German Incertitudes, 1914-1945: the Stones and the Cathedral

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Author: Jan Palmowski
Date: Sept. 2002
From: The English Historical Review(Vol. 117, Issue 473)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 740 words

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by Klemens von Klemperer (Westport, CT/London: Praeger/Eurospan, 2001; pp. 175. 53-95 [pounds sterling]).

This collection of essays is concerned with the intellectual environment which surrounded, and impacted upon, Hitler's rise to power. To von Klemperer, this is a question of how German intellectuals dealt with `modernity', the answer to which is not found in any straight historical path to Nazism. Instead, Klemperer's guiding theme is a dialectic tension between German incertitudes expressed in the disillusionment of World War I and the Weimar Republic, and a compensating search for new certitudes (p. 146). The German intellectuals considered in the book were torn between facing up to the spiritual void created by modernity, and the certainty promised by a search for a new cohesive agenda which made Nazism so alluring (p. 148). The book's methodology arises from this central message. Using an image which the author attributes to Antoine de Saint-Exupery (p. xii), but which has also strong biblical connotations, von Klemperer likens the intellectuals and their ideas, to which he devotes his individual chapters, to the reality of individual stones. Their fragmentation became all the more...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A92204035