How Can a War Be Holy? Weimar Attitudes Toward Eastern Spirituality

Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


By the beginning of the twentieth century, most areas of the globe had been explored by travelers from Europe. There was, however, one region in the heart of Asia that Europeans had attended to only very sporadically: Tibet. Yet there was an ever-growing drive to explore the culture and environment of this alien country from the first half of the nineteenth century onward. A German geography textbook explained in 1931:

The rule of the priests over the land explains its isolation; for they feed the fanatical dislike of the “foreign devils” amongst the people. But it seems that even the state of the lamas cannot close its borders for all eternity. For centuries Tibet has belonged to China in name, but it has been situated as a buffer state between the Russian and English Empires. At the moment the English have a certain influence in this elevated country, and in 1922 a telegraph line was even installed between India and Lhasa.1


Jewish Community Weimar Republic Shopping Street Eastern Religion Deep Truth 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    See for instance Heinz Hürten, Deutsche Katholiken 1918 bis 1945 (Paderborn, 1992); Gerhard Besier, The Holy See and Hitler’s Germany (Basingstoke, 2007, transl. W.R. Ward); Kurt Nowak, Evangelische Kirche und Weimarer Republik (Weimar, 1988); Michael Brenner and Derek Penslar, eds., In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria 1918–1933 (Bloomington, 1998); Cornelia Hecht, Juden und Antisemitismus in der Weimarer Republik (Bonn, 2003); Wolfgang Benz, Arnold Paucker, and Peter Pulzer, eds., Jüdisches Leben in der Weimarer Republik (Tubingen, 1998); Walter Grab and Julius Schoeps, eds., Juden in der Weimarer Republik (Stuttgart, 1986).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Athanasius Kircher, China monumentis: quà sacris quà profanis, nee non variis nature and artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata (Amstelodami, 1667); Jiirgen Offermanns, Der lange Weg des Zen-Buddhismus nach Deutschland (Stockholm, 2002), 115–32.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Peter Bishop, The Myth of Shangri-La: Tibet, Travel Writing and the Western Creation of Sacred Landscape (London, 1989), 245. For details of the military expedition, see Patrick French, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (London, 1995).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Elisabeth Booz, A Guide to Tibet (London, 1986), 138–9; Donald Lopez, The Story of Buddhism (San Francisco, 2001).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Indra Sengupta, From Salon to Discipline: State, University, and Lndology in Germany, 1821–1914 (Heidelberg, 2005).Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Emil Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet: Illustrated by Literary Documents and Objects of Religious Worship, With an Account of the Buddhist Systems Preceding Lt in Lndia (Leipzig, 1863), 12.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Douglas McGetchin, “Wayward Disciples: lndology and Buddhism in fin-de-siècle Germany” in Sanskrit and “Orientalism”: Lndology and Comparative Linguistics in Germany, 1750–1958, ed. Douglas McGetchin et al. (New Delhi, 2004), 309; Heinrich Dumoulin, “Buddhism and Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Ideas (1981): 457–70; Offermanns, Weg, 205–8.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Walter Schmidt, “Die ‘Fremdreligionen’ in Deutschland: Hinduismus— Buddhismus—Islam,” Evangelische Zentrale für Weltanschaungsfragen, Lnformation Nr. 46 (Stuttgart, 1971): 8.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Klaus-Josef Notz, Der Buddhismus in Deutschland in seinen Selbstdarstellungen (Frankfurt, 1984), 46; Schmidt, “Fremdreligionen,” 9.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    See the website of the Buddhistisches Haus at; B. and R. Hildebrandt and Christiane Knop, eds., Gartenstadt Frohnau (Berlin, 1985), 31. Dahlke opposed some of Georg Grimm’s interpretations of Buddhism and distanced himself from the practice of using Western philosophy to explain central tenets of Buddhism. Notz, Buddhismus, 65.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, eds., Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore (Cambridge, 1997), 273; “Rabindranath Tagore in Berlin,” Vossische Zeitung (June 2, 1921).Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha: Eine indische Dichtung (Berlin, 1922).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Hermann Hesse, My Belief: Essays on Life and Art, ed. Theodore Ziolkowski, transl. Denver Lindley (London, 1976), 382.Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    Hermann Hesse, Die Morgenlandfahrt (Zürich, 1932), and Das Glasperlenspiel (Zurich, 1943).Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    Graf Hermann Keyserling, Das Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen (Darmstadt, 1920, two vols., 4th ed.), 375.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Otfried von Hanstein, Der Klosterschüler von Taschi-lunpo (Hamburg, 1923); Gustav Meyrink, Fledermäuse: Erzählungen, Fragmente, Aufsätze, ed. Eduard Frank (Munich, 1981), 53–67.Google Scholar
  17. 31.
    Alexandra David-Néel, Heilige und Hexer: Glaube und Aberglaube im Land des Lamaismus (Leipzig, 1931).Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    Nikolaus Wachsmann, “Marching under the Swastika: Ernst Jünger and National Socialism, 1918–33,” Journal of Cotemporary History (1998): 578; Rolf von Bockel, Kurt Hiller und die Gruppe Revolutionärer Pazifisten, 1926–1933 (Hamburg, 1990); Dieter Riesenberger, Die katholische Friedensbewegung in der Weimarer Republik (Düsseldorf, 1976); Modris Eksteins, “All Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War,” Journal of Contemporary History (1980): 350.Google Scholar
  19. 42.
    Christoph Gellner, Weisheit, Kunst und Lebenskunst: Fernöstliche Religion und Philosophic bei Hermann Hesse und Bertolt Brecht (Mainz, 1994), 103.Google Scholar
  20. 44.
    Michael Ermarth, ed., Kurt Wolff (Chicago, 1991), 127.Google Scholar
  21. 45.
    Wolfgang Bohn, “Buddhismus und Geistes-Kultur der Gegenwart,” Zeitschrift fur Buddhismus (1921): 3.Google Scholar
  22. 46.
    See, for instance, Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (Berkeley, 2001).Google Scholar
  23. 47.
    Quoted in Deborah Small, “Sadly materialistic…: Perceptions of Shops and Shopping Streets in Weimar Berlin,” Journal of Popular Culture (2000): 150.Google Scholar
  24. 49.
    Albert Tafel, Meine Tibetreise (Stuttgart, 1923, second ed.), 212.Google Scholar
  25. 50.
    Walter Bosshard, Durch Tibet und Turkistan: Reisen im unberührten Asien (Stuttgart, 1930), 239.Google Scholar
  26. 51.
    Paul Bauer, UmdenKantsch: Derzweitedeutsche Angriffaufden Kangchendzönga 1931 (Munich, 1933), 7. Bauer later became one of the most prominent Himalayan mountaineers of the Third Reich, participating in several expeditions to Nanga Parbat, the so-called “German mountain” or “mountain of loyalty”.Google Scholar
  27. 52.
    Konrad Guenther, “Die Tropennatur als Führerin zur Abkehr vom Leben,” Zeitschrift für Buddhismus (1920): 24.Google Scholar
  28. 53.
    Hettie Dyhrenfurth, Memsahb im Himalaja (Leipzig, 1931), 71.Google Scholar
  29. 55.
    Sven Hedin, Ossendowski und die Wahrheit (Leipzig, 1925), 31.Google Scholar
  30. 56.
    Georg Grimm, “Zur Einführung,” Buddhistischer Weltspiegel (1919): 3.Google Scholar
  31. 57.
    Georg Grimm, “Ist die Lehre des Buddha Wissenschaft?,” Buddhistischer Weltspiegel (1920): 100.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Alexander Williams 2011

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations