He founded an anti-noise association in 1908, warned of the destruction of the environment in 1930 and feared climate change. The opponent of war Theodor Lessing foresaw the disaster of National Socialism and was one of the first victims of the Nazi dictatorship.
At the end of August 1933, the Sudeten German National Socialists assassinated the professor of philosophy from Hanover in exile in the Czech Republic. As early as 1925, students at Volkish had launched an anti-Semitic hate campaign, including calls for murder, against the Jewish publicist, following which he was forced to give up his teaching position at the Technical University.
Today, Theodor Lessing stands next to the names of other university members who were persecuted during the Nazi era on a memorial wall in the atrium of Leibniz University Hannover. A memorial plaque and two stumbling blocks commemorating the intellectual and his wife Ada, who together founded an adult education center in 1919, have only been on the former residential building for a few years. Lessing was one of the Weimar Republic’s most influential political publicists, but he is almost forgotten today. Memorial events have been canceled due to the pandemic, says Rainer Marwedel, who has been dedicated to the life and work of Theodor Lessing for more than 35 years.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary on February 8, 2022, the Donat Verlag Bremen has reissued the book “Once and never again – memories”. In the Wallstein Verlag in Göttingen, under the title “Culture and Nerves. Small Writings 1908-1909”, two published Lessing volumes, edited by Marwedel.
“Theodor Lessing’s work has not yet been made accessible, especially in smaller writings,” says Thedel von Wallmoden, Wallstein’s editor. “What’s exciting to me is his political and social sensorium.” His cultural and psychological considerations are very interesting: “Lessing coined the Jewish term self-hatred. What happens to a minority if it is constantly exposed to the hostility of the majority society? His cultural critique is not a critique of modernity, but a critique of the destructive aspects of modernity.
As early as 1930, Lessing criticized the “logging of forests” in California and Texas and the “coal fumes of giant cities” in articles for the “Prager Tagblatt”. Lessing writes: “Something is changing on our globe. There is climate change coming that could change the way many people live, work and work.”
The author’s foresight is also reflected in his portrait of Paul von Hindenburg on the occasion of his candidacy for the Reich Presidency. Hindenburg is a representative symbol, a question mark, a zero, Lessing wrote in 1925. “One could say: better a zero than a Nero. Unfortunately, history shows that behind a Zero always hides a future Nero.” Eight years later, the Null Hindenburg (Zero) appointed the arsonist Adolf Hitler (Nero) chancellor, explains historian Michael Pechel.
Lessing was an independent thinker. He offended, polemicized, made enemies, including the famous writer Thomas Mann. In 1924, as a reporter, he accompanied the trial of serial killer Fritz Haarmann, whom he described not as a beast but as a product of brutalized society after the First World War. After criticizing the police and the judiciary, Lessing was excluded from the process. He published his analysis in the book “Haarmann – The Story of a Werewolf”, which later inspired films about the serial killer from Hanover. (dpa)