SECRET GERMANY: Stefan George and his Circle by Robert Edward Norton

Who was Stefan George? If you look him up, you will find out that he was born in 1868 and died in 1933, and that he was a poet. In fact, he was one of the most important and influential poets to have written in German, making him as great as Goethe, Hölderlin or Rilke.

However, that was not why I was interested in him. I was interested because he was the mentor and friend to Claus von Stauffenberg, when he was a young man.

Claus von Stauffenberg (1907-1944), Colonel in the German Army and Swabian aristocrat.

Stauffenberg will always be remembered as the person who put the bomb near Hitler, in one (of many) assassinations attempts. Unfortunately, after he left the room, someone nudged the briefcase in which the bomb was planted so that it went behind a barrier. When it exploded, its destructive power killed some of the people in that war room.

But not Hitler. The only person who ever killed Hitler was himself.

In trying to figure out what sort of person could have been an aristocrat, an army officer and the eventual would-be assassin of Adolf Hitler, I found that my steps led me to Stefan George.

Describing George as a poet doesn’t even begin to explain his influence, especially to those of us who are not that plugged-in to poetry. But if I described him as a charismatic leader, a person who had almost shamanistic powers over the young men whom he attracted, then you begin to see what I mean.

Claus with his father Alfred Count von Stauffenberg and brothers Berthold and Alexander. All three brothers were close yet followed different careers: Berthold went into law, Alexander became a history professor and Claus became a soldier.

The Countess von Stauffenberg was, at first, slightly concerned that her three teenaged sons had been smitten with George, and were lobbying her hard to join his circle. So she went to visit him. He must have been extremely charming because she left feeling reassured that no harm would come to her boys.

But as you page through this fascinating account by Robert E. Norton, titled SECRET GERMANY: STEFAN GEORGE AND HIS CIRCLE,  you cannot help but wonder what she had to be reassured about. Look at his face! Doesn’t he seem malevolent? Or as a young person would say today, “The creep factor is awesome”.

The front cover shows a portrait of Stefan George (1868-1933)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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