THE PROPAGANDIST AND POLITICIAN
DIETRICH ECKART was a "character" in the fullest sense of the word. He was a "roughhewn and comical figure with his thick round head, his partiality for good wine and crude talk."  He would sit for hours with his friends in sidewalk cafes and discuss the issues of the day. He dominated conversations. A well read man, he was crude in his manner of speaking and his weakness for the Bavarian dialect, but was always able to throw out a quote or an eloquent response. Never caught without an answer, he was a skilled debater, and won over many converts to his nationalistic views.
Money, as would be wont of someone who took Peer Gynt to heart, never meant much to Eckart. If he had it, he would spend it. Rosenberg writes that Eckart could simply not say "no" to a friend, and would give up his last cent even if it meant he would go without.  He spent a small fortune on beer and wine, and entertaining drinking chums. He was accused by some of living off his girlfriends, and even of pandering.
Once, flat broke and downing what appeared to be his last glass in a local beerhall, he met a salesman for a well known tonic remedy. Offered a thousand marks if he could come up with a good advertising jingle, the poet excused himself. A few minutes passed. He returned with a four line stanza and handed it to the astonished salesman. He had composed it while in the lavatory. He was paid the money. 
His years in Berlin, much like Hitler's years in Vienna, brought him into contact with many Jews. He slowly evolved into an anti-Semite. Well educated and a skillful orator, he became known as a so-called Judenspezialist. He was one of the first members of the Fichte Bund, founded in 1914; and he contributed to Theodor Fritsch's anti-jewish paper, Der Hammer. He cofounded a short-lived paper titled Unser Vaterland in 1915 after becoming convinced that there was a 'jewish attempt at world mastery.'
At this time he wrote to a close friend:
To me it appears that the thing so disastrous for our nation, an attack that one can do practically nothing about, is the demonic thirst for power by the Jews who tolerate no other leadership but their own: but as long as they have not reached it, they fight with all their strength to bring about disorder and chaos. 
Joachim Fest writes, "He characterized Soviet Russia as the 'Christian kosher butchering dictatorship of the jewish world savior Lenin' and said that what he wanted most was to 'load all Jews into a railroad train and drive into the Red Sea with it."' 
Schopenhauer was Eckart's favorite philosopher, and he took many of his ideas if not his very weltanschauung from The World As Will and Idea. He explained he saw the world in terms of 'good' and 'evil,' with the German and Jew representing opposites. This idea was a common thread which ran through the 'folkish' movement, but with erudite quotes from Schopenhauer and others Eckart was a prime mover of this belief. In short, he saw two impulses inherent in man, 'world-affirmation' and 'world-denial.' World-affirmation meant a complete surrender or submission to one's baser, all-too-human instincts; whether it be sensual, decadent, or materialistic. World-denial was its counterweight, the constant striving for something more than earthly desires, the faustian wanderlust which could not be explained, only felt. Eckart thought man must have an occasional respite from his inner strivings, but that a firm balance must be kept between the two extremes. Later he described it thusly:
Both directions of the will are important to the maintenance of life ... constant world-denial would, so it would seem, redeem the world, but in fact would destroy it as would absolute world-affirmation ... it would deprive the world of the mental-spiritual strength without which it could not exist. 
One can trace the origin of Eckart's pet theme 'the jewish spirit within and without us' ('in und außer uns ') to this viewpoint. Rather than attack the Jew on a religious or biological basis as most anti-semites before him, Eckart placed importance on the spiritual aspects. He felt every man had some 'jewishness' within him, and that one's first priority was to repress and purge this spirit. For perhaps the first time blame was laid on everyone's foibles instead of on 'the Jew' alone. This was a revolutionary if not refreshing approach to the 'problem,' and Eckart was articulate enough to advance it successfully. It can be found in Point 24 of the NSDAP Official Program. [iv]
With the establishment of the Bolshevik dictatorship in Russia, Eckart all but dropped his literary efforts in favor of anti-marxist propaganda. In November of 1918 the World War was lost by Germany and in Munich the "Red Republic" of Kurt Eisner arose. Ironically, Munich was a main destination and refugee center for White Russians fleeing Russia. The city was a hotbed of pro and anti communist agitation. Among the mass of refugees was a young Balt, Alfred Rosenberg. He writes:
I came to Munich without knowing a single person. Chance brought me into contact with a Baltic woman to whom I told my plans (to fight the spread of Bolshevism in Germany). She informed me of a man who had already begun a similar fight for the same principles. To this end he distributed a small propaganda newspaper. I noted the name and address. The next day I spoke to Dietrich Eckart. I asked whether or not he could use another fighter against Jerusalem. He laughed - - - sure. Did I have anything written to show him? I lay a prepared manuscript and drafts before him. The very next day he called my Pension, the stuff pleased him greatly, and I was to come to see him again. 
Rosenberg's first impressions:
Behind a desk stacked high with papers arose a tall figure, a clean shaven head, a wrinkled brow, dark-framed glasses in front of blue eyes. The nose slightly bent, somewhat short and fleshy. A full mouth, a wide, yes even brutal chin. 
The next month, on December 7, 1918, Eckart and Rosenberg founded their nationalistic and anti-semitic propaganda sheet entitled Auf Gut Deutsch, "In Plain German."  Planned as a weekly, it was sixteen pages in length and cost fifty Pfennigs. Double issues of 32 pages were sometimes printed, and cost one mark. Eckart put his own finances into the printing and distributed it personally. He printed his Lorenzaccio drama and numbered it "Issues 15-29." Even multiple-numbering could not keep the magazine on a regular delivery basis, so Eckart felt obligated to send his subscribers other pamphlets and literature as compensation. Thule's Muchener Beobachter, Fritsche's Hammer, Sturm from Hannover, and a cheap edition of Artur Dinter's The Sin Against Blood were among those anti-semitic works mailed.
Eckart wasted no time in attacking his favorite targets. In the first issue of Auf Gut Deutsch he likened international finance to "der Grosse Krumme." "Der Grosse Krumme," or the Great Boyg, was the ubiquitous clammy mass which almost trapped Peer Gynt in the Valley of the Trolls forever. Eckart thought the work "Krumme" particularly well suited for the analogy, as in German it has the double meaning of 'hunchback' -- a disfigurement he attributed to a certain breed of banker. He wrote:
The tormentor of the German people is international finance, a financial militarism. On God's earth there is no more coldbloodedness or lies than that which hides behind the invisible empire of global economics. With a complete lack of scruples which defy description -- and even a simple knowledge of which would chill one's bones -- the furtive Princes of Gold mix their pernicious brew, which makes mankind not only serve them, but crazy and blind enough to mistake evil for good and good for evil ... The Great Hunchback ("der Grosse Krumme"), a Hydra sucking up millions of our peoples' savings through his many banks, and fattening himself with ever increasing influence. Go ahead and put your last dime down, what kind of interest do you get for it? A trifle! The Great Hunchback, however, bears fruit a hundredfold. Shut him out, bring the State to your side, and you will have a double benefit: you'll yield a better interest on your money, and the State, being better served, can therefore pay debts and relieve you of your burdens. 
In the second issue of Auf Gut Deutsch, in response to a letter to the Editor complaining of' his anti-Semitic slant, he responded:
Now let's take up the Jewish Question. There are numerous Germans who go out of their way [to avoid it] as if it doesn't exist. And yet it is the question of mankind, which envelopes all other problems. Nothing on earth would remain obscure if one could throw light on this mystery. 
In April of 1919 Eckart and his circle of comrades -- by this time including such NS notables as Julius Streicher, Rudolf Hess, Gottfried Feder, Ernst Roehm and Anton Drexler -- agitated against the Eisner "Bavarian Peoples' Republic" by taking to the streets. Eckart had heard of the Russian Revolution first-hand from Rosenberg, had witnessed the Eisner dictatorship in Munich, and saw in the terror of Bela Kuhn's Hungary proof positive that the Jews were conspiring against the world. He said:
The correspondence of the Russian Revolution to our own leaves nothing to the imagination. It depends only whether or not it will be our end too. 
On April 6th he printed one hundred thousand flyers headed "To All Professions!" in which he called for united action against the Eisner regime. It took courage to distribute the flyer in public as the Red guards were prone towards violence and summary shootings. He, Rosenberg and others drove through the streets of Munich, throwing the sheet from their speeding autos. A public notice of the Eisner regime acknowledged:
Sketch of Eckart and supporters distributing the Anti-Eisner flyer "To All Professions" in the streets of Munich, April 1919
Since the proclamation of the Red Republic, public safety has been threatened on the most part by anti-Semitic agitators, cowardly types who throw flyers from speeding automobiles, who without any doubt will be, in the shortest period of time, brought by the government to the Revolutionary Tribunal, as will all persons who disturb the peace. 
Eckart joined the First Wurttemburg Regiment of the Freikorps under General Haas, and helped free Thule Society prisoners from the Stadelheim city prison. He was arrested for his involvement, but an eloquent speech gained him freedom. His experiences during this time convinced him that the middle class had failed miserably, and that only a broad-based appeal to the workers could rectify the situation.
Through folkish circles Eckart met Ulrich Fleischhauer, a well-known racist. He wrote Eckart:
The best educational material at present is your three illustrated issues of Auf Gut Deutsch. I always have them with me when I travel and find persistent contacts and buyers for them." 
Fleischhauer aided Eckart in the distribution of the magazine and played a key role in its success. He teamed with Alfred Rosenberg and published The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in German. At the famous Berne, Switzerland trial of 1935 which ruled on the Protocols' authenticity, Fleischhauer was its chief defender.  He ultimately founded the Welt-Dienst, the largest anti-semitic operation in the world, publishing works in many foreign languages. The Welt-Dienst was the closest thing to a fascist "International" ever conceived, and Fleischhauer himself credited Eckart with the original idea. In April, 1938 he related to the NSDAP Hauptarchiv that a conversation he had had years earlier with the poet was responsible. He wrote:
Dietrich Eckart then spoke to me alone, in a wine-cellar where we were sitting, about the subject which could today describe the Welt-Dienst. He said something to the effect: 'If our idea comes to power, the Jew will try again, as he's tried before with any State which attempts to solve the Jewish Problem, to starve us out. And if that's no use, then try to ruin us through wars and revolutions. Adolf must therefore have an international movement that can help him from the outside, just as the Stahlhelm and other groups help the Party from the outside today.'  Ulrich Fleischhauer
On August 14, 1919 he attended an early meeting of Anton Drexler's German Workers' Party (DAP). He traveled to Nurenberg with Gottfried Feder and spoke on the 'breaking of interest slavery.' Success here led to the founding of Streicher's German Socialist Party (DSP) which' later merged with Hitler's movement. He also joined the German Racist League for Defense and Attack (Schutz und Trutz Bund) which claimed a quarter million men by October. Its founder was Willibald von Zezschwitz, one of the Nazi Party's first lawyers.
Eckart was convinced that the nation only lacked a suitable leader and often spoke of the "coming Leader." He is quoted as saying that such a leader would have to be
a fellow who can stand the rattle of a machine gun. The rabble has to be scared shitless. I can't use an officer, the people no longer have any respect for them. Best of all would be a worker who's got his mouth in the right place. He doesn't need much intelligence, politics is the stupidest business in the world, as any washwoman in Munich can tell you.
As far as he was concerned, the leader who could give
a juicy answer to the Reds is better than a dozen learned professors who sit trembling on the wet pants seat of facts.  Adolf Hitler (1921)
In late 1919, probably December, the poet met young Adolf Hitler. Eckart quickly realized Hitler's potential as a speaker and leader, and proclaimed:
"There is the coming man of Germany of whom the world will someday speak!" 
This prophetic remark was made at a time when Hitler was unknown and not taken seriously by anyone outside of his inner circle of supporters. Through Eckart Hitler met not only local Bavarian supporters, but important figures such as Ludendorff, Kapp, Roehm, Hess, Rosenberg, Ritter von Epp, not to mention the Wagner family and Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
General Kapp staged his ill-fated Putsch in Berlin on March 13, 1920. Hitler and Eckart flew to the city to witness the event. Their pilot was Ritter von Greim, who took charge of the Luftwaffe in 1945 after Hermann Goring's dismissal.  When the revolt was crushed, Hitler and his mentor left the city disillusioned. But Hitler was thereafter the strongest national leader.
During the months that followed, Auf Gut Deutsch came out with three special issues devoted entirely to the "jewish problem." In February 1920 over one hundred thousand copies of In the New Germany were distributed. Leading marxist and jewish figures in government were attacked. Levine, a top Red leader, personally led an assault on the paper's office but a tip from sympathetic police saved it from destruction. In March another issue was devoted to Bela Kuhn's bloody rebellion in the neighboring state of Hungary, entitled Out of Hungary's Days of Terror. In July an issue, Austria Under Judas' Star appeared. "In the New Germany" issue, of which 100,000 copies were distributed
Such provocative issues made Eckart a well-known figure around Bavaria and indeed all of Germany. He was arrested and his papers confiscated on numerous occasions. His controversial writing aroused much bitter protest in jewish communities. He was taken to court for slander and libel eleven times in three years. In one such case, a Rabbi Freund of Hannover was awarded one thousand marks. Eckart was forced to pay after having promised this amount in print to any Jew who could prove that he had had three sons serve in the trenches of the war for at least three weeks.  In another case he was charged with libel after having called a prominent newspaper editor a Judentzer. This medieval term, obscure in modern German, is quite untranslatable into English, but it was ruled by the Munich court that it implied a "friend of the Jews through stupidity" or "a friend of the Jews for personal gain." 
On December 20, 1920, the National Socialist German Workers' Party purchased its first newspaper from the Thule Society. It was renamed the Volkischer Beobachter. Eckart was instrumental in helping obtain the heavy financing required. He was apparently able to convince Freikorp General von Epp to contribute sixty thousand marks. The poet also contributed from his Peer Gynt royalties. His pivotal role in this momentous step for the Nazi Party was acknowledged by Hitler himself. A letter to Eckart dated December 18th runs:
Dear Herr Eckart:
After the finally successful transfer of the Volkischer Beobachter to the Party, I want to, dear Eckart, express my warmest thanks for the great help you provided at the last minute.
Without your assistance the matter would probably not have come off, and I believe that we would have lost the opportunity to have our own newspaper for many months to come. I am so devoted to the Movement body and soul, you could scarcely believe how happy I am, as a consequence of reaching this much desired goal, and I cannot refrain from expressing my deep-felt thanks for this present good fortune.
In true admiration,
Yours, A. Hitler 
At this time Eckart wrote the words to his song Deutschland Erwache! which later became a party byword. General Hans von Seeckt wrote in his memoirs that "Eckart's word has become a slogan to us."
In July 1921 the so-called "summer crisis" of the Nazi Party took place. Lasting six weeks, it grew out of a personality struggle between party founder Drexler and Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer resigned and then rejoined three days later when his demands were met by the executive committee. This was a crucial test for Hitler, one he could not afford to lose if he were to be unchallenged as Party leader in the future. Eckart's role was decisive. Munich police reports state "The dispute was finally smoothed over by the mediation of Dietrich Eckart.'  This public notice, issued by the "Central Committee of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith" (an arm of B'nai B'rith ) warned citizens of an anti-semitic poster which Eckart had had hung throughout Nurnberg. Eckart was a vigorous agitator.
Eckart's political life had kept him away from home so much that in March of 1921 his wife Rose had been granted a divorce. After eight years of controversy surrounding her husband's views and actions, she had had enough. After the 'summer crisis' had been settled, Eckart's newfound freedom took him south to the small mountain village of Berchtesgaden, near Salzburg, where he escaped the pressures of city living and rested. It was there that he was to write his famous Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin and there that he was to die.
During the remaining two years of his life, Eckart's influence on Hitler and the growing Nazi Party began to wane. It was no longer a small circle of comrades meeting in an obscure beer-hall, but a multi-faceted party with thousands of members and many local units. Alfred Rosenberg took over the editorship of the Volkischer Beobachter in 1922, though Eckart continued to write regularly for it.
His health suffered from overdrinking and his almost absolute dependence on morphine, and he helped the Party when he could. In the fall of 1922, for instance, the S A had grown so much that it was necessary to acquire trucks for its transportation. Transportation Leader Christian Weber recalled that "after consulting with Hitler I bought two such [trucks] for the Party. The sum of payment was loaned to me by Dietrich Eckart." 
On April 12, 1922 he wrote a highly critical attack on German President Frederick Ebert entitled "Comrade Ebert in the Next World." This humorous poetry, illustrated as well, made Ebert out as a tool of world Jewry and not fit for either heaven or hell. A warrant for Eckart's arrest was issued by the Leipzig courts, and he again went to Berchtesgaden under the alias of "Dr. Hoffman." There, in the Vorderbrandhaus on Obersalzburg, he remained for some six months. During this time, he was often visited by Hitler and other leading figures. Hitler wrote part of Mein Kampf at the Platterhof Hotel on Obersalzburg. He was charmed by the mountains and vowed to someday build his own retreat there. It was built during the Third Reich about ten kilometers from Eckart's hut.
Though Eckart was absent from the Munich political scene his influence was still opening doors for Hitler. Eckart's close friend Dr. Emil Gansser, whose brother had set "Deutschland Erwache!" to music, was an important business figure. He invited Adolf Hitler to give a speech before a group of industrial leaders at the "Nationale Klub" in Berlin. The speech was delivered on May 29th, and substantial support was won for the growing Party.  The first NSDAP Party Day, January 28, 1923 in Munich. Hitler (with armband, front left) is standing to the right of Eckart.
The June 8, 1923 issue of the Volkischer Beobachter carried a small classified advertisement for a "cozy, well-situated house in the country." Even a court decree could not dampen Dietrich Eckart's humor. The arrest warrant was ineffective and eventually rescinded. In October he returned home. Rosenberg recalls:
After the lifting of the decree Dietrich Eckart came back to Munich. He had aged somewhat and looked tired. His humor flashed less often than before, and when he was himself conscious of his new freedom and feeling better, he still looked pessimistically towards the future . . . . He lived in the company of good friends, aside from daily politicking. I saw him only seldom, first during the night of 8/9 November, when we rejoiced. It only lasted a short time. When I met him again later that night, he said, "We have been betrayed." 
Despite his fears, Eckart told a friend: "It will and must be. I believe in Hitler. A star hangs over him." The next day he took his place with the others. He was arrested and taken to Stadelheim prison. In his last letter from prison, written to Bavarian head of state Gustav von Kahr, the poet complained:
I had to spend the rest of the day and the whole next night in an ice-cold cell of the policehouse. No stool, no table, only an uncomfortable dirty plank bed. Despite my constant shivering I couldn't decide whether or not to use this so-called bed, until early morning I sat half-dead from weakness on its outer edge. Some hours later, about nine o'clock, I was brought by auto, at dire cost, to Stadelheim. My condition, I feel, is ever worsening. The careful attention which by all means I need, cannot be had here even with the best of efforts. Then there is the eternal solitude which, in my present condition, I'm simply not equal to, not to mention the 'robust' food. At home lies an unfinished manuscript of mine. The question of whether or not I'll ever be able to complete it tortures me constantly. 
He pleaded for discharge but his request was in vain. A few days later he was transferred again to Landsberg-am-Lech with Hitler and the others.
His condition deteriorating steadily, prison authorities finally relented and set him free on December 20th. He was first driven to Munich, where he stayed overnight with friends. Rosenberg writes:
I met him there one evening. He lay in bed, we shook hands. His handshake was weak. Despite his attempt to laugh and make humorous remarks about his condition, Eckart had the appearance of an old man ... he looked forward to Berchtesgaden, where he wanted to go to recover. 
He arrived in the small village on December 22nd, and was put up by friends. He did appear tired but made no complaints and said he looked forward to Christmas and quietude. While residing at the home of the Pfnuer family, he died of heart failure just six days after gaining freedom. Frau Pfnuer related:
"He brought no clothes to speak of, just an old leather grip filled to the brim with books."
Eckart was staying in the Pfnuer guesthouse, Sonnblick Hausl, and when she heard that the doctor had been summoned, she "hurried to the house, and found him in bed, with a peaceful expression on his face ... his hands still holding an open book.'  Thus the poet died, at a time when all his aspirations were for nothing, or so it seemed. The Nazi Party was banned, its leader in prison facing a treason trial, sixteen men had fallen at the Feldherrnhalle, and the future looked bleak indeed.
Four days thereafter, Dietrich Eckart was laid to rest in the small cemetery in Berchtesgaden. Police from outlying districts were brought into the village, in expectation of trouble; but a raging snowstorm kept the attendance down to about fifty loyal friends and comrades. Some short speeches were made, and the burial went without incident. Hitler and the others were not present, still awaiting release from prison. Eckart's funeral service in Berchtesgaden
Eckart's last work, Bolshevism From Moses to Lenin
, was a dialogue with Hitler on the "Jewish Question." It was published posthumously from unfinished notes, and went through but two editions. It was, as Konrad Heiden writes, "brilliantly" written.  One might say that even here Eckart's fascination for Peer Gynt shines through, for the Jew is painted as a bearer of destruction, an evil creature, a parasite, a troll. It was still being listed as available as late as 1929 by the Franz Eher Verlag, but was not actively promoted. Apparently Hitler considered it too blunt for mass consumption, for in it he and Eckart had agreed on the necessity of 'eliminating' the Jew from German life. As historian Norman Cohn writes: "In this little book, then, one comes to the very heart of Hitler's interpretation of history and human existence." Rare photographs of Eckart's coffin being lowered into the snowy earth of his beloved Berchtesgaden. His grave stands clearly marked today, unmolested and unforgotten.
Eckart was a poet, author, dramatist, newspaper editor, and National Socialist. He was, in the field of literature, author of ten plays, translator of Ibsen's Peer Gynt from the original Norwegian, and a lyricist as well. Though he took himself seriously, he would often as not dash poems and lyrics off on scraps of paper and give them away, as save them for future use. If it were not for friends such as Albert Reich, there would be little material in print at all. That was Dietrich Eckart's nature.
But when politics was concerned he was deadly earnest, especially about the "Jewish Question." As editor of Auf Gut Deutsch, and first editor of the Volkischer Beobachter, he wrote literally hundreds of editorials and articles in a period spanning just five years. He was a good orator, a skillful fund raiser, a dedicated fanatic. He played a pivotal role in the early, crucial days of the Nazi Party. He gave shape and direction to Hitler's anti-Semitism, opened many doors for him, smoothed over differences between leaders, and helped pave the way for future successes of the Hitler movement. He was, in short, Hitler's mentor and the spiritual founder of National Socialism.
In December 1933 the first Dietrich Eckart Prize for Literature was awarded by the Hitler regime, an award of five thousand marks. A section of the Braun Haus in Munich was dedicated to his memory. His songs and slogans became virtual hymns in the Third Reich. His plays were produced regularly, his name evoked as the last martyr of the bloody Putsch. In 1936 the Dietrich Eckart Open Air Theater was dedicated simultaneously with the Berlin Olympic stadium. Adolf Hitler never forgot his 'fatherly friend,' and the Fuhrer's secretary recalls that he nearly came to tears whenever the poet's name was mentioned. But Hitler's gratitude can best be recognized not by the stone monuments later destroyed to rubble, but rather by the often overlooked last sentence -- the dedication -- of Mein Kampf:
And among them I want also to count that man, one of the best, who devoted his life to the awakening of his, our people, in his writing and his thoughts and finally in his deeds: Dietrich Eckart.