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National Monuments and Nationalism in 19th Century Germany

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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 IV The Repression of German Nationalism 73

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Chapter IV The Repression of German Nationalism Critical and independent thinking was encouraged in 19th century Germany by an improved system of education, greater mobility, the growth of librar- ies, increased availability of books and periodicals, and the rise of reading societies.1 Such a “reading cabinet” was illustrated ca. 1840 by Heinrich Lukas Arnold in a painting now in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.2 And there were opposition newspapers, such as the Rheinische Zeitung edited by Karl Marx.3 But the Restoration regimes were on their guard against nationalism and liberalism. National movements and all forms of dissent were repressed. “Demagogues” were persecuted. The German Confederation functioned best as an instrument of repression and as an impediment to progress,4 and all of Germany was like a prison, run by police terror and spies under the watchful eye of Count Klemens von Metternich.5 Many of the German monarchs, particularly Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, did not grant the constitutions which they had promised.6 1 Schulze, The Course 59. Nipperdey, Germany 520–21, speaks of a “reading revolution.” Levinger, Enlightened Nationalism 198, notes the improvements to public education in Prussia. Ute Planert in Die Erfindung 72–73. Harald Biermann in Preußen: Der kriegerische Reformstaat 135. 2 Kg 63/6 (MfDG). Deutsches Historisches Museum, German History 84–85. Deutsches Historisches Museum, Deutsche Geschichte 138. 3 Golo Mann, Deutsche Geschichte 143 and 171. Id., History of Germany 82–83. Vossler, Die Revolution 56. Nipperdey, Germany 345, 348, and 552. Sperber, The European Revolutions 59....

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