The Generation of the German Conservative Revolution
"I am the great grandchild of an idealistic, a grandchild of a romantic, and a son of a materialistic generation". (Ernst Jünger) 1
These are the words of Ernst Jünger, born in 1895, who exemplifies the generation which became that of the twentieth century German National Socialist Revolution; the Hitler generation which spawned that uncommon leader from the Common Man. This was that biological generation which experienced the conflicts of 1914 and 1939, those two phases of which Georg Franz-Willing, citing Churchill's pronouncements, likens to a second Thirty Years War within a tragedy of the West.2
This generation grew up before World War I in an era of apparent security,
but of great materialistic changes, and then revolted against "the
system" which was perceived as unwanted domination over the majority by an
alien, international plutocratic minority. The German National Socialist
Revolution grew out of an extended malaise of what was perceived as
Folk-threatening dysgenic universalism, degeneracy, money slavery, and the mass
impersonalization of modern life, as well as to
The strata of participants was not delineated, resulting in a broad supportive spectrum of the population in Germany and elsewhere; not only from the masses, but also from Zionists, some non Aryans and Mischlinge (cross-breeds) who concurred with aspects of the National Socialist program, both before and after the eventual race defining citizenship laws and geneological identification papers.
These revolutionaries considered themselves radical, meaning basic reformers. They crowned Der Arbeiter (the worker). The elevated and respected worker with his spade at his shoulder marched gloriously as the soldier, and the worker became to include the intellectual who works with his brain, as well as the worker who labors with his brawn. All would be paid by new Marks not backed by gold, but by the Germans' productivity.
Across all ranks a consortium was formed unifying liberals, socialists, national patriot industrialists, farmers, and scientists, fused together into an intellectual and spiritual Deutschtum or Folkish togetherness, and no matter whether they thought of themselves as being on the "Right" or "Left", the one thing most of them had in common was a strong nationalism.
They were the flowering from prior generations of "fathers" and "grandfathers" who partook in earlier nationalistic times, although Georg Franz-Willing does show unique aspects of the Hitler era in his definitive series on the Hitlerbewegung (The Hitler Movement). A harbinger had occurred in October of 1817, as Peter Gay states in describing what he calls a famous scene from which nationalist and völkische (folkish) elements derived much inspiration: ..."three hundred years after Martin Luther had nailed his theses to the church door at Wittenberg, German students, wearing old-fashioned costumes, gathered at the Wartburg, a historic and romantic spot; they shouted "Heil", sang patriotic songs, said fervent prayers, and burned some books. They were at the Wartburg to celebrate the liberation of their country - or, rather, countries - from the alien yoke, and in their celebration they linked the reformer Luther with the general Blücher as twin liberators of the German spirit and the German land, determined to draw strength from ancient myths for the political and moral tasks before them."3
An example of this transition is Treitschke, who wrote toward the end of the nineteenth century that the older generation of liberalism was giving way to a new generation of lusty singers of "Deutschland über Alles!" 4
An intensification of this new nationalism was noted throughout
Certainly a new nationalism was developing among the Germans. More than
It must be stressed that this generation following in the wake of the
power and faith in science and reason, was characterized by a loosening of the
hold of Christian universalism. Many were searching for a new faith. Some found
it in a new socialism, still others in a new folkish preservationism and eugenics. Vanquished veteran Hitler
fused a new faith after
Earlier, many had already gathered together into a youth movement which
was searching for new foundations of life by closer contact with nature. With
the German Youth Movement which started around 1900, the young Germans appeared
to be leading in the search for a new form of life different from their vita
This particular German youth movement started first in the big
industrialized cities. In their restless hiking and camping, the young gave
expression to the romantic spirit of wandering in contrast to modern traffic. They
had first organized in 1896 as the Wanderbund, and
then in 1900 as the Wandervogel. In this movement,
the German youth were rising up against the bourgeois type. The word bourgeois
had different meanings for different groups. For the Left, it meant Capitalism,
for others it was merely the traditional form of society or even everything
The earlier generational members of the Wandervogel greeted World War I with great ecstacy. Thomas Mann recalled: "Let us remember the beginning...those never-to-be-forgotten first days, when what we no longer thought possible, happened. We had not believed in the war, our political insight had not sufficed to recognize the necessity of the European catastrophe. But as moral beings yes, as such we had seen the trial coming...and still more, in some ways we longed for it, felt in the depth of our hearts that the world, our world, could not go on like this any more. We knew that world of peace, that can-can culture...Horrible world, which now no longer is, or no longer will be after the great storm passed by. Did it not crawl with spiritual vermin as with worms! Did it not stink of the decaying matter of civilization?" 8
Friedrich Meinecke also remembered this period with a kind of glow: "The exaltation of the August days of 1914, despite its ephemeral character, is for all who lived through them one of the highest sort...one perceived in all camps that the mere unity of a functional partnership would not suffice, but that a spiritual renovation of our state and culture was necessary." 9
Meinecke was recalling an experience that had gripped so many Germans, from the poets to the Pan-Germans, and to Hitler, who, a few years after World War I wrote: "The fight of the year 1914 was certainly not forced upon the masses, good God! but desired by the entire people itself...To me personally, those hours appeared like the redemption from the annoying moods of my youth. Therefore, I am not ashamed today to say that, overwhelmed by impassionate enthusiasm, I had fallen on my knees and thanked Heaven out of my overflowing heart that it had granted me the good fortune of being allowed to live in these times." 10
For four years of the bloodiest battles the world had known, the youth
of this generation had fought with great passion. Ernst Jünger,
who volunteered in 1914 as a boy of nineteen, had not only fought - he had also
kept a journal, ruthlessly true and as precise as he could make it of those
four years of war. He had been fighting, as had many others of his generation,
for his country. He was wounded seven times, received the highest medal, the
Pour le Merít, and he came back as others to his
Germany defeated by her enemies, torn by internal strife, wholly out of
sympathy with the views that were being Moscow directed into the young Weimar
Republic. He became a spokesman of a generation that had staked its all,
sacrificed its all, but now - a brighter tomorrow must
yet come! For Jünger the war of 1914 was not lost; it
was only the prelude of a new and greater battle ahead! "It is the glowing
evening sky of a sinking time and the rising sun of a new and greater
future!" 11 In the journal of his frontline war experiences, he wrote:
"Hardened as scarcely another generation ever was in fire and flame, we
could go into life as though from the anvil; into friendship, love, politics,
professions, into all that destiny had in store. It is
not every generation that is so favored!...We stand in
the memory of the dead who are holy to us, and we believe ourselves entrusted
with the true and spiritual welfare of our people. We stand for what will be
and for what has been. Though forces without and barbarity within conglomerate
in somber clouds, yet so long as the blade of a sword will strike in the night,
may it be said:
Ernst Jünger and other thinkers such as
Wilhelm Stapel, Oswald Spengler,
Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Ernst Niekisch, August Winnig, and
writers such as Ernst von Salomon, were among the many fathers in the
intellectual climate within the Hitler generation of the German National
Socialist Revolution. There were hundreds of different groups striving to
reform or to overthrow the
Political homicides were numerous. Many were commited
emotionally such as that participated in by the journalist Ernst von Salomon,
who partook in the assassination of the Jewish politician and industrialist
Walter Rathenau in 1922. Von Salomon wrote about his
"hit list" in his book Fragebogen, where he
tells us: "Actually there was only one political common denominator that
held the whole 'national movement' together at that time, and it was a negative
one: it amounted to this: 'We must make an end to Erfüllungspolitik,
to the policy of accepting the Versailles Treaty and cooperating with the
West.' That was the one point on which all the groups and subgroups were
agreed, though they might and did argue about everything else. We had no wish
to become a political party with mass support and all that that implies. But we
did, from the very beginning, desire basic change, a 'national revolution' that
would free us from the material and ideological supremacy of the West as the
French Revolution had freed
Though the growing Marxian groups had a counter reputation of being unpatriotic, many of the Marxians wanted a social revolution for their own fatherland, and did not think in terms of an international order. Even Stalin realized this when he wrote in a letter to Lenin in 1920: "...For nations which belonged already to Old Russia, our Soviet federation is the best way towards Unity...But the same cannot be said about those nations which have been independent and have developed their own form of government to go into an alliance with Russia in one form or another. Let us consider for instance a future Soviet Germany, Soviet Poland...these countries will not agree to a federation with Russia, because the masses would see in a federation a threat or even an attack to their own national independence." 14
The Marxians were gaining ground, but there
was another movement which was more successful and which was calling for a
strong hand that would lead
The differences between the Right and the Left brought about many bloody clashes in the streets which gave rise for a popular dictatorial movement which could resolve and fuse the fighting factions.
In 1932, Jünger published Der Arbeiter (The Worker). This work was an attempt to overcome the gap between the Right and the Left which Jünger symbolized in two figures: the conservative soldier, and the socialistic worker. In a modern technical world, battles can only be won through a total national effort (total mobilization) amalgamating the battlefront with the home front. In a giant technical apparatus, the worker becomes a soldier, and the soldier becomes a worker, and both are idealistic servants of the people. The Hitlerian National Socialists, in their attempt to join the Right and the Left, adopted Jünger's concept and used it in their program.
Jünger had become
one of the most influential thinkers in
Hitler tried to befriend Ernst Jünger before
he came to power, but Jünger never joined the
National Socialist Party. After 1933, Jünger moved to
Jünger seemed to
have been allied with Ernst Niekisch, the leader of
the National Bolshevists, who wanted a reproachment
Although Moeller Van Den Bruck was not greatly
impressed with Hitler as the one to lead
It may seem a paradox, but of interest to note that many of these intellectuals of this generation which we have been considering, thinkers such as Ernst Jünger, Moeller Van Den Bruck, Ernst von Salomon, and others who had done works which clearly influenced the German National Socialist Movement, did not themselves actually join the National Socialist Party, neither while it was becoming a popular wave, nor later when empowered. Other intellectuals might be mentioned such as Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger, who, after a short period of enthusiasm, later withdrew their support.
But Hitler did find mass enthusiasim and support among the young, utilizing the New German Youth Movement, and among many others who were not satisfied both in the material and in the ideological sense. They were tired of words and promises -they wanted decisions and action. In the early 30's, many young people, worthy, but unripe politically, began to organize themselves into the SA-Sturmabteilungen (Storm Troops) of the Hitler Movement. According to Friedrich Meinecke, Hitler came to power, "...through a typical but dazzled and blinded youth-movement." 21 After the war Meinecke writes quite critically but it is a fact that not only youth but the voters generally said "yes" for change. The middle class saw in Hitler the man who would be able to set an end to disorganization and economic depression. Hitler's extraordinary powers as a popular orator secured him the backing of masses who were moved by a strong discontent of things as they were and a willingness of many to work for a better tomorrow. The young were especially enthusiastic and idealistic. They were marching and singing:
Wir marschieren für Hitler
durch Nacht und durch Tod
Mit der Fahne der Jugend
für Freiheit und Brot!
schmettern die hellen Fanfaren
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren! 22
(We are marching for Hitler
through night and through death
With the flag of youth
for freedom and bread!
blare the bright fanfare
Youth knows no danger!)
Those young Germans believed that it was their destiny to lead their
country to a better future. They were not only looking forward but also looking
back to their proud German heritage. They felt that in their generation the
dreams of their forefathers for a better
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn's ideas which had been already revived during the Wandervogel movement, now were again reactivated and put into reality in a national school system. In the early nineteenth century, Turnvater Jahn had set his hopes on youth; so did the National Socialist Movement. The study of patriotic history became important. Young Germans were trained in manual work, gymnastics, and in sports. And now, as Jahn had called for earlier, the movement installed the same state education for children of all classes. The word Volkstum (folkdom) very often used by Turnvater Jahn, became a slogan of the National Socialists. The Hitler Jugend (youth) were reviving old folk-songs, folk craft, and old Germanic folk-myths in their meetings.
Many passionate words were spoken which expressed so truly the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times) of this generation; Freyer as quoted in Die Entscheidung (The Decision) said:
"In the photographs of our grandparents we recognize our own faces.
Are one hundred generations more than three? Against the eternal will of the
blood, the difference is small. The farmer behind the plow and the soldier
under the steel helmet are branches of the same tree which bore the crusaders
and the wandering people of the
We note that the individual is very important as a link in the life of the national folk. The Folk and its destiny is paramount. Hitler considered himself as one link in the Germanic Folk Destiny, and the word Vorsehung (destiny) appeared frequently in his speeches. Although Hitler became Dictator, he considered himself dictated to by German Destiny. Destiny had bestowed to him that office, and because of this, he was obligated to make decisions for the nation. After the Röhm Putsch of 1934, Carl Schmitt wrote, "The Führer protects the law when he in time of great danger, because of his high office, serves as judge. The true leader is always the judge." 24
The German National Socialist revolutionaries from the very beginning
indicated that Jews were not included in the ethnic definition of the
nationality of the country and were to be excluded from citizenship thereby;
certainly not unique in world history. Jewry was seen as debilitating to the
national well being and a cause of much of
Schacher Juden ziehn dahin
Sie ziehn wohl übers Meer
Die Wellen schlagen zu
Die Welt hat Ruh!25
(Haggling Jews wander here and there;
they travel over the ocean;
the waves will hit them;
the world has peace!)
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which had first appeared in
While the German masses had lost everything with the post World War I
hyperinflation, Jewry became more powerful. Friedrich Meinecke
wrote that "Among those who drank too hastily and greedily of the cup of power
which had come to them, were many Jews. They appeared to be the beneficiaries
of the German defeat and revolution. Everyone else in
World renowned historian David Irving informs that the dimensions of
manuscript is in the Dorothy Thompson collection of the George Arents Research Library,
"The leadership of the radical Left parties, the Communists, the
Social Democrats, the Independent Socialists and the Spartakisten,
were mostly Jewish. It had been these elements which had promoted disastrous
strikes in the last year of the war and had been largely instrumental in
fomenting the insurrections and the naval mutiny which led to the abdication of
the Kaiser and the establishment of the so-called
But it was commonly felt throughout Germany that the total defeat and utter helplessness of Germany before the triumphant victors was precipitated and made inevitable by treason on the home front in which Jewish influence was the greatest factor and that, but for this, Germany might have held out long enough to secure a truly negotiated peace rather than to submit to a merciless Diktat.
"Nor was this all. Until
hated Tsarist Russia had been overthrown and defeated, world Jewry and,
especially, German Jewry had supported the cause of the Central Powers. After
that, Jewish support switched to the allies. The negotiations in 1916 which led
up to the Balfour Declaration of the following year were later admitted by the
British wartime Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, to have been undertaken
because of the need felt to win the support of the Zionist movement throughout
the world. There exists strongly suggestive evidence that the success of this
ploy created a quid pro quo situation between the British government and the
powerful American Zionists who, in turn, brought irresistible pressure on
President Wilson to bring about the decisive participation of the
"In any event, the
"Peter Gay, another well-known Jewish historian, in a book with a significant sub-title (Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider),writes in a similar vein, telling us that when we think of Weimar, we think of modernity in art, literature and thought; we think of the rebellion of sons against fathers, Dadaists against art, libertines against old-fashioned moralists; we think of The Threepenny Opera, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Magic Mountain, the Bauhaus, Marlene Dietrich...
"Die Weltbühne was the most prominent and influential of the left-wing literary journals. Not to have read the latest issue, according to Kurt Hiller, was considered uncouth. Of the sixty-eight writers whose religious origin could be established, forty-two were found to be of Jewish descent, two were half-Jews and only twenty-four were non-Jews (of whom three were married to Jewesses) Deak tells us: 'The enthusiasm of the Weltbühne writers for revolutionary socialist propositions was to a great part due to the recognition of their inescapable Jewish condition.'
"Deak tells us further, but with an air
of approbation, that of those who now dictated public taste and morals and
'corrupted their customers,' more than three-fourths were not natives, but came
from Austria, Hungary, the Ukraine and Poland. These were the people whom
Walter Rathenau, himself a Jew, called 'an Asiatic
horde on the
"The late Sir Arthur Bryant, a respected historian and a
conservative Christian gentleman, wholly out of sympathy with the Nazi regime
which followed the
As to Jewry's influence at this time among the Germans, Peter Peel makes
reference to the Arthur Bryant book Unfinished Victory which was published just
before the outbreak of World War II in which Bryant describes the alien quality
of the "200,000 Jews" who thronged
"Bryant says that although the Jews comprised only one percent of
the population of
"Bryant is distressed too, by the undisguised scorn for Christianity - a Jewish poet's (Carl Zuckmayer) comparing a cat caterwauling on the roof at night with Jesus at Gethsemane, or a Jewish writer's depicting Christ as a drunken lecher.
"Major Francis Yeats-Brown, in his book European Jungle, adds a few
figures to Bryant's, relative to the disproportionate power of Jews in the
professions. He tells us that in
"Even Dr. Chaim Weizmann,
who was visiting
To take back their country, was the stated goal of German Nationalist revolutionaries, and the Hitlerian generation believed that it had the duty to put decision into action, to do or to die. They were the next generation of Moeller, Spengler, Schmitt, Jünger, and others like Ernst von Salomon who had described the Freikorps in The Outlaw: "We were a band of fighters drunk with all the passions of the world; full of lust, exultant in action"...30 and the young Nazis justified their actions in the same manner as Salomon had done when he wrote: "Anyone who judges the Freikorps fighters by the standards of the civilization it was their task to help destroy, is utilizing the standards of the enemy." 31
Ernst Jünger, for all those years since the First World War had published a number of well-written books glorifying total war as the most powerful expression of the totality of life. The titles of his books - In Storms of Steel (Im Stahlgewitter), War as an Experience of the Soul (Inneres Erlebnis), Fire and Blood, The Total Mobilization, show that he resorted again and again to his central theme. Jünger had been demanding a "faith in Folk and Fatherland that will flare up like a demon from all classes of society...Everybody who feels differently must be branded with the mark of the heretic and exterminated. We cannot possibly be nationalistic enough. A revolution which inscribes this on its banners will always find us in its ranks"...32 In tramping ranks, uniformed Sturmabteilungen marched and sang:
Die Fahne hoch,
Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
im Sturm mit festem Schritt.
Kameraden, die Rot Front
und Reaktion erschossen,
marschieren im Geist
in unsren Reihen mit. 33
(Raise the banner,
the ranks in close formation!
through storm with steady stride!
Comrades shot by the
Red Front [Communists] and
Reactionaries are marching in spirit
with us in our ranks.)
The circle of followers around Stefan George supplied the Hitler
movement with its emblem of the Hakenkreuz
(Swastika). 34 The strong charismatic leader Stefan George had called for, did
come - from the Common Man in the crowd. Who can forget the photograph in
in 1939 the novel, On The Marble Cliffs in which he
criticized the National Socialists. About this work, Von Klemperer
wrote: "However unwillingly on his part, Jünger
was used by the Nazis." 35 In his post World War II writings, Ernst Jünger turned from the warrior who was fighting death alone
in a battle, to the individualist who tries to find himself and his final
destiny in a technolized world. Looking back at Der Arbeiter, Heinz Ludwig Arnold
implies that in this work decades ago, Ernst Jünger
already forsaw a world of collectivism and depersonalisation of man which took place under
totalitarian National Socialist Germany and continued in Communist Russia,
World-Revolutionary China, and even in the democratic world of the
Jünger refused so submit himself to the Umerziehung (reeducation) Denazification Tribunal. He considered his early writings as his Old Testament of which nothing should be added or changed. According to Arnold, Ernst Jünger said to those who would condemn him after those World War II storms buried his beloved Germany in the smoldering ashes of that Second Thirty Years War from which, as the Phoenix, Germany would rise again: "I do not want to belong to those who don't want to be reminded today what they have been yesterday... I still believe today that it was necessary to have experienced those parts of my life -
Tempestatibus maturesco - I mature through storms!" 37
* * *
1. Ernst Jünger,
"Sizilianischer Brief an den Mann in den Mond" in Mondstein (Berlin:
Frundsberg Verlag, 1930), p. 22.
2. Georg Franz-Willing, Der Zweite Weltkrieg, Ursachen und Anlaß (Leoni Am Starnberger See: Druffel-Verlag, 1979), pp. 10-12.
3. Peter Gay,
5. Ibid., p. 245.
6. Hayes, op. cit., p. 250.
7. Graf von Krockow, Die Entscheidung. Eine Untersuchung über Ernst Jünger, Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger: Göttinger Abhandlungen zur Soziologie, 3. Band (Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag, 1958), p. 28.
8. Thomas Mann, Friedrich und die große Koalition, (Berlin: 1915) pp. 12-13.
9. Friedrich Meinecke, The German Catastrophe (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963) p. 25.
10. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1943) p.161.
11. Ernst Jünger, Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis; (Berlin: Mittlerverlag, 1922), p. 74.
12. Ernst Jünger, Storm of Steel, translated by B. Creighton, (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929), pp. 282-284.
13. Ernst von Salomon, Fragebogen, translated by Constanine FitzGibbon with a preface by Goronwy Rees, (New York: Doubleday Co. 1955) p. 55.
14. Quellen zur europaischen Politik 1919-1955, Heft 11, Diesterweg: 1957) S. 9, as quoted by Wilhelm Langenbeck in Weltgeschichte Im Aufriß, (Berlin: Verlag Moritz Diesterweg,1966), p. 156.
15. Oswald Spengler as quoted by Hans Kohn, The Mind of Germany, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960), p. 335.
16. Krockow, op. cit., p. 5.
17. Ernst Jünger, Blätter und Steine, (Hamburg: Hanseatischerverlagsanstalt, 1934), p. 212.
18. Ernst Jünger, Strahlung (Tübingen: Heliopolis Verlag, 1949) as quoted by J.P. Stern, Ernst Jünger (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953, p. 212.
19. Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair,
21. Friedrich Meinecke, The German Catastrophe: Reflections and Recollections, translated by Sidney B. Fay, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), p. 45.
22. As told to the writer by Doris Granata from her personal experiences.
23. Hans Freyer, Pallas Athene; Ethik des politischen Volkes, (Jena:1935), S. 121 f. as quoted by Krockow, op. cit., pp. 100-101.
24. Carl Schmitt, Über die drei Arten des rechtswissenschaftlichen Denkens: "Der Führer schützt das Recht." (Hamburg: 1934), p. 199, as quoted by Krockow, op. cit., p. 104.
25. As told to the writer by Doris Granata from her personal experiences.
26. Edmond Vermeil, Germany's Three Reichs, translated by W.E. Dickes, (London: Andrew Dakers Limited, 1945), pp. 261, 264.
27. Koppel S. Pinson, Modern
28. Meinecke, op. cit., p. 32.
29. Peter Peel in Preface of The Myth of the Twentieth Century
English translation by Vivian Bird from Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts, (Torrance California: The Noontide Press, 1982), pp. xviii-xxii.
30. von Salomon, op. cit., p. viii.
32. Kohn, op. cit., p. 38.
33. As told to the writer by Doris Granata from her personal experiences.
34. von Krockow, op. cit., p. 38.
35. Klemens Von Kemperer, Germany's New Conservatism, foreword by Sigmund Newman, (Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 188, quoting Ernst Jünger in Auf den Marmor-Klippen, (Hamburg: 1941), 5.
36. Heinz Ludwig Arnold, Ernst Jünger, (Mühlacker: 1966, Stieglitz Verlag), p. 69.