Hedwig Courths-Mahler and the Nazis

HedwigCourthsMahlerOnce upon a time, there was a German girl who loved stories…. When she grew up, she was an industrious writer who produced more than 200 novels. Her novels were so widely regarded that during World War One, cheap editions of her novels were provided to the troops at the front.

And then she was an old woman, with two daughters who were writers as their mother had been. And the Nazis came to power. Hedwig Courths-Mahler clearly did not share the Nazis hatred for Jews— one of her daughters had married a Jewish man, with mother’s approval.

One day a prominent Nazi came to visit the famous writer. He had a suggestion— she should rewrite all her old books, making the villains Jews. And the heroes and heroines should be made over into National Socialist Aryans with blond hair and blue eyes.

Old Hedwig was not about to do that. But neither was she about to defy the Nazis in a way that might threaten her daughters— one of whom was already endangered by being married to a Jew. So she just told the Nazi that she was far too old to do all that work. The Nazi accepted her answer.

From a realistic perspective, had Hedwig wanted her books to be Nazified, she need only have given her consent to some other writer to make the small, necessary changes. Clearly, however, she did not want her life’s work to be turned into propaganda for a party she did not agree with. And, luckily, she did not have to permit this.

This story reminds me a bit about the divided times we live in today. A certain political faction is spreading the belief that all members of the other political party are haters in the same way that the Nazis were haters. And the CEOs of the various publishing houses are overwhelmingly from that certain political faction. Even the best known of the Evangelical Christian publishing houses are owned by these big publishing houses.

I have not yet heard that these publishers are suggesting that some popular and prolific author rewrite his books to make the heroes progressives and the villains political conservatives, prolife & pro-marriage activists, and/or believing Christians. But the ideology of the publishers is affecting the books that are published.

I remember once reading a new author (Charlaine Harris) and in the first book I had hope that the author might have Christian values. The main character went to church regularly. She felt guilty, after taking a vampire as a lover, about having sex outside of marriage. She felt bad that she could never go to church together with her vampire boyfriend.

But as the series progressed, openly homosexual characters were added as ‘good guys’, and a Christian organization which objected to ‘equal rights’ for vampires on the ground that vampires killed people (which was true in the world of the story) was portrayed as an evil conservative ‘hate group’. The Christian pastors in the main character’s small town are portrayed as ‘bigoted against vampires’, therefore evil.

Now, these leftie parts of the story became so strong it was clear that Mrs. Harris was not just responding to pressure from her publisher, that she actually had these opinions. But the publishers are the ones that chose to publish Mrs. Harris, and perhaps reject a half-dozen other writers with potential who happened to be ‘haters’ i.e. Christians and/or conservatives.

So here is the question for many young writers seeking publication: do you go along with the ‘Nazis’ of today who believe that only writers who salute the progressive cause in their writing are non-hateful enough to be published? Or do you follow your own star and hold fast to what you really believe?

More about Hedwig Courths-Mahler:

Wikipedia article in English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedwig_Courths-Mahler

Wikipedia article in German: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedwig_Courths-Mahler

Biography in German: http://www.amazon.de/Hedwig-Courths-Mahler-Leben-Siegfried-Pistorius/dp/3404118324

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