(Published in Libra, Norwegian "Tidskrift for antroposofi" (Journal for anthroposophy), 3-4/2000)

by Oddvar Granly

In an interview about Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy in Morgenbladet (The Morning News) three years ago (1997), the editor of the journal Humanist, Terje Emberland, said: "It is a too crude and misleading description to say that anthroposophy is a fascist ideology. It was part of a general occult stream in Germany after the turn of the century where also fascism came into being. But that does not make it fascist, even if it has authoritarian strains and has inherited an obscure racial theory from theosophy. We must also remember that there are critical voices against this tendency in Steiner also within anthroposophy, especially in Germany.” (Morgenbladet [The Morning News] 4.4.1997)

Emberland again expresses the same view three years later (2000; last year) in an interview in NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) P2 with Erik Tunstad on the occult background of National Socialism. Tunstad, taking on his duties, obviously wants to make Emberland put a brown stamp on Steiner, but Emberland states "Steiner can not be viewed as a pre-fascist." 

After that he publishes the article ”Ecofascism and anthroposophy” by Peter Staudenmaier in Nr 2, 2000 of Humanist and expresses his own view through the pictorial material he adds to the article. When Peter Normann Waage in the following issue reacts sharply to this mixture of Swastika and Goetheanum, Dachau and the Steiner school at Hovseter (in Oslo), Emberland takes this melancholically and writes that Waage suffers from ”visual hypersensitivity” ... It it difficult to take the accusations by Waage completely seriously" (Humanist Nr. 3, 2000). He himself knows how to practice human-ethics and does not need to be told how to do it!

Failing knowledge

The contribution by Waage puts many of the twisted allegations by Staudenmaier in their proper place to the extent that is possible within the limits of a short article. Here we want to comment on some other points in the attack. 

It seems that Staudenmaier has done little in terms of studies of his own of the life and work of Steiner. He mostly sticks to what has been published by other critics during the last year (among other Bierl and Ditfurth). A small example shows how little he himself has investigated the life of Steiner. He writes: "His intellectually formative years were spent in Vienna, capital of the aging Habsburg empire, and in Berlin. By all accounts an intense personality and a prolific writer and lecturer, Steiner dabbled in a number of unusual causes. At the age of 36, he reports, he underwent a profound spiritual transformation, after which he was able to see the spirit world and communicate with celestial beings." 

In these few lines there are two statements that reveal how superficially Staudenmaier seems to have studied the subject. First: Between Wienna and Berlin Steiner spent 7 central years; 1890-97, in Weimar , where he worked at the Goethe Archives. During this time, he wrote his doctoral thesis, his main work "Philosophy of freedom" and his book on Nietzsche, and here he experienced a thorough transformation. If one is to speak of "formative years", one cannot leave out the Weimar period. 

Secondly: The transformation at the beginning of the age of 35 (not 36) did not primarily involve an experience of a spiritual reality, but rather the opposite. What was decisively new was a more intense experience of the physical world, something that came more late for him than normally is the case. The primary written source describing this transformation is Steiner's own autobiography.

"The realization of that which can be experienced in the spiritual world had always been to me something self-evident; to grasp the sense world in full awareness had always caused me the greatest difficulty. It was as if I had not been able to pour the soul's experience deeply enough into the sense-organs to bring the soul into union with the full content of what was experienced by the senses.

This changed entirely from the beginning of my thirtysixth year. My capacities for observing things, beings and events in the physical world changed and became more accurate and intense. This was true both in relation to science and external life.

Before this time, I had been able to absorb large scientific contexts, that need to be grasped in a spiritual fashion, without any mental effort, and sense-perceptions, especially the holding of such facts in memory, required the greatest effort on my part. Now all this became quite different. An attentiveness not previously present to that which appeals to sense-perception now awakened in me. [...] I became aware that I was experiencing a human revolution at a far later period of life than other persons. [...]

For me the enhancement and deepening of the powers of sense-observation meant that I was given an entirely new world. The placing of oneself objectively, quite free from everything subjective in the mind, over against the sense-world revealed something concerning which a spiritual perception had nothing to say. But this also cast its light back upon the world of spirit. For, while the sense-world revealed its being through the very act of sense-perception, there was thus present to knowledge the opposite pole also, to enable one to appreciate the spiritual in the fulness of its own character unmingled with the physical."1

The garden at Dachau

In the article in Humanist, grotesque accusations are made against the anthroposophical pharmaceutical company Weleda and its activities during the war. Below the pictures on page 48 (of Humanist) one finds: ”The Weleda-factory ran a garden in the concentration camp of Dachau, the same camp where the nazis experimented on the prisoners." 

This is explained further on page 52: "Weleda's head gardener, Franz Lippert, was an SS member who in 1941 asked to be transferred to Dachau to oversee the biodynamic plantation that Himmler had established at the concentration camp. Thus anthroposophist collaboration with Nazi barbarism persisted until the bitter end of the Third Reich." Here Staudenmaier points to the scientific work by Uwe Werner's on anthroposophists during the Nazi time.2 He is critical of Werner's interpretation of the events, which he is free to be, but he cannot without evidence reject what is documented in the treatise.

Once again Staudenmaier shows he has not read the source material. The facts that Werner presents make it clear that it is completely untrue to say that Weleda ran a garden in Dachau. What had happened was that Franz Lippert, who had led the work in the garden of Weleda in Schwäbisch Gmünd retreated from his position at Weleda during the summer of 1940 to take up a new position as gardener in Trittau, Schleswig-Holstein. The CEO of Weleda then angrily noted that his good friend Lippert had been caught by the National Socialist ideas. (Werner p. 285). Only one year after he had left Weleda, on 1 September 1941, Lippert started his work as gardener in Dachau, where he worked until March 1945.

In his work, Werner presents descriptions by prisoners in the camp that give a sympathetic picture of Lippert, that he helped many prisoners in distress and told prisoners with whom he became intimate that he was in opposition to Hitler. (p.332). He chose to enter into the service of the Hitler regime, but it is quite clear: Weleda as such had nothing to do with the garden at Dachau.

Staudenmaier also states that Weleda delivered naturopathic material to "medical experiments" on prisoners in Dachau. This is also discussed in the work by Werner (p. 361). In Dachau, the physician Sigmund Rascher made cruel freezing experiments on prisoners. He was a former Waldorf pupil and came from an anthroposophical family, but had no connection with anthroposophy as an adult. In 1943 he ordered 20 kg protective anti-freeze creme from Weleda. This was delivered. That this creme was intended for another use than the ordinary was not possible to know for the people at Weleda, as the experiments of Rascher were kept strictly secret.

Rudolf Hess

Like several other critics of anthroposophy, Staudenmaier also tries to make Rudolf Hess into an anthroposophist. He says that he was an eager Steiner-sympathizer, practiced anthroposophical ideas and converted Haverbeck to anthroposophy. 

It is clear that Hess was of another caliber than Nazi leaders like Bormann, Heydrich and Göring. While they worked to promote industrialized farming in The Third Reich, Hess had an understanding for farming in accordance with nature, and when he through Erhart Bartsch became aquainted with the biodynamic farming method, he became interested and started to change his kitchen garden in accordance with this farming method. How much he studied the method in question is unclear. It is also clear that he held a protective hand over the Waldorf school in Dresden after the persistent lobbying by Elisabeth Klein. 

But then as today - it is completely possible to support biodynamic farming and Steiner schools without being an anthroposophist, as hundreds of customers at Helios (Norwegian company selling biodynamic products. Comment by the translator) and parents at Steiner schools in Norway. Those who have voiced their opinion that Hess was an adherent of anthroposophy have not been able to document such a connection. It has stayed on the level of general statements and loose rumors. Some stories say that he had read theosophical and anthroposophical literature in the prison of Spandau, that is, when he no longer was a Nazi leader. That is of course possible, but doesn't have to mean that he became anthroposophist. I have read many issues of Humanist without having become an atheist.

Elisabeth Klein, who negotiated with "the office of Hess", says that his sole connection with the anthroposophical movement was the bio-dynamic farming method.3 But bio-dynamic farming is not only to be understood as external measures. It is a cultural impulse that leads into social and spiritual areas incompatible with nazism. On Hess' relation to anthroposophy, there also exists a letter written by his wife, Ilse Hess, from June 14, 1984. In the letter, she stresses that her husband "wasn't the least bit interested in anthroposophy". "But I know that the opinion that we should be anthroposophists is persistent"4

Half truths

There are also examples in the article by Staudenmaier of things that are being skewed by an incomplete description of facts. He writes: "In 1992 a Swiss Waldorf teacher published  a book claiming there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz."  So far that is correct. The book referred to was "Adler und Rose" ("Eagle and rose") by Bernhard Schaub. But Staudenmaier does not tell that Schaub soon had to leave his work as teacher at the Steiner school where he worked because of the book.

He also mentions the tragic figure of Werner G. Haverbeck (who died in 1999). In addition to what Waage writes about him, his work as a priest in the Christian Community was not very long. It lasted from 1950 until 1959, when he was formally discharged after a disagreement with the leadership. When his brown stained book "Rudolf Steiner - Anwalt für Deutschland" (Rudolf Steiner - advocate for Germany" was published in 1989, he hadn't been active as a priest for 30 years.

In retrospect

In retrospect, one can critizise individual leading anthroposophists for their behavior during the time of Hitler. That holds for the negotiations by Elisabeth Klein with the Nazi leaders up to 1941, to uphold the work at the Waldorf school in Dresden, the balancing by the Weleda company to remain in existence through the war time and the actions of Erhard Bartsch as leading representative of the bio-dynamic movement in Germany at the time. That also holds for Wachsmuth and Steffen as members of the executive board at Goetheanum, with their ingratiating statements in relation to the Nazi regime to save the anthroposophical work in Germany. It is all documented in the work by Werner. 

One can ask: was it not better that all work was laid to rest in the 1930s', and have not the Anthroposophical Society and the Waldorf Schools stood stronger after the war because they were prohibited by the regime in 1935 and 1938 respectively (Dresden in 1941)? It is easy to be wise after the events, but it is not fair to judge the past on the basis of a consciousness only developed later. The historical process is often a painful awakening. You act out of a naive enthusiasm - and stumble or get a blow on the chaps and wake up. 

The persons mentioned above have been the subject of severe criticism for their behavior. In the anthroposophical movement there always have been struggles and criticism, both within the movement and in relation to the world around. Development has taken its course and the times have changed, but mistakes probably will continue to be made and shortcomings will continue to show up, as long as we are on the way, and we want to be on the way.

"The Doctor has said"

As to the allegations of worship of Steiner as authority, you can find people with different degrees of independence in all spiritual streams. Of the people who met Steiner, there first of all were a large number of independent and spiritually productive people. They worked as teachers, doctors, priests, authors or artists and left behind important works. You can mention names like Eugen Kolisko, Walter Johannes Stein, Herbert Hahn, Emil Bock, Hermann Beckh, Karl König, Hans Erhart Lauer, Karl Heyer and Conrad Englert. Many more could be mentioned.

There were also many others, who were less outstanding, yet contributed with much important work. Many of them lived in a deeply respectful-religious relation to "the Doctor". Steiner was quoted with a special radiance in their eyes. The next generation had less of that. The tendency to personal worship leveled out more for every decade.

Today, the anthroposophical work is carried on by people of the -68 generation together with younger people. The admiration for Steiner, that was a carrying element during the first part of the 20th century has been replaced by a more level-headed and critical attitude. In increasing measure, one can read descriptions in anthroposophical periodical of where Steiner was wrong. 

The opinion is taking hold that anthroposophy exists not by force of Steiner's writings, but by force of every individual anthroposophist who in his or her field of work out of the existing conditions can make the ideas that Steiner investigated fruitful. The first phase in the work is a study and evaluation of the thoughts. An anthroposophist is someone who has taken it upon himself to test Steiner's ideas in practiccal life.

12 years of war

The editors of the journal Humanist under the leadership of Terje Emberland have repeatedly since 1988 waged a war against anthroposophy. Of course criticism is necessary. It sharpens the consciousness and awareness of what is wrong and what is developing in a wrong direction in the anthroposophical movement. But is it too much to ask that the critics investigate the actual circumstances before firing? It seems so. The criticism has not been based on investigations of the anthroposophical work being done in Norway today at Steiner schools, in agriculture, medicine, work for mentally handicapped and in other ways.

Emberland brings in attacks from abroad that to a large extent have consisted in digging out statements by Steiner meant to show that he was inhuman, to then assert that since anthroposophists are orthodox followers of Steiner, their work must be warned against. You can notice a clear casting of suspicion on people with a spiritual orientation in life, and when anthroposophical descriptions of supersensible conditions are being described, they become comical ghost stories that anthroposophists don't recognize. That is what turns out when you write about a spiritual world, whose existence you don't acknowledge.

In 1993, Emberland presented an article by Håkan Blomqvist with allegations about secret rooms of Steiner schools, their ritual magic, religious indoctrination and demonizing of the life of instincts, that the authorities were duped, that state support of Steiner schools should be withdrawn and so on. The glaring  allegations were supported by Emberland's colorful layout and photographic manipulations. When that came to the attention of the public, it led to harassment of Steiner school pupils. 

In an interview with Emberland in Humanist Nr 6-88, Blomqvist asserted that what he said was based on a thorough knowledge of the subject, as he for a short time had been a member of the Anthroposophical Society, and also was "born into it", as his parents were anthroposophists. His allegations about the schools were rejected by several Waldorf teachers in a following issue of Humanist, and his parents - when asked - denied that they were anthroposophists.

This time, Emberland has put an imported product from US on the market, with the accusations by Staudenmaier about anthroposophical racism and fascism, and again he uses vulgar photographic manipulations as marketing tools. It is effective in effective combat against a world view one dislikes, to try to connect it to nazism and fascism, but when the attacks to such an extent as now is the case are built on superficial study of the sources, loose rumors and leaving out of relevant informations, they loose their credibility. But they do harm. It is an old experience that untrue accusations also do harm and as a Latin proverb says: "Semper aliquid haeret"; something always remains behind.

A recent example: A young couple have for about a year had their child at a Steiner school outside Oslo. The child gets on well at school and the parents have been very satisfied. Then one day they are visited by a friend who is an eager reader of "Humanist". As he hears that their child goes to the Steiner school, he exclaims: "But you must not send your child to such a Nazi nest!". And then he explained about everything he had read in Humanist, and the young parents were terrified, to use a mild expression.

During the following time, they were suffering serious doubts about  their choice and asked themselves: Is this nice school environment only a superficial cover behind which there are evil intentions? Will our child be indoctrinated into a devilish ideology? In conversations with the teachers at school and other parents during the following weeks, they again start to trust their own experiences of the Steiner school, in such a way that the child maybe will continue at the school, but the poisonous accusations that their friend mediated has created an anxiety that continues to linger in their mind

Some months have passed since the publication of the article by Staudenmaier. It can be noted that no other papers or other media have caught on to and referred to the article. It has not been considered to be good stuff. An attack that to such an extent shoots above the goal does not stand out as interesting to report on.

(Translation from Norwegian: Sune Nordwall)

1. Rudolf Steiner: My Life. Chapter XXII.
2. Uwe Werner: Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (1933-1945). R Oldenbourg Verlag, München 1999.
3. Elisabeth Klein: Begegnungen. Mitteilenswertes aus meinem Leben. Verlag die Kommenden, Freiburg i. Br. 1978, s. 82.
4. Anthroposophen und Nationalsozialismus. Flensburger Hefte nr 32, Flensburg 1991, s. 23.