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Born in Basel, Mohler studied at the University of Basel where for a time he supported communism. He was called up to the Swiss army at the age of 20 but, after reading the works of Oswald Spengler and the German invasion of the Soviet-Union in June 1941, he became a supporter of Nazi Germany and defected to that country in 1942 with the aim of joining the Waffen SS. Mohler was not trusted by SS-authorities and they refused to accept him. Despite of that he remained in Berlin for another year before returning to Switzerland, where he was incarcerated for desertion.
After World War II he returned to study in Berlin and completed his doctoral thesis Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932 (The Conservative Revolution in Germany, 1918-1932) under Karl Jaspers in 1949. The aim of his thesis was not merely scientific, but also providing old traditions for new pathways for a non-national socialist Right in post-war Germany. In the same year, he worked as a secretary for his idol Ernst Jünger, but increasingly felt he had become too moderate for his taste after the end of the war.
Mohler went on to work as a correspondent in Paris for Die Zeit from 1953 to 1961. After that he lived in Munich, leading the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation. For a brief period he worked as a speech writer for Franz Josef Strauß, but his influence was marginal. In 1967, he became the first to receive the Konrad Adenauer Prize, which provoked strong media attacks on him.
In 1970 he became a major contributing editor to Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing's conservative monthly magazine Criticon, Germany's most important platform for non-mainstream conservative thought for almost three decades. He died in Munich in 2003 at the age of 83.
Writings and ideas
Mohler's seminal work is his book Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932 (The Conservative Revolution in Germany, 1918-1932) (initially his doctoral thesis) which tried to unearth Weimar Republic right-wing thought and tradition apart from and alternative to National-Socialism. Amongst the most crucial thinkers of the "Conservative Revolution" he counted Ernst Jünger, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Niekisch, Hans Blüher and Thomas Mann (before his turn to liberalism).
Mohler was one of the first German publishers to write about the ideas of his long-time friend Alain de Benoist, founding father of the Nouvelle Droite. Similar as Benoist, Mohler advocated a Right that would oppose both socialism and liberalism, with a decided emphasis on the latter. According to Michael Minkenberg, Mohler's ideas owed more to the Nouvelle Droite strain associated with GRECE than the Ostpolitik-derived ideas of a strong German state associated with contemporaries such as Robert Spaemann and Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner.
One of his favourite targets was the so-called "Vergangenheitsbewältigung", which he criticized in several books. This argument involved the claim that post-war Germany should 'step out of Hitler's shadow'. In this respect it has been claimed that Mohler was a forerunner of Ernst Nolte and associated thinkers involved in the Historikerstreit.
In the 1950s Mohler contributed to journals such as Nation Europa and Die Tat (not to be confused with an older paper of the same title), whilst also writing for mainstream newspapers such as Die Zeit and (in the 1960s and 1970s) Die Welt. In his later years he supported the "Neue Rechte" weekly paper Junge Freiheit. Under the alias Michael Hintermwald he also contributed two articles to Gerhard Frey's Deutschen National-Zeitung, for which he was much criticized.
Mohler was initially a supporter of Franz Josef Strauß and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria but later worked with Franz Schönhuber in the founding of The Republicans. Internationally he was close to Alain de Benoist.
Mohler's notion of Conservative Revolution has been described as fascism, with Roger Griffin arguing this point. In a newspaper interview Mohler accepted that he was a fascist but only in the tradition of José Antonio Primo de Rivera and with the acceptance of the notion that fascism had its roots in the far left as argued by Zeev Sternhell.
- M. Minkenberg, 'The New Right in France and Germany: Nouvelle Droite, Neue Rechte, and the New Right Radical Parties', P. H. Merkl & L Weinberg (eds.), The Revival of Right Wing Extremism in the Nineties, London: Frank Cass, 1997, pp. 73-4
- Prelude, Interlude, Afterlude. Spotlights on German Debates
- R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, London : Routledge, 1993, pp. 166-9
- (German) Literature by and about Armin Mohler