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Thomas Mann on the "Jewish Question" (1921)

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Following that trend of thought, I once wrote a whole story about Jews – the novella of a pair of twins, their wild despair and confusion of feelings in their luxury, loneliness and hatred . . . Wälsungenblut! There occurs in it an account, full of insinuations, of a performance of Wagner's Die Walküre; and when reference is made to "the much-hated God-chosen face devoid of respect" proliferating in the womb of the rescued woman from which also came a pair of twins who, deceiving the plodding husband, "join their grief and sorrow in licentious rapture" – that likewise makes for confusion, on the part of the reader, that is, who no longer knows what race I am talking about. Thomas Theodor Heine illustrated the book collaboration that must have been noted as significant in Weimar. But, good God, what combinations have not occurred in my life!

Another time the Jewish motif even led me to writing verse. "As for the first time in Venice, in dreamlike contentment and bliss, 'so once again, ten years later, my heart ran high with passion . . . Fairy-tale East! Dreamed-of Orient! Then, my beloved ward, when in my youthfulness, ready for ecstasy, I let my eyes rest upon your sweet form, then destiny gathered you up and its voice called . . . "

I sent you the poem once before. It is admittedly bad, but beautiful nevertheless, besides being cynical in its daring and irresponsible denial of all "grandiose viewpoints," the racist one, for instance. But what could one expect? A son of the most mongrel nation, I am myself a mixture, one quarter Latin. The Medieval German burgher (it re-awoke recently as, in the course of a celebration, I saw again the turrets of my "Totentanz" home town) is crossed with less worthy modern democratic strains and with the instincts of a psychologizing, cosmopolitan novelist. What difference does it make that a golden-domed dream vaulting the fairy-tale East and the Orient is now harbored in my children's blood. May they tread the road of progress as experimental, if imperfect, specimens of that "Eurasian-Negroid race of the future" that literati dream of . . .

That road is not exactly my own, as I tried to make clear in six hundred-odd pages. Yet I would be less than candid if I failed to avail myself of the opportunity to declare that the cultural reaction we find ourselves in – and of which the swastika nonsense is but a coarse, popular manifestation – hardly approaches my needs. That is the kind of reaction our war saboteurs, trusting the Entente, were afraid of ill the event of a German victory; but even after the most triumphal victory, brutality could not possibly have flourished more than it did after our defeat. And if that had to come under all circumstances, we might as well have been victorious right away. No one suffered more than I did from the moral debacle of 1918, the gruesomely extreme self-doubts of the Germans, and the general capitulation to the mendacious ideology of Western bourgeois rhetoric. My heart goes out to the young who refuse to recognize either "Rome" or "Moscow" as their truth and reality and search for what is German somewhere between East and West. But if it is true that students at the University of Munich prevented the guest lectures of a great scholar (dubbed "the new Newton" by the liberal English) because that man is a Jew and because, at home in the regions of the highest and purest abstractions, he advocated the pacifist conciliation of all nations – it is the most dreadful disgrace, and I, to quote Claudius, would "not wish to bear the guilt for it."

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