Takumi Satō, Afterword to the Japanese Edition of Mosse’s “Nationalization of the Masses”

George L. Mosse. Taishū no kokuminka – Nachizumu ni itaru seiji shinboru to taishū bunka [The Nationalization of the Masses: Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany from the Napoleonic Wars through the Third Reich]. Translated by Satō Takumi and Satō Yasuko. Tokyo: Chikuma Gakugei Bunko, 2021. 455 PP. ISBN: 9784480510297.

Afterword of the “Chikuma Gakugei Bunko Edition”
Translated by Michael Hayata

The Impact of “The Nationalization of the Masses” on the Japanese Reading World

This translation (first edition 1994), the first collaborative work between me and my wife, will be revived a quarter of a century later as a Gakugei Bunko edition.  First of all, I am very thankful for having come across the works of George L. Mosse and for being able to introduce them to Japan.  I am also very happy that I was able to make revisions to a previous translation that had been weighing on my mind for a long time.  We hope that this book will be widely read by new readers of the younger generation.

This book is a history of political symbolism which deals with the ritual cultures that drive communities.  It regards twentieth-century Nazism (National Socialism) as a culmination of nationalism and analyzes the development of nationalism itself, as a “secular religion” originating in  the French Revolution, through popular rituals and symbols.  Hobsbawm and Ranger’s Invention of Tradition (original work 1983, Japanese translation in 1992) is perhaps more famous amongst works that examine the creation of national traditions by the mass media. However, Mosse’s book is the first work cited in Hobsbawm’s treatise.

I would like to first briefly discuss my encounter with Mosse’s works.  While attending the doctoral program at the Graduate School of Letters at Kyoto University (1986-89), I studied the history of modern Germany, particularly the propaganda work of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.  After returning to Japan from my two-year study in Munich (1987-89), I became an assistant at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Journalism (1990-94) and began writing my doctoral dissertation, Taishū senden no shinwa: Marukusu kara Hitorā he no mediashi [The Myth of Mass Propaganda – Media History from Marx to Hitler] (Kōbundo, 1992, now Chikuma Gakugei Bunko). During this process, I still remember the shock of discovering a book whose subtitle is “Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany from the Napoleonic Wars through the Third Reich.”  This is because my dissertation also envisioned “political symbols and mass movements” from the same period as the basis of a history of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

I immediately searched for Mosse’s original work and started reading it.  My first reaction was to be chagrined at my sense of defeat.  I saw a figure who had conquered the summit that I was trying to climb from the other side.  However, it was not long before I felt as though I could hear the sigh of this historian.  Amongst my research material, it was rare to have such a reading experience where I resonated with the workings of the author’s mind.  This was the only book that I wanted to translate myself as I felt something like a spiritual kinship with it.  After publishing my doctoral dissertation, the first thing I undertook was the translation of this book. This is a collaborative work with my wife, Yasuko, who I met while studying in Germany. The framework of Nationalization of the Masses has become widely used in Japanese academia since the publication of the Japanese translation in 1994 as Mosse’s other works were translated in Japan one after another:

  • George L. Mosse. Nashonarizumu to sekushuariti: shimin dōtoku to nachizumu [Nationalism and Sexuality]. Translated by Satō Takumi and Satō Yasuko. Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobō, 1996.
  • George L. Mosse. Yudayajin no doitsu: shūkyō to minzoku wo koete [German Jews beyond Judaism]. Traslanted by Miyake Akiyoshi. Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1996.
  • George L. Mosse. Ferukisshu kakumei: doitsu minzoku shugi kara han yudayajin shugi he [The Crisis of German Ideology]. Traslated by Uemura Kazuhide. Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobō, 1998.
  • George L. Mosse. Eirei: tsukurareta sekai taisen no kioku [Fallen Soldiers]. Translated by Miyatake Michiko. Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobō, 2002.
  • George L. Mosse. Otoko no imēji: danseisei no sōzō to kindai shakai [The Image of Man]. Translated by Hosoya Makoto, Kodama Ryūko, Kaizuma Keiko. Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2005.

Mosse is one of the few Western historians whose major works have been translated into the Japanese language. However, there were several different transliterations of his last name in Japanese across multiple works when we published our translation in 1994. When I contacted Mosse himself about this by letter, he responded by saying, “Use the German phonetic notation, like my great uncle Albert Mosse who had stayed in Japan.”  Therefore, I made the mistake of transliterating his name as “Georuge L. Mosse” [Japanese transliteration of the German name, George] rather than Jyōji [Japanese transliteration of the English name, George] for the first edition.  Incidentally, Albert Mosse (1846-1925) came to Japan at the invitation of the Meiji government in 1882 when he was a judge in the Prussian court system.  As a legal adviser to the Home Ministry, he helped draft the Constitution of the Empire of Japan and is known as the “father of the Meiji Constitution.” He was also involved in drafting the Municipal Code of 1888 and came to be identified as the “father of local governance” before his return to Germany in 1890.

The name was corrected as “Jyōji L. Mosse” after the reprint, but “Georuge” still remains in several online bibliographies. I was ashamed of my ignorance each time I saw this.  The German variant of George should be “Georuku” [Japanese transliteration of German name, Georg] in the first place, but I seemed to have identified Mosse with the poet Stefan George at that time.  It was during my second translation project on Mosse’s works, Nashonarizumu to sekushuariti [Nationalism and Sexuality] (Kashiwa Shobō, 1996), that I read the autobiographical interview, “Always an Emigre: Conversations with George L. Mosse” (George Mosse, interview by Irene Runge and Uwe Stelbrink, Ich bleibe Emigrant: Gespräche mit George L. Mosse (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1991).  I still vividly remember being astonished at learning that he was called “Gerhard” when was growing up during the Weimar Republic period.  At any rate, the Japanese reading world’s response to the translation of this important history book was unexpectedly large.  The following are book reviews on it that I have seen (in order of publication date).

  • Noda Nobuo, “Doitsu dentō seiji to Nachi no renzokusei o shōmei,” Asahi Shimbun, April 17, 1994.
  • Anonymous, “Fashizumu wa ikani seiritsu shita no ka,” Sankei Shimbun, June 21, 1994.
  • Kimura Seiji, “Yōroppa kindai no seiji bunka shiron tōgō no katei o kenshō,” Shūkan dokushojin, April 22, 1994.
  • Nonaka Kazuya, “Shinboru ni yoru jiko sūhai e no yūdō,” Akahata, May 9, 1994.
  • Yashiro Azusa, “Dorama to shite no seiji’ wo kyūmei,” Tosho Shimbun, May 14, 1994.
  • Kinoshita Naoyuki, “Taishū no ‘Tōkyōjin’-ka tomo yomeru hon,” Tōkyōjin, June 1994.
  • Miichi Masatoshi, “Dokusho nichiroku,” Shūkan dokushojin, October 21, 1994.
  • Nishikawa Nagao, “Kokumin sūhai no saigi to shingaku,” Shisō, November 1994.
  • Kawate Keiichi, “Kokumin-ka shita ‘atarashii seiji,’” Rekishigaku kenkyū, February 1995.
  • Tazaki Hideaki, “Towa heiwa no tame no bukku katarogu,” Bungei, Summer 1995.
  • Inoue Shigeko, “Shohyō,” Doitsu kenkyū 22 (1996).

In addition to leading figures in the study of German history from all across Japan, such as Nobuo Noda (Professor of Kyoto University) and Seiji Kimura (Professor of the University of Tokyo), even the Communist Party newspaper Akahata and the conservative national newspaper Sankei Shimbun gazed intensely at the theme of “nationalization” despite their ideological differences.  I would like to quote here a book review that left a particular impression on me.  Nagao Nishikawa (Professor of Ritsumeikan University), a representative scholar of the academic generation that criticized the nation-state during the 1990s, begins his book review in this way (this excerpt is from Nagao Nishikawa’s Kokumin kokkaron no shatei: aruiwa kokumin to iu kaibutsu ni tsuite, Kashiwa Shobō, 1998).

Almost twenty years have passed since the publication of the original English book, but even today, it approaches us with a charm that is fresher than ever rather than having lost its strong impact.  Perhaps this is because of the current historical situation, in which phenomenon that can be described as historical reversals – such as neo-Nazis and ethnic cleansing – are appearing in various places across the globe.  More fundamentally, this book submits another definitive view of the “nation-state,” which now wraps the earth and forces change everywhere, through an analysis that characterizes fascism as a “new politics.”  This book overturns the current dominant view of fascism and democracy at its foundation.

Inoue Shigeko (Professor of Sophia University), who participated in Professor Mosse’s seminar during her stay at the University of Munich, has also written a valuable record on the charms of this famous and charismatic professor.  Inoue writes that she remembers having a strong impression on this “teacher’s ability” to encourage students to speak freely in a relaxed atmosphere and to bring the discussion to a conclusion towards the direction of his insistence.

Mosse was more than aware of the magical power of the experiences of people actively participating in the community.  He was a historian who emphasized the importance of “participation” in regard to both thesis and method.  He was able to do this perhaps because, as the translator points out, his starting point as a historian was the historical study of the Baroque period (an era when theater was important, and one when ideology sparked like fireworks within the real world in the midst of religious conflict). The book covered by this book review is truly the most systematic historical work on the realization of the desire of the masses to participate in the community.

The Media of Popular Participation: Celebratory Spaces and Monuments

The charm of Mosse’s seminar can be felt in this book.  To what extent did the Nazi movement possess a system that the general masses could participate in?  This book tackled such a question with theories of symbolism and is a masterpiece that opened a new stage towards understanding fascism.  The title Nationalization of the Masses is drawn from the following passage in Mein Kampf, in which Adolf Hitler describes the goals of the National Socialist Movement:

The nationalization of the great masses can never take place by way of half measures, by a weak emphasis upon a so-called objective viewpoint, but by a ruthless and fanatic one-sided orientation as to the goal to be aimed at.

“Nationalization” is achieved by the masses plunging their own moving bodies into the ritual order of national ceremonies.  Mosse summarizes the purpose of his writing in the preface to the Japanese version as follows:

Many of us who experienced this period say we disdain Nazi propaganda and its emotional mobilization of the masses but forget the following fact.  The problem was ultimately a political style based on popular sovereignty that had already been recognized as one of the central challenges of modern times since Rousseau and the French Revolution.  In other words, it is a problem on how to incorporate the general public into the nation-state and how to offer them a sense of belonging.

Mosse creates the term “new politics” to refer to a political style that visually presents to the masses the possibility of their participation in politics as a nation.  This does not refer to the rational debates idealized by advocates of parliamentary democracies, but a style of street publicness that relies on the aesthetic expressions of national monuments and public festivals.  This “new politics” originates from Rousseau’s general will and the French Revolution’s notion of popular sovereignty.  Throughout the nineteenth century, it developed a style of self-expression and self-worship on the part of the masses and exerted tremendous influence on their nationalist movements.  From this perspective, Mosse perceives National Socialism as not a movement of propaganda or manipulation, but one of sympathy and consensus.  If the public comes to appreciate democracy from their sense of political participation, then are not Hitlerites also democrats?

After defining the “new politics” that produces the drama of popular participation in Chapter 1, this book analyzes political aesthetics from multiple angles, including literature, art, architecture, and theater (Chapter 2).  It then dramatically depicts the process through which such supporters as architects and artists (Chapter 3), the civic circles and churches of gymnasts and choirs (Chapters 4, 5, 6), and even labor organizations (Chapter 7) were integrated into the political cult of Nazism.

The book’s subject of analysis also includes the entirety of German cultural history, from painting, sculpture, architecture, hymns, drama, sports, to working-class culture.  Such analysis utilizes an abundance of findings from not only history, but also theology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and the study of art.  The book’s analysis of the constituent parts of “holy spaces” that act as the stage of political festivals, including monuments, public squares, and theaters, are particularly attractive and can be read as a theory of media event. Furthermore, it offers some answers to such provocative themes as how Nazism accepted modernist art (Chapter 5), what did the entry of autonomous associations into the public sphere bring about in nationalism (Chapter 6), and what kind of model the labor movement provided for the Nazi movement (Chapter 7).

The masses are drawn into the political arena by not only political organizations, but also a wide range of cultural activities and media information, such as festivals, myths, monuments, art, novels, music, and theater.  If that is the case, then every act of communication within everyday life has traces of political meaning.  Just as “what I have done” and “what I have failed to do” constitute a sin within the Christian Coniteor, apoliticism cannot be forgiven regardless of whether you participate in political communication or ignore it.  Of course, Mosse also directed his criticisms at the German people who cloaked themselves in political indifference and made excuses that “the Holocaust was beyond our imagination.”  However, he even more harshly criticized the urban educated bourgeoisie (Bildungsbürgertum) who locked themselves in their “ideological cocoon” without getting their hands dirty with the reality of popular politics.

These men were not content to build bridges from the present to the future, but rather sought to bypass such dreary work and leap across the stormy river.  (George L. Mosse, Germans and Jews: The Right, the Left, and the Search for a Third Force in Pre-Nazi Germany, 1970, 32.)

This is because “politics as a drama,” which the public participated in and which intellectuals turned a blind eye to, did not end with Nazism.  It was performed in “beautiful clothing” in the television era and again in the internet era.  Therefore, Mosse was critical of works that explained the success of the Nazi movement in terms of “propaganda” and “terror.”

The accusation that through propaganda the Nazis attempted to erect a terrorist world of illusions can be upheld only in part.  No one would deny the presence of terror, but enough evidence has accumulated to account for the genuine popularity of Nazi literature and art which did not need the stimulus of terrorism to become effective.  This is true for the Nazi political style as well; it was popular because it was built upon a familiar and congenial tradition.  (George L. Mosse, The Nationalization of the Masses, 1975, 11.)

In other words, Hitler’s success was not driven by propaganda techniques that manipulated the masses, but by the mass’s own participation and acquirement of identity within symbolic consensus building. Mosse summarizes this point in the following sentence:

I always disliked the word propaganda.  It’s a very misleading word in this connection because propaganda means manipulation.  But I believe fascist mass movements were in fact movements of consensus rather than of manipulation.  (Nazism: A Historical and Comparative Analysis of National Socialism, Transaction Pub. 1978, 115.)

This understanding of Nazism may include Mosse’s criticism of the postwar defense that “the German people were also victims of the absolute propaganda of Nazism.”  In regard to what influenced the German masses on antisemitism, he emphasizes the influence of culture and mythology, as opposed to the Jewish people themselves as actual economic and social beings.  In other words, the “symbol” of the Jewish people was interconnected with such anxieties as middle-class alienation, crisis within the social hierarchy, and urbanization.  To understand these symbolic functions, we must use theological categories that explain the effects of religious rituals.  Despite being a history book, Mosse also casts a doubtful eye on historical research based on statistical figures and official documents.  On the other hand, this book features deep insights into aspects of popular culture that historians had never tried to cover until now, such as the best-selling novels of obscure writers and kitsch mass-reproduced art.

Towards a Media History of Mass Participation

Translating the word “nation” is especially important to understand this book’s theory of “nationalization.”  The culmination of the bad habit of translating nation into Japanese as “kokka” (state) would be the mistranslation of Nazism as “state socialism” (kokka shakai shugi).  To begin with, how can we translate Nazism as “state socialism” without translating the “national revolution” (kokumin kakumei) advocated by Nazism as “state revolution” (kokka kakumei)?  Various dictionaries still use “Nazism = state socialism” in Japan, even though a decent scholar of German history would not use “state socialism.”  Japan’s distorted understanding of nationalism exists in the background of this.  For example, Maruyama Masao, the representative political scientist of postwar Japan, translated nationalism in the Meiji era as “kokuminshugi” (nationalism) and the ultra-nationalism of the Showa prewar period as “chōkokkashugi” (ultra-statism).  He evaluated the former nationalism as a moment of “progress” and criticized the latter nationalism as a “reactionary” one.  Naturally, the nationalism associated with the postwar democratic constitution’s “popular sovereignty” should have been “nationalism” instead of “statism.”    However, as Mosse made clear in this book, Nazism was built on the French Revolution’s political traditions of “popular sovereignty” and “democracy.”  In that sense, fascism was born in the “nationalism” that the modernist Masao Maruyama tried to rescue.

How convenient would it be for the modernists if National Socialism was an unusual and incomparable phenomenon that was not concerned with popular sovereignty or national welfare.  Such nightmares were supposed to be severed from history as outliers.  As this book shows, however, Nazism is a movement that thoroughly carried out the “nationalization of the masses.” It must also not be forgotten that the new word, “mass communication,” which was established in the United States in the 1930s, was born as a mirror image of Nazi propaganda.

Ariyama Teruo (Professor of Seijo University) states that this theory of “nationalization” had a great impact on Japanese researchers on not only German history and Western history, but also Japanese history.  This is clear from the following passage in his article, “Senji taisei to kokuminka” [Wartime Structure and Nationalization] (Annual Report of Contemporary Japanese History no. 7, 2001):

As Mosse himself states, “I believe that the method used here can be applied to other nations than Germany” (emphasis added).  This can be applied to the situation in Japan.  The society faced the challenge of “nationalization” after the emergence of the masses.  In doing so, it also experienced the appearance of a political style called “new politics” that used myths, symbols, rituals, and festivals to form the belief in unity amongst the people… Compared to research that until recently looked to such external crises as the Manchurian Incident to understand the opportunity to intensify propaganda and control, this can now be thought as a problem that was internal to society.

You can also read here the rise of a new field of history, “media history,” which considers fascism as “mass participation” rather than “mass manipulation.”  Japan’s “media history” is a historical sociological field that emerged after the end of the Cold War during the 1990s.  The “history of journalism” prior to that assumed the viewpoint of a vertical model of power (media suppression from above by state power), while marginalizing that of a horizontal model of power as shown by Michel Foucault (a peer pressure system between the media and the recipient).  Therefore, historical works on the newspapers and broadcasting of the Showa prewar/occupation period have often depicted them as “victims” of the military and GHQ, while portraying the resistance of journalists as “heroic.”  Such a “mass manipulation” historical perspective has been widely accepted by scholars as a one-way communication model from sender to receiver.  This is because the people on the receiving end were also victims of wartime mobilization in the story of “mass deception by the proclamations of Imperial General Headquarters” and were not held responsible for the war.  However, with a two-way personal media becoming deeply widespread today, it is becoming easier to accept the “popular participation” historical perspective that chases after the active responsibility of the media and the people in the Showa prewar period.

My book “King” no jidai: kokumin taishū zasshi no kōkyōsei [The Age of King: The Public Sphere of National Popular Magazines] (Iwanami Shoten, 2002, Japan Society of Publishing Studies Award, Suntory Arts Award, and now an Iwanami Gendai Bunko edition) is a work that represents this trend.  It applies Mosse’s thesis of “nationalization” to modern Japanese history.  In fact, the epigraph in the beginning of that book is the same passage from Hitler’s Mein Kampf (1925) that was quoted earlier in this book.

As Japan’s first “million-copies magazine,” the national popular magazine King (1924-57) was an icon of popular culture that lived up to this label.  The magazine was first published by Seiji Noma, president of the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai Kōdansha (currently Kōdansha).  Noma was a “magazine mogul” who referred to himself as an “advertisement lunatic.”  In my book, I analyzed this magazine as an “ultra-magazine” that facilitated national integration, or a “magazine that functioned like the radio or talkie.”  Within cultural history, King has often been critically referred to as a “vulgar war criminal magazine” that supported militarism. In my Introduction, I reject such an old moralistic history of journalism based on the “wartime mobilization as evil and resistance as good” dualism.  Of course, this account is strongly conscious of Mosse’s Nationalization of the Masses.

Studies on the media under the wartime regime have now become a kind of boom. I myself have continued research on the media in such a trend, but feel uncomfortable with the current state of things, whether it be the traditional criticism of fascism or a new framework on the discourse of war responsibility.  Certainly, it is true that research on fascism have mass-produced criticisms that are a sort of “political correctness” alibi, but how many of these studies have given thought to their own possibility of becoming fascist?  In addition, there are many scholars who criticize the “nation” and the concept of “history as story” (Geschichte).  As a magazine that approached the end of the war by printing “national mass magazine” on the cover from its May 1944 issue, Fuji (King) may be a suitable object of this criticism.  However, it is also true that the public devoured “myths” that were only seen as foolish in the eyes of intellectuals.   I cannot bring myself to criticize the weaknesses of the masses who sought relief in such “myths.”  At the same time, I would also like to be cautious about denouncing the weakness of the writers and media outlets that supplied the “stories” craved by the public.  If we continue to criticize the nation-state, we may end up with “100 million Recommendations for Total Refugee Status.”  Who will be happy if all Japanese people embrace a refugee mentality?  Perhaps happy refugees are no more than a small group of the strongest.  Such a denunciation of weakness leads to a politics that justifies only the strong.  Is that not what fascism is?  A narrative of fascism that subjects people to a “friend or foe” test should not be the only way we can criticize fascism.

As far as the mass media is concerned, the “mobilization/control as evil and resistance/deviation as good” dualistic thinking may turn a blind eye to the essence of the problem.  For an archeology of information society, should we not overcome an enlightenment that acts as if it is preaching good and evil to a child, and have the strong spirit to seek a realm beyond good and evil?  While this is natural, it is also ironic that research on King, which extolled its own national morality, would move towards a study on the ontology of the mass media rather than its moral ethics.

I believe that this can be connected to an encouragement of a reconsideration of the “King era” framework’s periodization (1925-1957), which is usually divided into the Taisho Democracy period, the Showa fascist period, and the postwar democracy period.  If you dare create a thesis from this conclusion, you can say this:

Fascism is also a form of democratic politics (as defined as participatory politics) that was created during the Taisho Democracy period from the participation of the masses in the formation of public opinion.  Like King, the system of wartime total mobilization (as defined as total participation), which nationalized the masses, did not end with the country’s defeat (as defined as the end of the war).

After that, I continued my research on the new media history of the Showa prewar period, which did not conform to a narrative of fascism that subjected people to a “friend or foe” fumi-e test.  Therefore, after studying King, I conducted research on the Intelligence Bureau’s Intelligence Officer, Major Suzuki Kurazō, who is regarded as the ringleader that forced such publishers as Kōdansha to cooperate with the war effort during the Second World War.  He was called “the dictator of Japan’s world of thought” by Kiyoshi Kiyosawa and “Japan’s mini-Himmler” by Mimasaka Tarō.

That is my book, Genron tōsei: jyōhōkan Suzuki Kurazō to kyōiku no kokubō kokka [The Control of Speech: Information Officer Kurazo Suzuki and the National Defense State of Education] (Chūkō Shinsho, 2004, Shigeru Yoshida Award).  From a life of extreme poverty, Suzuki worked his way through school to become an Army officer.  He was a unique “military education officer” who graduated from Nihon University’s Faculty of Letters through night classes, became a graduate student, became a research assistant, and furthermore studied education at Tokyo Imperial University as a visiting Army student.  The national defense state that Suzuki envisioned was a leveled society where even a person born into a poor family could play an active role based on their abilities.  Therefore, he did not hide his animosity towards bourgeois intellectual writers while closely interacting with such proletarian writers as Miyamoto Yuriko and Tsuboi Sakae.  At that time, there was a fierce “domestic thought war” fought between the “social education” camp centered on the Army, Kōdansha, and the University of Tokyo’s School of Education, and the “elite education” camp centered on the Navy, Iwanami Shoten, and Kyoto University.  However, Suzuki was dismissed from his position as an intelligence officer in the Information Bureau in April 1942 after the start of the war between Japan and the United States and was demoted to a unit in Manchuria.  My book was widely read as a cross-examination conducted by the assailant of a case on the suppression of speech within the court of History, representing a shift from the “mass manipulation” historical view to the “mass participation” historical view within the history of information control.

Nationalization of the Masses is the theoretical origin of my research on Showa media history, including its culmination into the book, Fashisutoteki kōkyōsei – sōryoku sentaisei no mediashi [Fascist Public Sphere – Media History of the Total War System] (Iwanami Shoten, 2018, Mainichi Publication Culture Award).  In this sense, I think that my encounter with this book was a turning point in my research life.  It is a work that pushed my academic transition from modern German history to media history.

Some readers may still wonder why this work on German history should be understood as a work on media history.  Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, however, write the following in the preface to their book, Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History (1992, ⅶ‐ⅷ.):

More than we worry about Daniel Boorstin, we worry about George Mosse. Mosse criticizes his fellow historians for identifying European nationalism, too narrowly, with the evolution of parliamentarism, while ignoring the counter normative forms that also are nurtured by nationalism. He is saying, in effect, that the evolution of what we call ceremonial politics is equally central to an understanding of European nationalism, and of the fascism to which it gave birth.

The Gaze of the “Media Mogul’s Son”

The personal history of George L. Mosse is crucial in understanding this book as a work of media theory.  The fact that he was not only the grandson of a “media mogul” and the son of a father who shouldered German liberalism and modernism, but was also a German nationalist who became a refugee, allows for a multifaceted analysis.  Gerhard Lachmann Mosse (renamed George after his exile) was born in Berlin, the capital city of the Second Reich, on September 20, 1918 when it was on the brink of defeat during the First World War.  He was the second son of Hans L. Mosse (1885-1944), the director of a large  publishing concern that he had married into when he married Felicia Mosse, the daughter of the founder of the firm, Rudolf Mosse.  The eldest daughter Hilde (1912-1982) and the eldest son Rudolph (1913-58) became a psychiatrist and a diplomat respectively after their exile in the United States.  George was one of the heirs to the Mosse estate, along with his sister Hilde, and the daughter of his brother Rudolf.

The Mosse Publishing House was one of the three major newspaper companies in the Weimar Republic, alongside Ulstein and Hugenberg. It published the elite liberal newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, the long-established tabloid newspaper Volkszeitung, and the largest evening newspaper in Berlin, the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt.  The Mosse family’s business also included the publication of address books and telephone books, as well as an international advertising agency. The headquarters of  the Mosse Publishing House which was located on Berlin’s Leipziger Strasse, is famous as a masterpiece of the expressionist architect Erich Mendelsohn.  During the November Revolution, the Spartacus League occupied the building and used it as a center of activity for their revolution.

As the founder of Mosse Publishing, the name of George’s grandfather Rudolf (1843-1920) still remains at Rudolf-Mosse-Platz in the former West Berlin district and at Rudolf Mosse Street in the former East Berlin district.  Beginning with the Berliner Morgen-Zeitung in 1889, Rudolf established his newspaper concern by acquiring newspapers within the capital city one after another.  Eventually he purchased the Schenkendorf estate outside of Berlin, earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Heidelberg, and entered Berlin’s social circles under the title of “lord of the manor (Rittergutsbesitzer) and honorary doctor.” It seems as though he did not want an aristocratic title as a liberal.  George’s mother, Felicia Mosse, was adopted by Rudolf and later married Hans of the Lachmann family, who were also part of the Jewish business community.  George’s father, Hans, inherited the company’s management rights in 1910 and modernized the management of its advertising business.  “My parent’s generation lived by the ideals of the Enlightenment,” recalls George, and were also “reformed Jews” who worshiped in the German language every Sunday.  As a German nationalist, Hans was a leading member of the Association of German National Jews and supported the German Democratic Party.

This experience of living in one of Berlin’s most preeminent bourgeois households adds a distinctive flavor to this historical narrative.  George had English and French governesses, as well as a dedicated electric automobile.  The family was surrounded by so many servants that his mother could not even remember each of their faces and names.  She lived a life where she never had to dress herself until the family’s exile.  Mosse said, “It was almost like in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries… That way of life has all but disappeared today, but historically it is very interesting.” The Mosse villa in Nollendorfplatz was one of Berlin’s central cultural salons.  As family friends of Foreign Minister Rathenau, they invited diplomats and key figures from various countries to their events, including indoor concerts conducted by Paul Hindemith.

In George’s recollections – who became a refugee at the age of fourteen – life at the Schenkendorf estate was livelier than the social circles of Berlin.  The estate purchased by Rudolf, a hunting enthusiast, included 2,000 acres of farmland and ancillary land.  The residents there worked in coal mines managed by Siemens and did garden work and farming on the Mosse villa. George spent his childhood there listening to the sound of church bells that were gifted to the village to commemorate his birth and had his name “Gerhard” engraved on one of them.  George estimates that by the end of the Weimar Republic, half of the residents supported the Communist Party and the other half supported the Nazi Party (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 14.)

After that, George enrolled in Berlin’s prestigious Mommsen high school (gymnasium) but dropped out of it in a year because he grew tired of learning Latin and had come into conflict with his teacher.  He transferred to an Anglo-American-style boarding school at Salem Castle on the shores of Lake Constance.  The founder of the school was Kurt Hahn, a Jewish educator who was a friend of Mosse’s father.  Known to be an avid German patriot, Hahn attracted the children of aristocrats and the great bourgeoisie at his unique elite educational facility, which incorporated military-style discipline to mold the personalities of students.  Mosse recalls that there were few Nazi party supporters at the school apart from a friend who later became a senior-ranking SS officer (and a monk after the war) (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 33). He later learned that a number of his classmates joined the Nazi party, and were fervant supporters of Hitler. His educational experience at this boarding school is very relevant to the content of this book.

I also have a penchant for German Romanticism – that’s how I grew up. When I see the army, my heart beats faster, it is awful.  I don’t know what causes it, the music, and the rhythm?  Or when I was recently in Erfurt and then in Kyffhäuser; that conditioned me. Also, when I am in the forest, in such a beautiful German forest.  No, I don’t mean that ironically… You see, Prussia was in reality an army with a state attached, due to historical reasons at that time.  From that particular state construction, a certain mentality followed … (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 83.)

I trust this book’s analysis of nationalism because the author honestly confesses his own feelings as a nationalist until his exile.

George heard news of the rise of Hitler’s government at his boarding school.  Despite his parents’ plea for their son’s prompt escape, the director did not allow George to leave the country until his exams were over.  He was the only member of his family that was left behind in Germany.  It is said that this strict teacher was later laid off because she refused to use Mein Kampf as teaching material for its “poor German.”  George fled to Switzerland, where his mother and sister were, at 10:30 pm on the final day of his exams.  It was the day before the German government banned the use of ferries without a “clearance stamp.”  The family reunited in England the next year. “Thus, the German obsession for order and punctuality is what saved me… and that is a very German story. (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 30.)

Mosse newspapers were suppressed under Nazi rule.  On April 9, 1933, a representative of his father Hans was “threatened with a pistol” and forced to sign a document that transferred their management rights to the Nazis. Hans went into exile in Paris to join his family.  Hermann Göring later demanded Hans return to Germany on the pretense that he suspected a breach of trust on the part of the newspaper’s management and used the Jewish employees as hostages.  Göring also proposed issuing a certificate of “Aryanization” to Mosse if he met his conditions.  It is likely that the Third Reich wanted to take advantage of Mosse Publishing’s domestic fame and its international network of advertising industries.  Of course, Hans refused to accept Göring’s proposal and continued his life in exile. As stateless Jews, his mother and brother moved around with Turkish passports, his father a Costa Rican one, and George one issued by Luxemburg.

To be without a homeland is something very modern, very new. Today I can say that for me, a nation is as good as its passport. We learned that in the thirties (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 36.)

However, at that time, everyone in the Mosse family, including George, thought that he would eventually return to Germany.  George also remembers his father hearing news of the Röhm Purge in June 1934 and saying, “It’s all over. Let’s return home again.”

I just have a refugee mentality, and it is something you just cannot rid yourself of.  I cannot say that National Socialism ruined my own life, but it committed such horrors on the Jews. The Jews learned from that. Some said to themselves in those years that they no longer needed roots, but most were looking for them. One sat always in trains that were departing, and those are the exile years, and that is why I shall actually remain the eternal emigrant.” (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 36.)

George was politically awakened by the Spanish Civil War after entering the University of Cambridge in 1937.  He was a member of the “Popular Front generation” that supported Stalin.  Shocked by the Hitler-Stalin Agreement of 1939, though, he moved away from communism.  Reflecting on the fact that he had not been aware of Stalin’s crackdown on the Trotskyites at that time, he states:

There are always excuses for what one does not want to know. We even had our ‘sins’ in that regard. (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 46.)

Such candidness is the greatest virtue for historians. When asked why he majored in history at Cambridge University, Mosse replied that it was the “gentleman’s subject” and that he was “never an especially good student.” (Ich bleibe Emigrant, 59.)

The Mosse family moved to the United States in 1939, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.  George would never return back to “Gerhard.”  However, due to the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, the huge German assets of the Mosse family located in the former German Democratic Republic  that were confiscated by the Nazi regime were returned to the Mosse heirs.  As a result, the George L. Mosse Program in History was established at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to support  broad historical studies including European, Jewish, and LGBTQ+ topics. The American Historical Association began  awarding the George L. Mosse Prize in 2000.

I exchanged letters with Professor Mosse after starting work on this translation of his book.  We promised to meet in Germany during the summer of 1999, but he passed away on January 22nd of that same year.  Therefore, it is very unfortunate that I did not have the opportunity to meet him in person.  However, if I had come into direct contact with his charisma, perhaps I would have stayed a little longer in the study of German history.  I was caught up in such thoughts while retranslating this book into the new edition.

Finally, I would like to touch upon the work of my wife, Yasuko, who co-translated Mosse’s The Nationalization of the Masses and Nationalism and Sexuality with me. Yasuko Sato’s Mission School (Chūkō Shinsho, 2006) is a book that uses Mosse’s concept of “civil ​​respectability” to understand representations of Christian mission schools within modern Japan. As a result of these kinds of works in many different research areas, including gender, religion, and education, Mosse’s influence continues to be passed down in Japan by the younger generation.

We would like to express our special gratitude to Hiroyuki Ishijima of the editorial department at Chikuma Shobō for creating the opportunity to reissue the book as a Gakugei Bunko edition, as well as Yoshihiro Kitamura and Kanako Moriya for their editorship.


October 2020
Takumi Satō

Sato TakumiSatō Takumi is Professor, Vice-Dean at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Education (media culture). Recipient of the Shijuhōshō (Medal with Purple Ribbon)—the highest honor for scholarly achievements – conferred by the Emperor of Japan in 2020. He studied at Ludwig Maximilian University (Research Center of Modern History) (1987-1989) and received his PhD from Kyoto University. His research focuses on mass communication during contemporary history of Germany and Japan. He is the past president of Japan Society of Journalism and Mass Communication. His publications include 20 single authored book, 19 edited books and 80 professional articles. “Kingu” no jidai (The Age of “King”)2002 is a detailed interpretation of the history and the impact of propaganda by this most popular magazine, with its importance recognized by the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences. Genrontōsei (Control of the Freedom of Press) 2004 was awarded the Yoshida Shigeru Prize. ​Fascist teki Kōkyōsei (The Fascist Public Sphere) 2018 was awarded the Mainichi Culture Prize. ​Hachigatsu Jūgonichi no Shinwa (the Myth of August 15th) 2005 is now being translated into English. George L. Mosse’s work, especially his “nationalization of the masses” is Professor Satō’s key theoretical framework.

Michael HayataMichael Hayata is a Ph.D. Candidate in modern Japanese history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dissertation examines the Japanese colonization of Hokkaido and political activism within indigenous Ainu communities during the first half of the twentieth century.

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