Weeks after Hitler took power in 1933 an official party publication
appeared entitled Shakespeare – a Germanic Writer, a counter to
those who wanted to ban all foreign influences. At the Propaganda Ministry,
Rainer Schlosser, given charge of German theatre by Goebbels, mused
that Shakespeare was more German than English. After the outbreak of the
war the performance of Shakespeare was banned, though it was quickly
lifted by Hitler in person, a favour extended to no other.
While the Nazis were banning all “foreign influences”, Hitler himself gave Shakespeare a pass, something they did for no one else.
My question is this – how do you feel about that? Does it say more about Shakespeare, or about the Nazis? Is it possible that there is a germ of something in Shakespeare’s work that reinforces what the Nazis believed in? Or is the other way around, is there something so universal in Shakespeare’s work that it still managed to touch whatever shred of humanity might still be buried inside them?
I suppose there is a third option, which seems the most likely the more I think about it — that the Nazis were just very, very good at corrupting whatever they wanted to say whatever they needed. Just because they found idea that they liked in Hamlet does not in any way suggest that Shakespeare meant for them to be there. Or is that just hindsight, protecting our literary idol?
Thoughts? Is it even possible to have a rational discussion about Nazis?