Joachim Clemens Fest (December 8, 1926–September 11, 2006) was a German historian, journalist, critic and editor, is best known for his writings and public commentary on Nazi Germany, including an important biography of Adolf Hitler and books about Albert Speer and the German Resistance. He was a leading figure in debate among German historians about the Nazi period.He says: ”History is a fickle mistress and follows curious rules. She has a predilection for questions whose answers always leave something unexplained. She can be seduced by high drama, by splendour and mischief, by the rise and fall of powers and people. When Voltaire was asked why he had chosen to write about Charles XII, he replied that the king had been great, mysterious and mad; that was the stuff of history. On the other hand, history feels contempt for the unfortunate losers, for the causa victa of which Cato was so fond, rather than the causa victrix. History does not care about them; although the story of the defeated can often tell us more about a time than the story of those who seem to be the victors”. (full text).
Joachim Fest – Germany (December 8, 1926–September 11, 2006)
Laudatio: THE GERMAN historian and journalist Joachim C. Fest was a central figure in his country’s postwar debate about the origins and consequences of the Nazi catastrophe. His biography of Hitler, published in 1973, was a bestseller which stimulated national debate for many months. And his other writings, including assessments of the career of Albert Speer, the resistance to Hitler and life in the last days of the Third Reich in the Berlin bunker were also successful.
Fest was also active as a radio and TV journalist, a cultural critic especially during his two decades as co-publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a vigorously conservative political commentator, who challenged all utopian thought from an instinctively sceptical point of view, and was especially critical of what he saw as a leftist establishment holding sway in German life. In recent weeks he had been one of the harshest critics of the novelist Günter Grass, a prominent figure on the Left, following his revelations of wartime service with the Waffen SS — a step Fest had taken pains to avoid. (full text).
Controversial biographer of Hitler: Published: 14 September 2006, Joachim Clemens Fest, writer and historian, born Berlin 8 December 1926, married 1959 Ingrid Ascher (two sons), died Kronberg im Taunus, Germany 11 September 2006. Although he wrote about many aspects of the Germany of his childhood, Nazi Germany, Joachim Fest will be best remembered for his biography of Adolf Hitler. Controversially, he explained the rise of Hitler in the fear of the German middle classes of Bolshevism, in the shape of the large German Communist Party (KPD). But, in many respects, Fest was trying to answer the question which troubled the thinking, caring members of his generation, sometimes called the “Hitler Youth generation” – “How did we, and our parents, get into that awful, diabolical mess, the Hitler mess?” (full text).
September 12, 2006, IN MEMORY OF JOACHIM FEST, the Proud Loner, by Matthias Matussek – Joachim Fest has died. The author of a best-selling biography of Adolf Hitler and former editor of the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has left an impressive life’s work – one of the most important to be produced in Germany since 1945. Fest’s memoirs “Not Me” are a masterpiece. They tell the story of a family that refused to bow to the pressures of history and society. (full text).
… After the success of the Hitler biography Fest was invited to become co-editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a leading German newspaper based in Frankurt and one of the most potent political and cultural institutions in the German-speaking world. From 1973 to 1993 he edited the culture section of the paper. His views were generally conservative, pessimistic and sceptical, and he was particularly critical of the left-wing views that dominated German intellectual life from the late 1960s until the collapse of communism in 1991. He took a leading role in the “historians’ dispute”, in which he was identified with those rejecting what they saw as the Marxist hegemony in German historiography in this period. Shortly before his death, Fest became embroiled in a public dispute with the left-wing writer and Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass, who had admitted in his autobiography that he had joined the Waffen SS in the last months of World War II. Fest criticised Grass not so much for having joined, but for having concealed the fact for so many years while engaging in political criticism of others over their Nazi pasts. He said: “After 60 years, this confession comes a bit too late. I can’t understand how someone who for decades set himself up as a moral authority, a rather smug one, could pull this off”. (full text).
Jens Bisky reviews “Ich Nicht,” the memoirs of Hitler biographer Joachim Fest. The public knows Joachim Fest principally as the man who allowed Albert Speer to lead him around by the nose, as the author of a highly successful Hitler biography, and as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung publisher who printed the essay by Ernst Nolte that triggered the “Historikerstreit,” or “historians’ dispute” (more here). From the perspective of Germany’s memory industry, devoted to coming to terms with the nation’s past, he was always slightly suspect … (full text).
Read: Portrait of Adam von Trott.
Interview with the historian Joachim Fest about Hannah Arendt:
- - What was so impressive about Hannah Arendt as a person? – Her immense vitality and curiosity. She used to say you had to think with body and soul or better not at all. She was distinguished by this complete engagement of her person for that which she thought and that which she did.
- - You followed of course her work and discussed it with her. – Yes, naturally. I’ve always thought The Origins of Totalitarianism, the book which after all gained her world-fame, was a little over-rated. I read Eichmann in Jerusalem and of course Vita Activa. But her best writing are the portraits. They evince such a rich humanity, are so full of loving attention, that they are deeply moving.
- - From your personal acquaintance with Hannah Arendt and your knowledge of her work, how would you judge her public influence? – Back then her influence was very great, no doubt about it. Today, unfortunately, she has been forgotten. In general, it has been the fate of the generation of promising thinkers who began their careers at the time of Hitler to be treated unjustly. Only those are always highlighted who co-operated with the Nazis. People with not so strong a character have an enormous popularity. That holds for quite a few, not least Heidegger. But people like Dolf Sternberger, Friedrich Meinecke or Hannah Arendt – these members of the generation have been eclipsed by those who worked with the Nazis. Sometimes I think, cynically enough, that actually the others chose the right side. It has brought them at any rate a posthumous fame which they would not have otherwise had, and which they do not really deserve.
- (full text).
Works available in English:
- Hitler (ISBN 0-15-602754-2)
- Inside Hitler’s Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich (ISBN 0-374-13577-0)
- The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership (ISBN 0-306-80915-X)
- Speer: The Final Verdict (ISBN 0-15-100556-7)
- Plotting Hitler’s Death: The Story of German Resistance (ISBN 0-8050-5648-3)
Works available in German:
- Ich nicht: Erinnerungen an eine Kindheit und Jugend (ISBN 3-498-05305-1)
- Speer: Eine Biographie, Fischer TB Verlag, 2001, Frankfurt am Main (ISBN 3-596-15093-0)
Joachim Fest, ein konservativer Intellektueller – einer der bekanntesten deutschen Publizisten. 1926 ist er geboren, als Sohn eines Oberschulrates. Sein Vater, ein überzeugter Antinazi, wird 1933 vom Dienst suspendiert. Mit 14 wird Joachim mit einer Hitlerkarikatur erwischt und fliegt von der Schule. Er kommt ins Internat nach Freiburg, muss dort in die Hitlerjugend eintreten. Mit 15 wird er Flakhelfer. Und 1943 Soldat. (full text).
Er sagte: “Ich war von Anfang an beeindruckt von Bernd Eichingers Drehbuch. An einigen Punkten habe ich Korrekturen erbeten, und die Zusammenarbeit zwischen uns war vom ersten Tag an v?g reibungslos, auf einer fast freundschaftlichen Basis, obwohl wir uns vorher nicht kannten. Seit diesen Erfahrungen habe ich das gr? Zutrauen in seine F䨩gkeiten als Autor und Produzent des Films. In gleicher Weise habe ich bei meiner Anwesenheit w䨲end der Dreharbeiten gelernt, dass auch der Regisseur Oliver Hirschbiegel, von dem ich die eine oder andere beeindruckende Arbeit kannte, diesem wirklich groߥn Thema in der besten vorstellbaren Manier gewachsen ist, und dass man sich nach allem, was ich gesehen habe, viel davon versprechen kann. Ich tue es jedenfalls. Das kann ein groߥr Film werden, und ich bin optimistisch, dass er das werden wird”. (full text).
links in german: