Rudolf Steiner on Heinrich von Treitschke
- and Peter Staudenmaier's and Peter Zeger's description of Rudolf Steiner's comments on Treitschke

As part of an argumentation by Peter Staudenmaier and Peter Zegers that Rudolf Steiner was an anti-Semite, they in the article "Anthroposophy and its Defenders" write:

"... throughout his life Steiner consorted with notoriously bitter antisemites and was by his own account on entirely friendly terms with them. The passages in Mein Lebensgang on his relationship with Heinrich von Treitschke, for example, are straightforwardly admiring of this towering figure on the German right, who was the foremost intellectual ally of militant anti-Semitism (Treitschke coined the Nazi slogan "The Jews are our misfortune")."
What Staudenmaier and Zegers describe as the "relationship" between Steiner and the historian Heinrich von Treitschke  - as one of the notoriously bitter anti-Semites that Steiner according to them "consorted with" "throughout his life" "on entirely friendly terms" - is "documented" by Steiner in his autobiography as a description of one personal meeting during a lunch, when Treitschke at one time visited Weimar, where Steiner at the time worked at the Goethe archives, editing the Natural Scientific works by Goethe. Nothing in the autobiography indicates that Steiner personally met Treitschke more than on the one occasion he describes (see below).

In his autobiography, Steiner devotes much time to describing and characterizing numerous of the people he met through his life, focussing on describing them from an empathetic-objective purely human perspective, and restricting possible negative comments on them.

This is also characteristic of his description of the professor or history at the University of Berlin Heinrich von Treitschke, on whom he restricts his personal criticism to telling that one did not gain any relation to Treitschke's views when listening to him, telling between the lines that that also was Steiner's "relation" to them.

At one time, Bernhard Suphan, the director of the Goethe Institute in Weimar, a cultural center in Germany, invited Steiner, in his early thirties at the time, along with a number of other people to a luncheon, to which also the well known historian Treitschke was invited.

In contrast to a Ludwig Laistner, that Steiner in the same chapter of his autobiography describes as someone with whom he developed a friendly relation, Steiner describes Treitschke as a lonely person who was characterized by being deaf, living completely in his own thoughts about the world, stuck in his own personality, and with whom it was impossible to have a personal conversation in a more full, normal sense.

On Treitschke's views of the world, Steiner describes them as characterized by strongly personal sympathies and antipathies, and indirectly telling that he - as mentioned - did not gain any relation to them when he met him personally and listened to him either, when Treitschke at one time visited Weimar.

Steiner's description of Treitschke (for the original, see here) is:

"Among the visitors to Weimar was Heinrich von Treitschke. I had the opportunity of meeting him when Suphan included me among the guests invited to meet Treitschke at luncheon.
     I received a deep impression from this very controversial personality. Treitschke was quite deaf. Others conversed with him by writing whatever they wished to say on a little tablet which Treitschke would hand them. The effect of this was that in any company where he chanced to be his person became the central point. When one had written down something, he then talked about this without the development of a real conversation.
     He was present in a far more intensive way for the others than were these for him. This had passed over into his whole attitude of mind. He spoke without having to reckon upon objections such as meet another when imparting his thoughts in a group of men. It could clearly be seen how this fact had fixed its roots in his self-consciousness. Since he could not hear any opposition to his thoughts, he was strongly impressed with the worth of what he himself thought. 

The first question that Treitschke addressed to me was to ask where I came from. I replied that I was an Austrian. Treitschke responded: “The Austrians are either entirely good and gifted men, or else rascals.” He said such things as this, and one became aware that the loneliness in which his mind dwelt because of the deafness drove him to paradoxes, and found in these a satisfaction.
     Luncheon guests usually remained at Suphan's the whole afternoon. So it was this time also when Treitschke was among them. One could see this personality unfold itself. The broad-shouldered man had something in his spiritual personality also through which he impressed himself upon a wide circle of his fellow-men.
     One could not say that Treitschke lectured. For everything he said bore a personal character. An earnest craving to express himself was manifest in every word. How commanding was his tone even when he was only narrating something! He wished his words to lay hold upon the emotions of the other person also. An unusual fire which sparkled from his eyes accompanied his assertions.
     The conversation touched upon Moltke's conception of the world as this had found expression in his memoirs. Treitschke objected to the impersonal way - suggestive of mathematical thinking – in which Moltke conceived world-phenomena. He could not judge things otherwise than with a ground-tone of strongly personal sympathies and antipathies.
     Men like Treitschke, who stick so fast in their own personalities, can make an impression on other men only when the personal element is at the same time both significant and also interwoven deeply with the things they are setting forth. This was true of Treitschke. When he spoke of something historical, he discoursed as if everything were in the present and he were at hand with all his pleasure and all his displeasure.
     One listened to the man, one received the impression of the personal in unmitigated strength; but one gained no relation to the content of what he said."

One may compare this description by Steiner of the professor of history at the University of Berlin Heinrich von Treitschke with Staudenmaier's and Zegers' description of what he writes, characterizing it as being "straightforwardly admiring of this towering figure on the German right", implying that Steiner in the autobiography describes his admiration both of Treitschke as a person and of his political views and implying that Treitschke was one of those that Steiner had a "relation" and "consorted with" "throughout his life" "on entirely friendly terms" beyond normal courtesy when meeting in more or less public contexts.

For some more examples of Staudenmaier's "scholary" way of describing the sources he asserts that he describes in his works on Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, see here.

For a more extensive study on Steiner's view of Jewry, Judaism and anti-Semitism and the allegation that he should have been an anti-Semite, see "Racial Ideals Lead Mankind Into Decadence"

For more on Steiner's relation to and view of the writings of Treitschke, see Rudolf Steiner and Heinrich von Treitschke by Daniel Hindes.

Copyright 2003-2011: Sune Nordwall
(The publication of the quote from Staudenmaier/Zegers is based on an at one time expressed permission from Staudenmaier to post anything I like from his published texts. The publication of the quote from Rudolf Steiner's autobiography is based on the expressed permission by Rudolf Steiner Press.)