Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lecture Five: Degeneracy, Culture, and Critique - Part I: Science, Reason, and Knowledge I


Lecture Five:
Degeneracy, Culture,
and Critique
-
Part I:
Science, Reason,
and Knowledge I [DRAFT]
_________________________________
 
We have already staked out a wide domain for the emergence of Cultural Studies even at this relatively early point in this series of lectures. We have also, or at least I hope we have also called into question not a few things that might have been taken for granted or seemed “just the way the world is.”

The purpose of our introduction is not to denounce or disavow the objects of our critique – though in other contexts it might be appropriate to do both – nor is it to give a special authority to Cultural Studies over other approaches and formal disciplines. I hope that in the course of these lectures, you will recognize that Cultural Studies is as much a cultural artifact as are the objects of its analysis. It might appear that academics such as myself are above the reach of the everyday, but a quick reminder of Kant’s recognition of the Emperor’s power should persuade you otherwise.

Understanding this point is in itself a very good reason for asking you to view the two documentaries before us, Michael Wood’s Hitler’s Search for the Holy Grail and the PBS style Degenerate Art. Both of them illustrate the need to critique knowledge as well as artistic production. They also set the stage for the first tendency in Cultural Studies, the critical theory of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research [the “Frankfurt School”].

and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him with myrrh and set a garland od wool on his head [‘tarred and feathered”], we shall send him away to another city. For we mean to employ for our souls’ health the rougher and severer poet or storyteller who will imitate the style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models which we prescribe at first when we began the education of our soldiers.” Plato, Republic, Book III, 398.

And Socrates’ other student, Xenophon, tells us that indeed one of the charges against Socrates was that he had misused the poets to undermine the State: “...his accuser alleged that he selected the most immoral passages, and used them as evidence in teaching his companions to be tyrants and malefactors....” Xenophon, Memorabilia, I. II., 53-57; pp. 39. Of course, as students of Socrates, each in their own way defended him against the charges. Art effects the soul, whose care has consequences for the State and was one of Plato’s chief concerns in his Republic. Sorrowful or relaxing music as well as flutes excepts those used by shepherds far from the city walls would be banned in the Republic. Stringed instruments except for the harp and the lyre would also be prohibited because “our principle is that rhythm and harmony are regulated by the words, and not the words by them.” Plato, Republic, Book III, 400.

“But shall not our superintendence go no further, and are the poets only to be required by us to express the image of the good in their works, on pain, if they do anything else, of expulsion from our State? Or is the same control to be extended to other artists, and are they also to be prohibited from exhibiting the opposite forms of vice and intemperance and meanness and indecency in sculpture and building and other creative arts; and is he who can not conform to this rule of ours to be prevented from practicing his art in our state, lest the taste of our citizens be corrupted by him? We would not have our guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity, as in some noxious pasture, and here browse and feed upon many a baneful herb and flower day by day, little by little, until they silently gather a festering mass of corruption in their own soul. Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair sights and sounds,and receive the good in everything; and beauty, the effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a health-giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the soul from earliest years into likeness and sympathy with the beauty of reason.
There can be no nobler training than that, he replied.  Plato, Republic, Book III, 401.

Certainly you find this idea of committed art in, for example, Thucydides’ “Funeral Oration of Pericles”

“When we do kindness to others, we do not do them out of any calculations of profit or loss: we do them without afterthought, relying on our free liberality. Taking everything together, I declare our city is an education to Greece.... Mighty indeed are the marks and monuments which we have left. Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now. We do not need the praises of a Homer, or of anyone else whose words may delight us for the moment, but whose estimation of facts will fall short of what is really there. For our adventurous spirit has forced an entry into every sea and into every land; and everywhere we have left behind us everlasting monuments of good done to our friends or suffering inflicted on our enemies.” (Thucydides, Peloponesian War, pp.119-120)

Pericles goes on to at the end implore the wives and mothers of the dead to have and care for more children so that they might replenish the ranks defending Athens. Where there is a matter of the government of territory and population Art with a capital A is never far behind. Who else designed and made all those different kinds of uniforms, after all, so that soldiers might recognize which territory and population that they each fought for.

And of course, the Greeks were not alone in leaving their marks and monuments upon the landscape:












At least Pericles admits that the Athenian monuments serve an ideological purpose; they are “an education to Greece.”

Be that as it may for the Classical era – and we should always be careful not to read the present back onto the past just to suit us – for the purposes of understanding our era, we have to begin with the premise that education, ideology, and knowledge are ineluctably linked to each other and each is as well an aspect of Reason, the State, and the social relations of Capital. What we call science, and what we say it establishes as true [or rather knowledge] changes over time. Science is the human pursuit of knowledge of the material world, and it changes as we change the material world and are changed by it. There are, of course, many who would take exception to this provisional definition, and you should take their objections seriously. No one has all of the answers, including myself. Socrates gave us that bit of wisdom, too.

The distinction is often made between science and scientists, that error and bias reside with the scientists, while science corrects such errors. It might even seem as though if only we could have better people then we would presumably have better science as the foibles and limitations of humans would no longer stand in the way of scientific knowledge. It is ironic that rather than separating science from scientists, those who sympathize with such a view are readily admitting that science is not separate from social relations, it is just that those scientists and naturalists of the past are often seen as having been more gullible, more prone to error and more likely to be susceptible to the scientific ideologies of their day then we are in ours. This is a version of saying that we are smarter now than they were then. A little idea of progress is always sure to message the egos of any contemporary, no matter the era in which they thrived.

Well, one thing we can say is that those lesser beings of our past were quite often perfectly secure in their knowledge that they were superior to their predecessors, too. Cultural Studies should lead us to learn humility as we, like the Angel Novus, are thrown forward rather than the hubris that comes with an ideology of intellectual progress.
One could argue that science is a form of rationalist and skeptical materialism and as such has a long history. However, the institution of the laboratory and the figure of the scientist are of relative recent invention.

Look at these two charts from Google, which show the references in English to Scientist, scientist, Laboratory, laboratory, Science, and science – it is unfortunately case sensitive – from 1800 to 2008. Notice that the term scientist appears rather late, as it is coined by William Whewell [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Whewell ] in 1833 (he also gets credit for the term “physicist,” too)








The distinction between scientists and science also has the ultimate result of making science into something metaphysical – another ironic aspect of the distinction – i. e., beyond the physical world. Making science into a metaphysical entity (“a mysterious hieroglyphic” – to use Marx’s phrase) results most importantly for our understanding of science, into the removing of history and social relations. I suppose that is the point, since the idea is to make science into something that is not effected by the social or even, to a large degree, by its own history.

Remove science from the material of society and history and you are left with a jaundiced science, but also a science that might be adapted or adapt itself to any set of historical social relations or reconciled with any history written for the dominate ideology. Indeed, many of the errors of scientific ideology that we would like to forget, such as the science of Eugenics, were directed towards the government or populations and territories.

To avoid this, one should try to see science as having a history and this history is predominately a history of errors, as George Canguilhem (Ideology and Rationality in the History of the life Sciences) has noted and W. P. D. Wightman (Growth of Scientific Ideas,1951) affirmed: science is “set in the context of the history of language & human institutions of every kind.” After all, if science is a self-correcting process, then even leaving aside the question of social embeddedness for a moment, what is it correcting if not error and what are today’s errors but yesterday’s truths? This is what is really means to say that “science is a process.” Even the term scientist did not exist until 1833. Was there “science’ before there were ‘scientists”? If not then science is a relatively new invention for understanding the world and thus hardly a candidate for being an eternal human pursuit. If the answer is yes, then the history of science demonstrates that scientific knowledge is conditioned by the contemporary structure of social relations. Both views, however, leave open the possibility that science as we know it is a product of the social transformations of industrial society and the accompanying division of labor. Certainly Whewell was thinking of the scientists as the embodiment of a new rationalism.

But lets be clear that in critiquing the authority of science we are not advocating irrationalism. Far from it. The great materialist philosopher Epicurus responded to the charge that he disavowed the gods by stating that it was not he who insulted the gods, but those who affirmed the commonplace views of the gods who truly insulted them. It is much the same with us. We are taking science seriously, rather than degrading it by elevating it to a metaphysical realm.

To emphasize the relation between education, science, and ideology, I want to turn your attention to a somewhat neglected series of events in the history of science that Michael Wood introduces. Despite its unfortunate title, Wood shows us how science and ideology can be linked and made to enhance the authority of one enhances the authority of both. The documented events are the context from which the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory arose. It was in the midst of these and the events to be described next week that Critical attention began to be given to the artifacts of popular culture and everyday life.

Every successful revolution has promoted some form of mass literacy, some grand reform of the educational system. No matter whether the revolution was from the left or the right. The Americans, the Soviets, the Cubans, the Sandinistas, etc. all embarked on some form of literacy campaign. After all, you need to be able to read the Constitution, Wall Street Journal, Daily Worker, or whatever, for yourself. So we should not be surprised when we take note of how central education/knowledge was to the long-term goals of the Third Reich. The emphasis on the purity and development of youthful bodies was not at all discontinuous from this emphasis on knowledge. In fact, the raising of youth for the new Reich demanded the strict regulation of all aspects of education and knowledge, including science. What the young German had to learn to become a National Socialist was all important.

“For education in the Third Reich, as Hitler envisaged it, was not to be confined to stuffy classrooms but to be furthered by a Spartan, political and martial training in the successive youth groups and to reach its climax not so much in the universities and engineering colleges, which absorbed but a small minority, but first, at the age of eighteen, in compulsory labor service and then in service, as conscripts, in the armed forces.... ‘The whole education by a national state,’ he had written, ‘must aim primarily not at the stuffing with mere knowledge but a building bodies which are physically healthy to the core.’ But even more important, he had stressed in his book the importance of winning over and then training the youth in the service of ‘a new national state’ – a subject he returned to often after he became German dictator. ‘When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side,”’ he said in a speech on November 6, 1933, ‘I will calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendents, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’” (Shirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. p.343.)

Education was organized through the reduction of the social status of teachers and professors except for those who had already dedicated their careers to the study of Race Science (Rassenkunde) or those who now embraced the view that ‘science, like every other human product, is racial and conditioned by blood” (Shirer, p.345.)

“Every person in the teaching professions, from kindergarten through the universities, was compelled to join the National Socialist Teachers’ League which, by law, was held ‘responsible for the execution of the ideological and political coordination of all teachers in accordance with National Socialist doctrine.’ The Civil Service Act of 1937 required teachers to be ‘the executors of the will of the party-supported State’ and to be ready ‘at any time to defend without reservation the National Socialist State.’ An earlier decree has classified them as civil servants and thus subject to the racial laws. Jews, of course, were forbidden to teach. All teachers took an oath to ‘be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler.’ Later, no one could teach who had not first served in the S. A., the Labor Service, or the Hitler Youth. Candidates for instructorships in the universities had to attend for six weeks an observation camp where their views and character were studied by Nazi experts and reported to the Ministry of Education, which issued licenses to teach based on the candidates political ‘reliability.’” (Shirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. p.344)

 [Karl] Barth is Suspended
Professor Refuses to Take Fealty Oath to Hitler
The Montreal Gazette - Nov 27, 1934



Heidegger, in his capacity as Rektor of the University of Freiburg, sits fourth from the right at a public demonstration of support for Nazism by German professors on 11 November 1933 in Leipzig.  http://www.think-israel.org/jan12pix/nazi.heidegger.jpg
 Heidegger is in the middle of the second row. He is on his way to give his first address as Rector of the university in 1933.  http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-yIB5KRTVhIs/TaRQx72fkGI/AAAAAAAAAOA/K4TSezsELck/s1600/Rektor.jpg



We might assume that universities were centers of liberalism. Certainly the common view of modern American academia is of a bastion of liberalism or even radicalism. In neither case is this commonplace view correct. In reality, it depends on the specific field and department. Yes it is more likely that a sociology professor will be a liberal than a professor of business administration, but there are far more professors of business or engineering than there are professors of sociology. Then, of course, there are those professors that imagine themselves to be liberal or radical when they actually espouse conservative positions. (For example, one commonly hears from a vocal few that “I am a Marxist (or radical, or anarchist or committed to one or another identity-based ‘new politics’)” and that is used to justify an opposition to being unionized. In the old days one would hear the call for Black separatism, which would have in fact only served to reinforce the system of segregation that gripped America. The examples are many. So to see the university or academics as liberal or radical is to simply and conveniently ignore the obvious. Universities are inherently conservative institutions where the vast majority of students and faculty are to be found in so-called apolitical or technical fields (e.g., engineering, medical, computer science, forensics, etc.) or in fields that tend to affirm the current status quo of social relations (law, business, sports, architecture, etc.). The Frankfurt School itself owed its existence to a wealthy philanthropist who funded it because there was no space for them in the conventional university. It was affiliated with the university, but was largely separate. The only other similar institution would have been the Bauhaus, and in fact they were created within a couple of years of each other and there was a good deal of personal and intellectual exchange between them.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the monument to Rosa Luxemburg and Gropius was close to Alban Berg, Adorno’s friend and teacher. Berg’s Violin Concerto (To the Memory of an Angel) was composed as a memorial to Gropius’ and Alma Mahler’s recently deceased 18 year-old daughter, Manon. Anton Webern perhaps because he was too upset by Berg’s own death in December 1935 to conduct the premiere in April 1936, but conducted the U. K. premiere of the work only a couple of months later.

Leonid Kogan plays Alban Berg's violin concerto.


There are many other connections, and these connections were as much due to the fact that both institutions were quite marginal during their day and became more so as the authoritarian movement grew until those that could fled the continent.

“The Wiemar Republic had insisted on academic freedom, and one result had been that the vast majority of university teachers, anti-liberal, undemocratic, anti-Semitic as they were, had helped to undermine the democratic regime. Most professors were fanatical nationalists who wished the return of a conservative, monarchical Germany.... By 1932 the majority of students appeared to be enthusiastic for Hitler.
It was surprising to some how many members of the university faculties knuckled under to the Nazification of higher learning after 1933. Though official figures put the number of professors and instructors dismissed during the first five years of the regime at 2,800 – about one fourth of the total number – the proportion of those who lost their posts through defying National Socialism was, as Professor Wilhem Roepke, himself dismissed from the university of Marburg in 1933, said, ‘exceedingly small.’ Though small, there were names famous in the German academic world: Karl Jaspers, E.I. Gumbel, Theordor Litt, Karl Barth, Julius Ebbinghaus and dozens of others. Most of them emigrated, first to Switzerland, Holland, and England and eventually to America.... A large majority of professors, however, remained at their posts, and as early as the autumn of 1933 some 960 of them, led by such luminaries as Professors Sauerbach, the surgeon, Heidegger, the existentialist philosopher, and Pinder, the art historian, took a public vow to support Hitler and the National Socialist regime.
‘It was a scene of prostitution,’ Professor Roepke later wrote, ‘that has stained the honorable history of German learning.’” (William Shirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p.347)

“The new Nazi era of German culture was illuminated not only by the bonfires of books and the more effective, if less symbolic, measures of proscribing the sale or library circulation of hundreds of volumes and the publishing of many new ones, but by the regimentation of culture on a scale which no modern Western nation had ever experienced. As early as September 22, 1933, the Reich Chamber of Culture had been set up by law under the direction of Dr. Goebbels. Its purpose was defined, in the words of the law, as follows: ‘In order to pursue a policy of German culture, it is necessary to gather together the creative artists in all spheres into a unified organization under the leadership of the Reich. The Reich must not only determine the lines of progress, mental, and spiritual, but also lead and organize the professions.’”
“Seven subchambers were established to guide and control every sphere of cultural life: The Reich chambers of fine arts, music, the theater, literature, the press, radio and the films. All persons engaged in these fields were obligated to join their respective chambers, whose decisions and directives had the validity of law. Among other powers, the chambers could expel – or refuse to accept – members for ‘political unreliability,’ which meant that those who were lukewarm about National Socialism could be, and usually were, excluded from practicing their profession or art and thus deprived of a livelihood.... Every manuscript of a book or a play had to be submitted to the Propaganda Ministry before it could be approved for publication or production. (William Shirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 333-334.)

“After six years of Nazification the number of university students dropped more than one half – from 127,920 to 58,325. The decline in enrollment at the institutes of technology, from which Germany got its scientists and engineers, was even greater – from 20,474 to 9,554.” (William Schirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp.347-348)

But those who espoused the creation of a German science were the extreme; less obvious still are those that simply went along so as to either further their own careers or their scientific fields (which no doubt in the long run would also be personally beneficial). Some of these were swept up in the social movements of the time, while others went about work which tellingly could fit within the structures of either the Wiemar Republic or the Third Reich.

Shirer may be forgiven for his denunciation of the professors. He had witnessed the rise of National Socialism as a reporter in Berlin and other European capitals; interviewed most of the major and minor figures in the years before the declaration of war between the United States and Germany, covered the war as a combat reporter, and continued his work during the post-war period. He was the first reporter picked by the legendary Edward R. Murrow to work for CBS News. His radio reports are just as notable as his later work with Edward R. Morrow ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_L._Shirer ) Here is one famous one of Shirer reporting from Berlin on the night that World War II began, August 7, 1939:

A documentary of the book was made (something that would not happen today!) and you can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUa5-8fhzCQ&feature=related
Go to the 3:45 mark to hear and see Shirer speak for a few minutes.

As a witness to the book burnings of May 1933, Shirer reminds us that the bonfires took place not in some Nazi cellar or stadium rally, but “opposite the University of Berlin” after “a torchlight parade of thousands of students.” (Shirer, p.333) you’ve seen clips of that night and you see glimpses of them in both documentaries. Shirer relates that some twenty thousand books were burned that night in Berlin and at rallies in several other cities. He gives a partial list of the authors whose works were put to the torch:

“Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Jakob Wassermann, Arnold and Stefan Zweig, Erich Maria Remarque, Walther Rathenau, Albert Einstein, Alfred Kerr, and Hugo Preuss, the last named being the scholar who had drafted the Weimar Constitution....Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, H. G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, Arthur Schnitzler, [Sigmund] Freud, [Andre] Gide, [Emile] Zola, [ ] Proust. In the words of a student proclamation, any book was condemned to the flames ‘which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home, and the driving forces of our people.’” (William Schirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p.333.)

If we had time we would look at the chapter “The Misunderstood Poet” from Brent Engelmann’s Everyday Life in Nazi Germany to get even more of an understanding of how the burnings were no mere propaganda/media events, but indicative of the changes in everyday life that many – if they were not of a suspect class or degenerate stock – were rapidly adjusting themselves to accommodate. Christopher Isherwood was in Berlin during the same period as Shirer and so they give us two nicely parallel artifacts of the era. Isherwood writes in his Berlin Stories how much had changed during the years he taught English in Berlin. Thugs from the SA, the forerunner of the SS, now stood about accosting passersby and acting as moral police. One of Isherwood’s students who had been a police chief under the Wiemar regime took his lessons in the semi-secrecy in his car as his driver toured them about or as they walked in a park or countryside. Isherwood recorded various encounters and like all urban dwellers, snatches of everyday life as he strolled the streets:

“Overheard in a cafe: a young Nazi is sitting with his girl; they are discussing the future of the Party. The Nazi is drunk.
‘Oh, I know we shall win, all right,” he exclaims impatiently, ‘but first blood must flow!’
The girl strokes his arm reassuringly. She is trying to get him to come home. ‘But, of course, it’s going to flow, darling,’ she coos soothingly, ‘the Leader’s promised that in our Programme.’” (Isherwood, The Berlin Stories, p.199)

In the chapter “Winter 1932-33”

“This morning as I was walking down the Bulowstrasse, the Nazis were raiding the house of a small liberal pacifist publisher. They had brought a lorry and were piling it up with the publisher’s books. The driver of the lorry mockingly read out the titles of the books to the crowd: ‘Nie Wieder Krieg!’ he shouted, holding up one of them by the corner of the cover, disgustedly, as though it were a nasty kind of reptile. Everyone roared with laughter.
‘No More War!’ echoed a fat, well-dressed woman, with a scornful, savage laugh. ‘What an idea!’” (Isherwood, The Berlin Stories, p.205.)


Nie Wieder Krieg / Never Again War, 1924 ~ Käthe Kollwitz.


[This incident may be related to the closing and sacking of the Anti-War Museum in Berlin, which occurred in March of 1933 and the work by Ernst Friedrich, who founded the museum, War Against War. It is one of the most noted works in the pacifist/anarchist tradition. Be forewarned that the images in War against War are very disturbing. Friedrich wanted to convey the horror of war, much like Otto Dix, but with photographs of disfigured and crippled soldiers, military executions, and the aftermath of battle. Here is a link to go further into that work:
http://recollectionbooks.com/bleed/Encyclopedia/FriedrichErnst/FriedrichErnst.htm  
Nie Wieder Krieg! was the slogan of the pacifist movement in the interwar period. see http://www.anti-kriegs-museum.de/english/history.html]





Shortly after witnessing the sacking of the office, Isherwood decided to leave Berlin for good. He relates that when he informed Frl. Schroeder, who boarded him,

“She is inconsolable: ‘I shall never find another gentleman like you, Herr Issyvoo – always so punctual with the rent . . . . I’m sure I don’t know what makes you want to leave Berlin, all of a sudden, like this. . . .’
It’s no use trying to explain to her, or talking politics. Already she is adapting herself, as she will adapt herself to every new regime. This morning I even heard her talking reverently about ‘Der Fuhrer’ to the porter’s wife. If anybody were to remind her that, at the elections last November, she voted communist, she would probably deny it hotly, and in perfect good faith. She is merely acclimating herself, in accordance with a natural law, like an animal which changes its coat for the winter. Thousands of people like Frl. Schroeder are acclimating themselves. After all, whatever government is in power, they are doomed to live in this town.”
(Isherwood, The Berlin Stories, pp.206-207.)

Isherwood would later become a member of the circle of Americans and European exiles in Los Angeles that included Mann, Schoenberg, Adorno, Brecht, Weill, Eisler, etc. The Berlin Stories, really two novelistic memoirs, were published in 1935 and 1939. You know some of it in a more popular form as the basis for the musical Cabaret.

Shirer and Isherwood witnessed the consolidation of the authority of the new regime. What struck both of them was the degree to which the residents of Berlin quickly acclimated themselves to the new regime. Shirer noted the effects on himself of the relentless repetition of the ideology across the realms of education, entertainment, culture, and knowledge. Indeed, the Authoritarian impulse to merge all of these under the rubric of the State was satisfied for a time.

“I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Geobbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.” (William Shirer. [1950] 1960. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p.342.)

Into and from this mix come the human-all-too-human academics, scientists, and naturalists of the Ahnenerbe to affirm the ideology of the regime and the scientific ideologies of race and culture, to locate the origins and true nature of the Indo-European/Germanic volk and thus affirm their destiny as well.

This is a good place to break before we go on. An appropriate piece of music to hear before the second part is this, Oliver Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (1941)


A work for clarinet, violin, cello and piano by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), who composed the piece while being held prisoner by the Germans during the Second World War. The quartet was premiered by clarinetist Henri Akoka, violinist Jean le Boulaire, cellist Étienne Pasquier and Messiaen on the piano in Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany (now Zgorzelec, Poland) on Jan. 15, 1941, before an audience of about 400 prisoners and guards.

Käthe Kollwitz, Lithograph, Gefangene, Musik Horend 
(Prisoners Listening to Music), 1925



Canguilhem, Georges.  1988 [1977].  Ideology and Rationality inthe History of the Life Sciences.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Engelmann, Bernt. 1986. In Hitler’s Germany: Everyday Life in the Third Reich. New York: Pantheon Books.

Gueriin, Daniel. 1973 [1965] Fascism and Big Business. New York: pathfinder Books.
Isherwood, Christopher. 1935-1939. The Berlin Stories. New York: New Directions.

Isherwood, Christopher.  1938.  The Berlin Stories (The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin.  New York: New Directions. 

Plato.  1892.  The Dialogues of Plato translated into English with Analyses and Introductions by B. Jowett.  Humphrey Milford: Oxford University Press.

Poulantzas, Nicos. 1974 [1970]. Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the Problem of Fascism. New York: Verso Books.

Shirer, William. 1960 [1950]. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York: Fawcett Crest. 

Thucydides.  1954.  The Peloponnesian War.  New York: Penguin Classics. 

Toland, John. 1976. Adolf Hitler. New York: Ballantine Books.

Wightman, William P. D.  1951.  The Growth of Scientific Ideas.  New Haven: Yale University Press.
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Next: Degeneracy, Culture, and Critique - Part I: Science, Reason, and Knowledge II 

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