Even if the controversial Austrian statesman had never existed, Germany would still have a good claim to the title as the world capital of hating. Little effort is made to airbrush hatred out of society here; artists still freely express their utter contempt for bourgeois society, conservatives sneer at mosques, Greens despise fur-wearers, former hippies verbally assault conservatives who have verbally assaulted 70’s leftist radicals, who in turn physically assaulted banks and American military bases. Legal periodicals are filled with professors’ hair-raising broadsides against one another over such topics as the meaning of "negligence" or the interpretation of some obscure paragraph of the civil code. It all makes for great fun, so long as you’re not stuck at some dinner table with one of these cranks.
Why all the hate? A couple of theories. First, there is no particular stigma against openly declaring your hatred. If he hated the book he just read, or if he hates a politician who was just elected, an average German see no particular reason to conceal that fact, just as he see no reason to cover up his dangly bits when he walk into a sauna. German even has an expression English lacks — Intimfeind or "intimate enemy" to capture your feelings for that person who’s given you all of those precious moments of sheer, joyful, exuberant hatred. To paraphrase George Michael, "hate is natural, hate is fun, hate is best when it’s one on one." (from "I Want your
Another reason is hate’s long Teutonic historical pedigree. Do I even have to mention Martin Luther, one of history’s most prodigiously talented haters? Bismarck, once asked by his wife Johanna why he looked so awful one particular morning, famously answered "I spent the whole night hating!" ("Ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt!"). Georg Grosz once confirmed that his artistic inspiration was just plain hate — hate for Germany’s bourgeoisie and ruling classes (see, for example, 1926’s The Pillars of Society). He even had an artistic crisis when he tried to turn away from hatred as an inspiration.
And now to hatred among the learned. Here’s a short passage from Fritz Stern’s The Politics of Cultural Despair: Studies in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (pretty cool Google Book link, no?), Stern’s study of the obscure 19th-century reactionaries whose thought formed the basis of National Socialist ideology. Paul De Lagarde, a learned student of the Bible, was a "brilliantly erratic scholar and moralist who all his life condemned and excoriated the things he most wanted to love." Stern sums up his relationship with other scholars:
Lagarde…would tolerate no criticism of himself and would answer even disinterested comments about his scholarship with invectives and contempt. Not that he practiced the detachment he preached. When he struck at an opponent, it was with offensive innuendoes and indiscriminate broadsides. As a polemicist he transcended all limits — and in the Germany of his day these were generously drawn — and case slurs upon the lives and motives of the most blameless scholars. His polemics, often printed and distributed at his own expense, were frequently wrong in points of scholarship, and alienated not only his victims but the entire guild. His unrestrained anti-Semitism offended a great many people as well. Besides his written attacks, Lagarde denounced his colleagues and their doings in the public meetings of the faculty. In private, he intrigued and conspired against colleagues, and his unpublished correspondence attests his meddlesome concerns for petty academic politics.
One colleague wrote of him: "Lagarde cherished not only the struggle but also the hatred. He wanted to hate." Stern notes in a wry footnote: "Nothing makes the contemporary blandness of American academic controversy more attractive than these reminders of nineteenth-century polemics."