppressed by the family. The quotations that follow are all from volume II of Cosima Wagner's Diaries, 1878-1882 (English translation published by Harcourt Brace, New York 1980; German edition, Munich 1977). Here are random examples from the American edition. In 1879 (p. 302), Wagner praises a German writer as "another true German" for calling Jews "beasts of prey," a phrase that "pleases him greatly." February 19, 1881 (p. 627): "He enlarges upon the subject of how terrible it is to have this foreign Jewish element in our midst, and how we have lost everything." February 15, 1881 (p. 622): Discussing his friendship with Count Gobineau, the French apostle of Nordic superiority, Richard "adds jokingly, 'If our civilization comes to an end, what does it matter? But if it comes to an end through the Jews, that is a disgrace.'" December 27, 1878 (p. 240): "Very animated discussion of the evils the Jews have brought on us Germans. Richard says that he personally has had some very good friends among the Jews, but their emancipation and equality ... has been ruinous. He considers Germany finished.... The Germans have been exploited and ridiculed by the Jews...." September 6, 1880 (p. 534): "Richard is amused by Rothschild's request for an audience with the Emperor in order to explain to him to what extent the Jews in Germany are endangered, and he says with a certain satisfaction, 'I have played some part in that.'"

Well, the nineteenth century is full of such "philosophers" of anti-Semitism in Germany (and anti-Dreyfusard France). But none talked of physical mass murder of Jews, not one, not Treitschke, not Lagarde, with the lone exception of Wagner. December 19, 1881 (p. 773): "He makes a drastic joke to the effect that all Jews should be burned at a performance of Nathan." To decode this, we must recall two facts: Lessing's play Nathan Der Weise warned against persecution of Jews, attracting many German Jews and enraging Wagner. …

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