The publisher as {\it Zeitkritiker\/}: Eugen Diederichs and the frustrated response to German culture, 1896--1930

Date of Completion

January 1989


History, European




"The Publisher as Zeitkritiker" examines the career of the German neoconservative publisher Eugen Diederichs from the founding of the Eugen Diederichs Verlag in 1896 to his death in 1930. As a publisher, cultural organizer, and editor of the neoconservative journal, Die Tat, Diederichs used his entrepreneurial skills to create forums for like-minded cultural critics who opposed many of the founding principles of modern industrial society, first during the era of the Wilhelmine Reich and later during the Weimar Republic.^ With an ideology rooted firmly in the intellectual terrain of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Diederichs developed a vision of cultural revitalization and national rebirth that drew heavily on the ideas of Paul de Lagarde and Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as on the tradition of German Romanticism and philosophical Idealism. His belief in an organic national community, a Volksgemeinschaft, would provide a central theme for his professional activities throughout his career.^ The years 1914-1919 proved to be a crucial period in Diederichs' life as the First World War and November Revolution initially seemed to offer a longed-for opportunity to end the Wilhelmine age and usher in a new a era of Wiedergeburt, or national rebirth. However, the wartime unity and nationalist fervor that appeared so promising in the early stages of the war proved, in the end, to be a major disappointment. The same held true for a revolution that Diederichs hoped would sweep away the stale institutions of the Wilhelmine Reich and provide the dynamic drive for the creation of a Germany more in keeping with the nation's rich cultural heritage.^ When the 1914-1919 period failed to live up to its promise, Diederichs returned to his role as cultural critic and remained opposed to the political and cultural attitudes of the Weimar Republic through the end of his career. From a publishing perspective, however, Diederichs provided a bridge between the prewar and postwar eras and thereby provided an important link between the cultural critics of the nineteenth century and the young generation of neoconservatives that became active after the war. ^