The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Harden, Maximilian

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Harden, Maximilian
Edition of 1920. See also Maximilian Harden on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HARDEN, Maximilian (Felix Ernst), German publicist: b. Berlin, 20 Oct. 1861. He was the son of a Jewish merchant named Witkowski, and was educated at the French Gymnasium, at Berlin. He first attracted attention by essays of a literary character, published in the periodicals Die Nation, Gegenwart, Frankfurter Zeitung, and still more by those of a political and social character, written for the Gegenwart under the pseudonym of “Apostata.” In October 1892, Harden founded Die Zukunft, a weekly periodical, which was successful from the beginning. Harden succeeds in assuming, on most public questions, an attitude of isolation, intensified by a lack of consideration for other persons, and strengthened by a wide and aptly-applied erudition, together with unusual powers of formulation. The latter are sometimes handicapped by more or less obscure allusions, particularly to persons and incidents in those portions of the Old Testament that are less widely read. Harden has frequently taken positions that were unpopular; he undertook to champion Bismarck after the latter's dismissal by William II; he criticised Caprivi severely when he was Chancellor, and his attacks on the social evils of Berlin were charged as muck-raking. In 1890 he was sentenced to six months' captivity in a fortress for lèse majesté. He acquired a universal reputation by his attacks, in 1907, on Prince Philip von Eulenburg and other friends of Emperor William II, all of whom he accused of abnormal and perverse teadencies, and of the perpetration of immoral acts. Chiefly, however, he objected to their forming a sort of camarilla around the emperor and isolating him from the nation. He maintained that they prevented the emperor, in 1905 and 1906, from assuming a more vigorous policy in the dispute then in progress between his country and France and England over the Morocco question, and that they influenced him to make concessions to France that were injurious to the national dignity and the vital interests of the German Empire. The scandal Harden thus called forth resulted in the exposure of certain immoral practices by several persons of the imperial court, and in the disgrace of a number of intimate personal friends of the emperor. One of the latter, Aide-de-Camp General Count Kuno von Moltke look legal action against Harden. After a sensational trial, the latter was acquitted by a lower court at Berlin. But the incident had aroused so much interest through its revelations, that the Socialists began to use it as material for their attacks on the government of William II. Accordingly, the imperial prosecutor for Berlin himself inaugurated proceedings against Harden before the Court of Correction, and, after a trial conducted chiefly behind closed doors, obtained a sentence against Harden of four months' imprisonment for defamation of character. Most of the witnesses who had inculpated von Moltke in the first trial withdrew or altered their testimony in the second, in order to obviate a scandal, in accordance with an understanding with the authorities. It was later maintained that Harden had simply been the tool of Holstein (q.v.) and other members of the anti-French party in the Moroccan affair.

After the outbreak of the European War, Harden and his weekly Die Zukunft continued to assume a consistently critical character, repeatedly championing the actions of Germany's opponents to the detriment of the German government. Especially after the entrance of the United States into the war, Harden often called attention to the idealistic motives of the American government and people, designating the American nation as a “great storehouse of idealism,” and assuring German bureaucracy, that it was guilty of a serious error in underestimating the naval and military powers of the new enemy. Frequently his expressions in this connection caused a suppression of the offending numbers of the Zukunft; thus, the number of 24 Aug. 1918 was suppressed because it contained an article by Harden on the expulsion of Count Lichnowsky (q.v.) from the Prussian upper house, for having written the so-called “Lichnowsky Memoir.” In general, Harden wrote, in these attacks on the Prussian government and on German imperialism, from the standpoint of the Liberal Democrat, who wished to see, a businesslike, efficient, but not monarchic or bureaucratic, régime established in Germany. To this extent he may be considered a national reformer, but not a revolutionist. His attitude toward the Russian Revolution, after the November 1917 coup d'état, was that of bitter hostility. His published works are ‘Apostata’ (2 vols, of essays, Berlin 1892); ‘Theater und Literatur’ (essays, Berlin 1896); ‘Kampfgenosse Sudermann’ (Berlin 1903); ‘Kopfe’ (2 vols. of character studies, including one on Rockefeller, Berlin 1910-11; 2d ed., 1912); ‘Prozesse’ (“Famous Trials,” essays, Berlin 1913). Consult autobiographical sketch in Zukunft (10 Oct. 1903); Bahr, Hermann, ‘Maximilian Harden’ (in Neues Wiener Tageblatt, 13 Nov. 1904).

Jacob Wittmer Hartmann,
Assistant Professor of the German Language and Literature, The College of the City of New York.