Heinrich Heine on Nazism
Heinrich Heine on Nazism H e in r ic h H e in e , in his book on Ludwig Borne, the Jew who, with himself, led Young Germany in the ’thirties and ’forties of the last century, left to posterity an eyewitness’s account of the spiritual state of the German youth in the years after Waterloo, the aftermath of and reactions from the Napoleonic Wars, or rather of the years 1811-15, of the so-called War o f Liberation. He writes in a serious vein; nothing in this work suggests the nimble wit or the biting sarcasm usually at his disposal. He is deeply grieved at the scenes he has witnessed. It reads like the prologue of the Nazi Movement, which rides now roughshod over the body, mind, and soul of the third generation after Heine. All the traits of present-day Germany are there. Over a hundred years ago they were adumbrated in faint outlines; now we see them in high relief. The conditions for their development were evidently more favourable after the Treaty of Versailles, but it did not create them. In 1817, a German could witness the flames shooting up
on the Wartburg from burning books-at that time, as it happened, Liberal books-thrown by uniformed University students into the fire. He could welcome or deplore the spread of the epidemic of Teutomania, which was cursing and banishing everything foreign. He could see the University youth clad in drab peasant-like uniforms. He could read of the Primitive Germans (Alt-Deutsche) purifying the language from all non-Germanic terms, and of scholars passionately discuss ing the question whether the Germans were deutsch or teutsch.