On Dark Nights in Dark Times: Catholic Inner Exile Writing in Hitler's Germany.
Benedict offers the insights of a German Catholic who grew up during the Third Reich. This current article takes seriously the particular intellectual and biographical sensitivity of Pope Benedict as an access point to considering what it might mean to have had a "listening heart" in National Socialist Germany. (2) What Benedict states as self-evident about resistance in the Third Reich and other totalitarian regimes--that it comprised attentive individuals who, in order to "personally seek out the criteria" of justice in a time of injustice, sought out nonconformist communities of "like-minded people"--is a distinct vision of the relationship between person and society under dictatorship that has been highly contested in postwar histories. What can "listening hearts" hear within a noisy, propagandizing dictatorship? What constituted resistance to National Socialism? Does resistance always mean protest, sabotage, uprising, revolution? Do intellectual, artistic, even spiritual endeavors to counter injustice amount to resistance? Is public dissemination of such efforts necessary for them to "count"? When does an individual "listening heart" in consort with other "like-minded people" contribute to effective action? These questions hover over any study of life in Germany between 1933 and 1945.
This article highlights three individuals who sought to remain attentive to the "listening heart" in the Third Reich. I will describe how the writings of the philosopher Theodor Haecker, the novelist Reinhold Schneider, and the Carmelite philosopher St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) occupied a certain sphere of "like mindedness," as each of these intellectuals sought to remain "open to the language of being" within the dark daily nightmare of National Socialism. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross's murder in Auschwitz was a great crime and has been recognized by the Church as a great witness. My goal, however, is not to collapse the stories of these three listening hearts into a single heroizing narrative but rather to show kinship in their intellectual projects after 1933. To this end, the article offers a reappraisal of the idea of "inner emigration," proposing that the divisive reception history of this literary term has distracted from its full historical interest. In German studies, "inner emigration" has typically designated the posture of a wide range of artists and intellectuals who were not forced into exile after 1933 and who continued to function despite and often within the regime's system of censorship. Figures associated with the German inner emigration --or "inner exile"--during the Third Reich include writers and thinkers with many political and religious affiliations. (3) This article draws on newer scholarship that has encouraged more rigor in describing distinct groups of inner exiles. (4) The particular Catholic dimension of inner exile discussed here comprises nonconforming voices who retained audibility--whether in print or through interpersonal association--both in the Third Reich and beyond. After the war, their voices echoed in Catholic thought and culture, yet often without sufficient understanding of the shared experience of Catholic intellectual life under National Socialism that determined some of their most important works.
The ideological commitments of much influential twentieth-century scholarship on inner exile has rendered it an oddly stale area of German literary studies, not only because of the proximate historical question of what it meant to live and work under dictatorship, but also because of the contested status of "inwardness" as a meaningful human reality. The "innerness" of inner emigration is primarily a geographic contrast with "outer emigration"--the exile many German writers endured after Hitler came to power. Yet an inherited suspicion of "inwardness" has confused the meaning of the term "inner emigration" with respect to German culture between 1933 and 1945. Postwar scholarship has often impaled itself on binaries in which outer proves truer than inner, active stronger than contemplative, and public greater than private. (5) With attention to well-founded concerns about the risks of "interior retreat" articulated by Hannah Arendt, Bertolt Brecht, and others, this article shows how Haecker, Schneider, and Stein reflected on what it means to live and act freely in an age of unfreedom.
Edith Stein is discussed alongside Haecker and Schneider in order to highlight shared concerns--a nexus of like-mindedness, to recall Benedict's words--and the ways in which these intellectuals anticipated the bifurcating criteria by which inner exile would later be judged. They turned to Church history and tradition for exemplars of intellectual and spiritual fortitude in situations comparable to their own. Their respective reflections on St. John of the Cross and the phenomenon of the dark night offers one example of convergence, as each thinker attests to a fortifying wisdom attained beyond the "clear insight of natural understanding" in the "dark knowledge" of faith. (6) Stein entered the "inner retreat" of Carmelite monasticism in 1932. On New Year's Eve, 1938, she sought not inner but outer exile in the Carmel at Echt, Netherlands. On August 2, 1942, as she was finishing a long study of John, the Gestapo apprehended her and her sister Rose, dispatching them to death in Auschwitz because of their Jewish heritage. (7) In April 1945 Haecker died due to wartime shortages of insulin just weeks before victory in Europe. (8) Schneider narrowly escaped trial owing to the same structural chaos that deprived Haecker of his diabetes medication. (9) However distinct these three thinkers remain in life and death, each was convinced that only with the attentiveness of the "listening heart" could they remain rooted in reality or counter the dehumanization of dictatorship. This article will argue that a characteristic of politically nonconformist German Catholic writing after 1933 is an intense engagement with the lived complexities of "inner exile," as evidenced in these three writers' convergent reflections on dark nights in dark times and the searing, inner light of participation in Christ's suffering to which they attempted, saint and sinners, to submit their lives.
Between Complicity and Consolation in Dark Times
The strange reception history of the German inner exile emerges from modern philosophy's long-standing discomfort with the Christian distinction, rooted in Greek thought, between the vita activa and the vita contemplativa. When Goethe's Faust retranslates the prologue to St. John's Gospel as "'In the beginning was the Deed [Tat],'" he drives a wedge between word and deed, thought and action, prayer and person, attempting to resolve in this defining modern gesture an ancient tension. (10) Plato's Apology culminates in Socrates' defense of philosophy--the soul's best work--as the "gadfly" that plagues the steed of power. Socrates dies in defense of his belief that the body politic needs the mobilizing itch of contemplative wisdom in good times and in bad. (11) Boethius's sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy, written in solitary confinement as he awaited death, follows Plato in its apology for contemplation in times of persecution. Boethius receives a visit in the "loneliness of my exile" from Lady Philosophy, who chastises him for losing intellectual clarity in the face of arrest. She warns him that "Stars, cloud-concealed / shed no light"; that "water once day-clear / now muddied / obscures sight":
And you, to discern truth with a clear light, to seize the straight path-- banish joy, banish hope, banish fear. Put them to flight! The mind is shackled --when these rule. (12)
The shackling of the mind, according to Lady Philosophy, begins when Boethius places himself on the mountain of worldly impermanence instead of housing his mind in the perennial fortress of wisdom. The unshackling of his mind can be accomplished only in contemplation, detached from anxious expectation of either clemency or execution. Lady Philosophy will argue that this contemplative capacity is the hallmark of humanizing activity. Humanity stands tall in physical and spiritual stature:
Shouldn't this show... that men with upturned faces seek the heavens? Thrust your countenance forward! Don't let thoughts weight your mind; bear your soul aloft! (13)
Her neo-Platonic vision of the persecuted philosopher rising above earthbound thinking offers sympathetic readers a philosophical corollary to the mystical detachment of the saints and martyrs, especially those who, like Boethius, encountered persecution and imprisonment--such as St. Thomas More awaiting death in the Tower of London or John imprisoned by his confreres at Toledo. Yet Lady Philosophy's vision also invites the more cynical critique that Boethius indulges a kind of self-therapy, a delusory mind game in which he paints black the world of human action in order to retain sanity and poise under persecution.
In a powerful poem from the late 1930s, "To Those Born Later," the socialist playwright Bertolt Brecht expressed something akin to this latter critique in relation to National Socialist Germany. Written in Swedish exile, this much-loved poem begins with a sigh: "Truly, I live in dark times!" Yet the poem proceeds to worry about the fruitfulness of such aestheticized laments:
What kind of times are they, when A talk about trees is almost a crime Because it implies silence about so many horrors? That man there calmly crossing the street Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends Who are in need?
Talk about trees--the contemplation of natural beauty--seems like incriminating omission and distraction. Silence, even the creative silence of the poet, risks being nothing more than a failure to speak. The person who goes about his day at peace "in dark times" is divorced from friends in need. Brecht laments that he "eats and drinks" while others starve; the good meal is spoiled because it has not been shared. Survival is chance--"If my luck breaks, I am lost"--and the most basic of human rights seem privileges that have lost their mooring in justice. (14) The "listening heart" is deafened by self-reproach.
The German philosopher Hannah Arendt famously invoked this poem in the title of both her 1959 speech "On Humanity in Dark Times" and her collection of essays Men in Dark Times (1968), borrowing it for her ongoing study of human action and the ways in which "world alienation," that is, the "flight... from the world into the self," undermines the human capacity for meaningful political life. (15) Her argument paints a picture of modernity turning off the lights of reality on the earth-bound human condition. "Dark times" are those in which the public sphere becomes so murky that people ask nothing more of politics than that they be left alone. (16) She reformulates Brecht's sentiment as the question of "how much reality must be retained even in a world become inhuman if humanity is not to be reduced to an empty phrase or a phantom." (17) For Arendt, the Enlightenment polymath Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is a humane individual immune to world alienation. His poetic aesthetic is anchored in "action" and its potential effect on its audience. His philosophy and drama inhabit the all-important "in-between" of this-worldly human action and interaction, exemplifying a mode of thought that does not project particular ends but rather sacrifices even the notion of truth to the possibility of "pure activity." (18)
Arendt casts Lessing in the favorable light of her own philosophy, while hinting at a less favorable opposite of inwardness or worldalienated retreat. In The Human Condition she had detailed how Enlightenment rationalism and scientism bear responsibility for the dehumanizing forces of world alienation. But in the 1959 speech Arendt identifies the "inner emigration" in Germany between 1933 and 1945 as having "more than a just formal, structural relationship" to what she is rejecting. Arendt defines this commonplace as "a curiously ambiguous phenomenon":
It signified on the one hand that there were persons inside Germany who behaved as if they no longer belonged to the country, who felt like emigrants; and on the other hand it indicated that they had not in reality emigrated, but had withdrawn to an interior realm, into the invisibility of thinking and feeling. It would be a mistake to imagine that this form of exile, a withdrawal from the world into an interior realm, existed only in Germany, just as it would be a mistake to imagine that such emigration came to an end with the end of the Third Reich. But in that darkest of times, inside and outside Germany the temptation was particularly strong, in the face of a seemingly unendurable reality, to shift from the world and its public space to an interior life, or else simply to ignore that world in favor of an imaginary world "as it ought to be" or as it once upon a time had been. (19)
While allowing that others, perhaps even exiles like herself, could succumb to this temptation, she regards inner emigration as epitomizing the dangers of what she elsewhere calls "innerworldy alienation." (20) The verb zuruckziehen is translated here as "withdrawal," but it recurs throughout the text to mean, more literally, "to pull back." (21) Arendt proposes that inner emigration contributed to the postwar "incapacity to face the reality of the past." (22) Her picture of an interior retreat--a "pulling back" into imagination and the inner life--as tantamount to elective ignorance in the Third Reich and beyond is a potent indictment.
Arendt's Men in Dark Times was published at a turning point in the postwar Literaturstreit (literature quarrel). This began in earnest in the closing months of the Second World War, as the issue of post-Nazi German life and culture came into focus. As newsreels rolled around the world with images of Nazi genocide, the debate was necessarily anguished. It also resumed older philosophical and cultural debates that antedated National Socialism. (23) In May 1945 Thomas Mann gave an address, "Germany and the Germans," at the Library of Congress. The speech expresses hard-won reflections from Mann's twelve years in exile, as well as the background to his novel-in-progress Doctor Faustus (1947). Mann pinpoints "a gigantic incarnation" of "the enigma in the character and the destiny of [the Germans]" in none other than Martin Luther's "inwardness and unworldliness." (24) These twin traits explain the dangerous "anti-political servility" in both Luther and his modern compatriots. This inwardness may have nurtured the great cultural accomplishments of German music and poetry since the Reformation; but its subjectivist impulses reflect a grotesque, demonic fidelity to St. Paul's bifurcation of world and spirit (9). The "Lutheran dualism of spiritual and political liberty" has left Germany vulnerable to its own secluded, inner depths, where the devil has done his worst (11). The argument merges the historical Luther with the legendary Faust, thus merging inwardness with diabolical solipsism. Hyperbole notwithstanding, Mann's speech offered a powerful, influential psycho-historical account of what had gone wrong in Germany.
When two self-proclaimed "inner emigrants," Walter von Molo and Frank Thiess, requested a few months later that Mann return from the United States to act as a normalizing influence on postwar German literary life, the language of their appeal trod all too close to Mann's vilification of "German inwardness." He responded that all cultural artifacts that originated in the Third Reich were surely implicated in the atrocities of those years: "The smell of blood and shame clings to them. They should all be pulped." (25) Journalist Wilhelm Hausenstein in turn responded that "decent books"--new, republished, and translated books--did make it into print in the Third Reich, despite the strictures of the regime's censorship. But he too ran headlong into Mann's critique. Hausenstein insisted that these books were "read in the heart, just as they were written in the heart" and formed an intellectual substructure--a "labyrinth, the niches of a catacomb"--of German "decency." (26) However tenable this argument might be, suspicion of the role that German inwardness had played in the rise of National Socialism cast such notions of interpretative, interior "heart spaces" in shady light.
The dominant postwar historical paradigms often treated accounts of subjective retreat or inner resistance with the same suspicion. A note of disgust is evident in Franz Schonauer's 1961 claim that the inner exiles fostered political apathy even in their veiled critiques of Nazi crimes and in their advocacy of "interior" forms of resistance: "The literature of the so-called inner emigration was a flight, a flight not just from triviality and barbarism, but also a flight into the beautiful, the noble, and the eternal." (27) Reinhold Grimm ended his influential 1972 essay on inner emigration by regretting the German tendency "to hypostatize inwardness." If "inner emigration" had once seemed a particularly German "form of life," he prays that it might never do so again. (28) In 1998 Ralf Schnell's Writing in Dark Times repeated his 1972 rejection of "the social function of such a poetics of inwardness and supratemporality," and Jost Hermand rehearses the same materialist argument about the dangers of inwardness and seeking "refuge in the supposedly 'eternal values' of faith or art" in a Culture in Dark Times (2010). (29) The use of the "dark times" motif in the titles of both these newer studies shows renewed deference to the commonplace collapsing of "inner emigration" into a broad critique of "German inwardness."
Recent scholarship on inner exile and the nature of nonconformist intellectual activity after 1933 has begun to revisit this vexed reception history. Over the last twenty years, scholars have done the hard work of prying text and context away from the often circular critical presuppositions of earlier decades. Erwin Rotermund and Heidrun Ehrke-Rotermund, Jost Hermand, Matthew Philpotts, and others have worked through the correspondence between historical studies of opposition and nonconformism in the Third Reich and the proximate cultural phenomenon of inner exile, arriving at some consensus that the heuristic of inner exile makes most sense when restricted to writers who, more than being simply non-Nazi, attempted to write in ways that expressed their nonconformism on a scale that ran from Resistenz to Widerstand--from the "resistance" developed from an inoculation to the sort of resistance that moves toward active, collaborative political opposition. (30) These revisionist approaches have, however, not yet fully accounted for the elephant of inner-ness that remains in the room, nor the Catholic discourses that became subsumed into inner exile. Can the psycho-historical legacy of Lutheran inwardness really be used to explain German Catholic culture? Given the religious commitment of many inner exiles, what might be gained from (re-)admitting theology and metaphysics to revisionist methodologies? Is it credible that some "listening hearts" cultivated a "spirituality of inner emigration," not just for the sake of self-serving resilience but in pursuit of the personal integrity that enables just acts even in the darkest of times? (31)
Theodor Haecker's Journal for the New Dark Ages
Interpreting inner exile as a manifestation of Lutheran inwardness presents some obvious difficulties when extended to Catholic thinkers. This category mistake is particularly striking in relation to philosopher, satirist, and cultural critic Theodor Haecker, who in 1932--during the fading days of Weimar democracy--published a bold polemic that drew a vilifying line of spiritual-historical continuity, not unlike Mann's 1945 speech, from none other than Luther to Hitler. (32) An outspoken voice in Germany after the First World War, Haecker was well known as a translator and disseminator of Kierkegaard's oeuvre. As early as 1923 he wrote against both the nascent National Socialist movement and newly ascendant Italian Fascism. (33) Following his conversion to Catholicism in 1921, he turned his Kierkegaardian interests toward St. Thomas Aquinas and (now Bl.) John Henry Newman, focusing on his worries about subjectivist receptions of Kierkegaard's understanding of inwardness. Haecker became a leading cultural critic, philosopher, essayist, and spokesperson of interwar Catholic thought, prominent in the Munich circle of intellectuals associated with the Catholic cultural journal Hochland. He was held in custody in 1933 for the above-mentioned polemic against Nazism and the swastika. Undaunted, he began a series of publications that constitute what can be called a Trinitarian anthropology of inner exile: a sustained study of human personhood in relation to intellect, will, and feeling and how these "inner" powers of the soul can succumb to political and cultural manipulation. Although prolific during the 1930s, Haecker received various levels of prohibition on speaking and publishing in the Third Reich. After 1938 he could no longer publish his own works, but he did publish translations and kept writing with a view to the dissemination of his works until shortly before his death in 1945. (34)
Haecker's credentials as a "listening heart" with close proximity to active opposition in the Third Reich are notable. In 1943 Haecker was arrested again for his association with members of the famous White Rose student resistance group, which orchestrated a pamphleteering campaign in 1942-43 that led to the execution of many of their members. The well-documented relationship of Haecker and other Munich intellectuals to this group of young adults exemplifies the networks of like-mindedness to which Pope Benedict refers in his 2011 address. (35) Just days before the arrest of Sophie and Hans Scholl, Haecker read sections of his 1934 study of theodicy, Creator and Creation, to members of the group, who were then in the heat of their covert pamphleteering in Munich and beyond. Haecker read passages from his book that lament the incapacity of the postmetaphysical historian to read the signs of the times. Without "metaphysics, conscience, and revelation," he had written, the secularized academic "loses the innermost essence of the power of memory." Haecker is convinced of an encroaching "darkening," amid which only "a handful of people," perhaps "known and recognized by God" alone, will sustain spiritual continuity as the lights go out on Europe's Christian past: "As once in the 'dark ages' so too in the nearest future, in yet darker times--nothing is so sure." (36) As this handful of young people marshalled their efforts toward increasingly active political opposition, they drew on such insights that privileged the "innermost" realities of memory, conscience, and intellect as the seats of right action in the new dark ages. In addition to the White Rose, Haecker's Munich acquaintances included Alfred Delp, SJ. When Haecker emerged from the cellar of his bombed home in June 1944, Father Delp came to his aid. Just months later Delp would be executed for his connections to the anti-Nazi Kreisau Circle, which was implicated in the July 20 attempted assassination of Hitler. Homeless, Haecker left Munich in early July 1944 to spend several weeks with the grieving Scholl family, who had sought refuge with the Bruderhof community in the Black Forest. (37)
Despite his proximity to anti-Nazi opposition, Haecker's life does not permit simplistic heroization. In addition to his inner-exile writing after 1933, Haecker also had a day job with an illustrated journal, Fliegende Blatter, that would be forced to publish war propaganda. The journal and its predecessor Meggendorfer Blatter published "rather innocuous illustrated humor," but both had caricatures of Jews in their repertoire, material evidence of the German anti-Semitism on which National Socialism fed its racialist agenda. (38) Haecker wrote against racialism and defended Judaism as a pillar of Western civilization in multiple publications, including in the early years of the Third Reich. (39) Yet he likely never overcame a latent anti-Semitism, expressed as contempt for secular Judaism. Haecker's mixed feelings about Hilaire Belloc's The Jews do not diminish the fact that he translated this unhappy book and was responsible for its circulation in German. (40) Indeed, Haecker's wartime writings often acknowledge painful contradictions in his life. In a series of journal entries in 1940 he invokes St. Athanasius's claim that the tyrannical Roman emperor Julian the Apostate was "a cloud that will soon pass." (41) He infers that Hitler is the more nagging cloud under which all Germans live, including himself. Haecker believes that he is charged with living under this cloud of tyranny and moral ambivalence, not least because of the handful of young Germans, including his own children, whom he sees attempting to live out the Christian life in a post-Christian, neopagan era: "[These young people] will live under a cloud, as I do. But they will stand in the radiance of an undying light, as I do." The knowledge of this undying light of Christ is how he can see hope while only "seeing black, namely, the dark ages, which are coming again." (42)
These passages of self-scrutiny come from Haecker's testament of his inner exile, his posthumous Journal of Day and Night. The title of these more than one thousand aphorisms, written between 1939 and 1944, describes both when they were written--often during sleepless nights--but also Haecker's relentless dissection of the new "dark ages" of National Socialism. Haecker recognized that his text would be dangerous should it fall into the hands of the regime, but friends and family knew that he was writing it. As late as June 1941 he published careful extracts in Hochland, shortly before the journal's final censure. (43) The night journal allowed Haecker to map out his anti-Nazi arguments, but they also attest to earnest spiritual reflection. A recurrent figure is St. John of the Cross, to whose "dark night of the soul" the title of these "journals of the night" may even allude. Haecker repeatedly invokes the trope of the dark night as the innermost heart of Christian paradox, comparing the Counter-Reformation Carmelite mystic's understanding of faith to Kierkegaard's: "Night, perfect night in comparison with all human reason." (44) The light of reason needs the mystery of faith, the fruits of which penetrate the darkest of times. The Carmelite's poetization of his dark night--a rare gift afforded to the saintly few--offers to Haecker a luminous palette of images as he confronts his own despair, melancholy, and insomnia. For this reason, Haecker expresses gratitude that he has read John "at the right time" (128) and seems to regard his journal as something like a gift of spiritual sight given in the dark night of tyranny: "In the night was a light that once more became night. Someone wakes up, eyes and cheeks wet with tears. He knows that he has had a dream, but he no longer knows what he dreamt. And yet from this night onward his life becomes different. He has received a light, which lets him see an entirely new dimension of being. But the source of this light lies in full darkness" (24). This "new dimension of being" is received inwardly and issues into a new capacity to be, to live, and to think in the "outward" conditions in which he finds himself. A year later, in October 1940, Haecker seems more familiar with this light-in-darkness: "Always ready to tumble into the abyss of unknowing, into the blackest night in which my light is" (115). Such inwardly apprehended realities, the gift of Haecker's inner exile, do not equate with the "pulling back" into palliative imagination that Arendt would later describe. The spiritual motion that liberates Haecker in his nightly meditations is a willed tumble into reality --which includes the collective German nightmare--rather than an escape from it.
Haecker's night journals allowed him to develop the culminating intellectual project of his life, his Trinitarian anthropology, as a direct response to the dehumanizing realities of life in the Third Reich. The lives and sufferings of the saints offer promises that such dehumanization can be resisted. In contrast with the hyperrationalization of a blindly mechanized Germany, the grand mysticism of the Spanish saint exemplifies "an exhaustion of rationalism," mere reason scooped out of itself and into mystery (170). Mystical union in the dark night represents an expansion of the soul resistant to the atrophy of intellect, will, and feeling that Haecker fears he is witnessing in the Third Reich: "The essence of the modern dictatorship is the compounding of one-dimensional, flat thought with violence and terror." The dehumanized soul loses its resistance to racialism's irrational rejection of the Biblical claim that "the Spirit can and does blow where he will" and to the puerile theory that God is bounded by obligation to the Aryan master race: "But infantilism is simply a characteristic of the Third Reich" (98). The quest for the sanity that permits recognition of the evils of Nazism is thus the quest to preserve the powers of the soul, the soul herself, against the leveling brutality of dictatorship.
Faced with the everyday realities of an infantilizing system, Haecker became convinced that only the mysteries of faith and contemplation could preserve the intellectual attentiveness and moral acumen required of him. In 1941 he writes that he has a "good conscience" about what he had written throughout his life, "things that later have left even me amazed at their boldness." He also worries that the boldest text is only the blueprint for living out this boldness: "It's a different question whether my life in a practical way corresponds with what I have written. I can only pray to God that He will let my end attest to everything" (176). Indeed, Haecker seems to have understood his life in the Third Reich as a constant shuttling between interior fortification and inevitable confrontation: "For a spiritual man who also leads a beyond mediocre intellectual life, every tyrant in this world is not just contemptible, but stupid. He must take care lest the passion of his contempt poison his soul and be all too obvious in the features of his mouth" (128). Such suppression of contempt and muting of opinions run close to Arendt's criticism about "withdrawal from the world into an interior realm." Yet, as Dodd has recently described in his study of discourse practices and language criticism in National Socialist Germany, an irretrievable aspect of inner-exile discourse is its relationship to the paralinguistic subtleties of spoken discourse. The daily caution and nuances of eye contact, body language, and vocal intonation parallel, even model, the "recondite discourse practices" that enabled "coded contributions to the public discourse." (45) The person who tries to preserve intellectual and spiritual integrity may fail to control the bodily twitch that expresses what cautiously wrought words conceal; the same flinch, like a camouflaged moment of written critique, is a moment of elliptical honesty. The inner determinations of intellect and will cannot always preserve against outward, physical expressions of contempt nor prove sufficient to heroic courage. But staying in the Third Reich means for Haecker a staying awake that makes it impossible for him safely to "pull back" from the precarities of civic life or the nagging possibility of public confrontation. Haecker's inner exile is inward retreat in metaphor only.
Reinhold Schneider's Dark Night in Fiction
During the same wartime years that Haecker was meditating on the phenomenon of the dark night, the poet and novelist Reinhold Schneider published a short story about St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night. Schneider was a formally "undesired" author in the Third Reich, but, like Haecker, was successful in legally publishing multiple works, which finally ceased under the pretext of paper shortages in 1941. Schneider also sought legal loopholes and illegal means to disseminate his work, including his sonnets, and circulated large numbers of his texts to soldiers at the front and prisoners in concentration camps. (46) His story about John was the title story in a collection published, semilegally, in 1943 by the Catholic Alsatia publishing house in German-occupied Colmar, where the maverick Alsatian autonomist Joseph Rosse worked to produce books that could not otherwise be produced within German jurisdiction. (47) Haecker, too, published two works with Alsatia in 1944, and he and Schneider met "with mutual joy" in Colmar in late 1943. (48) Like Haecker, Schneider's oppositional stance in the Third Reich is well documented, including his connections to the group responsible for the July 20, 1944, attempt to assassinate Hitler. (49) Unlike Haecker, Schneider would live long enough to regret publicly that he had fallen short of the challenge of adequate opposition, later recalling his failure to respond to the outbreak of Nazi violence: "But what did I myself do? When I heard about the fires, lootings, and atrocities, I locked myself away in my study, too much of a coward to face up to what was happening and to say something." (50)
Despite these postwar regrets, the books that Schneider wrote in his study are evidence of his efforts to communicate a theologically informed nonconformist response to National Socialism. Schneider's oeuvre in sum is a study of history and its driving forces. Following his return to his Catholic faith around 1937, a focus on religious history and theological form becomes characteristic of his thought. His study of Britain, The Island Empire, for example, examines the "inner form" of person, politics, and religion, discerning in one national history evidence of the supranational and supernatural powers that make or break a people, a period--and a Reich: "A people's form of life can be recognized only in the human beings who emerge from it; human beings, not the scope of might, are the valid witnesses." (51) His Las Casas before Charles V: Scenes from the Days of the Conquistadors (1938) depicts the historical impact of one man's integrity in its fictionalization of Bartolome de las Casas's famous defense of indigenous peoples before the Spanish emperor Charles V in 1550. This novel's argument against slavery has typically been read as a camouflaged critique of Nazi racialism and expansionism, making it one of the most well-known examples of inner-exile fiction.
The Dark Night likewise orchestrates history to offer an analogue to life in the Third Reich. The story begins on the night John was arrested, December 2, 1577, by his confreres on suspicion of heretical involvement with the Carmelite reform of St. Teresa of Avila. When John hears a knock at his door in the middle of the night, he hastily burns incriminating letters in the embers of his evening's fire. Relieved that he is sparing his correspondents, including Teresa herself, his eyes turn to shreds of paper on which he has been sketching thoughts about the union of the loving soul with God. These fragments must also be destroyed; John eats the pieces of paper. This opening contrives a scene that might seem familiar to anxious nonconformist readers in the Third Reich: the nocturnal knock at the door, the panic-stricken destruction of incriminating texts, the functionary words of the armed monk as he arrests John. (52) The intermonastic dispute unfolds in something like a police state, in which both written texts on John's desk--the letters and his spiritual writings--are potentially dangerous. The letters betray actual position-taking and, as such, have a political, "active" significance. Yet Schneider depicts the spiritual writings as equally potent texts. Indeed, the worldly letters and the spiritual poetry are two parts of the same perilous reality that result in John's imprisonment in Toledo. Both incriminate, both must be destroyed.
As in many inner-exile fictions, Schneider retells a familiar history with inflections intended for a reader capable of seeing the likeness between the saintly exemplar and a course of action relevant to life in the Third Reich. When John goes before the prior to defend himself, the interrogation circles around what the Inquisition will decide about Teresa's Autobiography. Everything hinges on the status of dangerous texts (16). After the prior rejects the idea that John and Teresa have received an "inner empowerment" for Carmelite reform, John is sent into the "cold darkness" of a prison cell (18-19). His low point comes in the form of despair about how the Inquisition will interpret his writings: "And what if the Court of Inquisition decided against him, what if they found words in his writings and letters that might seem heretical to the judges, what then? The shudder of death overcame him" (27). He pictures himself clumsily defending himself to the Inquisition, while his handwriting betrays the truth. In the darkness and sleeplessness of his cell John finds detachment from psychological anxiety and moves through the stages of mystical dereliction and union for which he and his poetry are known. John descends into himself--a move inward through a God-forsaken interior desert and then into a mystical realm of images and metaphors in which the self-abandoned soul encounters the Beloved: "And then the Beloved raised his voice, in startlingly blissful proximity, to soothe the deer and lions, mountains and valleys, water and air. The soul leaned its neck on the arm of the Beloved, blossoms shimmering all around, sweet fragrances surrounding them, music pouring forth; but all this happened in a night, the site of which was a mystery" (33).
Schneider offers this fictionalization of the mystical experiences that prompted John's poetry, not as a hagiographic end in itself, but rather to emphasize how John's dark night is efficaciously interwoven into the collective drama of Counter-Reformation Spain. The text includes multiple descriptions of John being led from his cell into the Carmelite refectory for his meals, where the Calced Carmelites are required to beat him. Over the course of his imprisonment, John's ineffable mystical experiences somehow speak out of his person --like a paralinguistic text--as he walks, shackled, to take his meals. The luminosity of his dark night effects a loss of conviction among the monks in carrying out the mandated punishment. Soon after, he notices a light entering his cell: the entrance has been left open, whether by miracle or by one of the monks, and he is able to walk free. The story thus describes a powerful interrelation between prayer and action, interior and exterior forces. Just as Haecker prayed that a continuum would exist between his own interior life and his ability to live up to the moral challenge of his intellectual insights, Schneider crafts the story of John as an enactment of how the deepest interiority can overflow itself. John's mystical experiences in the dark night draw him closer to the heart of the real, a "holy emptiness" that seems "far more sublime than the space in which the images of the exterior world had dissolved" (29, 31). Yet the first fruit of the ensuing mystical union is a poem whose words overwhelm him. The spontaneous gift of the poem--a written text that he yearns to disseminate--overflows in a renewal of his desire to celebrate the Holy Mass and to serve the neediest: "Transported into this dark light, he knew the Lord in his unknowability. But in receiving so much, he yearned to give of himself " (34). The whole point of the "dark night of the soul" turns out to be, not the endurance of imprisonment, but the giving of self for the sake of others upon his return to the dazzling light of day.
Read as an inner-exile text, Schneider's story accomplishes two things. First, suffering, anguish, and even the restricted freedom of dark times are shown as the conditions for the soul's most intimate union with Christ and efficacious participation in his redemptive suffering. The story thus encourages readers to see spiritual attentiveness as a real, necessary response to injustice. Second, Schneider writes the text to reanimate saintly, historical heroics but also to mirror the ambiguities of day-to-day nonconformism in the Third Reich. In the end, John does not face persecution, but rather the gritty task of leading the Discalced Carmelite reform. The closing image of the story shows John realizing that his inner, mystical experiences newly equip him to counter the challenges of daily life. He has a final vision of the Cross dug deep into the earth, reaching high into the heavens. He lies down supine under the night sky, opening his arms into a cruciform answer to this vision of the redemptive structure of all things. John accepts a pattern of life and action in his outward conformity to this vision, which reaches to heaven as it stands firm in the earth. As John actively mirrors, shadows, the Cross, his physical posture might suggest a paralinguistic counter-image to the Hitler salute --that erect, aggressive elevation and thrust of one arm. The narrator stresses that John opens wide both arms "gently" in divine praise and submission before setting off in anticipation of dawn (48). Whether read as a symbolic resolution of the tensions of inner exile or as exemplary of a soul readied to endure whatever trials confront him, Schneider's story finds in the mysticism of the dark night a pattern for how the listening heart can enact its innermost resolve through graced participation in the divine life.
Edith Stein's Luminous Science of the Cross
Catholic inner-exile texts often ring with a piety that has sometimes bored, even disgusted, postwar readers. The failures of Catholic individuals, prelates, and institutions under Nazism have also diminished readers' expectations of this body of literature, whose historical analogies and camouflage can indeed disappoint postwar sensibilities with misjudgments about the scale of Nazi malevolence. Yet Schneider's and Haecker's published writing (as well as their participation in other, crypto-public forums in the Third Reich) was intended as a school of consolation and clarity for their presumed readers, compatriots fathoming how to live amid the global catastrophe that was unfolding in their name. The hagiography of St. John of the Cross is just one of the historical discourses that inner exiles turned to in order to understand what Nazism was, the horrors it had unleashed, and the guilt in which it had ensnared Germany.
This article has highlighted the particular phenomenon of the mystical dark night as one example of how Catholic thought furnished sincere confrontations with the "dark times" of modern dictatorship. No figure scrutinized this traditional precedent with more rigor than Edith Stein, who was working on a study of John, The Science of the Cross, at the time of her arrest in occupied Holland in 1942. This last work was written in preparation for the saint's fourhundredth birthday, perhaps for dissemination within the Carmelite community in Germany and elsewhere. Although at first glance unrelated to either her earlier phenomenological writings or to contemporary political realities, it occupies an important place in Stein's life and thought. As Alasdair MacIntyre has noted, Stein's conversion to Catholicism on New Year's Day, 1922, yielded a period of relative philosophical silence, as she recognized that her phenomenological enquiries as a student and assistant to Edmund Husserl had brought her to the threshold of a faith where "she could not have known as yet what to say philosophically about her new experiences and commitments." (53) In his monograph on Stein, MacIntyre admits that his admiration for her belies a worry that modern philosophy has often disregarded contradictions between philosophers' life and work. He questions attempts to "domesticate" the works of Stein's contemporary Martin Heidegger by postwar scholars who have argued that the "deep rift" between his life and work do not undermine his philosophical importance and that his notorious allegiance with National Socialism can be bracketed from his intellectual project. For MacIntyre such a bifurcation is a pernicious "piece of mythology" (5). Indeed, MacIntyre broadens his argument to propose that a reluctance to accept the continuities and discontinuities in a philosopher's life as philosophically important is symptomatic of the contemporary academy's complicity in "the neutralization of the influence of philosophy" (4). The "inwardness" of philosophical reflection cannot be extrapolated from outward expressions of intellect and will. In other words, MacIntyre values Stein precisely because she models a life that allowed faith and reason to do their work on her, even if that meant that she must reimagine the scope of her philosophical project.
When Stein returns to philosophical and theological reflection in works like The Science of the Cross, she thus brings the great questions of her academic career into dialogue with a new religious vocabulary and hard-won spiritual knowledge. Stein's Catholic life and writing wagers on the radical efficacy of spiritual realities in human life. Indeed, Stein seems determined to ground her "science of the cross" in definitions that resist any possible divorce between "inner" and "outer." While her hidden, monastic life might seem the epitome of the "pulling back" that Arendt would reject, Stein's final work seems almost to model a rebuttal of this postwar critique, advancing arguments with applications well beyond the rare spiritual gift of apophatic mysticism. Her introduction extols John's "holy objectivity [Sachlichkeit]," that is, his living out of the theology of the Cross as the "science" of his life. Stein underlines that by "science" she means the lived knowing of the saints that seeds deep within: "The person's grasp of life--her image of God and world--spring from this living form and force in her deepest inner region, and because of this it can find expression in a mental image, a 'theory.'" (54) The "science" of the Cross interests her inasmuch as it describes a way of thinking and knowing that is lived. She resists precisely the idea of an inwardness that removes the human person from the real. Indeed, her introduction identifies her worry about the human inclination toward a kind of destructive spiritual stupor that results in the "inability inwardly to receive and respond to matters of fact as they correspond to their true value" (6). Just as Haecker had noted the intellectual infantilism of his compatriots in their submission to National Socialism, Stein here names an equivalent phenomenon of atrophied spiritual powers as the problem to which her study of the dark night attends. Although Stein's text does not explicitly refer to the Third Reich, her argument issues from a fear of spiritual atrophy that corresponds closely to the fears of Haecker and Schneider about the origins of failed action in the world: "The human being is called to live in his innermost region and to take himself in hand in a way that is possible only from here; only from here is a right examination of the world possible; only from here can he find that place that is intended for him in the world" (133). While this argument is a moving testimony to the spiritual maturity of a woman whose life would soon be taken in the gas chambers, it also outlines an important philosophical and theological defense of the Catholic inner-exile discourse I have detailed in the writings of Haecker and Schneider. Knowing and understanding God, self, and the world, Stein insists, depends on the conservation of the interior castle. The vilification of "inwardness" and denigration of the soul's inner workings, far from emancipating human action, risks spiritual and moral mutiny, nothing less than the deadening of listening hearts and the surrendering of shackled minds.
(1.) His Holiness Benedict XVI, address to the German Bundestag, Berlin, September 22, 2011, https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2011/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20110922_reichstag-berlin.html.
(2.) For Ratzinger's autobiographical account of his life during the Third Reich, see Milestones: Memoirs, 1927-77, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998). See also John Allen, Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger (New York: Continuum, 2005), 24-32.
(3.) See W. J. Dodd's preference for the term "inner exile" over "inner emigration" in his National Socialism and German Discourse: Unquiet Voices (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 7-8.
(4.) For a detailed profile of these affiliations, see John Klapper's Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany: The Literature of the Inner Emigration (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2015), 55-106.
(5.) On the "the entrenched binarisms" of these debates, see Matthew Philpotts, The Margins of Dictatorship: Assent and Dissent in the Work of Gunter Eich and Bertolt Brecht (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2003), 12. See also Helena M. Tomko, "Beyond Exile and Inner Emigration: Rereading Max Horkheimer on Theodor Haecker's Der Christ und die Geschichte (1935)" The German Quarterly, 90.2 (2017): 157-74 (158).
(6.) Edith Stein, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 18, Kreuzeswissenschaft: Studie uber Johannes vom Kreuz, ed. Ulrich Dobhan, OCD (Freiburg: Herder, 2003), 38. All translations are mine, unless otherwise noted.
(7.) Hanna-Barbara Gerl, Unerbittliches Licht: Edith Stein--Philosophie, Mystik, Leben (Mainz: Matthias Grunewald, 1991), 28-29.
(8.) Bernhard Hanssler and Hinrich Siefken, Theodor Haecker: Leben und Werk (Esslingen, Ger.: Thorbecke, 1995), 25.
(9.) Klapper, Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany, 244.
(10.) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, A Tragedy, trans. Walter Arndt and ed. Cyrus Hamlin, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 2001), 34.
(11.) Plato, Five Dialogues, trans. G. M. A. Grube and rev. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002), 35.
(12.) Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, ed. and trans. Scott Goins and Barbara H. Wyman (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2012), 11, 29-30.
(13.) Ibid., 166.
(14.) Bertolt Brecht, Poems, 1913-1956, ed. John Willett and Ralph Manheim (New York: Methuen, 1976), 318.
(15.) The speech was written in proximity to Arendt's The Human Condition (1958), developing many of the earlier work's key ideas. See Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 6.
(16.) Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1968), 11-12.
(17.) Ibid., 22.
(18.) Ibid., 4, 7. The German phrase "das Denken als reine Tatigkeit" (thinking as pure activity) was translated as "the movement of thinking" (ibid., 10), diluting the force of Arendt's statement. See Hannah Arendt, Von der Menschlichkeit in finsteren Zeiten: Rede uber Lessing (Munich: Piper, 1960), 16.
(19.) Arendt, Men in Dark Times, 19.
(20.) Arendt, The Human Condition, 251.
(21.) See Arendt, Von der Menschlichkeit, 31.
(22.) Arendt, Men in Dark Times, 19.
(23.) See Gordon A. Craig, Politics of the Unpolitical: German Writers and the Problem of Power, 1770-1871 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 36, 144-45.
(24.) Thomas Mann, Germany and the Germans (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1945), 2, 6. Hereafter cited in-text.
(25.) See J. F. G. Grosser, Die grosse Kontroverse: Ein Briefwechsel um Deutschland (Hamburg: Nagel, 1963), 31.
(26.) Wilhelm Hausenstein, "Bucher--frei von Blut und Schande: Ein Wort an Thomas Mann," Suddeutsche Zeitung, December 24, 1945, 8.
(27.) Franz Schonauer, Deutsche Literatur im Dritten Reich: Versuch einer Darstellung in polemisch-didaktischer Absicht (Olten, Switz.: Walter, 1961), 129.
(28.) Reinhold Grimm, "Innere Emigration als Lebensform," in Exil und innere Emigration, ed. Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand (Frankfurt: Athenaum, 1972), 31-73 (73).
(29.) Ralf Schnell, Dichtung in finsteren Zeiten: Deutsche Literatur und Faschismus (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1998), 171-85 (184); Jost Hermand. Kultur in finsteren Zeiten: Nazifaschismus, Innere Emigration, Exil (Cologne: Bohlau, 2010), 10.
(30.) See Heidrun Ehrke-Rotermund and Erwin Rotermund, Texte und Vorstudien zur "Verdeckten Schreibweise" im "Dritten Reich" (Munich: Fink, 1999); Hermand, Kultur in finsteren Zeiten; and Philpotts, The Margins of Dictatorship.
(31.) See Helena M. Tomko, Sacramental Realism: Gertrud von le Fort and German Catholic Literature in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich, 1924-46 (Leeds, UK: Maney, 2007), 157-65.
(32.) See Helena M. Tomko, "The Reluctant Satirist: Theodor Haecker and the Dizzying Swindle of Nazism," Oxford German Studies, 46.1 (2017): 42-57.
(33.) Theodor Haecker, "Notizen," Der Brenner 8 (1923): 9-19.
(34.) For a detailed chronology of Haecker's life, see Hanssler and Siefken, Theodor Haecker, 9-25.
(35.) On the importance of Catholic thought for the White Rose, see Paul Shrimpton, Conscience before Conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose Resistance in Nazi Germany (Leominster, UK: Gracewing, 2018).
(36.) Theodor Haecker, Schopfer und Schopfung (Leipzig: Hegner, 1934), 20-22.
(37.) See Hinrich Siefken, "Der zweite Weltkrieg aus der Sicht Munchener Dissidenten," in Mutual Exchanges, ed. Dirk Jurgens (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1999), 399.
(38.) Henry Wasserman, "Fliegende Blatter," in Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution, ed. Richard S. Levy, vol. 1 (Santa Barbara: ABC/Clio, 2005), 230-31 (231).
(39.) Theodor Haecker, Was ist der Mensch? (Leipzig: Hegner, 1933), 26.
(40.) See Hilaire Belloc, Die Juden, trans. and with a postscript by Theodor Haecker (Munich: Kosel & Pustet, 1927).
(41.) Theodor Haecker, Tag- und Nachtbucher (Innsbruck: Haymon, 1989), 52. An incomplete English translation by Alec Dru appeared as Journal in the Night (London: Harvill, 1949).
(42.) Haecker, Tag- und Nachtbucher, 67.
(43.) Theodor Haecker, "Dialog vom Wunderbaren und vom Nichts," Hochland 38 (1941): 388-91.
(44.) Haecker, Tag- und Nachtbucher, 128-29. Hereafter cited in-text.
(45.) Dodd, National Socialism and German Discourse, 160.
(46.) Klapper, Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany, 244.
(47.) Ibid., 244, 253.
(48.) Hanssler and Siefken, Theodor Haecker, 125, 127.
(49.) Klapper, Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany, 252.
(50.) Schneider, quoted in ibid., 252.
(51.) Reinhold Schneider, Das Inselreich: Gesetz und Grosse der britischen Macht (Leipzig: Insel, 1936), 554-56.
(52.) Reinhold Schneider, Die dunkle Nacht (Freiburg: Herder, 1960), 12. Hereafter cited in-tect.
(53.) Alasdair MacIntyre, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-22 (Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield, 2006), 173; hereafter cited in text.
(54.) Stein, Kreuzeswissenschaft, 5. Hereafter cited in-text.
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|Title Annotation:||Reinhold Schneider, Theodor Haecker and Edith Stein|
|Author:||Tomko, Helena M.|
|Publication:||Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
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