Romano Guardini was one of the most important intellectuals of German Catholicism in the twentieth century. He influenced nearly an entire generation of German Catholic theologians and was the leading figure of the German Catholic youth movement as it grew exponentially in the 1920s. Yet there are many open questions about his early intellectual development and his academic contribution to religious, cultural, social and political questions in the Weimar Republic and in National Socialist Germany. This article draws upon Guardini’s publications, the secondary literature on Guardini and on some archival material, seeking to outline his early development and his engagement with the ideological context following World War I and in National Socialist Germany. Here Guardini’s criticisms of the modern age are presented. Besides this many other issues are addressed, such as his criticism of the women’s movement, his understanding of the youth movement, reception of Carl Schmitt, views of race, interpretation of the controversial Volk-concept, contribution to a Jewish journal in 1933, and his basic positions on the issues of obedience, order and authority. While Guardini was viewed critically by some National Socialists in the Third Reich, the administrative correspondences on him in the 1940s actually show that there was an internal debate about him among the National Socialist officials. This involved different figures, including a diplomat who came to Guardini’s defense. The internal disagreements were made more complicated because Guardini’s brothers were apparently members of the Fascist Party in Italy at this time.
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