Ecce Homo

Page 22 of 30


But here nothing shall stop me from being rude, and from telling the Germans one or two unpleasant home truths: who else would do it if I did not? I refer to their laxity in matters historical. Not only have the Germans entirely lost the breadth of vision which enables one to grasp the course of culture and the values of culture; not only are they one and all political (or Church) puppets; but they have also actually put a ban upon this very breadth of vision. A man must first and foremost be "German," he must belong to "the race"; then only can he pass judgment upon all values and lack of values in history—then only can he establish them.... To be German is in itself an argument, "Germany, Germany above all,"[4] is a principle; the Germans[Pg 124] stand for the "moral order of the universe" in history; compared with the Roman Empire, they are the up-holders of freedom; compared with the eighteenth century, they are the restorers of morality, of the "Categorical Imperative." There is such a thing as the writing of history according to the lights of Imperial Germany; there is, I fear, anti-Semitic history—there is also history written with an eye to the Court, and Herr von Treitschke is not ashamed of himself. Quite recently an idiotic opinion in historicis, an observation of Vischer the Swabian sthete, since happily deceased, made the round of the German newspapers as a "truth" to which every German must assent The observation was this: "The Renaissance and the Reformation only together constitute a whole—the sthetic rebirth, and the moral rebirth." When I listen to such things, I lose all patience, and I feel inclined, I even feel it my duty, to tell the Germans, for once in a way, all that they have on their conscience. Every great crime against culture for the last four centuries lies on their conscience.... And always for the same reason, always owing to their bottomless cowardice in the face of reality, which is also cowardice in the face of truth; always owing to the love of falsehood which has become almost instinctive in them—in short, "idealism." It was the Germans who caused Europe to lose the fruits, the whole meaning of her last period of greatness—the period of the Renaissance. At a moment when a higher order of values, values that were noble, that said yea to life, and that guaranteed a future, had succeeded in triumphing over the opposite values,[Pg 125] the values of degeneration, in the very seat of Christianity itself,—and even in the hearts of those sitting there,—Luther, that cursed monk, not only restored the Church, but, what was a thousand times worse, restored Christianity, and at a time too when it lay defeated. Christianity, the Denial of the Will to Live, exalted to a religion! Luther was an impossible monk who, thanks to his own "impossibility," attacked the Church, and in so doing restored it! Catholics would be perfectly justified in celebrating feasts in honour of Luther, and in producing festival plays[5] in his honour. Luther and the "rebirth of morality"! May all psychology go to the devil! Without a shadow of a doubt the Germans are idealists. On two occasions when, at the cost of enormous courage and self-control, an upright, unequivocal, and perfectly scientific attitude of mind had been attained, the Germans were able to discover back stairs leading down to the old "ideal" again, compromises between truth and the "ideal," and, in short, formul for the right to reject science and to perpetrate falsehoods. Leibniz and Kant—these two great breaks upon the intellectual honesty of Europe! Finally, at a moment when there appeared on the bridge that spanned two centuries of decadence, a superior force of genius and will which was strong enough to consolidate Europe and to convert it into a political and economic unit, with the object of ruling the world, the Germans, with their Wars of Independence, robbed Europe[Pg 126] of the significance—the marvellous significance, of Napoleon's life. And in so doing they laid on their conscience everything that followed, everything that exists to-day,—this sickliness and want of reason which is most opposed to culture, and which is called Nationalism,—this nvrose nationale from which Europe is suffering acutely; this eternal subdivision of Europe into petty states, with politics on a municipal scale: they have robbed Europe itself of its significance, of its reason,—and have stuffed it into a cul-de-sac. Is there any one except me who knows the way out of this cul-de-sac? Does anyone except me know of an aspiration which would be great enough to bind the people of Europe once more together?


And after all, why should I not express my suspicions? In my case, too, the Germans will attempt to make a great fate give birth merely to a mouse. Up to the present they have compromised themselves with me; I doubt whether the future will improve them. Alas! how happy I should be to prove a false prophet in this matter! My natural readers and listeners are already Russians, Scandinavians, and Frenchmen—will they always be the same? In the history of knowledge, Germans are represented only by doubtful names, they have been able to produce only "unconscious" swindlers (this word applies to Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Schleiermacher, just as well as to Kant or Leibniz; they were all mere[Pg 127] Schleiermachers).[6] The Germans must not have the honour of seeing the first upright intellect in their history of intellects, that intellect in which truth ultimately got the better of the fraud of four thousand years, reckoned as one with the German intellect. "German intellect" is my foul air: I breathe with difficulty in the neighbourhood of this psychological uncleanliness that has now become instinctive—an uncleanliness which in every word and expression betrays a German. They have never undergone a seventeenth century of hard self-examination, as the French have,—a La Rochefoucauld, a Descartes, are a thousand times more upright than the very first among Germans,—the latter have not yet had any psychologists. But psychology is almost the standard of measurement for the cleanliness or uncleanliness of a race.... For if a man is not even clean, how can he be deep? The Germans are like women, you can scarcely ever I fathom their depths—they haven't any, and that's the end of it. Thus they cannot even be called shallow. That which is called "deep" in Germany, is precisely this instinctive uncleanliness towards one's self, of which I have just spoken: people refuse to be clear in regard to their own natures. Might I be allowed, perhaps, to suggest the word "German" as an international epithet denoting this psychological depravity?—At the moment of writing, for instance, the German Emperor is declaring it to be his Christian duty to liberate the slaves in Africa;[Pg 128] among us Europeans, then, this would be called simply "German." ... Have the Germans ever produced even a book that had depth? They are lacking in the mere idea of what constitutes a book. I have known scholars who thought that Kant was deep. At the Court of Prussia I fear that Herr von Treitschke is regarded as deep. And when I happen to praise Stendhal as a deep psychologist, I have often been compelled, in the company of German University Professors, to spell his name aloud.

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