Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

The Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib is an internet site featuring the works of Austrian pholosopher, Rudolf Steiner. There are references to waldorf schools, Steiner schools, and these topics: school, spirituality, developing, waldorf, working, steiner schools, german, schools waldorf, times, waldorf school, steiner german, books, teachers, societies, world, steiner work, knowledge.

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Rudolf Steiner and the Nazis

Recent accusations of “racist” and “Nazi” undertones of anthroposophy and Waldorf Schools betray a curious case of history contradicting itself. To the Nazis themselves, Anthroposophists were persecuted as guilty of the opposite charges: “individualistic,” “internationally oriented,” and “pacifistic,” they were accused of maintaining close ties to Jews. Their humanistic philosophy, contradictory to the ideas of race and “Volk” upheld by the Nazis, was determined to be “directly opposed to National Socialism”. The following is a short excerpt from Uwe Werner's recent book, “Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus” (Verlag R. Oldenberg, Muenchen, 1999), which sketches the historical circumstances of the anthroposophical movement in the time of Nazi Germany. [See also this document at the Waldorf Answers site.]


Anthroposophy in the Time of Nazi Germany

Anthroposophists belonged to the many groups of people who were persecuted under the Nazi regime. Hitler's own disdaining remarks regarding Rudolf Steiner and the Anthroposophists appeared as early as 1921. [See Note 1] By spring of 1933, articles criticizing the movement began appearing more frequently in National Socialist newspapers. By summer of that year, Steiner's books were banned from public libraries in Bavaria, and study groups and branches of the Anthroposophical Society, along with other cultural organizations, were ordered to submit to National Socialistic leadership.

During the years leading up to the 1935 prohibition of the German Anthroposophical Society and the closing of Waldorf Schools in the years thereafter, the society Council was faced with the question of whether to submit to pressure to dissolve the Society of their own accord, or whether to attempt to preserve the Society and to continue working as long and as effectively as possible. Choosing the second of these two paths made it necessary for them to make compromises in order to be tolerated by those in power. It is for this reason that, despite the fact that the main Council had unanimously renounced the National Socialist cause at an internal meeting at Easter 1933, there was never a public rejection of National Socialism on the part of the Anthroposophical Society.

Like the Anthroposophical Society, institutions based on anthroposophy (such as Waldorf Schools, schools for the handicapped, hospitals, schools of Eurythmy, etc.), for the most part adopted a strategy of peaceful and passive resistance. Waldorf Schools experienced serious financial strains and were forced to let go of Jewish teachers, but the remaining teachers could continue to create their own lesson plans. In homes for the handicapped, children could be cared for. It was still possible to publish and to have access to the work of Rudolf Steiner. In a manner of working not unlike that carried out by Anthroposophists today in regions with human rights violations, efforts aimed to uphold human dignity wherever possible.

Though the decision had been reached by July, 1934, it was not until November 1, 1935 that, through the efforts of Nazi leaders Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, the Anthroposophical Society was prohibited in Germany. The grounds for its prohibition read as follows:

“According to its historical development, the Anthroposophical Society is internationally oriented and even today continues to maintain close contacts to foreign freemasons, Jews and pacifists. The methods of teaching developed by its founder, Steiner, and followed in the anthroposophical schools still existing today follow an individualistic and human-oriented education, which has nothing in common with principles of National Socialistic education. As a result of its opposition to the National Socialistic idea of Volk (Voelkische Gedanke), the continued activity of the Anthroposophical Society imposes the danger of injuring the National Socialistic State. The organization is therefore to be dissolved on account of its subversive character and the danger it poses to the public.” [See Note 2]

The accusations had been carefully researched. Himmler ordered numerous investigative reports that serve to document the stand of the Nazis toward anthroposophy. Fifteen indepth reports, as well as countless individual accounts, all come to the same conclusion: that anthroposophy is irreconcilable with the aims and ideologies of National Socialism.

“To briefly summarize my judgement,” wrote Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, Professor of Religion at the University of Tuebingen and member of the Secret Service of the S.S.,

“every undertaking and activity of anthroposophy necessarily arises out of the Anthroposophical world view. The anthroposophical worldview is in its most important points directly opposed to National Socialism. Therefore, schools which are built out of the anthroposophical worldview and led by anthroposophists mean danger to true German education.” [See Note 3]

Perhaps the most persuasive adherent of National Socialism to formulate the incompatibility of anthroposophy and National Socialism was Alfred Bauemler, a distinguished philosopher and professor of education in Berlin. As part of his work within the Rosenburg Office “for the control of the intellectual life of the National Socialist Party”, he was commissioned to conduct an indepth investigation of the work of Rudolf Steiner. Unlike hasty and unstudied police reports, Bauemler's “Report on Waldorf Schools” and “Report on Rudolf Steiner and Philosophy” are noteworthy attempts to understand the thoughts underlying anthroposophy: Baeumler's hope was to find means to adopt aspects of Waldorf pedagogy into National Socialist education. He concluded, however, that the principles underlying anthroposophy contradict the aims of the National Socialistic State. “The fateful distinction,” he wrote, “occurs through the fact that Steiner replaces the theory of heredity with a different, positive theory. Steiner does not simply overlook the biological reality, but rather consciously converts it to its opposite. Anthroposophy is one of the most consequent antibiological systems.” In that race and Volk are discounted in anthroposophy as the essential determining factor of individual capacity, Bauemler realizes that the objectives in Waldorf education, according to Steiner's principles, “can only be humanistic, and not based on race or ethnic group.” [See Note 4]

In March, 1936, Waldorf Schools were prohibited from taking on new students; by summer of 1941, all Waldof Schools in Germany had been forced to close their doors.

On June 9, 1941, shortly before the attack on Russia, the Gestapo staged an action against the “inside opponents” of the Nazis. The Christian Community was prohibited from continued activity, and prominent Anthroposophists and members of the Christian Community were arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. The following fall, the Department of Security of the Reich published a 50 page brochure entitled “Anthroposophy and its Associated Institutions”. The report's concluding statement read: “If one is to accept the totality of thinking embraced in a world-view and recognize its impact on the entire opinions and bearing of the people, the'n there can be no doubt that followers of Anthroposophy must necessarily become opponents of National Socialism.” [See Note 5]

*        *        *




Documentary Material

1. Adolf Hitler about Rudolf Steiner and Three-folding

“In the course of the London affair, there gradually emerged such mysterious circumstances that it has become not only expedient but indeed necessary to look somewhat more closely at this Minister [Simons], the intimate friend of the Gnostic and Anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner, follower of Three-folding of the Social Organism and whatever all these Jewish methods of destroying the normal frame of mind of the people are called: to see whether that mindless face, as Lloyd George described it, is really just the result of a deficient intellect, or if it is the mask behind which something else is concealed ... [He continues with a protest against Simon's political activity, and particularly the movement to disarm the German people] ... And who is the driving force behind all this devilishness? The Jew! Friend of Doctor Rudolf Steiner, the friends of Simons, the ‘mindless’ ...”

Adolf Hitler, Staatsmaenner oder Nationalverbrecher (“Men of the State or National Criminals”), in: Voelkischer Beobachter, 35Jg., 15 March 1921, S.2. (original German text)

2. Prohibition of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany, November 1, 1935

“Prussian Secret Police, Berlin, November 1, 1935. The deputy chief (stell. Chef) and Inspector II 1 B 2 69121/766 L/35.

Regarding: the Anthroposophical Society.

In accordance with paragraph 1 of the decree of 2.28.1933 for the Protection of People and State, issued by the President of the Reich, I hereby dissolve the Anthroposophical Society within the territory of the German Reich, effective immediately. The organization's properties are to be confiscated. The re-establishment of the Society, as well as the creation of undercover successor organizations, is forbidden under threat of the penalties described in paragraph 4 of the above-named decree.

Grounds: According to its historical development, the Anthroposophical Society is internationally oriented and even today continues to maintain close contacts to foreign freemasons, Jews and pacifists. The methods of teaching developed by its founder, Steiner, and followed in the anthroposophical schools still existing today follow an individualistic and human-oriented education, which has nothing in common with principles of national socialistic education. As a result of its opposition to the National Socialistic idea of Volk (Voelkische Gedanke), the continued activity of the Anthroposophical Society imposes the danger of injuring the National Socialistic state.

The organization is therefore to be dissolved on account of its subversive character and the danger it poses to the public.

sig. in absentia, Heydrich.

BAK (German Federal Archives) R.43 II/822 (original German text)

3. Dr. J.W. Hauer on Waldorf Schools

“[...] To briefly summarize my judgement: Every undertaking and activity of anthroposophy necessarily arises out of the anthroposophical world view. The anthroposophical world view is in its most important points directly opposed to national socialism. Therefore, schools which are built out of the anthroposophical world view and led by anthroposophists mean danger to true German education, particularly through the relation of the anthroposophical communities to Dörnach, the international center of anthroposophy, in which Jews also play an important role, or at any rate have played until the present. A survey of the teachers and leaders of the individual Waldorf Schools in Germany before the [Nazi] takeover indicates clearly that the Jewish impact was important in the German anthroposophical communities and schools.”

Prof. Dr. J.W. Hauer, in an internal report for the Secret Service, Stuttgart on February 7, 1935. BAP R 4901-3285 (original German text)

4. From “Report on Waldorf Schools” and “Report on Rudolf Steiner and Philosophy” by Alfred Bauemler

The understanding of man (.Menschenkunde) which underlies Waldorf education contain deep and correct insights, which R. Steiner derived mostly from his exceedingly fruitful study of Goethe's writings on natural science. The National Socialistic understanding of man can only be derived from race. To the extent to which race is a reality of nature, it could appear that already in the point of departure there lay an essential correlation between Rudolf Steiner's understanding of man, and that of National Socialism: Steiner departs from the formative forces of Nature and bases school-education on the development of natural forces. One might thereby call his education “biologically” founded. However, if one were to attempt to introduce the concept of race as we understand it into this biological foundation, it would explode Steiner's understanding of man. This is because National Socialism departs from the reality of blood, and from the differences that exist between groups of people of differing blood. We grasp these differences not only biologically/anthropologically, but primarily historically, in that we turn our attention to those things which people of varying blood-heritage have produced and developed: the cities, works of art, inventions, scientific systems, etc. Rudolf Steiner's understanding of man has no access to this historical thinking derived from knowledge of the reality of race. The position occupied in our world view by the man determined by the forces of race is occupied in the world view of Rudolf Steiner by the Spirit of Man, sovereign over all history. The thought of Rudolf Steiner is not biological-racist, but biological-cosmic.”

Alfred Bauemler, Report on Waldorf Schools, 1937, in: Achim Leschinsky, “Waldorf Schools in National Socialism”, Neue Sammlung, May/June 1983, p.280. (original German text)

“Steiner is not only an epigone of idealistic philosophy, but he builds upon the philosophy of the intellect (spirit) in a decided manner. The fateful turning point occurs through the fact that Steiner replaces the theory of heredity with a different, positive theory. He does not simply overlook the biological reality, but rather consciously converts it to its opposite. Anthroposophy is one of the most consequent antibiological systems in existence.” (p.401)

“Objectives of pedagogical activity: According to the basic assumptions of anthroposophy, these objectives can only be humanistic, and not based on race or ethnic group.” (p.403)

Alfred Bauemler, Report on Rudolf Steiner and Philosophy, 1938, in: Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit der Nationalsozialismus 1933-1945, Muenchen, 1999, p. 401, 403. (original German text)

5. “Anthroposophy and its Associated Institutions”

“Die Anthroposophie und ihre Zweckverbaende. Bericht unter Verwendung von Ergebnissen der Aktion gegen Geheimlehren und sogenannte Geheimwissenschaften vom 5. Juni 1941.” RSHA ca. Oktober 1941. (“Anthroposophy and its Associated Institutions. Report applying evidence from the Operation against Secret Teachings and so called Occult Sciences of June 5, 1941.” RSHA, ca. October 1941)


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Berlin, 1.November 1935

Geheime preussische Staatspolizei

Berlin, 1.November 1935
(ausgehändigt 12.November)

Betrifft Anthroposophische Gesellschaft

Auf Grund des § 1 der V.O. des Herrn Reichspräsidenten zum Schutze von Volk und Staat vom 28.2.1933 löse ich mit sofortiger Wirkung die im Gebiete des deutschen Reiches bestehende Anthroposophische Gesellschaft auf. Das Vermögen der Organisation wird beschlagnahmt. Die Neu-Gründung der Gesellschaft sowie die Schaffung getarnter Nachfolgeorganisationen wird bei Androhung der Folgen aus § 4 dieser Verordnung verboten.

Gründe!

Nach der geschichtlichen Entwicklung der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft ist diese international eingestellt und unterhält auch heute noch Beziehungen zu ausländischen Freimaurern, Juden und Pazifisten. Die auf der Pädagogik des Gründers Steiner aufgebauten und in den heute noch bestehenden anthroposophischen Schulen angewandten Unterrichtsmethoden verfolgen eine individualistische, nach dem Einzelmenschen ausgerichtete Erziehung, die nichts mit den nationalsozialistischen Erziehungsgrund-säĪtzen gemein hat. Infolge ihres Gegensatzes zu dem vom Nationalsozialismus vertretenen völkischen Gedanken besteht die Gefahr, dass durch die weitere Tätigkeit der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft die Belange des national-sozialistischen Staates geschädigt werden.

Die Organisation ist daher wegen ihres staatsfeindlichen und staatsgefährdenden Charakters aufzulösen.

I.V. Heydrich
Stempel. Beglaubigt : gez. Bosse
Kanzleiangestellte


[For the English translation of this letter, see Note 2, above]



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