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National Monuments and Nationalism in 19th Century Germany


Hans A. Pohlsander

No century in modern European history has built monuments with more enthusiasm than the 19th. Of the hundreds of monuments erected, those which sprang from a nation-wide initiative and addressed themselves to a nation, rather than part of a nation, we may call national monuments. Nelson’s Column in London or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris are obvious examples. In Germany the 19th century witnessed a veritable flood of monuments, many of which rank as national monuments. These reflected and contributed to a developing sense of national identity and the search for national unity; they also document an unsuccessful effort to create a «genuinely German» style. They constitute a historical record, quite apart from aesthetic appeal or ideological message. As this historical record is examined, German national monuments of the 19th century are described and interpreted against the background of the nationalism which gave birth to them.


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CHAPTER II German Nationalism in the 19th Centuryfrom the Beginnings to Ernst Moritz Arndt 23


Chapter II German Nationalism in the 19th Century from the Beginnings to Ernst Moritz Arndt The monuments of 19th century Germany can be understood only in the context of German nationalism. For purposes of this study nationalism shall be understood to be an awareness of national identity and pride in that identity.1 An effort to describe this nationalism is made difficult by a number of circumstances which complicate the task: Whom shall we consider a “German”? Anyone who was a native speaker of German? Surely the Swiss would object, having become a nation of their own. Anyone who was a subject of one of the many German states? But some of these states were home to non-German populations; there were Danes in Schleswig-Holstein, Poles in West Prussia, and Masurians in East Prussia, and to this day there are the Sorbs of the Lusatia (Lausitz) district.2 The Czechs, Magyars, and other ethnic groups in Austria’s multi- ethnic, multi-lingual empire were not Germans, were they? Or was anyone a German who regarded himself as such, regardless of territorial boundaries? What then of the “Wolga-Germans” or the German communities in the Baltic states? And what of the Alsatians? And what were the boundaries of Germany? Germany lacks natural borders, and the political boundaries have changed repeatedly and substantially over time.3 In certain contexts, 1 Ekkehart Rudolph in Schwedhelm, Propheten des Nationalismus 8–9, draws a distinction between “Nationalbewußtsein” (sense of national identity) and nation- alism. The former he views as healthy, while...

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