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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

NKO-CLASSIC ISM                                    255

same district - Luther; both \vere stubborn champions of an idea,
and both fought for German ideals and the heroic conception of
morality against what each took to be alien predominance. But
Luther crashed his \vay to recognition, while Paul Ernst fought
on in the shadows* Till 1933: then he was raised to the pinnacle
of fame as the grand old man of fighting literature. Gerhart Haupt-
mann might come forth from his castle in Silesian mountain soli-
tudes and pay lip allegiance to the Fiihrer; he remained *volksfremd\
the creature of the Jew press, of Jew critics and Jew theatre
directors, the exponent of polygamy, senile eroticism, and family
dissension; while Paul Ernst, with his round face framed in its
full beard and his defiant eyes, was the type of the Nordic hero
facing a world of foes and fighting to the last. His time had come,
not merely for national acknowledgment, which he got (with the
full blast of propaganda), but for the production of his plays.
Here, however, the Nordic theory came up against a blank wall -
on the stage the neo-classic plays are . . . literature. As a matter of
fact Ernst's popularity with the new regime was mostly due to his
political writings: he had begun, when a theological student in
Berlin and a member of Durch) as a convinced Marxist, but had
progressed to a kind of non-Marxist Socialism, and had set down
his creed in Der Zusammenbruch des Marxismtts (1918; rechristened
Die Gnmdlagen der neuen Gesellscbaft, I93O).1 He shows the break-
down of liberalism in Der Zusammenbmch des Idealismus (1919). His
mature attitude to political problems and to the mystery of exis-
tence is set forth in the imaginary conversations of Erdacbfe Ge-
sprache (1921): a king before his execution bandies arguments with
the dictator who has encompassed his fall, Caesar converses with
Antony, Goethe with Eckermann, Hebbel with a rich youth and
a poor youth, Mesmer with Swedenborg, etc. The pithy maxims

1 The political philosophy - derived from Machiavelli and Niet2sche - of
this book served largely for Nazi propaganda. The brunt of the argument is:
there are two classes of men, those born to serve (and they serve so that they
may be happy) and those whose whole being strives for leadership. The latter
class relinquish happiness for power; and therefore the leader is by necessity
a tragic man. This is of course also a canon of Ernst's dramatic doctrine. The
leader is by his very nature an aristocrat. The masses will only obey the leader
so long as they see that his burden is heavier than their own. The state is the
embodied will to power and the embodied morality of its group of leaders
and therefore also of the people; for the leaders know that they can only
serve the people so long as they stand within the people (l^o/Jk). The people
is to its leaders what the poem is to the poet.