Stefan George (n.d.)
Stefan George (1868-1933), who espoused an elitist poetic ethos hostile to mass culture, is remembered chiefly as a proponent of fin-de-siecle aestheticism and for the small circle of devoted followers he cultivated known as the George Circle [George-Kreis]. The literary magazine he founded in 1892, Blätter für die Kunst, was the principal organ of his French symbolist inspired “l’art pour l’art” aesthetic program and catered to an exclusive, members-only readership. George’s popularity reached its peak in the years after WWI, and the themes of his later work, heroism, chastity, and the creation of a hierarchical moral spiritual social order inspired many leading intellectuals, officers, businessmen, and political figures. Later Joseph Goebbels would offer him the presidency of a new Academy of Poetry. George, who had declined the invitation to join the original Sektion für Dichtkunst der Preußischen Akademie der Künste in 1926, refused. Alluding to the George-inspired ideal of a “New Reich” [Neues Reich] led by an elite, moral-spiritual aristocracy, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who was a member of the George Circle, is said to have shouted “Long live secret Germany” [Es lebe das Geheime Deutschland] before his execution by firing squad for the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.
©Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Müller-Hilsdorf