Dietrich Eckart - An Introduction For the English-Speaking Student
by William Gillespie
23 August 2004
[originally published 1975; we found this monograph in Sam Weller's, located at 254 S. Main, Salt Lake City, Utah, summer 2004; purchased for $3]
"My good friend Dietrich Eckart, what would he say, if he could see us now, and all we've achieved! I'd give a great deal if he could be here!" -- Adolf Hitler, 1933
"The highest that can be achieved is an heroic passage through life. Such a life is led by the man who, pursuing a purpose for the benefit of all, struggles against all-too-great difficulties, receiving yet a poor reward or no reward at all!" -- Artur Schopenhauer
DIETRICH ECKART should rank alongside of Alfred Rosenberg and Houston Stewart Chamberlain as a National Socialist ideologist, but he remains the forgotten man despite the plethora of titles written on Hitler and the origins of the Third Reich. As historian George Mosse points out in his The Crisis of German Ideology, Eckart has heretofore been regarded by historians as "too marginal, too much of a crank." Bradley Smith, the widely acclaimed author of Adolf Hitler, Family, Childhood & Youth, misspells the name 'Eckhardt,' and he is not the sole historian to do so. Alan Bullock's Hitler, A Study in Tyranny mentions Eckart but three times in nearly eight hundred pages. More recent Hitler books, such as Robert Payne's The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, Joachim Fest's Hitler, and Werner Maser's Hitler, have given him some worthwhile notice but have not elaborated on his importance or documented it in any satisfactory manner. Books in vogue on the Third Reich and occultism or mysticism can be dismissed as unscholarly and completely sensationalist.* In short, the serious student has, until now, been unable to find out who Dietrich Eckart really was, and what role he played in the early, crucial days of the embryonic Hitler movement.
What historians have written about Eckart's role has been brief and inadequate. Some samplings from well-known histories:
Dietrich Eckart was a friend of Roehm, with violent nationalist, anti-democratic and anti-clerical opinions, a racist with an enthusiasm for Nordic folklore and a taste for jew-baiting.
His [Hitler] ideological position, though sketched out in broad strokes, still lacked the clarity and cohesion that would be provided by direct contact with men like Dietrich Eckhardt [sic] and Alfred Rosenberg.
Eckart's influence on Hitler's intellectual and social development up til the time he wrote Mein Kampf cannot be overrated. None of his other educated friends or followers played so important a role.
But of all Hitler's friends in the early Munich period, the most decisive one was that of Dietrich Eckart, twenty-one years his senior.
Eckart was 21 years older than Hitler, and was different from him in almost every way. He was big, burly, gregarious, with a boisterous humor and an insatiable relish for cafes and 'Bierstuben,' where he spent most of his time. His blue eyes peered sharply out of a totally bald head, and his language was often blunt and coarse in the native Bavarian manner.
Eckart's tutelage proved to be indispensable in devising the tactics which the Fuehrer later employed to gain control over the embryonic party.
lists Hitler's "teachers" in order of increasing importance: Gottfried Feder, Erich Ludendorff, Ernst Roehm, and Dietrich Eckart.
calls Eckart "the founder of Hitler."
well read and a shrewd psychologist who possessed extensive knowledge consonant with his prejudices. Eckart exerted great influence upon the awkward and provincial Hitler. With his bluff and uncomplicated manner, he was the first cultivated person whom Hitler was able to endure without and upsurge of his deep-seated complexes. Eckart recommended books to Hitler and lent him some, schooled his manners, corrected his language, and opened many doors for him. For a time they were an inseperable pair on the Munich social scene.
The 'Hitler myth' had no more successful founder than the poet Dietrich Eckart: without Eckart's support Hitler would not have won the fight for power within the Party, and it would have, at best, suffered a split within ranks.
After acknowledging Eckart's decisive friendship with the young and impressionable Adolf Hitler, historians have refrained from presenting any details on either the man or his work. The above quotations, with little exception, constitute the entire mention of the man in the respective volumes cited.
In his memoirs on Eckart published in 1934, lifelong friend Albert Reich wrote:
Hundreds of thousands of people know this name, but nothing more about it than it was somehow involved with the Movement. And yet Dietrich Eckart was the first who, after the Novemeber 9, 1918, collapse, courageously faced the 'November criminals' and their gang. Out of a German poet sprang a folkish pioneer and forerunner of National Socialism.
It is not too venturesome to assume that a mere thousand American students and historians know the name today, and this is unfortunate. The purpose of this monograph, then, is to afford the English-speaking student some initial insight, and to hopefully stimulate him onto further reading of Eckart's literary efforts. None of his plays and but one of his political pieces have ever been translated into English. All documentation and material contained within this study was drawn from and translated from original German-language works, save the quotes from American and British volumes above. A full bibliography follows the Appendix, which may prove useful to the interested student.
A knowledge of Schopenhauer and Ibsen is almost a required prerequisite to an understanding of Eckart's literary thrust, as will be obvious within the first few pages. Any elucidations on this I leave to a literature major, as I have but touched on the subject. The National Socialist books and pamphlets listed in the Bibliography deal with this most thoroughly.
Finally, a note on translations. All translations are those of the author. In an attempt to retain Eckart's often crude and sarcastic style, free translation has been followed. As the full flavor of his poetry is undeniably lost in English, a few poems have been reprinted intact in German, and may be found in the Appendix.
* Books such as The Occult Reich or The Spear of Destiny paint Eckart as a devil worshipper or a follower of Rudolf Steiner and/or occultism, despiste the fact that Eckart wrote in his Auf Gut Deutsch that "whether Preuss or Hirsch or Steiner the spirit is the same - Jewish" (AGD, 11 July 1919, p. 322) and that Steiner's "Goetheanum" center was burnt to the ground by National Socialists on New Year's Eve 1922-23. [Author's Note]
1. Mosse. Crisis of German Ideology. New York, 1964. p. 297.
2. Smith Adolf Hitler. Stanford, 1968. p. 153.
3. Bullock. Hitler. New York, 1961. p. 53.
4. Smith, Op. Cit. p. 153.
5. Maser. Hitler. New York, 1973. p. 126.
6. Cross. Adolf Hitler. New York, 1973. p. 71.
7. Hanser. Putsch! New York, 1971. pp. 208-209.
8. Mosse. Op. Cit. p. 297.
9. Nolte. Der Faschismus in Seiner Epoche. Munich, 1963. p. 398.
10. Heiden. Der Führer. Zurich, 1937. p. 373.
11. Fest. Hitler. New York, 1973. p. 133.
12. Franz-Willing. Die Hitlerbewegung, Vol. I. Hamburg, 1962. p. 122.
13. Reich. Dietrich Eckart - Vorkämpfer der NS-Bewegung. Munich, 1933.
AN INTRODUCTION TO DIETRICH ECKART THE MAN AND AUTHOR
Das Herz auf dem rechten Fleck: ein wahrer Dichter-Reck! -- Hans Sachs, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
JOHANN DIETRICH ECKART was born on March 23, 1868, in the Bavarian village of Neumarkt. Lying just a few miles southeast of Nürnberg, it is known for the ruins of castle Wolfstein. His father, Christian, was a lawyer; his mother, Anna, a typical nineteenth-century Hausfrau who mothered three other children as well. She died when Dietrich was ten years old, and the family moved to Nürnberg, where the boy attended the local Gymnasium. From Nürnberg he enrolled in the Lateinschule in Schwabach. In 1885 he transferred to school in Regensburg and three years later his first poem was printed in the local newspaper.
He attended the University of Erlangen as a medical student, but was forced to withdraw upon contracting a serious childhood illness. His doctor prescribed morphine as a painkiller and this later developed into an unvoluntary addiction to the sweet poison. He did not finish school.
His father, a civil servant, wished his son to follow in his own footsteps, but the young man had other plans. He wished to become a poet and author! He wrote articles for a local Dietkirchen paper - an essay entitled "A Question On Our Future" written in 1894 shows an avid interest in politics while still of college age.
In the same year  he became a music critic for the Bayreuther Briefe newspaper and wrote essays on the Wagnerfest. He achieved renown as a witty humorist. Soon the Münchner Augsberger Abendzeitun was also publishing his Bayreuth columns and printed his first two short stories. This success led him to Berlin, where he skillfully attacked leading marxists and socialists of the day. His work Tannhäuser Auf Urlaub, completed in 1895, mentions Jews in a disparaging way and is thought to be his first anti-Semitic piece.
The following year his father passed away and Eckart inherited a fair sum of money which he quickly invested in a home in Regensburg. There he entertained many political and artistic companions, and wrote his first published play. Entitled Froschkönig, it was based on the fairy tale of the frog prince. Eckart was an admirer of both Artur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, and the play reflects this influence:
Frog Prince: Oh, my Maiden, you don't realize that man is his own maker, his own creation. However a man is, so he himself willed, even before he was. I admit it sounds inconceivable, and I cannot explain it to you, but that is how it is. How can we feel guilty about the 'bad' in us? Nothing we do produces any repentance, so therefore we have none. As we are so we must act, according to our inborn and unalterable character...but because we are this way and have no 'better' character -- that we are so deeply sunken into this existence -- for that we are responsible, and for that we must someday pay!
Princess: But if man wanted to be a hundred times better, what could he do?
Frog Prince: That's the question - if it is possible to fundamentally change one's character. I believe so and would believe it even without the examples tradition has shown us. There must be a solution, a reprieve, one that comes from without, not from within -- all religions point in that direction -- just don't cease striving, or it will consume you.
The play, for all its philosophical dialogue, was not a success. The lead actor named Mattkowsky, according to Eckart, made a fiasco out of the frog prince. A close friend wrote, "you cannot blame yourself, but only the public and the press." Eckart was bitter, but in 1901 was rewarded with the publication of an essay in one of Germany's leading magazines, Simplicissimus. His luck improved.
He became an editor of the Berlin Lokalanzeiger newspaper in 1900, and wrote regular columns for two cultural publications: Bühne und Welt and Kunst und Wissenschaft. In the period from 1901 to 1916 he authored ten plays. His drama Familienväter opened simultaneously in Hannover and Regensburg in December, 1904, and was a success. It toured to Graz, Munich, Neumarkt, and Vienna. Eleven months later he assumed the editorship of the Berlin Deutscher Blatt paper and his income enabled him to found his own publishing house, the Hoheneichen Verlag. It would years later publish Rosenberg's Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts and other Nazi works.
But this upturn of events proved temporary, and Eckart led the life of a pauper at times. In Berlin during his "hunger years," as he was fond of describing them, he often could not afford a room of his own. He was famous for letting friends put him up, and his companion, Albert Reich, recalls that if all else failed, he would find accommodation on a favorite parkbench in the city Tiergarten.
Believing that his plays were being rejected by "jewish dominated" theatrical circles and panned by "the jewish press,"* he tried writing under a jewish-sounding nom de plume. His hope that this would change his fortune was short-lived, as his anti-Semitic fervor was noticeable even if disguised. As he later recalled of his "Berlin years" in Auf Gut Deutsch:
About fifteen years ago -- it was in Berlin -- I had written a play under the bitterest pressure. I devoted some months to it. And luckily I found a publisher for it, a wealthy one at that. He was enthusiastic about the piece, and gave me a hundred-mark advance on it. Without even a whimper. That he wanted my eternal gratitude for it only later did he emphasize! The man had connections. It wasn't too long before he directed me to go see Alfred Halm, then the head of the "Berliner Theater." He, too, was enthusiastic as hell about it. I went and was received by Halm with the words: "Finally someone who can write a German drama!" One can only imagine how I, poor devil, felt. Music from heaven. Mr. Halm laughed. "We'll produce it." My God in heaven -- produce it! Is there no chair here. I have to sit down. I heard much sense made of my play, what such and such meant, and how this or that would have to be explained, and once it almost seemed to me that Halm had written the thing. Finally: "The whole thing is great, excepting the figure Moritz Silberstahl.** His figure doesn't fit in with the character of the work at all! Do you feel him very important?" To me he was very important. Moritz - the jewish water heater manufacturer, was, in his apparently harmless talkativeness, the antithesis of my hero and as such not expendable. Anyway, I had taken him to heart, having waited for a chance to bring him to life. My Moritz! "He must be cut out!" Impossible! "Don't be a wet blanket! - he kills the whole thing. I'd be sorry if he doesn't get written out, because then I couldn't produce the play." But! "No, no...no Buts! It won't work even with the best of efforts. A totally offensive character. What am I supposed to do with the guy? He'd make the audience restless. Not only that, but also -- you seem to forget -- because (he faltered) we have a large number of Jews in the crowd, our very best customers. A chatterbox like your Silberstahl, out of the question, he'd never be tolerated. You know, I'm sure, how successful they are." Mr. Halm was himself jewish."
The year 1912 saw his biggest success. It was then that he published his translation of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt from the original Norwegian. Eckart believed that the Christian Morgenstern translation on the market was unfaithful to Ibsen's intentions. The poet transformed Peer from a lowly farmer into a heroic fighter for the Germanic Weltanschauung. this faustian change was so brilliant it met with instant acclaim.
At first Ibsen's son refused to allow Eckart to product the play on the German stage and withheld copyright permission. Kaiser Wilhelm II had read the new translation, and as the "protector of the German stage," personally intervened. The play opened at the Königlichen Schauspielen Theater in Berlin in 1914, and the Kaiser saw it twice in as many evenings. In fact, running 183 performances in four years, it was the second most popular play ever presented in the theater.
After years of near despair and starvation, Eckart was finally a financial success. His interest in Peer Gynt was more than artistic, though. He saw in Ibsen's hero his own personality. Alfred Rosenberg writes:
To Eckart, Peer Gynt appeared as the struggling hero of life, his apparent aimlessness appeared to him to be the stamp of genius, aimlessness namely with regard to material life. The Will to do the impossible, the desire for completeness, these signs of genius were those of Peer Gynt.
The following year Kaiser Wilhelm asked Eckart to write a play in honor of the planned marriage of his daughter to the Duke of Braunschweig. The Hohenstaufen Kaiser Heinrich the Sixth was chosen as his subject, and he completed the play in the allotted time. But after just six performances, it was banned. World War I was raging, and in the play the British king had pledged an oath of allegiance to Germany. Since this was an embarrassing historical fact in light of Germany's war with England, Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg suspended its production.
On September 15, 1913, Eckart had taken a widow, Rose Marx, for his wife. Now finding Berlin again hostile toward his work, he traveled in the spring of 1915 to Bad Blakenburg. Here his brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Wiedeburg, operated a sanitorium. Eckart found the place serene and perfect for his work. He not only found peace of mind, but also a willing audience for his plays. Patients and guests acted out scenes while he directed and rewrote. He busied himself in these experiments and remained at the sanatorium for a year.
His last play, Lorenzaccio, perhaps his finest effort, was completed in 1918. The tragedy was never performed during his lifetime. It was first staged in the Leipzig Stadttheater on October 7, 1933, ten years after his death.
* Of the 21 dailies published in Berlin during the 1870s, 13 were owned by Jews, four had important Jewish contributors, and only four had no connection with Jews. In the three humorous papers - Ulk, Kladderdatsch and Berliner Wespe -- Jews had a monopoly on political satire. It can be said that only in the specifically clerical or conservative press were no Jews to be found. The "Liberal" press, which grew up with industry and parliamentarism flourished by advertising and sensational reporting, owed its origins almost entirely to Jews." -- Peter Pulzer, The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany & Austria, p. 13. This tradition continued well into the Weimar years, it might be added. [Author's note]
** Eckart's gibe at the Jews is evident when 'Silberstahl' is rendered into English: 'Silverstealer.' [Author's note]
14. Rosenberg. Dietrich Eckart - Ein Vermächtnis. Munich, 1935. p. 13.
15. Plewnia. Auf dem Weg zu Hitler-Vülkische Publizist Dietrich Eckart. Bremen, 1970. p. 14.
16. Lembert. Dietrich Eckart - Künder und Kämpfer des Dritten Reiches. Munich, 1934. pp. 13-14.
17. Reich. Op Cit. p. 60.
18. Eckart. Auf Gut Deutsch. 31 January 1919, Heft 5, pp. 69-70.
19. Hanser. Op Cit. pp. 208-209.
20. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 22. Eckart's Peer Gynt was also translated into Dutch, Czech, and Hungarian with success (see Maser, Frühgeschicte der NSDAP. Frankfurt a/M, 1965. p. 179).
21. Rosenberg. Op Cit. p. 38.
22. Euringer. Dietrich Eckert - Leben eines Deutschen Dichters. Hamburg, 1935. p. 20.
THE PROPAGANDIST AND POLITICIAN
DIETRICH ECKART was a "character" in the fullest sense of the word. He was a "roughhewn and comical figure with his thick round head, his partiality for good wine and crude talk." He would sit for hours with his friends in sidewalk cafes and discuss the issues of the day. He dominated conversations. A well-read man, he was crude in his manner of speaking and his weakness for the Bavarian dialect, but was always able to throw out a quote or an eloquent response. Never caught without an answer, he was a skilled debater, and won over many converts to his nationalistic views.
Money, as would be wont of someone who took Peer Gynt to heart, never meant much to Eckart. If he had it, he would spend it. Rosenberg writes that Eckart could simply not say "no" to a friend, and would give up his last cent even if it meant he would go without.
He spent a small fortune on beer and wine, and entertaining drinking chums. He was accused by some of living off his girlfriends, and even of pandering.
Once, flat broke and downing what appeared to be his last glass in a local beerhall, he met a salesman for a well-known tonic remedy. Offered a thousand marks if he could come up with a good advertising jingle, the poet excused himself. A few minutes passed. He returned with a four-line stanza and handed it to the astonished salesman. He had composed it while in the lavatory. He was paid the money.
His years in Berlin, much like Hitler's years in Vienna, brought him into contact with many Jews. He slowly evolved into an anti-Semite. Well educated and a skillful orator, he became known as a so-called Judenspezialist. He was one of the first members of the Fichte Bund, founded in 1914; and he contributed to Theodor Fritsch's anti-jewish paper, Der Hammer. He cofounded a short-lived paper titled Unser Vaterland in 1915 after becoming convinced that there was a 'jewish attempt at world mastery.' At this time he wrote to a close friend:
To me it appears that the thing so disastrous for our nation, an attack that one can do practically nothing about, is the demonic thirst for power by the Jews who tolerate no other leadership but their own: but as long as they have not reached it, they fight with all their strength to bring about disorder and chaos.
Joachim Fest writes, "He characterized Soviet Russia as the 'Christian kosher butchering dictatorship of the jewish world savior Lenin' and said that what he wanted most was to 'load all Jews into a railroad train and drive into the Red Sea with it.'"
Schopenhauer was Eckart's favorite philosopher, and he took many of his ideas if not his very Weltanschauung from The World As Will and Idea. He explained he saw the world in terms of 'good' and 'evil,' with the German and Jew representing opposites. This idea was a common thread which ran through the 'folkish' movement, but with erudite quotes from Schopenhauer and others Eckart was prime mover of this belief. In short, he saw two impulses inherent in man, 'world-affirmation' and 'world-denial.' World-affirmation meant a complete surrender or submission to one's baser, all-too-human instincts; whether it be sensual, decadent, or materialistic. World-denial was its counterweight, the constant striving for something more than earthly desires, the Faustian Wanderlust which could not be explained, only felt. Eckart thought man must have an occasional respite from his inner strivings, but that a firm balance must be kept between the two extremes. Later he described it thusly:
Both directions of the will are important to the maintenance of life...constant world-denial would, so it would seem, redeem the world, but in fact would destroy it as would absolute world-affirmation...it would deprive the world of the mental-spiritual strength without which it could not exist.
One can trace the origin of Eckart's pet theme 'the jewish spirit within and without us' ('in und außer uns') to this viewpoint.
23. Fest. Op Cit. p. 132.
24. Rosenberg. Op Cit. p. 25.
25. Reich. Op Cit. p. 60.
26. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 28.
27. Fest. Op Cit. p. 132.
28. Lembert. Op Cit. pp. 31-32.
Rather than attack the Jew on a religious or biological basis as most anti-Semites before him, Eckart placed importance on the spiritual aspects. He felt every man had some 'jewishness' within him, and that one's first priority was to repress and purge this spirit. For perhaps the first time blame was laid on everyone's foibles instead of on 'the Jew' alone. This was a revolutionary if not refreshing approach to the 'problem,' and Eckart was articulate enough to advance it successfully. It can be found in Point 24 of the NSDAP Official Program.*
With the establishment of the Bolshevik dictatorship in Russia, Eckart all but dropped his literary efforts in favor of anti-marxist propaganda. In November of 1918 the World War was lost by Germany and in Munich the "Red Republic" of Kurt Eisner arose. Ironically, Munich was a main destination and refugee center for White Russians fleeing Russia. The city was a hotbed of pro- and anti-communist agitation. Among the mass of refugees was a young Balt, Alfred Rosenberg. He writes:
I came to Munich without knowing a single person. Chance brought me into contact with a Baltic woman to whom I told my plans (to fight the spread of Bolshevism in Germany). She informed me of a man who had already begun a similar fight for the same principles. To this end he distributed a small propaganda newspaper. I noted the name and address. The next day I spoke to Dietrich Eckart. I asked whether or not he could use another fighter against Jerusalem. He laughed -- sure. Did I have anything written to show him? I lay a prepared manuscript and drafts before him. The very next day he called my Pension, the stuff pleased him greatly and I was to come to see him again.
Rosenberg's first impressions:
Behind a desk stacked high with papers arose a tall figure, a clean-shaven head, a wrinkled brow, dark-framed glasses in front of blue eyes. The nose slightly bent, somewhat short and fleshy. A full mouth, a wide, yes even brutal chin.
The next month, on December 7, 1918, Eckart and Rosenberg founded their nationalistic and anti-semitic propaganda sheet entitled Auf Gut Deutsch, "In Plain German." Planned as a weekly, it was sixteen pages in length and cost fifty Pfennigs. Double issues of 32 pages were sometimes printed, and cost one mark. Eckart put his own finances into the printing and distributed it personally. He printed his Lorenzaccio drama and numbered it "Issues 15-29." Even multiple-numbering could not keep the magazine on a regular delivery basis, so Eckart felt obligated to send his subscribers other pamphlets and literature as compensation. Thule's Münchner Beobachter, Fritsche's Hammer, Sturm from Hannover, and a cheap edition of Artur Dinter's The Sin Against Blood, were among those anti-Semitic works mailed.
Eckart wasted no time in attacking his favorite targets. In the first issue of Auf Gut Deutsch he likened international finance to "der grosse Krumme." "Der Grosse Krumme," or the Great Boyg, was the ubiquitous clammy mass which almost trapped Peer Gynt in the Valley of the Trolls forever. Eckart thought the work "Krumme" particularly well suited for the analogy, as in German it has the double meaning of 'hunchback' - a disfigurement he attributed to a certain breed of banker. He wrote:
The tormentor of the German people is international finance, a financial militarism. On God's earth there is no more coldbloodedness or lies than those which hide behind the invisible empire of global economics. With a complete lack of scruples which defies description -- and even a simple knowledge of which would chill one's bones -- the furtive Princes of Gold mix their pernicious brew, which makes mankind not only serve them, but crazy and blind enough to mistake evil for good and good for evil . . . the Great Hunchback ("der Grosse Krumme"), a Hydra sucking up millions of our peoples' savings through his many banks, and fattening himself with ever-increasing influence. Go ahead and put your last dime down, what kind of interest do you get for it? A trifle! The Great Hunchback, however, bears fruit a hundredfold. Shut him out, bring the State to your side, and you will have a double benefit: you'll yield a better interest on your money, and the State, being better served, can therefore pay debts and relieve you of your burdens.
In the second issue of Auf Gut Deutsch, in response to a letter to the Editor complaining of his anti-Semitic slant, he responded:
Now let's take up the Jewish Question. There are numerous Germans who go out of their way [to avoid it] as if it doesn't exist. And yet it is the question of mankind, which envelopes all other problems. Nothing on earth would remain obscure if one could throw light on this mystery.
In April of 1919 Eckart and his circle of comrades -- by this time including such NS notables as Julius Streicher, Rudolf Hess, Gottfried Feder, Ernst Röhm and Anton Drexler -- agitated against the Eisner "Bavarian Peoples' Republic" by taking to the streets. Eckart had heard of the Russian Revolution first hand from Rosenberg, had witnessed the Eisner dictatorship in Munich, and saw in the terror of Bela Kun's Hungary proof positive that the Jews were conspiring against the world. He said:
The correspondence of the Russian Revolution to our own leaves nothing to the imagination. It depends only on whether or not it will be our end too.
On April 6th he printed one hundred thousand flyers headed "To All Professions!" in which he called for united action against the Eisner regime. It took courage to distribute the flyer in public as the Red guards were prone towards violence and summary shootings. He, Rosenberg and others drove through the streets of Munich, throwing the sheet from their speeding autos. A public notice of the Eisner regime acknowledged:
Since the proclamation of the Red Republic, public safety has been threatened for the most part by anti-Semitic agitators, cowardly types who throw flyers from speeding automobiles, who without any doubt will be in the shortest period of time, brought by the government to the Revolutionary Tribunal, as will all persons who disturb the peace.
Eckart joined the first Württemburg Regiment of the Freikorps under General Haas, and helped free Thule Society prisoners from the Stadelheim city prison. He was arrested for his involvement, but an eloquent speech gained him freedom. His experiences during this time convinced him that the middle class had failed miserably, and that only a broad-based appeal to the workers could rectify the situation.
Through folkish circles Eckart met Ulrich Fleischhauer, a well-known racist. He wrote Eckart:
The best educational material at present is your three illustrated issues of Auf Gut Deutsch. I always have them with me when I travel and find persistant contact and buyers for them.
Fleischhauer aided Eckart in the distribution of the magazine and played a key role in its success. He teamed with Alfred Rosenberg and published The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in German. At the famous Berne, Switzerland, trial of 1935 which ruled on the Protocols' authenticity, Fleischhauer was its chief defender. He ultimately founded the Welt-Dienst, the largest anti-Semitic operation in the world, publishing works in many foreign languages. The Welt-Dienst was the closest thing to a fascist "International" ever conceived, and Fleischhauer himself credited Eckart with the original idea. In April 1938 he related to the NSDAP Hauptarchiv that a conversation he had had years earlier with the poet was responsible. He wrote:
Dietrich Eckart then spoke to me alone, in a wine-cellar where we were sitting, about the subject which could today describe the Welt-Dienst. He said something to the effect: 'If our idea comes to power, the Jew will try again, as he's tried before with any State which attempts to solve the Jewish Problem, to starve us out. And if that's no use, then try to ruin us through wars and revolutions. Adolf must therefore have an international movement that can help him from the outside, just as the Stahlhelm and other groups help the Party from the outside today.'
On August 14, 1919, he attended an early meeting of Anton Drexler's German Workers' Party (DAP). He traveled to Nürnberg with Gottfried Feder and spoke on the 'breaking of interest slavery.' Success here led to the founding of Streicher's German Socialist Party (DSP) which later merged with Hitler's movement. He also joined the German Racist League for Defense and Attack (Schutz und Trutz Bund) which claimed a quarter million men by October. Its founder was Willibald von Zezschwitz, one of the Nazi Party's first lawyers.
Eckart was convinced that the nation only lacked a suitable leader and often spoke of the "coming Leader." He is quoted as saying that such a leader would have to be
a fellow who can stand the rattle of a machine gun. The rabble has to be scared shitless. I can't use an officer, the people no longer have any respect for them. Best of all would be a worker who's got his mouth in the right place. He doesn't need much intelligence, politics is the stupidest business in the world, as any washwoman in Munich can tell you.
As far as he was concerned, the leader who could give
a juicy answer to the Reds is better than a dozen learned professors who sit trembling on the wet pants seat of facts.
In late 1919, probably December, the poet met young Adolf Hitler. Eckart quickly realized Hitler's potential as a speaker and leader, and proclaimed: "There is the coming man of Germany of whom the world will someday speak! This prophetic remark was made at a time when Hitler was unknown and not taken seriously by anyone outside of his inner circle of supporters. Through Eckart Hitler met not only local Bavarian supporters, but important figures such as Ludendorff, Kapp, Röhm, Hess, Rosenberg, Ritter von Epp, not to mention the Wagner family and Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
General Kapp staged his ill-fated Putsch in Berlin on March 13, 1920. Hitler and Eckart flew to the city to witness the event. Their pilot was Ritter von Greim, who took charge of the Luftwaffe in 1945 after Hermann Göring's dismissal. When the revolt was crushed, Hitler and his mentor left the city disillusioned. But Hitler was thereafter the strongest national leader.
During the months that followed, Auf Gut Deutsch came out with three special issues devoted entirely to the "jewish problem." In February 1920 over one hundred thousand copies of In the New Germany were distributed. Leading marxist and jewish figures in government were attacked. Levine, a top Red leader, personally led an assault on the paper's office but a tip from sympathetic police saved it from destruction. In March another issue was devoted to Bela Kun's bloody rebellion in the neighboring state of Hungary, entitled Out of Hungary's Days of Terror. In July an issue, Austria Under Judas' Star appeared. Such provocative issues made Eckart a well-known figure around Bavaria and indeed all of Germany. He was arrested and his papers confiscated on numerous occasions. His controversial writing aroused much bitter protest in jewish communities. he was taken to court for slander and libel eleven times in three years. In one such case, a Rabbi Freund of Hannover was awarded one thousand marks. Eckart was forced to pay after having promised this amount in print to any Jew who could prove that he had had three sons serve in the trenches of the war for at least three weeks. In another case he was charged with libel after having called a prominent newspaper editor a Judentzer. This medieval term, obscure in modern German, is quite untranslatable into English, but it was ruled by the Munich court that it implied a "friend of the Jews through stupidity" or "a friend of the Jews for personal gain."
On December 20, 1920, the National Socialist German Workers' Party purchased its first newspaper from the Thule Society. It was renamed the Völkischer Beobachter. Eckart was instrumental in helping obtain the heavy financing required. He was apparently able to convince Freikorp General von Epp to contribute sixty thousand marks. The poet also contributed from his Peer Gynt royalties. His pivotal role in this momentous step for the Nazi Party was acknowledged by Hitler himself. A letter to Eckart dated December 18th runs:
Dear Herr Eckart
After the finally successful transfer of the Völkischer Beobachter to the Party, I want to, dear Eckart, express my warmest thanks for the great help you provided at the last minute.
Without your assistance the matter would probably not have come off, and I believe that we would have lost the opportunity to have our own newspaper for many months to come. I am so devoted to the Movement body and soul, you could scarcely believe how happy I am, as a consequence of reaching this much-desired goal, and I cannot refrain from expressing my deepfelt thanks for this present good fortune.
In true admiration,
At this time Eckart wrote the words to his song Deutschland Erwache! which later became a party byword. General Hans von Seeckt wrote in his memoirs that "Eckart's word has become a slogan to us."
In July 1921 the so-called "summer crisis" of the Nazi Party took place. Lasting six weeks, it grew out of a personality struggle between party founder Drexler and Adolf Hitler. The Führer resigned and then rejoined three days later when his demands were met by the executive committee. This was a crucial test for Hitler, one he could not afford to lose if he were to be unchallenged as Party leader in the future. Eckart's role was decisive. Munich police reports state, "The dispute was finally smoothed over by the mediation of Dietrich Eckart."
Eckart's political life had kept him away from home so much that in March of 1921 his wife Rose had been granted a divorce. After eight years of controversy surrounding her husband's views and actions, she had had enough. After the 'summer crisis' had been settled, Eckart's newfound freedom took him south to the small mountain village of Berchtesgaden, near Salzburg, where he escaped the pressures of city living and rested. It was there that he was to write his famous Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin and there that he was to die.
During the remaining two years of his life, Eckart's influence on Hitler and the growing Nazi Party began to wane. It was no longer a small circle of comrades meeting in an obscure beerhall, but a multi-faceted party with thousands of members and many local units. Alfred Rosenberg took over the editorship of the Völkischer Beobachter in 1922, though Eckart continued to write regularly for it.
His health suffered from overdrinking and his almost absolute dependence on morphine, and he helped the Party when he could. In the fall of 1922, for instance, the SA had grown so much that it was necessary to acquire trucks for its transportation. Transportation Leader Christian Weber recalled that "after consulting with Hitler I bought two such [trucks] for the Party. the sum of payment was loaned me by Dietrich Eckart."
On April 12, 1922, he wrote a highly critical attack on German President Frederick Ebert entitled "Comrade Ebert in the Next World." This humorous poetry, illustrated as well, made Ebert out as a tool of world Jewry and not fit for either heaven or hell. A warrant for Eckart's arrest was issued by the Leipzig courts, and he again went to Berchtesgaden under the alias of "Dr. Hoffman." There, in the Vorderbrandhaus on Obersalzburg, he remained for some six months. He was charmed by the mountains and vowed to someday build his own retreat there. It was built during the Third Reich about ten kilometers from Eckart's hut.
Though Eckart was absent from the Munich political scene his influence was still opening doors for Hitler. Eckart's close friend Dr. Emil Gansser, whose brother had set "Deutschland Erwache!" to music, was an important business figure. He invited Adolf Hitler to give a speech before a group of industrial leaders at the "Nationale Klub" in Berlin. The speech was delivered on May 29th, and substantial support was won for the growing party.
The June 8, 1923, issue of Völkischer Beobachter carried a small classified advertisement for a "cozy, well-situated house in the country." Even a court decree could not dampen Dietrich Eckart's humor. The arrest warrant was ineffective and eventually rescinded. In October he returned home. Rosenberg recalls:
After the lifting of the decree Dietrich Eckart came back to Munich. He had aged somewhat and looked tired. His humor flashed less often than before, and when he was himself conscious of his new freedom and feeling better, he still looked pessimistically towards the future....He lived in the company of good friends, aside from daily politicking. I saw him only seldom, first during the night of 8/9 November, when we rejoiced. It only lasted a short time. When I met him again later that night, he said, "We have been betrayed."
Despite his fears, Eckart told a friend: "It will and must be. I believe in Hitler. A star hangs over him." The next day he took his place with the others. He was arrested and taken to Stadelheim prison. In his last letter from prison, written to Bavarian head of state Gustav von Kahr, the poet complained:
I had to spend the rest of the day and the whole next night in an ice-cold cell of the policehouse. No stool, no table, only an uncomfortable dirty plank bed. Despite my constant shivering I couldn't decidce whether or not to use this so-called bed, until early morning I sat half-dead from weakness on its outer edge. Some hours later, about nine o'clock, I was brought by auto, at dire cost, to Stadelheim. My condition, I feel, is ever worsening. The careful attention which by all means I need, cannot be had here even with the best of efforts. Then there is the eternal solitude which, in my present condition, I'm simply not equal to, not to mention the 'robust' food. At home lies an unfinished manuscript of mine. The question of whether or not I'll ever be able to complete it tortures me constantly.
He pleaded for discharge but his request was in vain. A few days later he was transferred again to Landsberg-am-Lech with Hitler and the others.
His condition deteriorating steadily, prison authorities finally relented and set him free on December 20th. He was first driven to Munich, where he stayed overnight with friends. Rosenberg writes:
I met him there one evening. He lay in bed, we shook hands. His handshake was weak. Despite his attempt to laugh and make humorous remarks about his condition, Eckart had the appearance of an old man...he looked forward to Berchtesgaden, where he wanted to go to recover.
He arrived in the small village on December 22nd, and was put up by friends. He did appear tired but made no complaints and said he looked forward to Christmas and quietude. While residing at the home of the Pfnuer family, he died of heart failure just six days after gaining freedom. Frau Pfnuer related, "He brought no clothes to speak of, just an old leather grip filled to the brim with books."
Eckart was staying in the Pfnuer guesthouse. Sonnblick Hausl, and when she heard that the doctor had been summoned, she "hurried to the house, and found him in bed, with a peaceful expression on his face...his hands still holding an open book.' Thus the poet died, at a time when all his aspirations were for nothing, or so it seemed. The Nazi Party was banned, its leader in prison facing a treason trial, sixteen men had fallen at the Feldherrnhalle, and the future looked bleak indeed.
Four days thereafter, Dietrich Eckart was laid to rest in the small cemetery in Berchtesgaden. Police from outlying districts were brought into the village, in expectation of trouble; but a raging snowstorm kept the attendance down to about fifty loyal friends and comrades. Some short speeches were made, and the burial went without incident. Hitler and the others were not present, still awaiting release from prison.
Eckart's last work,Bolshevism From Moses to Lenin, was a dialogue with Hitler on the "Jewish Question." It was published posthumously from unfinished notes, and went through but two editions. It was, as Konrad Heiden writes, "brilliantly" written. One might say that even here Eckart's fascination for Peer Gynt shines through, for the Jew is painted as a bearer of destruction, an evil creature, a parasite, a troll. It was still being listed as available as late as 1929 by the Franz Eher Verlag, but was not actively promoted. Apparently Hitler considered it too blunt for mass consumption, for in it he and Eckart had agreed on the necessity of 'eliminating' the Jew from German life. As historian Norman Cohn writes: "In this little book, then, one comes to the very heart of Hitler's interpretation of history and human existence."
Eckart was a poet, author, dramatist, newspaper editor, and National Socialist. He was, in the field of literature, author of ten plays, translator of Ibsen's Peer Gynt from the original Norwegian, and a lyricist as well. Though he took himself seriously, he would often as not dash poems and lyrics off on scraps of paper and give them away, as save them for future use. If it were not for friends such as Albert Reich, there would be little material in print at all. That was Dietrich Eckart's nature.
But when politics was concerned he was deadly earnest, especially about the "Jewish Question." As editor of Auf Gut Deutsch, and first editor of the Völkischer Beobachter, he wrote literally hundreds of editorials and articles in a period spanning just five years. He was a good orator, a skillful fundraiser, a dedicated fanatic. He played a pivotal role in the early, crucial days of the Nazi Party. He gave shape and direction to Hitler's anti-Semitism, opened many doors for him, smoothed over differences between leaders, and helped pave the way for future successes of the Hitler movement. He was, in short, Hitler's mentor and the spiritual founder of National Socialism.
In December 1933 the first Dietrich Eckart Prize for Literature was awarded by the Hitler regime, an award of five thousand marks. A section of the Braun Haus in Munich was dedicated to his memory. His songs and slogans became virtual hymns in the Third Reich. His plays were produced regularly, his name evoked as dthe last martyr of the bloody Putsch. In 1936, the Dietrich Eckart Open Air Theater was dedicated simultaneously with the Berlin Olympic stadium. Adolf Hitler never forgot his 'fatherly friend,' and the Führer's secretary recalls that he nearly came to tears whenever the poet's name was mentioned. But Hitler's gratitude can best be recognized not by the stone monuments later destroyed to rubble, but rather by the often overlooked last sentence -- the dedication -- of Mein Kampf:
And among them I want also to count that man, one of the best, who devoted his life to the awakening of his, our people, in his writing and his thoughts and finally in his deeds: Dietrich Eckart
* For a more detailed argument on world affirmation/denial, see a translation of Eckart's article entitled, "The Earth-Centered Jew Lacks a Soul," printed in George L. Mosse's Nazi Culture, Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1966, pp. 75ff. This particular article was drawn from Alfred Rosenberg's Dietrich Eckart - ein Vermächtnis (p. 214ff.) but is incorrectly credited to Rosenberg himself rather than to Eckart. [Author's note]
29. Rosenberg. Op Cit. pp. 44-45.
30. Rosenberg. Letzten Aufzeichnungen. Göttingen, 1954. p. 81.
31. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 34.
32. Eckart. Auf Gut Deutsch. 17 Dez. 1918, Heft I, pp. 3-8.
33. Ibid. 31 Dez. 1918, Heft 2, pp. 18-19.
34. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 29.
35. Euringer. Op Cit. p. 27.
36. Hauptarchiv folder no. 1311. Letter from Fleischhauer to Eckart. 5 November 1920.
37. Cohn. Warrant for Genocide. Middlesex, England, 1970. p. 253.
38. Hauptarchiv folder no. 1311. Letter from Fleischhauer to Huttke, dated 7 April 1938.
39. Fest. Op Cit. p. 133.
40. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 67.
41. Ibid. p. 65.
42. Gruen. Dietrich Eckart Als Publizist. Munich, 1941. p. 152.
43. Plewnia. Op Cit. p. 48.
44. Franz-Willing. Op Cit. p. 181.
45. Fest. Op Cit. p. 141. (see also Plewnia. Endnote no. 518).
46. Franz-Willing. Die Hitlerbewegung, Vol. 2. Oldendorff, 1975. pp. 158-159.
47. Ibid. Vol. I. Hamburg, 1962. p. 185.
48. Rosenberg. Dietrich Eckart - Ein Vermächtnis. Munich, 1935. p. 60.
49. Deuerlein. Der Hitler Putsch. Stuttgart, 1962. pp. 438-440.
50. Rosenberg. Op Cit. p. 65.
51. Hamm. Obersalzburg. Munich, 1938. pp. 79-81.
52. Heiden. Introduction: in Hitler, Mein Kampf, American edition. NY, 1943. p. xv.
53. Cohn. Op Cit. p. 204.
54. Hitler. Mein Kampf. Munich, 1933. p. 781.
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