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Washing the Corpses of History: The Hollywood Costume Palace, a 1941 Exile Diary by Günther Anders

A translation of Günther Anders’s 1941 diary Der Leichenwäscher der Geschichte”, which first appeared in print in German in 1967. Published in conjunction with the contextualising essay “Hollywood, Exile and New Types of Pictures” which can be read here.


Los Angeles, March 1941[1]

Vita brevis? No, nobody will make me believe that life is short. It’s long—not because of long boredom, but because of its genuinely long duration. At least moving backwards, life is endless. “My” childhood in Breslau stretches into the depths of paleontological prehistory. My mind can only persuade me for a few seconds that my erstwhile namesake and I are one and the same —he must have been a distant ancestor. Schlegel’s Athenaeum Fragments feel “newly released” in comparison, and despite the ocean of literature that lies between now and then they actually no longer appear to be laying it on thick. Viewed from the outside, the house of life may be tiny. But the moment one steps through the door into one’s own space, makes three steps and looks back, the door has already vanished and the space one inhabits turns out to be endless.

7th of March

I now found a job after all, despite being classed an enemy alien and unskilled worker. It is certainly a job that is pretty “odd”: I am washing the corpses of history. It has been a week now that I’ve been part of the cleaning crew at The Hollywood Custom Palace.

The word “Custom” has nothing to do with customs authorities, it actually means costume. For the “Palace”, the massive twelve-story hulk of a building I now spend my days in, is a museum with a full record of humanity’s history of clothes. It is a repository that collects everything our ancestors and contemporaries ever adorned their bodies with or still wear today—their slaves, pets and stately beasts included—so it can be loaned out to the big film companies. Starting with Eve’s fig-leaf “gadget” (two styles: “wax-cloth; opaque” and “latticework”) it reaches all the way into the present to the boots of Nazi storm troopers. These boots (what breath-taking optimism) are here already dangling next to the footwear of other epochs, as if they had already become the siblings of Greek sandals and imperial cuirassier boots; as if they had already become a thing of the past. Were this asked of me, I, an unskilled member of the cleaning crew, would of course be in no position to refuse to polish these boots. And so one fled from the originals only to be at risk of having to clean their replicas in return for payment a few years later at the other end of the world. Still, there are also things to learn here, even the most basic truth of any philosophy of clothes: we humans did not cover our nakedness because we would have frozen to death without clothes, but because we would not have been able to turn ourselves into persons of rank without them; because we would not have been able to establish hierarchies, and attract or intimidate others. The fantastical innovation called “clothing” was of course motivated by needs, but physiological needs were the least of these. Hardly any of the pieces that hang around here are devices for the generation of warmth. Practically all serve to lend gravitas, terrify or compliment, practically all are thus social instruments. This truth is now being hammered into me here—eight-hours a day—whilst I polish, brush or vacuum.

Günther Anders, Hollywood, 1941
Fig. 1. Günther Anders, Hollywood, 1941. Courtesy of the Literary Archive of the Austrian National Library.

10th of March

When I started this job, I had of course expected that this repository of imitation antiquities in the service of the fake world of film would itself be totally fake. But this does not seem to be the case: at least the pieces I am in a position to examine are historically accurate down to the most hidden buttonhole. Who knows, perhaps they are even more accurate than the so-called “genuine articles,” which, having been repaired so and so many times by now, are turning into dust in Europe’s museums of the history of civilization (if they have not already been consumed by the flames). The reason for this historical accuracy is highly peculiar. The research staff tasked to ensure the accuracy of the costumes is for the most part comprised of European—primarily Jewish—historians and archivists. Having been expelled by Hitler, it was only here, at the edge of the Western world, that they found peace. When these academics were fortunate enough to find jobs, jobs in their own research areas even, they were far too inflexible to give up their old work ethic overnight. One can no longer learn many new things in one’s second or third life—and cutting corners is certainly not one of them. Göttingen and the Sorbonne left their mark on these employees of The Hollywood Custom Palace. Although they now serve very vulgar masters, although they would feel embarrassed were they to watch the products created by the industry they now belong to in the presence of one another, it would never occur to them to abandon the incorruptibility and precision they had turned into a habit across the Atlantic in the service of allegedly pure science. The motto “my country, right or wrong” now has its equivalent in the no less shameful “my company, right or wrong.” —Does even one of them realize how they, as refugees, are now turning into messengers? Does even one of them realize that they, “the persecuted,” are now nurturing the heritage of those who have only just beaten them out of the country? Does even one of them sense how ridiculous and eerie this is? Probably not. Those profiteers who take this academic accuracy as a sign that everything is in perfect order certainly don’t. The actors, who will appear as gladiators, crusaders, cardinals, dragoons, Jacobins, or SS-men in the historical Hollywood movies of tomorrow and the day after can thus already today put their minds at ease. They can rest assured that no button will have been placed onto their costumes incorrectly and that none of the ruffs adorning their neck has even the smallest pleat too many. —This, then, is the world I work in, while millions are slaughtering one another on the other side of the Atlantic.

11th of March

No, what I said about the “fidelity” of the pieces is not entirely true after all. We live in an age, or at least in a country, in which things produced today already come into the world in the form of virtual trash. Only the newest products, or better still those made tomorrow, are taken seriously. The goods we rent out here are also subject to this rule, even though they reproduce the past. To stay competitive and satisfy the customer instead of being pushed aside as antiquated antiques, they too must be offered in the newest possible make. Not one piece would be deemed reliable without the very recent date of birth on the back of its label. Even costumes from antiquity are subject to this rule, even they must be available in the latest edition—even what is most covered in dust must sparkle. Let’s assume a distinguished production company, let’s say MGM, were to require Carthaginian elephant saddles for a Salammbo film (the alarming rumor that this was the case was stalking the building yesterday): it is out of the question that a company of the stature of MGM would be offered the three elephant saddles I was asked to work on yesterday—made in 1930, already twelve years old and thus antiquated antiques. Probably because they were still deemed suitable for smaller companies, I was made to attack these old saddles with shoe polish until they finally really did look at once ancient and brand new. But MGM would have to decline products made before 1935 (“that’s the lowest date we could consider”). It’s a question of prestige, and if need be, MGM would even order new old saddles in New York and fly them in.—

14th of March

Last night cinema with L.; went to an imbecile Madame-Pompadour movie to see “our” costumes in action for once. Were we capable of pride, we would have been proud of “our” pieces, for they really were the only thing that was “genuine.” Afterwards, we discussed two points that would be worth pursuing. The first was that this constituted “production out of products” because the film itself was already made from fabricated goods. Just as the manufacturer of bread pudding doesn’t make his product out of flour but out of finished bread, the film-producer turns to completed novels rather than the grain of history. The first step for both, so to speak, is to soak finished goods in order to transform them back into raw material. Might this strange process be a feature of the culture industry as a whole?—The second point concerned the people—there are millions—for whom these “bread-puddings” serve as the only source of knowledge about history. We also talked about the paradox that the production of such forgeries has grown to such giant proportions that it has now itself become a substantial part of history. This means that we cannot gain the truth about our world if we omit the fact of such forgery of history.—We ended by contemplating if history was perhaps always nothing but the continuum of its own self-distortion.

15th of March

It is easier than one might expect to get used to the fact that history and ready-to-wear items blend with one another here. I already think it normal that all items are grouped by country of origin and time period, like items displayed in a museum, but that labels also give size, waistline, collar size, and so forth, as if they were in a department store. I also think it normal that this display includes suits of armor in the style of robber barons, neatly aligned one next to the other (on iron hangers, of course), and that Spartan spears and poisoned darts from Polynesia, bunched into quivers of ten or twenty, are waiting to be loaned out in containers that look like umbrella stands. What I do find difficult to get used to—even though it is a logical consequence of this line of business—is how much value is placed on outshining that which actually was. Still, this is a principle here. One apparently seeks to create the impression that the actual past was meagre in comparison to the inventory on display. If one believes in “progress,” one naturally takes for granted that today’s reproductions of the Middle Ages and Antiquity should be better, bigger, and richer (perhaps even more medieval and antique) than the medieval and antique originals. At least this is how they are here. In the “Knight’s Hall,” for instance: suits of armor—one more splendid than the next, and all so wonderfully spacious that the knights back then (known to have been tiny) would be able to play hide and seek inside of them without difficulty. In the actual Middle Ages luxurious panoply of this kind was of course unknown; its objects have only today managed to catch up with us moderns, or more precisely, only us moderns have managed to elevate the Middle Ages to an agreeable level.—An even stranger experience, and this happened to me yesterday, is when one is given the job of scrubbing five Ottonian crowns (“10th century, head size 111/2 to 15, made in ’39”)—four crowns more than there ever were and could have been in the modest Ottonian period. (By the way, I did this with the same special silver polish I use for my knives at home; I’ll call the brand “History Polish” from now on.) The strange task assigned to me for tomorrow: to properly clean up the three “identical” Napoleons (“1812, Beresina, with sewn-on snow”).

16th of March

So it’s the three Napoleons today. I’m finished with the first and the bottom half of the second, but my attitude toward these three appears to be changing.

I don’t deny of course that the three Napoleons have different sizes, that No. 2 is a hand’s width longer than No. 1, and that No. 3 is a hand’s width longer than No. 2. I also don’t deny that it makes good business sense to have different sizes in store as one cannot predict the chest and leg measurements of the next actor playing Napoleon. I wish to contest, however, that this is the raison d’être of this group of three. There is probably a completely different reason for this multiplication, namely, the anxiety that affects us sons of the Age of Reproduction the moment we find ourselves confronted with a single copy. Well, this is an anxiety only rarely felt in relation to today’s products: when we stand in front of the car A or the bomber-plane B we know that ten, a hundred, if not a thousand identical A’s and B’s exist. We thus know that the continued existence of this make of car or that bomber is guaranteed even if individual examples were to perish. But this is not the case when we turn our head and look back into the past, at the fire that consumed the Library of Alexandria for instance, a library which for the most part comprised of unique items. Looking back thus we begin to panic, regardless of how futile such belated agitation may be; more so even if we remind ourselves that this fire was no exception, that it was not an unfortunate isolated catastrophe, but that the whole of history is nothing but one giant Alexandrian Library. Or to be more precise, that the whole of history has been nothing more than a never-ending inferno turning unique copies into ash—no matter if these are books, laws, institutions, or humans. A single Caesar! Unthinkable! A single Pericles! No, I don’t believe that anyone today would take the risk our ancestors took. Napoleon—take him or leave him. But the risk of producing something as undeniably indispensable as him as a unique item instead of releasing him onto the market in a series, as is right and proper, or, at the least in the form of a product range! I feel ill just thinking about such recklessness. What would have become of the history of the 19th Century if something had happened to this lone Napoleon as early as 1800 or 1801? Now I know, this didn’t come to pass, nothing happened to the man, thank God, he did his stint according to plan. But this doesn’t prove anything, it was nobody’s achievement and doesn’t lessen the carelessness of our ancestors. And with this I have arrived back at the three Beresina uniforms. Futile as this gesture may be, by tripling Napoleon, the management of our palace of clothes may have given in consciously or unconsciously to the urge to distance themselves from the carelessness that reigned in the past. If this is true, I would not only be unable to condemn their motives, I’d have to admit that they would have spoken from my heart.

17th of March

It is of course the quality of our imitations that especially distinguishes them. In comparison to our thoroughly realistic and solid pieces, the originals must have looked like mock-ups, and next to the realism of this whole palace, the past was probably but a world of make-believe. Irrespective of whether one is allowed to turn the relation of being and pretense on its head in this manner, one can certainly ask if the whole of history, specifically the history of warfare, would not have happened differently, should the weapons, suits of armor, and shields already have been as realistic and sturdy back then as our pieces are here. It seems to me that this would have made many wars totally superfluous: the Second and Third Punic War, for instance, and the Second and Third Silesian War also. At the least, history would have progressed at a very different pace and could have reached its laboriously acquired and hard-fought level much earlier. How appallingly ancient was the behavior of Antiquity, how appallingly medieval the Middle Ages, how appallingly slow was the pace at which the centuries crept forward until arriving at their destination, until reaching, well, us. It can no longer even be worked out how much precious time was wasted—time that can never be recouped. Let’s assume that a merciful god would allow us to start the game of world history again from the start, or at least allow us to replay the last 2000 years—who knows if we might not be able to complete this stretch of time in a single century? But what does it help? What’s past is past. And not even our palace of clothes can remedy this.

20th of March

Some items here are even more peculiar. I’m speaking of the ones that don’t reveal at all why they are here, the ones that don’t give away the selling points that could justify their existence. Yesterday, for instance, they pinned a batch of ten Carmelite nuns on me (“big and very big sizes, made in 1930”). This took up my whole day, as the ten costumes were unimaginably dusty. Whilst working away, beating and vacuuming, I vainly tried to imagine in which “historical picture” these ten corpulent and very corpulent nuns could have been featured or may go on to feature. But the questions I asked myself were probably totally pointless—as pointless as the existence of these ten costumes. The unemployed also exist in the universe of things; not to mention a lumpen-proletariat. Excluded from the grace of being slaves and existing for the benefit of other things, its members have been condemned to “hang around”, and indefinitely “linger in existence.” That these unfortunate creatures—my ten Carmelites are of course mere examples—might end up perishing because of their meaninglessness seems a vain hope: if meaningless would ruin the prospect of existing and surviving then this ruin would have happened long ago. Quite the reverse, I’m convinced that this realm knows no revocation: whoever and whatever is registered as an inhabitant of the palace of clothes can never go back. I’m convinced my ten Carmelites are as much subject to the iron law of the Costume Palace as their more fortunate, i. e., more useful sister pieces. This means that they will stay here for eternity—if “eternity” is a word that can be used in this context. They will only be allowed to go the way of all cloth on the day when ten brand-new pieces of their kind are ready to take over and assume their existence. But not even this is something I’d would vouch for. The ontological question asking if these ten new pieces would actually be “different” or if they’d perhaps still be the identical same old ones is such a delicate affair that I will have to leave it to the board of directors to provide an answer.

These are thus the worries, tragedies, problems and hopes I am contending with here, while hundreds of thousands are slaughtering one another, over there across the oceans—distant but real.

21st of March

Read the previous entries. What I suggested on the 11th—none of our antiques is allowed to be antique, all must be up-to-date—may be true, but it was still only half the truth. True, we have our Vulcans, resident gods of fire working with electric hammers, and our Penelopes sowing at machines. By creating more beautiful and more antique swords and garments on a daily basis, they stave off the West’s decline and ensure that its heritage survives and even swells (what more could one want?). But there is also another class of employee. It is also true—and here matters start to become truly dialectical—that every brand-new item must be made to look worn out again in order to ensure that it does not look inauthentic and unconvincing. Every piece is of course already given a certain worn-out feel at inception: no armor, helmet, or coronation mantle would be deemed complete without this primordial use (verdigris, cracks, or fraying edges). But this wear at inception is not enough; it does not stand up to time. As the months and years pass, wear also begins to look unpresentable, if not to say: worn. No surprise, then, that specialist workers are retained who have the sole task of continually maintaining the required used feel and freshening up wear that might already be worn off tomorrow. All this activity happens in a separate hall, and, as long as one bears in mind that it is used to make objects look “old” and not “young,” one could call it “The Make-Up Room of Things.” Those working in there of course use a different name: “The Conservation Room,” a name, which they say with relish and with pride. It is easy to understand this pride. Those working in “The Conservation Room” are listed as “Conservators” in the books, as if their peculiar occupation could be equated to that of restoring Correggios or renewing the weave of worn out Gobelin tapestry. This comparison of course cannot be sustained in earnest. It is not only misleading because our people can do their work without any prior training, which is not the case with true conservators; it is also misleading because they are saving defects. Our unskilled employees are conducting a dialectical form of labor, whereas the specialists who paint paintings and weave tapestries back to health have certainly never heard anything about dialectics. Anyhow, as I stepped into the “Conservation Room” for the first time, I saw the following scene: women (and apparently, some were former Bauhaus students) wearing the fanatical facial expression of those engaged in invisible mending, renewing faded blood stains on “antique garments” in full concentration (on shirts of Roman legionaries and the likes). Then, they neatly stacked the treated pieces as if they were the freshly ironed shirts of their loved ones. —Whilst this was happening, five older gentlemen in another part of the make-up room were working at reviving artificial verdigris on Etruscan or Minoan shields and armor that had become a bit too battered. The Berliner R. is at the head of this not-exactly-ordinary artist colony, even though he is the youngest. Just five years ago this promising student of Kokoschka was predicted to have a great future. And here it is—his greatness. Incidentally, I had a passing acquaintance with R.’s ailing mother in Berlin in the 1920s—she had always been a much more commendable soul than her son. When I think of how this woman (who had conceived her son during the First World War and had become a war widow by the time he was born) stinted herself after the War, suffering from tuberculosis, to give her only son the opportunity to be a Rembrandt, I feel violently ill; with her sacrifice she instead ended up given her darling the chance to become a foreman in God’s own country and to oversee the renewal of Roman bloodstains and chipped verdigris. I hereby vow that the idiotically solemn expression “the meaning of life,” which we once used so unhesitatingly, will in future only pass my lips under duress. Sic transit gloria mundi. Still, R.’s verdigris post is not entirely inglorious: as it supposedly requires specialist skill, he of course earns considerably more than I do in my brush-and-vacuum job, a job that I do indeed already master perfectly, even though I can build on no prior knowledge. In short, R. is part of the palace elite here, or at least he belongs to the elite amongst the employees. And he lets it show. As I found myself in the vicinity of this gang of artists this afternoon, struggling with my assorted cleaning equipment and trailing the metal snake of my vacuum cleaner, his nasty look gave me to understand that he didn’t know me and that he did not wish to be recognized under any circumstance. The poor fellow was evidently mortified that he would have to show his subordinates that he was acquainted with rabble such as me, and this because of a mere coincidence of shared origins. And because I had no desire to punish the man any further for his demise, which seemed like punishment enough, I granted him the favor and played the total stranger even though I was by now practically cleaning beneath his feet. —These are thus the joys and woes of this place here, while over there, and at every moment, hundreds of thousands are slaughtering one another.

23rd of March

If everything in Rome, Florence, Paris, Chartres, Nurnberg, Cracow, if everything over there, were to be reduced to ashes and rubble—which is entirely imaginable—and if this here repository of clothes were to become the sole record of the Europe that once was, would it not immediately undergo a metamorphosis despite being physically unchanged? Would our palace not suddenly stand there as a museum? Could the rentable items that are sown together here or made out of plaster not suddenly lay claim to being edifying cultural goods? Genuine pieces even?

Yes, even this. It would be childish to believe that the world of historical documents could be separated into two chests that are hermetically sealed—a chest full of fakes, a chest full of authentic pieces; one for originals, one for imitations. It would be naive to think that fake means fake across all circumstances. There has been a lively to-and-fro between the two chests since time immemorial and this traffic exists as much today as it did yesterday and the day before. In the course of history, it has happened again and again that items handed down in three versions or even created in ten became—yes: became—originals. Some such items even started out as simple copies. This transformation invariably took place when the items in question were identified as having played a pioneering role in the emergence of something canonical, a role they assumed when the originals they sought to emulate were completely destroyed: not just lost, but also forgotten. As soon as this happened, imitations stepped in and took their place—not only reproductions that were almost contemporary with their originals, but also copies twice, three-times removed, yes, even very late examples that were lone survivors of a mass-produced series. It is not only true that originals are copied, but also that what is copied becomes original. Whether an item is original or fake is often only decided as history advances. By outliving the model they copied, which was usually already a copy itself, and by becoming a model themselves, many a statue or vase that began its life as an inauthentic or second rate piece blossomed into the “genuine” article as the centuries passed. The death of the parents makes the children respectable. (It can of course also happen that one fine day a long-lost original unexpectedly resurfaces in the shovel of a road worker or in the net of a fishing boat. The retroactively genuine piece is then returned to its lower rank). But the faster Europe is laid to waste and the more systematically the originals are buried in ruins, the more rapidly the fool’s gold held here is turning into pure cultural gold. Who knows whether the best years of our costume palace still lie ahead as a repository of “genuine articles”? Who knows if it will not become a kind of Louvre, and this even in my lifetime? This all depends on Hitler alone, on how much he spares over there. I can already today envisage packs of school kids and grandchildren about to enter our stables of clothes for the first time, being cautioned to adopt a respectful silence by their teacher schooling them in cultural values. Just as we fell silent back then in time immemorial (was it Breslau or Berlin?) when we stood for the first time at the threshold of the hall of antiquities, where Greek sculptures were waiting for us—sculptures, that were probably battered plaster-casts made from Roman copies.

26th of March

Read the previous entries. Still not satisfactory. The dialectic of old and new is still not exhausted. Two paradoxes of history need to be factored in (and these paradoxes were not dreamt up by me, but by history itself), namely, that here in America there is nothing older than “good old progress” and nothing newer than the past. With this I mean to say that true Americans, who have for generations rightly been proud of their new world, only have a very recent interest in the old world, in the European Middle Ages for example. It is the second point that counts. For “true Americans”, an old piece acquired by the Metropolitan Museum (for instance) is a “new acquisition” in a very different, much more concrete sense than it is for us: it is not only a newly acquired piece, it is also a “newly acquired past.” Emotionally, they also relate to the past in a different way. Many regard things that belong to a distant past that they do not know as downright suspect, a suspicion similar to the one with which our farmers respond to things that are too modern, too much of tomorrow. They don’t regard young “intellectuals” with Giotto-reproductions above their settees (or even replicas of archaic art) as conservative, they actually view them as avant-gardists, perhaps even as traitors—traitors against the good old frontier spirit, which is exclusively oriented toward the future. Back in Europe, as is well known, enthusiasm for what is early or putatively early was explicitly cultivated by politically right-wing circles. But this is not the case here. On the contrary, someone who buys records with music earlier than Bach is viewed as being “too continental,” “esoteric,” “undemocratic” and is deemed a dubious American, deemed “pink,” that is to say: this someone smells of communism. The FBI men who were recently trying to establish if I always carry bombs in my trouser-pockets or if I do so only on occasion, did so by innocuously inquiring if I like to read books by a certain Hegel (“what do you call him?”)—for in “logistics” Hegel means Marx and Marx means that one was bribed by Stalin in person. They might as well have asked me if I like to listen to records by (“what do you call him?”) Telemann. Interest in the past is viewed as proof for a desire for subversion and revolution. And those who don’t acknowledge this paradox will never be able to understand the specificities of the anti-intellectualism that reigns here.

Their opinion of genuinely old artefacts also informs their attitude toward the rummage that is kept here. To them, it isn’t just the fake old junk we see, it is (at least also) representative of the newest past, a past that their parents and ancestors had not yet known. True, this may have changed a bit in the six years since I first came ashore in New York, for “Antiques Shops” are already sprouting here and there. But the heritage industry that will one day need to reliably supply these shops on a daily basis with fresh old remnants of the past is still underdeveloped. It will take some time for it to boom. To develop into a popular fashion for the masses, meaning, a fashion that is economically viable, this hitherto esoteric taste needs time, and this of course especially in times of war. In brief: here, the past still lies ahead. And I hope that I’ll have long found my way back to old Europe by the time the feverish demand for what is past takes off here. Provided Europe will still exist—or exist again.

4th of April

As I accompanied B. home yesterday, I let slip a few nervous remarks about my miserable job. “I’m the wrong port of call for this kind of thing,” he said dismissively. And as I looked at him in astonishment: “I have no sympathy for your situation at all.” Then he got going: “Those who chose the right wife squander the opportunity to gain experience. Those who find ‘their’ calling merely stay at home. The fingers of those who exclusively play on custom made pianos no longer learn anything.”

“But?”

“Yes: but!” he exclaimed. “Only what doesn’t fit, only what wasn’t made for you, only what is too short here or too long there, only what is wrong is right! It alone leads to experience! It alone is the world!” There was no trace of irony. “Really,” he continued, “you have approached your life in a terribly wrong way. What have you been pursuing? Only ever what was right, only ever what fits. Only ever fulfilment. And now and then you even had the misfortune of finding fulfilment by chance. In this woman. That friend. That occupation. This specific subject. In random pieces of world, which appeared to you as if they had been made to measure and just for you. But my dear fellow, if you ask me, these episodes were the most erroneous parts of your life. Only the hard times in between were right. The years that were filled by coincidences. The jobs you cursed. Should you have acquired some minimal quantum of experience, you would have these times to thank alone, the times you believed to be time lost.” He gestured toward the Mexicans who were laying the road surface in front of the house: “Don’t you think these people didn’t have ‘preferences’ too? And talents fit for other things than tarring roads, in Southern Los Angeles, of all places? Didn’t they feel a ‘vocation’ that might correspond to a line of work that would have fitted like a glove? But they had to do something they felt no calling for, something that did not suit them and simply came their way—in short: the wrong thing. —And who knows the world? You? Or them?”


Notes

[1] Source text of the translation and place of first publication: Günther Anders, “Der Leichenwäscher der Geschichte,” Die Schrift an der Wand: Tagebücher 1941–1966 (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1967), 1–18. I would like to thank the publishing house C.H. Beck for granting permission to publish this translation—Trans.

Günther Anders (born Günther Stern 1902–1992) was a German writer, philosopher, literary author and political activist. He completed his doctorate under Edmund Husserl at University of Freiburg in 1924 and adopted the name "Anders" in the early 1930s. After Hitler’s rise to power, Anders fled into exile, first to Paris in 1933, then to America in 1936. He briefly lectured at the New School for Social Research (New York) before returning to Europe (Vienna) in 1950. In 1966/67 he was a member of the International War Crime Tribunal organized by Bertrand Russell. Anders authored over thirty books, and since his death seven substantial posthumous volumes have appeared. Major publications include: Über das Haben (1928); Kafka: Pro und Contra (1951); Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen 1 & 2 (1956, 1980); Endzeit und Zeitende (1972); Tagebücher und Gedichte (1985); Hiroshima ist überall (1982). Posthumous volumes include: Über Heidegger (2001), Schreib doch mal hard facts über dich, Briefe Hannah Arendt, Günther Anders 1939–75, (2015), Schriften zu Kunst und Film (2020).