Mephisto in the Third Reich: Literary Representations of Evil in Nazi Germany
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The association of Nazism with the symbol of ultimate evil - the devil - can be found in the works of Klaus and Thomas Mann, Else Lasker-Schuler, and Rolf Hochhuth. He appears either as Satan of the Judeo-Christian tradition, or as Goethe's Mephisto. Barasch-Rubinstein looks into this phenomenon and analyzes the premise that the image of the devil had a substantial impact on Germans' acceptance of Nazi ideas.
demonstrates how false and distorted it is to perceive oneself only in a professional light. The gradual change of the protagonist, depicted here in detail, leads to an unequivocal moral statement: ignoring moral consideration should not be forgiven. Even if Höfgen acted for the sake of artistic fulfillment – which he did not – he should have given up his flourishing career in order not to become part of the Nazi rule. Art is not a mean to overlook morality, and the actor who became Mephisto
different view of Faust: she sees him as having no moral aversion to the Nazis, and all his creative faculties are dependent on him being German. If it were possible, he would have returned to his homeland, and perhaps even taken part in the Nazi regime. If one can find traces of moral inhibitions in the play, they are articulated by Mephisto. Mephisto Let us begin our discussion on the devil with the same sentence on the relation between the Bible and Goethe’s Faust, cited before: “The
complains about the despicable nature of human beings, admitting that “when I look at them I want to throw up.” Faust agrees that there is no light, only endless darkness, to which Mephisto responds by revealing that he, too, is looking for the light, “for I am, Herr Faust, a human being like you!” (p. 228). Later in the play he also announces that “humankind is falling!” (p. 250). Not only is Satan human, but all of mankind is destined to fall, exactly as he, the fallen angel, was expelled from
of a personal aim, yet this tendency could hardly be found in Germany. Germans see a gulf between self-fulfillment and social and political ends. Personal fulfillment is far more important than any political goal. One could not read these lines without thinking of the protagonist of Mephisto by Klaus Mann, an exact artistic representation of this view. Thus Faust, like Luther, strives for inner freedom, but cares very little if he is living in a free, advanced society. If anything, being German
Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2005. Mann, Klaus. Mephisto (Trans. Robin Smyth). Reprint. New York: Penguin Books, 1995. Mann, Thomas. Doctor Faustus: the life of the German composer Adrian Leverkuhn as told by a friend (Trans. Lowe-Porter). London: Penguin Books in association with M. Secker & Warburg, 1968 Mann, Thomas. Germany and the Germans. In Thomas Mann’s Addresses, Delivered at the Library of Congress 1942–1949. Washington: Library of Congress, 1963. Plato. The Republic.