Reply to Göran Fant, “The Art of Turning White into Black”
Göran Fant says that he is unable to recognize the portrait of anthroposophy that I painted in my article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism.” (1) I am not surprised that he found my portrait hard to swallow, since Fant is convinced that anthroposophy is by definition anti-racist and opposed to nationalist and right-wing politics. I cannot argue with Fant’s personal beliefs, but they are unfortunately incompatible with anthroposophy’s actual historical record. In the course of the several debates that have ensued since my article was first published, I have become increasingly aware that contemporary anthroposophists are often uninformed about the history of their own doctrine. As odd as it may seem to admirers of Steiner, who are inclined to view adherents of anthroposophy as authorities on anthroposophy, many anthroposophists simply do not know very much about Steiner’s teachings or about the development of the movement he founded. Like Fant, they thus find critical descriptions of anthroposophy’s history to be unbelievable, indeed virtually unintelligible. I would like to contribute to a more accurate view by responding to some of Fant’s claims. (2)
Fant says that anthroposophy is anti-authoritarian, anti-elitist, anti-racist, and apolitical. He complains about my article’s supposedly unorthodox method, and offers an alternative interpretation of the relationship between anthroposophy and Nazism. Let us examine each of these arguments in turn.
Fant’s statements about the character of anthroposophy are at odds with Rudolf Steiner’s precepts. In order to continue along the path of spiritual and racial advancement, Steiner taught, individuals must subordinate themselves to “the great leaders of humankind” (die großen Führer der Menschheit). If they fail to obey these leaders, their souls are condemned to spiritual and racial stagnation. (3) Anthroposophy is moreover based on an authoritarian epistemology which explicitly denigrates “criticism” and “judgement” while celebrating “reverent veneration” of ostensible spiritual virtues, and rejects “intellectual effort” in favor of “immediate spiritual perception.” (4) Contemporary anthroposophists’ uncritical attitude toward Steiner’s writings is further testament to this authoritarian framework. Fant may be too optimistic about the possibilities for “adapting Steiner’s texts to our time”; short of schism or apostasy, anthroposophy offers no grounds on which its adherents might coherently revise or refute its inherited doctrines. Furthermore, what Fant calls “the great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s teachings depends entirely on anthroposophist credulity toward Steiner’s methods of occult revelation. Whatever the charms of this version of esotericism, such methods are irreconcilable with rational evaluation and independent confirmation. (5) In a judicious assessment of the anti-rational and authoritarian implications of the anthroposophic worldview, Sven Ove Hansson writes: “Steiner’s pronouncements are in practice never questioned in the anthroposophical movement, and very little of substance has been added to the doctrine after his death.” (6) An authoritarian disposition is virtually unavoidable in a movement that considers itself to be preserving a “secret science” (Geheimwissenschaft), one of Steiner’s original terms for anthroposophy. (7)
Anthroposophy’s very nature as an esoteric worldview is predicated on the distinction between initiates and non-initiates, as well as on the notion of a ladder of knowledge which all initiates must climb step by step. (8) These are the characteristic marks of an elitist mindset. Steiner also held that the German cultural elite, as the most spiritually advanced segment of the “Aryan race,” had a special mission to redeem the world from materialism. In his own words, “If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should spread.” (9) His theory of the unique cultural mission of the German people was matched by an elitist social doctrine. In his economic writings, Steiner emphasized that decisions must be made by “the most capable”; his “threefold society” was to be run not by the “hand-workers” but by “the spiritual workers, who direct production.” (10) And his racial theories, needless to say, were rigidly hierarchical and tied to anthroposophy’s elitist conception of spiritual progress: “Nations and races are merely the various stages of development toward pure humanity. A nation or a race stands higher the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the more they have worked their way through from the transitory physical to the immortal supernatural. The development of humankind through reincarnation in ever higher national and racial forms is therefore a process of liberation.” (11) Even sympathetic observers note that Steiner’s anthroposophy aimed to create a “new spiritual elite”. (12)
I do not doubt that many anthroposophists today are opposed to racist prejudice. But this admirable orientation does not justify their refusal to confront their doctrine’s racist origins. The theoretical edifice of anthroposophy is built on the comprehensive historical-evolutionary-racial typology Steiner laid out in Cosmic Memory and elsewhere. The key to this typology is the root-race doctrine, which divides the human family into five root races (Wurzelrassen, sometimes also named Hauptrassen or Grundrassen, principal or primary races), with two more root races to appear in the distant future. Each root race is further stratified into sub-races (Unterrassen), a term which eventually gave way, in Steiner’s writings, to the more recognizable unit of the people or nation (Volk). These categories are biological (Steiner calls them “hereditary”) as well as spiritual. The racial classifications are not normatively neutral; they are arranged in ascending order of spiritual development, with the fifth root race, the “Aryan race,” and within that root race the “Germanic-Nordic” peoples, at the top of the hierarchy. This hierarchy, according to Steiner, is an integral component of the cosmic order.
Steiner’s book Cosmic Memory remains to the present day a primary source for anthroposophy’s cosmology, with no distancing whatsoever toward its racist elements. The editor’s foreword to the current edition, published in Dornach, doesn’t so much as mention the book’s racist content, much less try to explain or minimize it; and the Anthroposophical Society continues to officially designate the book one of the “fundamental anthroposophist texts.” (13) Nor did Steiner himself ever renounce it; on the contrary, at the end of his life he reiterated that Cosmic Memory contains the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology.” (14) Today the book is still officially recommended for use by Waldorf teachers. Its racial mythology is elaborated in extravagant detail in many other works by Steiner published by anthroposophical presses. (15)
Thus according to both Steiner and his latter-day followers, humanity’s very existence is structured around the stratified scheme of higher and lower races. (16) Nor is it the case, as Fant would have us believe, that in Steiner’s view these racial divisions “will soon totally disappear.” Steiner taught that the “Aryan race” will reign until the year 7893, six thousand years in the future. Occasionally he indicated that the final transcendence of racial categories would happen sooner, in roughly 1500 years – still an extraordinarily long time to wait for anthroposophy to shed its racial preoccupations. The Dutch anthroposophist commission on “anthroposophy and the race question,” on the other hand, reports that “according to Steiner, the word ‘race’ will no longer have meaning in 5,500 years.” (17)
It is also inaccurate and simplistic to say that Steiner gave the Aryan concept “quite another meaning than it later acquired in the Nazi era.” From the moment it was invented by European racial theorists in the nineteenth century, the notion of an “Aryan race” was bound up in the ideology of racial superiority. That Steiner himself shared this ideology is clear from his contemptuous references to blacks, Asians, aboriginal peoples, Jews, and other non-“Aryans.” Steiner’s version of Aryanism was in fact strikingly similar, even in detail, to that of leading Nazi racial theorists. Steiner divided the Aryan root race into five sub-races: Ancient Indian, Persian, Egyptian-Chaldean, Greco-Roman, and Germanic-Nordic. By comparison, Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg included the Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germans and Scandinavians in the “Aryan race.” (18) Similarly, Arthur de Gobineau’s version of the “Aryan race” comprised Indians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese, and Germans. (19) Richard Wagner held that the principal “Aryan” peoples were the Indians, Persians, Greeks, and Germans, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s conception of “the Aryans” was substantially similar to Steiner’s as well. The same is true for fascist esotericist Julius Evola’s variant of the “Aryan race.” Enthusiasts of anthroposophy would do well to familiarize themselves with the history of the Aryan myth. (20) Above all, they would do well to examine more closely the considerable continuities between Steiner’s description of the “Aryan race” and those put forward by leading racial theorists of the nineteenth century and their Nazi inheritors. (21)
In spite of all this evidence and context, Fant insists that “Steiner’s texts do not express any racism.” Two possible explanations for this remarkable conclusion are that Fant has not read Steiner’s racial writings, or that he has a notably limited understanding of racism. The latter possibility is strongly suggested by Fant’s example of “going out in the streets and slaughtering immigrants” as somehow typical of a racist mindset. He appears to believe that “well-meaning” people cannot hold racist views. (22) Fant has evidently never examined racism as a belief system or body of ideas. That these ideas continue to exert a powerful and pernicious influence in modern societies, without for the most part yielding directly murderous consequences, seems to have escaped his notice. Today’s naïve anthroposophists are the kinder, gentler counterpart to xenophobic thugs: not violent, not overtly discriminatory or prejudiced, indeed seemingly the opposite. That is why their potential role is so worrisome: to make ‘soft’ racism and ‘soft’ ethnocentrism socially acceptable in the heart of a materially comfortable but ideologically insecure middle class.
Many readers of “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” seem to have taken umbrage at this theme; Fant is hardly alone on that score. Since anthroposophists today are frequently unfamiliar with Steiner’s racial teachings, they often find critical attention to these teachings offensive. The indignant response to my brief mention of the Krishnamurti affair provides a revealing example of this dynamic. It is certainly true that Steiner rejected the very possibility of another incarnation of Christ in the physical realm. The standard anthroposophical position that Krishnamurti’s ‘racial’ background played no role in Steiner’s aggravated reaction to the affair is nonetheless historically naïve. The fact that Krishnamurti was not white was a stumbling block for many theosophists at the time. (23) Carla Risseuw writes: “Many white-skinned members of the Order of the Star in the East needed time to digest the fact that the World Messiah (Krishnamurti) was not white.” (24) Roland Vernon’s study of the Krishnamurti affair notes that Steiner in particular “found untenable the notion of a Hindu boy being physically prepared for occupancy by the Lord Maitreya, and this representing a contemporary reincarnation of Christ.” (25) Steiner’s rivalry with the India-based leadership of the Theosophical Society played a crucial role in this development, and a fuller understanding of his reaction requires taking seriously Steiner’s statements about the racial-spiritual status of South Asians, the future direction of racial evolution, the spiritual significance of skin color, and the obsolete and inferior nature of Eastern spiritual traditions.
Steiner pointedly ridiculed the idea that a “Hindu lad,” as Steiner called Krishnamurti, could embody the Christ. According to Steiner, Hindus had long since played out their evolutionary function and were now leftovers of former spiritual grandeur, an anachronism trapped in decline. Krishnamurti was neither white, European, nor Christian, and thus failed Steiner’s test of adequacy for cosmic leadership. In 1911, in the midst of the acrimonious split from the Theosophical Society, anthroposophist Günther Wagner wrote that Steiner and his followers believed: “Since we are the most advanced race, we have the most advanced religion.” (26) It was thus a special affront to the anthroposophical mindset when the rest of the theosophical movement cast its lot with Krishnamurti, who was neither racially nor religiously suited to the role, in anthroposophist eyes. In the aftermath of the split, Steiner continued to insist on a forthrightly racial understanding of Hinduism. (27) He sharply contrasted “the Eastern school” of spirituality to his own “Western school” of esotericism, presenting the difference in racial terms: “But this oriental form of truth is worthless for us western peoples. It could only obstruct us and hold us back from our goal. Here in the West are the peoples who shall constitute the core of the future races.” And: “The dying races of the East still need the Oriental school. The Western school is for the races of the future.” (28)
For Steiner, “the soul life of the Orient” is not fully part of “normal human life,” as the spirituality of the East is “decadent” and “certainly in decline.” (29) He faulted English-speaking Theosophists for looking to India for “ancient Oriental wisdom” and for “borrowing completely from the oriental Indians,” whose springs of wisdom had long since run dry. According to Steiner, “the Oriental thinker” is not at the same level of development as “European spiritual culture,” and it is only in the West that the seeds of the future are to be found. (30) Steiner held that it is the task of “the German people” to spread “spiritual life,” which “the Oriental” has lost; Asians must now receive spiritual guidance from the Germans. Steiner attributed “the purest and cleanest form of thinking” to “the Germans,” who are indeed the carriers of “the future of humanity,” a future which can only be realized by “our own spiritual striving, not by borrowing from the Oriental.” (31) Steiner taught that “the European,” with his “natural endowment,” stands “a stage higher” than “the Oriental.” (32) The purported bodily differences between European and Asian peoples were central to his argument: “The methods by which oriental peoples attained access to the higher worlds in olden times have persisted through tradition and even today are still practiced over in Asia as a decadent form of Yoga, by men whose bodily constitution differs from ours in the West. Nothing of this kind could be beneficial to the West.” (33) Anthroposophists like Fant, as well as Steiner’s other admirers, could gain a better understanding of the impact of Steiner’s racial teachings by examining statements such as these.
Even if Fant’s claim that “anthroposophy is apolitical” were believable, it would hardly be reassuring; it is precisely this sort of naiveté toward the political implications of an all-encompassing quasi-religious worldview that is most troubling about contemporary anthroposophists. Historically speaking, moreover, many of Steiner’s followers, including prominent and institutionally central anthroposophists, have been actively involved in fascist politics. (34) In any case, my article did not argue that all anthroposophists are enthusiastic activists of the radical right, but that the consistent connections between anthroposophic beliefs and right-wing politics have been unmistakable since the doctrine first emerged a century ago. This persistent connection is a mainstay of current research on the European far right. In addition to the many sources cited in my article, interested readers may consult the following discussions of Steiner’s radical right followers:
Jonathan Olsen, Nature and Nationalism; Volkmar Wölk, Natur und Mythos; Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age; Reinalter, Petri, and Kaufmann, Das Weltbild des Rechtsextremismus; Bernice Rosenthal, The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture; Jahn and Wehling, Ökologie von rechts; Udo Sierck, Normalisierung von Rechts; Gugenberger and Schweidlenka, Die Fäden der Nornen: zur Macht der Mythen in politischen Bewegungen; Franz Wegener, Das atlantidische Weltbild: Nationalsozialismus und Neue Rechte auf der Suche nach der versunkenen Atlantis; Arn Strohmeyer, Von Hyperborea nach Auschwitz; Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival; Gugenberger, Petri, and Schweidlenka, Weltverschwörungstheorien: die neue Gefahr von rechts; Eduard Heller and Maegerle, Thule: Vom völkischen Okkultismus bis zur Neuen Rechten; Klaus Bellmund and Kaarel Siniveer, Kulte, Führer, Lichtgestalten: Esoterik als Mittel rechtsradikaler Propaganda; Harald Strohm, Die Gnosis und der Nationalsozialismus; Jutta Ditfurth, Entspannt in die Barbarei: Esoterik, (Öko-)Faschismus und Biozentrismus; Richard Stöss, Vom Nationalismus zum Umweltschutz; Jens Mecklenburg, ed., Handbuch deutscher Rechtsextremismus; Gerhard Kern and Lee Traynor, Die esoterische Verführung; Claudia Barth, Über alles in der Welt – Esoterik und Leitkultur; and Christiansen, Fromm, and Zinser, Brennpunkt Esoterik. (35)
It is unacceptable to dismiss the virulent, widespread, and ongoing extreme right variant of anthroposophy as “some Germans from the thirties” and “a handful of ghosts of modern times.” (36)
Fant also tries to turn the recently deceased anthroposophist and right-wing extremist Werner Haverbeck into an enemy of anthroposophy, calling his adulatory biography of Steiner “a severe attack on anthroposophy” and a “total rejection of the anthroposophist movement.” Fant presents no evidence for this nonsensical claim, but simply asserts that since Haverbeck’s views on anthroposophy differ from Fant’s own, Haverbeck must by definition be anti-anthroposophy. More telling still, Fant claims that Haverbeck’s portrait of Steiner as a committed German nationalist is “an absurd distortion.” Haverbeck’s book Rudolf Steiner – Anwalt für Deutschland is indeed politically and morally appalling, but its depiction of Steiner’s nationalism is quite accurate, as the briefest familiarity with Steiner’s published writings shows.
During his Vienna years, Steiner was an active member of the deutschnational or pan-German movement in Austria. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century he wrote dozens of articles for the German nationalist press, which are reprinted in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of his Collected Works (above all Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte and Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Literatur). (37) These pan-German publications are politically unambiguous, and they make a mockery of Fant’s naive assertion that nationalism always “bothered Steiner.” (38) Steiner’s German cultural nationalism, based on a chauvinist conviction of superiority and a sense of national mission as well as simple ethnic prejudice, became frantic with the onset of World War One, as his blustery wartime lectures testify (collected in Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen and Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges and elsewhere); and he re-affirmed his German nationalist line in his post-war lectures as well (see, for example, Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und Zukunft). Steiner remained unapologetic about his nationalist engagement to the end of his life, recalling his pan-German activism in his 1925 autobiography. It may be an uncomfortable fact for progressive anthroposophists to acknowledge, but the far-right Haverbeck had a more accurate understanding of Steiner on this question than the liberal Fant.
In the period since my original exchange with Fant, anthroposophy’s politics have not, alas, been clarified. The far-right inflection of Steiner’s teachings continues to gain adherents and publicity. (39) The case of Andreas Molau is particularly instructive in this regard. In the 1990s Molau was a prominent publicist on Germany’s far-right fringe, and after 2000 became active in the NDP, the major neo-Nazi party in Germany today. Molau also worked as a history teacher at a Waldorf school in the city of Braunschweig for eight years. He was fired (or, by some accounts, resigned) in 2004 when Molau’s official position in the NPD became public. (40) The chief concern for the administration of Molau’s Waldorf school was the possible impact of Molau’s party work on the school’s reputation; as the school’s principal told the media at the time: “This is a catastrophe for our image.” Molau’s Waldorf colleagues, meanwhile, claimed to have been unaware of his political involvements. (41)
Assuming this claim is true, it raises the obvious question of just how Molau’s fellow Waldorf teachers and staff managed not to know about his far-right affiliations for so long. Molau taught history and German (not, for example, math or music) at the same Waldorf school for eight years, and even after the NPD episode erupted into a public scandal, his Waldorf colleagues said they had viewed him as “left-liberal” and “a sympathetic oddball”; they were unanimously surprised to learn of his far-right political activities. But Molau had been a prominent figure on the radical right for a very long time, since the beginning of the 1990s, writing for a range of far-right publications under his real name; for several years he was even culture editor of Junge Freiheit, one of the most notorious of Germany’s extreme right wing journals (where among other things he published an article by another author denying the holocaust). (42) Molau’s openly apologetic biography of Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was published in 1993. (43) Molau was moreover mentioned in readily available sources on the far right, such as the Handbuch deutscher Rechtsextremismus (handbook on German right-wing extremism) published in 1996. Yet none of Molau’s fellow Waldorf faculty, staff, or parents was aware of any of this information whatsoever. The incident speaks volumes about the level of political obliviousness that is apparently endemic at Waldorf schools today.
Even after leaving Waldorf employment, Molau continues to support Waldorf education strongly. In the immediate aftermath of his departure from the Braunschweig Waldorf school, he forcefully re-affirmed his ongoing esteem for Steiner and his own unchanged commitment to Waldorf pedagogy. He has since run in several campaigns as one of the NPD’s better-known politicians, and his election materials consistently highlight his experience as a Waldorf teacher. Within the NPD executive, Molau is responsible for educational policy. In 2005, as an NPD candidate, Molau was invited to speak at a Waldorf school in Berlin, where he quoted from Steiner’s book on the Mission of the Folk Souls, and declared that Waldorf pupils are “the ideal target audience for the NPD, because of Waldorf schools’ natural feeling for living authority and their cultivated inner connection with German culture.” The NPD put out a press release celebrating this Waldorf event as a breakthrough with youth. (44) In 2007, Molau announced his plan to open a Waldorf educational center under NPD auspices. With this new Waldorf project, the neo-Nazi politician hopes to show “the connection between the nationalist NPD ideology and the teachings of the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner.”
Fant presumably still believes that such incidents – repeated over and over again in the world of Waldorf, biodynamics, and anthroposophy – are merely isolated, marginal, insignificant anomalies that tell us nothing important about the ostensibly “apolitical” nature of anthroposophy. This pretense simply serves to protect and promote the ongoing infiltration of the far right within the anthroposophical milieu. The Molau case was not a fluke. In late 2004, in the wake of the controversy over Molau’s Waldorf career, the editor of the anthroposophical journal Info3 reported that “a whole array of private voices” within German anthroposophical circles had spoken up in support of Molau. In November 2004, a leading far-right newspaper, the National-Zeitung, published a pointedly sympathetic interview with Molau conducted by an even more famous right-wing extremist, Gerhard Frey. (45) Here Molau emphasized the conceptual affinities between anthroposophy and the contemporary German far right, while citing Steiner’s book The Philosophy of Freedom and touting the wonders of Waldorf education. Molau also noted the support and solidarity he had received from like-minded associates within the Waldorf movement. Molau’s parting of ways with the Braunschweig Waldorf school, in other words, has scarcely solved the problem. (46) Such incidents will continue to recur until anthroposophists finally face their history of far-right affiliations head-on.
Fant is particularly exercised about what he calls my article’s method, suggesting several times that I misquoted my sources and complaining that I focused on topics he considers to be “peripheral” aspects of anthroposophy. I will gladly let readers draw their own conclusions about whether anthroposophy’s racial doctrines and its extensive history of collusion with fascist and neo-fascist politics constitute “peripheral phenomena.” Fant’s remarks on my use of sources, on the other hand, are mere innuendo; he does not challenge any of my actual citations or quotes. His preoccupation with method is somewhat puzzling, since my article was, if anything, methodologically boring and conservative. Anthroposophy and Ecofascism follows the standard procedure of providing historical background, quoting abundantly from anthroposophist sources, citing some of the critical literature on anthroposophy, and offering my own interpretations of the material while noting alternative interpretations. Readers familiar with some of these sources will recognize that my article, despite its polemical tone, is notably restrained in its argument. I deliberately avoided, for example, making extensive use of historian Anna Bramwell’s prodigious research on anthroposophy’s pro-fascist history, and I completely excluded all occult sources, including those that are damning toward anthroposophy. I also explicitly warned against the sort of guilt by association argument that Fant thinks I have indulged in. Fant’s evident discomfort with my research stems from its content, not from its polemical format. (47)
Indeed Fant appears to be troubled by the very phenomenon of historical analysis itself. He seems bewildered that non-anthroposophists might assess anthroposophist actions according to criteria different from anthroposophists’ own preferred standards. He is apparently unaware of how textual evidence functions outside of an occult framework – yes, Mr. Fant, historians really do need to choose sources that are “typical and representative,” no matter how uncomfortable this may sometimes be for esotericists – and he cannot seem to fathom how external observers could reach conclusions that diverge from his own. Fant thus insists that a critical appraisal of anthroposophy, no matter how copiously substantiated, is automatically suspect. He says, for instance, that my brief summary of Steiner’s lectures on “folk souls” is an “astonishingly unserious distortion.” According to Fant, these lectures are thoroughly anti-racist and intended to “inspire mutual understanding between the peoples.” I am scarcely the only non-anthroposophist to disagree with this simplistic assessment. (48)
The book is an openly ethnocentric argument for all peoples to accept the superiority of Steiner’s peculiar version of Christianity, refracted through a ‘Nordic’ lens, and to acknowledge the “future mission of [the] Teutonic Archangel.” (49) The theme of chapter three is “Formation of the Races,” while the theme of chapter four is “The Evolution of Races.” But the heart of the book is chapter six, titled “The Five Root Races of Mankind” (Steiner’s lecture in Oslo from June 12, 1910). Here Steiner reminds his audience of the racial superiority of “the Aryans,” helpfully explaining that he means “the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe whom we regard as members of the Caucasian race” (p. 106) before going on to discuss “the Caucasian race” for several more paragraphs (p. 107). For some reason Fant calls this two-page disquisition a “parenthetical passage.” For those who have an opportunity to read the text itself, with its unsettling references to “the peculiar character of the Semitic people” and so forth, Fant’s attempt to distract attention from the actual content of Steiner’s book is likely to remain unconvincing. But whatever sense anthroposophists might make of these lectures on the “mission” of “folk souls,” contemporary far-right racists do not concur with Fant’s reading. (50) They continue to promote Steiner’s book alongside other Aryan supremacist literature. (51)
Fant’s complaints about my article’s sources are especially questionable in light of his own careless use of sources. He writes: “Steiner warned already in 1920 about Nazism (GA 199 p. 161).” Here is the passage Fant cites: “This symbol [the swastika] which the Indian or old Egyptian once looked to when he spoke of his sacred Brahman, this symbol is now to be seen on the [Russian] ten thousand ruble note! Those who are making grand politics there know how to influence the human soul. They know what the triumphal procession of the swastika means – this swastika that a large number of people in Europe are already wearing – but they do not want to listen to that which strives to understand, out of the most important symptoms, the secrets of today’s historical development.” (52) Steiner denounces the use of the swastika by the Bolsheviks; he makes no mention at all of Nazism. That is not surprising, since the Nazi party was only formed a few months before Steiner’s speech, and had at the time a tiny membership; moreover, the distinctive Nazi swastika banners were not designed until two years later. (53) Nothing in this passage can meaningfully count as a “warning against Nazism.”
Fant employs similarly ahistorical reasoning in his discussion of anthroposophist Rainer Schnurre’s racist statements. He claims that I have presented “false quotations” from Schnurre, and somehow deduces that my source for these quotations must have been Jutta Ditfurth. The usual procedure in such cases is to provide accurate quotes from the figure in question so that readers may judge for themselves. But Fant gives us no quotes from Schnurre, only his own unsourced conjectures. (54) Moreover, a brief glance at my article will show that I do not quote or cite Ditfurth’s work anywhere in connection with Schnurre; rather, as clearly noted in my article, I quoted Schnurre’s racist pronouncements from Oliver Geden’s book Rechte Ökologie. Fant’s attempt to dismiss Geden as a “critic of anthroposophy” is frivolous; Geden is in reality a critic of right-wing ecology, and he can hardly be expected to ignore anthroposophy’s crucial contribution to this tendency. His book otherwise has no axe to grind with Steiner. Fant furthermore appears to believe that anyone who voices concern about the less savory aspects of anthroposophist politics must be a tool of sinister forces. The conspiratorial mindset so typical of anthroposophy has gotten the better of him in this instance; the suggestion that leftists like Ditfurth and Bierl are secretly in league with the far-right EAP is foolish. For someone so preoccupied with “method,” Fant’s own approach is dubious indeed. (55)
Anthroposophy and Nazism
Fant is convinced that “anthroposophy thinks radically opposite Nazism.” Not only was this view not shared by anthroposophist Nazis, it is not shared by several scholars of the topic. Volkmar Wölk, for example, writes of Steiner’s root-race theory: “It is a short conceptual step from this position to the racial doctrine of the Nazis.” (56) Wölk’s thesis is borne out in detail by James Webb’s pioneering research on anthroposophy’s relationship to other denizens of the occult-racist underground. (57) If Fant finds this sort of scholarship too “critical,” he may prefer to consult the work of historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who can hardly be suspected of harboring a bias against Steiner. His respected book The Occult Roots of Nazism provides significant evidence on the mutual influence between early anthroposophists and early Nazis. (58) Similarly, the critical esotericists Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka, who are respectful toward Steiner, point out the “decisive influence” of the root-race doctrine on National Socialism. (59) Allow me to emphasize again: these are not the conclusions of “critics of anthroposophy,” but of fair-minded researchers who have carefully examined the historical record. To deny the ideological parallels between anthroposophy and National Socialism, particularly its esoteric and environmentalist variants, can only contribute to ignorance about fascism’s intellectual origins. (60)
I recognize that Fant’s expertise in the cultural history of the German right is limited, and I do not mean to dismiss his views as merely the product of insufficient familiarity with the relevant scholarship. I think that his perspective is, rather, the product of a widespread anthroposophist avoidance of uncomfortable historical facts. Much of what he has to say on the topic of anthroposophy and Nazism is a faithful repetition of the current accepted wisdom in anthroposophical circles. (61) He appears to have relied exclusively on a single source, Uwe Werner’s extended apologia for anthroposophist activities in the Third Reich, for all of his concrete assertions. But even Werner’s tendentious volume provides unambiguous evidence that directly contradicts Fant’s claims.
Fant writes, for example: “In 1922 the Nazis made an attempt to take [Steiner’s] life.” This claim is doubly untrue. The incident Fant refers to was not an assassination attempt, and the Nazis were not involved. But Fant need not take my word on the matter; he only needs to consult Werner’s book, which describes the incident thus: “On May 15, 1922, followers of Ludendorff planned to disrupt a lecture by Steiner in the Munich hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and provoke a melee. But Munich anthroposophists became aware of the plans beforehand and were able to react. Steiner was able to finish his lecture, and only afterwards was there a physical confrontation, in which the anthroposophists prevailed.” (62) The Ludendorffers were not Nazis (63), and a disrupted lecture is a far cry from attempted murder. (64)
Fant further contends that Werner’s book “shows that the absolute majority of anthroposophists radically opposed Nazism,” and that those who believed in “a combination of Nazism and anthroposophy” were “an utterly small number.” Werner’s book contains ample evidence to the contrary. It lists a range of individuals who were both active anthroposophists and members of the Nazi party and related Nazi organizations, and describes frequent instances of voluntary collusion with and ardent support for the Nazi regime. (65) Fant also claims that anthroposophist leaders who “compromised” with Nazi authorities “were ostracized by their colleagues after the war.” Werner’s book refutes this claim as well, noting that the most notorious of these figures continued to be actively involved in anthroposophist institutions, particularly the Waldorf movement, for decades after the war. Indeed Werner states outright that post-war anthroposophists, both internally and publicly, “consciously refused to revive controversies about the behavior of some anthroposophists during the Nazi period.” (66)
So much for Fant’s reliance on his fellow anthroposophist Werner. For some reason Fant accuses me of having “read Werner utterly selectively”; judging from his own arguments, Fant appears not to have read the book at all. This troubling lack of attention to historical detail is coupled with an equally troubling lack of concern with the ethical issues involved. Fant thinks it is “too simple” to say that collaboration with the Nazis was wrong. He prefers to view the actions of pro-Nazi anthroposophists as a “survival strategy.” If this is the best Fant can say for his forebears, that under Hitler they devoted themselves solely to their own survival and that of their doctrine, then I can add nothing to his verdict. (67)
Fant is also skeptical of my argument that a section of the Nazi leadership harbored strong sympathies for anthroposophy. My brief mention of Rudolf Hess seems to have particularly aroused his ire. He writes: “To describe Hess as a ‘practicing anthroposophist’ is of course absurd. The sources show clearly that even if he encouraged biodynamic agriculture, he at the same time strongly rejected its anthroposophical background.” Once again, Fant’s own chosen source provides significant counter-evidence. Werner’s book reproduces a 1937 memo from Hess’s associate Lotar Eickhoff (who joined the Anthroposophical Society after the war) which explicitly states Hess’s conviction that biodynamic farming cannot be separated from its anthroposophist foundations: “The Deputy of the Führer [i.e. Hess] is of the opinion that if one wants to preserve one aspect – like biodynamic agriculture – one cannot in any way separate it from its scientific basis and its scientific reinforcements, that is, from the work set down in Rudolf Steiner’s books and the Rudolf Steiner schools.” (68) Since Hess’s vigorous efforts on behalf of biodynamic agriculture are not in dispute, Fant’s conclusion that Hess nevertheless “strongly rejected its anthroposophical background” remains unsupported.
Fant’s view that Hess was not an anthroposophist himself, however, is one that I have come to share since the original exchange with Fant. I now think that Fant was right and that I was wrong on this question. The matter is worth examining in detail. At the time of the original exchange, I held that Rudolf Hess clearly fulfilled the criteria of a practicing anthroposophist, according to any but the narrowest definition. To support this contention, I noted the following points: Hess’s parents reportedly belonged to the anthroposophist Christian Community. (69) He structured intimate aspects of his personal life, including his diet and health care, around anthroposophist beliefs. (70) He told the British doctor who examined him after his flight to Scotland “that he had for years been interested in Steiner’s anthroposophy.” (71) Reports from the German intelligence services described Hess as a “silent patron and follower of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner.” (72) Above all, Hess consistently used his public position to promote anthroposophist endeavors, as detailed at length in Werner’s book. A remarkable range of scholars have explicitly confirmed Hess’s anthroposophist inclinations. (73)
My current view is that these factors indicate considerable sympathy on Hess’s part toward anthroposophy, and a more than passing personal interest in and active engagement with anthroposophical practices. Nevertheless, I now think that Hess’s personal preoccupations within the broad spectrum of occult beliefs and practices were inconsistent and incoherent to such a degree that there is little sense in affirmatively associating him with one particular esoteric tradition. (74) Hess’s dedication to biodynamic agriculture, on the other hand, was both enthusiastic and enduring. Several high-level members of his staff, moreover, had significant personal connections with anthroposophy. Hess himself is perhaps better viewed as more or less indiscriminately susceptible to the full range of Lebensreform, occultist, and völkisch predilections, which is exactly why he found biodynamics, Waldorf, and anthroposophy so congenial. Quite apart from whatever personal stake they may believe they have in the matter, I think that anthroposophists today would do well to acquaint themselves with the historical research on Hess and his decidedly sympathetic attitude toward anthroposophy. (75)
Overall, however, Fant has almost entirely avoided the primary subject of my article, and he thus simply ignores the record of anthroposophist collusion with both National Socialism and Italian Fascism. I think our exchange would have been more productive if Fant had addressed this central topic. It is scarcely one that concerns only “peripheral” figures within the anthroposophical movement. Aside from the Italian fascist anthroposophists I have mentioned above, from Martinoli to Calabrini to Scaligero and so forth, a remarkable variety of German anthroposophists were both active Nazis and well-known in anthroposophical circles. Ernst Harmstorf, for example, was an early and active participant in the anthroposophical movement, since the beginning of the 1920s (he took part in the famous “Christmas Conference” in 1923, for example), and became a prominent spokesman for anthroposophical medicine, particularly after 1945. Harmstorf joined both the Nazi party and the SA in 1933. Heimo Rau, meanwhile, was the son of anthroposophists, a Waldorf teacher from 1946 onward, and a respected anthroposophist after WWII. He was also a Nazi party member. Gotthold Hegele was a prominent anthroposophical physician after 1945. During his time as a medical student in the late 1930s, Hegele was a high-profile student leader and an active anthroposophist, as well as a Nazi student official and a member of the SA; in 1937-1938 Hegele was the head of the Office of Political Education of the National Socialist Student League in Tübingen. As with Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, and others, these figures are celebrated in standard anthroposophical reference works (which do not mention their Nazi affiliations), and are decidedly not peripheral to anthroposophists’ own self-portrait of their movement’s history. (76)
But there are many further examples. For instance, Max Babl was the head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Erfurt; he joined the Nazi party in 1933. Hermann Pöschel was the head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Plauen; he also joined the Nazi party in 1933. Otto Feyh was the head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Schweinfurt; he joined the Nazi party in 1940. Otto Thorwirth was head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Gotha; he remained a member of the Nazi party throughout the Third Reich. Hans Pohlmann was a longstanding anthroposophist who had known Steiner personally; he founded the second Waldorf school in Germany in 1922 and was head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in Hamburg and chairman of the local Waldorf school association. Pohlmann was also a Nazi party member. Hermann Mahle was a prominent Waldorf official in the 1930s and a member of the anthroposophical Christian Community. Mahle was also a Nazi party member, and headed the “National Socialist Parents Group” at the Stuttgart Waldorf school, which included 53 party members and 22 members of other Nazi organizations. Carl Grund was an anthroposophist since the 1920s and a prominent activist in the biodynamic movement. In the 1930s he worked as an official of the biodynamic farmers league and was one of the foremost spokesmen for biodynamic agriculture in Germany. Grund joined the Nazi party in May 1933 and joined the SA in November 1933. In 1942 he was made an SS officer, and was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer in 1943.
These are merely some of the more noteworthy examples. It is important to keep in mind that Nazi party membership alone is by no means the sole indication of active and enthusiastic participation in the Nazi movement. One of the more striking instances is the case of Georg Halbe. Halbe was a member of the Anthroposophical Society who did not join the Nazi party, as far as can be determined from the available documents. He was nevertheless a dedicated Nazi. From 1935 to 1942 Halbe belonged to Minister Darré’s staff in the Nazi agricultural apparatus, where he was particularly active in promoting biodynamic agriculture. His tasks included overseeing the “Blut und Boden” publishing house and helping produce the Nazi journal Odal, the chief mouthpiece for Darré’s blood and soil ideology. Halbe wrote extensively for other Nazi publications as well, including the Nationalsozialistische Landpost (National Socialist Rural Press), the journal Wille und Macht: Führerorgan der nationalsozialistischen Jugend (Will and Power, periodical of the Hitler Youth), and the SS journal Das schwarze Korps. After Darré fell from power in 1942, Halbe transferred to the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and then in March 1944 he moved to Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry, where he continued to work until the end of the war and the destruction of the Nazi state. It seems to me that anthroposophists today who do not harbor nostalgic sympathies for Nazism would be wise to acquaint themselves with this troubled history.
An honest historical reckoning of this sort still seems a long way off. One truly disconcerting example from Fant’s reply is his attempt to rehabilitate the SS functionary Franz Lippert as a “humanitarian.” I can only attribute this whitewash of Lippert’s activities at Dachau to a deeply misguided notion of “good Nazis.” Fant’s exclusive focus on the issue of Lippert’s personal behavior is profoundly wrongheaded in any case, as it ignores the much more significant fact that Lippert was a central figure in integrating anthroposophical principles of biodynamics into the criminal enterprises of the SS concentration camp system, but even just Fant’s arguments about Lippert’s individual behavior are historically uninformed and consequently distorted. Fant quotes several positive post-war reports about Lippert’s conduct in order to absolve him, but fails to place these reports into context. Fant also believes that Lippert was exonerated by “an allied de-Nazification commission.” This is a severe misunderstanding, and indicates unawareness both of the fundamental facts about Lippert’s specific case and of basic facts about post-1945 evaluations of Nazi collaborators overall. (77)
Lippert’s post-war hearing, which ended in acquittal in 1948, was not conducted by an Allied de-Nazification commission. It was instead part of the German civilian court system, the same system that produced thousands of acquittals and absolved an entire generation of Nazi officials and collaborators. (78) A thorough and perceptive study of this system is now available: historian Harold Marcuse’s book Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp (Cambridge 2001), the best single source on the post-war rehabilitation of Dachau guards and SS staff. I think Fant would do well to peruse chapter 3, “Good Nazis”, in particular. (79) The historical perspective provided by such studies is essential to understanding the salience of post-war claims that Lippert and other SS overseers had treated their prisoners kindly.
Marcuse describes the ways in which SS criminals were re-cast as “rescuers” after the war by the very same court system that acquitted Lippert (pp. 89-94, 104-5). He sharply contrasts these German civilian courts to the very different de-Nazification courts established and staffed by the allied authorities. The German civilian juries, known as “Spruchkammer,” routinely invoked the notion that SS officers who treated prisoners well were thereby less guilty, and on this basis these civilian juries on several occasions acquitted defendants who were complicit in multiple murders. Marcuse provides an extensive and thoughtful contrast of the two markedly different de-Nazification procedures on exactly this point: whereas the Allied-sponsored trials on the Nuremberg model explicitly rejected the notion that having treated prisoners kindly reduced the guilt of concentration camp officers, the German civilian courts embraced this notion wholeheartedly. In the appeals chamber that handled Lippert’s case, SS officers and other Nazi camp personnel got off very easily. According to Marcuse, “most of them were let off without so much as a verbal reprimand.” (p. 93) He continues: “by late 1947 the denazification program was no longer taken seriously […] the chambers began rubber-stamping the remaining cases, releasing thousands of the heavily suspect internees without hearings in early spring 1948.” Marcuse characterizes this as “the wholesale release of heavily compromised Nazi activists.” (p. 94) (80)
Marcuse’s thorough study of Dachau, Lippert’s own camp, is hardly the only useful source on the topic Fant chose to address. Consider the fine analysis by Karin Orth, “The Concentration Camp SS as a Functional Elite” in Ulrich Herbert, ed., National Socialist Extermination Policies (New York 2000), pp. 306-336. Orth examines the post-war trials of mid-level SS officers from various concentration camps, particularly those in Germany proper, mentioning Dachau specifically (p. 328). Orth perceptively describes “the nimbus of the “decent” and “correct” SS officer, which was sworn to in numerous court statements” (p. 328). She continues: “Many surviving inmate functionaries testified on behalf of the SS men in order to divert attention from their own involvement in the crimes of the SS.” (p. 328) According to Orth’s study, some former inmates “believed that a subjective sense of justice demanded they testify that the indicted commander […] was relatively “decent” and “correct” in his treatment of them and in comparison with their respective predecessors” (p. 328). Of the post-war trials of these SS officers from regular concentration camps, she writes: “only a fraction concluded with an official conviction.” (p. 329) This historical context is crucial to comprehending the case of Franz Lippert.
Fant’s admiration for Lippert is also difficult to reconcile with the historical evidence about conditions for the prisoners forced to work on Lippert’s biodynamic plantation. There is a wide variety of sources on this subject as well, many of them first-hand. While these sources do not tell us anything about Lippert’s personal comportment one way or the other, they do provide a broader perspective on the circumstances at the biodynamic plantation he oversaw. The official history of the Dachau concentration camp describes the plantation as a place “where so many thousands of prisoners labored in all weathers, and where a great many of them were shot or drowned in the ditches” – hardly a “humanitarian” enterprise. (81) Another thorough source describes the inmates as “slowly wasting away” on the plantation, and notes their high death rate. (82) Yet another historical analysis observes that “several hundred prisoners” died at the Dachau plantation. (83) Still another recalls the numerous prisoners who “labored and died under the supervision of brutal SS officers” at the plantation. (84)
Detailed and credible eyewitness testimony from former Dachau prisoners amply confirms this dire portrait of Lippert’s biodynamic plantation. One memoir by a former Dachau inmate offers a first-hand and quite harrowing account of work on the plantation. (85) Another memoir by a former inmate provides an even bleaker depiction of the plantation, noting that hundreds of prisoners “worked, suffered, and died” on the “fields of the notorious plantation”. (86) Yet another calls the plantation a “murder-pit” and “the terror of all the inmates.” (87) Such accounts are corroborated by further eyewitness testimony. A representative memoir by another former inmate states: “In Dachau the clergy were assigned to one of the hardest commandos, the plantation. Most of those who died in 1942/43 perished from the work methods that were required there.” (88) Similar conclusions are supported by ex post facto studies as well. (89)
This massive accumulation of evidence casts serious doubt on Fant’s version of events and on his defense of Lippert. But the very foundation of Fant’s stance regarding this matter is severely flawed. The desperate search for some sort of positive spin on this anthroposophist SS officer and concentration camp guard is all too revealing about anthroposophical attitudes toward their own compromised history during the Third Reich. Contrary to Fant’s depiction of him as a selfless protector of Nazism’s victims, Lippert was in fact personally committed to Nazism. He produced biodynamic pamphlets for the SS (90), and even his anthroposophist friends were taken aback by Lippert’s fervent devotion to the Hitler movement and its ideals. (91) Since anthroposophists are unable to point to a single figure from their ranks who actually joined the resistance to Hitler’s regime (92), they are reduced to pleading, a half-century after the liberation of the concentration camps, that at least the anthroposophist Lippert was nice to his prisoners. Soothing individual testimonies may salve the post-war anthroposophist conscience, but they cannot distract attention from the central fact that Lippert’s work was an integral part of the SS’s use of slave labor in promoting biodynamic agriculture. (93) Fant’s misjudgement of Lippert is a case study in anthroposophy’s evasion of its own history. (94)
Much of the rest of Fant’s reply to my article consists of un-confirmable assertions about the nature of Waldorf education and the role of various ethnic groups within contemporary anthroposophy. I do not consider myself competent to judge these claims, but they strike me as both irrelevant and implausible. (95) I must on the other hand agree with Fant that, compared to him, I have a “broad” definition of racism. Fant avers, for example, that “the word negro was quite neutral” in Steiner’s day. Racial terms are never neutral; when used in racist contexts, such as Steiner’s invective about blacks and other non-whites, they are terms of abuse and denigration. This is not a matter of “over-interpreting” Steiner’s unequivocal pronouncements, as Fant thinks, but of situating them within their historical and ideological context. While much of Steiner’s writing on racial themes is a re-working of standard occult cosmologies, there is no point in denying that he occasionally reverted to straightforward racism.
On a final sour note, Fant also repeats as fact the long discredited racist propaganda about “outrages of black soldiers against German women in the Ruhr.” Aside from mixing up the Rhine and Ruhr occupations (there were no colonial troops stationed in the Ruhr), Fant has been hoodwinked by an eighty-year-old misinformation campaign. (96) These rumors of “outrages” were not merely “exaggeratedly described,” as Fant would have it, they were an invention of German nationalist demagogues and were just as racist as the stories of similar “outrages” in the American South during the same period. (97) The patently spurious reports were already exposed in 1921 by German opponents of the racist propaganda (including feminists, socialists, and others), as well as by anti-racist journalists in other countries who simultaneously opposed the occupation. (98) The reports were investigated thoroughly by the Allied authorities at the time and explicitly and unequivocally repudiated. (99) If it is true, as Fant suggests, that such primitive German nationalist propaganda was the source for Steiner’s unconscionable statements about French colonial troops, it would scarcely mitigate Steiner’s racism. The most infamous of these propaganda pamphlets begins by decrying “the defilement of the white woman as such” and claims that “young girls have been dragged from the street in order to satisfy the bestial lust of African savages.” The pamphlet appeals to “women and men of the white race” to protest this “deepest disgrace that can befall a white woman.” It describes the colonial troops as “colored barbarians” with “animalistic instincts,” “blacks from the Ivory Coast of Africa whose language no-one can understand, who have barely learned a few scraps of French, savages from darkest Africa . . .” (100) This is the sort of thing that Rudolf Steiner evidently took at face value. It is doubly disconcerting that his followers continue to do so today. (101)
This last misstep on Fant’s part encapsulates our entire exchange. Innocent of any historical perspective on the events he describes, Fant is susceptible to the comforting myths propagated by his fellow anthroposophists. From his credulous point of view, a skeptical approach like mine appears as a frontal assault on anthroposophy as a whole. Yet my article was not an attack on anthroposophy in general, but an inquiry into the sinister side of its political consequences. The same historical arguments that I have put forward about the relationship between anthroposophy and ecofascism could just as well be advanced from a standpoint sympathetic to Steiner. Anthroposophy can, after all, be viewed as an attempt to bridge occultism and rationalism, the esoteric and the practical, mysticism and humanism. This attempt failed in interwar Germany because it ignored its own political context, and was consequently drawn into the orbit of mass barbarism. From this perspective, anthroposophy’s equivocal history during the fascist era is an object lesson in the perils of spiritualized politics. Its latter-day practitioners would do well to heed this lesson. (102)
For now, however, the lesson remains unlearned. In historical terms, anthroposophy is a relatively young body of ideas, one that still jealously guards its cherished self-understanding as an esoteric doctrine. If anthroposophy is to continue developing as a worldview and as a movement, then its practitioners will at some point inevitably have to engage in substantial re-interpretation of its founding texts. Once this process gets underway, anthroposophists will at last begin more or less systematically to filter out and neutralize the racism in Steiner’s works, in the same way that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and others have attempted to re-interpret and defang the various narratives of divinely sanctioned ethnocentric violence that mar so many sacred scriptures. But anthroposophy has not yet reached this point; it is still in the stage of denial, of self-absorption, of circling the wagons against external scrutiny. This may be inevitable for esoteric doctrines; perhaps the transition to a mature, responsible engagement with anthroposophy’s origins can only take place once the esoteric gives way to the exoteric. In any case, anthroposophists who sincerely oppose racism would be well advised to lift their heads out of the sand and start wrestling with the less pleasant aspects of Steiner’s work.
Göran Fant is so taken with “the great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s teachings that he has allowed his critical faculties to be incapacitated. For him, criticism of Steiner or of anthroposophy is simply a “smear campaign.” His unwillingness to come to terms with anthroposophy’s ambivalent legacy is typical of far too many contemporary anthroposophists. Indeed this defensive and evasive attitude seems to be most common among relatively liberal anthroposophists. There are many readily available sources that describe and analyze anthroposophy’s reactionary heritage; progressive anthroposophists have no excuse for continuing to ignore them. Fant’s reply exemplifies not so much the denial of history as the avoidance of history, the refusal to engage with a compromised past in a dignified and honest way. Until anthroposophists overcome this self-exculpatory abdication of moral responsibility, their claims to represent an enlightened and tolerant doctrine will remain insincere.
Postscript on Waldorf Education:
In view of the many intensely aggravated anthroposophist responses to my research, and in consideration of Göran Fant’s own position as a Waldorf teacher, it may be best to reiterate that I am not primarily a critic of Waldorf education as such, but a critical historian of the anthroposophical movement. My skepticism toward Waldorf stems largely from the unreflected negative elements within anthroposophy’s past and present. Since I am, however, an active supporter of and sometime participant in the alternative education movement, a number of readers have asked for my perspective on Waldorf schooling today. While my focus is on anthroposophy and Waldorf during the first half of the previous century, and particularly during the Third Reich, rather than on current trends, and while I am not especially familiar with the internal workings of Waldorf schools today, I do share a range of misgivings regarding Waldorf pedagogy. My concerns may be summarized as follows:
Much of the original Waldorf movement in Germany before 1945 flatly rejected, and in some cases openly ridiculed, a variety of central alternative pedagogical principles, such as: small class sizes and concomitant ample individual attention; an emphasis on the unique and changing character of each pupil as an individual; encouragement of critical skills and independent thinking; an international orientation; a focus on the self-actualizing and self-directed unfolding of each child’s individual potential; teaching that is child-centered rather than teacher-centered; democratic organization of curriculum, classroom practice, school structure, and so forth. The original Waldorf movement often defined itself against such alternative approaches to education, dismissing these approaches as un-German, spiritually unsound, and as decadent and damaging instances of “international reform pedagogy.”
According to the original Waldorf model, children are incompletely incarnated beings whose process of incarnation must be overseen by anthroposophically trained teachers. Waldorf pedagogy as established by Steiner is explicitly teacher centered, not child-centered, and the teacher is to have an expressly authoritarian role within the classroom. Children’s critical faculties are frowned upon and discouraged. Early Waldorf leaders also vehemently denounced individualism, calling it un-German and corrosive of authentic spirituality. The original Waldorf approach holds that every child is to be slotted into one of four temperaments, and that every child progresses through the same static stages of personal evolution based on Steiner’s occult theories, and that these stages and temperaments are marked by physiological characteristics, just as the level of spiritual development of every soul is marked by the ostensible racial and ethnic characteristics of the body it occupies. These doctrines and practices are central to Waldorf as it was originally conceived and implemented.
Such assumptions are, in my view, at odds not only with significant components of alternative education, but with virtually any responsible pedagogical approach. Along with authoritarian and developmentally inappropriate teaching methods, Waldorf class sizes are also a serious concern; the normal class size at the original Waldorf school in Stuttgart during Steiner’s lifetime was approximately 40 pupils, with some classes as high as 120 pupils, and in 1951 the average class size was over 50 pupils. These figures are not only sharply contrary to the basic orientation of the alternative education movement, they are significantly larger than in many other schools, public or private, both in North America and in Europe.
Waldorf’s peculiar pedagogical preoccupations sometimes extend well beyond such mundane matters, however. Consider, for example, the classical Waldorf response to left-handed children. In his conferences with the original Waldorf faculty, Steiner emphasized that left-handedness is unacceptable in Waldorf classrooms. Readers skeptical of this claim need merely consult the published conferences themselves, readily available in book form as Rudolf Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule in Stuttgart; the series is available in English under the title Faculty Meetings with Rudolf Steiner. In the conference of May 25, 1923, for instance, Steiner declared left-handedness to be a “karmic weakness” (Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule vol. 3, p. 58; see also vol. 2, p. 92 – the conference of May 10, 1922 – on the anthroposophical view of left-handedness in conjunction with temperament). In the conference of December 18, 1923, a teacher reported to Steiner that a certain pupil in the 7th grade wrote better with her left hand than with her right hand, and Steiner responded that the pupil must be told she may only write with her right hand (Steiner, Konferenzen mit den Lehrern der Freien Waldorfschule vol. 3, pp. 109-110; interested readers may also consult Rudolf Steiner, Die Erneuerung der pädagogisch-didaktischen Kunst durch Geisteswissenschaft, pp. 199-200). This coercive practice is inimical to a free and holistic education, which Waldorf claims to represent. Some latter-day Waldorf practitioners nonetheless continue to defend the practice.
A number of Waldorf schools today, in Germany and elsewhere, have modified several of these questionable features, and there is undoubtedly a wide spectrum of current Waldorf practices, with some schools hewing to a relatively orthodox heritage while others choose more freely from the broad palette of Steiner’s teachings. Some schools, at least, appear to have gone through a more or less deliberate process of deciding what to retain and what to discard from the array of traditional Waldorf precepts. Many of the features outlined above, however, are for better or worse a large part of what makes Waldorf distinctive among the various approaches to education represented today, alternative or otherwise. It seems to me that it would be sensible for those who wish to defend the positive aspects of Waldorf to take some notice of these problematic features, at the very least, and try to take these features into account when discussing Waldorf education as a whole.
Similar issues arise regarding a range of other characteristic Waldorf phenomena. While these particular questions may or may not apply at specific Waldorf schools, they remain typical components of the overall Waldorf approach. For example, a number of European Waldorf schools reject soccer and sex education on anthroposophical grounds, while some North American Waldorf schools reject black crayons. Many Waldorf teacher training programs are based on the notion of Waldorf teaching as a karmic mission. German Waldorf schools currently have an extraordinarily small percentage of ‘foreign’ and non-white students, in sharp contrast to public schools in Germany today. Such matters merit the attention of those who care about the viability, accessibility, and integrity of non-mainstream educational initiatives.
Perhaps the most serious concern raised by critics of Waldorf schooling today (many of them experienced Waldorf veterans) is that Waldorf schools are consistently evasive about the anthroposophical underpinnings of their pedagogy. Waldorf schools in general frequently downplay, deny, or obscure their anthroposophical origins, while providing prospective parents with uninformative and inaccurate depictions of anthroposophy. To an extent, this is an understandable reaction on the part of teachers, administrators, and admirers of a publicly visible institution that is based firmly on an esoteric worldview; the uneasy relationship between occult initiation and public outreach continues to bedevil the anthroposophist movement, whether in Waldorf contexts or biodynamic contexts or otherwise. Such factors may contribute to the unusually high rates of attrition and turnover at many Waldorf schools. The spiritual and/or religious character of anthroposophical beliefs also presents difficult legal issues for some Waldorf schools that depend on or desire public funding. Nonetheless, in secular societies it is particularly important for esoteric movements, paradoxical as this may seem on first glance, to be as straightforward as possible in openly proclaiming their wider aims and views, and to make their basic tenets readily available for external scrutiny. This is especially the case when the education of children is at stake.
An additional serious concern regarding Waldorf schooling is the possible role of anthroposophical teachings on race and ethnicity within Waldorf classrooms. On this score, there is conflicting evidence from Waldorf schools in different countries, and many Waldorf teachers and advocates appear to be simply unaware of Steiner’s racial teachings. This ignorance is at best a double-edged sword, and leaves the underlying problem unaddressed. Unfortunately, attempts at public discussion of this question frequently reveal an unsettling level of complacency toward racial thinking as such, and a lack of knowledge about what racism is and how it functions both historically and today, among enthusiasts and promoters of Waldorf education. The very issue of whether and to what extent the ongoing consequences of racial ideology continue to operate within Waldorf classrooms thus remains difficult to discuss, much less resolve.
Moreover, in many cases defenders of Waldorf – when they address the matter at all – insist that even if such instances occur, they do not indicate any sinister intentions on the part of Waldorf teachers or Waldorf thinkers. This response displays a distressingly naïve understanding of racism. Many forms of racist belief are not intentionally sinister, but are instead embedded in high-minded, benevolent, and compassionate orientations toward the world. It is this type of racist thought, whose historical heritage extends through the White Man’s Burden and many forms of paternalistic racial ideology, that may find a welcome home in some Waldorf schools and other anthroposophical contexts, where it can perpetuate its ideas about race under the banner of spiritual growth and wisdom. This kind of racist thinking spreads more readily precisely because it is not tied to consciously sinister intentions. Seeing through this kind of racism – which, furthermore, often has more widespread and more insidious effects on the real lives of real people than the intentionally sinister variety does – means paying attention to the background beliefs that animate a project like Waldorf, whether among its founding generation or today.
It is, alas, by no means historically unusual to find would-be do-gooders turning into evil-doers, and in the process inspiring a substantial public following, by failing to examine the foundational concepts behind their particular project, harmless as it may initially appear. The history of the Waldorf movement before 1945 presents a microcosm of this complicated process. Waldorf began with sincerely good intentions, and within less than a decade and a half after its inception the Waldorf movement found itself entangled in Nazism, with some Waldorf leaders offering enthusiastic endorsements of various aspects of the Nazi program. Reflecting on this history can help us better understand how good intentions, when wrapped around an unacknowledged and unexamined core of racial and ethnic values, can get swept up into something their founders and promoters did not envision and did not want.
Without dwelling on the details, it is important to recall that prominent anthroposophists and Waldorf spokespeople openly condemned the Weimar republic and endorsed the Third Reich. The fragile democratic system of the Weimar era was established by the opponents of Nazism and represented everything that the Nazis loathed. Several key founders of Waldorf were decidedly hostile to Weimar democracy, and some of them viewed democracy itself as an un-German aberration inflicted on Germany by its enemies. During the interwar period, many Waldorf leaders distrusted democracy and sympathized with national and authoritarian alternatives. The noticeable trend among early Waldorf activists and anthroposophists to denigrate the fledgling democracy in Weimar Germany does not stand out as one of Waldorf’s shining moments, and is particularly striking when viewed alongside the enthusiastic and publicly expressed support for the Nazi regime, over a remarkably long period, by significant elements within the Waldorf movement and the anthroposophical leadership.
For many Waldorf adherents, however, raising such issues even in a carefully contextualized and nuanced manner provokes extraordinary defensiveness; they evidently believe that historians who address such matters are simply fishing for scandal. This attitude is essentially the opposite of my own approach. In my view, neither historians nor anybody else should look to the past to find scandalous subjects in the first place. We ought to be looking instead for historically important themes that are relevant to the concerns of today. By that standard, the Waldorf movement’s history during the Third Reich deserves a good deal more attention than it currently receives, not less, and a good deal more informed and careful and critical attention as well.
It seems to me that this should be clear even to readers who have little specific interest in Waldorf but have a basic sense of twentieth century history. The Waldorf movement and the Nazi movement were almost exactly contemporaneous; they arose at the same time in the same place and with significant cultural and ideological overlap, and occasionally personal overlap as well. The same is true of other aspects of anthroposophy, from the biodynamic movement to the Christian Community. The details of these conflicted interrelationships are complex and sometimes contradictory. Regrettably, this complexity is not reflected in public presentations by today’s Waldorf representatives, and this does a conspicuous disservice to prospective Waldorf clients.
To readers who are supporters of Waldorf, or involved in Waldorf projects in some way, it may be important to say, explicitly and concisely, that the history of your movement under the Nazi regime is complicated and ambivalent, and is not in my view something that you or other Waldorf participants need to feel personally ashamed about. It is, however, something that you would do well to educate yourselves and your colleagues about. As matters stand currently, that will mean taking a skeptical view of the usual Waldorf claims about that historical period, and looking to non-Waldorf and non-anthroposophical sources for more thorough accounts of this part of Waldorf’s past.
I would be pleased if my research provided an opportunity for Waldorf admirers to ponder this contentious history and take its lessons seriously. What is worrisome about the
Waldorf movement’s continued failure to address anthroposophy’s racial legacy is not that Waldorf schools in the twenty-first century will start churning out little Hitler youths; what is worrisome is that Waldorf advocates and sympathizers may unknowingly help prepare the ideological groundwork for another unforeseen shift in the broader cultural terrain, in which notions of racial and ethnic superiority and inferiority could once again take on a spiritual significance that lends itself all too easily to practical implementation in a changed social and political context. For this reason among others, I strongly encourage those involved in Waldorf endeavors to take another look at the history of their movement and the doctrines at its core.
1. Swedish anthroposophist Göran Fant’s essay “The Art of Turning White into Black,” a reply to my article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” can be found here: http://hem.passagen.se/thebee/comments/PS/Fant1-eng.htm This exchange originally appeared in 2001. I revised the text of both “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” and the present article in 2007.
2. Fant raises a number of issues that I cannot address here for reasons of space. A more thorough discussion of some of these issues may be found in Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers, “Anthroposophy and Its Defenders,” as well as Zegers and Staudenmaier, “The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.” For an extremely thorough historical contextualization of anthroposophy, I highly recommend Helmut Zander’s comprehensive study Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884 – 1945 (Göttingen 2007).
3. “People who listen to the great leaders of humankind, and protect their soul with its eternal essence, reincarnate in an advanced race. But he who ignores the great teacher, who rejects the great leader of humankind, will always reincarnate in the same race [. . .] Thus people have the opportunity either to reject the leader of humankind and become caught up in the being of a single incarnation, or to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection.” (Steiner, Das Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, GA 102, p. 174) Steiner preached the same message of spiritual submission on more than one occasion: “We know, after all, that each person proceeds further on the course of the earth mission by following the great leaders of humankind, who decree the goals of humankind.” (Die Apokalypse des Johannes, GA 104, p. 90)
4. Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? (GA 10) pp. 21 and 46; and Aus der Akasha-Chronik (GA 11) p. 3. The first book is published in English under the title Knowledge of Higher Worlds, the second under the title Cosmic Memory. Here is an excerpt from the former book: “Our civilization tends more toward critique, judgement, and assessment, and less toward devotion, toward reverent veneration. Even our children criticize much more than they devotedly revere. But all criticism, all passing of judgement repels the powers of the soul to attain higher knowledge, just as devotional reverence develops these powers.” (GA 10 p. 21) Steiner already rejected criticism in his very first book; see Steiner, A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception, New York 1978, 6. For a thoughtful analysis of the authoritarian elements in Steiner’s approach to occult knowledge see Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland pp. 608-612; throughout his book, Zander emphasizes Steiner’s authoritarian orientation.
5. For background on occult approaches to knowledge see among others Wouter Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Leiden: Brill, 1996), and Olav Hammer, Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age (Leiden 2001). For historical overviews see Kocku von Stuckrad, Western Esotericism: A Brief History of Secret Knowledge (London 2005); Corinna Treitel, A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern (Baltimore 2004); and Wouter Hanegraaff et al., Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism (Leiden 2005).
6. Hansson, “Is Anthroposophy Science?” Conceptus XXV no. 64 (1991), p. 37. One of the earliest observers of the anthroposophist movement noted already in 1921 that “the followers of ‘anthroposophically oriented spiritual science’ swear by the teachings of their lord and master with blind fanaticism.” (Siegfried Kracauer, Aufsätze 1915-1926, Frankfurt 1990, p. 113) For first-hand confirmation of this observation see the remarkably similar 1908 comments by theosophist and later anthroposophist Ludwig Deinhard in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte, Göttingen 1993, p. 42.
7. This does not by any means indicate that anthroposophists are a monolithic group; they are on the contrary a notably fractious bunch, like the broader theosophical milieu overall. There are as many interpretations of anthroposophy as there are anthroposophists. Indeed anthroposophists sometimes can’t seem to agree on anything except denial of Steiner’s racism.
8. The seeds of Steiner’s elitist perspective, including the conception of a small group of “free spirits” acting as authorities whom others follow, can already be discerned in his early work The Philosophy of Freedom.
9. Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, New York 1922, p. 183.
10. ibid. p. xxxii.
11. Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten? pp. 209-210. Here is how the passage appears in the authorized English translation: “For peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation. Man must finally appear in harmonious perfection.” Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, New York 1961, p. 252. Terms like “higher racial forms” occur throughout Steiner’s writings, always linked to higher spiritual forms. This elitist racial scheme has frequently been adopted wholesale by later anthroposophists. A.P Shepherd, for example, writes that humankind has been “differentiated into races, at different cultural and moral levels.” (Shepherd, A Scientist of the Invisible. An Introduction to the Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner, London 1954, p. 103)
12. Perry Myers, The double-edged Sword: The cult of Bildung, its downfall and reconstitution in fin-de-siècle Germany (Rudolf Steiner and Max Weber), Oxford 2004, p. 97.
13. Wolfram Groddeck, Eine Wegleitung durch die Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Dornach 1979, p. 16.
14. Steiner, Mein Lebensgang, Dornach 1925, p. 301.
15. For further detailed statements of Steiner’s racial doctrines see for example Steiner, “Die Grundbegriffe der Theosophie: Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie; Steiner, “Farbe und Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; Steiner, “The Manifestation of the Ego in the Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future Evolution; Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John; Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik; Steiner, The Occult Significance of Blood; Steiner, Menschengeschichte im Lichte der Geistesforschung, 480-87; Steiner, Die okkulten Wahrheiten alter Mythen und Sagen, 37-39; Steiner, Kosmogonie, 246-48; Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung und Christus-Erkenntnis, 244-246; Steiner, Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Stunden, 115-116, 124-125, 169-170, 217-221; Steiner, At the Gates of Spiritual Science, 65-74, 96-103; Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 2005. It is difficult to credit Fant’s suggestion that all of these texts, and the dozens of others like them, published with the official anthroposophist imprimatur, are merely “falsified statements”.
16. A number of scholarly analyses of anthroposophical racial doctrine are readily available to interested readers. See above all Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht, Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen Bewegung’ 1871-1918, Munich 1996; Zander, “Anthroposophische Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht, Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne, Würzburg 2001; Georg Schmid, “Die Anthroposophie und die Rassenlehre Rudolf Steiners zwischen Universalismus, Eurozentrik und Germanophilie” in Joachim Müller, Anthroposophie und Christentum: Eine kritisch-konstruktive Auseinandersetzung, Freiburg 1995; Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions vol. 11 no. 3 (2008), pp. 4-36.
17. Anthroposophie und die Frage der Rassen, Frankfurt 2000, p. 132. Fant’s repeated reliance on this dissembling Dutch document is unfortunate; the commission’s work is little more than a whitewash, an elaborate exercise in hypocrisy. Only readers unacquainted with Steiner’s writings could be taken in by its comforting message. The fact that this report has gained the endorsement of a talented and respected historian like Jörn Rüsen indicates the powerfully disorienting effect of Steiner’s charisma on otherwise sober and informed minds. For a thorough review of the Dutch report, see Peter Zegers and Peter Staudenmaier, “The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.”
18. The only difference between Rosenberg’s version and Steiner’s is the absence of the “Egyptian-Chaldeans.” Rosenberg’s racial writings also refer to Ahriman, the Fenris Wolf, and other figures prominent in Steiner’s texts. See Alfred Rosenberg, Race and Race History, New York 1970, especially pp. 42-84.
19. See Gobineau: Selected Political Writings, New York 1970, pp. 142-3.
20. There is a very large literature on the topic; for a variety of viewpoints see Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge 1992); Thomas Trautmann, Aryans and British India (Berkeley 1997); Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (New York 2002); Vasant Kaiwar, “The Aryan Model of History and the Oriental Renaissance” in Vasant Kaiwar and Sucheta Mazumdar, eds., Antinomies of Modernity: Essays on Race, Orient, Nation (Durham 2003); Romila Thapar, “The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History and Politics” Social Scientist 24 (1996), 3-29; John V. Day, “The Concept of the Aryan Race in Nineteenth-Century Scholarship” Orpheus: Journal of Indo-European and Thracian Studies 4 (1994), 15-48; Peter van der Veer, “Aryan Origins” in van der Veer, Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain (Princeton 2001), 134-157; Dorothy Figueira, Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity (Albany 2003); Madhav Deshpande, “Aryan Origins: Brief History of Linguistic Arguments” in Romila Thapar, ed., India: Historical Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan (New Delhi 2005), 98-156; Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, “South Asian Archaeology and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions” in Edwin Bryant and Laurie Patton, eds., The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History (New York 2005), 75-104; George Hersey, “Aryanism in Victorian England” Yale Review 66 (1976), 104-113; Hans Hock, “Philology and the Historical Interpretation of the Vedic Texts” in Bryant and Patton, eds., The Indo-Aryan Controversy, 282-308; Thomas Trautmann, “Constructing the Racial Theory of Indian Civilization” in Trautmann, ed., The Aryan Debate (Oxford 2005), 84-105; Romila Thapar, “Some Appropriations of the Theory of Aryan Race Relating to the Beginnings of Indian History” in Trautmann, ed., The Aryan Debate, 106-128; Edwin Bryant, “Myths of Origin: Europe and the Aryan Homeland Quest” in Bryant, The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture (Oxford 2001), 13-45; J. P. Mallory, “Epilogue: The Aryan Myth” in Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans (London 1989), 266-72; Neil Macmaster, Racism in Europe 1870-2000 (New York 2001); Ruth Römer, Sprachwissenschaft und Rassenideologie in Deutschland (Munich 1989); Peter Becker, Wege ins Dritte Reich: Sozialdarwinismus, Rassismus, Antisemitismus und völkischer Gedanke (Stuttgart 1988); Patrik von zur Mühlen, Rassenideologien: Geschichte und Hintergründe (Bonn 1979); Peter Robb, ed., The Concept of Race in South Asia (Oxford 1995).
21. For more of the substantial research on the history of the Aryan myth, and its theosophical inflections in particular, see Joan Leopold, “The Aryan Theory of Race”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Vol. 7 (1970), 271-297; Joan Leopold, “British Applications of the Aryan Theory of Race to India, 1850-1870” English Historical Review 89 (1974), 578-603; Peter Pels, “Occult Truths: Race, Conjecture, and Theosophy in Victorian Anthropology” in Richard Handler ed., Excluded Ancestors, Inventible Traditions (Madison 2000), 11-41; Gauri Viswanathan, “Conversion, Theosophy, and Race Theory” in Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (Princeton 1998), 177-207; Carla Risseuw, “Thinking Culture Through Counter-culture: The Case of Theosophists in India and Ceylon and their Ideas on Race and Hierarchy (1875-1947)” in Antony Copley, ed., Gurus and Their Followers: New Religious Reform Movements in Colonial India (Oxford 2000), 180-205; George Mosse, “The Occult Origins of National Socialism” in Mosse, The Fascist Revolution (New York 1999); Jeffrey Goldstein, “On Racism and Anti-Semitism in Occultism and Nazism,” Yad Vashem Studies 13 (1979), 53-72; Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles, “Hitler’s Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources,” Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual 3 (1986), 227-246; Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism (New York 1992); Stefan Arvidsson, “Aryan Mythology As Science and Ideology,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67, no. 2 (1999): 327-54; Romila Thapar, “The Historiography of the Concept of ‘Aryan’” in Thapar, ed., India: Historical Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan, 1-40; Bruce Lincoln, Theorizing Myth (Chicago 1999), 76-95; Colin Kidd, “The Aryan Moment: Racialising Religion in the Nineteenth Century” in Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 (Cambridge 2006), 168-202 and 237-246; Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth (New York 1974); Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science (Chicago 2006). Oddly, Fant himself invokes the latter book, apparently believing it absolves his own historical blind spots.
22. Fant appears to be genuinely unaware of the lengthy legacy of paternalistic racism, as if the ideologies of the White Man’s Burden and the Civilizing Mission had never existed. He also believes that different peoples have “different folk souls,” another bit of racial mystification promoted by anthroposophists.
23. Important background on this question is available in Jill Roe’s study Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia 1879-1939 (New South Wales University Press, 1986).
24. Risseuw, “Thinking Culture Through Counter-culture,” 186.
25. Roland Vernon, Star in the East: Krishnamurti – The Invention of a Messiah (Palgrave 2001), 86.
26. 1911 letter from Wagner quoted in Klatt, Theosophie und Anthroposophie, 102. In 1910, one of the founders of the Italian anthroposophical movement, Giovanni Colazza, similarly emphasized the importance of racial differences in distinguishing Western from Eastern forms of esotericism: “The desire to exclusively apply Indian methods in our time and to our race, means not taking into account the fact that evolution has considerably modified the potential of our organism, nor taking into account the new spiritual currents that have been introduced into the world.” (Colazza quoted in Michele Beraldo, “Il movimento antroposofico italiano durante il regime fascista” Dimensioni e problemi della ricerca storica 2002, p. 147) These distinctive features of “our race” and “our organism” were a decisive aspect of the supposed superiority of Europeans over Indians; from an anthroposophical perspective, “the peoples of the West represent an advance over the peoples of the Orient and must therefore follow a more elevated spiritual path.” (Carlo Paes, “Cronaca di Teosofia” Rassegna Contemporanea April 1912, p. 147)
27. In Life Between Death and Rebirth (1913) Steiner declared: “Consider Hinduism. Only those belonging to the Hindu race can be adherents of it.” He went on to say: “The best thing would be for Christians to teach Hinduism to the Hindus and then attempt to take Hinduism a stage further so that the Hindu could gain a point of contact with the general stream of evolution. We understand Christianity only if we look upon each individual as a Christian in the depth of his heart.” In Steiner’s view, ostensibly obsolete forms of spirituality such as Hinduism and Judaism were mere ‘ethnic religions’ that fell far short of the universal message of anthroposophy.
28. Steiner, Aus den Inhalten der esoterischen Schulen, Dornach 1995, pp. 221 and 227.
29. Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte, Dornach 1971, p. 126.
30. Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte, pp. 130 and 132. Steiner continued: “It is an example of decadence in the West, of abandonment of all the good spirits of European humankind, that there are many people today who seek to shore up their European spiritual life by absorbing the Oriental essence.” (137)
31. Steiner, Gedankenfreiheit und soziale Kräfte, pp. 141-42.
32. Steiner, “Die Völker der Erde im Lichte der Geisteswissenschaft” Die Drei December 1925, 652.
33. Steiner, “On the Reality of Higher Worlds.” For further examples of Steiner’s negative assessment of Asian spiritual traditions in European contexts see among others Steiner, Luzifer-Gnosis, 370-71; Steiner, Grundelemente der Esoterik, 108-115; Steiner, Westliche und östliche Weltgegensätzlichkeit, 226-39; Steiner, Christus und die menschliche Seele, 98-99; Steiner, Earthly and Cosmic Man; Steiner, Cosmology, Religion and Philosophy; Steiner, At the Gates of Spiritual Science; Steiner, “The Ancient Yoga Culture” in Steiner, The Mission of the Archangel Michael; and Marie Steiner’s Introduction to Universe, Earth and Man.
34. The classic case of Italian Fascism alone reveals quite a few notable examples. The foremost anthroposophist in early twentieth century Italy was Giovanni Antonia Colonna di Cesarò. Far from remaining “apolitical,” Colonna di Cesarò, a mystically inclined nationalist aristocrat, became a minister in Mussolini’s first cabinet, serving from 1922 to 1924, before turning against the Duce. The co-founder and Secretary General of the Italian Anthroposophical Society, Ettore Martinoli, was a militant Fascist throughout the entire Fascist era, and was particularly instrumental in helping administer the antisemitic campaign from 1938 onward. The Secretary of the Italian Group for Anthroposophical Studies, Luigi Calabrini, also belonged to the Fascist party, which he joined in May 1921, a year and a half before Mussolini came to power. The most prominent anthroposophist publicist in Italy in the 1930s and 1940s, Rinaldo Küfferle, was another outspoken fascist. And the best-known post-war Italian anthroposophist, Massimo Scaligero, was a major spokesman for “spiritual racism” within the fascist movement in the late 1930s and early 1940s, remaining active in neo-fascist politics after 1945 as well. The most recent anthroposophist on the Italian far right, finally, is Enzo Erra (see above all his hagiographic 2006 book Steiner e Scaligero), who was a youthful blackshirt in the last-ditch ultrafascist Italian Social Republic of 1943-45, and subsequently played a leading role within neo-fascist circles for decades. Latter-day anthroposophists like Fant, who would prefer to view fascism as anathema to everything anthroposophy stands for, might devote a bit more effort to contemplating this uncomfortable history soberly and taking its implications seriously.
35. Most of these works were available at the time of my original exchange with Fant; those that have subsequently appeared amply confirm the point. Consider merely the last work cited, by Ingolf Christiansen, Rainer Fromm and Hartmut Zinser, Brennpunkt Esoterik (Hamburg 2006). Section 3 of the book, titled “Rechtsradikalismus in der Esoterik” and authored by Fromm (pp. 149-235), analyzes right-wing radicalism in the contemporary esoteric scene in Germany. The chapter on the root-race theory is, aside from the discussion of Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine as the original source of the theory, almost entirely focused on anthroposophical works – all three of Fromm’s chief examples of this form of esoteric influence on the far right are anthroposophists. I very much encourage readers sympathetic toward Fant’s position to consult studies such as these. For further context, I highly recommend Herman de Tollenaere, The Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and Labour, National, and Women’s Movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947 (Nijmegen 1996). Already in 1995, Fant’s fellow anthroposophist Arfst Wagner noted the strong far-right current within the anthroposophical movement, discussing for example a variety of anthroposophist seminars in the 1980s at which “a whole series of radical right functionaries” spoke; see interview with Wagner in die tageszeitung March 12, 1995, p. 12.
36. Strikingly, Fant has nothing at all to say about anthroposophist holocaust denial, a phenomenon he apparently does not find particularly troubling. For classic instances of anthroposophical holocaust denial, interested readers may consult Bernhard Schaub, Adler und Rose: Wesen und Schicksal Mitteleuropas (Aargau 1992) and Gennadij Bondarew, Anthroposophie auf der Kreuzung der okkult-politischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart (Basel 1996). This unpleasant trend is by no means a thing of the past; the online writings of anthroposophist Willy Lochmann are a very relevant current example. For further recent instances of holocaust denial and propagation of openly antisemitic conspiracy theories see the posts from Robert Mason, Michael Howell, Stephen Hale, Carol Canning, Bradford Riley, and other anthroposophists to various publicly accessible email lists such as the “Anthroposophy” list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy/messages), the “Anthroposophy Tomorrow” list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anthroposophy_tomorrow/messages), the “Waldorf Critics” list (http://lists.topica.com/lists/waldorf-critics/read), etc. Anthroposophists’ repeatedly expressed “doubts” about the holocaust are a significant example of the “deflective negationism” diagnosed by scholarly analysts of the holocaust denial movement such as Florin Lobont and Michael Shafir; for background see Lobont, “Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in Post-Communist Eastern Europe” in Dan Stone, ed., The Historiography of the Holocaust, New York 2004, and Shafir, “Denying the Holocaust where it Happened” in Ronit Lentin, ed., Re-Presenting the Shoah for the 21st Century, Oxford 2004. The ongoing open propagation of aggressively antisemitic conspiracy theories and holocaust denial propaganda under anthroposophist auspices demonstrates the futility of Fant’s head-in-the-sand approach: Simply ignoring the most disturbing aspects of the contemporary anthroposophical movement will not magically make them go away.
37. Steiner contributed numerous articles between 1884 and 1890 to the pan-German press in Austria, including the Deutsche Zeitung, the Nationale Blätter, the Freie Schlesische Presse, and the Deutsche Wochenschrift. The Nationale Blätter was the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Vienna, while the Freie Schlesische Presse was the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Troppau, a city in the Sudetenland. The Deutscher Verein was, by the 1880’s, one of the three major political organizations within the German nationalist movement in Austria (the other two were the Deutscher Klub and the Deutschnationaler Verein, both of which Steiner wrote about positively). Readers may consult William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven 1974) pp. 199-202 on the political development of the Deutscher Verein; McGrath notes that by the mid-1880’s the Deutscher Verein “placed the strongest emphasis on German nationalism” (p. 201), which was the major unifying factor of the group. The Deutsche Zeitung was “the organ of German nationalism in Austria” according to a standard history of the Austrian press: Kurt Paupie, Handbuch der österreichischen Pressegeschichte 1848-1959, Vienna 1960, p. 158. It was arguably the most prominent voice of German nationalist politics in the Habsburg empire until the rise of Schönerer and Lueger in the 1890’s. For background see among others Pieter Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire 1848-1914, Ann Arbor 1996, p. 169, and Hildegard Kernmayer, Judentum im Wiener Feuilleton 1848-1903, Tübingen 1998, pp. 284-86. Steiner also spent half a year as editor of the Deutsche Wochenschrift in Vienna (subtitle: “organ for the national interests of the German people”), one of the major Austro-German radical nationalist papers of the era. On the crucial role of the Deutsche Wochenschrift as the mouthpiece of radical German nationalism, see McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria, pp. 201-206; cf. Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, pp. 1242-1245.
38. Steiner’s early pan-German articles routinely portray the Germans in Austria as threatened by “the onslaught from all sides” and denounce “Czech agitators” and “the evil Russian influence” while celebrating “the unity and capacity for resistance of the Germans” and insisting on “the cultural mission that is the duty of the German people in Austria” (Steiner, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte pp. 112, 85, 69). He refers to the non-German peoples of Austria as “the enemy” (115) and asserts that “the non-German peoples of Austria must absorb into themselves that which German spirit and German work have created, if they are to reach the level of education which is a necessary prerequisite of the modern era,” and indeed proclaims: “if the [non-German] peoples of Austria want to compete with the Germans, they will above all have to make up for the developmental process which the Germans have gone through; they will have to learn the German culture in the German language” (112). Because the mainstream nationalist Austro-German Liberals, in Steiner’s view, had not insisted strongly enough that the Slavs subordinate their own cultures to German culture, “this forced the German people to form a party in which the national idea is paramount” (113). But even the new, more forthrightly nationalist party was a disappointment to Steiner; it did not do enough “for the national cause” (114). Steiner thus offers German nationalist politicians advice on how to struggle more effectively “against the Slavic enemy” who are marked by an “empty national ego” and “spiritual barrenness,” which is why the Slavs “would like nothing more than to annihilate the achievements of our European culture” (117). According to Steiner, “modern culture” has been “chiefly produced by the Germans.” He condemns not only any accommodation to non-German ethnic groups but indeed any cooperation with ethnically German parties that are insufficiently nationalist, calling these parties “un-German” (119). Steiner also fulminates against “the culture-hating Russian colossus” and excoriates the abuse of the Austrian state “for un-German purposes” (140). Portraying Czech demands for political participation as a direct threat to German cultural superiority, he exclaims: “The Slavs will have to live a very long time before they understand the tasks which are the duty of the German people, and it is an outrageous offense against civilization to throw down the gauntlet at every opportunity to a people [i.e. the Germans] from whom one receives the spiritual light, a light without which European culture and education must remain a closed book.” (141-142) He demands that the country’s political agenda be set by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely “the pan-Germans,” and denounces the German Liberals for betraying their people: “If we must be ruled in an un-German fashion, at least our tribal brothers ought not to take care of this business. Our hands should remain clean.” (143) Instead of accepting ever more compromises with the uncultured Slavs, “truly national men” must pull together “to organize the people in a national manner” (144). As late as 1897 Steiner continued to repeat the same hard-line German nationalist stance: “The Slavs and the Magyars are a danger to the mission of the Germans; they are forcing German culture to retreat.” (214) He rails against “non-German elements” in Austria and regrets the ostensible loss of the Austro-Germans’ “privileged position within the monarchy” (215) while looking forward to the day when “the Germans of Austria regain the position of power which corresponds to their cultural level” (216). Such passages make clear how impervious to reason Steiner’s nationalism remained even well after his Vienna period. The Germans had hardly lost their privileged position within the Habsburg monarchy, and by the late 1880s, moreover, nearly all German political parties and social organizations, with the exception of the clerical parties Steiner so despised, had gone through a process of intense nationalist radicalization such that figures who a decade earlier had counted as strident nationalists were now seen to be ineffectual moderates. The young Steiner’s criticism of the Austro-German nationalist parties for not being nationalist enough thus reveals his own extremist stance.
39. In 2000, for example, one of the chief anthroposophical periodicals, Die Christengemeinschaft, published several articles by prolific far-right author and holocaust denier Gustav Sichelschmidt, a prominent fixture in hard-line German nationalist circles for many years. Sichelschmidt also published a number of articles in another central anthroposophist journal, Die Drei, in the 1960s and 1970s. Sichelschmidt’s numerous books specialized in xenophobic polemics against “foreigners” in Germany and vehemently rejected the idea of a multicultural society, while trumpeting the “mission” of the German people. For examples see among many others his 1981 book Deutschland in Gefahr, his 1992 book Der ewige Deutschenhaß, or his 1996 book Tanz auf dem Vulkan. The latter work, for instance, polemicizes against “obscure internationalists” who are defiling Germany by promoting “a multiethnic society,” denounces “foreign groups” and “one-world proponents” as “anti-German forces,” and insists that “the true mission of the Germans” is to redeem the world. The book also ridicules “the specter of the so-called holocaust,” which Sichelschmidt dismisses as a “lie” and mere “anti-German propaganda.” He excoriates “materialism” and cultural “decadence” in terms quite similar to Steiner’s own while constantly invoking Goethe, rails against “the Jewish lobby” and the Americanization of German life, and declares that supporters of western democracy are “murdering the soul of the German people.” In the same book, Sichelschmidt vehemently opposes allowing Germany to become a “multiethnic” country, or even permitting “different ethnic groups” to live in Germany. In light of all this, anthroposophists might consider asking themselves some pertinent and long-overdue questions, such as: What is it that made Sichelschmidt’s work appealing to anthroposophical editors and readers? And what is it that made anthroposophy appealing to Sichelschmidt? For a helpful overview in English of Sichelschmidt’s work see Jay Rosellini, Literary Skinheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany (Purdue 2000), pp. 149-157 and 249.
40. According to some reports at the time, Molau quit his Waldorf job rather than being fired; see e.g. Jochen Leffers, “Ex-Waldorflehrer arbeitet künftig für die NPD”, Spiegel-Online, 29 October 2004.
41. See Andreas Speit, “Hätten wir seine Gesinnung erkennen können?” die tageszeitung October 1, 2005, p. 12.
42. In addition to educational issues, Molau’s specialty as far-right publicist, and in particular at Junge Freiheit, was ecology and environmental politics as viewed from a right-wing extremist perspective. He is yet another example of an anthroposophically inclined ecofascist. On a side note: Walter Hiller, the executive director of the League of Waldorf Schools, published a brief article on educational policy in Junge Freiheit in 2001.
43. Andreas Molau, Alfred Rosenberg: Der Ideologe des Nationalsozialismus, Koblenz 1993, published by the far-right Verlag Siegfried Bublies.
44. Molau quoted in Stella Palau, “Waldorfschule lädt NPD ein” (NPD press release dated September 2, 2005), www.npd.de, accessed September 17, 2005.
45. The Molau interview appeared in the November 26, 2004 issue of the National-Zeitung, alongside an outspokenly positive sidebar about Steiner and Waldorf education.
46. Similar incidents revealing the same pattern, and pointing to the same still unlearned lesson, are by no means confined to Germany. Consider the example of Swiss anthroposophist Hans Krattiger. In 2002 the Anthroposophical Society expelled Krattiger, an important figure in the Swiss biodynamic movement, when his position as treasurer of the far-right party PNOS became public. Formal expulsion may make for an improved public relations image, but it does not address any of the underlying political, ideological, or historical factors. Indeed organizational membership is scarcely the sole or even primary index of ideological compatibility, much less practical cooperation. A mainstream biodynamic coalition, for instance, the Forschungsring für Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschaftsweise, promotes the work of far-right biodynamic proponent and holocaust denier Ernst Otto Cohrs. Cohrs also worked with leading neo-Nazi Horst Mahler and the widow of Werner Haverbeck, Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel, at the far-right para-anthroposophical Collegium Humanum in 2004.
47. Fant is hardly alone in taking a dim view of polemic as a genre. I consider this attitude fundamentally mistaken. Polemical argument has a lengthy and honorable pedigree. As an approach to philosophical disputation, polemic is traditionally understood as the contrary of apology; it is designed to unsettle received opinion on a given topic. That is exactly why my article was polemical. It was specifically calibrated to fit the existing state of public debate on anthroposophical racism at the time I wrote it, and was quite explicitly directed against the numerous apologies for Steiner’s racial theories that abound within the contemporary anthroposophical movement. Fant himself is a pertinent example of just this sort of apologia for anthroposophical racism. In my judgement, a deliberately polemical approach is what a responsible public intellectual is obliged to provide in such instances. In the context of debates like this, in popular forums and publications for general audiences, polemic is very much the appropriate critical framework and rhetorical choice. Needless to say, I do not follow the same approach in my scholarly work. Interested readers may find ample critical discussion of this topic in Olav Hammer and Kocku von Stuckrad, eds., Polemical Encounters: Esoteric Discourse and Its Others, Leiden 2007; for additional thoughtful reflection on the role of polemics and apologetics in public discussion of esoteric movements see Wouter Hanegraaff, “On the Construction of ‘Esoteric Traditions’” in Antoine Faivre and Wouter Hanegraaff, eds., Western Esotericism and the Science of Religion, Leuven 1998, pp. 11-61. Extensive background is available in Hubert Cancik, “Apologetik / Polemik” in Cancik, Gladigow and Laubscher, eds., Handbuch religionswissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe, Stuttgart 1990, pp. 29-37, and Theo Hettema and Arie van der Kooij, eds., Religious Polemics in Context, Leiden 2004.
48. The book has even spurred government action. In 2007, the German federal ministry for families considered placing Steiner’s Mission of the Folk Souls, along with The Being of Man and His Future Evolution, on its list of “literature that could be damaging to young people,” on the grounds that both books are racially discriminatory. The commission appointed by the ministry eventually decided that the books do indeed contain racist material, but did not place them on the index because the anthroposophist publisher agreed to re-publish new editions of both works with critical commentary on the racist content. I am personally skeptical toward these sorts of censorship procedures, among other reasons because they can make open public discussion of anthroposophical racism more difficult than it already is. As it happens, the publicity in Germany around the ministry’s inquiry helped raised the level of public discussion of anthroposophical racism, with extensive media attention to the issue. What has so far been absent is any noticeable reflection from anthroposophical quarters on the significance of this incident; and it will be very interesting to see just what the “critical commentary” looks like when the books are re-issued.
49. Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, London 1970, p. 19. The book was republished unaltered and without commentary by the Rudolf Steiner Press in 2005. The German edition is Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie.
50. For a particularly germane example of the contemporary far-right appropriation of anthroposophical ideas see Kerry Bolton, Rudolf Steiner & The Mystique of Blood & Soil: The Volkisch Views of the Founder of Anthroposophy, Paraparaumu 1999. This pamphlet, by a major conspiracy theorist and leading figure on the radical right scene, perfectly illustrates the continuing appeal of Steiner’s teachings to right-wing extremists. It received a very favorable review by an even more prominent neo-fascist leader, Troy Southgate. Along with Molau, Haverbeck, Sichelschmidt, Erra, and all the others mentioned here, Bolton and Southgate and their companions are merely a “handful of ghosts” in Fant’s eyes. This indifference toward the actually existing far right does not inspire confidence in the political perspicacity of progressive anthroposophists.
51. See Franziska Hundseder, Wotans Jünger: Neuheidnische Gruppen zwischen Esoterik und Rechtsradikalismus, Munich 1998, pp. 126-129; Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik: Zwischen Faschismus und neuer Gesellschaft, Vienna 1987, p. 245; and Bolton, Rudolf Steiner & The Mystique of Blood & Soil, as well as the case of neo-Nazi politician and Waldorf advocate Andreas Molau, discussed above.
52. Steiner, Geisteswissenschaft als Erkenntnis der Grundimpulse sozialer Gestaltung (GA 199), p. 161; lecture on August 27, 1920.
53. See William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York 1960, p. 44.
54. This facet of the article had a very illuminating epilogue. In 2005 – five years after Anthroposophy and Ecofascism originally appeared – Schnurre hired a Swedish attorney to threaten a libel lawsuit against the publishers of the Swedish translation of my article. The lawyer claimed he had “spoken to several persons who were present at the Schnurre seminar,” and these unnamed persons “did not recognize Schnurre’s words” as reported in my article. These supposed eyewitnesses were not only anonymous, their statements came eleven years after Schnurre’s 1994 seminar occurred. The incident is a classic example of anthroposophist efforts to intimidate critical scholars, and it provides among other things a fascinating instance of the gap between historical evidence and legal evidence: in stark contrast to these claimed ex post facto accounts by ostensible eyewitnesses, which suddenly emerged eleven years after the fact, I quoted from the extremely detailed minutes of Schnurre’s 1994 lecture taken directly by an audience member and published in Germany within a month of the lecture itself. To my knowledge, Schnurre never challenged those minutes, nor did he challenge three separate books and at least one article subsequently published in Germany which excerpt the published minutes extensively. Quite apart from the disingenuous nature of this legal ploy, there are thus excellent substantive reasons to prefer the minutes as a source over the supposed “witness statements.” Moreover, Fant’s notion that the quotes attributed to Schnurre are “quite contradictory to his conception of life” is entirely beside the point; even if this peculiar claim were true, and substantiated by Fant, or for that matter by Schnurre himself, it would plainly have nothing to do with whether Schnurre did in fact make the statements attributed to him, much less with whether those statements are racist. It is hardly uncommon to find anthroposophists who take their own views to be fundamentally anti-racist, when many non-anthroposophists consider these very same views to be flatly racist. I recommended at the time that Schnurre simply write a brief piece explaining his actual views on race, and then let all readers decide whether they consider these views racist. This recommendation, tellingly, went unheeded.
55. Fant’s essay contains a number of further errors that in my judgement do not merit extended consideration and have little to do with the substantive disagreements between us. These mistakes do, however, indicate the kind of nonchalance toward details, and the level of disregard for basic factual accuracy, that unfortunately characterize Fant’s half of our exchange. I recognize that Fant is a Waldorf teacher, not a trained scholar. Nonetheless, it isn’t all that hard to double-check the texts he invokes over and over again. To choose one otherwise insignificant example: In response to an observation of mine about Uwe Werner’s archival sources, Fant declares that only four of the archives listed in Werner’s book are anthroposophical. Fant’s figure is severely inaccurate; in reality, eight of the ten organizational archives and well over half of the twenty-four private archives listed by Werner are anthroposophical. Fant’s claim is thus wrong by a factor of five or more. These sorts of errors, many of them more or less inexplicable, are regrettably common in my debates with anthroposophists.
56. Wölk, “Neue Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Hethey and Katz, In Bester Gesellschaft, Göttingen 1991, p. 121. Additional evidence of the striking parallels between the theosophical root-race doctrine and Hitler’s racial views can be found in the works by George Mosse, Jeffrey Goldstein, and Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles cited above. I also recommend the recent study by Mattias Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, Duke 2003, as well as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, New York 2002.
57. See James Webb, The Occult Establishment, Chicago 1976, one of the first books to give serious attention to this topic. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke observes of this book: “By focusing on the functional significance of occultism in political irrationalism, Webb rescued the study of Nazi occultism for the history of ideas.” (Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism, New York 1992, p. 225)
58. Goodrick-Clarke wrote the entirely approving preface to Rudolf Steiner: Essential Writings. His early work on the connections between occultism and fascism has set the standard for responsible inquiry on the subject (though his later work displays increasingly apologetic tendencies). In addition to the material on Steiner in The Occult Roots of Nazism, see also the references to Karl Heise, Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, and Max Seiling, all early anthroposophists, in the same book.
59. Gugenberger & Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, p. 105.
60. For more extensive examination of these issues see Peter Staudenmaier, “Occultism, Race, and Politics in German-speaking Europe, 1880-1940: A Survey of the Historical Literature” European History Quarterly vol. 39 no. 1 (2009), pp. 47-70.
61. Such vernacular anthroposophical myths can pose serious obstacles to meaningful historical discussion between anthroposophists and non-anthroposophists. Consider the case of Nazi war criminal Sigmund Rascher, who performed infamous ‘medical experiments’ at Dachau involving atrocities against countless inmates. As I noted in “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” the anthroposophist company Weleda supplied biodynamic materials for these ‘experiments’. Since the historical circumstances are well known, anthroposophists generally no longer deny them, but insist instead that Weleda had no idea what its products were being used for. This is entirely possible, but of limited relevance in light of the much more significant fact that Weleda maintained ongoing business relationships with the SS and the Wehrmacht in order to keep Rascher supplied with the anthroposophical materials he requested for his ‘experiments’. In order to manufacture the biodynamic materials that Rascher ordered, for instance, Weleda was given special access to the SS’s own stock of petroleum jelly, a rare commodity in war-time Germany. (It is also worth noting that, unrelated to the Rascher experiments, SS leader and war criminal Otto Ohlendorf intervened on Weleda’s behalf when anti-anthroposophist Nazis threatened to shut it down; Weleda continued to operate straight through the entirety of the Third Reich.) The standard anthroposophist line on Rascher – whose father and uncle were both active anthroposophists and who attended the original Waldorf school – additionally holds that he had no connections whatsoever to anthroposophy as an adult. This is untrue. Sigmund Rascher was indeed personally hostile toward anthroposophy for much of his adult life, due not least to his severely troubled relationship with his father, and his correspondence from the late 1930s is often quite critical of anthroposophy. But the notion that he maintained no connections at all to anthroposophy is false. He was of course a Weleda customer during his time as an SS doctor at Dachau; he was on very good terms with his anthroposophist uncle; and his relationship with anthroposophist and fellow SS officer Franz Lippert was notably friendly. Rascher was furthermore a keen student of anthroposophist Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s work on biodynamics, and even published an article on the subject in 1936.
62. Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, p. 8.
63. Throughout the 1920s both the Ludendorffers and the rival National Socialists, along with a plethora of other more or less marginal groups and tendencies, vied for leadership of the heterogeneous far-right scene in Munich, sometimes competing and sometimes coalescing in a shifting series of tactical alliances. On the complicated relationships between Ludendorffers and Nazis during the period see Bruno Thoss, “Ludendorff und Hitler 1920-1922” in Thoss, Der Ludendorff-Kreis 1919-1923, Munich 1978, pp. 249-261.
64. For an even milder account of the 1922 incident see the comprehensive contemporary report by anthroposophist Paul Baumann, “Dr. Rudolf Steiners Vortrag in München,” Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus May 25, 1922, pp. 4-5, which does not mention the Nazis and says nothing at all about an assassination attempt or even an attempted physical attack on Steiner himself. Compare also the similar description of the event in Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf Steiner: Eine Biographie, Stuttgart 1997, p. 770.
65. My own research has identified many further anthroposophists who belonged to the Nazi party and its affiliated organizations. A non-comprehensive list of active anthroposophists who were members of the Nazi party, the SA, or the SS includes the following figures: Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, Franz Lippert, Otto Julius Hartmann, Eugen Link, Margarete Link, Wolfgang Schuchhardt, Werner Voigt, Udo Renzenbrink, Friedrich Kipp, Rudolf Kreutzer, Oskar Franz Wienert, Carl Fritz, Hugo Kalbe, Leo Tölke, Clara Remer, Heimo Rau, Gotthold Hegele, Otto Thorwirth, Ernst Harmstorf, Anni Müller-Link, Harald Kabisch, Max Babl, Hermann Pöschel, Hermann Mahle, Otto Feyh, Hans Pohlmann, Friedrich Mahling, Ernst Charrois, Josef Keinz, Eduard Meyer, Alfred Köhler, Hans Merkel, and Carl Grund. (For archival citations see Peter Staudenmaier, “Anthroposophen und Nationalsozialismus – Neue Erkenntnisse” Info3 July 2007.) Alongside these figures stand a series of more complicated cases such as Werner Georg Haverbeck, Johannes Werner Klein, Georg Michaelis, Els Moll, Georg Halbe, Max Karl Schwarz, Otto Ohlendorf, Alwin Seifert, Albert Friehe, Renate Riemeck, Hermann Reischle, Werner Priever, Karl Heise, Richard Karutz, Erhard Bartsch, Josef Schulz, Lotar Eickhoff, Johannes Bertram-Pingel, Ernst Blümel, Herman Weidelener, Paul Reiss, Friedrich Böhnlein, Gotthilf Ackermann, Max Rodi, August Wegfraß, etc. This is not “an utterly small number” of people, and many of these figures were anything but marginal to the twentieth century anthroposophical movement.
66. Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 3. This point is confirmed by anthroposophist Christoph Lindenberg, who in 1991 observed that “after 1945 there was no public mention of these events. Nowhere within anthroposophist publications can one find a serious voice of self-examination on the part of those who were too deeply involved with National Socialism.” (Lindenberg quoted in Arfst Wagner, “Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus” Flensburger Hefte, Sonderheft 8 (1991), p. 74.)
67. Fant also challenged several further claims that appeared in the original version of Anthroposophy and Ecofascism and that I have removed from the revised version, including my brief reference to Marie Steiner’s sympathetic attitude toward Nazism. Unlike my perspective regarding Rudolf Hess, for example, these instances do not reflect a change of mind on my part; instead I have removed such personal references because they are inconsequential to my argument and merely distract anthroposophist readers from the substantive issues at hand. I would like to note, however, that this preoccupation with passing references to revered anthroposophical figures is unfortunately characteristic of anthroposophist responses to historical inquiry. Many anthroposophists appear to be much more concerned about the personal reputation of individual anthroposophists and the present status of esoteric celebrities than with basic aspects of historical accuracy and forthright engagement with the past. In my view, this is a decidedly misplaced emphasis. In any case, Fant asks, indignantly, for a source regarding Marie Steiner’s attitude toward Nazism. He may wish to consult the memoirs of anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher, for example, which characterize Marie Steiner straightforwardly as “pro-Nazi”; see the excerpts from Büchenbacher in Info3 4/1999, pp. 16-19; cf. Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, p. 249.
68. Werner, op. cit. pp. 214-215. Werner also notes that the written statement denouncing anthroposophy, requested by the Gestapo, was not signed by Hess but by the anti-anthroposophist Bormann. (p. 74)
69. Christine King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, New York 1982, pp. 43 and 232.
70. See Albert Speer, Erinnerungen, Berlin 1969, pp.133-134; Wulf Schwarzwäller, Rudolf Hess, London 1988, pp. 112-115; and Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biography, London 1971, pp. 64-66.
71. J.R. Rees, The Case of Rudolf Hess, London 1947, p. 35.
72. Walter Schellenberg, Memoiren, Cologne 1956, p. 160.
73. A comprehensive list would be too cumbersome for this forum, but interested readers may consult the following cross-section: James Webb, The Harmonious Circle (“Rudolf Hess was a devotee of Rudolf Steiner” p. 186); Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th Century (“Hess was a follower of Rudolf Steiner” p. 197); Detlev Rose, Die Thule-Gesellschaft (“Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy also influenced him [Hess]” p. 132); René Freund, Braune Magie? Okkultismus, New Age und Nationalsozialismus (Hess “admired anthroposophy and was secretly a follower of Rudolf Steiner” p. 68); Jacques Delarue, Geschichte der Gestapo (“Hess was interested in the doctrine of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner” p. 265); Hans Hakl, “Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus” in Goodrick-Clarke, Die okkulten Wurzeln des Nationalsozialismus (Hess was “devoted to Rudolf Steiner’s ideas” p. 199); Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival (Hess “ate biodynamic food and was interested in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” p. 52); Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Nationalsozialistische Medizin: Volks- und Naturheilkunde auf ‘Neuen Wegen’” in Heinz Abholz, ed., Alternative Medizin (on Hess’s “anthroposophical background” p. 33); Peter Longerich, “Hitler’s Deputy: The Role of Rudolf Hess in the Nazi Regime” in David Stafford, ed., Flight from Reality: Rudolf Hess and his Mission to Scotland (Hess was “profoundly interested in astrology, anthroposophy, the occult and related areas” p. 114).
74. A superb scholarly biography of Hess reports that as a young man he had no significant interest in the occult: Kurt Pätzold and Manfred Weißbecker, Rudolf Heß: Der Mann an Hitlers Seite, Leipzig 1999, p. 25. Such qualifications are important to keep in mind as a counter to overeager proponents of the misguided ‘Nazi occultism’ thesis. Pätzold and Weißbecker’s corresponding reflections on race and the occult (pp. 469-470) are also apposite; see as well pp. 270-271 and 509 on the ambivalent attitude of the Nazi leadership toward Waldorf schools and anthroposophy. In addition to the numerous sources cited above on the mature Hess’s interest in the occult, see also Rainer Schmidt, Rudolf Heß, Düsseldorf 1997, pp. 44, 46, 170, etc.; and cf. Treitel, A Science for the Soul, pp. 159, 213-17; Gardell, Gods of the Blood, p. 26; Joachim Fest, The Face of the Third Reich, New York 1970, p. 192; Marco Pasi, Aleister Crowley e la tentazione della politica, Milan 1999, p. 107, 132; and Robert Proctor, The Nazi War on Cancer, Princeton 1999, pp. 256-57. For brief mention of Hess’s sympathy toward biodynamics see also Heinz Haushofer, Ideengeschichte der Agrarwirtschaft, Munich 1958, p. 270.
75. Peter Longerich, for example, discusses Hess’s occult and Lebensreform interests extensively (Longerich, Hitlers Stellvertreter, Munich 1992, pp. 111-113), noting in particular Hess’s positive interest in anthroposophy (p. 111).
76. For reasons I do not fully understand, this aspect of my original article has been the source of a remarkable level of indignation and vituperation on the part of anthroposophists, many of whom appear to believe that if some anthroposophists were Fascists and Nazis, then all anthroposophists must be Fascists and Nazis. I came to the topic of anthroposophy via my research on the ‘green wing’ of Nazism, and this connection was the subject of my “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” article; it is scarcely surprising that anthroposophist Nazis loom large in such an analysis. Even non-anthroposophist readers have occasionally had difficulty making sense of this. Some took exception to my claim that anthroposophy’s political outlook has had a decidedly reactionary cast from the beginning, apparently finding that this claim sits uneasily alongside the prominent presence of anthroposophists in the Green movement and other progressive trends. Since this theme goes to the heart of my argument in “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” I will try to re-state my point: I think very many anthroposophists, today as in the past, are profoundly confused about politics and routinely mix together left-wing and right-wing viewpoints, and when they get involved in progressive efforts they often end up representing the least emancipatory and most conservative elements within those milieus. I further argue that this pattern is not accidental but flows from Steiner’s own reactionary political assumptions, outlined at some length in the present series of articles. Steiner himself is a classic example of the kind of left-right crossover in modern German culture that I study, which is exactly how I stumbled onto the topic of anthroposophy in the first place.
77. There is a considerable literature on the subject; see among others Joshua Greene, Justice at Dachau (New York 2003), and Jörg Friedrich, Die kalte Amnestie: NS-Täter in der Bundesrepublik (Frankfurt 1984).
78. The fact that Lippert’s hearing was part of the German civilian court process rather than the Allied de-Nazification proceedings is perfectly clear from Fant’s own preferred source; Werner’s Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus refers repeatedly and unambiguously to a “Spruchkammerverfahren,” the term for the German civilian juries, not to an Allied de-Nazification commission. That Fant mixed up these two sharply contrasting venues is telling. The distinction is crucial to understanding the whole process of ‘denazification’ and its eventual failure. The Allies took an extremely skeptical view of the “Spruchkammer” and their notoriously lenient approach to figures like Lippert. For context see the chapter “Die deutschen Spruchkammern” in Clemens Vollnhals, Entnazifizierung (Munich 1999), pp. 259-338. For even more detail see the 700 page study by Lutz Niethammer, Entnazifizierung in Bayern (Frankfurt 1972), particularly chapter 5, “Das Spruchkammerverfahren und die Betroffenen”, pp. 538-652.
79. While Marcuse’s book appeared just after my original 2001 exchange with Fant, numerous other sources cited here were accessible at the time, and anyone interested in learning about the issues Fant himself raised cannot fail to have noticed them. In light of the immense scholarship on the matter, readers may well ask themselves if Fant perhaps really does believe, after all, that the post-war process of ‘denazification’ actually succeeded, rather than failed, and if he would extend the same admiration he expresses toward Lippert to the thousands of other active Nazis who got off scot-free after the war as well. The episode thus raises unpleasant questions. Are anthroposophists generally in the habit of promoting SS officers to the status of heroes? Does this have anything to do with anthroposophy’s equivocal record during the Third Reich? It would be a major step forward if progressive anthroposophists could bring themselves to grapple with such questions at last.
80. While allied-sponsored court procedures were considerably more rigorous than the German civilian hearings that exonerated Lippert and his fellow SS officers, even the American military trials at Dachau, focused on higher levels of responsibility, began to produce overwhelming acquittals, amnesties, and dropped cases by the late 1940s; see Ute Stiepani, “Die Dachauer Prozesse und ihre Bedeutung im Rahmen der alliierten Strafverfolgung von NS-Verbrechen” in Gerd Ueberschär, ed., Der Nationalsozialismus vor Gericht (Frankfurt 1999), pp. 227-39, and Robert Sigel, Im Interesse der Gerechtigkeit: Die Dachauer Kriegsverbrecherprozesse 1945–1948 (Frankfurt 1992).
81. Paul Berben, Dachau 1933-1945: The Official History, London 1975, p. 87.
82. Robert Sigel, “Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ: Die Plantage in Dachau”, Dachauer Hefte 4, 1988, p. 171.
83. Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Von Heidelberg nach Dachau,” in Gerhard Baader and Ulrich Schultz, eds, Medizin und Nationalsozialismus (Berlin 1980), pp. 113-138; quote at p. 119. See especially the section “Die Heilkräuterplantage im KZ Dachau” pp. 116-120.
84. Anne Harrington, Reenchanted Science (Princeton 1996), p. 188.
85. Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, Die Mächtigen und die Hilflosen: als Häftling in Dachau (Stuttgart 1957), pp. 105-108.
86. Otto Pies, Stephanus Heute (Kevelaer 1951), p. 127.
87. Jean Bernard, Pfarrerblock Dachau (Munich 1984), pp. 89-90.
88. Hans Carls, Dachau: Erinnerungen eines katholischen Geistlichen aus der Zeit seiner Gefangenschaft 1941-1945 (Cologne 1946), p. 120. A few pages later Carls describes particular acts of sadism at the plantation (123).
89. For example, Reimund Schnabel’s book Die Frommen in der Hölle: Geistliche in Dachau (Frankfurt 1966) provides a study of clergy inmates at Dachau, who were assigned especially frequently to the labor battalion at Lippert’s biodynamic plantation. Schnabel describes the plantation on pp. 140-142. He notes that for some inmates the plantation was a relatively preferred work detail, while for others it was hellish, with dangerous and often deadly working conditions. In light of conflicting testimony from former prisoners, Schnabel concludes that “both the descriptions of extremely cruel working conditions and the reports of relatively comfortable activity are correct.” (p. 141) This is consistent with evidence from other concentration camps as well.
90. See e.g. Franz Lippert, Das Wichtigste in Kürze über Kräuter und Gewürze, Nordland Verlag, Berlin 1943.
91. See the testimony of Fritz Götte in Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, p. 285.
92. In the words of the anthroposophist Jens Heisterkamp, “the anthroposophist movement did not produce any members of the Resistance.” (Heisterkamp’s review of Uwe Werner’s book in Info3 April 1999)
93. Lippert’s biodynamic plantation at Dachau was the preeminent component in the SS’s far-flung network of farms run along Steinerite lines, which also included Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and other concentration camps. The labor on these biodynamic tracts was performed by camp inmates. For an overview of this striking instance of the convergence of anthroposophy and Nazism, see the fine study by Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschafstweise im KZ, Berlin 1999, which emphasizes the crucial role of the Dachau plantation. For further context on the SS biodynamic plantation system, the Dachau installation, and Lippert’s role, see also Hermann Kaienburg, Die Wirtschaft der SS (Berlin 2003), pp. 771-855.
94. There are many additional examples of this anthroposophical avoidance of history. Consider the case of Friedrich Benesch. Benesch (1907-1991) was a leading figure in the Christian Community, the forthrightly religious arm of anthroposophy, and one of the most prominent and influential anthroposophists of the post-war period. For thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, he was the head of the seminary in Stuttgart that trains the Christian Community’s priests. Benesch was also a fervent Nazi from the late 1920s onward. He was active in the radical nationalist and racist völkisch youth movement and belonged to the Artamanen, the infamous “blood and soil” group that produced several later Nazi leaders, including Himmler, Darré, and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höß. In his 1941 dissertation Benesch wrote: “Since 1928 I have been a member of the National Socialist movement for renewal among the Germans in Romania.” (Friedrich Benesch, “Lebenslauf,” Die Festung Hutberg: Eine jungnordische Mischsiedlung, Halle 1941) From 1934 to 1945 Benesch was a leader in the extremist wing of the regional Romanian-German Nazi party. His father-in-law and mentor was the well-known Nazi theorist Hans Hahne. Benesch’s own teaching in the early 1940s strongly emphasized racial theory and vigorously propagated National Socialist principles. He joined the SS in 1939, and applied to work with the SS research institute, the Ahnenerbe, on a project about “Trees and forests in Aryan-Germanic spiritual and cultural history.” In 1941 he was appointed head of the Nazi party organization in his home county in Romania. Although this information was readily available for decades via both archival and published sources, Benesch’s anthroposophical colleagues never inquired into his biographical background, instead celebrating him as a greatly admired anthroposophical figure. It was not until 2004 that parts of the anthroposophical movement began at last to acknowledge Benesch’s Nazi past, after they were forced to confront the subject by a non-anthroposophist historian, Johan Böhm. Even today, efforts to downplay and deny Benesch’s lengthy activity as a committed Nazi militant continue within anthroposophical circles, a stunning instance of anthroposophy’s ongoing inability to come to terms with its own past. For background see Johan Böhm, Das nationalsozialistische Deutschland und die deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien 1936-1944 (Frankfurt 1985), pp. 41-42, 53, 138-139; Böhm, Die Deutschen in Rumänien und das Dritte Reich 1933-1940 (Frankfurt 1999), pp. 149, 272-273; Böhm, “Friedrich Benesch: Naturwissenschaftler, Anthropologe, Theologe und Politiker” Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte, Literatur und Politik, vol. 16 no. 1 (May 2004), pp. 108-119. In light of the extraordinarily long time it took for any of this information to penetrate anthroposophical consciousness, the obvious question that ought to concern Göran Fant and his associates is: How many other Friedrich Benesches are lurking within the ranks of twentieth century anthroposophy?
95. Things may, of course, be different in Sweden. Hakan Lejon’s book Historien om den antroposofiska humanismen (Stockholm 1997) argues that the Swedish anthroposophical movement has developed in tension between an esoteric pole and a humanist pole, with the latter taking precedence in recent decades. If this is true, it may help explain Fant’s distorted perspective on anthroposophy in other places and other times.
96. Fant is by no means the only anthroposophist to fall for this easily debunked racist propaganda. For a particularly conspicuous early example, see anthroposophist Karl Heyer’s racist reminiscences of the Rhineland occupation in Anthroposophie July 13, 1930; cf. also the remarkable racist imagery in the very same context in anthroposophist author Andrej Belyj’s work from the 1920s: Belyj, Im Reich der Schatten, Frankfurt 1987, pp. 48-64, as well as Richard Karutz, Vorlesungen über moralische Völkerkunde 3, Stuttgart 1930, pp. 19-28.
97. For an overview of the campaign to circulate these stories see Keith Nelson, “The ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’: Race as a Factor in Post-World War I Diplomacy” Journal of Modern History vol. 42 no. 4 (1970), pp. 606-627; Peter Martin, “Die Kampagne gegen die ‘Schwarze Schmach’ als Ausdruck konservativer Visionen vom Untergang des Abendlandes” in Gerhard Höpp, ed., Fremde Erfahrungen, Berlin 1996, pp. 211-224; Gisela Lebzelter, “Die “Schwarze Schmach”: Vourteile – Propaganda – Mythos” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 11 (1985), pp. 37-58; Robert Reinders, “Racialism on the Left: E.D. Morel and the “Black Horror on the Rhine”” International Review of Social History 13 (1968), pp. 1-28; Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, “”Tirailleurs Sénégalais” und “Schwarze Schande” – Verlaufsformen und Konsequenzen einer deutsch-französischen Auseinandersetzung (1910-1926)” in Janos Riesz and Joachim Schultz, eds., Tirailleurs Sénégalais, Frankfurt 1989, pp. 57-73; Joachim Schultz, “Die “Utschebebbes” am Rhein – Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung (1918-1930)” in Riesz and Schultz, Tirailleurs Sénégalais, pp. 75-100; Clarence Lusane, “Black Troops and the Race Question in Pre-Nazi Germany” in Lusane, Hitler’s Black Victims, New York 2002. The definitive study of the topic is Christian Koller, “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: die Diskussion um die Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und Militärpolitik (1914-1930), Stuttgart 2001. See also the recent volume by Iris Wigger, Die “Schwarze Schmach am Rhein”: Rassistische Diskriminierung zwischen Geschlecht, Klasse, Nation und Rasse, Münster 2007.
98. See e.g. “The Black Troops on the Rhine” The Nation March 9, 1921, p. 365; “Is the Black Horror on the Rhine Fact or Propaganda?” The Nation July 13, 1921, pp. 44-45. For an Afro-German women’s perspective see Oguntye, Opitz, and Schultz, Farbe Bekennen, Frankfurt 1992, pp. 49-52. See also B.T. Reynolds, Prelude to Hitler, London 1933, pp. 85 and 106, and J.E. Barker, “The Colored French Troops in Germany” Current History July 1921.
99. The official report on the matter by General Henry Allen was published in Germany in 1925; it dismantles the notion that non-white troops committed disproportionate crimes and exposes the German propaganda claims as false. The few incidents of actual wrongdoing by non-white troops were investigated and punished by the French authorities. See Schultz, “Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung” pp. 79-80; cf. Keith Reynolds, Victors Divided: America and the Allies in Germany, 1918-1923, Berkeley 1975, p. 64; and Royal Schmidt, Versailles and the Ruhr, The Hague 1968, pp. 58, 118.
100. Quotes from Rheinische Frauenliga, Farbige Franzosen am Rhein: Ein Notschrei deutscher Frauen, Berlin 1920.
101. While all of the sources cited here controvert Fant’s credulous claims, perhaps the most effective antidote to this ongoing anthroposophist avoidance of history is available in Christian Koller’s comprehensive study from 2001: “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: Die Diskussion um die Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und Militärpolitik (1914-1930). I urge any reader who is inclined to give Fant’s assertions the benefit of the doubt to consult Koller’s book. On the supposed “outrages” by non-white soldiers see e.g. pp. 203-205, 253-254, 292, 295-298; on the racist character of the propaganda Fant takes as fact see pp. 229-231, 244-245, 338-339; on German opposition against this propaganda at the same time that Steiner endorsed it, see pp. 231-235; on opposition by other anti-racists at the time see pp. 291-295, 298-300, 307; for racist endorsements of the German propaganda from outside Germany see pp. 301, 308, etc. Even setting aside this extremely thorough new research, and the myriad additional sources that were available well before Fant wrote his essay, and assuming that Fant knew nothing whatsoever about the history of this matter, an uncomfortably blunt question must be posed: Does Göran Fant believe that non-white soldiers are somehow more likely to commit “outrages” than white soldiers? Does such a belief have anything to do with anthroposophical views on race?
102. Some readers of Anthroposophy and Ecofascism have found its lessons difficult to learn because they apparently mistook it for a scholarly article meant for other historians rather than a popular treatment written for a lay audience. A word on this peculiar confusion may be in order here. The difference between scholarly publications and popular publications can sometimes be decisive, not just in terms of tone but in terms of content. That a number of anthroposophists took my article to be a scholarly publication indicates among other things just how far removed contemporary anthroposophy is from the world of scholarship. The distinctions between scholarly and popular approaches are central to the purposes my article was designed to fulfill. Consider a contrasting case: When my students hand in papers that refer, for example, to “nineteenth century misconceptions about race,” I will circle such phrases and recommend replacing them with something along the lines of “the conceptions about race that were predominant at the time.” This kind of circumspection is important from a historian’s perspective; it avoids making judgements about the past based on the standards of the present, and reminds us that present standards are just as open to revision as past ones were. In popular treatments, in contrast, there is nothing wrong with offering penetrating criticism of past figures and actions and ideas, particularly those with some significant connection to present debates; indeed this sort of criticism is one of the crucial strengths of popular writing. The widespread allergic reaction to my article among anthroposophists – who were, after all, hardly its intended audience – indicates that such criticism remains very much necessary.