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Alsace to the Alsatians?

Alsace to the Alsatians?: Visions and Divisions of Alsatian Regionalism, 1870-1939

Christopher J. Fischer
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 254
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qd811
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  • Book Info
    Alsace to the Alsatians?
    Book Description:

    The region of Alsace, located between the hereditary enemies of France and Germany, served as a trophy of war four times between 1870-1945. With each shift, French and German officials sought to win the allegiance of the local populace. In response to these pressures, Alsatians invoked regionalism-articulated as a political language, a cultural vision, and a community of identity-not only to define and defend their own interests against the nationalist claims of France and Germany, but also to push for social change, defend religious rights, and promote the status of the region within the larger national community. Alsatian regionalism however, was neither unitary nor unifying, as Alsatians themselves were divided politically, socially, and culturally. The author shows that the Janus-faced character of Alsatian regionalism points to the ambiguous role of regional identity in both fostering and inhibiting loyalty to the nation. Finally, the author uses the case of Alsace to explore the traditional designations of French civic nationalism versus German ethnic nationalism and argues for the strong similarities between the two countries' conceptions of nationhood.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-806-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations and Terms
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Note on Places
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Note on Archives
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Alsace to the Alsatians. Alsace aux Alsaciens. Elsass den Elsässern. In the first three decades of the twentieth century, this motto became the rallying cry for the Alsatian regional movement. First coined by the writer and politician Charles Grad, the phrase was adopted by various Alsatian parties in the 1890s before becoming a common slogan of Alsatian regionalists well into the 1930s. Francophile Alsatians in the decades before World War I, however, had far different motives from their autonomist brethren in the interwar period: the former group wanted to see Alsace return to themère-patrie, the latter wanted Alsatian privileges...

  9. Chapter 1 Alsace Reborn: Emerging Visions of Alsace, 1895–1913
    (pp. 20-51)

    In the waning decades of the nineteenth century, a small band of Alsatians sought to preserve and promote the region’s unique cultural heritage. The local dialect, regional customs, traditional dress, and the area’s history became objects of interest for these enthusiastic regionalists. For contemporaries, these efforts to celebrate all things Alsatian represented a rebirth of Alsatian culture; thus, the movement as a whole came to be known as the Alsatian Renaissance. For some historians such as Jean-Claude Richez and Bernard Vogler, however, this period of cultural ferment represents not a rebirth of traditional Alsatian regional culture, but rather its invention...

  10. Chapter 2 Monuments, Museums, and Memory: Commemoration in Alsace, 1900–1914
    (pp. 52-72)

    Strasbourg, Alsace’s capital and cultural center, served as the central site in the struggles to define what it meant to be Alsatian. Indeed, fights over cultural identity and political loyalty often became interwoven into the city’s landscape. Under German rule, the Kaiserplatz (Emperor’s Square, today the Place de la République) became one such center where the Germans projected their vision of German Alsace onto the physical environs. The imperial residence and university library along with other governmental buildings on the plaza represented the political and cultural power of Germany in Alsace.

    Germans and Alsatians sought to use public spaces across...

  11. Chapter 3 From Disunity to Unity: The Constitutional Debates and the Zabern Affair, 1910–1914
    (pp. 73-99)

    In October 1909,Statthaltervon Wedel sent a circular to high-rankingReichslandadministrators concerning the dedication of the monument at Wissembourg. The memorandum proved not only descriptive of the situation at that time, but in many ways delimited and predicted the course of developments in Alsace-Lorraine. Wedel had been concerned about the rising activities of a pro-French minority. Yet while warning of the threat of the Francophile elements of Alsatian society, he also counseled German bureaucrats and military authorities to stop treating Alsatians as if they were a conquered people and instead remain focused on their responsibility to protect the...

  12. Chapter 4 War Weariness or National Reunion? World War I and Alsace, 1914–1918
    (pp. 100-127)

    Entering the summer of 1914, Alsatian-German relations had undergone almost five years of redefinition, a process marked by mutual recrimination and tinged with bitterness. Numerous minor incidents had robbed the luster from the gains of the new constitution. In the wake of the Zabern Affair, German officers had been hectored while Alsatian political leaders again renewed their complaints about Alsace’s incomplete and second-class status within the German Empire. It is not surprising that the “Spirit of 1914” found little purchase in the region outside of those areas dominated by theAltdeutsche

    November 1918 stood in marked contrast to the summer...

  13. Chapter 5 “Ne toucher pas de choses d’Alsace”: The Return of French Rule to Alsace, 1918–1925
    (pp. 128-151)

    In the weeks following the November 1918 Armistice, windows and balconies were bedecked in blue, red, and white bunting and Alsatians poured into the streets to greet French troops. In Strasbourg, municipal and regional leaders, led by interim mayor Jacques Peirotes, welcomed the French as liberators. The local press echoed such sentiments.¹ Charles Frey—the erstwhile Liberal journalist, later mayor of Strasbourg and member of the French Chamber of Deputies—wrote, “We are again French, returned to the Fatherland, which we never stopped loving. We are freed and saved … in liberty, equality, and fraternity: We are French!”² The happiness...

  14. Chapter 6 Dual Cultures and Contested Memories: Alsace in the 1920s
    (pp. 152-178)

    The cessation of war inaugurated a renewed period of cultural debate in Alsace. Concerned about the reopening of the Alsatian theater, Hansi wrote the French High Commissioner in early 1919. In a letter indicative of earlier fights with Stoskopf, and infused with a strong sense of French nationalism, Hansi opined:

    The Alsatian theater, founded fifteen years ago in Strasbourg by Monsieur Stoskopf, had a rebellious tendency at the beginning and produced plays in which the faults of the German immigrant were ridiculed. It enjoyed a great success. But very quickly the German government was able to tame it, to make...

  15. Chapter 7 The Apogee of the Autonomist Movement
    (pp. 179-205)

    In July 1928, a group of local politicians gathered at Strasbourg’s Palais des Fêtes. Three thousand people crammed inside, another three thousand waited outside. Those present included Eugène Ricklin, head of the autonomist Heimatbund (Homeland Union), Paul Schall and René Hauss of the autonomist Landespartei, Camille Dahlet of the autonomist Fortschrittliche Partei (Progressive Party), firm UPR regionalists such as Joseph Rossé, and several members of the Alsatian Communist Party. This eclectic coalition of political allies had gathered to celebrate the pardon and release of Rossé and Ricklin, who had been found guilty of threatening the security of the state in...

  16. Conclusion: Visions and Divisions
    (pp. 206-212)

    Today, Alsace stands at one of the key seams of the European Union, the crossroads between France and Germany. The European Parliament sits on the edge of Strasbourg. The departments that comprise Alsace work with the neighboring GermanLänderto integrate labor markets, promote cultural bonds, build linked infrastructure, and even underwrite “people to people” projects, often supported by the European Union.¹ Workers shuttle both ways across the border to work each day; the transportation network for Strasbourg stretches across the Rhine into neighboring Kehl. Hartmannwillerskopf’s monument has taken a more inclusive approach commemorating the fallen from both countries’ armies....

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-228)
  18. Index
    (pp. 229-236)