Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

 

From: at
Date: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:33 am
Subject: Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

Peter,

With your first post to the group, you offered this quote as an example of Steiner's anti-Semitism. Since you have cited the German, I'll assume you translated it. (I should note that my following points will apply regardless of the source of the translation.)

The original question that Steiner was addressing is:

Fragestellung: Hat das jüdische Volk seine Mission in der Menschheitsenrwickelung erfüllt?
(Question: Has the Jewish Volk completed its mission in the development of humanity?)

Steiner starts off:

"Ja, sehen Sie, das ist eine Frage, die natürlich, wenn man sie bespricht, leider allzuschnell in die Agitation hineintreibt."

"Yes, you see, that is a question that naturally, when it is discussed, unfortunately all too quickly devolves into agitation."

Then Steiner spends five pages describing with praise the Jewish Volk of old, especially the ancient pre-Christian Jewish Volk. Then he moves on to a two page description of the considerations behind the attempts to found a Jewish state in Palestine. At the very end comes one paragraph, which is rendered (presumably by Peter Staudenmaier) so:

"This discussion that I have just described to you took place before the Great War of 1914 to 1918, you see. The fact that people no longer want the great universal-human principles, but prefer to segregate themselves and develop national forces, that is exactly what lead to the great war! Thus the greatest tragedy of this 20th century has come from what the Jews are also striving for. And one can say that since everything the Jews have done can now be done consciously by all people, the best thing that the Jews could do would be to disappear into the rest of humankind, to blend in with the rest of humankind, so that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist. That is what would be ideal. This ideal is still opposed, even today, by many Jewish habits – and above all by the hatred of other people. That is what must be overcome."

(Steiner in 1924: Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker p. 189)

My translation goes thus:

"This discussion [among the founders of Zionism] that I have just described to you took place before the Great War of 1914 to 1918, you see, and that people no longer want the broad, universally-human principles, but rather desire to segregate, to develop the forces of 'Volk', this is precisely which has led to the great war! And so the greatest tragedy of this 20th century [WWI] came from that same thing which the Jews also desired. And so you can say: since everything that the Jewish Volk has done can now be done in a conscious way by all human beings, for example, the Jews could accomplish nothing better than to become absorbed into the rest of humanity, to intermingle with the rest of humanity, so that Jewishnes as a Volk would simply cease to exist. That is something which could be an ideal. Against this still struggle many Jewish habits, especially a hate for other human beings. And it is precicely that which must be overcome. These things will not be overcome if everything remains as it was in ancient times."

Commentary:

Since the statement is within the context of a discussion of then-contemporary Zionism and references the developments in Palestine - deploring the hatred of another people (the Palestinians) by the Jews - it shows a considerable degree of foresight. Steiner is saying that Jews should not attempt to create an Old Testament state in Palestine at the cost of hatred of other peoples, but should instead assimilate into the larger culture of wherever they live. And the statement applies not just to German Jews and Austrian Jews, but to all Jews, wherever they might live in the world. This is Steiner's actual position, and not that individual German Jews should "cease to exist." Whether this position is "anti-Semitic" or not can be discussed, and will depend largely on how you define "anti-Semitic".

And of course the context does lead to a reinterpretation of several phrases (the supposedly Jewish-hostile additional positions that purportedly make Steiner's pro-assimilation stance here an anti-Semitic one). For example, the phrase "everything that the Jewish Volk has done can now be done in a conscious way by all human beings" refers to the five pages of description of the special tasks of the Jewish Volk that preceded this quote. Calling a hate for other peoples a "Jewish habit" seems at first glance to be harsh, but it is specifically directed to Zionist behavior in Palestine, which is largely agreed to have been deplorable even back then.

On the Translation:

I have stayed very close to the German, at the expense of the flow in English, in order to convey as accurately as possible the exact statements on this sensitive theme.

Daniel Hindes

The original German:

"Dieses Gespräch, das ich Ihnen jetzt erzählt habe, hat stattgefunden vor dem großen Kriege 1914 bis 1918, sehen Sie, und daß die Menschen nicht mehr wollen die großen allgemein-menschlichen Prinzipe, son­dern sich absondern, Volkskräfte entwickeln wollen, das hat eben ge­rade zu dem großen Krieg geführt! Und so ist das größte Unglück dieses 20. Jahrhunderts gekommen von dem, was die Juden auch wollen. Und so kann man sagen: Da alles dasjenige, was die Juden getan haben, jetzt in bewußter Weise von allen Menschen zum Beispiel getan werden könnte, so könnten die Juden eigentlich nichts Besseres vollbringen, als aufgehen in der übrigen Menschheit, sich vermischen mit der übrigen Menschheit, so daß das Judentum als Volk einfach aufhören würde. Das ist dasjenige, was ein Ideal wäre. Dem widerstreben heute noch viele jüdische Gewohnheiten - und vor allen Dingen der Haß der ändern Menschen. Und das ist gerade dasjenige, was überwunden wer­den müßte. Die Dinge werden nicht überwunden, wenn alles beim alten bleibt. Und wenn sich die Juden zum Beispiel beleidigt fühlen, wenn man sagt: Ihr seid keine Bildhauer, ihr könnt da nichts leisten - so kann man sich sagen: Es müssen doch nicht alle Leute Bildhauer sein! Sie können doch durch ihre persönlichen Fähigkeiten anderswo etwas lei­sten! - So sind die Juden eben nicht zur Bildhauerei geeignet; sie haben ja auch in die Zehn Gebote das eine aufgenommen: «Du sollst dir von deinem Gotte kein Bild machen», weil sie eben überhaupt in der bild­lichen Anschaulichkeit nichts Übersinnliches darstellen wollen. Da­durch wird man gerade auf das Persönliche zurückgewiesen."

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Sun Mar 14, 2004 1:57 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

Then Steiner spends five pages describing with praise the Jewish Volk of old, especially the ancient pre-Christian Jewish Volk.

Yes indeed. I take it you think this is incompatible with antisemitism?

This discussion [among the founders of Zionism]

No, he's referring to his own discussion with "a very distinguished Zionist who was a friend of mine" as he explains in the preceding paragraph.

Against this still struggle many Jewish habits, especially a hate for other human beings.

No, that clause means the hatred that other people feel toward the Jews, not the other way around. Otherwise I like your translation, especially the rendering of Judentum as Jewishness.

Since the statement is within the context of a discussion of then-contemporary Zionism and references the developments in Palestine - deploring the hatred of another people (the Palestinians) by the Jews [...]

Calling a hate for other peoples a "Jewish habit" seems at first glance to be harsh, but it is specifically directed to Zionist behavior in Palestine, which is largely agreed to have been deplorable even back then.

No, that really isn't what that clause refers to. Ask Detlef. This clause is actually Steiner's sympathetic acknowledgement that Jews do in fact face hatred from other people. In this case you're trying to make Steiner more negative toward Jews than I am!

Peter

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From: Frank Thomas Smith
Date: Sun Mar 14, 2004 3:02 pm
Subject: RE: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

Subject: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

Afraid you got this one wrong, Daniel:

That is something which could be an ideal. Against this still struggle many Jewish habits, especially a hate for other human beings.

It should be:

"That would be an ideal. Against this many Jewish habits still struggle - and above all the hate by other people."

In other words, the Jews don't hate others, the others hate the Jews.

Frank

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From: at
Date: Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:34 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Translation of Steiner's 1924 stance on Zionism

Thanks, Frank.

Daniel

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