THE KAISER’S CASTLE AND THE GOOSESTEP

CULTURE CORNER: THE KAISER’S CASTLE AND THE GOOSESTEP

I've been thinking for quite a while about starting a new "tab" on this website having to do with "cultural stuff" and as the headline of this blog notes, I've decided to do it, at least, with a story shared by T.D.L. This may end up being a one off, or it may become an occasional regular feature, regular, because the ugliness of modernism surrounds us everywhere in the arts: architecture, painting, sculpture, literature, music... all have succumbed to it. But this one is so strange, that it requires a bit of introduction, so that my really high octane speculation makes a little sense. Most people who know me well know that French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and German history and culture fascinate me, and that for a very simple reason: try to imagine the evolution of our western culture without them. Take any one of them away, and our culture is marred and no longer recognizable.

Long ago in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I made a prediction in conversation with some friends, that if Germany were ever reunified, one would see the gradual return of all the military traditions of the old Kaiserreich, and that the last of those traditions that would be restored would be the Stechschritt or Paradeschritt, the "parade step" or, as we know it by its more familiar term, the goosestep. Sure enough, after the reunification, the Bell Trees came out, torch light "Grand Taps" ceremonials began to be held once again at the Brandenburger Tor, Frederick the Great, der alte Fritz was dug up and reinterred in Berlin under the Kohl government with full military honors.  Some of my friends expressed alarm at this but my take then, as now, was different. This wasn't some sort of Neo-Nazi revisionism; Nazism didn't invent those traditions it merely expropriated them. Germans were happily goosestepping down town and city streets during the local hunting festivals since the end of the war. It's part of the tradition, the culture, and of its manifestation in military traditions.

But if that's the case, then what is going on? Watching these cultural developments occurring at the same time that Merkel flooded her country - and Europe - with thousands of "refugees", the backlash has been predictable: Frenchmen are outraged at the assault on French culture, Austrians on the Austrian, Dutch on the Dutch culture. Viktor Orban in Hungary refuses to allow Hungary and its culture to be swept aside; Poland, Italy... virtually everywhere there seems to be a movement back to preservation of unique culture.

With that in mind, consider this strange video of a German naval guard at a drill show at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, where, as far as I can tell, the parade step was done in full public by a German military honor guard for the first time since the end of World War Two. Notably, they begin by marching backward while the fife and drum corps pipes out the traditional tune beginning such guard drills. Then, as it begins piping out the military march "Prussia's Glory," the unit begins the goosestep forward:

The message, while subtle, is clear: we're going back to our traditions, in order to move forward. And notably, no one in the audience, which one may presume is largely Canadian, is booing or showing any signs of alarm. Rather, they seem to be enjoying it.

But I'm bold to suggest it isn't merely nor even primarily a military message that "we're returning to our traditions." When T.D.L. shared his story, I was stunned, because the story concerns the fact that the Germans decided to rebuild the old Staatschloss, the "state palace" of the old Kaiserreich, in Berlin. Not only that, they crowd funded it in part, and in order to rebuild it, demolished an old modernist (and hideously ugly) structure the Communists had build on the site when they demolished the original palace. And, as you'll see from the following article (from the crowd fund site), there's a strange reason the old State Palace is being rebuilt.

Obviously, they're not rebuilding the interior of the palace, especially as Wilhelm II, who was a connoisseur of the Baroque, oversaw much of its original appointments: it would cost a fortune almost as much as the building itself to do so. But read carefully what the site says about why the project was undertaken (and, as one can see from the picture, at the following link, the rebuilt State Palace is nearly complete: https://berliner-schloss.de/en/news/berlin-palace-is-being-rebuilt-in-its-former-glory/  ). The first thing to note was that the Palace's reconstruction was agreed upon by almost all political parties:

On 4th July, 2011, the German parliament’s budgetary committee voted to release the funds for the construction, by then totalling €595 million. The governing CDU/CSU and FDP parties and the opposition SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen parties voted unanimously in favour, while ‘Die Linke’ voted against.

The reasons to rebuild it? Consider this carefully:

The palace will then restore the familiar picture of Berlin, complete its historic centre and heal the previously wounded cityscape. Its reconstruction is making Berlin once more the much-loved ‘Athens on the Spree’.

In this way a counterpoint is being created to the mass-produced modern areas of the city’s centre. As a result, Berlin is now again becoming an exciting city in architectural terms as well. If it doesn’t want to become boring, the modernity has to face up to the city’s history, allow itself to be judged against historic architecture and compete with it. The palace will reconcile the citizens with the city’s reconstruction, as, after all, everyone will now find their architectural home in old/new Berlin. Its utilisation will be pioneering, redefining in its task the centre of Berlin.

As the ‘Humboldt Forum’ it will serve the arts and sciences and become with the museums of Museum Island, with Humboldt University, the German Historical Museum and the State Library a unique place of world culture and learning. Berlin is putting its centre at the disposal of dialogue between the peoples of the world. In the age of globalisation a grand gesture, with which Germany is embracing and seeing itself as a part of the community of peoples and their cultures. The building, serving all citizens and with its multitude of functions, will become a place of adventure in the best of tradition, a building in which the lights never go out, aspirational and serene.

It will serve political, cultural and social dialogue and be a venue of great events. Open to everyone, it will thus become a meeting point for all Berliners and the city’s guests. We aim here on our website to present this fantastic project to you in every detail. If it inspires you, we hope you will support us in our fundraising. (Emphasis added)

In spite of the pro forma bows to globaloney and multiculturalism - the very globaloney which helped to create and promote modernist ugliness - which close the passage , I suspect the real significance and weight lie elsewhere, and lies in those two opening paragraphs of the quotation.

When one reads between those opening lines a bit, the reconstruction of the Staatsschloss may be seen as a revolt against architectural modernism, for the clear implication of the first paragraph quoted above is that Berlin cannot be "the Athens on the Spree" again, without a return to cultural tradition, in this case, the classical style as it manifested itself in German architecture. Modernism must now (to cite the second paragraph) "compete with it." The real clue, however, is in the sentence which, if one ponders its implications carefully and deeply, admits that if Berlin "doesn't want to become boring, the modernity has to face up to the city's history." Indeed, that is an admission that modernity is anti-traditional, and hence, produces a kind of cosmopolitan rootlessness; traditional style on the other hand grounds people in an outward and visible sign of a matrix of tradition and history. It is a reminder both of the good things, and the faults, in any historical culture. Modernism is merely the rejection of all memory, and all tradition, of the good and the bad.

It's of a piece with the rejection by the French Senate to rebuild Notre Dame as some modernist Macronist monstrosity. And it's an announcement that perhaps, as a friend put it to me, that while modernism may not be over, at least now it has significant competition, and that the old forms and styles still have real life.

And, I suspect, that trend is only going to continue.

 

28 thoughts on “CULTURE CORNER: THE KAISER’S CASTLE AND THE GOOSESTEP”

      1. headline on l.a. times:

        Like it or not, robots are coming, shipping firm says
        Maersk will use diesel to bypass the need for electric permits

        1. And they probably won’t have to bypass the electric permits. Bottom line is 2000 Longshoreman jobs in LA are gone. Seems all the ports on the planet have gone and are going this way. It’s the precursor to eliminating all the driving jobs.

  1. One step backwards, two goosesteps forwards.
    They should also do a Shake Dance in honor of their Polish (of the Tribe) Leader.

  2. Interpreting Joseph’s comments on modern architecture in a different light:

    Eastern energy systems include the Chakras. These are levels of awareness (usually rationalized as seven) ‘translated’ into body centers. They run from the Base (having to do with existence, and usually interpreted as survival) in the coccyx area of the spine, up through the Heart (having to do with love, and bonding with another) in the chest area of the spine, and all the way up to the Crown (having to do with god-consciousness, and awareness of our fundamental oneness) just over the head.

    Where this gets into modern architecture is with the ‘unity’ within the Chakra system. Every level is important (although the current fashion is to elevate the upper ones and denigrate the lower ones). The Base chakra ‘grounds’ us into the world. Next up, the Relationship chakra (usually down-shifted into only the sexual aspects) determines, well, our relationship to the world. Power chakra, etc.

    Modern architecture, as it was forced-onto the culture, fundamentally ‘cut off’ the lower two or three Chakras, so to speak. It did not spring-up as a grown-from-within ‘evolution’ of the culture: It was imposed upon the culture. And, people can feel it. That is why it is being ‘rejected’ as people re-embrace their roots. (Look for this ‘trend’ to spread to any imposed-from-without culturism.)

    I actually take this as a good thing. When we (as individuals and societies) have thrown-off the ‘artificial ingredients’, we will Know Ourselves. At all the Chakra levels…

    1. It would be interesting to examine the rebuilt interior of the Schloss as a resonant cavity, and see how it compares with old one: it may well be quite close since the external volumes are mostly the same. And then there are the external “decorations” typical of Baroque architecture. See the last part of the “Grid of the Gods” on those “decorated” Mexican pyramids. There are other people out there who are studying aspects of Affektenlehre as represented through the various Arts.

  3. One can see that the whole of Europe is steeped in culture. Countries have national dress, national food, natural etc etc etc. This is directly linked to age, in other words if a country is many hundreds of years old, it has to have a national culture. Countries that are relatively “young” may have a different take on culture. For instance Australia does not have a national dress or a national food, but we do have a culture but it is hard to define. I can only imagine what people from Europe think about what Australia “is” if they have not been here.

      1. The Australian Aboriginal Walkbout is akin to the American Indian’s Vision Quest and a young man’s rite of passage.

    1. I would like to bring back the Australia we first encountered when we migrated back in ’69. Back then, the older Australians I knew, who were grandparents of my school friends, were still very much *British* in their day to day way of life.

  4. Glad that you blogged about the Berliner Stadtschloss. I have a good German friend who has been supporting its reconstruction from the outset–which was at least a decade before that unanimous vote. The movement began with the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche and once that project was secured, momentum slowly built against great odds; thankfully those in charge of the project had the patience, vision and talent to see the proposal through and to garner support from the country’s grass roots. It was their persistence and inclusive vision that wore down the opposition and ultimately won the day.

    More broadly though, it is for me a symbol that Germany is finally coming to terms with the Nazi past and can finally look beyond it to reclaim their rich cultural heritage that was walled off and Verboten in the post-war decades. Germany in the 80s and 90s was characterized by everything “Neuedeutsch” — that is. everything that was contemporary and modern, with the forbidden past locked behind the massive, insurmountable obstacle of the shame of the Nazi years. Everyone lived in white-walled cubes with industrial grey carpet and black leather modernist furniture with chrome metal accents and awful contemporary art on the walls. It was relentlessly contemporary and no one dared to live with antiques and so to be equated with the past and thus the Nazis. It was unspoken but omnipresent and almost pathological.

    I think it is almost impossible for outsiders to comprehend the massive burden of the Nazi period on the German psyche in those decades. Again, it’s the passing of the generations that is allowing Germany to normalize itself once more. Time does heal anything as the old saying goes.

    1. basta, well said. This was a kind of culture-wide PTSD which was/is slowly being worked-out. It will be interesting to see what a post-PTSD German culture and society looks like…

      (And see my comment to Dana Thomas below, concerning ancient German empowerment.)

    2. more like it was ptsd intentionally imposed on them en-masse. but reparations paid easily took care of that problem, right?

        1. Use capitals at the start of a sentence ZDB- I read your full stop and responded too soon….
          Reparations indeed. For being ganged up on by the entire planet, poor bastids. Tsk.
          C’mon Germany! You can do it! Digest the past completely and step over it…

  5. Robert Barricklow

    “… the ugliness of modernism surrounds us everywhere…”
    So true. The music is virtually inescapable in public places; and it’s modern as hell, screaming, whining, moaning, and repeating the same word like a Gatling gun. Forget about art; even the natives have gone over to the dark side: feature in an art exhibit this past week in NYC, Beaded stilettos by Jamie Okuma. God awful! It’s everywhere!

    I’ve been using the goose-stepping towards modern times metaphor modern here for sometime in my description depictions. You might say, it’s my culture-modern Gatling gun.
    In reading your post; you might want to put on a movie soundtrack of The Producers’ [1967] Springtime For Hitler
    https://youtube.com/watch?v=52l3b5j4

    In Venice, City officials have brought in turnstiles to restrict movements of visitors, and now plan to charge day-trippers an &11 entrance fee. Some Americans are asking, What time does the city close?; as if it were Disney World!

    Berlin needs to clean house of globalist modernism;
    or, join Venice in a turnstile of tourist Disney World global modernism.

    1. Robert Barricklow

      Let’s face it; the globalists have been engaged in culture warfare worldwide. Where I’m at; it’s a Mexican culture that speaks & practices its culture.

  6. Sir, there is no Goosestep to be found in this video. None at all.

    The German military (both former West and East) has *not* used the original Goosestep (Exerzierschritt) since 1945, the NVA (National Peoples Army) of the GDR was using the “Stechschritt”, which in English is also referred to as Goosestep, but is really the “Paradeschritt” (Parade Step) the less martially looking variant where the legs are not swung that up high. As far as i know the original Prussian Military Goosestep is used today only by the Russian Armed Forces and the Chilean Army.

    As a sidenote: The Bell Trees have never been out of use, they were always and are part of the Military bands both in the West, the East and in Reunified Germany. The same goes for the Torches which were and are used in the “Große Zapfenstreich” (Great Tattoo), which is usually performed when a President, Chancellor, Prime Minister of a Land or a General is bid a Ceremonial State Farewell after leaving office. Every Chancellor since Adenauer and every President since Heuss had given the Great Tattoo whith Torches and all the Spectacle when leaving office.

    I admire you and your marvellous work, sincerely i do, but sometimes you ought to get your facts right before you lead your audience to wrong conclusions, really.

    JHMB, Potsdam, Germany

    1. I AM aware that this is not the exact parade step. In fact, when I blogged about this, I was wondering how long it would take before someone would nitpick, and miss the major point.

  7. There is an instructive U-Tube channel called BTP-Concept specialised in German military ceremonies, and apparently the execution on key occasions, by a marching military band, of “Preussens Gloria” – composed in 1871 after Berlin defeated France and the King of Prussia was declared Kaiser of Germany – is the rule rather than the exeption. You can see it played in front of the Chancellor’s Palace as Merkel is about to receive foreign heads of government, and the Bellevue Palace as the President is about to receive foreign heads of State; the visitor’s and the German national anthems are then played.
    I truly wonder what was passing through the mind of Poland’s President Duda when he was regaled with this spectacle during his recent visit to Germany.
    Some music, composed with a specific intention such as the piece in question, , must acquire a psychic charge that can be exploited in various ways, for example to emotionally excite or intimidate the listeners. And in the same vein, military marching seems to be connected to shamanic traditions such as the “gait of power”.

    1. I would place the ‘origins’ of this martial spirit way back in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, where a combined force of Germans annihilated a three-legions-strong Roman army around 9 AD. The Romans had comprehensively defeated and acculturated the natives in the Gaul areas, and were now on their way to do the same thing to the Germanic tribes. This victory was essentially the ‘defining moment’ of the Germanic tribes, and sealed a relationship between local power (now down-shifted into martial spirit) and local freedom. A powerful combination…

  8. anakephalaiosis

    In natural state, when clans seek gathering of truce, they are driven by necessity, to bind the bloodwrack, that expresses wrath of God.

    It is a paradox, that bloodwrack and spaces of clearing are two sides of same coin, when balancing ingroup loyalty in clan disputes.

    Americans will never understand Europeans, unless they reconstruct missing words in English language. Blódwracu -> bloodwrack.
    https://www.oldenglishtranslator.co.uk

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