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Nature of the Miracle Years

Nature of the Miracle Years: Conservation in West Germany, 1945-1975

Sandra Chaney
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    Nature of the Miracle Years
    Book Description:

    After 1945, those responsible for conservation in Germany resumed their work with a relatively high degree of continuity as far as laws and personnel were concerned. Yet conservationists soon found they had little choice but to modernize their views and practices in the challenging postwar context. Forced to change by necessity, those involved in state-sponsored conservation institutionalized and professionalized their efforts, while several private groups became more confrontational in their message and tactics. Through their steady and often conservative presence within the mainstream of West German society, conservationists ensured that by 1970 the map of the country was dotted with hundreds of reserves, dozens of nature parks, and one national park. In doing so, they assured themselves a strong position to participate in, rather than be excluded from, the left-leaning environmental movement of the 1970s.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-005-0
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    As he traveled east across north central Germany in mid April 1945 in the comfort of a sedan, Major Charles Kindleberger, an intelligence officer with the US Twelfth Army Group and later one of the most influential economists and economic historians of his time, marveled at the “beautiful view of a beautiful countryside that the autobahn affords.” True, there were signs of war everywhere: en route from Frankfurt to Dora Mittelbau, the elaborate underground factory near Nordhausen where the Nazi regime manufactured V-weapons using forced labor, Kindleberger took in scenes of fuel dumps and destroyed bridges, of “Germans moving in...

  7. Chapter 1 The Inheritance: A Mixed Legacy for Postwar Conservation
    (pp. 17-44)

    When leading conservationists sat down in the 1950s to write a history of efforts to protect nature in Germany, they were selective in interpreting events of the past. They acknowledged their intellectual debt to Romanticism, but dwelled on the enduring influence of the homeland preservation movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century. Reflecting their humanist education, these authors praised the idealism, dedicated volunteerism, and pedagogical mission of early preservationists. They recalled the years between 1935 and 1938 as a “high point,” when the legal and administrative foundations of preservation were centralized and strengthened, but remembered the years of total...

  8. Chapter 2 Defending Nature under the Allied Occupation, 1945–1955
    (pp. 45-84)

    With Germany’s unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, World War II in Europe ended. Central government in Germany collapsed and the country was divided into four zones of occupation under American, British, French, and Soviet military control. During the first years of the Allied occupation, many Germans suffered to a degree that they had not known during the war when the Nazi regime had had access to abundant natural resources and the spoils of conquest. In the wake of total defeat, Germany lost 25 percent of its prewar territory, surrendering the former provinces of Pomerania, Silesia, and East Prussia, which...

  9. Chapter 3 Preserving the Wutach Gorge in the 1950s
    (pp. 85-113)

    After twelve years of Nazi dictatorship and four years of Allied occupation, West Germans were reluctant to enter the public sphere of their restored democracy. They registered their political apathy in “no opinion” or “don’t know” answers to public opinion polls and adopted anohne mich(without me) attitude, retreating to the sanctuary of home, family, and the local community.¹ And yet scholars have shown that the conservative, paternalistic 1950s were a critical incubation period in the reemergence of a civil society, a view reinforced by the following case study of activism to protect nature-as-Heimatin the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg...

  10. Chapter 4 Ordering Landscapes and “Living Space” in the Miracle Years, 1956–1966
    (pp. 114-147)

    In the 1957 federal elections, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s CDU party and its sister party of Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU), promised “Prosperity for All.” Their campaign slogan came from the title of a book ghostwritten that year for Ludwig Erhard, Federal Minister of Economics and architect of West Germany’s “economic miracle.” The publication called for economic growth to continue unimpeded to produce national wealth that would benefit all citizens. The country’s remarkable recovery was already evident in industrial production, which had more than doubled since 1945.¹ Into the 1970s, with the exception of the recession in 1966–1967, West...

  11. Chapter 5 Landscaping the Mosel Canal, 1956–1964
    (pp. 148-175)

    The Miracle Years did not lack for people with the civil courage Bernhard Grzimek called for, nor were the boom years absent of groups and individuals willing to stage organized protests against the adverse effects of rapid economic recovery. The success or failure of their activism depended upon many factors, including whether decisions about resource use were made by distant authorities or by officials closer to home. This chapter examines the debate over canalization of the Mosel River as well as its transformation into a canal between 1956 and 1964. Unlike the regional conflict over the Wutach unfolding at the...

  12. Chapter 6 Inventing the Environment and Rediscovering Nature, 1967–1975
    (pp. 176-212)

    In 1970, conservationists declared that they had arrived at a “great turning point” as European Conservation Year (ECY) exposed the “perilous situation of humans and their environment” “five minutes before twelve.” While some announced that year that “Grandpa’sNaturschutz”was dead, others insisted the concept“Naturschutz”should be “completely reformulated” so that the public recognized it to be a political issue concerned with nothing less than protecting people in their increasingly imperiled surroundings.¹ What conservationists did not foresee, however, was that the “turning point” forNaturschutzoccurred when it was swept up in, and subordinated to, state-sponsored environmental protection. Halfway...

  13. Chapter 7 Designing the Bavarian Forest National Park, 1966–1975
    (pp. 213-242)

    Locals called it “Bavarian Siberia.” For seven months out of the year, the coldest and remotest areas of the Bavarian Forest above 1,150 meters lay beneath one to three meters of densely packed snow. Here between the peaks of Rachel and Lusen, not far from the former Iron Curtain, forests almost exclusively of spruce, some of them 300 to 400 years old, have adapted to a climate that is more severe than other alpine regions of the same altitude. On more protected southern slopes spruce, white fir, and beech thrive, while ferns, lilies, and birch trees settle in the cool...

  14. Conclusions
    (pp. 243-250)

    In the history of Germany’s long tradition of caring for nature, the period between 1945 and 1975 exhibited striking continuities with the past, yet also displayed incremental, noteworthy changes. When the war was over, conservationists used the legal and administrative framework of the RNG and the message and tactics of traditional nature and homeland preservation to anchor their work in uncertain times. They could do so in part becauseNaturschutzwas not any more tainted than other endeavors that had been unevenly coordinated under National Socialism. Old and newly formed private organizations continued to rely on prominent public figures as...

  15. Maps
    (pp. 251-258)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-272)
  17. Index
    (pp. 273-284)