Clive James
Cultural Amnesia

Moeller embodied learning the way Junger embodied storm-of-steel militarism. Both had their rationale for a oonservative revolution worked out in detail, with all the nuances duly noted. Possibly because of this meeting at the Juni-Klub, Moeller was the first to grasp that Hitler didn't care about any of it.

Moeller's revolutionary conservatism was meant to safeguard the nation's Wesens-Urgestein (the original essential stone) from the corrosive encrustation of Blutmischang (mixed blood). Nominally, the tainted blood he was most concerned about was the Latin blood of the German south. (In France at the same time, the future arch-collaborator Drieu la Rochelle had the identical bee in his bonnet about blood from the south: he thought even the south of France was dangerous.) Some of Moeller's colleagues thought that Hitler might have picked up the dreaded southern infection from spending too long in Bavaria. But it hardly needs saying that Jewish blood was the real bother. If anyone is still looking for the linking factor between the resolutely thuggish Nazi movement and all those long-forgotten, highfalutin nationalist groupuscules that superficially seem so much more refined, anti-Semitism is it. To Ernst von Salomon, one of the assassins who found so many excellent reasons, that same year of 1922, for murdering Weimar Germany's most creative politician, Walther Rathenau, Junger actually said it: 'Why didn't you have the courage to say that Rathenau was killed because he was a Jew?'

What we should say to Junger's ghost is still in question. When, during World War II, he finally allowed himself to find out exactly what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in the east, he was suitably devastated. But during the twenties it never seemed to concern him much that all the various nationalist groups—even the national Bolshevist group fronted by Ernst Niekisch—always seemed to have this one characteristic, anti-Semitism, in common. Not, of course, that it would have come to anything much if Junger and the rest of the intellectuals had been left to themselves. It wasn't mass murder that they had in mind: just the purification and protection of the folk heritage, brought to the point of irreversible decay by the curse of liberalism. Like Niekisch, who was coming from the other direction but with the same prejudice, Moeller thought that the nineteenth-century theorist of Prussian conservatism Julius Stahl was not conservative enough. Stahl was baptized a Lutheran, bur he was Jewish. so the objection was racial, although Moeller would have resisted being defined as a mere racist. He had bigger ideas then that. The biggest of them was that liberalism was the real enemy. To the Juni-Klub's collective testament, an album by many hands called Die neue Front, he contributed a fragment of his forthcoming book. The fragment was called 'Through Liberalism Peoples Come to Ruin.' The book, published in 1923, carried a tide which would gain in resonance beyond his death: The Third Reich.

I have a copy of Das dritte Reich in front of me as I write. An ugly little volume bound in paper, it was put out in 1931 by the Hanseatische Verlaganstalt, a Nazi publishing outfit based in Hamburg. This particular example was purchased in Jena in 1934 by someone signing himself Wm. Montgomery Watt. Presumably he was a Scot, because I found the book in a dust pile in the back of an Edinburgh second-hand bookshop. Whether in approval or disapproval it is hard to tell, but Wm. Montgomery Watt was a great underliner. You soon spot that he underlined the same point over and over. It was the point Moeller couldn't help making: he got around to it whatever the nominal subject. The point was that Germany had never lost the war, except politically. Militarily it had triumphed, and all that was now needed was a revolution in order to put reality back in touch with the facts. It just never occurred to Moeller that to say Germany had never lost the war except politically was like saying that a cat run over by a car had never died except physically. It never occurred to hundreds of thousands of present and future Nazis either, but Moeller was supposed to be an intellectual. So was Junger, whose book Der Arbeiter was also published by the Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, with a resonant line of publicity material: 'Junger sees that bourgeois individualism, the cult of personality, the conceit of the ego all belong to the nineteenth century, and are now visibly melting before our eyes through the transformation of separate people into a collectivity.' (Memo to a young student of cultural flux: when you buy old books, keep the wrappers if you can. Nothing gives you the temperature of the time like the puffs and quotations.) All these finely articulated arguments were going strictly nowhere, because nobody in the Nazi hierarchy ever found much time to read them, and certainly Hider never read a single line. What continues to matter, however, is not where the arguments were going, but where they came from. They came from the same source that gave the chance of action to the thugs who used them as a warrant: the chaos, the dislocation and the demoralization of a civilized order. To that extent, and to that extent only, superior minds like Moeller and Junger were right. They were like Groucho Marx turning up his nose at any club that might admit him as a member: a society that led them to write such stuff had no future.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.