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RE: Where the hell is Germany anyway?! :)  Peter Staudenmaier
 May 22, 2007 17:33 PDT 

Hi all,

my posts aren't getting through lately, but I'll cross my fingers with this
one and try to anwer the questions that Keith and Diana raised. Steiner
thought of himself as German, though he grew up in Austria and was based in
Switzerland for the last dozen years of his life. For him it wasn't a matter
of borders but of ethnic identity. When Steiner was born, there was no
Germany, and the Austro-Hungarian empire that he grew up in was
multinational, with ethnic Germans as the predominant national group. Diana
is right that Steiner consistently equated "Mitteleuropa" or Central Europe
with those parts of Europe that were settled by ethnic Germans, that is, for
the most part, what we now think of as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland,
though there were also considerable German populations in other territories
in eastern Europe. Occasionally this basic category would get broadened to
encompass Dutch and Scandinavian groups as well, and there are a few
instances when Steiner extended his conception of Mitteleuropa to include
some Slavic communities. But for the most part, for both Steiner and his
first generation of followers, Central Europe meant Germans and
Austro-Germans and Swiss Germans and any German enclaves in other parts of
the continent.

There is some very good literature available in English for general
background on this theme. One of the best recent works is Pieter Judson's
excellent essay "When is a diaspora not a diaspora? Rethinking
nation-centered narratives about Germans in Habsburg East Central Europe" in
Krista O'Donnell, Renate Bridenthal, and Nancy Reagin, editors, The Heimat
abroad: The boundaries of Germanness (University of Michigan Press 2005).
For an older study see Henry Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German thought and
action 1815-1945 (The Hague 1955). A good introduction is Jörg Brechtefeld,
Mitteleuropa and German politics: 1848 to the present (New York 1996),
though as usual I have several critiques of his analysis.

Greetings from Germany,

Peter S.

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