Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, by Wikipedia

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Re: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:41 am

Father Jahn, The First Storm Trooper, from Meta-Politics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind
by Peter Viereck
© 1941, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
© 1961, by Peter Viereck
© 1965, by Peter Viereck


In Jahn arose another world, a new human type .... "Only the overthrow of the nineteenth century by National Socialism has enabled us to see freely and purely the figure of Jahn."

-- BUNGARDT, a Nazi historian, 1938 [1]

As inventor of the word "folkdom," Jahn is the natural starting-point for every analysis of the concept of Volk.

-- THEUNE, another Nazi historian, 1937 [2]

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, whose ideas and deeds best typify the combination of romantic ideas and social changes in the early 1800's, was born in 1778, son of a Protestant preacher. The birthplace was a small town in the province of Priegnitz, part of the ancient Brandenburg nucleus of the Kingdom of Prussia. He evolved from local Prussian provincialism, for which he wrote a pamphlet in 1800, into the broader German nationalism for which he volunteered in the anti-French crusades of 1806 and 1813. During 1796-1802, he had been studying at the famous old universities of Halle, Jena, and Greifswald. His doctor's degree he received in philology at Leipzig in 1806 for a book on the German language, which he later strove to "purify" of all un-Germanic words. His university years, above all, steeped him in the basic assumptions of the romantic school, in its new credo of Volk and of "organic versus atomistic society."

Jahn earned his living as a private tutor, public lecturer, and school teacher; he also received Prussian subsidies for agitating the masses against Napoleon. In 1811 he organized among young students his first gymnastic society and simultaneously his first secret nationalist society. As his huge beard grew in dignity and length, his youthful gangs, who worshipped him fanatically as a Fuhrer, gave him his famous nickname "Father Jahn."

Father Jahn's life is one of ceaseless wandering through Germany, orating and writing on behalf of German unity. In 1819 the Prussian government, joining the conservative anti-nationalist reaction of the "Metternich system," suddenly arrested Jahn as a dangerous rebel. For a few years he was dragged from prison to prison; and even after his release his movements were restricted to limited localities under police supervision, until the advent of a more friendly Prussian king in 1840. At the age of seventy Father Jahn was chosen as a delegate to the revolutionary national parliament of 1848. There the former extremist now was called too conservative by the new generation of nationalists, and there he saw his lifelong dream of German unity chattered away. He survived by only four years (till 1852) his slain hopes.


The French invaders destroyed the old order of Frederick the Great's time in Germany. What would replace it? Under Stein, the Prussian Minister, the most efficient reforms of the French Revolution were introduced peacefully from above by that revolution's worst enemies. Fanatic nationalism plus sane social reform was the dual creed of Germany's bright young men. So long as Napoleon threatened externally, the enfeebled old order had to let these men of ideas take over internally. After Napoleon fell, the old order under Metternich began to oust and crush them; they had served their purpose.

But getting rid of them was easier said than done. The consequences of their work from 1806 to 1819 have moulded Germany to this very day.
During those years Father Jahn was nationalism's storm-centre. By 1819, when he was jailed, his agitation had permanently shocked the middle class and the intellectuals out of their former aloofness from politics. Ever after, much of Germany's future was shaped by those college and high-school lads who had learned Jahn's gospel from his lips and his organizations.

Jahn's conservative critics damned him as a "German Jacobin." [3] "Jacobin" was a fighting word in those days. It meant a radical who attacked the very basis of the old system Metternich was rebuilding. Jahn was ferocious in his denunciation of the new revolutionary doctrines which France was spreading over the world, just as Hitler denounced the revolutionary doctrines spread by Russia. But Jahn denounced "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" probably not so much for its revolutionary implications but because it was written in French. In just that fashion the Nazis denounced the Soviet's "bolshevism," "godlessness," and "terror" not because the Nazis are any less state-socialist, anti-Christian, or violent, but because Russia is a rival and Marx a Jew.

With the "true German costume" of his books and speeches, Jahn was actually clothing many of the "dangerous French ideas." [4] Jahn's program was German Jacobinism in the same way that Hitler's program is Brown Bolshevism. Jahn was at first beamed upon by conservative Prussian authorities just as Hitler, before his gradual expropriation of German capital was beamed upon by the capitalist Thyssens. Only after years of financial and propagandist support [5] did the German authorities suppress Jahn and his young Storm Troopers as "revolutionary national-Jacobins." Too late -- the snowball had begun to roll.


Even a passionate nationalist like Treitschke called Jahn a "crude peasant" and a "noisy barbarian." Coarse and boisterous Jahn was, but not for lack of education and intelligence. He was frank and unsophisticated in speech, offensive and unpolished in manner -- as a matter of policy. To him virtue meant the tough, straightforward nordic in contrast with the sly French dandy. Goethe satirized this attitude in Faust through the character of a young romantic enthusiast who exclaims: "In German you're a liar if you're polite!" Ever since, German nationalists have quoted this line as if Goethe meant it seriously. When a low varlet plays the boor, that is unpleasant enough. An intelligent and educated man like Jahn could think up a thousand brand-new vulgarisms. His boorishness was a refined art! [6]

By 1815 Jahn permanently wore the "true German costume" of his own invention. This invention was a hermitlike gown of unbleached cloth into which he wanted to force all German citizens.
[7] The Nazi brownshirt achieves his dream of a distinctively national dress for civilians; but Jahn's invention was a far more sloppy affair:

Jahn's long hair, which had turned gray in a single day after the battle of Jena, hung down uncombed upon his shoulders; his neck was exposed, for the servile stock and the effeminate waistcoat were equally unsuitable for the free German. The low-cut neckband of his dirty coat was covered by a wide shirt-collar. With great self-satisfaction, he extolled this questionable get-up as "the genuine Old German costume." [8]

Thus clad, Jahn swaggered through the streets of conquered Paris, whither he came in the entourage of Prussian officials. Staff in hand, with hair and beard flowing in the wind, he harangued crowds on the virtues of unspoilt primitive Teutonism.

Not long after the arrival of the Saints in Utah, Brigham conceived the idea of a uniform dress, by which the sister Saints should be distinguished from the rest of the world, and for a while he was enthusiastic on the subject of this "dress reform." He not only introduced the idea of this dress, but he planned it himself, and was as proud of his costume as Worth is of any one of the most gorgeous gowns which he sends out from his world-famed establishment. Several of the sisters had adopted the Bloomer costume in Illinois, and President Young had warmly approved of it. He now wanted something more pronounced, and he held meetings with the leading ladies who favored his plan, for the purpose of deciding in what manner to introduce the new costume. There was much excitement over it, and most of the sisters were intensely curious concerning the proposed style of it, when suddenly it was revealed to them in all its beauty.

The costume consisted of a short dress, which did not fit the figure at all, but resembled very closely the modern gored wrapper, such as is worn at the present time. It reached about half way between the knee and ankle, and was worn with long pantalets, made of the same material as the dress itself. Over this was worn a long, loose sacque, of antelope skin. This costume was certainly peculiar and distinctive enough; but it did not quite suit the Mormon Worth; it was not complete enough; so he added a hat eight inches high, with a straight, narrow brim; and then he viewed his achievement with complacent admiration.


It must be confessed, however, that the large majority of the sisters did not share his admiration; and even he, although he strenuously urged the general adoption of this costume, could induce but very few of the sisters to wear it. Even Mormon women will assert themselves in matters of the toilette, and they refused, most persistently, to make perfect guys of themselves. It was a very unbecoming dress, both to face and figure; there was nothing graceful or beautiful about it, and probably the female Mormons have never, in all their lives, come so nearly being actually indignant with their Prophet as they were when he endeavored to induce them to disfigure themselves by wearing this hideous costume.

-- Wife No. 19, the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Expose of Mormonism and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy, by Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's Apostate Wife

His proudest exploit in the French capital was to climb its Arc de Triomphe and knock the tuba from the mouth of the goddess of victory. And why not -- were not Vandals a primitive Teutonic tribe? Gleefully Jahn quoted French journals which dubbed him "Chief of the Corps of Vengeance." At the Congress of Vienna he contrasted dramatically with the suave diplomats.  [9] Jahn's self-dramatization had this advantage: it hypnotized fellow enthusiasts even though its absurdity repelled detached observers.

Jahn's cult of primitivism and of Teuton boorishness was accompanied by the most grotesque phenomena. Logical young extremists began dressing in bear-skins, as did Jahn's acquaintance Sand, who killed an anti-nationalist writer with a primitive dagger. Jahn himself, while a student, lived for a while in a cave, scorning such decadent artificialities as houses. From his cave, like a besieged caveman of the Stone Age, Jahn would roll huge boulders down on jeering throngs of anti-nationalists. After Jahn became a nationally famous leader, his young fanatics would roam the streets like bands of Storm Troopers. Each band would surround and hoot at any outnumbered passers-by who looked un-German or too well dressed or gave signs of French politeness. Thus Teutonic heroism thrived again and the Volk-soul was "regenerated." [10]

The gymnast Jahn and the poet Arndt were called "the popularizers of the teachings of the Volk-soul." [11] A parliamentary committee of the German Diet classified Jahn's German Folkdom of 1810 with Fichte's Speeches to the German Nation of 1808 as "the spiritual godfathers of the newer Germany." [12] Both works were written while French troops still occupied Germany; this background accounts for the fanatic bitterness of Jahn's and Fichte's nationalism.

Fichte's work was limited in its appeal by its abstruse metaphysics. Jahn's book offered a more practical program, in colorful demagogic style. General Blucher, the German co-victor at Waterloo, called Jahn's book "the Germanest verbal gun [sic]." [13] German Folkdom is halfway between scientific scholarship and demagogics -- that half-way point which sounds so thrilling and convincing to the half-educated.

Jahn's credo was that the unconscious force of Volk shapes all history. To describe this force Jahn coined the word "folkdom" (Volkstum), today one of the most important Nazi words. Folkdom he called "that which the Volk has in common, its inner existence, its movement, its ability to propagate. Because of it, there courses through all the veins of a Volk a folkic thinking and feeling, loving and hating, intuition and faith." [14]

Cosmopolitanism Jahn spurned because "humanity appears nowhere by itself pure and simple but only as incarnated by folkdoms." [15] The Greeks and Germans are "humanity's holy people." [16] Later Hegel devoted many volumes to describing how Greeks and Germans, in turn, incarnated God's idea. "How odd of God to choose the Jews," German nationalists seem to wail, when the Germans would make a Chosen People so much superior.

Jahn attempted no new philosophic foundation. Almost all his ideas derive from the German romantics, in whom he was steeped. The romantic school's organic assumption, when applied to the plane of nation and in the context of the war with France, produced Jahn's book Folkdom.

Folkdom is devoted to methods for nationalizing Germany's way of life or, rather, "awakening" its allegedly innate nationalism. Without Hitler's cynicism, the book foreshadows Mein Kampf by its shrewd outline of propaganda techniques and educational indoctrination. So does Jahn's appeal for biological Volk purity. [17] "Animal hybrids have no genuine power of propagation, and hybrid peoples have just as little posterity." "The purer a people, the better; the more mixed, the worse." Every Volk should lead an isolated existence. The founding of a world government "is the last moment of humanity." [18]

We find not only that these early cultures were actually very harmonious, but also that their vigour and power must have been very great; for our culture owes what little beauty, harmony and health it possesses entirely to them.

A further interesting fact is that all these cultures arose in naturally or artificially confined areas, where broadmindedness, the universal brotherhood of mankind, internationalism, the love of one's neighbour, and other forms of claptrap were quite unknown.

We find these cultures originally in islands like Crete and Japan, peninsulas like India, Greece and Italy, naturally enclosed areas like Peru, Mesopotamia and Egypt, and artificially enclosed areas like China and ancient Palestine. 1

Furthermore, we know that where intercourse with the outside world, with the neighbour, is checked, the secluded people are condemned to inbreeding and very often close inbreeding, that is to say, at any rate, to a form of mating which brings like to like.

In the only cultures that have left a permanent mark on the world, we find, however, not merely inbreeding but also a strong conscious tendency to keep apart, to segregate. And this caused, in addition to a frontier of prejudice and suspicion between the secluded nation and the world outside, a series of frontiers within the nation itself, dividing off classes and castes. So that within the inbred mass smaller inbred classes were formed.

This was so among the Egyptians, the Jews, the Hindus and the Peruvians. In all these cases it was an unconscious instinct to separate, or a conscious pride of race and caste, that caused the segregation.

-- The Choice of a Mate, by Anthony M. Ludovici

Volk is the only true basis of a state. "A state without Volk is nothing, a soulless artifice," wrote Jahn. "A Volk without a state is nothing, a lifeless frivolous phantom like the vagabond gypsies and Jews. Only state and Volk in one make a Reich. Its power of survival is its folkdom." [19] Today that sounds more trite than startling, although attempts to change the map of Europe on that basis will always mean chaos and war. Metternich, the Hapsburg Chancellor and urbane "good European," first viewed more with amusement than horror "that newfangled notion of nationality." [20] But even in his own day it became the most frightening reality of modern progress.


Jahn's original creed was not nationalism but provincial Prussian patriotism. [21] Not till Prussia's isolation caused her annihilation at Jena did Jahn see German unity as the sole salvation against Napoleon. He witnessed that battle; he said its horror turned his beard grey! [22] He now damned the boundaries separating the Germanys. Traditional local patriotism must be exterminated to make way for Jahn's national patriotism. His reaction to Jena was typical of that of thousands of German leaders. Jena was the vision of Damascus converting many thousands of provincialist Sauls into nationalist Pauls.

But the "particularism" of Bavarians, Prussians, Saxons, Swabians, Austrians had roots so much deeper than the new nationalism that Jahn's dream had to wait a whole century. Hitler is the first German strong enough to abolish the old provincial names and lines. After union with the Reich in 1938, the thousand-year-old name "Austria" was changed to "East Province." Today separate Bavarian or Prussian or Austrian loyalties are treason. Hitler's speeches constantly rage against alleged English plans of again splitting Germany into Germanys.

To overcome patriotism for the old provincial capitals like Munich and Berlin, Jahn planned to build a new national capital. He located it with mathematical exactness at Germany's geographical centre and named it "Teutonia." For efficiency, he drew new local subdivisions along natural lines to replace both arbitrary and traditional lines. Jahn knew where national tradition must end and efficiency begin. [23]

All these recommendations smack of the departements of the French Revolution. These, too, broke up France's old provincial lines. Extremely radical for his time was Jahn's demand for unification (preferably under Prussian leadership). It meant the overthrow or subjection of most of Germany's old established ruling houses.

The prophetic Metternich warned that the anti-French wars enabled "the revolutionary spirit" to hide "under the veil of patriotism." Among the eager Germans, "hatred of the military despotism of Bonaparte" too often became linked with hatred of "the legitimate power of their masters." "Prussia," concluded Metternich, "committed a grave fault in calling to her aid such dangerous weapons" as nationalism. [24]

In his German Folkdom of 1810 Jahn seemed content with uniting Germany proper. In 1814 his war experience inflated his demands. He now added the Swiss, the Netherlanders, and the Danes to the Germanic peoples to be incorporated. Germany's central position, he pointed out, makes her the battlefield of Europe unless she is armed to the teeth and fanatically united. [25] In a war-torn world, there was logic in this demand. Since Jahn's day, the idea has been expanded into Hitler's concept of Lebensraum.


Jahn proposed a new nobility of merit. The traditional nobles must do more than "count their ancestors." They must earn new titles of merit. The new nobility must be open to even the humblest-born citizen because "Volk-honour makes every member of the Volk a man of honour."  [26] Like Hitler and unlike Junker nationalists, Jahn knew that fanatic nationalism can be long sustained only by a mass movement enabling the lower classes and the uneducated to reach the top. Good citizens, Jahn decided, are only made through mass participation in government. [27]

Does this make Jahn a sincere partisan of representative government? Most liberal historians think so, and beam upon his youth movement. They overlook his dictatorial tendencies and his enthusiasm for some coming German Fuhrer. Invariably Jahn was suspiciously vague about the powers and functions he would actually grant the Reichstag.

He was less interested in one form of government or another than in a strong, united, nationalist government, no matter whether parliamentary or dictatorial in form. Therefore his views on form of government varied with the changing needs of the moment. He was never a liberal nationalist or a republican. Generally he favoured a centralized national monarchy with advisory parliament and constitution. But when exasperated, he favoured a dictator.

In 1814 Jahn called for a "unity-creator," an unparliamentary dictator, a Fuhrer.
By 1814, experiences had proved to him the strength of provincialism. He wanted a Fuhrer to burn it out by Hippocrates' cure for cancer: "What medicine does not heal is healed by iron; what iron does not heal is healed by fire." Half a century later Bismarck orated that problems are settled by "blood and iron" and not by parliamentary chatter. Jahn said of his "iron and fire" Fuhrer: "The Volk will honour him as saviour and forgive him all his sins." [28]

The logic of organic nationalism leads to collectivism, to mass levelling and socializing. Jahn's slogan: "Participation of the individual in the happiness and suffering of the whole," had a social goal similar to that of the favourite Nazi slogan: "Collective good before individual good" ("Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz"), [29] Only the unity of the masses with the state, preached Jahn, can clothe "the skeleton of state" with "the warm flesh and blood of folkdom." "The longing for unity is the first self-consciousness of an awakening Volk. ... One God, one Fatherland, one House, one Love!" [30] Thus Jahn. The official posters of Nazi plebiscites: "One Volk, one State, one Fuhrer."

Jahn demanded universal national citizenship not for the sake of liberty but for the sake of spreading nationalism. Nationalism is best spread by the "participation of individuals in the happiness and suffering of the whole." [31] To "remove separating factors," Jahn would abolish class privileges and Germany's feudal traditions; "there is but one Master: the state."
Jahn called for such reforms as free ownership of land for all. [32] These reforms were soon introduced into Prussia by Stein. Both Stein and Jahn wanted to unite the army with the broad mass of citizens and wanted a common public-school education for children of all classes. Jahn was equally against class lines and provincial lines. Class consciousness splits the organic unity of Volk into class atoms.

Prophetic of Hitler are the grounds Jahn lists for depriving a German of citizenship in this coming nationalist utopia. Three of Jahn's "criminal" grounds are: besmirching the honour of the Volk in foreign lands, marriage with an unnaturalized foreigner, and remaining a bachelor while healthy, potent, and capable of supporting a family. [33] The citizen must serve the state with pen, loins, and spade. Jahn would be pleased that Hitler not only bans interracial marriages but subsidizes intraracial breeding.


Nationalism is our century's new pagan religion. This development was prophesied by Heinrich Steffens, a more moderate romantic than Jahn. Watching Jahn's gymnasts march by like Storm Troopers, Steffens feared that "this vague German patriotism was taking on a religious character and becoming ever more threatening." [34]

Political nationalism clashes with Christianity in Germany more than elsewhere. The historical reason is that religion has overlapped politics in Germany more than elsewhere. The very term "Holy Roman Empire" indicated inextricable overlapping. The historical fact that Germany did not become either all Protestant or all Catholic has had tragic consequences. The Catholic-Protestant split was a major cause of the terrible Thirty Years' War. Ever after, this split was encouraged and exploited by Germany's neighbours -- especially exploited, Jahn correctly charged, by French intervention. [35]

Therefore Jahn demanded a single united German church, purged of international ties. "The church should not be placed above the state, nor under it, nor next to it; it should be integrated with it." By integration, Jahn meant fusing church and state into organic unity. [36] His state is a Volk state nationalizing private and public activities in all-inclusive (totalitarian) fashion. How can religion escape such state co-ordination? In practice, Jahn's term "integration" would work out not so differently from Hitler's integration of Pastor Niemoller into "free positive Christianity."

True Christianity Jahn identified with what he called "northern Christianity." Son of a Lutheran preacher, he charged that Luther's "northern" Christianity was being plotted against by scheming un-nordic Jesuits and Hapsburgs. Jahn used Christianity rather conveniently to justify the traditional German expansion eastward (Drang nach Osten). Germany's mission was to Christianize -- by conquest -- the "inferior" Slavs and BaIts of the east. [37]

Neither Jahn nor Hitler have much interest in questions of Christian dogma except on political grounds. Their basic dogma is strictly secular: folkdom. [38] Ever since Henry VIII, England, too, has had a national church -- but not subjected to a totalitarian framework. As sweeping totalitarians, Jahn and Hitler would actually go much, much further than Henry VIII, whom they profess to imitate.

Jahn and Hitler are far-seeing and wise in trying to end Germany's bloody feud between Catholic and Protestant sects. At last Hitler has achieved this great feat of unifying them: not by the "German Christianity" he set up under Muller, who proved a failure, but by persecution!

Jahn's term "integration" provokes two questions: Would Christianity still be Christian without its dogma of universal brotherhood? Are the modern nationalist values compatible with either Protestant or Catholic Christianity? In the act of throwing the first stone at Hitler, let nationalists of all countries pause to answer these questions.


Jahn insisted on the same elementary state education for children of all classes. His political motive for this was twofold: to break down class prejudices and to nationalize the masses. Universities, too, were to become vehicles of folkdom. His was a broad concept of education, including both culture for its own sake and propaganda. In the development of nationalism in every land, state-controlled universal education has proved the most reliable agency for nationalizing the masses. [39]

Nietzsche once defined nationality as people who read the same newspapers. The language a man reads is the medium for his indoctrination. That is why all nationalists stress language. Jahn helped found Germany's first "Language Purification Society." An example of the results is that because "university" is a word of un-nordic, Latin origin, one of Jahn's disciples replaced it with the name "Institute of Mental Gymnastics." [40] The Nazis are consciously Jahn's disciples in purging German of foreign words.

Today German is the basic language of all Germans, as a matter of course. Not so in Jahn's day. French was the language of culture and diplomacy. Frederick the Great's court dismissed German as "that coachman's language (Kutschersprache)." Right through Jahn's lifetime, nobility and middle class trained their children in French. Herder and the romantic school's interest in folksongs paved Jahn's way by reviving German as a language for polite society.
The differences in grammar and language-structure between German and French may help determine the characteristic national differences in thought-structure and philosophy of life between the Germans and the French. That is why Jahn was so worried about Germans who also spoke French. A typical example of Jahn logic: "Man has but one mother; one mother tongue is enough for him." French for Jahn was the language of gay seducers. "Unhappy Germany," he wailed, "neglect of your mother tongue has been fearfully revenged upon you.... This language [French] has rendered impotent your men, led your children astray, dishonoured your wives." [41]

In 1817 Jahn thundered to a lecture hall crowded with Berlin's most polished society: "The father who lets his daughter learn French is just as good as the man who apprentices his daughter to whoredom." A Prussian officer in the audience took offence at thus being called a pimp for letting his daughter brazenly conjugate French irregular verbs in public! The result was a cause celebre, with further pressure by the Prussian government to hush Jahn. Such incidents typify the coarseness of speech which Jahn urged as Teutonic. [42] Herder and many of the romantic school cultivated the folksongs and traditions of all nationalities. Jahn turned this broad cultural interest into narrow, anti-alien politics.

To instil proper national sentiment into pupils, Jahn proposed a whole new series of books and anthologies. These were to include German songs, the sagas of German heroes, and a national bible of folkic Weltanschauung. The purpose of this, later fulfilled by Nazi educators, was far more political than literary. [43]

Jahn wanted to popularize as well as nationalize art. [44] He would probably stroke his long beard in approval over Hitler's Munich "House of German Art." The bronzed and sturdy nordic lads and lasses would be to his taste. To Jahn, folkdom is not only a subject for art but the object of art.

As the best means for schools to inculcate folkdom, Jahn urged the study of history. "The Fatherland's history inspires to deeds by its living example." [45] Hitler in Mein Kampf lists the two decisive influences of his schooling: "First, I became a nationalist. Second, I learned to grasp and to understand the meaning of history." Hitler lauds his favourite teacher for not "rattling forth historical facts" but finding "the forces" which shape history. "When Hitler speaks of . . . history as the science which demonstrates that one's own people is always right, he is echoing Jahn." [46]

History that "inspires to deeds" by "its living example" can be read in the elementary texts of every land. Are not our own professional patriots ever alert for allegedly un-American texts? Goethe said: "Patriotism corrupts history." Madariaga's attractive cure for nationalist war is to make every Hans and Gretchen read only French history texts and to bring every French child up on German histories.

Jahn viewed his program for national public education with nineteenth-century optimism: "The effects of such a German popular education will be infinite. . . . Popular education is the true spiritual creator of the Volk." A people thus organically united can never be destroyed by foreign conquests. [47] Hitler's educational ideas as expressed in Mein Kampf "are in part the common property of all who have gone to school and in part the legacy of Jahn." [48] The nationalizing effects of a century of state education bear out Jahn's predictions and plans.


Jahn's agitation helped achieve in action the theories of his book German Folkdom. His nationalism in action took three chief forms: the gymnastic societies, the volunteer Free Corps, and the fanatic nationalizing of German student leagues. These three institutions first infected German youth with the virulent germ of activist nationalism.

As the "Father" of gymnastics, Father Jahn is a national saint of the Nazis. In an unpolitical form, decent innocuous Turnvereins in Milwaukee and St. Louis continue his work. Gymnastic societies of Slav patriots still imitate Jahn's organization. Till Hitler's occupation, the gymnastic Sokols indoctrinated Czech nationalism. Jahn's gymnasts personified that anti-intellectual "regeneration" which ivory-tower intellectuals were demanding. Jahn combined patriotism with good health to make boys physically and spiritually fit for national war against the French conqueror. When not training them in mock battles, he was marching them off to lectures on the old Nibelungen saga. Under the very noses of French officers and spies, active nationalism was being bred.

Jahn's gymnasts (Turner) were dressed in special uniform. "With the gymnast costume, every distinction of rank automatically disappeared." His boys were very noisy and jeered at youths who did not participate. [49] Jahn's aristocratic enemies complained that he was turning polite middle-class youngsters into ruffians. In other words, he fired their enthusiasm.

When the government called for anti-French volunteers in 1813, most of Jahn's youthful enthusiasts followed him into the Free Corps. [50]The government then subsidized his activities. His gymnast craze spread rapidly. In Jahn's home territory, Berlin, the craze reached its peak in 1817 with 1,074 participants. The same year two important universities gave Jahn honorary degrees. [51]

But reaction was growing. Jahn's gymnasts were allied to other radical nationalist groups. Moderates feared all this as a menace to the new peace and order of 1815. In 1817 and 1818 two vigorous paper battles stirred all Germany: the "Berlin gymnastic feud" and the "Breslau gymnastic fight." Most leading intellectuals were forced to take sides. Breslau's learned society, before which a Jahn disciple read an inflammatory pro-gymnast paper, was thrown into a riot. The society was dissolved in consequence.  [52]

Under pressure from Metternich, the King of Prussia closed down the gymnastic fields. [53]They were eventually reopened under careful government supervision (after Jahn was jailed, in 1819). The real fight was not about physical education but about the nationalization (today, read "radicalization") of youth. In 1818 Metternich warned Prussia: "The gymnastic institution is the real training ground for the university mischief. . . . The inventor [Jahn], the invention, and the execution come from Prussia. . . . The lower institutions are like the branch lodges of a mother lodge. One has to grasp the evil by the roots." [54]

Jahn's youths were both civilian gymnasts and volunteer soldiers in the Free Corps against France. From this combination sprang the concept of what are now known as Storm Troops. The concept was foreshadowed by Jahn's peace-time bands of organized youth. Wagner in 1848 and Rohm in 1933 wanted to organize all civilian masses into an amateur political army. From old Teutonic lore and from the military success of the French Revolution's "nation in arms," Jahn and fellow nationalists reach a common conclusion: an awakened mass of patriots is invincible! [55] The practical result was universal military training throughout Europe.

Under the old order in Germany, middle-class society had abhorred militarism and the soldier's life. [56] Frederick the Great would not let the bourgeoisie become officers because he felt a tradesman class lacked the requisite aristocratic "sense of honour." For the non-commissioned ranks, only country oafs and ruffians would dream of volunteering and then only as mercenaries. Jahn swore to change all that. In national-Jacobin fashion his book Folkdom imported the French Revolution's concept of a "nation in arms." From above, Stein's brain-trusters introduced these class-levelling reforms in Prussia.

Meanwhile from below, Jahn's network of agitators started converting the whole German middle class to the glories of service in the ranks. Reorganized by the reformers, Prussia took up arms to avenge Jena. Prussia proclaimed the famous "Free Corps" of volunteers against France. It was a successful experiment in tapping a broader level of national enthusiasm. Middle-class volunteers were also evoked from non-Prussian states by Jahn in order to make the Free Corps a unifying national force. [57]

Jahn was tipped off in advance of the Free Corps proclamation. His disciples circulated quietly through German universities and skilfully prepared the ground. When the call to arms was trumpeted, student volunteers streamed from all German provinces. Jahn himself was given command of two incomplete companies. He enlisted, equipped, and helped train enough men for a full battalion -- one third of the entire Free Corps! [58]

Napoleon paid the movement sufficient attention to curse Jahn because of his volunteers. [59] Their military value was slight. [60] Their real importance was in filling the young volunteers with unquenchable fanatic nationalism. To volunteer was the bath of fire for which life-starved and Faustian souls yearn. A typical sentimental incident records that a slender maiden was found dead on the battlefield; in story-book style, she had disguised herself as a boy. [61]

The Free Corps was a unique collection of students and their professors, scientists and preachers, exotic poets and drab government bureaucrats; all volunteered. Professional soldiers distrusted this undisciplined horde. Its implication of a politically united nation made the separate German states tremble. Therefore the national Free Corps was deprived of its independence and eventually split up among the armies of the independent separate states. [62] Jahn's dream was foiled for the time being.

Originally, Jahn intended the Volk army to be purely defensive. His book on Folkdom piously denounced "aggression" -- so long as the aggressor was France and not Germany. But like many German nationalists he found the peace of 1815 intolerable to Germany's political interests. He now thundered: "Germany needs a war of her own in order to feel her power; she needs a feud with Frenchdom to develop her national way of life in all its fullness. This occasion will not fail to come. . . ." [63] It came long after Jahn's death. Only by such an anti-French crusade could Bismarck in 1870 unite Germany at last.

Nationalist sentiment in the universities reached the pitch of frenzy after the War of Liberation. [64] Returning from the Free Corps, students organized nationalist fraternities. Thirty years later it was the Herr Professors (these same boys grown up) who led the 1848 Revolution for German unity.

A chief spiritual godfather of these nationalist student leagues was Father Jahn. In his own university days he had fought the aristocratic fraternities (Landmannsschaften) because they were organized on the basis of separate provinces. In 1811-12 Jahn and a collaborator had proposed the organization of national student leagues (Burschenschaften), but Fichte had turned the idea down. During Free Corps days Jahn again preached the idea to all, and at last it was put into practice. [65]

From their very start, Jahn was the idol of these noisy new fraternities. Many units imitated his draft constitution. His disciples led in founding them. In turn, these national student leagues were the most active supporters of gymnastics. Throughout Germany the leagues co-operated against their foes. Jahn's student influence was sometimes direct, sometimes indirect through his network of middlemen. He and the poet Arndt were worshipped hysterically; so much so that Metternich vowed to free Germany from what he called the "dictatorship of such men as Jahn and Arndt. . . ." [66]

Jahn had lit a stick of dynamite under the ivory tower of German universities. The effect was permanent.

Student hysteria reached its climax in the fanatic book-burning episode of 1817. Jahn from afar was its guiding spirit. At the Wartburg castle gathered a stormy youth congress of student representatives from all Germany. They fed to huge bonfires the reactionary and anti-national books most hated by Jahn, amid frenzied nationalist resolutions. Nazi book-burnings consciously imitated Jahn's notorious deed.

Both horror and enthusiasm shook central Europe after the Wartburg youth congress. Most moderates now turned against Jahn. [67] He could no longer control the forces he had set in motion. The youth he inspired went far beyond his approval in their radicalism.

An example of such radicalism is the revolutionist Follen. This debonair madcap finally had to flee to America, where he charmed Harvard tea-parties and to this day has a street near Harvard named after him. Prophetically Follen called Jahn's gymnast movement the future "Storm Troopers" of a future nationalist seizure of power. [68]

As an agitator Jahn did many propagandist jobs for the government before 1815. He wrote and distributed influential leaflets appealing to the common people. Prussian ministers took him along to the Congress of Vienna to drum up nationalism whenever it happened to suit their policy. In this he was their tool -- so they thought. But when nationalism no longer suited their policy, their tool not only refused to stop but now turned his nationalism against them. Against the aristocratic Austrian and Prussian governments Jahn's totalitarian nationalists now often made common cause with those liberal and republican rebels with whom Jahn is generally and mistakenly identified in English and American history books.

In 1819, on partly false charges of revolutionary conspiracy, the aristocratic Prussian government threw Jahn into jail. [69] He was victim of that general anti-nationalist repression whose pretext was the Sand incident. Karl Sand, an insane student acquaintance of Jahn's, had murdered a reactionary anti-national playwright in horrible fashion. Waving his bloody dagger, Sand had vainly proclaimed a nationalist revolution against all the existing German governments. Metternich, conservatism's Cassandra, was frankly ecstatic with delight over this assassination plot. It justified all his gloomy warnings. It gave him his long awaited pretext for the famous and highly debatable "persecution of demagogues" that followed. [70]

Till 1824 Father Jahn was clamped in semi-confinement. Thereafter a police supervision to restrict his travel and conduct generally succeeded in keeping him from touring the universities and from organizing and agitating. Upon regaining comparative freedom under the new Prussian King in 1840, Jahn denounced internationalism as bitterly as ever but had to pose for safety's sake as a far more conservative nationalist than before. [71] Until the Revolution of 1848, Prussia still continued to ban or control public gymnastics in order to wipe out the secret student societies and grand-opera conspiracies for national unity which accompanied Jahn's setting-up exercises.

The nationalism of Jahn's movement was partly -- and only partly -- linked with anti-Semitism. Occasionally tolerant, at other times Jahn vented the coarsest sort of fury upon all Jewry. German anti-Semitism in the early nineteenth century was partly a social and economic reaction to the liberalized laws of Stein, which opened to Jews professions previously barred. [72] Napoleon won much Jewish support inside Germany by bestowing civic equality upon Jews in the German lands he conquered. From those days dates the modern German concept of Jewry as a Trojan Horse, as a stab in the back, which has been exploited to the hilt by Hitler. [73]

When not busy addressing delegations of gymnasts, Jahn campaigned against the large-scale emigration to America as sapping the Volk's blood. He lived to see the Revolution of 1848. He became an elected delegate to its revolutionary Frankfurt Diet, where he was trotted about with his long white beard by the younger nationalists as the living symbol of their movement's continuity. [74]


As early as 1810 Jahn had foreseen and popularized the totalitarian implications of the organic Volk state. Ever after, he demanded that the state subordinate every institution, every thought and deed, to enhancing aggressive nationalism. In this he is the father of the Nazi system of education.

Much of Nazi Germany would horrify Jahn personally, just as he was shocked in his own day -- too late -- by the extremists inevitably produced by his agitation. But Jahn, boor by policy, was the first to demonstrate the inherent barbarism of modern nationalism-in-action, in contrast with Herder's humanitarian nationalism-in-literature. Hitler's Director of Weltanschauung, Rosenberg, cites as leitmotiv for his book on "The Coming Reich" the words on Volk of Father Jahn. [75]

Jahn's lasting importance was bringing violent nationalism from a few intellectuals to the broad middle and lower middle classes. Not even he reached the lowest classes, the peasants and proletarians, because there were then no politically aware masses to respond. The logical final step, of nationalizing even the proletariat, awaited the national socialism of Wagner and Hitler.

The young men inspired by Jahn -- in Free Corps, in gymnastics, in national student leagues -- became nationalism's germ-bearers. These same young men later permeated all German life and made solid, lasting institutions of Jahn's dreams. In the schools, taught by these middle-class teachers, the broader masses in turn were nationalized. On that foundation Hitler built his house.

Today the organic state utterly subjects all individuals to the whole. This whole is now deemed incalculably "greater than the sum of its parts." These new ideas and attitudes of romanticism were first popularized by men like Jahn. Potential in his Volk state lurked the Germany of 1941. He and his comrades of the War of Liberation form the connecting link between romantic folksong and efficient folk-army. [76]



1 K. M. Bungardt: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (Wurzburg, 1938), p. 2. The quotation within this quotation is from Alfred Baumler: Politik und Erziehung (Berlin, 1937).
2 B. Theune: Volk und Nation bei Jahn, Rotteck, Welcker und Dahlmann (Berlin, 1937), p. 13
3 H. von Srbik: Metternich, der Staatsmann und der Mensch (2 vols.,  Berlin, 1931), I, 167. F. G. Schultheiss: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (Berlin,  1894), pp. 113-14.
4 M. Antonowytsch: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Ein Beitrag der Anfange des deutschen Nationalismus, No. 230 of "Historische Studien" (Berhn, 1933). pp. 17-20.
5 Carl Euler: Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (Berlin, 1881). pp. 221, 425-6. Schultheiss, op. cit., p. 79.
6 H. von Treitschke: History of Germany (6 vols., New York, 1915- 19), I, 358. Goethe: Faust, II, line 6771: "Im deutschen lugt man, wenn man hoflich ist."
7 Schultheiss, op. cit., p. 92. Euler, op. cit., p. 376.
8 Treitschke, op. cit., III, 5.
9 Euler, op. cit., pp. 433-4, 439, 422-3. Jahn: Friedrich Ludwig Jahns Werke, ed. by Carl Euler (2 vols., Hof, 1884-7), I, 491-7.
10 Treitschke, op. cit., III, 7.
11 F. Schnabel: Deutsche Geschichte im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert, (4 vols., Freiburg, 1929-37), I, 306.
12 J. Friedrich: Jahn als Erzieher (Munich, 1895), p. 48.
13 Jahn, op. cit. (Euler's introduction), I, xlvi-xlvii.
14 Euler, op. cit., p. Ill. Jahn, op. cit., I, 154, 156.
15 Jahn, op. cit., I, 158.
16 Ibid., I, 162.
17 Theune, op. cit., p. 124.
18 Jahn, op cit., I, 164-8.
19 Ibid., I, 160.
20 W. Monypenny and G. Buckle: Life of Benjamin Disraeli (new ed., 2 vols., New York, 1929), I, 997-1003.
21 Antonowytsch, op. cit., p. 14. See" Beforderung des Patriotismus in Preussen" in Jahn, op. cit., 1, 3-32.
22 Euler, op. cit., p. 78. 
23 Jahn, op. cit., I, 169-75,206.
24 From "Confession of Faith" to Czar Alexander, Prince Clemens Metternich: Memoirs of Prince Metternich (5 vols., London, 1880), III, 463.
25 Jahn, op. cit., I, 417-18.
26 Ibid., 1, 290-2; II, 701, 952-3.
27 Ibid., I, 177-8.
28 Ibid., I, 419.
29 Antonowytsch, op. cit., p. 81. P. Piechowski: Friedrich Ludwig John - Vom Tumvater zum Volkserzieher (Gotha, 1928), p. 14. Jahn, op. cit., I, 194-6.
30 Jahn, op. cit., I, 194-211. Piechowski, op. cit., p. 12.
31 Jahn, op. cit., I, 194.
32 Ibid., I, 197.
33 Ibid., I, 287.
34 Heinrich Steffens: Was Ich Erlebte (8 vols., Breslau, 1843), VIII, 314.
35 Jahn, op. cit., I, 220.
36 Ibid., I, 212.
31 Ibid., I, 223-8; II, 540 ff. Piechowski, op. cit., p. 21.
38 Theune, op. cit., pp. 27, 117.
39 Jahn, op. cit., I, 185-7, 193. C. J. H. Hayes: Essays on Nationalism, (New York, 1937), p. 86.
40 Euler, op. cit., p. 445. Treitschke, op. cit., III, 9.
41 Jahn, op. cit., I, 244-5.
42 Euler, op. cit., pp. 483-4.
43 Jahn, op. cit., I, 343-59.
44 Ibid., I, 264.
45 Ibid., I, 256.
46 Mein Kampf, ed. cit., p. 19; also editor's footnote, p. 19.
41 Jahn, op. cit., I, 282.
49 Mein Kampf, ed. cit., p. 19, ed. note.
49 Euler, op. cit., 180, 185-6, 199.
50 Schultheiss, op. cit., p. 101.
51 Friedrich, op. cit., p. 25; Schultheiss, op. cit., pp. 94, 42; Euler, op. cit., pp. 535-6.
52 Euler, op. cit., pp. 494-510, 562-7.
53 Ibid., pp. 474-8.
54 Ibid., pp. 568-9.
55 Schultheiss, op. cit., p. 83. Antonowytsch, op. cit., pp. 20-5
56 Euler, op. cit., pp. 201-2. 
57 Paul Wentzke: Gesehichte der deutsehen Bursehensehaft (Heidelberg, 1919), p. 96.
58 Ibid., p. 96. Schultheiss, op. cit., pp. 83-4, 87-8.
59 Schultheiss, op. cit., p. 88.
60 A hotly debated issue. Euler, op. cit., pp. 335-45. Wentzke, op. cit., pp. 99-103. Schultheiss, op. cit., pp. 86-7.
61 Euler, op. cit., p. 335.
62 Schultheiss, op. cit., pp. 87-9.
63 Euler, op. cit., 440-1.
64 Treitschke, op. cit., III, 38, passim. Theodor Ziegler: Die geistigen und sozialen Stromungen des 19. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1899), p. 116.
65 Wentzke, op. cit., pp. 80-5, 150.
66 Ibid., pp. 118 ff., 131, 167-8, 181-3, 299-301. Treitschke, op. cit., II, 432.
67 Wentzke, op. cit., pp. 213-18. Euler, op. cit., pp. 525-39.
68 Srbik, op. cit., I, 590-1. 
69 Heinrich Prohle: Friedrich Ludwig Jahns Leben (Berlin, 1855) contains the full report made by the poet Hoffmann, exonerating Jahn, pp. 321-425.
70 Metternich: Memoirs, III, 260-1. In a private letter he wrote: "It will be my care to draw from the affair [the assassination by Sand] the best possible results."
71 Euler, op. cit., pp. 578-84.
72 Theune, op. cit., p. 112; Treitschke, op. cit., III, 44.
73 Cf. Mein Kampf, ed. cit., p. 251, ed. note.
74 V. Valentin: Geschiehte der deutschen Revolution von 1848 (2 vols., Berlin, 1931), II, 583-4.
75 Rosenberg: Mythus, Book III, "The Coming Reich," p. 451.
76 It was Jahn more than Fichte who was the inspirer of the War  of Liberation, despite Treitschke, who found Jahn "too boorish" to be a  hero. H. Engelbrecht, Fichte (N.Y., 1933, pp. 124-35) proves that in  reality Fichte's Speeches in 1808 reached "very meager audiences ...  attracted hardly any notice." Only later did they attain the influence we  analyze on p. 192.
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