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The Heimat Abroad

The Boundaries of Germanness

Krista O'Donnell, Renate Bridenthal, and Nancy Reagin, Eds.

Publication Year: 2005

Germans have been one of the most mobile and dispersed populations on earth. Communities of German speakers, scattered around the globe, have long believed they could recreate their Heimat (homeland) wherever they moved, and that their enclaves could remain truly German. Furthermore, the history of Germany is inextricably tied to Germans outside the homeland who formed new communities that often retained their Germanness. Emigrants, including political, economic, and religious exiles such as Jewish Germans, fostered a nostalgia for home, which, along with longstanding mutual ties of family, trade, and culture, bound them to Germany. The Heimat Abroad is the first book to examine the problem of Germany's long and complex relationship to ethnic Germans outside its national borders. Beyond defining who is German and what makes them so, the book reconceives German identity and history in global terms and challenges the nation state and its borders as the sole basis of German nationalism. Krista O'Donnell is Associate Professor of History, William Paterson University. Nancy Reagin is Professor of History, Pace University. Renete Bridenthal is Emerita Professor of History, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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pp. vii-viii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-14

An idealized German village presented a charming scene for a visitor in 1933: “clean curtains fluttered in front of polished, white-framed windows, and a flower garden bloomed in front of every house. . . . the flowers of grandmother’s Heimat grew there.” Surprisingly, the settlement was in Brazil rather than Bavaria.1 It just as easily could have ...

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Part 1. The Legal and Ideological Context of Diasporic Nationalism

Germans’ preoccupation with their diaspora predates the existence of Germany as a nation. Indeed, the disunity of the various German states in the early nineteenth century, combined with the growing pressures of internal and overseas migration, compelled individual states to define quite consciously who was a citizen and who was not. Uniquely relying on birth and heritage as key criteria for citizenship, these states ...

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Chapter 1. Diasporic Citizens: Germans Abroad in the Framing of German Citizenship Law

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pp. 17-39

The state’s relationship to ethnic Germans abroad, as expressed in German citizenship laws, went through a substantial evolution during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This chapter can only present an overview of these developments, but I hope to suggest which societal developments most influenced citizenship legislation and shifting definitions of the national community in the long term.

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Chapter 2. Home, Nation, Empire: Domestic Germanness and Colonial Citizenship

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pp. 40-57

When the Kaiserreich came into being in 1871, its rulers had little premonition that the young country would soon become an empire, acquiring significant overseas territory in Africa, China, and the Pacific after 1884. Germany’s imposition of power over Kiaochow (a region in the Shandong Peninsula of China, including the city of Qingdao), Cameroon, East Africa (present-day Tanzania), German Samoa, ...

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Chapter 3. German-Speaking People and German Heritage: Nazi Germany and the Problem of Volksgemeinschaft

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pp. 58-81

It has become commonplace to describe the utopia of German National Socialists in their own words as Volksgemeinschaft. English-speaking authors quite often do not translate the word as “national community” or “people’s community” but rather keep it in the original German. This practice intentionally stresses the specifically German character of the concept and particularly its inextricable association with the ideas of National Socialism.

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Part 2. Bonds of Trade and Culture

The German diaspora was not simply a “seeding” of German people from a motherland. Rather, it was a way of seeing the dispersed German- speaking communities, which emerged long after the multiple migrations discussed in this volume’s introduction. The descendants of these dispersed communities were sought out by German nationalists after World War I, who hoped that the German diaspora could prove to be a deterritorialized nation in order to counteract the territorial losses of the German Reich.

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Chapter 4. Blond and Blue-Eyed in Mexico City, 1821 to 1975

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pp. 85-110

Mexico City has long been home to a small but influential community of mostly wealthy German immigrants. Giving an affirmative answer to the question of whether there is a German diaspora, this chapter discusses the negotiation of national identity in the German “colony” in Mexico City. This colony defines itself as those Germans and their descendants who pursue “respectable trades” and subsidize German-language institutions in Mexico City.

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Chapter 5. Jews, Germans, or Americans? German-Jewish Immigrants in the Nineteenth-Century United States

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pp. 111-140

Traditionally the history of Jewish migration to America has been divided into three periods. The first Jews in America were descendants of Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal. They reached the shores of North America in the seventeenth century and founded small communities on the East Coast in harbor cities such as Charleston, Philadelphia, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island. Their numbers remained low.

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Chapter 6. German Landscape: Local Promotion of the Heimat Abroad

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pp. 141-166

In 1869 a German factory worker described his experience at a picnic on Chicago’s North Side. “Nothing thrills a German more than a festival in the woods under the green leaves of oak trees!” he exclaimed. “This [feeling] has clung to our people since the forest life of our ancestors. I forgot that I was so far, so distant from my homeland celebrating a festival under foreign oaks, [and] I had lively conversations with those around me and was full of happiness.”1

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Chapter 7. In Search of Home Abroad: German Jews in Brazil, 1933–45

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pp. 167-183

Ethnicity, no matter how narrowly constructed, is by definition unstable. Internal conflicts (political, generational, or other), relations with the majority society, and international factors all create a constant flux. Any kind of ethnic maintenance, then, is a remarkable phenomenon: it is based on group negotiation and acceptance of myriad variables, all of which are constantly changing.

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Part 3. Islands of Germanness

The diverse communities of ethnic Germans scattered across Central and Eastern Europe are the best-known groups in the German diaspora; they include settlements in Galicia, Volhynia, Bessarabia, Bukovina, the Volga, and Transylvania, to name a few of the most prominent. Certainly, these communities have occupied the most prominent position in domestic German debates about the Auslandsdeutsche.

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Chapter 8. Germans from Russia: The Political Network of a Double Diaspora

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pp. 187-218

There are Germans whose dream landscape is not forests and mountains but wide open plains under a big sky. These are the Russian Germans, transplanted farmers whose origin was in the crowded Southwest German states in the eighteenth century but whose paradise and souls’ Heimat became the Russian steppe, a paradise lost after a century and resought on the plains and pampas of North and South America.

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Chapter 9. When Is a Diaspora Not a Diaspora? Rethinking Nation-Centered Narratives about Germans in Habsburg East Central Europe

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pp. 219-247

With this chapter I want to encourage German historians to broaden their understanding of the term German beyond a nation-state-centered concept that for too long has privileged the German state founded in 1871 as the social, cultural, and political embodiment of a German nation. I suggest that communities in Habsburg East Central Europe, popularly constructed by German politicians and historians ...

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Chapter 10. German Brigadoon? Domesticity and Metropolitan Germans’ Perceptions of Auslandsdeutschen in Southwest Africa and Eastern Europe

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pp. 248-266

In the 1950s play and movie Brigadoon, a Scottish village, wrapped in mist and isolated from the world by magic, is rediscovered by the twentieth century. The modern people who enter the village are delighted to find that its inhabitants have preserved the values, dress, dialect, and lifestyle of an earlier time. The German Sprachinseln of Eastern Europe were never wrapped in mist, but they were effectively ignored ...

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Chapter 11. Tenuousness and Tenacity: The Volksdeutschen of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Holocaust

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pp. 267-286

A 1938 memorandum of the German Reich chancellery defined Volksdeutsche as people whose “language and culture” had “German origins,” although they were not citizens of Germany.1 The German word Volksdeutsch, however, carries overtones of blood and race captured neither in that bland de‹nition nor in the English translation “ethnic Germans.”

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Chapter 12. The Politics of Homeland: Irredentism and Reconciliation in the Policies of German Federal Governments and Expellee Organizations toward Ethnic German Minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, 1949–99

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pp. 287-312

Today ethnic German populations live in four countries in Western Europe and in sixteen countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Their historical origins, size, status, and degree of integration and assimilation differ greatly, not just between East and West but also within each of these broadly defined geographic regions. Numerically, their size has significantly decreased during this century, especially since the end of World War II.

List of Contributors

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pp. 313-315


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pp. 317-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025121
E-ISBN-10: 0472025120
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472030675
Print-ISBN-10: 0472030671

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 1 table
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 651788061
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Heimat Abroad

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Subject Headings

  • Germany -- Emigration and immigration.
  • Jews, German -- Foreign countries.
  • Population transfers -- Germans.
  • Germans -- Foreign countries.
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