4 December 1941: Kluge, Richter


There was a huge area of high pressure over the Atlantic with its center to the south-west of Ireland. A weak ridge extended in a north-easterly direction over Scandinavia as far as the Arctic Ocean. It separated an extensive low-pressure area over the Polar Sea from a weaker low-pressure area over Russia. At its base cold continental Arctic air mingled with cloud masses pushing up from the south. This was the causal chain which brought about the sudden cold spell of December 1941. According to weather researcher and meteorologist Dr. Hofmeister of the Potsdam Weather Station, by applying the principle of DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY the German forces could have been warned ten days beforehand. In the past, augurs predicted the outcome of a battle by examining the entrails of their sacrificial animals before the fighting began. Today, in the rational December of 1941, meteorologists have replaced the augurs.

DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY does not investigate the actual state of the weather but concentrates its observations on the large-scale movements of the overall circulation which precede and create the distinct shifts in weather. As is proper for a National Socialist, this “totality” is to be ascertained with the tools of INTUITION and not with the methods of PROVABILITY.

The school of dynamic meteorology pressed for an “active intervention in weather conditions.” In order for that to happen, air squadrons would, if necessary, have to bomb cloud masses to a breadth and length of several hundred miles with dry ice and carbonic acid packs. That would only make sense if one knew in advance what such an active intervention set in motion. Dynamic meteorology came too late for the battles on the Eastern Front. On 4 December, however, even before the government departments of the Reich shut down for the St. Nicholas holiday, which had been brought forward, Dr. Hofmeister’s workgroup received confirmation of a government credit to the value of 500,000 Reichsmarks for their research. This could be called the “beginning of the era of dynamic meteorology.”

Alexander Kluge, translated by Martin Chalmers; photograph by Gerhard Richter

From December, by Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter, a “calendar book” featuring a story and a photograph for each day in the month of December, though each from a different year. It was published this fall by Seagull Books.

Alexander Kluge is, as a filmmaker, one of the originators of the New German Cinema movement. He is also the author of novels and books of social criticism. A retrospective of Gerhard Richter’s work, in honor of his eightieth birthday, appeared this year at the Tate in London and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Photograph © by Gerhard Richter

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One Response to 4 December 1941: Kluge, Richter

  1. I’m very fond of Kluge, Case Histories in particular, but have not read this book yet. This piece is notable for its echo of the opening of Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, though I’m not certain of what contrast Kluge is drawing with it.

    “THERE was a depression over the Atlantic. It was travelling eastwards, towards an area of high pressure over Russia, and still showed no tendency to move northwards around it. The isotherms and isotheres were fulfilling their functions. The atmospheric temperature was in proper relation to the average annual temperature, the temperature of the coldest as well as of the hottest month, and the a-periodic monthly variation in temperature. The rising and setting of the sun and of the moon, the phases of the moon, Venus and Saturn’s rings, and many other important phenomena, were in accordance with the fore-casts in the astronomical yearbooks. The vapour in the air was at its highest tension, and the moisture in the air was at its lowest. In short, to use an expression that describes the facts pretty satisfactorily, even though it is somewhat old-fashioned: it was a fine August day in the year 1913.”