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2524Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Rudolf Hess

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  • Peter Staudenmaier
    Feb 26, 2004
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      Hi Daniel, you wrote:
      "This could support the well known fact that Hess was interested in the anthroposophical version of organic farming. It does not, to my mind, establish that Hess ever read a word of Steiner."
      We don't know what Hess read. We do know some of what Hess did.
      "If they are all of similar quality, they don't really establish much."
      What was it you were looking to have established?
      "To me, to be a "follower of Steiner" requires an actual study of Steiner's works."
      You mean his written works? So there are no followers of Jesus? I think this is an untenable approach to the issue. Following anthroposophical tenets in one's personal life is evidence of anthroposophical beliefs.
      "I'm just curious which ones you think have been misinterpreted by Werner, as Werner doesn't see any of them as painting Hess an Anthroposophist."
      Here's an example. Werner basically says that Hess had no interest in or sympathy for anthroposophy or Steiner, that he was merely protecting and promoting biodynamics as an independent entity. But Werner also reproduces a 1937 memo from Lotar Eickhoff (Hess’s aide, 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.” (pp. 214-215) I think this memo speaks directly against Werner's conclusion.
      "Neither do I really see any of them as evidence that Hess was actually a follower of Steiner. As I stated earlier, I consider reading Steiner a requirement for meeting the definition of a follower or devotee or acolyte or anthroposophist."
      I suppose that depends on how strictly we interpret each of those terms. But if we're looking to trace the lineage of particular beliefs and practices, then I think what you say above is mistaken in principle, not simply in this case. Evidence of direct reading is too restrictive a criterion for ideological influence in general, especially with historical figures.
      "Hess used his position as Hitler's Deputy to defend quite a few people besides anthroposophists; I don't see in this fact any evidence of a  personal devotion to Rudolf Steiner."
      I don't think that devotion to Steiner as a person is an issue here, if that's what you mean.
      "Does this make him a follower of Steiner?"
      There is no shortage of people today who combine anthroposophical beliefs with any number of other theories, from astrology to homeopathy. Many of these people can accurately be described as followers of Steiner, in my view.
      "And let's be clear, I am trying to establish whether Hess was a "follower of Steiner" or an anthroposophist, not whether his office protected biodynamic farmers after anthroposophy was outlawed."
      That's fine, but the second part is important to the kind of history that I do. Some anthroposophists have taken the line that Hess helped out more or less anybody who came across his path, so what's the big deal, but I think this misses the point. Hess was fairly selective about the groups and individuals that he favored, and he did not shy away from going to bat for them in the face of sometimes intense opposition from other Nazi leaders. His support for Walter Gross, the head of the Office of Racial Policy, is one example, and I think his interventions on behalf of Waldorf and biodynamics is another. In fact I think that the divided attitudes toward anthroposophy within the higher echelons of the party make a very interesting case study in the dynamics of Nazi policy and its implementation (one of the few topics on which I largely agree with Werner). Making sense of this material requires us to take seriously the levels of expressed interest in the variety of anthroposophical projects in Germany at the time, as well as exploring some of the reasons for this interest.

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