A Nation of Fliers: German Aviation and the Popular by Peter Fritzsche

By Peter Fritzsche

Big, fragile airships soaring in an enormous sky, battle aces keen about loss of life and destruction, bold younger males launching their handbuilt gliders, schoolchildren donning fuel mask in the course of air-raid drills - the brilliant idealism of flight and its darker carrier in overall struggle come to existence during this booklet approximately Germany's perilous romance with aviation. From the Kaiser's moment Reich to Hitler's 3rd Reich, computing device goals mingled with imperial goals and mastery over the wildlife held the promise of mastery over the political international. this can be renowned background of the trendy period. From the crowds within the shadow of Graf Zeppelin's highly renowned airships, to the myths surrounding the chivalrous fighter pilots of worldwide battle I, and at last to the worldwide achieve of airplanes within the Nineteen Twenties, Fritzsche goals to teach flight to be a wealthy image for power and modernism. yet German aviation was once extra that an exuberant tale of technical accomplishment; it grew to become a dismal story approximately nationalism and conquest. Even earlier than the Nazis, fliers embodied a brand new breed of guys and girls who stood able to fix German strength. The ebook concludes with an exploration of the intersection of recent expertise and nationwide Socialism. by way of drawing from a variety of inner most records, together with these of Lufthansa, the Zeppelin corporation, the German Aero membership, and the papers of "the father of gliding", Oskar Ursinus, in addition to via reading renowned poems, songs, and patriotic appeals, Fritzshe parades via his tale such heroes of aviation as Graf Zeppelin, Manfred von Richthofen, Oswald Boelcke, and Marga von Etzdorf. In doing so he lines the fascination with aviation of Weimar writers from Bertolt Brecht to Ernst Junger, dramatizes the grand twentieth-century spectacle of lots and machines, and seeks to supply a extraordinary photograph of the German mind's eye in a perilous age of technological success and nationalist ardour.

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73 Even Social Democrats portrayed the indefatigable Graf Zeppelin as an exemplary worker, who despite defeats and setbacks always looked forward. " 77 Far more plausibly than the somewhat comic kaiser, Graf Zeppelin represented what many Germans took to be their national virtues: skill, purposefulness, and idealism. Zeppelin the Tatmensch more nearly fitted the aspirations and ambitions of the young empire. Perhaps no contemporary in Wilhelmine Germany enjoyed as much public esteem, as countless Zeppelin plays produced by small-town literary societies, Zeppelin poems published in provincial newspapers, and Zeppelin songs sung on playgrounds attested.

It struck a more ominous and embattled note, but at the same time drew attention to the muscular, almost visible subordination of the elements. In the end, however, the result was invariably the same: the "happy end" of progress saw nature conquered and a new quality of power delivered to humankind. Once this narrative was learned, then catastrophes such as the explosion at Echterdingen could easily be accounted as the price of progress. This was acknowledged quite explicitly by the Viennese writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who recognized Echterdingen as a necessary dramatic device: 43 A completely unblemished success could never have crowned the genius of this man in the same way as this stranger-than-fiction combination of triumph and catastrophe.

42 The popular designation of the zeppelin as "Bezwinger der Luft," or subduer of the air, evoked the physical effort necessary to restrain nature. It struck a more ominous and embattled note, but at the same time drew attention to the muscular, almost visible subordination of the elements. In the end, however, the result was invariably the same: the "happy end" of progress saw nature conquered and a new quality of power delivered to humankind. Once this narrative was learned, then catastrophes such as the explosion at Echterdingen could easily be accounted as the price of progress.

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