Hitler’s Favorite Jew: The Enigma of Otto Weininger

 



Source : Hitler’s Favorite Jew: The Enigma of Otto Weininger by Allan Janik.

In his Eastern front military headquarters called the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler asserted this on the night of December 1, 1941: “Dietrich Eckart once told me that he was acquainted with only a single decent Jew, Otto Weininger, who took his own life when he recognized that the Jew lives from the deterioration of other nationalities.”

Otto Weininger (April 3, 1880 – October 4, 1903) was an Austrian philosopher. In 1903, he published the book Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character) which gained popularity after his suicide at the age of 23. Today, the book is generally viewed as misogynistic and antisemitic in academic circles; however, it continues to be held up as a great work of lasting genius and spiritual wisdom by others.

In his book Sex and Character, Weininger argues that all people are composed of a mixture of the male and the female substance, and attempts to support his view scientifically. The male aspect is active, productive, conscious and moral/logical, while the female aspect is passive, unproductive, unconscious and amoral/alogical. Weininger argues that emancipation should be reserved for the "masculine woman", e.g. some lesbians, and that the female life is consumed with the sexual function: both with the act, as a prostitute, and the product, as a mother. Woman is a "matchmaker". By contrast, the duty of the male, or the masculine aspect of personality, is to strive to become a genius, and to forego sexuality for an abstract love of the absolute, God, which he finds within himself.

In a separate chapter, Weininger, himself a Jew who had converted to Christianity in 1902, analyzes the archetypical Jew as feminine, and thus profoundly irreligious, without true individuality (soul), and without a sense of good and evil. Christianity is described as "the highest expression of the highest faith", while Judaism is called "the extreme of cowardliness". Weininger decries the decay of modern times, and attributes much of it to feminine, and thus Jewish, influences. By Weininger's reckoning everyone shows some femininity, and what he calls "Jewishness".

In 1903, three months before Weininger’s suicide, Swedish playwright August Strindberg wrote Weininger, “in the end—to see the Problem of Woman’s Nature solved is a release for me—please accept my admiration and my gratitude.” Weininger’s impact on our culture is, for better or worse, undeniable and enormous. 

For many of Weininger’s readers, Hitler’s remark serves to classify Weininger once and for all. He was an insightful, self-hating Jew who was consistent enough to execute the logical implications of his insight. He was driven to madness and, ultimately, self-destruction by realizing fully what his ideas implied. His suicide was rooted in a perverse integrity. This widely spread interpretation assumes that there is a direct link between what he alleged in his book and his suicide; a presumption that Weininger’s friends and foes alike have maintained. This essay will show that there is no substance to the charge because Weininger’s claims in Sex and Character fully contradict the thesis that we find vulgar anti-Semitism there. Returning to Hitler, in making this allegation, he claimed to have heard about Weininger from his Munich “mentor” Dietrich Eckart, who is seldom the subject of investigation in discussions of Weininger. We shall have to correct that.

 The 20th century’s most influential philosopher, its greatest writer, and one of the three fathers of modern drama (along with Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekov), arguably its most brilliant misogynist. 




About Woman

Woman is thoroughly sexual.

Woman’s physiology determines that she is incapable of rational thinking. That implies that she is neither artistically creative nor moral in her nature.

Woman is completely nihilistic.

All Women are either mothers or prostitutes, fully egocentric or entirely without a self.

Only Women are happy.

Women, like children, idiots and criminals, should not be allowed to participate in public life.

Love and understanding are incompatible.

"The practice of merely calling any one who assails woman a misogynist, instead of refuting argument by argument, has much to commend it. Hatred is never impartial, and, therefore, to describe a man as having an animus against the object of his criticism, is at once to lay him open to the charge of insincerity, immorality, and partiality, and one that can be made with a hyperbole of accusation and evasion of the point, which only equal its lack of justification. This sort of answer never fails in its object, which is to exempt the vindicator from refuting the actual statements. It is the oldest and handiest weapon of the large majority of men, who never wish to see woman as she is .

No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them; men either despise women or they have never thought seriously about them.

 

A New Man 

Anderson describes Weininger’s “New Man” as containing the classic Germanic virtues seen in Wagner’s operas. In exchange for this ethical mastery, the New Man would “be rewarded with inner harmony… the erotics of art [replacing] the function of sexual coitus.” As the population dwindles because sex is had by only the lowest of the remaining men, “art is the replacement for children, who, in [Weininger’s] thinking, aren’t ‘real’ children, just bad copies of the bad woman who carried them.” Though his body will die, the New Man concerns himself only with the immortal neo-Platonic forms of beauty and order and thereby finds peace. Weininger’s ideal masculinity is indeed stranger than anything he might have seen in Wagner, Kant, or mainstream society, but its appeal was that it was fresher and more apparently solid (if doomed) than any other broken ideology available at the time.


About Jews 

In his discussion of Judaism, Weininger saw the characteristics of the Jew as even worse than those of Woman. The Jew is a force which exists within people, not just in individual Jews (it is found also in non-Jews). The disadvantage of the Jew compared to Woman is that the latter at least believes in the Male while the Jew believes in nothing. Hence the Jew gravitates towards Communism, anarchism, materialism, empiricism, and atheism. Zionism, Weininger claimed, could only come about after the rejection of Judaism, since Jews could not grasp the idea of a state. The Jewish religion he saw as belief in nothing, in contrast to the positive faith he found in Christianity. Weininger's views combined elements of romanticism, Wagnerianism, Nietzscheanism, modern psychology, and biology, with many original insights. His opinions and arguments were taken over by Nazi thinkers as justification for their views. After the war the attitude towards Weininger's work and figure shifted from an ideological use of his ideas towards a search for an understanding of his thoughts and behavior within the framework of the humanities and social sciences. In 1982 the Israeli playwright Y. Sobol wrote for the stage Nefesh Yehudi: ha-Layla ha-Aḥaron shel Otto Weininger (Weiningers Nacht, 1986, 19882).

 


 


"[Sex and Character] is essentially incomprehensible without some appreciation of the contexts as different as Viennese traditions of cultural criticism, fin-de-siècle feminism, Ernst Mach’s theories of the self, neo-Kantian philosophy, and the racial ideas of Richard Wagner. He’s a photographic negative of his time, revealing its hidden, hateful structure."

 

"The man came as a meteor and disappeared as suddenly. It was only when he had passed that his ideas started to sparkle, electrifying the world. Some regarded him as a biologist, others as a psychologist, still others called him a mystic. Though generally considered a realist, he was at the same time strongly suspected of dealing in fantasies. He was praised for his invincible logic and attacked for his crusade against women. He was full of contradictions. His name became the signal for dispute and controversy in a thousand cities."

"Weininger's nature forced his mind on long expeditions into psychology, biology, literature, and philosophy, journeys from which he never returned. Dissatisfied with scientific research, discontent with his own restless nature, he went farther and farther along the paths of speculative thought until he was, at the end, quite alone."

"It would be hard to find another man who showed even in mild form the characteristics and the mental processes that Otto Weininger revealed in the extreme."- Abrahamsen



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