One of the most paradoxical aspects of National Socialism is that, while planning for a German future founded on the principles of victory, superiority, and cultural glory, a parallel ideology developed—one obsessed with death, ruin, and martyrdom—which helped bring Hitler’s Germany to its apex, and then to its ultimate climactic end.
Inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner, neo-Romanticism, monumentality, and Volkish ideology, a popular culture was crafted in Germany built on sacrifice, hero worship, and fascist aesthetic politics. Volkishness emphasized a connection to nature, folk traditions, and man’s rootedness to his ancestral homeland; these concepts were essential in creating an alternative to urbanism and industrialization.
Hero worship and “The Cult of the Fallen Soldier,” represent the clearest and most affecting examples of the paradoxical nature of Hitler’s dream for Germany. Following World War I, most Germans had a clear understanding of sacrifice as realized through the blood of their young soldiers. As this postcard seems to suggest, the blood of the war dead enriches the fecundity of the ancestral German soil.
This is especially true for the “Myth of Langemark,” an important battle for the ethnohistory and death iconography of World War I.
In what became know as the “Kindermord” or “The Massacre of the Innocents” took place during the first battle of Ypres at Langemark, Belgium on October 26, 1914, where enthusiastic and inexperienced students came fatally face-to-face with battle-hardened British soldiers.
As the myth goes, hundreds of young German soldiers, many of them from every German university, marched into no man’s land to their deaths, all the while singing the Deutschlandlied. To the veterans of Langemarck, the battle came to stand for victory out of defeat, a spiritual or moral victory gained by self sacrifice, a victory of innocence and youth pitted against hard professionalism, a victory of idealism in the service of the nation.
Thousands of young men were slaughtered, but the myths surrounding their deaths became an essential part of the Totenkult (culture of death): a powerful civil religion that ultimately ended in ideological national suicide and widespread immolation at the end of World War II.
Groove of the Day
63° and Clear