Book Review: The Man Who Invented the Third Reich by Stan Lauryssens
WHEN I first heard that a biography of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck had been published at long last, I almost ran all the way down to my local bookshop to place an order. But sadly, when the book arrived several days later I was immensely disappointed. The £18.99 asking price for such an incredibly thin and lightweight volume as this was merely the first phase of my disillusionment. I soon realised that, despite the publisher’s claim that this work is ‘the only biography currently available on this enigmatic character’, it is simply not a biography of Moeller van den Bruck at all. In fact it is a biography of his counterpart, Adolf Hitler.
Moeller van den Bruck was one of the ideological founders of National-Bolshevism, but here he is relegated to the side-lines of German history and depicted as a rather ordinary man suffering from a debilitating brain disorder. He was, however, the man who had coined the very term ‘Third Reich’, and therefore inadvertently provided a certain plagiarising Austrian corporal with the skeletal outline for his own famous work: Mein Kampf. A signed copy of Moeller van den Bruck’s Das Dritte Reich was discovered in Hitler’s underground death-chamber where he and Eva Braun took their lives in 1945.
Moeller van den Bruck’s terrible illness eventually caused him to end his own miserable existence in 1925, when he collapsed on a wooden stool in the Grunewald mental asylum and put a merciful bullet through his brain. Here, Moeller van den Bruck, in fact, receives on average of one fleeting paragraph for every five pages of repackaged Nazi history. Indeed, whilst the book is written in a very attractive and elegant style – exploring the artistic, philosophical, cultural and political currents in Weimar Germany prior to Hitler’s 1933 ascent to power – the author, a Belgian who himself met and dined with several people in the upper echelons of the Nazi Party, has performed the literary equivalent of Jesus Christ feeding the five thousand with nothing more than a couple of loaves and a handful of fish. In other words, Lauryssens knows as little as the rest of us about the tortured soul who was Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, but he disguises his own shoddy research by stretching the minuscule amount of knowledge he has through 166 pages on the birth of the NSDAP, the abortive 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, and the Russian capture of Berlin. Perhaps the single highlight of this awful book is the epilogue, in which Lauryssens reveals his 1974 interview with Otto Strasser – at that time the last man alive who had personally known Moeller van den Bruck. Strasser himself died the following day, thus giving the unimaginative Stan Laurssens a few snippets of information which he has waited almost sixteen years to reveal.