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A “Castle of the Order”

At Ordensburg Sonthofen

At Ordensburg Sonthofen

1,535 words

Trans. anonymous

Krössinsee (Pomerania), August 1939

In a kind of immense field opening up in the dense and unbroken mass of the Nordic forest, against the backdrop of the metallic colors of two large lakes, under a sky made particularly lofty by this constant horizontality and straightness, which, so to speak, constitutes the style of this Pomeranian landscape, stands a group of buildings. They are a singular mixture of the primordial, the archaic, and the modern. They, too, are linear, smooth, devoid of any ornamental superfluities, at once hard and clear. Large towers, fences and large huts with colonnades, a large semi-circular amphitheater, buildings with high trapezoidal roofs, long parallellepipeds, great slopes and arenas sharply set off by their particularly violent colors — blood-red and black — against the dark green of the surrounding grass, large squares and paths cut into the lawn and paved with irregularly shaped stones like ancient Roman roads, bleachers, antennas. Over it all ripples a long, red flame, emblazoned with the swastika.

This is Krössinsee, the first “Ordensburg,” the first “Castle of the Order” of the Germanic National Socialist movement.

The Castles of the Order are one of the most characteristic and significant initiatives of Nazism. They are an expression of an exigency of utmost importance for the new anti-Marxist movements: the systematic formation of the future political, governing class, of the men who tomorrow will command.

Ordensburg Krössinsee

Ordensburg Krössinsee

The ordeals of the beginnings of those movements were already a form of selection. The struggle itself differentiated the best elements, setting them apart from the rest and investing them with a natural legitimacy and authority. But for the coming generation, other criteria of selection are needed, given the different circumstances. The question arises if a special education system can breed a stock from which to draw the elements most qualified to assume the leading positions in the party, as they gradually become vacant.

In response to this problem, in Germany, several initiatives have been undertaken. There are so-called “Institutes for social and political education” (Napolas), there are political schools for the leaders of the S.S. (“Schutzstaffeln,” the black corps, the “guard” and “order” of the Nazi revolution). Finally, there are the “Castles of the Order” and the “Adolf Hitler Schools” which are preparatory for the former: both are part of the “German Labor Front” directed by Ley and specifically concerned with the education of party elements.

The principle that informs these institutions is indicated by their name [“Ordensburg,” “Castle of the Order”]: i.e., the idea of an “Order,” on the basis of the ideal of an “elite” that combines a military vocation with special moral qualities. At least in principle, the education imparted by these institutions should be total, encompassing the body, the soul and the spirit in an indissoluble unity. There are, first of all, racial conditions that must be fulfilled: applicants must be perfectly “in order” with regard to race and physical type, and not only in the sense of being well-built — “Nordic,” if possible — and of perfect physical health. Any bodily defect is enough to preclude admission to the Ordensburgen. This institution has no intention of producing leaders who wear glasses, are missing a finger, or have flat feet — to the point of not even making exceptions for those whose physical defect is a consequence of having fought for the Nazi revolution.

Krössinsee Model

Krössinsee Model

The athletic and physical training at this school of future political leaders must not be less demanding than everything pertaining to education and knowledge. Candidates must all learn to ride, swim, box, fence and perform light athletics, row and sail small boats, play tennis, and so on — few varieties of sport are omitted. In addition to this, there is of course properly military training. A characteristic point are the so-called “tests of courage.” Already the Adolf Hitler Schulen, which admit the future cadets of the Ordensburgen when they are still children, demand certain tests: leaping into water from a certain height, even without knowing how to swim, mounting a horse without a saddle, dangerous climbs, and so on. Aspiring cadets of the Ordensburgen are sometimes asked to readily jump out of an airplane with a parachute. The principle in this regard is that physical courage and strength of inner resoluteness are closely related. In general, they want to get rid of the nineteenth-century bureaucratic-parliamentary, bourgeois, or romantic-humanitarian type of leader. Soldierly qualities are given a leading role.

As for the course work, it is characterized by the close connection of special disciplines with the National Socialist “worldview.” These special disciplines are racial theory, prehistory, ancient history, geopolitics and biology. An extensive library is available to cadets: at Krössinsee there is also a special center for study and information regarding the problems and legislation of racism. The general guidelines in terms of worldview are essentially based on the theories of Alfred Rosenberg — which is not without certain dangers, given the various simplifications and contingent adaptations that his theories present. But the institution of the Castles is, after all, very recent, and hence still open to further development even in this regard.

To provide a picture of the entire education system, we should mention that normally, as a preliminary condition for admission to the Ordensburgen, candidates must have attended one of the Adolf Hitler Schulen, to which they are admitted on the basis of special selection by the leaders of the Party youth organizations. The Adolf Hitler Schulen are attended at no cost by youths aged from 10 to 18, for studies combining political and athletic components up to the level of secondary school. After that, the youths must spend six months in the so-called “labor service,” and following that, two years in military service. After this, a period of freedom follows, in which each youth on his own may take up specialized higher studies or dedicate himself to some activity. After a period of about 5 years, i.e., at an age of between 25 and 27 years old, there are the “calls” for admission to Ordensburgen. and an initial selection is made from among those who apply. Three Castles of the Order are planned, along with an initial set of courses, each lasting a year, to be completed one after the other, first in Krössinsee — i.e., the castle we visited — then at Vogelsang, and finally in Sonthofen. For those wishing to become administrators or instructors at the Castles of the Order in their turn, a fourth center is being planned, to be established in Chiemsee, for even more specialized instruction.

As an interesting detail, we will mention that for each year of the normal courses, every cadet is sent for a certain period of time to the region he comes from, to temporarily take on a political office of the party, substituting whoever normally occupies it, in order to gain direct experience of its problems, tasks and responsibilities. This occurs three times, once per year, as an interlude between the courses in the three Castles.

Naturally, during these courses a further selection takes place. Whoever shows themselves to be inadequate in any respect, anyone who falls behind, is not allowed to catch up and is immediately sent back to ordinary life. Like the Adolf Hitler Schulen, the Castles are completely free, candidates are provided for as guests of the state. Needless to say, qualities of character are a decisive factor here, and are put to the test by every possible means. One does not neglect to provide candidates with an orientation in the field of social and even legal problems. For example, civil cases where problems arise that are particularly relevant to the ideas of honor, responsibility, etc. are summoned to the Castles: they take place in the presence of all candidates, who then have to express and discuss their point of view. Once the three courses have been completed, each student of the Castles is presented to the Party, so as to be assigned to responsibilities in conformity with the qualities and the special dispositions which he has demonstrated.

The students at these political schools are called “Junker,” not without a certain tendentiousness. “Junker” is in fact a term that refers to youths from noble German families who have begun a military career, and the “Junkertum” represented a kind of caste, the old aristocratic and military caste, which in the second Reich Germany had an importance that is well known. In giving the same name to the students of the Castles of the Order, who are recruited from all walks of life under the German Labor Front, one is clearly declaring the intention to replace one “elite” with another “elite,” formed on quite different premises, and, in particular, not on the basis of family tradition and caste, but on what is supposed to correspond to a given physical racial type, along with a declared faith in National Socialism.

As already mentioned, the establishment of the Ordensburgen is quite recent. Therefore, only time will tell to what extent this attempt to methodically, we would almost say rationally, create a nursery of future political leaders, a “seminary” of the future German ruling class, has positive potential and constitutes an example worthy of imitation.

Originally published in Corriere Padano, August 22, 1939


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  1. BroncoColorado
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    There is an old humorous observation; these leadership factories were designed to produce future leaders as Nordic as Hitler, as athletic as Goebels, and with the Aryan good looks of Himmler!
    Of course the problem remains, namely how to form and select men and women who will serve the nation. In my humble opinion the system praised by Evola is too rigid and inflexible to generate truly exceptional individuals let alone select them. The French have a similar program in their Grandes Ecoles, but all those institutions appear good for is producing technocrats like Hollande. Adequate in their limited way but almost robotic functionaries.

    • Posted August 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve also seen that joke, I think it has its origins in Allied propaganda. While it’s true that none of those men fully embodied the ideal they championed, that doesn’t negate the ideal. Whether any of them had the humility and honesty to admit their own shortcomings, that I don’t know.

      The system the Germans developed here has clear roots in the Western tradition – in Plato’s Republic and, before that, in the Spartan agoge. (I read elsewhere that Himmler made the men eat a vegetarian diet, in contrast to the Spartans’ pork-cooked-in-its-own-blood standard meal. Not sure if that was an improvement or an impediment.)

      I generally agree with you about rigid systems tending to produce robots, but then lax systems produce useless idiots. Both systems are capable of generating some exceptional individuals – mostly due to the genes and constitutions of those individuals – but I think the ones who come from a more Classical system of training turn out better than those who emerge from a more liberal environment. Evola said, in Men Among the Ruins I think, that the measure of a system is ultimately how conducive it is to the formation of great men.

    • James O'Meara
      Posted August 20, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      ” In my humble opinion the system praised by Evola is too rigid and inflexible to generate truly exceptional individuals let alone select them.”

      This is the problem Hesse studied in his last novel, The Glass Bead Game. The Game preserves the intellectual integrity of a future (2500AD) Europe, but its players — and bureaucrats — are too over-bred and specialized to effectively lead and defend it in time of crisis. I have been kicking around an essay comparing Evola and Hesse on this point….

      • AE
        Posted August 21, 2016 at 1:21 am | Permalink

        I’ve never read The Glass Bead Game as a critique of “rigid” systems. Castalia was dead, not rigid. The players didn’t preserve the “intellectual integrity of a future” as much as they cataloged an old library in slightly novel ways. As in a modern university (and almost the entire modern world) all the arts and all original thought were dead. Source material was used as fodder for the Game, not produced or studied on its own merits. Like Leftists with their many isms (different styles of playing the Game) players filtered everything of value from the past through an inane system with the goal of gaining the recognition of other sterile players and receiving a prestigious post. Knecht always had a foot outside of the system, but when he finally transcended it they tried to stop him. “I cannot simultaneously believe in our system and in your personal right to violate it,” the President said. This wasn’t a problem of rigidity, but of the leveling impulse of bureaucracy and modernity.

        Honestly, I don’t think any system would be considered too rigid or inflexible by Hesse as long as it was somewhat tolerant of other paths and existed alongside them, i.e., as long as it wasn’t too Abrahamic. I don’t mean “tolerant” in a hippie sense, but in the sense that made Danielou praise Indian civilization. If these Nazi orders had a more vertical orientation (and if Hesse wasn’t as fond of his Jewish wife?) I think he might’ve learned to recognize them as upaya. He might’ve learned to say, like Siddhartha to Govinda: “May you follow this path to the end, my friend. May you attain liberation!” Hesse, like Evola, had a knack for identifying transcendent elements in disparate systems and activities, but he never looked as hard as Evola and he never discarded his Enlightenment ideals. Thankfully he wrote only novels.

        • James O'Meara
          Posted August 21, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

          This is a fascinating perspective, and as you note, relevant to today’s problem of PC and the universities. I don’t know what the ‘critical consensus’ is but I think Knecht, and even Hesse, don’t think of Castalia as dead so much as complacent and oblivious to worldly realities. However, an outsider might call it dead, and both Plinio, from the secular world, and Fr. Jacobus, from the monastic world, both call it sterile.

          As I point out in the Lovecraft review just published, and elsewhere, this ability to ‘see’ new and perhaps seemingly ‘outlandish’ connections is essential to artistic and even scientific creativity (see Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas on epistemes (Foucault) and paradigms (Feyerabend)). The founders of Castalia seem to have decided this was too dangerous, and divert this creativity not into new systems of thought or works of art, but, as you say, into a bureaucratic competition among isolated “experts.”

          I suppose the idea was to preserve the ideal of Truth, and prevent its corruption into ideologies and propaganda, thus preserving social peace, but at the price of sterility and, as Knecht sees, irrelevance and hence the danger of being discarded as an expensive luxury.

  2. James O'Meara
    Posted August 21, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    ” This institution has no intention of producing leaders who wear glasses, are missing a finger, or have flat feet — to the point of not even making exceptions for those whose physical defect is a consequence of having fought for the Nazi revolution.”

    I can see why the Federation will be defeated by the arachnids of Klaatu — allowing a one-armed loser like Michael Ironside to teach political philosophy.

  3. Ogier the Dane
    Posted August 21, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “This institution has no intention of producing leaders who wear glasses, are missing a finger, or have flat feet — to the point of not even making exceptions for those whose physical defect is a consequence of having fought for the Nazi revolution.” Himmler wore glasses, Hitler sometimes reading glasses, Goebbles with his foot, Ernst Röhm, Leon Degrelle and Otto Skorzeny with their battle scars, and who is to say Hitler would even have passed first examination, since he failed his physical exam for the Austrian Army. If your ideals would block the founders and heros of the very movement these ideals are meant to nurture, then they might be a bit off somewhere. Save the harsh physical requirements, the focus on courage especially would weed out much of the weak character trades that cause our current leaders to fascilitate the destruction of their own peoples. But would it prevent the current tendensies of the elites to feel aloof their populations, when they so evidently are their superiors in every way?

    • Michael Adkins
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Aloofness is their problem, but our gain.

  4. Sylvie
    Posted August 21, 2016 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Criticising the “Ordensburg” system on the grounds that the NS founders would never have been selected is as strange as criticising a father for sending his son to an elite university where he never would have been admitted himself.

    The Ordensburg selection principle had its shortcomings but was by far preferable to our pseudo “democratic” fabrication of nobodies like Obama, Clinton, Merkel, etc.

    We destroyed a system that actually could have saved us.

  5. Steuckers
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The Ordensburg Sonthofen has been completely renovated and will become barracks of the German Army (Bundeswehr). Very impressive. I took nice pictures of it. If you want them, please don’t hesitate to ask!

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Sure, send them along.

    • Walter
      Posted August 28, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Steuckers: I passed Sonthofen last year and suddenly saw the Ordensburg from the road (I think it is Bundesstr. 19). As a passenger, I took a few pictures from the moving car. Very impressive. Even at a distance, there was something fascinating about the whole structure: Setting, size, proportions, color, building material, architecture, light-and-shadow play. In NS architecture in particular, something has been brought out that gives deep satisfaction with the object and its function. This broad perception of the whole is making me think of Wagner’s concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Architecture from the 1920s and 1930s has similar features evrywhere, I remember, for example, a public building I saw in San Juan/Purto Rico years ago that impressed in this manner of fitting in its place and not just built there as a whimsical example of a fashionable architect filling an order.

  6. Steuckers
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I forget to say that I did a part of my military service in the Ordensburg Vogelsang, which was occupied by the Belgian Army till the beginning 1990s. The Burg has also been totally renovated, included the mosaic fresco of the swimming pool. It’s now dedicated to cultural activity and considered as a universal piece of humanity’s patrimonium as the architecture is seen as “feng shui” (i. e. well imbricated in the surrounding nature). The cultural activities will be mainly under the leading of UNESCO authorities. The booklet sold at the entrance is correctly written. Architecture was the Alsatian Klotz. Under Belgian authorities, he could achieve his works and build the last impressive building of the whole complex. The works had been interrupted by the war in September 1939.

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