Bismarck and the German Right

Robert Gerwarth looks at the ways in which Otto von Bismarck was turned into a mythical hero-figure of the right and shows how the ‘Bismarck myth’ contributed to the widespread hunger in German society for a towering leader.

Otto von Bismarck in August 1890
Otto von Bismarck in August 1890

In early July 1944, barely three weeks before the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the leading members of the German resistance movement, Ulrich von Hassel, travelled through the war-torn Third Reich to visit the birthplace of Otto von Bismarck (1815-98) in the north German village of Friedrichsruh. Horrified by the destruction unleashed by Nazi Germany and convinced that Hitler would ultimately destroy Bismarck's proud Reich of 1871, von Hassel noted in his diary:

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