A Vast and Admirable Intelligence Dedicated to Wanton Destruction

Roguish caricatures of German soldiers singing, "Today, Germany is Ours; Tomorrow, the Whole World. Underneath a bold caption reads, "OH YEAH?"

An anti-German poster produced in America during World War II.

[Letter to Paul Springer. This letter was written during a time of solitude when Nibley went Zion Park and spent several weeks alone with nature following World War II. The earlier writings he refers to are letters he wrote from Germany during the occupation in which he harshly excoriated the German people, among whom he had previously worked as a missionary.]

Salt Lake City, “various dates,” 1946

Tovarich,

Emerging from the lost world of the Utah-Arizona boundary country I find another of your notes awaiting me at the Hurricane post-office. They had given up hope of ever seeing me again and were on the verge of burning it; I hope now that they have learned a simple lesson — Nibley always comes back. It is a terrible blow to learn, as I do by inference, that things I wrote you long ago in a black and somewhat hysterical mood, are being preserved. For what? How much do you want? I assure you the tension, suspicion, and sheer despair that filled the air of Heidelberg were at times simply unbearable. Everybody was flying off the handle, but I was particularly miserable because I knew the fundamental excellence that lay beneath the rubble-heaps of folly and ruin, and that a vast and admirable intelligence was being dedicated to wanton destruction.

Why must the Germans behave that way? I was walking behind an elderly couple in the woods one day as they discoursed on Hitler. He was nothing but an Abenteuer, they decided, a sordid opportunist — and they might have known it all along, fools that they had been, for couldn’t anyone see that he had dark hair instead of blond!

My adolescent thinking was all cast in the German mold, and that I do not regret; it is the Germans themselves who have not been true to their great tradition — you have no idea how sterile and immoral the Nazi mind was, or do you? They were tactless and incorrigible and played right into the hands of the real perennial war-makers – their bad manners were their undoing, but I knew all along that in the field of geopolitics and trouble-making they were strictly second-string. Stop me, my sweet, before I get too specific.

I have been moving around like mad. Going to be stuck in Salt Lake for the summer. I am an editor, no less. Also doing quite a bit of hack writing. But when the leaves begin to fall I shall repair to Provo, for Brother Brigham’s celebrated academy has charms that make the blandishments of Claremont seemed positively repulsive by comparison…

The solitude of the desert did much to alter my weak and impressionable mentality…Right now I am finishing up one of my pretentiously documented studies, and desperately fear that the final touches will require a flying visit to Berkeley, in which case I hope to have a glimpse of your rude but noble countenance in the not too utter future and experience the benign offices of that delicious counter-irritant whom the world knows as your devoted, if misled, wife. Try to carry on until then, with the assurance that old Nibs will back you up every time you try to go forward.

Love & kisses (free trial package),

Hugo

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About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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