Hitler and the GermanseBook - 1999
Between 1933 and 1938, Eric Voegelin published four books that brought him into increasingly open opposition to the Hitler regime in Germany. As a result, he was forced to leave Austria in 1938, narrowly escaping arrest by the Gestapo as he fled to Switzerland and later to the United States. Twenty years later, he was invited to Munich to become Director of the new Institute of Political Science at Ludwig-Maximilian University.
In 1964, Voegelin gave a series of memorable lectures on what he considered "the central German experiential problem" of his time: Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the reasons for it, and its consequences for post-Nazi Germany. For Voegelin, these questions demanded a scrutiny of the mentality of individual Germans and of the order of German society during and after the Nazi period. Hitler and the Germans, published here for the first time, offers Voegelin's most extensive and detailed critique of the Hitler era.
Voegelin interprets this era in terms of the basic diagnostic tools provided by the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, Judeo-Christian culture, and contemporary German-language writers like Heimito von Doderer, Karl Kraus, Thomas Mann, and Robert Musil. Responding to publications on National Socialist Germany, Voegelin discusses the historian Percy Schramm's "Anatomy of a Dictator," along with studies of the churches and the legal profession. His inquiry uncovers a historiography that was substantially unhistoric: a German Evangelical Church that misinterpreted the Gospel, a German Catholic Church that denied universal humanity, and a legal process enmeshed in criminal homicide.
While most of the lectures deal with what Voegelin called his "descent into the depths" of the moral and spiritual abyss of Nazism and its aftermath, they also point toward a restoration of order. His lecture "The Greatness of Max Weber" shows how Weber, while affected by the culture within which Hitler came into power, has already gone beyond it through his anguished recovery of the experience of transcendence.
Hitler and the Germans provides a profound alternative approach to the topic of the individual German's entanglement in the Hitler regime and its continuing implications. This comprehensive reading of the Nazi period has yet to be matched.