University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Military government weekly information bulletin
Number 93 (May 1947)

New books on Germany's past,   pp. 7-8 PDF (1.2 MB)


Page 7


fIAT
F AT1
Four Germans-an historian, two
philosophers, and a sociologist-
recently have written books released
by US-licensed publishing houses dis-
cussing phases of Germany's past
which should be of great value to
those persons interested in the Ger-
man mind and history.
Die Schuldfrage (The Question of
Guilt) by Karl Jaspers, a professor of
philosophy at Heidelberg, is the most
comprehensive and intelligent trea-
tise on the collective guilt thesis to
date. In this booklet the author
distinguishes among four different
types of guilt: criminal, political,
moral, and metaphysical. The supreme
judges to decide about the amount of
guilt and punishment in the case of
criminal guilt are the law courts; in
the case of political guilt, the vic-
torious powers; in the case of moral
guilt, the individual's own conscience;
and in the case of metaphysical guilt,
God alone.
Politically Liable
Jaspers states  that no  matter
Whether all Germans are politically
guilty, they are politically liableL
With painstaking deliberation Jaspqers
takes up every single aspect of the
guilt complex; he also touches on the
guilt of the Allies, but he finds strong
and eloquent words to warn the
reader not to dodge his own soul-
searching by accusing the accuser.
The Nuremberg trial is viewed as a
most encouraging symptom of an ex-
periment in international cooperation
and law. Jaspers' search for truth
and his very great sense of dif-
ferentiation are remarkable because
of their unsparingness.
The concluding chapter of the book
is entitled "Our Purification." "Neither
subservient confessions of guilt nor
spiteful pride can be our attitude to-
ward the victorious powers. Punish-
ment can be expiated and political
liability can be fixed by a peace
treaty and thus be brought to an end.
But moral and metaphysical guilt
cannot be expiated. They never cease
to exist. He who endures them will
undergo a process lasting his whole
lifetime. Without the way of purifi-
cation out of the depth of the guilty
conscience, no truth can be realized
... humility and moderation are our
share."
Die Deutsche Katastrophe (The
German Catastrophe) was written by
the 84-year-old historian Friedrich
Meinecke, recipient of an honorary
degree from Harvard University. The
circumstances under which this book
was produced are typical of the
handicaps under which present-day
German authors have to labor: with-
out a library, notes, or access to any
other source material. The nearly-
blind historian wrote his book in a
farmhouse where he had sought
refuge at the end of the war. He
belongs to the school of "classical
liberal" Prussian historians of the last
century.
Wrecked by Hitler
Meinecke views the Nazi movement
as a synthesis of the two most
dynamic waves surging over the
civilized world in the 19th century,
the nationalist and the socialist
wave. The success of this synthesis
was wrecked by Hitler's lack of
moderation.
The writer, however, does not
dwell nearly long and thoroughly
enough on the complete and per-
nicious corruption and distortion of
both the nationalist and socialist
wave by Hitler and fails to broach
the important question: How was it
possible  that  Hitlerism  crushed
Marxism in Germany and yet is
depicted as having arrived at a
synthesis ... of the two waves?
Once a great admirer of Bismarck,
Meinecke still maintains that Bis-
marck was able to bring about a
harmony of "might and mind," even
though the seeds for ruthless power
politics and Prussian militarism were
planted and cultivated under his
rule. Meinecke has some penetrating
things to say about Prussian power
WEEKLY INFORMATION BULLETIN
7
19 MAY 1947


Go up to Top of Page