Friedrich Schiller’s ideas about the development of better notions, purer principles and customs more noble, promise healing from the infirmities of our own times.
It was noble laureate for literature Thomas Mann who expressed this view in 1955, when he commemorated the life of the greatest poet of the German classical period in Stuttgart and Weimar who died in 1805. The two cities belonged to conflicting parts of then divided Germany.
1955 was a crucial year when only ten years after World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany had just joined NATO. Several Soviet offers for a neutral, non aligned but unified Germany had been equally rejected as was a strong anti rearmament sentiment among the German population in both parts of the country.
This fateful rapprochement to an anti-Soviet military alliance should cast a long shadow into the future. Thomas Mann’s attitude to challenge the hysteric Red Scare atmosphere of those days can only be called brave in this context. But then the novelist was 75 years of age. He died only a month after his critical “Essay on Schiller” which he had devoted to his dead colleague “in love”. The speech of the author of “Buddenbrooks”, “Dr. Faustus” and “Joseph and His Brothers” was just one other lost opportunity for a more reconciliatory approach to foreign policy between East and West.
Black Plague, Fascism and War
Again in 2021, humankind is in danger of sliding down an abyss. We are threatened with yet another era of Black Plague, an epoch of fascism and global war. “The womb is fertile still from which this monster crawled“. This timely metaphor was coined by Bert Brecht, another dead classical poet, who passed away in 1956 at the age of 58. As early as in 1948 in the epilogue of his play “Arturo Ui”, he had warned against more monstrous wars and atrocities on the horizon. And indeed, devilish forces have been actively at work to promote them ever since. In their elitist intentions, they assume that by pushing the rest of us back into another Dark Age, they will be the ones who profit. And they might succeed if we, as a species, are not capable to pinpoint those evil doers and analyze their activities adequately. But the good message is, that proper understanding, will give us, the people, the power to stand up and go for cooperation instead of confrontation this time.
Adequate analytical instruments, purer principles and customs more noble will – just like Schiller and Thomas Mann had predicted – provide us with the necessary means to heal the infirmities of our days.
In Germany, the recent relative success of the Atlanticist Greens which made them kingmakers in German policy brings back dark memories of 1999 – another pivotal year – when the first Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had ushered the country into Europe’ s first post WWII military engagement. It was under a seemingly promising Red-Green coalition that Germany’s participation in the unprovoked and illegal war against the Republic of Yugoslavia was made possible. Only two years later in 2001 the next unprovoked NATO war against Afghanistan saw another substantial German Bundeswehr army involvement. Both times the wars had been accompanied by a massive media blitzkrieg promoting human rights, in the latter case ironically women’s rights. The era of a free press had come to an end in those days.
Make Up For Hitler, Participate in Wars For Human Rights.
Beyond the lies which post-war generations of Germans have been perversely told, the drive to the twin sisters of fascism and war has never been an intrinsic characteristic of the German people. On the contrary, in an utterly perverse distortion of reality it has been hammered unto our collective psyche, that in order to make up for Hitler’s crimes, we must participate in wars for “human rights”. We were lectured not to shy away but take on responsibility by joining the Anglo-Saxon wars wherever they may arise.
Let us not forget, that towards the end of the 1970s, the Green Party set off under a false pacifist flag and their first leader was a woman named Petra Kelly, trained and made popular in the USA. She eventually died under peculiar circumstances in 1992. The Greens were the Atlanticists’ answer to a newly-born peace movement that had sprung up after 1979 as a response to the latest NATO nuclear rearmament decision for the deployment of new nukes on German soil. This popular movement bore again enormous potentials during the early 80s of the last century. However, the Fall of the Berlin Wall put the ultimate death nail to just another great effort for peace and disarmament.
DER SPIEGEL: “Germans have to learn how to kill“
But the antiwar sentiment just would not go away. In November 2006, the German intellectual magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ ran a cover story: “Germans have to learn how to kill”.
Let us in this context recall Russian historian Andrey Fursov who once reiterated Winston Churchill’s words from 1940 that “Great Britain was fighting not against Hitler but against the spirit of the German people, against the spirit of Schiller, so that this spirit would never be reborn.”
Fact is that Schiller’s works are not highly appreciated in Germany today. Among other things, the once popular author has been denigrated because for a moment the NAZIS had tried to use him for their evil purposes. Such poor efforts continue to this very day. In November 2020 the German PCR pope Christian Drosten was hypocritically honouring his “colleague”, Friedrich Schiller (who was also a medical doctor) by suggesting that if he were alive today, “Schiller would wear the mask”.
Schiller’s love for the ordinary man and woman, his high esteem for liberty, his outright rejection of being a prince’s servant in “Don Carlos” and the antiwar attitude of his dramatic trilogy “Wallenstein” as well as his anti-authoritarian patriotism in “Wilhelm Tell“ have never been appreciated by the powers that still hold the reigns over my country in their filthy hands.
Why mention Schiller first and his orator Mann when talking about the potentials of the post World War II era? Why not, in the first place, mention the high expectations of the post war generation for a world without conflict expressed in the people’s consultation against rearmament which was declared illegal by the Western allies? This was done due to the fact that two thirds of the West Germans would refuse to ever wear a gun again. Another thing was the widespread longing for social justice, as so clearly expressed in the first post war CDU program, under the name “Ahlener Programm“. It is stated there in plain words that capitalism has failed the needs of the people.
Another big issue was the strength of the communists even in post-war Germany, of course due to their blood toll in the Resistance struggle. Although it is little known to today’s world, Nazi-infested Germany had seen a well-organised Resistance movement against the restoration of fascism in the post war period (as was also the case in Italy, France, Greece and other European countries). As is well documented, these movements have all been crushed with brutal force on a global scale by waving hypocritically a Red Scare flag.
Wars Begin in the Minds of Men
Why not mention first the Atlantic Charter, forerunner of the UN-Charter? Why not mention the bond between FDR and Stalin, who have both been demonized during the decades since their deaths?
Here comes why:
“Since wars begin in the minds of men it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace has to be constructed” (UNESCO Charter)
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.“ (Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 article 1.)
The spiritual values expressed in these words contain ideas of the greatest writers of the German classical period and beyond. Intellectuals like Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Kant, poets and philosophers of the 18th, the 19th and the 20th century have expressed them. But my people have been so down-trodden and humiliated that it seems overdue to remind ourselves that German ideas have contributed to human progress and world culture as enshrined here in the greatest documents of International Law. The writings of inspiring poetical, political, philosophical and spiritual frontrunners, the works of Heinrich Heine, Ludwig Börne, Frederick Engels, Karl Marx, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Bloch with ‘Principle Hope’ to name only a few of our great thinkers, the filmmaker Fritz Lang with ‘Metropolis’, an actress like Marlene Dietrich, engineers and scientists of Einstein’s caliber whose ideas continue to shape the world.
All of those great individuals have been driven out of their home country, their writings were burnt in Hitler’s Germany. But no flames can ever destroy them.
When Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann, a friend of FDR, came back to Europe from exile as a US-citizen, he spoke in 1955 in Stuttgart (FRG) and Weimar (GDR) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Schiller’s untimely death. His efforts were certainly not appreciated by the occupying Western powers and their mouthpieces in the media.
Germany, pale mother
Many German writers exemplified this better tradition. Some notable creative figures include Anna Seghers, author of “The Seventh Cross”, B. Brecht with his insightful anti-Hitler play “Arturo Ui“, his calling for enlightenment and social responsibility in “Galileo Galilei” or his beautiful children’s anthem of 1950 “Anmut sparet nicht noch Mühe” do not spare grace nor effort to help build a better Germany. Above all Brecht’s anti war play “Mother Courage” owes everything to Schiller’s “Wallenstein”,
These creative works contributed tremendously to the international antiwar sentiment of the post-war period. Many intellectuals who had survived the Nazi era in exile wanted to return home. They wished to help build a better Germany, but in the West they were rejected. This goes for the Mann brothers and even more so for a poet like Johannes R. Becher, the first Minister of Cultural Affairs in the GDR who had survived in Moskau or a composer like Hans Eisler who chose the GDR for a new home.
“You Sit Among The Peoples as an Object of Scorn and Fear” – but the Heritage of Resistance Cannot Be Destroyed
Resistance fighters, incarceration and torture camp survivors had a hard time in the Western part of Germany after the forceful separation of the country by the Western allies in 1949. Their situation got worse after the Federal Republic of Germany (aka: West Germany) had joined NATO in 1955.
Critical writers and intellectuals were discouraged in the Western hemisphere, even when they compromised like Günther Grass and Heinrich Böll. The shadow of disrespect also affected great postwar Swiss writers of German tongue like Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt or Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann, who certainly were not honoured the way they should have been.
This goes to prove that the spirit of freedom and poetry loving German patriots cut from the same cloth as Friedrich Schiller was still alive after the Second Great War. Friedrich Schiller’s ideas had survived in the humanist heritage of the resistance fighters. Hitler’s axe couldn’t kill this spirit. Their high ethical standards are expressed in a comprehensive collection of last letters. Women of all ages and all social strata leave messages like: The cause for which I die is a just one, a sacred one. I want my comrades to know that I never doubted its final success.
Life is not the highest of all goods
In his foreword to the beautiful collection of final letters written by martyred German patriots titled “The flame will not destroy you”, Thomas Mann praises the human instinct that leads individuals to devote their lives to a good cause. Noble humans search for the reasonable, Mann says, they look for a spiritual aspect, they want to contribute to a better future for humankind. The novelist underlines the hope that shines through all the letters that none of the victims should have died in vain.
The founders of the German Democratic Republic, most of them back from their Nazi-forced exile in the Soviet Union, had pledged to keep this heritage alive. In the West however, they were blamed and shamed for up keeping an antifascist heritage, and they were scolded as preposterous hypocrites. But it was in the GDR that progressive and revolutionary thinkers then hardly known any more in West Germany were published first. Writers like Heinrich Heine, Ludwig Börne, Georg Büchner, Ferdinand Freiligrath, many of them Jewish like Lion Feuchtwanger, author of best selling historic novels in the 1920s and early 30s. Among the most brilliant of those novels which were treated with exceptional respect are “Weapons for America”, or Stefan Heym’s “The Crusaders“ to name only a few.
No more blaming and shaming of the German nation as Barbarians
The cynical blaming and shaming of the German nation as Barbarians – after our cultural heritage had been almost wiped out by the externally controlled Nazis – must no longer be tolerated. The world must learn about the barbaric act of destroying the publishing companies of the GDR and all of their libraries after the so called “reunification”.
In reality it was an early, highly successful regime change operation accompanied by an effective PsyOp strategy. Germany’s‚ “re-unification” in 1989 was another lost opportunity.
But, in spite of all the odds, our classical heritage is of immaterial nature. It can still be tapped. Some of our greatest poets and thinkers like Brecht and J.R. Becher and above all Schiller might have passed away prematurely, but their works are eternal, they belong to the entire world.
Unknown Barbarism: Schiller’s Funeral and Ignorant Rejection of his Ideas
When Schiller died at the age of 45, the famous author left behind four small children, a young widow but no last will. Thomas Mann recalls in his essay how the great man was buried hurriedly in a mass grave by night, without family or friends to accompany him. His bones are lost forever. On Schiller’s desk, where he had been working to the very last moment of his life, there was a promising unfinished drama titled “Demetrius”, dealing with issues topical to this very day. Rumours go that his friend Goethe who had wished to finish the play was prevented from doing so.
We Germans have to be reminded from abroad that Schiller’s influence in the world is still of enormous importance. These sorts of great universal ideas which Schiller represented can never be lost forever.
In 1945 Schiller’s spirit was still very much alive in both parts of Germany. The poet of “The Bell”, “Die Glocke” and “Wilhelm Tell” was known partly by heart by every German child. Schiller was most popular among ordinary people, much more so than the “prince’s servant” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The Evil Russians and the Good Churchill’s Fulton Speech.
The Russians, who liberated Berlin, were well acquainted with the German spiritual heritage. They had not come as exploiters or occupiers. The first thing they did, was to mend the destroyed infrastructure of wa-ridden Berlin, to feed the starving citizens and to reopen the theatres and opera houses. I know this from the horse’s mouth.
My own father, grandfather, and my husband had all survived the Western allied bombings of Berlin. The first Soviet City Commander Nikolai E. Berzarin is still an honorary citizen of the German capital. On June 16th 1945, after only 55 days in office, he was miraculously killed in a motorcycle accident when he collided with a truck convoy near his office in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde, aged only 41. Rumours go that scattered Nazi Werwolf forces had assassinated him, says Wikipedia. Well, just another untimely death! Another buried opportunity.
Humanist ideas, reconciliatory ideas, ideas of cordiality and social justice still ran high in the Western hemisphere when early in 1946, Churchill’s Fulton speech dropped an Iron Curtain across Europe. A mental wall was set up alongside ancient conflict lines.
Speaking of an “Iron Curtain”, Churchill used a red flag metaphor. The wording had been originally coined by Goebbels’ propaganda ministry in an accusatory anti-Bolshevist sense against the eternally evil Russians. The image was meant to defame the spirit of Yalta.
Churchill’s speech was formulated in Fulton/Missouri/USA, after the British people had dismissed the man as Prime Minister. There, across the Atlantic he worked in liaison with Harry Truman on one of the most devastating pamphlets of vicious Red-Scare ideology. Their satanic mindset would destroy many precious individuals and sow harmful hatred among peoples across the globe. The Cold War ideology, let loose by Churchill’s inflammatory Fulton speech did rekindle the Nazi ideology against the phantom of a Bolshevist Mongolian enemy.
Front line City of Berlin and the Congress for Cultural Freedom
Soon, the Cold War front city of West-Berlin was created and chosen for starting up the CIA operation “Congress of Cultural Freedom” in 1950. Its brainwashing machinery was effectively designed to destroy any left overs of an allegedly “communist” ideology.
Enormous sums of money helped create a most destructive intellectual global network with publications, exhibitions, and the founding of CIA-funded publishing houses and magazines. These efforts promoted intellectuals who sometimes went along without even knowing whose business they were fulfilling.
In this context, the pessimistic anti-human spirit of existentialism was created and spread across the minds of the young. Camus, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir contributed greatly to a misanthropic vision for humankind offering also unhealthy relationships as “progressive life style models” for future generations. The Frankfurt School of Social Sciences scholar Theodor Adorno proclaimed the end of poetry with Auschwitz. The beautiful Jewish mind Paul Celan from Czernowitz, a master of the German tongue, was scorned by German intellectuals and not treated with due respect when he read out his “Death Fugue”, a poem of high artistic value written in 1945.
Such ideological distractions were meant to destroy a positive, enlightened heritage, a humanism that was still in the air. “No more fascism, no more war” was the sacred pledge of the organised resistance fighters from the concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar. Amongst hunger, torture and daily losses, the camp inmates had never lost their sense for human needs and cooperative assistance. They did what the circumstance allowed them to do in order to ease each others’ lot. With evil intention, the Nazis had established incarceration centres on sacred places like the Ettersberg near Weimar, home of the German classics Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Wieland. Willy Bredel’s documentary novel “Naked Under Wolves” reflects the humanist attitudes of the Buchenwald inmates.
“Goethe in Dachau” by Nico Rost is another important document picturing the eternal flame of spiritual values even under torture and extreme barbarism. Rost was a Dutch journalist, and a survivor of the evil camp of Dachau near Munic in Bavaria. He had been able to document the political and spiritual discussions that had taken place among the mostly academic inmates of that specific incarceration locus. His colleagues had creatively helped him to get hold of paper slips and pencil ends, so that he could keep track of the philosophical and political discussions under most extreme circumstances.
His famous colleague, Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 1936, Carl von Ossietzky, pacifist and editor of “Die Weltbühne” was less fortunate. The forerunner of Julian Assange did not survive the maltreatment of several German concentration camps.
Under the auspices of Richard von Weizäcker (CDU), president of the Federal Republic (1984-1994) the social and ideological breadth of the German resistance against the National Socialist regime was finally documented in the Museum for German Resistance in Berlin’s Stauffenbergstraße. The Bendler Block Building which was chosen as its site had been the centre of command of Hitler’s Wehrmacht- the place were the military opposition leaders had been executed. The Allied bombs didn’t destroy this complex.
Today the building hosts the Federal Ministry of Defense. A historic map within the exhibition shows the ten thousand concentration camps placed all over Germany during the NS area. Mostly political dissenters were incarcerated there. That goes to show the critical importance of resistance among all social, ideological and political groups. Post-war concepts of the various oppositional networks can be studied in the museum, too. “Cooperation” was the magic unifying formula of those days. The concentration camp survivors were hungry not only for food but also for ideas shaping a better future. Still starving after the war, they offered their assistance willingly to reconstruct the country in a democratic manner. But in West Germany under the tutelage of the Western Allies, upright humanists would soon have a very difficult time.
Truth and Freedom Loving, Law Abiding Gustav Heinemann
One high ranking upright political personality representing the spirit of truthfulness, freedom and legality in a most remarkable way remains lawyer Gustav Heinemann, minister in several cabinets and later President of the Federal Republic during Willy Brandt’s detente area. Heinemann had fiercely opposed the German rearmament from the get go, its integration into the NATO pact and later the plans for nuclear armament. On March 13th in 1952 Heinemann spoke in West-Berlin to thousands of people on the Stalin-Notes of March 10th in 1952. He asked the people to seriously consider the Soviet offer proposing a military neutral but unified Germany. But Adenauer who had won the elections (through only one vote) became Chancellor, or “the Chancellor of the US forces” as people would call him in those days. Adenauer preferred to have half of Germany entirely under one command to an entire Germany controlled in only parts.
The rejection of the so called Stalin note was another lost opportunity, but those handlers of West Germany would not allow any Soviet note to even be discussed.
Ín order to prevent this, a mob was organised to disturb Heinemann’s speech.
Later Heinemann would point to President John F. Kennedy as a role model, a politician with a realistic vision. Such political realism would mark the short detente period from 1969 to 1974. A coalition between ex-resistance fighter Willy Brandt, his Social Democrats and the Liberal Party (FDP) opened up a reconciliatory process with Eastern Europe. Brandt’s famous knee fall in Auschwitz was a telling metaphor. His treaties with the East were the counterpart to Adenauer’s Elysee Treaty with De Gaulle’s France. These treaties created a pathway for West Germans and Berliners to visit their relatives in the Eastern part of Germany. However the price that had to be paid for such policies was the Berufsverbot, the Radical Decree in 1972 for alleged Reds. Gustav Heinemann had opposed this decree in the name of democracy. However, the spirit of humanism, of liberty and the rule of law was still not fully re-established when Brandt’s cabinet stumbled over the Guillaume spy affair in 1974.
Gustav Heinemann’s daughter, first female professor of catholic theology, Uta-Ranke-Heinemann continued to work on her father’s footsteps. In 1999 she would oppose the illegal NATO war against the Republic of Yugoslavia and she ran, although unsuccessfully, as a candidate for the Federal Presidency.
Another famous opposer to that war was the Social Democrat Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine, married today to Sahra Wagenknecht, Die Linke. With the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the German reunification that followed, the post war era had ended and another epoch of lost opportunities began.
But we must never forget that ever since the temporary end of fascism and war in Europe, people had resisted its re-emergence. To some degree such opposition was reflected even in the highest ranks of office as we have seen. However the pressure from the occupying forces, above all the US, who still keeps a substantial nuclear arsenal in Büchel, Rhineland-Palatinate together with an all out brainwashing propaganda machine defeated over and over again efforts for a more just and a more peaceful policy design. The Marshall Plan money for reconstruction after the war, the US market for West German machinery and cars and the possibility to acquire wealth after the devastating war corrupted many individuals. But whenever an opportunity occurred, the Germans have resisted against aggressive foreign policy strategies.
Constructive Alternatives to Harmful Green Policies
It was only due to a humanist camouflage of Atlanticist Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, that Germany was shovelled into the unprovoked wars against Yugoslavia (1999) and Afghanistan (2001). Whereas even CDU’s Chancellor Kohl’s chosen maiden, Angela Merkel, could not avoid helping to coin the Minsk Peace Agreement. She also promoted the North Stream II pipeline, both against heavy pressure from her Western “partners”. She sadly did not go out of her way, however, to help implement those cooperative policies that she had signed.
But her swaying shows that other than her own repetitive saying: “This policy is without alternative”- there are always several possibilities. It is of crucial importance that we the people become aware of the alternative realities at hand.
At this moment in history we must strongly oppose the influence of Greens in the next German government. These young and mostly inexperienced Greenhorn politicians are prepared to sacrifice our future on the altar of Gaia.
Behind the veil of a pandemic scenario they welcome the dehumanizing Davos Reset Agenda. For the alleged “saving of the climate”, the Greens are ready to do away with humans. They consider the human species to be little more than a burden for mother earth. They completely ignore the fact that the mRNA vaccines contain poisonous substances. Their Green New Deal program is bound to destroy our industrial capacities, and their foreign policy strategies are viciously anti-Russian. I call them “brownies brushed over with a green frosting”.
Such ideologues have no family values, their environmental attitude is full of hypocrisy and contradictions and their alleged climate policy will push us back into the dark ages if not their perverse love for Nato will bring us closer to the brink of a lethal nuclear exchange.
But there is still time to resist.
The geostrategic balance of forces is shifting at great pace. New alliances are on the horizon. The transatlantic powers on their self destructive course for too long offer no help any more. Whereas the Chinese-Russian bond of survival is set out to bear constructive solutions beyond anything that might have seemed possible in the past. Investments in the real economy, in great infrastructure projects, becoming partners in the Belt and Road Initiative are ways out of the road to disaster.
In order to sincerely fight back, ignorant green cultural barbarism that has already brought us to the brink of extinction, a return to the political spirit of classical writers like Friedrich Schiller is overdue. It does imply a call for mutual respect and for international law. The spirit of patriotism and internationalism are not adversaries. On the contrary, they are only two sides of the same coin. Respect for each others riches, other cultures and customs come with a deeper look into the values of ones own cultural heritage.
The struggle for our democratic and social rights and above all for peace has been a long one and it has only begun. But a just cause can never be defeated, even less so if accompanied with the spirit of joy and optimism as expressed in Schiller’s Ode to Joy, beautifully set in tone by another great German, the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Irene Eckert, is the Editor-in-Chief of Arbeitskreis for Peace Policy and Nuclear Free Europe. She recently delivered a lecture to the Rising Tide Foundation, based upon the content of this essay which can be viewed here: