Hans Blüher (17 February 1888 in Freiburg in Schlesien - 4 February 1955 in Berlin) was a German writer and philosopher. He attained prominence as an early member and "first historian" of the Wandervogel movement. He was aided by his taboo breaking rebellion against schools and the Church. He was received with some genuine interest but sometimes perceived as scandalous.
His comments on the homosexual aspects of the Wandervogel movement and the role homoeroticism and male bonding played in the creation of European culture and institutions were fiercely combated. Blüher supported these with a theory of the Männerbund.
During the transition from the German Empire to the Weimar liberal democracy, Blüher, a radical conservative and monarchist, became a staunch opponent of the Weimar Republic. In 1928, he had the opportunity to meet the former Kaiser Wilhelm II, in exile in the Netherlands. Blüher believed that pederasty and male bonding provided a basis for a stronger nation and state, which became a popular concept within certain segments of the Hitler Youth. Blüher later supported the Nazis but turned on them in 1934, when SA leader Ernst Röhm was murdered on Hitler's orders during the Night of the Long Knives.
Since 1924, Blüher, who had married a doctor and had two children, had worked as a freelance writer and practicing psychologist in Berlin-Hermsdorf. He worked there, after his retirement from public life during the Nazi period, on his major philosophical work of 1949, Die Achse der Natur.
Student at Gymnasium Steglitz
In 1896 Blüher's father, the pharmacist Hermann Blüher, his wife Helene and their eight-year-old son Hans, left Freiburg and took up residence first in Halle and then, in 1898, in Steglitz where the ten-year-old Hans was sent to the local Gymnasium. In his 1912 account Blüher wrote:
"The intellectual pleasures are the purest and the most perfect. They persist throughout life undiminished and constantly trigger new feelings of happiness. One should expect that an institution such as a school, which deals only with intellectual subjects, and at the youngest age of life, would almost have to generate a rapture of discovery and understanding: - And it produces just the opposite! The student works not only with occasional overexertion and difficulty, which is naturally unavoidable in even the most liberal of intellectual endeavors, but with an immense feeling of displeasure. And this is expected at an age which, on account of its tenderness and need for joy, is least of all appropriate. On these young shoulders, in fact, lies a burden which the man only thinks back on in horror and yet it is perpetually alive in his dreams. [...]
The "science" learned in schools and the whole conception of culture which is represented there is indeed not free at all but entirely imposed. It is in service to all kinds of ideals and possible prejudices; patriotism and religion necessitate, in order to find solid ground in the student's heart, a quite considerable staining and falsification of reality. [...] Whence shall the intellectual joy come if the instrument is out of tune with the student who could well play upon it...?" Later Blüher's criticism was, in part, much milder and more grateful. School director, Robert Lück, who Blüher had described as one of the somewhat narrow-minded Christian educators, underwent a revaluation in Blüher's second version of his autobiographical work "Werke und Tage." Blüher praised Lück's life work and described his selection of faculty as masterful: "How he actually managed it remains a mystery to everyone. He had an obvious charisma. The college nearly resembled an order." In his autobiography, Blüher set his former school among the ranks of those gymnasiums to which he accorded a prominent role in German cultural life. Nowhere else in Germany was the soil for the dispute between humanistic education and the romantic counter-culture so fruitful; the Wandervogel and the youth movement could only have occurred here.
Hans Blüher was admitted to the Wandervogel in 1902 as a 33rd degree member. His initiation was a ceremonial procedure wherein Karl Fischer deterred "foxes" for each of the newcomers. After instruction of the goals and premises of the Wandervogel movement, the aspirant swore loyalty to Fischer and to obey when necessary. He promised this in the presence of at least two other witnesses who attested to the oath then Fischer wrote his name into the members' book.
Hans Blüher understood this community as a protest movement against the "weathered ideals" of the "old generation" which one should vigorously resist with his own views and experiences. Blüher had a strictly dismissive attitude of the pedagogical tendencies and leisurely hiking of the group. For example, provisions that set early rest stops out of consideration for the younger participants were to him proof of "an insufficient understanding of the great experience of horror that the forest and the night also produced in the minds of the older members." There is a weak disregard for the young personality in "breaking the power of such precious hours." Blüher even thought little of recommendations to call off hikes due to persistent rain so as to not negatively affect the clothes and mood of the hikers: "That is exactly what is recommended for the faint of heart who from the very outset admit that they do not have the ability to drown out the inclement weather with the exuberance of their youthfulness. Those who know the old Wandervogel bacchanalia and are no degenerates, also know the unforgettable glory of such rainy weather marches."
Even in his 60s, Blüher spoke praisingly of those regions of Mark Brandenburg in which the Steglitzer Wandervogel found their weekend adventures in nature. This comparatively inconspicuous landscape wanted to be discovered "with the full fervor and suppleness of our hearts: this landscape had to be conquered, its divine word had come to us, otherwise us youth would have perished in the foul breath of the culture of our fathers. [...]The Nuthethal, upon which the first fire of our youth movement blazed, had imbued us with the historical force that had been in it for centuries and we partook of it. We came down from its hills and were a state."
These unusual formations of young people created a peculiar contrast to the rest of the citizenry of Steglitz when they returned home after an extensive hike:
“Now everything had come to life in Steglitz. The tidy boys of the well-nourished citizens walked along Albrecht Street in new suits, little girls following behind. The Fichteberg aristocracy and the half-nobility had the Church behind them and they paraded home with glazed, God-fearing eyes. When their sons wore their colorful school caps they always only took hold of the visor with two fingers, because the other three had to hold their dapper pair of gloves. They saluted and gave honors. - And among these wild, merry figures, there was this colorful hodgepodge of students! They walked with their bulky boots on the delicate plaster; one of them stayed behind because Wolf had thrown him down the sandy hillside of Havelberg and his pants were split. [...] "That crazy Fischer!" they simply said and moved on.
Hans Blüher, whose strikingly gaunt appearance earned him the nickname "Ghost," developed into one of Fischer's most loyal supporters but he also had Fischer's crucial support during his time with the Wandervogel movement.
During a summer trip to the Rhine in 1903, Blüher was sent home by expedition leader Siegfried Copalle for lacking identification, which did not meet with Fischer's approval. As a result, he defended him.
Another exceedingly lasting impression on Hans Blüher was made by the wealthy landowner Wilhelm "Willie" Jansen who met Blüher, himself an expedition leader now, on a 1905 summer trip from the Rhön to Lake Constance where Blüher won him for the Wandervogel movement.
"Jansen fascinated the youth by his personality, in no time he had opened the West German schools for the Wandervogel and the young men clung to him like burs. Of course, it was no different with Fischer: hero love. But this was in an undoubtedly intensified form [...] You can believe it or not, but I have read it in numerous letters and heard it from many young people themselves; it was true eroticism that erupted here.”
Like Karl Fischer before him, Wilhelm Jansen was the idealized youth leader who came to his authority through charisma and talent and not articles or power, as the teachers had alleged. Through the element of voluntarism, the model of the youth leader received an unexpected dynamism, which was generally described as anything from romantically wistful to fascinatingly mysterious. The self-education of the youth also made it possible to break away from the traditions of their parents' generation, which they considered outdated, and test out their own ways of growing up. For Blüher, at least, Jansen was the pioneering personality of the youth movement:
"Jansen was among the first to introduce ancient gymnastics as an alternative to the barbaric and often tasteless German gymnastics (Turnen), because this most natural form of physical culture had been erased by Christian culture and gymnastics (Turnen) was a highly imperfect replacement for it. The first German palaestra in Charlottenburg near Berlin had been built by Jansen, one of the first light and air baths was on his estate, and his capital worked everywhere it was necessary to overcome prudery and concealment and replace it with the noble openness of nudity. The physical culture movement, which continues to progress today, owes its first successes to Jansen."
The motif of the naked body, pristinely and truly perceived, is found not only in the youth movement, but also in other life reform groups and schools of thought. In all these cases, reference is made to the noble and truly idealized nudity of ancient cultures.
Historian of the Movement
Hans Blüher, who graduated from high school in 1907, spent seven years in the Wandervogel movement before leaving in 1909. But even then, he did not completely break off ties with the group, particularly as Blüher stood by his early friendships during the split-up of the organization and reclaimed sovereignty of interpretation over the development of the movement at the behest of the movement itself and supported by Willie Jansen, who urged him to pre-empt another party's account of the Wandervogel with a work of his own.
From the very title of the work itself, the 24-year-old Blüher claimed to comprehend and explain the rise, peak, and decline of the movement. It was important to him, he wrote in the foreword, to tie together the seemingly unconnected factors and determine the moving parts of this movement. In contrast to the mere chronicler, every historian must confront this subjective side of his work.
"In the process, he may make major mistakes, perhaps pivotal ones, while the chronicler will at worst make a spelling mistake. I will describe the history of the youth movement, whose innermost being, so far as I understand it, has such a wealth of interesting facts that it will be well worthwhile to ponder them; a movement that was entirely born of our youth is perhaps the most remarkable thing that has ever happened on German soil. But it is precisely its interior that is most remarkable, the unspoken, the secret... It was a youth who ate at clean tables on weekdays and had nothing to scrutinize, who then, at foggy festivals by brown heathens and sandy landscapes, dressed in wild clothes, backpacked and disheveled, unrecognizable, lying by the fire at night, and speaking to each other of things never said full of anger, frustration, recklessness, and melancholy."
Blüher interpreted the institutional beginning of the Wandervogel movement as a "stroke of genius" on the part of Karl Fischer against school laws and the state authorities, who prohibited students from forming their own associations. By obtaining for a number of respected Steglitz citizens positions as board members on the "Board for School Transportation," he was able to establish the group on a permanent foundation and at the same time set the pattern for further initiatives: "This committee was the actual club. It was presented to the school and the names of the men ensured that everything went well. Quite apart from this was the actual youth movement with its leaders; it was ensured that the committee had as little as possible to do with it, only giving money and names and, as mentioned, 'vouched' for it to the public. The students themselves were entered into the "Student Book," but were not members of the association but rather only on a list where you could find their addresses."
- Heinrich Schurtz
- Adolf Brand
- Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany, by Hubert Kennedy
- Male Fantasies, by Klaus Theweleit
- The Hidden Hitler, by Lothar Machtan
- David Thorstad, Speech to the Semana Cultural Lesbica-Gay, Mexico City, June 26, 1998. (hosted at NAMBLA's website here). Archived 2012-08-09.
- Hans Blüher: Wandervogel. Geschichte einer Jugendbewegung. Zweiter Teil: Blüte und Niedergang. Zweite Auflage, Berlin-Tempelhof 1912, S. 152 ff.
- Hans Blüher: Werke und Tage (Geschichte eines Denkers). Autobiographie. München 1953, S. 25
- Hans Blüher: Werke und Tage (Geschichte eines Denkers). Autobiographie. München 1953, S. 16
- Hans Blüher: Wandervogel. Geschichte einer Jugendbewegung. Zweiter Teil: Blüte und Niedergang. Zweite Auflage, Berlin-Tempelhof 1912, S. 189/191
- Hans Blüher (biographische Hinweise). In: Werner Kindt (Hrsg.): Dokumentation der Jugendbewegung. Band I: Grundschriften der deutschen Jugendbewegung. Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1963, S. 558 f.
- Hans Blüher: Wandervogel. Geschichte einer Jugendbewegung. Zweiter Teil: Blüte und Niedergang. Zweite Auflage, Berlin-Tempelhof 1912, S. 57 f
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