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Title page for ETD etd-06222014-011756

Type of Document Dissertation
Author DeWaal, Jeremy John
Author's Email Address jeremy_dewaal@hotmail.com
URN etd-06222014-011756
Title Redemptive Geographies: The Turn to Local Heimat in West Germany, 1945-1965
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Celia Applegate Committee Member
Helmut Walser Smith Committee Member
James McFarland Committee Member
Michael Bess Committee Member
  • Democratization in West Germany
  • European identification
  • Borderlands
  • Stamm
  • German Federalism.
  • Tag der Heimat
  • Cologne Carnival
  • Luther Committee
  • Expellees
  • Regionalism
  • Re-invention of Tradition
  • Localism
  • Heimat
Date of Defense 2014-05-13
Availability unrestricted
Through a series of case studies, the dissertation argues that a broad cultural turn to local Heimat occurred in early postwar West Germany. While a grandiose vision of nation acted as a redemptive geography during the Third Reich, by the end of the war, amidst trauma, occupation, and tainted national identities, intimate local spaces came to the fore as sites of protection, community, identity, orientation, and a place of “life after death.” Local and regional identities provided alternative media through which West Germans could identify with the new democratic project. Locals reformulated historical memory and local traditions to develop notions of “tolerance,” “federalism,”

“democracy,” “republicanism,” and “world-openness” as tenets of local identities. While border regions formerly understood themselves as national fortresses, after 1945 they shifted to identifying themselves as “world-open bridges.” The dissertation concludes that, while many scholars view cultural democratization as primarily a product of the 1960s, they have overlooked significant developments in the early postwar years in which many sought to identify with democracy and rapprochement with the West.

The dissertation consists of six chapters and a coda. Chapters 1-2 examine a turn to local Heimat in rubble Cologne, the emergence of democracy, world-openness, and tolerance as claimed local values, and identification of their region as a “world-open bridge.” Chapter 3 traces a similar turn in the Hanseatic cities. Chapter 4 reveals related trends in the German Southwest. Chapter 5 probes Heimat enthusiasts’ failed advocacy of federal Heimat states. Chapter 6 examines the expellee tradition Tag der Heimat and divisions between expellees and West Germans on views of Heimat. The coda illustrates how expellee-society use of the Heimat concept during debates over Ostpolitik, along with generational change and long-term economic growth, informed the decline of the concept in the 1960s. It further traces some of the factors in the 1970s and 1980s that would lead to a subsequent tepid revival of the concept.

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