Prophet in a Tuxedo
Richard J. Evans
- BuyWalther Rathenau: Weimar’s Fallen Statesman by Shulamit Volkov
Yale, 240 pp, £18.99, April 2012, ISBN 978 0 300 14431 4
On the morning of 24 June 1922, Walther Rathenau, the German foreign minister, set off for work from his villa in the Berlin suburb of Grunewald. The weather was fine, so he instructed his chauffeur to use the open-top limousine. The minister sat alone in the back. He took no security precautions, used the same route every day, and had dismissed the police protection he had been offered. As the car slowed down to negotiate a bend just before joining the main road, another car, an open-top tourer, came out of a side street and started to overtake it. Two men were sitting in the back, clad somewhat oddly in long leather coats and leather driving helmets.
Vol. 34 No. 23 · 6 December 2012
From Alan Purkiss
In his essay on Walther Rathenau, Richard J. Evans mentions Burg Saaleck, where Rathenau’s murderers, Kern and Fischer, were run to ground and killed, as being in Bavaria (LRB, 22 November). It is actually in Sachsen-Anhalt, about fifty kilometres southwest of Halle, and recent events there indicate that the subject of Rathenau and the far right has not lost its topicality. Kern and Fischer were buried in the cemetery below the castle and their grave became, inevitably, a holy place for the Hitler regime, which had a large memorial stone placed there. This was still in situ in the 1980s, though the inscription had been removed by the East German authorities. After German reunification, Saaleck became once more a gathering point for the far right. The stone was therefore removed altogether in 2000. But last July it was reported that a large roughly worked stone had been smuggled into the cemetery by night and placed at the grave. It bore a crudely incised inscription with the names Fischer and Kern and the date they died: 17 July.
Vol. 35 No. 1 · 3 January 2013
From David Auerbach
Richard J. Evans leaves out Walter Rathenau’s greatest impact on German literature, which was to inspire the character of Paul Arnheim in Robert Musil’s The Man without Qualities, the nemesis of the title character, Ulrich (LRB, 22 November 2012). In his diaries, Musil made the following observations of Rathenau: ‘He likes to say, “But, my dear Doctor,” and takes one by the upper arm in a friendly grip. He is used to taking immediate charge of the discussion. He is doctrinaire and, at the same time, lord of all he surveys. One makes an objection; he responds: “I am delighted to concede this premise, but …”’