The Ex-Nazi Poet You’ve Never Heard Of

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Prussian poet Gottfried Benn landed on the wrong side of history, supporting Hitler’s government in the early 1930s when it promised solutions to the global economic collapse. But by 1934, his allegiance to the regime ended as it became clear the Nazi party were not “cultural pessimists” but rather “criminal politicians.” Over at The New Republic, Adam Thirlwell points to Benn as a “case study in disgrace.”

He gives disgrace its aesthetic form. He experienced life as total defeat, and in this disgrace, he discovered a kind of nihilistic truth. In Benn’s poetry, the real meaning of disgrace was not remorse. No, its real meaning was isolation.


Ian MacAllen is the author of RED SAUCE: HOW ITALIAN FOOD BECAME AMERICAN (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →