The Art of Avoiding History

by Peter Staudenmaier

Reply to Göran Fant, “The Art of Turning White into Black”

Göran Fant says that he is unable
to recognize the portrait of anthroposophy that I painted in my article Anthroposophy
and Ecofascism
I am not surprised that he found my portrait hard to swallow, since Fant is
convinced that anthroposophy is by definition anti-racist and opposed to
nationalist and right-wing politics. I cannot argue with Fant’s personal
beliefs, but they are unfortunately incompatible with anthroposophy’s actual
historical record. In the course of the several debates that have ensued since
my article was first published, I have become increasingly aware that
contemporary anthroposophists are often woefully uninformed about the history
of their own doctrine. As odd as it may seem to admirers of Steiner, who are
inclined to view adherents of anthroposophy as authorities on anthroposophy, many
anthroposophists simply do not know very much about Steiner’s teachings or
about the development of the movement he founded. Like Fant, they thus find critical
descriptions of anthroposophy’s history to be unbelievable, indeed virtually
unintelligible. I would like to contribute to a more accurate view by
responding to some of Fant’s claims.[2]

Fant says that anthroposophy is
anti-authoritarian, anti-elitist, anti-racist, and apolitical. He complains
about my article’s supposedly unorthodox method, and offers an alternative
interpretation of the relationship between anthroposophy and Nazism. Let us examine
each of these arguments in turn.

Authoritarianism. Fant’s statements about the character of
anthroposophy are at odds with Rudolf Steiner’s precepts. In order to continue
along the path of spiritual and racial advancement, Steiner taught, individuals
must subordinate themselves to “the great leaders of humankind” (die
großen Führer der Menschheit
). If they fail
to obey these leaders, their souls are condemned to spiritual and racial
stagnation.[3] Anthroposophy
is moreover based on an authoritarian epistemology which explicitly denigrates
“criticism” and “judgement” while celebrating “reverent veneration” of
ostensible spiritual virtues, and rejects “intellectual effort” in favor of
“immediate spiritual perception.”[4]
Contemporary anthroposophists’ uncritical attitude toward Steiner’s writings is
further testament to this authoritarian framework. Fant is much too optimistic
about the possibilities for “adapting Steiner’s texts to our time”; short of
schism or apostasy, anthroposophy simply offers no grounds on which its
adherents might coherently revise or refute its inherited doctrines.
Furthermore, what Fant calls “the great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s
teachings depends entirely on anthroposophist credulity toward Steiner’s
methods of occult revelation. Whatever the charms of this version of
esotericism, such methods are irreconcilable with rational evaluation and
independent confirmation.[5]
In a judicious assessment of the anti-rational and authoritarian implications
of the anthroposophic worldview, Sven Ove Hansson writes: “Steiner’s
pronouncements are in practice never questioned in the anthroposophical
movement, and very little of substance has been added to the doctrine after his
An authoritarian disposition is unavoidable in a movement that considers itself
to be preserving a “secret science” (Geheimwissenschaft), one of Steiner’s original terms for anthroposophy.[7]

Elitism. Anthroposophy’s very
nature as an esoteric worldview is predicated on the distinction between
initiates and non-initiates, as well as on the notion of a ladder of knowledge
which all initiates must climb step by step. These are the characteristic marks
of an elitist mindset. Steiner also held that the German cultural elite,
as the most spiritually advanced segment of the “Aryan race,” had a special
mission to redeem the world from materialism. In his own words,
“If one national civilization spreads more readily, and has
greater spiritual fertility than another, then it is quite right that it should
His theory of the unique cultural mission of the German people was matched by
an elitist social doctrine. In his economic writings, Steiner emphasized that
all decisions must be made by “the most capable”; his “threefold society” was
to be run not by the “hand-workers” but by “the spiritual workers, who direct
[9] And his
racial theories, needless to say, were rigidly hierarchical and tied to
anthroposophy’s elitist conception of spiritual progress: “Nations and races
are merely the various stages of development toward pure humanity. A nation or
a race stands higher the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal
human type, the more they have worked their way through from the transitory
physical to the immortal supernatural. The development of humankind through
reincarnation in ever higher national and racial forms is therefore a process
of liberation.”
[10] Even
sympathetic observers note that Steiner’s anthroposophy aimed to create a “new
spiritual elite”.

Racism. I do not doubt that many anthroposophists today are
opposed to racist prejudice. But this admirable orientation does not justify
their refusal to confront honestly their doctrine’s thoroughly racist origins.
The entire edifice of anthroposophy is built on the comprehensive
historical-evolutionary-racial typology Steiner laid out in Cosmic
and elsewhere. The key to this
typology is the root-race doctrine, which divides the human family into five
root races (Wurzelrassen,
sometimes also named Hauptrassen
or Grundrassen, principal or primary
races), with two more root races to appear in the distant future. Each root
race is further stratified into sub-races (Unterrassen), a term which eventually gave way, in Steiner’s
writings, to the more recognizable unit of the people or nation (Volk). These categories are biological (Steiner calls
them “hereditary”) as well as spiritual. The racial classifications are not
normatively neutral; they are arranged in ascending order of spiritual
development, with the fifth root race, the “Aryan race,” and within that root
race the “Germanic-Nordic” peoples, at the top of the hierarchy. This
hierarchy, according to Steiner, is an integral component of the cosmic order.

Steiner’s book Cosmic Memory remains to the present day the primary
source for anthroposophy’s cosmology, with no distancing whatsoever toward its
racist elements. The editor’s foreword to the current edition, published in
Dornach, doesn’t so much as mention the book’s racist content, much less try to
explain or minimize it; and the Anthroposophical Society continues to
officially designate the book one of the “fundamental anthroposophist texts.”
Nor did Steiner himself ever renounce it; on the contrary, at the end of his
life he called
Cosmic Memory the “basis of anthroposophist cosmology.”[13]
Today the book is still officially recommended for use by Waldorf teachers. Its
racial mythology is elaborated in extravagant detail in many other works by
Steiner published by anthroposophical presses.

according to both Steiner and his latter-day followers, humanity’s very
existence is structured around the stratified scheme of higher and lower races.
Nor is it the case, as Fant would have us believe, that in Steiner’s view these
racial divisions “will soon totally disappear.” Steiner taught that the “Aryan
race” will reign until the year 7893, six thousand years in the future.
Occasionally he indicated that the final transcendence of racial categories
would happen sooner, in roughly 1500 years – still an extraordinarily long time
to wait for anthroposophy to shed its racial obsessions. The Dutch
anthroposophist commission on “anthroposophy and the race question,” on the
other hand, reports that “according to Steiner, the word ‘race’ will no longer
have meaning in 5,500 years.”

It is also inaccurate and
simplistic to say that Steiner gave the Aryan concept “quite another meaning
than it later acquired in the Nazi era.” From the moment it was invented by
European racial theorists in the nineteenth century, the preposterous notion of
an “Aryan race” was inextricably bound up in the repugnant ideology of racial
superiority. That Steiner himself shared this ideology is obvious from his
contemptuous references to blacks, Asians, aboriginal peoples, Jews, and other
non-“Aryans.” Steiner’s version of Aryanism was in fact strikingly similar,
even in detail, to that of leading Nazi racial theorists. Steiner divided the
Aryan root race into five sub-races: Ancient Indian, Persian,
Egyptian-Chaldean, Greco-Roman, and Germanic-Nordic. By comparison, Nazi ideologist
Alfred Rosenberg included the Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germans and
Scandinavians in the “Aryan race.”[17]
Similarly, Arthur de Gobineau’s version of the “Aryan race” comprised Indians,
Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese, and Germans.[18]
Richard Wagner held that the principal “Aryan” peoples were the Indians,
Persians, Greeks, and Germans, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s conception of
“the Aryans” was substantially similar to Steiner’s as well. Enthusiasts of
anthroposophy would do well to familiarize themselves with the history of the
Aryan myth.[19] Above all,
they would do well to examine more closely the considerable continuities
between Steiner’s description of the “Aryan race” and those put forward by the
leading racists of the nineteenth century and their Nazi inheritors.[20]

In spite of all this evidence and
context, Fant insists that “Steiner’s texts do not express any racism.” The
only conclusions the rest of us can draw are that Fant has not read Steiner’s
writings, or that he has a remarkably limited understanding of racism. The
latter possibility is strongly suggested by Fant’s foolish example of “going
out in the streets and slaughtering immigrants” as somehow typical of a racist
mindset. He appears to believe that “well-meaning” people cannot be racist.[21]
Fant has evidently never examined racism as a belief system or body of ideas.
That these ideas continue to exert a powerful and pernicious influence in
modern societies, without for the most part yielding directly murderous
consequences, seems to have escaped his notice. Today’s naïve anthroposophists
are the kinder, gentler counterpart to xenophobic thugs: not violent, not
overtly discriminatory or prejudiced, indeed seemingly the opposite. That is
why their potential role is so baleful: to make ‘soft’ racism and ‘soft’
nationalism socially acceptable in the heart of a materially comfortable but
ideologically insecure middle class.

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. Even if Fant’s claim that
“anthroposophy is apolitical” were believable, it would hardly be reassuring;
it is precisely this sort of naiveté toward the political implications of an
all-encompassing quasi-religious worldview that is most worrisome about
contemporary anthroposophists. Historically speaking, moreover, many of
Steiner’s followers, including prominent and institutionally central
anthroposophists, have been actively involved in fascist politics.
In any case, my article did not argue that all anthroposophists are
enthusiastic activists of the radical right, but that the consistent
connections between anthroposophic beliefs and far-right politics have been
unmistakable since the doctrine first emerged a century ago. This persistent
connection is a mainstay of current research on the European far right. In
addition to the many sources cited in my article, interested readers may
consult the following discussions of Steiner’s radical right followers:
Jonathan Olsen,
Nature and Nationalism;
Volkmar Wölk, Natur und Mythos; Peter Kratz, Die Götter des New Age; Reinalter, Petri, and Kaufmann, Das Weltbild des
; Bernice Rosenthal, The
Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture
; Jahn
and Wehling,
Ökologie von rechts; Udo
Normalisierung von Rechts; Gugenberger
and Schweidlenka,
Die Fäden der
Nornen: zur Macht der Mythen in politischen Bewegungen
; Franz Wegener, Das
atlantidische Weltbild: Nationalsozialismus und Neue Rechte auf der Suche nach
der versunkenen Atlantis
; Arn Strohmeyer, Von
Hyperborea nach Auschwitz
; Joscelyn Godwin,
Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival; Gugenberger, Petri, and Schweidlenka, Weltverschwörungstheorien:
die neue Gefahr von rechts
; Eduard Heller
and Maegerle,
Thule: Vom völkischen
Okkultismus bis zur Neuen Rechten
; Klaus
Bellmund and Kaarel Siniveer,
Kulte, Führer, Lichtgestalten: Esoterik als Mittel rechtsradikaler
; Harald
Die Gnosis und der Nationalsozialismus; Jutta Ditfurth, Entspannt in die Barbarei: Esoterik, (Öko-)Faschismus
und Biozentrismus
; Gerhard Kern and Lee
Die esoterische Verführung;
Claudia Barth,

alles in der Welt – Esoterik und Leitkultur; and Christiansen, Fromm, and Zinser, Brennpunkt

Esoterik.[23] It is unacceptable to dismiss the virulent, widespread,
and ongoing extreme right variant of anthroposophy as “some Germans from the
thirties” and “a handful of ghosts of modern times.”

also tries to turn the recently deceased anthroposophist and right-wing
extremist Werner Haverbeck into an enemy of anthroposophy, calling his
adulatory biography of Steiner “a severe attack on anthroposophy” and a “total
rejection of the anthroposophist movement.” This is a purely terminological
argument; Fant presents no evidence for this nonsensical claim, but simply
asserts that since Haverbeck’s views on anthroposophy differ from his own,
Haverbeck must by definition be anti-anthroposophy. More telling still, Fant
claims that Haverbeck’s portrait of Steiner as a committed German nationalist
is “an absurd distortion.” Haverbeck’s book
Rudolf Steiner – Anwalt für
is indeed politically and
morally appalling, but its depiction of Steiner’s nationalism is entirely
accurate, as the briefest familiarity with Steiner’s published writings plainly

During his Vienna years, Steiner was an active member of the deutschnational or pan-German movement in Austria. In the last two decades
of the nineteenth century he wrote dozens of articles for the German
nationalist press, which are reprinted in volumes 29, 30, 31 and 32 of his
Collected Works (above all
Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kultur- und
and Gesammelte Aufsätze
zur Literatur
These pan-German publications are politically unambiguous, and they make a
mockery of Fant’s naive assertion that nationalism always “bothered Steiner.”
Steiner’s German cultural nationalism, based on a chauvinist conviction of
superiority and a sense of national mission as well as simple ethnic prejudice,
became frantic with the onset of World War One, as his blustery wartime
lectures testify (collected in
Zeitgeschichtliche Betrachtungen and Die geistigen Hintergründe des Ersten Weltkrieges and elsewhere); and he re-affirmed his German nationalist
line in his post-war lectures as well (see, for example,
Bewußtseins-Notwendigkeiten für Gegenwart und
). Steiner remained unapologetic
about his nationalist engagement to the end of his life, recalling his
pan-German activism in his 1925 autobiography. It may be an uncomfortable fact
for progressive anthroposophists to acknowledge, but the far-right Haverbeck
had a much more accurate understanding of Steiner on this question than the
liberal Fant.

In the period since my original
exchange with Fant, anthroposophy’s politics have not, alas, been clarified.
The far-right inflection of Steiner’s teachings continues to gain adherents and
publicity.[27] The case of Andreas Molau is particularly instructive in
this regard. In the 1990s Molau was a prominent publicist on Germany’s
far-right fringe, and after 2000 became active in the NDP, the major neo-Nazi
party in Germany today. Molau also worked as a history teacher at a Waldorf
school in the city of Braunschweig for eight years. He was fired (or, by some
accounts, resigned) in 2004 when Molau’s official position in the NPD became
The chief concern for the administration of Molau’s Waldorf school was the
possible impact of Molau’s party work on the school’s reputation; as the
school’s principal told the media at the time: “This is a catastrophe for our
image.” Molau’s Waldorf colleagues, meanwhile, claimed to have been unaware of
his political involvements.
Assuming this claim is true, it raises the obvious question of just how Molau’s
fellow Waldorf teachers and staff managed
notto know about his far-right affiliations for so long. Molau taught
history and German (not, for example, math or music) at the same Waldorf school
for eight years, and even after the NPD episode erupted into a public scandal,
his Waldorf colleagues said they had viewed him as “left-liberal” and “a
sympathetic oddball”; they were unanimously surprised to learn of his far-right
political activities. But Molau had been a prominent figure on the radical
right for a very long time, since the beginning of the 1990s, writing for a
range of far-right publications under his real name; for several years he was even
culture editor of
Junge Freiheit,
one of the most notorious of Germany’s extreme right wing journals (where among
other things he published an article denying the holocaust).
Molau’s openly apologetic biography of Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was
published in 1993.
Molau was moreover mentioned in readily available sources on the far right,
such as the
Handbuch deutscher Rechtsextremismus (handbook on German right-wing extremism) published
in 1996. Yet none of Molau’s fellow Waldorf faculty, staff, or parents was
aware of any of this information whatsoever. The incident speaks volumes about
the level of political obliviousness that is apparently endemic at Waldorf
schools today.

Even after leaving Waldorf
employment, Molau continues to support Waldorf education strongly. In the
immediate aftermath of his departure from the Braunschweig Waldorf school, he forcefully
re-affirmed his ongoing esteem for Steiner and his own unchanged commitment to
Waldorf pedagogy. He has since run in several campaigns as one of the NPD’s
better-known politicians, and his election materials consistently highlight his
experience as a Waldorf teacher. Within the NPD executive, Molau is responsible
for educational policy. In 2005, as an NPD candidate, Molau was invited to speak
at a Waldorf school in Berlin, where he quoted from Steiner’s book on the
Mission of the Folk Souls, and declared that Waldorf pupils are “the ideal
target audience for the NPD, because of Waldorf schools’ natural feeling for
living authority and their cultivated inner connection with German culture.”
The NPD put out a press release celebrating this Waldorf event as a breakthrough
with youth. In 2007, Molau announced his plan to open a Waldorf educational
center under NPD auspices. With this new Waldorf project, the neo-Nazi politician
hopes to show “the connection between the nationalist NPD ideology and the
teachings of the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner.”

Fant presumably still believes that
such incidents – repeated over and over again in the world of Waldorf, biodynamics,
and anthroposophy – are merely isolated, marginal, insignificant anomalies that
tell us nothing important about the ostensibly “apolitical” nature of anthroposophy.
This is nothing but a pretense, and serves quite simply to protect and promote
the ongoing infiltration of the far right within the anthroposophical milieu.
The Molau case was not a fluke. In late 2004, in the wake of the controversy
over Molau’s Waldorf career, the editor of the anthroposophical journal Info3 reported that “a whole array of private voices”
within German anthroposophical circles had spoken up in support of Molau. In
November 2004, a leading far-right newspaper, the National-Zeitung, published a very sympathetic interview with Molau
conducted by an even more famous right-wing extremist, Gerhard Frey.[32]
Here Molau emphasized the conceptual affinities between anthroposophy and the
contemporary German far right, while citing Steiner’s book The
Philosophy of Freedom
and touting the wonders
of Waldorf education. Molau also noted the support and solidarity he had
received from like-minded associates within the Waldorf movement. Molau’s
parting of ways with the Braunschweig Waldorf school, in other words, has
scarcely solved the problem.[33]
Such incidents will continue to recur until anthroposophists finally face their
far-right affiliations head-on.

. Fant is particularly exercised
about what he calls my article’s method, suggesting several times that I
misquoted my sources and complaining that I focused on topics he considers to
be “peripheral” aspects of anthroposophy. I will gladly let readers draw their
own conclusions about whether anthroposophy’s racial doctrines and its extensive
history of collusion with fascist and neo-fascist politics constitute “peripheral
phenomena.” Fant’s remarks on my use of sources, on the other hand, are nothing
but innuendo; he never once challenges any of my actual citations or quotes.
Indeed, his preoccupation with method is somewhat puzzling, since my article
is, if anything, methodologically boring and conservative.
Anthroposophy and
follows the standard procedure
of providing historical background, quoting abundantly from anthroposophist
sources, citing some of the critical literature on anthroposophy, and offering
my own interpretations of the material while noting alternative
interpretations. Readers familiar with these sources will easily recognize that
my article, despite its polemical tone, is notably restrained in its argument.
I deliberately avoided, for example, making extensive use of historian Anna
Bramwell’s prodigious research on anthroposophy’s pro-fascist history, and I
completely excluded all occult sources, including those that are damning toward
anthroposophy. I also explicitly warned against the sort of guilt by
association argument that Fant thinks I have indulged in. Fant’s evident
discomfort with my research stems from its content, not from its polemical

Fant appears to be troubled by the very phenomenon of historical analysis itself.
He cannot understand that non-anthroposophists might assess anthroposophist
actions according to criteria different from the anthroposophists’ own
preferred standards. He seems quite unaware of how textual evidence functions
outside of an esoteric framework – yes, Mr. Fant, historians really do need to choose
sources that are “typical and representative,” no matter how
uncomfortable this may be for occultists
– and he
cannot fathom how external observers could possibly reach conclusions that
diverge from his own. Fant thus insists that a critical appraisal of
anthroposophy, no matter how copiously substantiated, is automatically suspect.
He says, for instance, that my brief summary of Steiner’s lectures on “
Volksseelen” is an “astonishingly unserious distortion.” According to
Fant, these lectures are thoroughly anti-racist and intended to “inspire mutual
understanding between the peoples.” It is difficult to see how any
non-anthroposophist reader of Steiner’s text could agree with this simpleminded
[35] The book is
an openly ethnocentric argument for all peoples to accept the superiority of
Steiner’s peculiar version of Christianity, refracted through a ‘Nordic’ lens,
and to acknowledge the “future mission of [the] Teutonic Archangel.”
The theme of chapter three is “Formation of the Races,” while the theme of
chapter four is “The Evolution of Races.” But the heart of the book is chapter
six, titled “The Five Root Races of Mankind” (Steiner’s lecture in Oslo from
June 12, 1910). Here Steiner reminds his audience of the racial superiority of
“the Aryans,” helpfully explaining that
he means “the peoples of Asia Minor and Europe whom we regard as members
of the Caucasian race”
(p. 106) before going
on to discuss “the Caucasian race” for several more paragraphs (p. 107). For
some reason Fant calls this two-page disquisition a “parenthetical passage.”

For anyone who has the opportunity to read the text
itself, with its unsettling references to “the peculiar character of the
Semitic people” and so forth, Fant’s clumsy attempts to distract attention from
the actual content of Steiner’s book are easy to expose. But whatever sense anthroposophists might make of these murky
lectures on “the mission of national souls,” contemporary far-right racists do
not concur with Fant’s reading.
They continue to promote Steiner’s book alongside other Aryan supremacist

Fant’s insinuations about
my article’s use of sources are especially fatuous in light of his own careless
use of sources. He writes: “Steiner warned already in 1920 about Nazism (GA 199
p. 161).” Here is the quote Fant cites: “This symbol [the swastika] which the
Indian or old Egyptian once looked to when he spoke of his sacred Brahman, this
symbol is now to be seen on the [Russian] ten thousand ruble note! Those who
are making grand politics there know how to influence the human soul. They know
what the triumphal procession of the swastika means – this swastika that a
large number of people in Europe are already wearing – but they do not want to
listen to that which strives to understand, out of the most important symptoms,
the secrets of today’s historical development.”
Steiner denounces the use of the swastika by the Bolsheviks; he makes no
mention at all of Nazism. That is not surprising, since the Nazi party was only
formed a few months before Steiner’s speech, and had at the time a tiny
membership; moreover, the distinctive Nazi swastika banners were not designed
until two years later.
Only in the fertile anthroposophist imagination could this passage count as a
“warning against Nazism.”

Fant employs similar
tactics of avoidance in his discussion of anthroposophist Rainer Schnurre’s
racist statements. He claims that I have presented “false quotations” from
Schnurre, and somehow deduces that my source for these quotations must have
been Jutta Ditfurth. The usual procedure in such cases is to provide accurate
quotes from the figure in question so that readers may judge for themselves.
But Fant gives us no quotes from Schnurre, only his own fanciful aspersions.
Moreover, a brief glance at my article will show that I do not quote or cite
Ditfurth’s excellent work anywhere in connection with Schnurre; rather, as
clearly noted in my article, I quoted Schnurre’s racist nonsense from Oliver
Geden’s fine book
Rechte Ökologie.
Fant’s attempt to dismiss Geden as a “critic of anthroposophy” is frivolous;
Geden is in fact a critic of right-wing ecology, and he can hardly be expected
to ignore anthroposophy’s massive contribution to this unfortunate tendency.
His book otherwise has no axe to grind with Steiner. Fant furthermore appears
to believe that anyone who voices concern about the less savory aspects of
anthroposophist politics must be a tool of sinister forces. The conspiratorial paranoia
so typical of anthroposophy has gotten the better of him in this instance; the
suggestion that leftists like Ditfurth and Bierl are secretly in league with
the far-right EAP is laughable. For someone so preoccupied with “method,”
Fant’s own approach is dubious indeed.

Anthroposophy and Nazism. Fant is convinced that “anthroposophy thinks
radically opposite Nazism.” Not only was this view not shared by
anthroposophist Nazis, it is not shared by scholars of the topic. Volkmar Wölk,
for example, writes of Steiner’s root-race theory: “It is a short conceptual
step from this position to the racial doctrine of the Nazis.”[43]
Wölk’s thesis is borne out in detail by James Webb’s pioneering research on
anthroposophy’s relationship to other denizens of the occult-racist underground.[44]
If Fant finds this sort of scholarship too “critical,” he may prefer to consult
the work of historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who can hardly be suspected of
harboring any bias against Steiner. His respected book The Occult
Roots of Nazism
provides significant
evidence of the mutual influence between early anthroposophists and early
Similarly, the critical esotericists Eduard Gugenberger and Roman Schweidlenka,
who are respectful and admiring of Steiner, point out the “decisive influence”
of the root-race doctrine on National Socialism.[46]
Allow me to emphasize again: these are not the conclusions of “critics of
anthroposophy,” but of fair-minded researchers who have carefully examined the
historical record. To deny the ideological parallels between anthroposophy and
National Socialism, particularly its esoteric and environmentalist variants,
can only contribute to ignorance about fascism’s intellectual origins.[47]

recognize that Fant’s expertise in the cultural history of the German right is
limited, and I do not mean to reject his views as merely the product of a lack
of familiarity with the relevant scholarship. I think that his perspective is,
rather, the product of a specifically anthroposophist avoidance of
uncomfortable historical facts. Much of what he has to say on the topic of
anthroposophy and Nazism is a caricatured version of the current accepted
wisdom in anthroposophical circles. He appears to have relied exclusively on a
single source, Uwe Werner’s extended apologia for anthroposophist collaborators
with the Third Reich, for all of his concrete assertions. But even Werner’s
patently tendentious volume provides unambiguous evidence that directly
contradicts Fant’s claims.

writes, for example: “In 1922 the Nazis made an attempt to take [Steiner’s]
life.” No part of that sentence is true. The incident Fant refers to was hardly
an assassination attempt, and the Nazis were not involved in any way. But Fant
need not take my word on the matter; he only needs to consult Werner’s book, which
describes the incident thus: “On May 15, 1922, followers of Ludendorff planned
to disrupt a lecture by Steiner in the Munich hotel
Vier Jahreszeiten and provoke a melee. But Munich anthroposophists
became aware of the plans beforehand and were able to react. Steiner was able
to finish his lecture, and only afterwards was there a physical confrontation,
in which the anthroposophists prevailed.”
The Ludendorffers were not Nazis, they were rivals to the Nazis.
And a disrupted lecture is a far cry from attempted murder.

further contends that Werner’s book “shows that the absolute majority of
anthroposophists radically opposed Nazism,” and that those who believed in “a
combination of Nazism and anthroposophy” were “an utterly small number.” In
fact Werner’s book demonstrates the opposite. It lists a range of named
individuals who were both active anthroposophists and members of the Nazi party
and related Nazi organizations, and describes frequent instances of voluntary
collusion with and ardent support for the Nazi regime.
Fant also claims that anthroposophist leaders who “compromised” with Nazi
authorities “were ostracized by their colleagues after the war.” Werner’s book
refutes this claim as well, noting that the most notorious of these figures
continued to be actively involved in anthroposophist institutions, particularly
the Waldorf movement, for decades after the war. Indeed Werner states outright
that post-war anthroposophists, both internally and publicly, “consciously
refused to revive controversies about the behavior of some anthroposophists
during the Nazi period.”

 So much for Fant’s reliance on his fellow anthroposophist
Werner. For some reason Fant accuses me of having “read Werner utterly
selectively”; judging from his own arguments, Fant appears not to have read the
book at all. This troubling lack of attention to historical detail is coupled
with an equally troubling lack of concern with the ethical issues involved.
Fant thinks it is “too simple” to say that collaboration with the Nazis was
wrong. He prefers to view the actions of pro-Nazi anthroposophists as a
“survival strategy.” If this is the best Fant can say for his forebears, that
under Hitler they devoted themselves solely to their own survival and that of
their doctrine, then I can add nothing to his verdict.

Fant is also skeptical of my
argument that a section of the Nazi leadership harbored strong sympathies for
anthroposophy. My brief mention of Rudolf Hess seems to have particularly
aroused his ire. He writes: “To describe Hess as a ‘practicing anthroposophist’
is of course absurd. The sources show clearly that even if he encouraged
biodynamic agriculture, he at the same time strongly rejected its
anthroposophical background.” Once again, Fant’s own chosen source provides
evidence to the contrary. Werner’s book reproduces a 1937 memo from Hess’s
associate Lotar Eickhoff (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.”[54]
Since Hess’s vigorous efforts on behalf of biodynamic agriculture are not in
dispute, Fant’s conclusion that Hess nevertheless “strongly rejected its
anthroposophical background” remains unsupported.

Fant’s view that Hess was not an
anthroposophist himself, however, is one that I have come to share since the
original exchange with Fant. I now think that Fant was right and that I was
wrong on this question. The matter is worth examining in detail. At the time of
the original exchange, I held that Rudolf Hess clearly fulfilled the criteria
of a practicing anthroposophist, according to any but the narrowest definition.
To support this contention, I noted the following points: Hess’s parents
reportedly belonged to the anthroposophist Christian Community.[55]
He structured intimate aspects of his personal life, including his diet and
health care, around anthroposophist beliefs.[56]
He told the British doctor who examined him after his flight to Scotland “that
he had for years been interested in Steiner’s anthroposophy.”[57]
Reports from the German intelligence services described Hess as a “silent
patron and follower of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner.”[58]
Above all, Hess consistently used his public position to promote
anthroposophist endeavors, as detailed at length in Werner’s book. A remarkable
range of scholars have explicitly confirmed Hess’s anthroposophist

My current view is that these
factors indicate considerable sympathy on Hess’s part toward anthroposophy, and
a more than passing personal interest in and active engagement with
anthroposophical practices. Nevertheless, I now think that Hess’s personal
preoccupations within the broad spectrum of occult beliefs and practices were
inconsistent and incoherent to such a degree that there is little sense in
affirmatively associating him with one particular esoteric tradition.[60]
Hess’s dedication to biodynamic agriculture, on the other hand, was both
enthusiastic and enduring. Several high-level members of his staff, moreover, had
significant personal connections with anthroposophy. Hess himself is perhaps
better viewed as more or less indiscriminately susceptible to the full range of
Lebensreform, occultist, and völkisch predilections, which is exactly why he found
biodynamics, Waldorf, and anthroposophy so congenial. Quite apart from whatever
personal stake they may believe they have in the matter, I think that
anthroposophists today would do well to acquaint themselves with the historical
research on Hess and his decidedly sympathetic attitude toward anthroposophy.[61]

Overall, however, Fant has avoided
the primary subject of my article almost entirely, and thus he simply ignores
the record of anthroposophist collusion with both National Socialism and
Italian Fascism. History, it seems, has not yet caught up with him. I think our
exchange would have been more productive if Fant had addressed this central
topic. It is scarcely one that concerns only “peripheral” figures within the
anthroposophical movement. Aside from the Italian fascist anthroposophists I
have mentioned above, from Martinoli to Calabrini to Scaligero and so forth, a
remarkable variety of German anthroposophists were both active Nazis and
well-known in anthroposophical circles. Ernst Harmstorf, for example, was an
early and active participant in the anthroposophical movement, since the
beginning of the 1920s (he took part in the famous “Christmas
Conference” in 1923, for example), and a prominent spokesman for anthroposophical
medicine, particularly after 1945. Harmstorf joined both the Nazi party and the
SA in 1933. Heimo Rau was the son of anthroposophists, a Waldorf teacher from
1946 onward, and a respected anthroposophist after WWII. He was also a Nazi
party member. Gotthold Hegele was a prominent anthroposophical physician after
1945. During his time as a medical student in the late 1930s, Hegele was a
high-profile student leader and an active anthroposophist, as well as a Nazi
student official and a member of the SA; in 1937-1938 Hegele was the head of
the Office of Political Education of the National Socialist Student League in
Tübingen. As with Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, and others, these figures
are celebrated in standard anthroposophical reference works (which do not
mention their Nazi affiliations), and are decidedly not peripheral to anthroposophists’ own self-portrait of
their movement’s history.[62]

But there are many further
examples. For instance, Max Babl was the head of the Anthroposophical Society
branch in the city of Erfurt; he joined the Nazi party in 1933. Hermann Pöschel
was the head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Plauen; he
also joined the Nazi party in 1933. Otto Feyh was the head of the
Anthroposophical Society branch in the city of Schweinfurt; he joined the Nazi
party in 1940. Otto Thorwirth was head of the Anthroposophical Society branch
in the city of Gotha; he remained a member of the Nazi party throughout the
Third Reich. Hans Pohlmann was a longstanding anthroposophist who had known
Steiner personally; he founded the second Waldorf school in Germany in 1922 in
Hamburg and was also head of the Anthroposophical Society branch in Hamburg and
chairman of the local Waldorf school association. Pohlmann was also a Nazi party
member. Hermann Mahle was a prominent Waldorf official in the 1930s and a
member of the anthroposophical Christian Community. Mahle was also a Nazi party
member, and headed the “National Socialist Parents Group” at the Stuttgart
Waldorf school, which included 53 party members and 22 members of other Nazi
organizations. Carl Grund was an anthroposophist since the 1920s and a
prominent activist in the biodynamic movement. In the 1930s he worked as an
official of the biodynamic farmers league and was one of the foremost spokesmen
for biodynamic agriculture in Germany. Grund joined the Nazi party in May 1933
and joined the SA in November 1933. In 1942 he was made an SS officer, and was
promoted to SS-Obersturmführer in 1943.

These are merely some of the more noteworthy
examples. It is important to keep in mind that Nazi party membership alone is
by no means the sole indication of active and enthusiastic participation in the
Nazi movement. One of the more striking instances is the case of Georg Halbe.
Halbe was a member of the Anthroposophical Society who did not join the Nazi
party, as far as can be determined from the available documents. He was
nevertheless a dedicated Nazi. From 1935 to 1942 Halbe belonged to Minister Darre’s
staff in the Nazi agricultural apparatus, where he was particularly active in
promoting biodynamic agriculture. His tasks included overseeing the “Blut und
Boden” publishing house and helping produce the Nazi journal Odal, the chief mouthpiece for Darre’s blood and soil
ideology. Halbe wrote extensively for other Nazi publications as well,
including the Nationalsozialistische Landpost (National Socialist Rural Press), the journal Wille
und Macht: Führerorgan der nationalsozialistischenJugend
(Will and Power,
a periodical of the Nazi youth movement), and the SS journal Das
schwarze Korps
. After Darre fell from power
in 1942, Halbe transferred to the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern
Territories, and then in March 1944 he moved to Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry,
where he continued to work until the end of the war and the destruction of the
Nazi state. It seems to me that anthroposophists today who do not harbor
sympathies for Nazism would be wise to acquaint themselves with this troubled

One final, truly disconcerting note
is Fant’s egregious attempt to rehabilitate the SS functionary Franz Lippert as
a “humanitarian.” I can only attribute this whitewash of Lippert’s activities
at Dachau to a deeply misguided notion of “good Nazis.” Fant quotes several
positive reports about Lippert’s conduct in order to absolve him, but fails to
mention that the sole source for these reports is Lippert’s family. Fant also believes,
incredibly enough, that Lippert was exonerated by “an allied de-Nazification
commission.” This is an astounding misunderstanding, and reveals that Fant is
not only unaware of the facts about Lippert, but even of the most basic facts
about post-war evaluations of Nazi collaborators overall.[63]
Lippert’s post-war hearing, which ended in acquittal in 1948, was not conducted
by an Allied de-Nazification commission. It was instead part of the German
civilian court system, the very same system that produced thousands of
acquittals and absolved an entire generation of Nazi officials and
collaborators.[64] A thorough
and perceptive study of this system is now available: historian Harold
Marcuse’s book Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp (Cambridge 2001), the best single source on the
post-war rehabilitation of Dachau guards and SS staff. Fant would do well to
peruse chapter 3, “Good Nazis”, in particular.[65]

Marcuse describes the ways in which
SS criminals were re-cast as “rescuers” after the war by the exact same
court system that acquitted Lippert (89-94, 104-5). He sharply contrasts these
German civilian courts to the very different de-Nazification courts established
and staffed by the allied authorities. The German civilian juries, known as
“Spruchkammer,” routinely invoked the notion that SS officers who treated
prisoners well were thereby less guilty, and on this basis these courts on
several occasions acquitted defendants who were complicit in multiple murders.
Indeed Marcuse provides an extensive and thoughtful contrast of the two
markedly different de-Nazification procedures on exactly this point: whereas
the Allied-sponsored trials on the Nuremberg model explicitly rejected the
notion that having treated prisoners nicely reduced the guilt of concentration
camp officers, the German civilian courts embraced this notion wholeheartedly.
In the appeals chamber that handled Lippert’s case, SS officers and other Nazi
camp personnel got off very easily. According to Marcuse, “most of them
were let off without so much as a verbal reprimand.” (93) He continues:
“by late 1947 the denazification program was no longer taken seriously
[…] the chambers began rubber-stamping the remaining cases, releasing
thousands of the heavily suspect internees without hearings in early spring
1948.” Marcuse characterizes this as “the wholesale release of
heavily compromised Nazi activists.” (94)[66]

Marcuse’s thorough study of Dachau,
Lippert’s own camp, is hardly the only useful source on the topic Fant chose to
address. Consider the fine analysis by Karin Orth, “The Concentration Camp SS
as a Functional Elite” in Ulrich Herbert, ed., National Socialist
Extermination Policies
(New York 2000), pp.
306-336. Orth examines the post-war trials of mid-level SS officers from
various concentration camps, particularly those in Germany proper, mentioning
Dachau specifically (p. 328). Orth perceptively describes “the nimbus of the
“decent” and “correct” SS officer, which was sworn to in
numerous court statements” (328). She continues: “Many surviving inmate
functionaries testified on behalf of the SS men in order to divert attention
from their own involvement in the crimes of the SS.” (328) According to Orth’s
study, some former inmates “believed that a subjective sense of justice
demanded they testify that the indicted commander […] was relatively
“decent” and “correct” in his treatment of them and in
comparison with their respective predecessors” (328). Of the post-war trials of
these SS officers from regular concentration camps, she writes: “only a
fraction concluded with an official conviction.” (329) This sort of basic
historical context is crucial to understanding the case of Franz Lippert.

But perhaps Lippert’s admirer Fant
would prefer to focus on the evidence about conditions for the prisoners forced
to work on Lippert’s biodynamic plantation? There is a wide variety of sources
on this subject as well, many of them first-hand. While these sources do not
tell us anything about Lippert’s personal comportment one way or the other,
they do provide a broader perspective on conditions at the biodynamic
plantation he oversaw. The official history of the Dachau concentration camp
describes the plantation as a place “where so many thousands of prisoners
labored in all weathers, and where a great many of them were shot or drowned in
the ditches” – hardly a “humanitarian” enterprise.[67]
Another thorough source describes the inmates as “slowly wasting away” on the
plantation, and notes their high death rate.[68]
Yet another historical analysis observes that “several hundred prisoners” died
at the Dachau plantation.[69]
Still another recalls the numerous prisoners who “labored and died under the
supervision of brutal SS officers” at the plantation.[70]

Eyewitness testimony from former Dachau
prisoners amply confirms this dire portrait of Lippert’s biodynamic plantation.
These reports are detailed and credible. One memoir by a former Dachau inmate
offers a first-hand and quite harrowing account of work on the plantation.[71]
Another memoir by a former inmate provides an even bleaker depiction of the
plantation, noting that hundreds of prisoners “worked, suffered, and died”
on the “fields of the notorious plantation”.[72]
Yet another calls the plantation a “murder-pit” and “the terror of all the
inmates.”[73] Such
accounts are corroborated by further eyewitness testimony. A representative
memoir by another former inmate states: “In Dachau the clergy were assigned to
one of the hardest commandos, the plantation. Most of those who died in 1942/43
perished from the work methods that were required there.”[74]
Similar conclusions are supported by ex post facto studies as well.[75]

evidence against Fant’s version of events, and against his imprudent defense of
Lippert, is simply massive. But the very foundation of Fant’s stance on this
matter is utterly wrongheaded. The desperate search for some sort of excuse for
this anthroposophist SS officer and concentration camp guard is all too
revealing about anthroposophical attitudes toward their own compromised history
during the Third Reich. Contrary to Fant’s imaginative depiction of him as a
selfless protector of Nazism’s victims, Lippert was in fact personally
committed to Nazism. He produced biodynamic pamphlets for the SS.
Even his anthroposophist friends were taken aback by Lippert’s fervent devotion
to the Hitler movement and its ideals.
Since anthroposophists are unable to point to a single figure from their ranks
who actually joined the resistance to Hitler’s regime,
they are reduced to pleading, a half-century after the liberation of the
concentration camps, that at least the anthroposophist Lippert was nice to his
prisoners. Scattered individual testimonies may salve the post-war
anthroposophist conscience, but they cannot distract attention from the central
fact that Lippert’s work was an integral part of the SS’s use of slave labor in
promoting biodynamic agriculture.
Fant’s grievous misjudgement of Lippert is a case study in anthroposophy’s
evasion of its own history.

Much of the rest of Fant’s reply
to my article consists of unconfirmable assertions about the nature of Waldorf
education and the role of various ethnic groups within contemporary
anthroposophy. I do not consider myself competent to judge these claims, but
they strike me as both irrelevant and implausible.[81]
I must on the other hand agree with Fant that, compared to him, I have a
“broad” definition of racism. Fant avers, for example, that “the word negro was
quite neutral” in Steiner’s day. Racial terms are never neutral; when used in
racist contexts, such as Steiner’s diatribes against blacks and other
non-whites, they are terms of abuse and denigration. This is not a matter of
“overinterpreting” Steiner’s unequivocal pronouncements, as Fant thinks, but of
situating them within their historical and ideological context. While much of
Steiner’s writing on racial themes is merely obscurantist pseudo-spiritual
pablum, there is no point in denying that he occasionally reverted to the most
vulgar racism.

Astonishingly, Fant also repeats
as fact the long discredited racist propaganda about “outrages of black
soldiers against German women in the Ruhr.” Aside from mixing up the Rhine and
Ruhr occupations (there were no French colonial troops stationed in the Ruhr),
Fant has been hoodwinked by an eighty-year-old misinformation campaign.[82]
These rumors of “outrages” were not merely “exaggeratedly described,” as Fant
would have it, they were an invention of German nationalist demagogues and were
just as racist as the stories of similar “outrages” in the American South
during the same period.[83]
The patently spurious reports were already exposed in 1921 by German opponents
of the racist propaganda (including feminists, socialists, and others) as well
as by anti-racist journalists in other countries who simultaneously opposed the
occupation.[84] The reports
were investigated thoroughly by the Allied authorities at the time and
explicitly and unequivocally repudiated.[85]
If it is true, as Fant suggests, that the primitive German nationalist propaganda
was the source for Steiner’s unconscionable statements about French colonial
troops, it would scarcely mitigate Steiner’s racism. The most infamous of these
propaganda pamphlets begins by decrying “the defilement of the white woman as
such” and claims that “young girls have been dragged from the street in order
to satisfy the bestial lust of African savages.” The pamphlet appeals to “women
and men of the white race” to protest this “deepest disgrace that can befall a
white woman.” It describes the colonial troops as “colored barbarians” with
“animalistic instincts,” “blacks from the Ivory Coast of Africa whose language
no-one can understand, who have barely learned a few scraps of French, savages
from darkest Africa . . .”[86]
This is the sort of thing that Rudolf Steiner evidently took at face value. It
is doubly disconcerting that his followers continue to do so today.[87]

This last misstep on Fant’s part
encapsulates our entire exchange. Innocent of any historical perspective on the
events he describes, Fant is susceptible to the comforting myths propagated by
his fellow anthroposophists. From his gullible point of view, a skeptical
approach like mine appears as a frontal assault on anthroposophy as a whole.
Yet my article was not an attack on anthroposophy in general, but an inquiry
into the sinister side of its political consequences. The very same historical
arguments that I have put forward about the relationship between anthroposophy
and ecofascism could just as well be advanced from a standpoint sympathetic to
Steiner. Anthroposophy can, after all, be viewed as an attempt to bridge
occultism and rationalism, the esoteric and the practical, mysticism and
humanism. This attempt failed in interwar Germany because it ignored its own
political context, and was consequently drawn into the orbit of mass barbarism.
Anthroposophy’s failure, from this perspective, is an object lesson in the
perils of spiritualized politics. Its latter-day practitioners would do well to
heed this lesson.[88]

For now, however, the lesson
remains unlearned. In historical terms, anthroposophy is a relatively young
body of ideas, one that still jealously guards its cherished self-understanding
as an esoteric doctrine. If anthroposophy is to continue developing as a
worldview and as a movement, then its practitioners will at some point
inevitably have to engage in substantial re-interpretation of its founding
texts. Once this process gets underway, anthroposophists will at last begin
more or less systematically to filter out and neutralize the racism in
Steiner’s works, in the same way that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and
others have attempted to re-interpret and defang the various narratives of
divinely sanctioned ethnocentric violence that mar so many sacred scriptures.
But anthroposophy has not yet reached this point; it is still in the stage of
simple denial, of self-absorption, of circling the wagons against external
scrutiny. This may be inevitable for esoteric doctrines; perhaps the transition
to a mature, responsible engagement with anthroposophy’s own origins and assumptions
can only take place once the esoteric gives way to the exoteric. In any case,
anthroposophists who sincerely oppose racism would do well to lift their heads
out of the sand and start wrestling with the unpleasant aspects of Steiner’s

Göran Fant is so taken with “the
great, inspiring wholeness” of Steiner’s teachings that he has allowed his
critical faculties to be incapacitated. For him, criticism of Steiner or of
anthroposophy is simply a “smear campaign.” His unwillingness to come to terms
with anthroposophy’s racist, nationalist, and pro-fascist legacy is typical of
far too many contemporary anthroposophists. Indeed this defensive and evasive
attitude seems to be most common among relatively liberal anthroposophists.
There are many readily available sources that describe and analyze
anthroposophy’s reactionary heritage; progressive anthroposophists have no
excuse for continuing to ignore them. Fant’s reply exemplifies not so much the
denial of history as the avoidance of history, the refusal to engage with a
compromised past in a dignified and honest way. Until anthroposophists overcome
this self-exculpatory abdication of moral responsibility, their claims to
represent an enlightened and tolerant doctrine will remain insincere.


[1]Fant’s essay “The Art of Turning White into Black,” a
reply to my article “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” can be found here:  This exchange originally appeared in
2001. I revised the text of both “Anthroposophy and Ecofascism” and the present
article in 2007.

[2] Fant raises
a number of issues that I cannot address here for reasons of space. A more
thorough discussion of some of these issues may be found in Peter Staudenmaier
and Peter Zegers, “Anthroposophy and Its Defenders,” as well as Zegers and Staudenmaier,
“The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.” For an extremely thorough historical
contextualization of anthroposophy, I highly recommend Helmut Zander’s
comprehensive study Anthroposophie in Deutschland: Theosophische
Weltanschauung und gesellschaftliche Praxis 1884 – 1945
(Göttingen 2007).

[3] “People who
listen to the great leaders of humankind, and protect their soul with its
eternal essence, reincarnate in an advanced race. But he who ignores the great
teacher, who rejects the great leader of humankind, will always reincarnate in
the same race [. . .] Thus people have the opportunity either to reject the
leader of humankind and become caught up in the being of a single incarnation,
or to undergo the transformation into higher races, toward ever higher perfection.”
(Steiner, Das Hereinwirken geistiger Wesenheiten in den Menschen, GA 102, p. 174) Steiner preached the same message
of spiritual submission on more than one occasion: “We know, after all, that
each person proceeds further on the course of the earth mission by following
the great leaders of humankind, who decree the goals of humankind.” (Die
Apokalypse des Johannes
, GA 104, p. 90)

[4] Steiner, Wie
erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?

(GA 10) pp. 21 and 46; and Aus der Akasha-Chronik (GA 11) p. 3. The first book is published in English
under the title Knowledge of Higher Worlds, the second under the title Cosmic Memory. Here is an excerpt from the former book: “Our
civilization tends more toward critique, judgement, and assessment, and less
toward devotion, toward reverent veneration. Even our children criticize much
more than they devotedly revere. But all criticism, all passing of judgement
repels the powers of the soul to attain higher knowledge, just as devotional
reverence develops these powers.” (GA 10 p. 21) Steiner rejected criticism in
his very first book; see Steiner, A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in
Goethe’s World Conception
, New York 1978,

[5] For
background on occult approaches to knowledge see among others Wouter
Hanegraaff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror
of Secular Thought
(Leiden: Brill, 1996),
and Olav Hammer, Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from
Theosophy to the New Age
(Leiden 2001). For
historical overviews see Kocku von Stuckrad, Western Esotericism: A
Brief History of Secret Knowledge
2005); Corinna Treitel, A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the
Genesis of the German Modern
2004); and Wouter Hanegraaff et al., Dictionary of Gnosis and Western
(Leiden 2005).

[6] Hansson, “Is
Anthroposophy Science?” Conceptus XXV
no. 64 (1991), p. 37. One of the earliest observers of the anthroposophist
movement noted already in 1921 that “the followers of ‘anthroposophically
oriented spiritual science’ swear by the teachings of their lord and master
with blind fanaticism.” (Siegfried Kracauer, Aufsätze 1915-1926, Frankfurt 1990, p. 113) For first-hand confirmation
of this observation see the remarkably similar 1908 comments by theosophist and
later anthroposophist Ludwig Deinhard in Norbert Klatt, Theosophie
und Anthroposophie: Neue Aspekte zu ihrer Geschichte
, Göttingen 1993, p. 42.

[7] This does
not by any means indicate that anthroposophists are a monolithic group; they
are on the contrary a notably fractious bunch, like the broader theosophical
milieu overall. There are as many interpretations of anthroposophy as there are
anthroposophists. Indeed anthroposophists can’t seem to agree on anything
except denial of Steiner’s racism.

[8] Steiner, The Threefold Commonwealth, New York 1922, p. 183.

[9] ibid. p.

[10]Steiner, Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der höheren Welten?pp. 209-210. Here is how the passage appears in the authorized English translation: “For peoples and races are but steps leading to pure humanity. A race or a nation stands so much the higher, the more perfectly its members express the pure, ideal human  type, the further they have worked their way from the physical and perishable to the supersensible and imperishable. The evolution of man through the incarnations in ever higher national and racial forms is thus a process of liberation. Man must finally appear in harmonious perfection.” Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, New York 1961, p. 252. Terms like “higher racial forms” occur throughout Steiner’s writings, always linked to higher spiritual forms. This elitist racial scheme has frequently been adopted wholesale by later anthroposophists. A.P Shepherd, for example, writes that humankind has been “differentiated into races, at different cultural and moral levels.” (Shepherd, A Scientist of the Invisible. An Introduction to the Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner, London 1954, p. 103)

[11] Perry
Myers, The double-edged Sword: The
cult of Bildung, its downfall and reconstitution in fin-de-siècle Germany
(Rudolf Steiner and Max Weber)
Oxford 2004, p. 97.

[12] Wolfram Groddeck, Eine Wegleitung durch die Rudolf
Steiner Gesamtausgabe
, Dornach 1979, p.

[13] Steiner, Mein Lebensgang,
Dornach 1925, p. 301.

[14] For further
detailed statements of Steiner’s racial doctrines see for example Steiner, “Die
Grundbegriffe der Theosophie: Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Die Welträtsel
und die Anthroposophie
; Steiner, “Farbe und
Menschenrassen” in Steiner, Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde; Steiner, “The Manifestation of the Ego in the
Different Races of Men” in Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future
; Steiner, The
Apocalypse of St. John
; Steiner, Grundelemente
der Esoterik
; Steiner, The Occult
Significance of Blood
; Steiner, Menschengeschichte
im Lichte der Geistesforschung
, 480-87; Steiner,
Die okkulten Wahrheiten alter Mythen und Sagen, 37-39; Steiner, Kosmogonie, 246-48; Steiner, Menschheitsentwickelung
und Christus-Erkenntnis
, 244-246; Steiner, Aus
den Inhalten der esoterischen Stunden
115-116, 124-125, 169-170, 217-221; Steiner, At the Gates of
Spiritual Science
, 65-74, 96-103; Steiner, The
Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology
, London 2005. Does Fant genuinely believe that all
of these texts, and the dozens of others like them, published with the official
anthroposophist imprimatur, are merely “falsified statements”?

[15]A number of scholarly
analyses of anthroposophical racial doctrine are readily available to
interested readers. See above all Helmut Zander, “Sozialdarwinistische
Rassentheorien aus dem okkulten Untergrund des Kaiserreichs” in Uwe Puschner,
Walter Schmitz, and Justus Ulbricht,
Handbuch zur ‘Völkischen
Bewegung’ 1871-1918
unich 1996; Zander, “Anthroposophische
Rassentheorie: Der Geist auf dem Weg durch die Rassengeschichte” in Stefanie
von Schnurbein and Justus Ulbricht,
Völkische Religion und Krisen der
, Würzburg 2001; Georg Schmid,
“Die Anthroposophie und die Rassenlehre Rudolf Steiners zwischen
Universalismus, Eurozentrik und Germanophilie” in Joachim Müller,
und Christentum: Eine kritisch-konstruktive Auseinandersetzung
, Freiburg 1995; Peter Staudenmaier, “Race and
Redemption: Racial and Ethnic Evolution in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy”
vol. 11 no. 3 (2008), 4-36.

[16] Anthroposophie
und die Frage der Rassen
, Frankfurt 2000,
p. 132. Fant’s repeated reliance on this dissembling Dutch document is
embarrassing; the commission’s work is nothing more than a whitewash, an
exercise in unabashed hypocrisy. Only someone unacquainted with Steiner’s
writings could be taken in by its transparent mendacity. The fact that this
report has gained the endorsement of a talented and respected historian like
Jörn Rüsen indicates the powerfully disorienting effect of Steiner’s charisma on
otherwise sober and informed minds. For a thorough review of the Dutch report,
see Peter Zegers and Peter Staudenmaier, “The Janus Face of Anthroposophy.”

[17] The only
difference between Rosenberg’s version and Steiner’s is the absence of the
“Egyptian-Chaldeans.” Rosenberg’s racial writings also refer to Ahriman, the
Fenris Wolf, and other figures prominent in Steiner’s texts. See Alfred
Rosenberg, Race and Race History, New
York 1970, especially pp. 42-84.

[18] See Gobineau:
Selected Political Writings
, New York 1970,
pp. 142-3.

[19]There is a very large literature on the topic. For
otherwise opposing viewpoints that both draw attention to the basic conflation
of philology and ethnology that lies at the root of the very notion of an
‘Aryan race’ see Madhav Deshpande, “Aryan Origins: Brief History of Linguistic
Arguments” in Romila Thapar, ed., India: Historical Beginnings and the
Concept of the Aryan
(New Delhi
2005), 98-156; and Jim Shaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, “South Asian Archaeology
and the Myth of Indo-Aryan Invasions” in Edwin Bryant and Laurie Patton, eds., The
Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History
(New York 2005), 75-104. For further context see
among others Thomas Trautmann, Aryans and British India(Berkeley 1997); Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and
Race: Aryanism in the British Empire
York 2002); Vasant Kaiwar, “The Aryan Model of History and the Oriental
Renaissance” in Vasant Kaiwar and Sucheta Mazumdar, eds., Antinomies of
Modernity: Essays on Race, Orient, Nation
(Durham 2003); Romila Thapar, “The Theory of Aryan Race and India: History
and Politics”
Social Scientist24
(1996), 3-29; Peter van der Veer, “Aryan Origins” in van der Veer,
Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain
(Princeton 2001), 134-157; Dorothy Figueira, Aryans,
Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity
2003); Neil Macmaster,
Racism in Europe 1870-2000 (New York 2001); George Hersey, “Aryanism in Victorian
Yale Review66 (1976),
104-113; Hans Hock, “Philology and the Historical Interpretation of the Vedic
Texts” in Bryant and Patton, eds.,
The Indo-Aryan Controversy, 282-308; Thomas Trautmann, “Constructing the Racial
Theory of Indian Civilization” in Trautmann, ed.,
The Aryan Debate(Oxford 2005), 84-105; Romila Thapar, “Some
Appropriations of the Theory of Aryan Race Relating to the Beginnings of Indian
History” in Trautmann, ed.,
The Aryan Debate, 106-128; Edwin Bryant, “Myths of Origin: Europe and
the Aryan Homeland Quest” in Bryant,
The Quest for the Origins of Vedic
(Oxford 2001), 13-45; J. P.
Mallory, “Epilogue: The Aryan Myth” in Mallory,
In Search of the
(London 1989); Maurice
The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the
Nineteenth Century
(Cambridge 1992);
Peter Becker,
Wege ins Dritte Reich: Sozialdarwinismus, Rassismus,
Antisemitismus und völkischer Gedanke
(Stuttgart 1988);  Ruth Römer, Sprachwissenschaft
und Rassenideologie in Deutschland
Patrik von zur Mühlen, Rassenideologien:

Geschichte und Hintergründe (Bonn 1979).

[20]For more of the substantial research on the history
of the Aryan myth, and its theosophical inflections in particular, see Joan
Leopold, “The Aryan Theory of Race”, Indian Economic and Social
History Review
, Vol. 7 (1970),
271-297; Joan Leopold, “British Applications of the Aryan Theory of Race to
India, 1850-1870” English Historical Review89 (1974), 578-603; Peter Pels, “Occult Truths:
Race, Conjecture, and Theosophy in Victorian Anthropology” in Richard
Handler ed., Excluded Ancestors, Inventible Traditions(Madison 2000), 11-41; Gauri Viswanathan,
“Conversion, Theosophy, and Race Theory” in Viswanathan, Outside
the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief
(Princeton 1998), 177-207; Carla Risseuw, “Thinking Culture
Through Counter-culture: The Case of Theosophists in India and Ceylon and their
Ideas on Race and Hierarchy (1875-1947)” in Antony Copley, ed.,
and Their Followers: New Religious Reform Movements in Colonial India
(Oxford 2000), 180-205; George Mosse, “The Occult
Origins of National Socialism” in Mosse,
The Fascist Revolution(New York 1999); Jeffrey Goldstein, “On Racism and
Anti-Semitism in Occultism and Nazism,”
Yad Vashem Studies13 (1979), 53-72; Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles,
“Hitler’s Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources,”
Simon Wiesenthal
Center Annual
3 (1986), 227-246;
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke,
The Occult Roots of Nazism(New York 1992); Stefan Arvidsson, “Aryan Mythology
As Science and Ideology,”
Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67, no. 2 (1999): 327-54; Romila Thapar, “The
Historiography of the Concept of ‘Aryan’” in Thapar, ed.,
India: Historical
Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan
1-40; Bruce Lincoln,
Theorizing Myth(Chicago 1999), 76-95; Colin Kidd, “The Aryan Moment: Racialising Religion in
the Nineteenth Century” in Kidd,
The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in
the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000
(Cambridge 2006), 168-202 and 237-246; Leon Poliakov, The Aryan Myth(New York 1974); Stefan Arvidsson, Aryan Idols:
Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science
(Chicago 2006). Strangely, Fant himself invokes the
latter book, apparently believing it absolves his own blind spots.

[21] Indeed Fant
appears to be utterly unaware of the lengthy legacy of paternalistic racism, as
if the ideologies of the White Man’s Burden and the Civilizing Mission had
never existed. He also believes that different peoples have “different folk
souls,” another bit of racial nonsense promoted by anthroposophists.

[22] The classic
case of Italian Fascism alone reveals quite a few notable examples. The
foremost anthroposophist in early twentieth century Italy was Giovanni Antonia
Colonna di Cesarò. Far from remaining “apolitical,” Colonna di Cesarò, a
mystically inclined nationalist aristocrat, became a minister in Mussolini’s
first cabinet, serving from 1922 to 1924, before turning against the Duce. The
co-founder and Secretary General of the Italian Anthroposophical Society,
Ettore Martinoli, was a militant Fascist throughout the entire Fascist era, and
was particularly instrumental in helping administer the antisemitic campaign
from 1938 onward. The Secretary of the Italian Group for Anthroposophical
Studies, Luigi Calabrini, also belonged to the Fascist party, which he joined
in May 1921, a year and a half before Mussolini came to power. The most
prominent anthroposophist publicist in Italy in the 1930s and 1940s, Rinaldo
Küfferle, was another outspoken fascist. And the best-known post-war Italian
anthroposophist, Massimo Scaligero, was a major spokesman for “spiritual
racism” within the fascist movement in the late 1930s and early 1940s,
remaining active in neo-fascist politics after 1945 as well. The most recent
proponent of anthroposophical ideas on the Italian right, finally, is Enzo Erra
(see above all his hagiographic 2006 book Steiner e Scaligero), who was a youthful blackshirt in the last-ditch
ultrafascist Italian Social Republic of 1943-45, and subsequently played a
leading role within neo-fascist circles for decades. Latter-day
anthroposophists like Fant, who would prefer to view fascism as anathema to
everything anthroposophy stands for, might devote a bit more effort to
contemplating this uncomfortable history soberly and taking its implications

[23] Most of
these works were available at the time of my original exchange with Fant; those
that have subsequently appeared amply confirm the point. Consider merely the
last work cited, by Ingolf Christiansen, Rainer Fromm and Hartmut Zinser, Brennpunkt
(Hamburg 2006). Section 3 of the
book, titled “Rechtsradikalismus in der Esoterik” and authored by Fromm (pp.
149-235), analyzes right-wing radicalism in the contemporary esoteric scene in
Germany. The chapter on the root-race theory is, aside from the discussion of
Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine as
the original source of the theory, almost entirely focused on anthroposophical
works – all three of Fromm’s chief examples of this form of esoteric influence
on the far right are anthroposophists. I very much encourage readers
sympathetic toward Fant’s position to consult studies such as these. For
further context, I highly recommend Herman de Tollenaere, The
Politics of Divine Wisdom: Theosophy and Labour, National, and Women’s
Movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947
(Nijmegen 1996). Already in 1995, Fant’s fellow anthroposophist Arfst
Wagner noted the strong far-right current within the anthroposophical movement,
discussing for example a variety of anthroposophist seminars in the 1980s at
which “a whole series of radical right functionaries” spoke; see interview with
Wagner in die tageszeitung March
12, 1995, p. 12.

[24]Strikingly, Fant has literally nothing to say about
anthroposophist holocaust denial, a phenomenon he apparently does not find
troubling. For classic instances of anthroposophical holocaust denial,
interested readers may consult Bernhard Schaub, Adler und Rose: Wesen und
Schicksal Mitteleuropas
(Aargau 1992)
and Gennadij Bondarew, Anthroposophie auf der Kreuzung der
okkult-politischen Bewegungen der Gegenwart
(Basel 1996). This
unpleasant trend is by no means a thing of the past; the online writings of
anthroposophist Willy Lochmann are a very relevant current example. For further
recent instances see the posts on this topic from Robert Mason, Michael Howell,
Stephen Hale, and other anthroposophists to various publicly accessible email
lists such as the “Anthroposophy” list
(, the “Anthroposophy
Tomorrow” list (,
the “Waldorf Critics” list
(, etc. Anthroposophists’ repeatedly
expressed “doubts” about the holocaust are a significant example of the
“deflective negationism” diagnosed by scholarly analysts of the holocaust
denial movement such as Florin Lobont and Michael Shafir; for background see
Lobont, “Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in Post-Communist Eastern Europe” in
Dan Stone, ed.,
The Historiography of the Holocaust, New York 2004, and Shafir, “Denying the Holocaust
where it Happened” in Ronit Lentin, ed.,
Re-Presenting the Shoah for the 21st
, Oxford 2004. The ongoing
open propagation of aggressively antisemitic conspiracy theories and holocaust
denial propaganda under anthroposophist auspices demonstrates the futility of
Fant’s head-in-the-sand approach: Simply ignoring the most disturbing aspects
of the contemporary anthroposophical movement will not magically make them go

[25] Steiner
contributed numerous articles between 1884 and 1890 to the pan-German press in
Austria, including the Deutsche Zeitung,
the Nationale Blätter, the Freie
Schlesische Presse
, and the Deutsche
. The Nationale
was the organ of the “Deutscher
Verein” in Vienna, while the Freie Schlesische Presse was the organ of the “Deutscher Verein” in Troppau,
a city in the Sudetenland. The Deutscher Verein was, by the 1880’s, one of the
three major political organizations within the German nationalist movement in
Austria (the other two were the Deutscher Klub and the Deutschnationaler
Verein, both of which Steiner wrote about positively). Readers may consult
William McGrath, Dionysian Art and Populist Politics in Austria (New Haven 1974) pp. 199-202 on the political
development of the Deutscher Verein; McGrath notes that by the mid-1880’s the Deutscher
Verein “placed the strongest emphasis on German nationalism” (p. 201),
which was the major unifying factor of the group. The Deutsche
was “the organ of German
nationalism in Austria” according to the standard history of the Austrian press:
Kurt Paupie, Handbuch der österreichischen Pressegeschichte 1848-1959, Vienna 1960, p. 158. It was arguably the most
prominent voice of German nationalist politics in the Habsburg empire until the
rise of Schönerer and Lueger in the 1890’s. For background see among others
Pieter Judson, Exclusive Revolutionaries: Liberal Politics, Social
Experience, and National Identity in the Austrian Empire 1848-1914
, Ann Arbor 1996, p. 169, and Hildegard Kernmayer, Judentum
im Wiener Feuilleton 1848-1903
, Tübingen
1998, pp. 284-86. Steiner also spent half a year as editor of the Deutsche
in Vienna (subtitle: “organ
for the national interests of the German people”), one of the major
Austro-German radical nationalist papers of the era. On the crucial role of the
Deutsche Wochenschrift as the
mouthpiece of radical German nationalism, see McGrath, Dionysian Art
and Populist Politics in Austria
, pp.
201-206; cf. Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, pp. 1242-1245.

[26] Steiner’s
early pan-German articles routinely portray the Germans in Austria as
threatened by “the onslaught from all sides” and denounce “Czech agitators” and
“the evil Russian influence” while celebrating “the unity and capacity for
resistance of the Germans” and insisting on “the cultural mission that is the
duty of the German people in Austria” (Steiner, Gesammelte
Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Zeitgeschichte

pp. 112, 85, 69). He refers to the non-German peoples of Austria as “the enemy”
(115) and asserts that “the non-German peoples of Austria must absorb into
themselves that which German spirit and German work have created, if they are
to reach the level of education which is a necessary prerequisite of the modern
era,” and indeed proclaims: “if the [non-German] peoples of Austria want to
compete with the Germans, they will above all have to make up for the developmental
process which the Germans have gone through; they will have to learn the German
culture in the German language” (112). Because the mainstream nationalist
Austro-German Liberals, in Steiner’s view, had not insisted strongly enough
that the Slavs subordinate their own cultures to German culture, “this forced
the German people to form a party in which the national idea is paramount” (113).
But even the new, more forthrightly nationalist party was a disappointment to
Steiner; it did not do enough “for the national cause” (114). Steiner thus
offers German nationalist politicians advice on how to struggle more
effectively “against the Slavic enemy” who are marked by an “empty national
ego” and “spiritual barrenness,” which is why the Slavs “would like nothing
more than to annihilate the achievements of our European culture” (117).
According to Steiner, “modern culture” has been “chiefly produced by the
Germans.” He condemns not only any accommodation to non-German ethnic groups
but indeed any cooperation with ethnically German parties that are not
sufficiently nationalist, calling these parties “un-German” (119). Steiner also
fulminates against “the culture-hating Russian colossus” and excoriates the
abuse of the Austrian state “for un-German purposes” (140). Portraying Czech
demands for political participation as a direct threat to German cultural
superiority, he exclaims: “The Slavs will have to live a very long time before
they understand the tasks which are the duty of the German people, and it is an
outrageous offense against civilization to throw down the gauntlet at every
opportunity to a people [i.e. the Germans] from whom one receives the spiritual
light, a light without which European culture and education must remain a
closed book.” (141-142) He demands that the country’s political agenda be set
by “the exclusively national elements of the German people in Austria,” namely
“the pan-Germans,” and denounces the German Liberals for betraying their
people: “If we must be ruled in an un-German fashion, at least our tribal
brothers ought not to take care of this business. Our hands should remain
clean.” (143) Instead of accepting ever more compromises with the uncultured
Slavs, “truly national men” must pull together “to organize the people in a
national manner” (144). As late as 1897 Steiner continued to repeat the same
hard-line German nationalist stance: “The Slavs and the Magyars are a danger to
the mission of the Germans; they are forcing German culture to retreat.” (214)
He rails against “non-German elements” in Austria and regrets the ostensible
loss of the Austro-Germans’ “privileged position within the monarchy” (215)
while looking forward to the day when “the Germans of Austria regain the
position of power which corresponds to their cultural level” (216). Such passages
make clear how impervious to reason Steiner’s nationalism remained even well
after his Vienna period. The Germans had hardly lost their privileged position
within the Habsburg monarchy, and by the late 1880s, moreover, nearly all
German political parties and social organizations, with the exception of the
clerical parties Steiner so despised, had gone through a process of intense
nationalist radicalization such that figures who a decade earlier had counted
as strident nationalists were now seen to be ineffectual moderates. The young Steiner’s
criticism of the Austro-German nationalist parties for not being nationalist
enough thus clearly reveals his own extremist stance.

[27]In 2000, for example, one of the chief
anthroposophical periodicals, Die Christengemeinschaft, published several articles by prolific far-right
author and holocaust denier Gustav Sichelschmidt, a prominent fixture in
hardline German nationalist circles for many years. Sichelschmidt also
published a number of articles in another central anthroposophist journal, Die
, in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sichelschmidt’s numerous books specialized in xenophobic polemics against
“foreigners” in Germany and vehemently rejected the idea of a multicultural
society, while trumpeting the “mission” of the German people. For examples see
among many others his 1981 book Deutschland in Gefahr, his 1992 book Der ewige Deutschenhaß, or
his 1996 book Tanz auf dem Vulkan.
The latter work, for instance, polemicizes against “obscure internationalists”
who are defiling Germany by promoting “a multiethnic society,” denounces
“foreign groups” and “one-world proponents” as “anti-German forces,” and
insists that “the true mission of the Germans” is to redeem the world. The book
also ridicules “the specter of the so-called holocaust,” which Sichelschmidt
dismisses as a “lie” and mere “anti-German propaganda.” He excoriates “materialism”
and cultural “decadence” in terms quite similar to Steiner’s own while
constantly invoking Goethe, rails against “the Jewish lobby” and the
Americanization of German life, and declares that supporters of western
democracy are “murdering the soul of the German people.” In the same book,
Sichelschmidt vehemently opposes allowing Germany to become a “multiethnic”
country, or even permitting “different ethnic groups” to live in Germany. In
light of all this, anthroposophists might consider asking themselves some
pertinent and long-overdue questions, such as: What is it that made
Sichelschmidt’s work appealing to anthroposophical editors and readers? And
what is it that made anthroposophy appealing to Sichelschmidt? For a helpful
overview in English of Sichelschmidt’s work see Jay Rosellini, Literary
Skinheads? Writing from the Right in Reunified Germany
(Purdue 2000), pp. 149-157 and 249.

[28] According
to some reports at the time, Molau quit his Waldorf job rather than being
fired; see e.g. Jochen Leffers, “Ex-Waldorflehrer arbeitet künftig für die
NPD”, Spiegel-Online, 29 October 2004.

[29] See Andreas
Speit, “Hätten wir seine Gesinnung erkennen können?” die tageszeitung October 1, 2005, p. 12.

[30] In addition
to educational issues, Molau’s specialty as far-right publicist, and in
particular at Junge Freiheit, was
ecology and environmental politics as viewed from a right-wing extremist
perspective. He is yet another example of an anthroposophically inclined
ecofascist. On a side note: Walter Hiller, the executive director of the League
of Waldorf Schools, published a brief article on educational policy in Junge
in 2001.

[31] Andreas
Molau, Alfred Rosenberg: Der Ideologe des Nationalsozialismus, Koblenz 1993, published by the far-right Verlag
Siegfried Bublies.

[32] The Molau
interview appeared in the November 26, 2004 issue of the National-Zeitung, alongside an outspokenly positive sidebar about
Steiner and Waldorf education.

[33] Similar
incidents revealing the same pattern, and pointing to the same still unlearned
lesson, are by no means confined to Germany. Consider the example of Swiss
anthroposophist Hans Krattiger. In Switzerland in 2002, the Anthroposophical Society
expelled Krattiger, an important figure in the Swiss biodynamic movement, when
his position as treasurer of the far-right party PNOS became public. Formal
expulsion may make for an improved public relations image, but it does not
address any of the underlying political, ideological, or historical factors.
Indeed organizational membership is scarcely the sole or even primary index of
ideological compatibility, much less practical cooperation. A mainstream
biodynamic coalition, for instance, the Forschungsring für Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschaftsweise, promotes the work of
far-right biodynamic proponent and holocaust denier Ernst Otto Cohrs. Cohrs
also worked with leading neo-Nazi Horst Mahler and the widow of Werner
Haverbeck, Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel, at the far-right para-anthroposophical
in 2004.

[34] Fant is
hardly alone in taking a dim view of polemic as a genre. I consider this
attitude fundamentally mistaken. Polemical argument has a very lengthy and very
honorable pedigree. As an approach to philosophical disputation, polemic is
traditionally understood as the contrary of apology; it is designed to unsettle
received opinion on a given topic. That is exactly why my article was
polemical. It was specifically calibrated to fit the existing state of public
debate on anthroposophical racism at the time I wrote it, and was quite
explicitly directed against the numerous apologies for Steiner’s racial
theories that abound within the contemporary anthroposophical movement. Fant
himself is a pertinent example of just this sort of apologia for
anthroposophical racism. In my judgement, a deliberately polemical approach is
exactly what a responsible public intellectual is obliged to provide in such
instances. In the context of debates like this, in popular forums and
publications for general audiences, polemic is very much the appropriate
critical framework and rhetorical choice.

[35] Indeed the
contents of this work have even spurred government action. In 2007, the German
federal ministry for families considered placing two of Steiner’s books, The
Mission of the Folk Souls
and The
Being of Man and His Future Evolution
, on its
list of “literature that could be damaging to young people,” on the grounds
that the content of the books is racially discriminatory. The commission
appointed by the ministry eventually decided that the books do indeed contain
racist material, but did not place the books on the index, because the
anthroposophist publisher agreed to re-publish new editions of both books with
critical commentary on the racist content. I might note that I am not in favor
of these sorts of censorship procedures, among other reasons because they can
make open public discussion of anthroposophical racism more difficult. As it
happens, the publicity in Germany around the ministry’s inquiry raised the
level of public discussion of anthroposophical racism, with extensive media
attention to the issue. What has so far been absent is any noticeable reflection
from anthroposophical quarters on the significance of this incident; and it
will be very interesting to see just what the “critical commentary”
looks like when the books are re-issued.

[36] Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk Souls in Relation to
Teutonic Mythology
, London 1970, 19. The
book was republished unaltered
and without commentary by the Rudolf Steiner Press in 2005. German edition: Steiner, Die Mission einzelner
Volksseelen im Zusammenhang mit der germanisch-nordischen Mythologie
(GA 121).

[37] For a
particularly germane example of the contemporary far-right appropriation of
anthroposophical ideas see Kerry Bolton, Rudolf Steiner & The Mystique
of Blood & Soil: The Volkisch Views of the Founder of Anthroposophy
, Paraparaumu 1999. This pamphlet, by a major conspiracy theorist and
leading figure on the radical right scene, perfectly illustrates the continuing
appeal of Steiner’s teachings to right-wing extremists. It received a very
favorable review by an even more prominent neo-fascist leader, Troy Southgate.
Along with Molau, Haverbeck, Sichelschmidt, Erra, and all the others mentioned
here, Bolton and Southgate and their companions are merely a “handful of
ghosts” in Fant’s eyes. This utter indifference toward the actually existing
far right does not inspire confidence in the political perspicacity of
progressive anthroposophists.

[38] See e.g. Franziska Hundseder, Wotans Jünger:
Neuheidnische Gruppen zwischen Esoterik und Rechtsradikalismus
, Munich 1998, pp. 126-129; Eduard Gugenberger and
Roman Schweidlenka,
Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, p. 245; and Bolton, Rudolf
Steiner & The Mystique of Blood & Soil
as well as the case of neo-Nazi politician and Waldorf advocate Andreas Molau,
discussed above.

[39] Steiner, Geisteswissenschaft als Erkenntnis der Grundimpulse
sozialer Gestaltung
(GA 199), p. 161;
speech from August 27, 1920.

[40] See William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, New York 1960, p. 44.

[41]This facet of the article had a very illuminating epilogue. In 2005 – five years after Anthroposophy and Ecofascismoriginally appeared – Schnurre hired a Swedish attorney to threaten a libel lawsuit against the publishers of the Swedish translation of my article. The lawyer claimed he had “spoken to several persons who were present at the Schnurre seminar,” and they “did not recognize Schnurre’s words” as reported in my article. These supposed eyewitnesses were not only anonymous, their statements came eleven years after Schnurre’s 1994 seminar occurred. The incident is a classic example of anthroposophist attempts to intimidate critical scholars, and it provides among other things a fascinating instance of the gap between historical evidence and legal evidence: in stark contrast to these claimed ex post facto accounts by ostensible eyewitnesses, which suddenly emerged eleven years after the fact, I quoted from the extremely detailed minutes of Schnurre’s 1994 lecture taken directly by an audience member and published in Germany within a month of the lecture itself. Schnurre never challenged those minutes, nor did he challenge three separate books and at least one article subsequently published in Germany which excerpt the published minutes extensively. Thus quite apart from the transparently disingenuous nature of this legal ploy, there are excellent substantive reasons to prefer the minutes as a source to the supposed “witness statements.” Moreover, Fant’s inane notion that the quotes attributed to Schnurre are “quite contradictory to his conception of life” is entirely beside the point; even if this peculiar claim were both true and substantiated by Fant, or for that matter by Schnurre himself, it would plainly have nothing to do with whether Schnurre did in fact make the statements attributed to him, much less with whether those statements are racist. It is scarcely uncommon to find anthroposophists who take their own views to be fundamentally anti-racist, when many non-anthroposophists consider these very same views to be flatly racist. I recommended at the time that Schnurre simply write a brief piece explaining his actual views on race, and then let all readers decide whether they consider these views racist. This recommendation, tellingly, went unheeded.

[42] Fant’s
essay contains a number of further errors that in my judgement do not merit
extended consideration and have little to do with the substantive disagreements
between us. These mistakes do, however, indicate the kind of nonchalance toward
details and the level of disregard for basic factual accuracy that
unfortunately characterize Fant’s half of our exchange. I recognize that Fant
is a Waldorf music teacher, not a scholar. Nonetheless, it simply isn’t all
that hard to make elementary sense of the texts he invokes over and over again.
To choose one otherwise insignificant example: In response to an observation of
mine about Uwe Werner’s sources, Fant declares that only four of the archives
listed in Werner’s book are anthroposophical. Fant’s figure is completely
wrong; in reality, eight of the ten organizational archives and well over half
of the twenty-four private archives listed by Werner are anthroposophical.
These sorts of errors, many of them more or less inexplicable, are regrettably
typical of my debates with anthroposophists.

[43] Wölk, “Neue
Trends im ökofaschistischen Netzwerk” in Hethey and Katz, In Bester
, Göttingen 1991, p. 121.
Additional evidence of the striking parallels between the theosophical
root-race doctrine and Hitler’s racial views can be found in the works by
George Mosse, Jeffrey Goldstein, and Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles cited
above. I also recommend, to Fant in particular, the recent study by Mattias
Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, Duke 2003, as well as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black
Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity
, New York 2002.

[44] See James
Webb, The Occult Establishment, Chicago 1976, one of the first books to give serious
attention to this topic. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke observes of this book: “By
focusing on the functional significance of occultism in political
irrationalism, Webb rescued the study of Nazi occultism for the history of
ideas.” (Goodrick-Clarke,
The Occult Roots of Nazism, New York 1992, p. 225)

[45] Goodrick-Clarke wrote the entirely approving preface to Rudolf
Steiner: Essential Writings
. His work on
the connections between occultism and fascism has set the standard for
responsible inquiry on the subject. In addition to the material on Steiner in
Occult Roots of Nazism
, see also the
references to Karl Heise, Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, and Max Seiling, all
early anthroposophists, in the same book.

[46] Gugenberger
& Schweidlenka, Mutter Erde – Magie und Politik, Vienna 1987, p. 105.

[47]For much more extensive examination of these issues,
see Peter Staudenmaier, “Occultism, Race, and Politics in German-speaking
Europe, 1880-1940: A Survey of the Historical Literature” forthcoming in European
History Quarterly

[48] Uwe Werner,
Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, Munich 1999, p. 8.

[49] Throughout
the 1920s both the Ludendorffers and the National Socialists, along with a
plethora of other more or less marginal groups and tendencies, vied for leadership
of the heterogeneous far-right scene in Munich, sometimes competing and
sometimes coalescing in a shifting series of tactical alliances. On the
complicated relationships between Ludendorffers and Nazis during the period see
Bruno Thoss, “Ludendorff und Hitler 1920-1922” in Thoss, Der
Ludendorff-Kreis 1919-1923
, Munich 1978,
pp. 249-261.

[50] For an even
milder account of the 1922 incident see the comprehensive contemporary report
by anthroposophist Paul Baumann, “Dr. Rudolf Steiners Vortrag in München,” Dreigliederung
des sozialen Organismus
May 25, 1922, pp.
4-5, which does not mention the Nazis and says nothing at all about an
assassination attempt or even an attempted physical attack on Steiner himself.
Compare also the similar description of the event in Christoph Lindenberg, Rudolf
Steiner: Eine Biographie
, Stuttgart 1997,
p. 770.

[51]My own research has identified many further
anthroposophists who belonged to the Nazi party and its affiliated
organizations. A non-comprehensive list of active anthroposophists who were
members of the Nazi party, the SA, or the SS includes the following figures:
Hanns Rascher, Friedrich Benesch, Franz Lippert, Otto Julius Hartmann, Eugen
Link, Margarete Link, Wolfgang Schuchhardt, Werner Voigt, Udo Renzenbrink, Friedrich
Kipp, Rudolf Kreutzer, Oskar Franz Wienert, Carl Fritz, Hugo Kalbe, Leo Tölke,
Clara Remer, Heimo Rau, Gotthold Hegele, Otto Thorwirth, Ernst Harmstorf, Anni
Müller-Link, Harald Kabisch, Max Babl, Hermann Pöschel, Hermann Mahle, Otto
Feyh, Hans Pohlmann, Friedrich Mahling, Ernst Charrois, Alfred Köhler, Hans
Merkel, Carl Grund. (For archival citations see Peter Staudenmaier,
“Anthroposophen und Nationalsozialismus – Neue Erkenntnisse” Info3July 2007.) Alongside these figures stand a series of
more complicated cases such as Werner Georg Haverbeck, Johannes Werner Klein,
Georg Michaelis, Els Moll, Georg Halbe, Otto Ohlendorf, Alwin Seifert, Albert
Friehe, Renate Riemeck, Hermann Reischle, Werner Priever, Richard Karutz, Josef
Schulz, Lotar Eickhoff, Johannes Bertram-Pingel, Ernst Blümel, Herman
Weidelener, Paul Reiss, Friedrich Böhnlein, Gotthilf Ackermann, Max Rodi,
August Wegfraß, etc. This is not “an utterly small number” of people, and many
of these figures were anything but marginal to the twentieth century
anthroposophical movement.

[52] Werner, Anthroposophen
in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus
, p. 3.
This point is confirmed by the anthroposophist Christoph Lindenberg, who in
1991 observed that “after 1945 there was no public mention of these events.
Nowhere within anthroposophist publications can one find a serious voice of
self-examination on the part of those who were too deeply involved with
National Socialism.” (Lindenberg quoted in Arfst Wagner, “Anthroposophen in der
Zeit des Nationalsozialismus” Flensburger Hefte, Sonderheft 8 (1991), p. 74.)

[53] Fant also
challenged several further claims that appeared in the original version of Anthroposophy
and Ecofascism
and that I have removed from
the revised version, including my brief reference to Marie Steiner’s
sympathetic attitude toward Nazism. Unlike my perspective regarding Rudolf
Hess, for example, these instances do not reflect a change of mind on my part;
instead I have removed such personal references because they are
inconsequential to my argument and merely distract readers such as Fant from
the substantive issues at hand. I would like to note, however, that this
preoccupation with passing references to revered anthroposophical figures is
unfortunately characteristic of anthroposophical responses to historical
inquiry. Many anthroposophists appear to be much more concerned about the
personal reputation of individual anthroposophists and the present status of
esoteric celebrities such as Marie Steiner than with basic aspects of
historical accuracy and forthright engagement with the past. This is a
decidedly misplaced emphasis. In any case, Fant asks, indignantly, for a source
regarding Marie Steiner’s attitude toward Nazism. He may wish to consult the
memoirs of anthroposophist Hans Büchenbacher, for example, which characterize
Marie Steiner straightforwardly as “pro-Nazi”; see the excerpts from Büchenbacher
in Info3 4/1999, pp. 16-19; cf.
Helmut Zander, Anthroposophie in Deutschland, p. 249.

[54] Werner, op.
cit. pp. 214-215. Werner also notes that the written statement denouncing
anthroposophy, requested by the Gestapo, was not signed by Hess but by the
anti-anthroposophist Bormann. (p. 74)

[55] Christine
King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,
New York 1982, pp. 43 and 232.

[56] See Albert
Speer, Erinnerungen, Berlin 1969,
pp.133-134; Wulf Schwarzwäller, Rudolf Hess, London 1988, pp. 112-115; and Roger Manvell and
Heinrich Fraenkel, Hess: A Biography,
London 1971, pp. 64-66.

[57] J.R. Rees, The
Case of Rudolf Hess
, London 1947, p. 35.

[58] Walter
Schellenberg, Memoiren, Cologne 1956, p.

[59] A
comprehensive list would be too cumbersome for this forum, but interested
readers may consult the following cross-section: James Webb, The Harmonious
(“Rudolf Hess was a devotee of
Rudolf Steiner” p. 186); Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the 20th
(“Hess was a follower of Rudolf
Steiner” p. 197); Detlev Rose, Die Thule-Gesellschaft (“Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy also influenced him
[Hess]” p. 132); René Freund, Braune Magie? Okkultismus, New Age und
(Hess “admired
anthroposophy and was secretly a follower of Rudolf Steiner” p. 68); Jacques
Delarue, Geschichte der Gestapo
(“Hess was interested in the doctrine of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner” p.
265); Hans Hakl, “Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus” in Goodrick-Clarke, Die
okkulten Wurzeln des Nationalsozialismus

(Hess was “devoted to Rudolf Steiner’s ideas” p. 199); Joscelyn Godwin, Arktos:
The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival
(Hess “ate biodynamic food and was interested in
Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy” p. 52); Peter Longerich, “Hitler’s Deputy: The
Role of Rudolf Hess in the Nazi Regime” in David Stafford, ed., Flight
from Reality: Rudolf Hess and his Mission to Scotland
(Hess was “profoundly interested in astrology, anthroposophy,
the occult and related areas” p. 114).

[60] The only
book-length scholarly biography of Hess denies that he had any significant
interest in the occult: Kurt Pätzold and Manfred Weißbecker, Rudolf Heß: Der
Mann an Hitlers Seite
, Leipzig 1999, p. 25.
This exaggerated conclusion is untenable, although the authors’ corresponding
reflections on race and the occult (pp. 469-470) are in many ways appropriate;
see also pp. 270-271 and 509 on the ambivalent attitude of the Nazi leadership
toward Waldorf schools and anthroposophy. In addition to the numerous sources
cited above on Hess’s interest in the occult, see also Rainer Schmidt, Rudolf
, Düsseldorf 1997, pp. 44, 46, 170, etc.
For brief mention of Hess’s sympathy toward biodynamics see Heinz Haushofer, Ideengeschichte
der Agrarwirtschaft
, Munich 1958, p. 270.

[61] Peter
Longerich, for example, discusses Hess’s occult and Lebensreform interests extensively (Longerich, Hitlers
, Munich 1992, pp. 111-113),
noting in particular Hess’s positive interest in anthroposophy (p. 111).

[62]For reasons I do not fully understand, this aspect of
my original article has been the source of a remarkable level of indignation
and vituperation on the part of anthroposophists, many of whom appear to
believe that if some anthroposophists were Fascists and Nazis, then all
anthroposophists must be Fascists and Nazis. I came to the topic of
anthroposophy via my research on the ‘green wing’ of Nazism, and this
connection was the subject of my article; it is scarcely surprising that
anthroposophist Nazis loom large in such an analysis. Even non-anthroposophist
readers have had difficulty making sense of this. Some took exception to my
claim that anthroposophy’s political outlook has had a decidedly reactionary
cast from the beginning, apparently finding that this claim sits uneasily alongside
the prominent presence of anthroposophists in the Green movement and other
progressive trends. Since this theme goes to the heart of my argument in
“Anthroposophy and Ecofascism,” I will try to re-state my point: I think very
many anthroposophists, today as in the past, are profoundly confused about
politics and routinely mix together left-wing and right-wing viewpoints, and
when they get involved in progressive efforts they often end up representing the
least emancipatory and most conservative elements within those milieus. I
further argue that this pattern is not accidental but flows from Steiner’s own
reactionary political assumptions, outlined at some length in the present
series of articles. Steiner himself is a classic example of the kind of
left-right crossover in modern German culture that I study, which is exactly
how I stumbled onto the topic of anthroposophy in the first place.

[63] There is a
considerable literature on the subject; see among others Joshua Greene, Justice
at Dachau
(New York 2003); Jörg Friedrich, Die
kalte Amnestie: NS-Täter in der Bundesrepublik

(Frankfurt 1984); and Harold Marcuse, Legacies of Dachau: The uses
and abuses of a concentration camp, 1933-2001

(Cambridge 2001).

[64]The fact that Lippert’s hearing was part of the German civilian court process rather than the Allied de-Nazification proceedings is perfectly clear from Fant’s own preferred source; Werner’s Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismusrefers repeatedly and unambiguously to a “Spruchkammerverfahren,” the term for the German civilian juries, not to an Allied de-Nazification commission. That Fant mixed up these two starkly contrasting venues is very telling indeed. The distinction is crucial to understanding the whole process of ‘denazification’ and its eventual failure. The Allies took an extremely skeptical view of the “Spruchkammer” and their notoriously lenient approach to figures like Lippert. For context see the chapter “Die deutschen Spruchkammern” in Clemens Vollnhals, Entnazifizierung(Munich 1999), pp. 259-338. For even more detail see the 700 page study by Lutz Niethammer, Entnazifizierung in Bayern(Frankfurt 1972), particularly chapter 5, “Das Spruchkammerverfahren und die Betroffenen”, pp. 538-652.

[65] While
Marcuse’s book appeared just after the original exchange with Fant, numerous
other sources cited here were accessible at the time, and anyone interested in
learning about the issues Fant himself raised cannot fail to have noticed them.
In light of all of this immense and easily available scholarship on the matter,
readers may well ask themselves if Fant perhaps really does believe after all
that the post-war process of ‘denazification’ actually succeeded, rather than
failed, and if he would extend the same admiration he expresses toward Lippert
to the thousands of other active Nazis who got off scot-free after the war as
well. Are anthroposophists generally in the habit of promoting SS officers to
the status of heroes? Does this have anything to do with anthroposophy’s
equivocal record during the Third Reich? It would be a major step forward if
progressive anthroposophists could bring themselves to grapple with such
questions at last.

[66] While
allied-sponsored court procedures were considerably more rigorous than the
German civilian hearings that exonerated Lippert and his fellow SS officers,
even the American military trials at Dachau, focused on higher levels of
responsibility, began to produce overwhelming acquittals, amnesties, and
dropped cases by the late 1940s; see Ute Stiepani, “Die Dachauer Prozesse und
ihre Bedeutung im Rahmen der alliierten Strafverfolgung von NS-Verbrechen” in
Gerd Ueberschär, ed., Der Nationalsozialismus vor Gericht (Frankfurt 1999), pp. 227-39, and Robert Sigel, Im Interesse der Gerechtigkeit: Die Dachauer
Kriegsverbrecherprozesse 1945–1948

(Frankfurt 1992).

[67] Paul
Berben, Dachau 1933-1945: The Official History, London 1975, p. 87.

[68] Robert
Sigel, “Heilkräuterkulturen im KZ: Die Plantage in Dachau”, Dachauer Hefte 4, 1988, p. 171.

[69]Walter Wuttke-Groneberg, “Von Heidelberg nach
Dachau,” in Gerhard Baader and Ulrich Schultz, eds, Medizin und
(Berlin 1980),
pp. 113-138; quote at p. 119. See especially the section “Die Heilkräuterplantage
im KZ Dachau” pp. 116-120.

[70] Anne
Harrington, Reenchanted Science
(Princeton 1996), p. 188.

Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, Die Mächtigen und die
Hilflosen: als Häftling in Dachau
(Stuttgart 1957), pp. 105-108.

[72]Otto Pies, Stephanus Heute(Kevelaer 1951), p. 127.

[73]Jean Bernard, Pfarrerblock Dachau(Munich 1984), pp. 89-90.

[74] Hans Carls,
Dachau: Erinnerungen eines katholischen Geistlichen aus der Zeit seiner
Gefangenschaft 1941-1945
(Cologne 1946), p.
120. A few pages later Carls describes particular acts of sadism at the
plantation (123).

[75]For example, Reimund Schnabel’s book Die Frommen
in der Hölle: Geistliche in Dachau
(Frankfurt 1966) provides a study of clergy inmates at Dachau, who were
especially frequently assigned to the labor battalion at Lippert’s biodynamic
plantation. Schnabel describes the plantation on pp. 140-142. He notes that for
some inmates the plantation was a relatively preferred work detail, while for
others it was hellish, with dangerous and often deadly working conditions. In
light of conflicting testimony from former prisoners, Schnabel concludes that “both
the descriptions of extremely cruel working conditions and the reports of
relatively comfortable activity are correct.” (p. 141) This is consistent with
evidence from other concentration camps as well.

[76] See e.g.
Franz Lippert, Das Wichtigste in Kürze über Kräuter und Gewürze, Nordland Verlag, Berlin 1943.

[77] See the
testimony of Fritz Götte in Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des
, p. 285.

[78] In the
words of the anthroposophist Jens Heisterkamp, “the anthroposophist movement
did not produce any members of the Resistance.” (Heisterkamp’s review of Uwe
Werner’s book in Info3 April 1999)

[79] Indeed
Lippert’s biodynamic plantation at Dachau was the preeminent component in the
SS’s far-flung network of farms run along Steinerite lines, which also included
Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and other concentration camps. The labor on these
biodynamic tracts was performed by camp inmates. For an overview of this
striking instance of the convergence of anthroposophy and Nazism, see the fine
study by Wolfgang Jacobeit and Christoph Kopke, Die
Biologisch-Dynamische Wirtschafstweise im KZ
1999, which emphasizes the crucial role of the Dachau plantation. For
further context on the SS biodynamic plantation system, the Dachau
installation, and Lippert’s role, see also Hermann Kaienburg,
Die Wirtschaft
der SS
(Berlin 2003), pp. 771-855.

[80] There are
many other examples of this very same anthroposophical avoidance of history.
Consider the case of Friedrich Benesch. Benesch (1907-1991) was a leading
figure in the Christian Community, the forthrightly religious arm of
anthroposophy, and one of the most prominent and influential anthroposophists
of the post-war period. For thirty years, beginning in the 1950s, he was the
head of the seminary in Stuttgart that trains the Christian Community’s
priests. Benesch was also a fervent Nazi from the late 1920s onward. He was
active in the radical nationalist and racist völkisch youth movement and belonged to the Artamanen, the infamous “blood and soil” group that produced
several later Nazi leaders, including Himmler, Darré, and Auschwitz commandant
Rudolf Höß. In his 1941 dissertation Benesch wrote: “Since 1928 I have been a
member of the National Socialist movement for renewal among the Germans in
Romania.” (Friedrich Benesch, “Lebenslauf,” Die Festung Hutberg: Eine
jungnordische Mischsiedlung
, Halle 1941)
From 1934 to 1945 Benesch was a leader in the extremist wing of the regional
Romanian-German Nazi party. His father-in-law and mentor was the well-known
Nazi theorist Hans Hahne. Benesch’s own teaching in the early 1940s strongly
emphasized racial theory and vigorously propagated National Socialist
principles. He joined the SS in 1939, and applied to work with the SS research
institute, the Ahnenerbe, on a
project about “Trees and forests in Aryan-Germanic spiritual and cultural
history.” In 1941 he was appointed head of the Nazi party organization in his
home county in Romania. Although this information was readily available for
decades via both archival and published sources, Benesch’s anthroposophical
colleagues never inquired into his biographical background, instead celebrating
him as a greatly admired anthroposophical figure. It was not until 2004 that
parts of the anthroposophical movement began at last to acknowledge Benesch’s
Nazi past, after they were forced to confront the subject by a
non-anthroposophist historian, Johan Böhm. Even today, efforts to downplay and
deny Benesch’s lengthy activity as a committed Nazi militant continue within
anthroposophical circles, a stunning instance of anthroposophy’s ongoing
inability to come to terms with its own past. For background see Johan Böhm, Das
nationalsozialistische Deutschland und die deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien
(Frankfurt 1985), pp. 41-42, 53,
138-139; Böhm, Die Deutschen in Rumänien und das Dritte Reich
(Frankfurt 1999), pp. 149,
272-273; Böhm, “Friedrich Benesch: Naturwissenschaftler, Anthropologe, Theologe
und Politiker” Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte,
Literatur und Politik
, vol. 16 no. 1 (May
2004), pp. 108-119.    In
light of the astoundingly long time it took for any of this information to
penetrate anthroposophical consciousness, the obvious question that ought to
concern Göran Fant and his associates is: How many other Friedrich Benesches
are lurking within the ranks of twentieth century anthroposophy?

[81] Things may,
of course, be different in Sweden. Hakan Lejon’s book Historien om den
antroposofiska humanismen
(Stockholm 1997)
argues that the Swedish anthroposophical movement has developed in tension
between an esoteric pole and a humanist pole, with the latter taking precedence
in recent decades. If this is true, it may help explain Fant’s quaintly naïve
perspective on anthroposophy in other places and other times.

[82] Fant is by
no means the only anthroposophist to fall for this easily debunked racist
propaganda. For a particularly striking early example, see anthroposophist Karl
Heyer’s racist reminiscences of the Rhineland occupation in Anthroposophie July 13, 1930; cf. also the remarkable racist
imagery in the very same context in anthroposophist author Andrej Belyj’s work
from the 1920s: Belyj, Im Reich der Schatten, Frankfurt 1987, pp. 48-64. 

[83]For an overview of the campaign to circulate these stories see Keith Nelson, “The ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’: Race as a Factor in Post-World War I Diplomacy” Journal of Modern Historyvol. 42 no. 4 (1970), pp. 606-627; Peter Martin, “Die Kampagne gegen die ‘Schwarze Schmach’ als Ausdruck konservativer Visionen vom Untergang des Abendlandes” in Gerhard Höpp, ed., Fremde Erfahrungen, Berlin 1996, pp. 211-224; Gisela Lebzelter, “Die “Schwarze Schmach”: Vourteile – Propaganda – Mythos” Geschichte und Gesellschaft11 (1985), pp. 37-58; Robert Reinders, “Racialism on the Left: E.D. Morel and the Black Horror on the Rhine“” International Review of Social History 13 (1968), pp. 1-28; Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, ““Tirailleurs Sénégalais” und “Schwarze Schande” – Verlaufsformen und Konsequenzen einer deutsch-französischen Auseinandersetzung (1910-1926)” in Janos Riesz and Joachim Schultz, eds., Tirailleurs Sénégalais, Frankfurt 1989, pp. 57-73; Joachim Schultz, “Die “Utschebebbes” am Rhein – Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung (1918-1930)” in Riesz and Schultz, Tirailleurs Sénégalais, pp. 75-100; Clarence Lusane, “Black Troops and the Race Question in Pre-Nazi Germany” in Lusane, Hitler’s Black Victims, New York 2002. The definitive study of the topic is Christian Koller, “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: die Diskussion um die Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und Militärpolitik (1914-1930), Stuttgart 2001. See also the recent volume by Iris Wigger, Die “Schwarze Schmach am Rhein”: Rassistische Diskriminierung zwischen Geschlecht, Klasse, Nation und Rasse, Münster 2007.

[84] See, for
example, “The Black Troops on the Rhine” The Nation March 9, 1921, p. 365; “Is the Black Horror on the
Rhine Fact or Propaganda?” The NationJuly 13, 1921, pp. 44-45. For an Afro-German women’s perspective see
Oguntye, Opitz, and Schultz, Farbe Bekennen, Frankfurt 1992, pp. 49-52. See also B.T. Reynolds, Prelude
to Hitler
, London 1933, pp. 85 and 106, and
J.E. Barker, “The Colored French Troops in Germany” Current History July 1921.

[85] The
official report on the matter by General Henry Allen was published in Germany
in 1925; it dismantles the notion that non-white troops committed
disproportionate crimes and exposes the German propaganda claims as false. The
extremely few incidents of actual wrongdoing by non-white troops were in
reality scrupulously investigated and punished by the French authorities. See
Schultz, “Zur Darstellung schwarzer Soldaten während der französischen Rheinlandbesetzung” pp.
79-80; cf. Keith Reynolds, Victors Divided: America and the Allies in
Germany, 1918-1923
, Berkeley 1975, p. 64;
and Royal Schmidt, Versailles and the Ruhr, The Hague 1968, 58, 118.

[86] Quotes from
Rheinische Frauenliga, Farbige Franzosen am Rhein: Ein Notschrei deutscher
, Berlin 1920.

[87] While all
of the sources cited here make a mockery of Fant’s startlingly credulous
claims, perhaps the most effective antidote to this ongoing anthroposophist
avoidance of history is available in Christian Koller’s comprehensive study
from 2001: “Von Wilden aller Rassen niedergemetzelt”: Die Diskussion um die
Verwendung von Kolonialtruppen in Europa zwischen Rassismus, Kolonial- und
Militärpolitik (1914-1930)
. I urge any
reader who is inclined to give Fant’s assertions the benefit of the doubt to
consult Koller’s book. On the supposed “outrages” by non-white soldiers see
e.g. pp. 203-205, 253-254, 292, 295-298; on the racist character of the
propaganda Fant takes as fact see pp. 229-231, 244-245, 338-339; on German
opposition against this propaganda at the same time that Steiner endorsed it,
see pp. 231-235; on opposition by other anti-racists at the time see pp.
291-295, 298-300, 307; for racist endorsements of the German propaganda from
outside Germany see pp. 301, 308, etc. Even setting aside this extraordinarily
thorough new research, and the myriad additional sources that were available
well before Fant wrote his essay, and assuming that Fant knew nothing
whatsoever about the history of this matter, an uncomfortably blunt question
must be posed: Does Göran Fant believe that non-white soldiers are somehow more
likely to commit “outrages” than white soldiers? Does such a belief have
anything to do with anthroposophical views on race?

[88]Some readers of Anthroposophy and Ecofascismhave found its lessons difficult to learn because
they apparently mistook it for a scholarly article meant for other historians
rather than a popular treatment written for a lay audience. A word on this peculiar
confusion may be in order here. The difference between scholarly publications
and popular publications can sometimes be decisive, not just in terms of tone but
in terms of content. That a number of anthroposophists took my article to be a
scholarly publication indicates among other things just how far removed
contemporary anthroposophy is from the world of scholarship. The distinctions
between scholarly and popular approaches are central to the purposes my article
was designed to fulfill. Consider a contrasting case: When my students hand in
papers that refer, for example, to “nineteenth century misconceptions about
race,” I will circle such phrases and recommend replacing them with something
along the lines of “the conceptions about race that were predominant at the
time.” This kind of circumspection is important from a historian’s perspective;
it avoids making judgements about the past based on the standards of the
present, and reminds us that present standards are just as open to revision as
past ones were. In popular treatments, in contrast, there is nothing wrong with
offering penetrating criticism of past figures and actions and ideas,
particularly those with some significant connection to present debates; indeed
this sort of criticism is one of the crucial strengths of popular writing. The
widespread allergic reaction to my article among anthroposophists – who were,
after all, hardly its intended audience – indicates that such criticism remains
very much necessary.