(Published in GralsWelt 19/2001).
The First World War was a turning point for the Germans and their state, a break in their history that could hardly be overestimated.
For centuries, this talented and hard-working people had to live in small states in many small states that had to bow to major powers. Only in the second half of the 19th century did the long-desired German unity come about, and with it the rise of the “Second German Empire” to a respected economic and military power. In this way Germany finally found its rightful place in Europe and in the world because of its size and its scientific and economic achievements.
But after half a century this young empire was defeated in a war forced upon it, the emperor was driven out and a democracy undesired by the people established, which did not know how to deal with the catastrophic consequences of the war. Because after unspeakable suffering in the war, an enforced peace treaty only brought new misery, and the reparations demanded ordained poverty for generations ...
But the greater the need, the more people in Germany clung to the hope of a new German greatness and fled the oppressive facts into irrational expectations. For more than a century, poets, seers and philosophers had spoken of the great task of the Germans. They had addressed their people in words that foreigners either could not understand or saw as an expression of German hubris:
“The old world with its glory and greatness, as well as with its shortcomings, has sunk through its own indignity and through the violence of your fathers (...) So among all newer peoples it is you in whom the germ of human perfection lies most decisively, and to whom the progress in the development of the same is plotted. If you perish in this essence of yours, then all hope of the entire human race for salvation from the depths of its evils perish with you (...) There is therefore no way out: if you sink, then all of humanity sinks with, without the hope of a former one Restoration." *)
How did Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) come to such statements? What gave him the justification to draw a direct parallel with the people of Israel, who were prepared through suffering and hardship to receive the Messiah?
And who or what were the Germans waiting for? To the end times, the coming of the world judge, the age of the Holy Spirit - or just to a politician who should unite Germany and lead to earthly greatness? Or did the lost war make all hopes impossible to fulfill?
Today it is difficult for us to understand these expectations of our ancestors, which, although they can be traced back to German history, cannot be substantiated by facts.
After the Second World War, historians wanted to find a logical connection in the tortuous, contradicting paths of German history. They thought they recognized that a straight path from the romantic expectations of the future of the 18th and 19th centuries, via Bismarck, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche and Wilhelm II, leads to Adolf Hitler.
But this interpretation goes astray: no German thinker, no poet, no philosopher of the 19th century expected, foreseen or even wished for Hitler. The greatest Germans wanted one inner, a spiritual awakening of their people and were anything but happy when the longing for development sought its fulfillment in industrial growth, naval construction or overestimation of the military. No approach can be more wrong than the assertion that all modern German history prepared Hitler for that all Germans longed for dictatorship and the twilight of the gods, only to then, like the Nibelungs, go down in a grandiose world fire.
What is true, however, is that at a crucial moment in history a Mann intuitively grasped the whole inarticulate longing of the German people; that he knew of the expectation in which the Germans lived, who longed for something great, lofty, sacred. And that this cardsharp knew brilliantly how to relate all hopes to himself, yes, to offer himself as the implored Messiah.
Many, too many believed him. His followers served him as one can only follow a messenger from God. And finally all together wasted the concentrated energy of a gifted people in a huge firework of destruction ...
*) Johann Gottlieb Fichte “Reden to the German Nation”, Atlas, Cologne, undated page, 246.