Hitler's War Poets: Literature and Politics in the Third Reich

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Jay W. Baird comes to grips with a theme which has been generally avoided by over two generations of scholars and literary critics. He demonstrates how poets and writers responded enthusiastically to Hitler’s summons to artists to create a cultural revolution commensurate with the political radicalism of the new state, thereby affirming the centrality of renewed German culture. Hitler’s War Poets focuses on the lives and the works of six leading conservative, anti-communist yet revolutionary authors who articulated the dream of World War I veterans to form a socially just national community.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Jay Baird's years of close attention to the literary history of the conservative and rightist voices in modern Germany comes to full fruition in this necessary study. Finally scholars and students of Nazi literary and cultural history have a clear, comprehensive, and authoritative study in English of the major literary voices cultivated by the Nazi state and who in turn served its needs-all too knowingly and gladly. Historians rarely read literature so well and usefully as does Baird in this model interdisciplinary study.” -Scott Denham, Davidson College

“In Jay Baird we finally have a scholar who takes seriously the German authors from the Third Reich who were hugely popular and influential in their day, but whose work is now generally dismissed as Nazi trash. Even if the poetry was bad and the novels second-rate, as many as half a million copies of some books were sold. Baird offers an insightful and sensitive critical analysis of the wide-ranging effect of these works that will be appreciated both by readers interested in history, and in German literature.” -Geoffrey Giles, University of Florida, Gainesville

“Jay Baird has the gift of making these authors in the thrall of Hitler come vividly alive. He demonstrates that with all their personal verve and valor, their idealism was misplaced, their judgments wrong, their morality questionable, and their activities often criminal. Moreover, if their writings were emblematic of literature in the Third Reich, this literature was, qualitatively, at a nadir. Altogether, Baird’s book is an important contribution to the growing historiography of culture under the Nazis.” -Michael H. Kater, York University, author of Never Sang for Hitler: The Life and Times of Lotte Lehmann.

“Jay Baird's exhaustive and fastidious research of a lifetime has yielded a much needed, greatly differentiated assessment of the literature under Nazi rule. Most of Germany's literati, not only minor talents, but also truly gifted writers, prostituted* (misused) their gifts as "an aesthetic accompaniment to brutality." Baird's illuminating volume also points an object lesson for times past and present. By observing that Hitler's once popular toadies are all but forgotten today, Baird demonstrates that those who live by the poisoned word shall perish by it — together with the fall of the pernicious cause they so willingly served.” -Guy Stern, Wayne State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521876896
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2007
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay W. Baird is Professor of History Emeritus at Miami University in Ohio. He has also taught at Stanford University and Pomona College, and was a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge in 1997 and 2004. His previous books include To Die For Germany (1990); The Mythical World of Nazi War Propaganda, 1939-1945 (1977); and the edited volume From Nuremberg to My Lai (1974). He served as president of the German Studies Association from 1993-1995, and was recognized by the Holocaust Educational Foundation for distinguished contributions to Holocaust education in 2006.

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Table of Contents

1. Heroic imagery in the literature of the Third Reich; 2. Rudolf G. Binding and the memory of the Great War; 3. The Great War and literary reaction: Josef Magnus Wehner and the dream of a new Reich; 4. Hans Zöberlein: the heritage of the front as Third Reich prophecy; 5. Edwin Erich Dwinger: Germany's iconic literary anti-Bolshevik; 6. Hitler's muse: the political aesthetics of the poet and playwright Eberhard Wolfgang Möller; 7. The testament of Zarathustra: Kurt Eggers and the SS ideal; Epilogue.

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