Germanisation (also spelled Germanization see -ise vs -ize) is both the spread of the German language, people and culture either by force or assimilation, and the adaptation of a foreign word to the German language in linguistics, much like the Romanisation of many languages which do not use the Latin alphabet. It was a central plank of German liberal thinking in the early nineteenth century, at a period whenliberalism and nationalism went hand-in-hand.
Forms of Germanisation
Historically, there are very different forms and degrees of expansion of German language and elements of German culture. In addition to eclectic adoptions, there are also examples of complete "melting" into the German culture, as it happened with the paganSlavs in the diocese of Bamberg in the 11th century. A perfect example of eclectic adoption of German culture is the field of law in Imperial and present-day Japan, which is organised very much to the model of the German Empire. Germanisation took place by cultural contact, by political decision of the adopting side (e.g. in the case of Japan), or (especially in the case of Imperial and Nazi Germany) by force.
In Slavic countries, the term Germanisation is often understood solely as the process of acculturation of Slavic and Baltic speakers, after the conquests or by cultural contact in the early dark ages, areas of the modern Eastern Germany to the line of the Elbe. InEast Prussia, forced resettlement of the Prussian people by the Teutonic Order and the Prussian state, as well as acculturation from immigrants of various European countries (Poles, French, Germans) contributed to the eventual extinction of the Prussian language in the 17th century.
Another form of Germanisation is the forceful expansion of German culture, language and people upon non-German people.
See also: Wendish Crusade and Northern Crusades
Early Germanisation went along with the Ostsiedlung during the Middle Ages, e.g. inHanoverian Wendland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lusatia, and other areas, formerly inhabited by Slavic tribes - Polabian Slavs such as Obotrites, Veleti and Sorbs. Relations of early forms of Germanisation was described by German monks in manuscripts like Chronicon Slavorum.
Lüchow-Dannenberg is better known as the Wendland, a designation referring to theSlavic people of the Wends from the Slavic tribe Drevani — the Polabian languagesurvived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state ofLower Saxony.
A complex process of Germanisation took place in Bohemia after the 1620 Battle of White Mountain defeat of Bohemian Protestants. The Protestant Bohemian king elected against the Habsburgs by the Bohemian estates in 1619. The German prince Frederick V, Elector Palatine was defeated in 1620 by Catholic forces loyal to the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand II. Among the Bohemian lords who were punished and had their lands expropriated after Frederick's defeat in 1620 were German- and Czech-speaking landowners. Thus, this conflict was, by far, an internal conflict resulting from the feudal systemthan a clash of different nations. Although the Czech language lost its significance as a written language in the aftermath of the events, it is questionable whether this was primarily intended by the Habsburg rulers, whose intentions were in religious and feudal categories.
The rise of nationalism that occurred in the late 18th and 19th centuries in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Pomerania, Lusatia, and Slovenia led to an increased sense of "pride" in national cultures during this time. However, centuries of cultural dominance of the Germans left a German mark on those societies; for instance, the first modern grammar of the Czech language by Josef Dobrovský (1753-1829) – "Ausführliches Lehrgebäude der böhmischen Sprache" (1809) – was published in German because the Czech language was not used in academic scholarship.
In the German colonies, the policy of having German as an official language led to the forming of German-based pidgins and German-based creole languages, such as Unserdeutsch.
In the Austrian Empire
Joseph II (1780-90), a leader influenced by the Enlightenment, sought to centralise control of the empire and to rule it as an enlightened despot. He decreed that German replace Latin as the empire's official language.
Hungarians perceived Joseph's language reform as German cultural hegemony, and they reacted by insisting on the right to use their own tongue. As a result, Hungarian lesser nobles sparked a renaissance of the Hungarian language and culture. The lesser nobles questioned the loyalty of the magnates, of whom less than half were ethnic Magyars, and even those had become French- and German-speaking courtiers. The Magyar national reawakening subsequently triggered national revivals among the Slovak, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatianminorities within the Kingdom of Hungary.
Germanisation in Prussia occurred in several stages:
- Germanisation attempts pursued by Frederick the Great in Silesia later extended to territories of Partitioned Poland
- Easing of Germanisation policy in the period 1815–1830
- Intensification of Germanisation and persecution of Poles in the Grand Duchy of Posen by E.Flotwell in 1830-1841
- The process of Germanisation ceases during the period of 1841-1849
- Restarted during years of 1849-1870
- Intensified by Bismarck during his Kulturkampf against Catholicism and Polish people
- Slight easing of the persecution of Poles during 1890-1894
- Continuation and intensification of activity restarted in 1894 and pursued till the end of World War I
State legislation and government policies of Germanisation in the Kingdom of Prussia, Imperial Germany, and Nazi Germany aimed to expand the German language and culture in areas populated by non-Germans, the eradication of their national identity, and the integration of conquered territories into German states.
Of Prussian Minorities
Situation in the 18th century
See also: Germanisation of Poles during Partitions
When judging Germanisation, one has to decide whether this was seen as an act of ameliorating the economy of the country or the aim of repressing or eliminating the local language and culture. Settlers from all over Europe were invited to settle Prussia under the kings Frederick I, Frederick William I., and Frederick the Great. The settlements were planned either in sparsely populated areas, in areas which had been reclaimed (e. g. after drying up the Oderbruch swamp under Frederick the Great), or in areas that had been depopulated by war or plague (e. g. the settlement of the Protestants expelled from the Archbishopric of Salzburg in East Prussia 1731/32 under king Frederick William I.). Additionally, several 10.000 French Protestant refugees granted asylum in Prussia after the renouncement of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Around 1700 about half of the people of Berlin actually spoke French and the French community in Berlin used the French language in their services until 1807, when they decided to give it up and use German instead to protest against the occupation of Prussia by Napoléon. These settlements were not intended as a means of Germanisation but rather an instrument of bringing the economy of Prussia to a more advanced stage, just in the same intention as slawonian rulers invited German settlers in their countries in the Middle Ages. Nationality was no important aspect for Frederick the Great. He once stated also to underline his religious tolerance or indifference: "if Turks want to come and settle here we will build mosques for them". So Germanisation was not the primary intention of these settlements. It may, however, sometimes have been a side effect.
Prussia introduced as one of the first countries in Europe compulsory primary school attendance under Frederick William I. People should be able to read the Bible by themselves to make "good Christians" out of them. Education in primary school was done in the mother language and thus primary school was no means of Germanisation in the 18th century.
Prussia and Austria actively participated in the partitions of Poland, a fact that would severely stress German-Polish relations later on, which had been uncomplicated until then.
Situation in the 19th century
After the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia obtained the Grand Duchy of Posen and Austria remained in possession of Galicia. In May 1815 kingFrederick William III. issued a manifest to the Poles in Posen:
You also have a Fatherland. [...] You will be incorporated into my monarchy without having to renounce your nationality. [...] You will receive a constitution like the other provinces of my kingdom. Your religion will be upheld. [...] Your language shall be used like the German language in all public affairs and everyone of you with suitable capabilities shall get the opportunity to get an appointment to a public office. [...]
The minister for Education Altenstein stated in 1823:
Concerning the spread of the German language it is most important to get a clear understanding of the aims, whether it should be the aim to promote the understanding of German among Polish-speaking subjects or whether it should be the aim to gradually and slowly Germanise the Poles. According to the judgement of the minister only the first is necessary, advisable and possible, the second is not advisable and not accomplishable. To be good subjects it is desirable for the Poles to understand the language of government. However, it is not necessary for them to give up or postpone their mother language. The possession of two languages shall not be seen as a disadvantage but as an benefit instead because it is usually associated with a higher flexibility of the mind. [..] Religion and language are the highest sanctuaries of a nation and all attitudes and perceptions are founded on them. A government that [...] is indifferent or even hostile against them creates bitterness, debases the nation and generates disloyal subjects.
In the first half of the 19th century, Prussian language policy remained largely tolerant. However, this tolerance gradually changed in the second half of the 19th century after the foundation of the German Emprire in 1871. Later, the means of the policy was the elimination of non-German languages from public life and from academic settings, such as schools. Later in the German Empire, Poles were (together withDanes, Alsatians, German Catholics and Socialists) portrayed as "Reichsfeinde" ("foes to the empire"). In addition, in 1885, the PrussianSettlement Commission financed from the national government's budget was set up to buy land from non-German hands and distribute it among German farmers. From 1908 the committee was entitled to force the landowners to sell the land. Other means included Prussian deportations 1885-1890: deportation of non-Prussian nationals who had lived in Prussia for substantial time periods (mostly Poles and Jews) and the ban on the building of houses by non-Germans (see Drzymała's van). Germanisation policy in schools also took the form of abuse of Polish children by Prussian officials (see Września). Germanisation unintentionally stimulated resistance, usually in the form of home schooling and tighter unity in the minority groups.
In 1910, Maria Konopnicka responded to the increasing persecution of Polish people by Germans by writing her famous song called Rota that instantly became a national symbol for Poles, with its sentence known to many Poles: The German will not spit in our face, nor will he Germanise our children. Thus, the German efforts to eradicate Polish culture, language, and people met not only with failure, but managed to reinforce the Polish national identity and strengthened efforts of Poles to re-establish a Polish state.
An international meeting of socialists held in Brussels in 1902 condemned the Germanisation of Poles in Prussia, calling it "barbarous".
Of Prussian Lithuanians
Similar Germanisation also happened for Prussian Lithuanians living in East Prussia, numbers of whom, since the 15th century, made up a majority of population in vast areas of East Prussia (since early 16th century often referred to as Lithuania Minor), had shrunk considerably during the 18h-20th centuries because of Plague and following immigration from Germany, notably from Salzburg in 18th century. Policy of Germanisation was tightened during the 19th century. In the early 20th century, Lithuanian majority remained north of the Neman River and areas south and south-west of the river.
Similar development happened with Kursenieki, but this ethnic group never had a large population.
Of Polish Coal Miners
Another form of Germanisation was the relation between the German state and Polish coal miners in the Ruhr area. Due to migration within the German Empire, as many as 350,000 Polish nationals made their way to the Ruhr in the late 19th century, where they worked in the coal and iron industries. German authorities viewed them as potential danger and a threat and as a "suspected political and national" element. All Polish workers had special cards and were under constant observation by German authorities. In addition, anti-Polish stereotypes were promoted, such as postcards with jokes about Poles, presenting them as irresponsible people, similar to the treatment of the Irish in New England around the same time. Many Polish traditional and religious songs were forbidden by Prussian authorities. Their citizens' rights were also limited by German state..
In response to these policies, the Polish formed their own organisations to defend their interests and ethnic identity. The Sokol sports clubs and the workers' union Zjednoczenie Zawodowe Polskie (ZZP), Wiarus Polski (press), and Bank Robotnikow were among the best-known such organisations near the Ruhr. At first the Polish workers, ostracised by their German counterparts, had supported the Catholic centre party. Since the beginning of the 20th century their support more and more shifted towards the social democrats. In 1905 Polish and German workers organised their first common strike. Under the Namensänderungsgesetz (law of changing surnames), a significant number of "Ruhr-Poles" change their surnames and Christian names to "Germanised" forms, in order to evade ethnic discrimination. As the Prussian authorities during the Kulturkampf suppressed Catholic services in Polish language by Polish priests, the Poles had to rely on German Catholic priests. Increasing intermarriage between Germans and Poles contributed much to the Germanisation of ethnic Poles in the Ruhr area.
During the Weimar Republic, Poles first were recognised as minority only in Upper Silesia. The peace treaties after the First World War did contain an obligation for Poland to protect its national minorities (Germans, Ukrainians and other), whereas no such clause was introduced by the victors in the Treaty of Versailles with Germany. In 1928, the "Minderheitenschulgesetz" (minorities school act) regulated education of minority children in their native tongue. From 1930 on Poland and Germany agreed to treat their minorities vice versa.
Germanisation during the Second World War
Further information: Nazification, Generalplan Ost, and Umvolkung
During the Nazi period, the lives of certain minorities in Germany were threatened. Germanisation by the Nazi Germany was called "Nazification".
The East was intended as the Lebensraum that the Nazis were seeking, to be filled with Germans. Heinrich Himmler explicitly warned against equating this new Germanisation with that which had occurred earlier.
It is not our task to Germanise the East in the old sense, that is, to teach the people there the German language and German law, but to see to it that only people of purely German, Germanic blood live in the East. (Himmler)
This did not mean a total extermination of all people there, as Eastern Europe was regarded as having people of Aryan/Nordic descent, particularly among their leaders.The Germans regarded the holding of active leadership roles as an Aryan trait, whereas a tendency to avoid leadership and a perceived fatalism was associated by many Germans with Slavonic peoples.
It should also be noted that the policy of Germanization in the Nazi period carried an explicitly ethno-racial rather than purely nationalist meaning, aiming for the spread of a superior Nordic race rather than that of the German nation. In contemporary German usage it was referred to as Germanisierung(Germanicization, i.e. to make something Germanic) rather than Entdeutschung (Germanization, i.e. to make something German). According to Nazi racial theories, the Germanic peoples like the Scandinavians, the Dutch, and the Flemish belonged to the Aryan Master Race, regardless of their own acknowledgement of their "Germanic" identity. The term used for the people was wiedereindeutschungsfahig -- meaning capable of being re-Germanized.
In a top-secret memorandum, "The Treatment of Racial Aliens in the East", dated May 25, 1940, Himmler wrote "We need to divide Poland's many different ethnic groups up into as many parts and splinter groups as possible". There were two Germanisation actions inoccupied Poland realised in this way - Kaschobenvolk and Goralenvolk.
Germanisation began with the classification of people suitable as defined on the Nazi Volksliste, and treated according to their categorisation. Adults who were selected for but resisted Germanisation were executed. Such execution was carried out on the grounds that German blood should not support non-German nations, and that killing them would deprive foreign nations of superior leaders.
Under Generalplan Ost, a percentage of Slavs in the conquered territories were to be Germanised. Those unfit for Germanisation were to be expelled from the areas marked out for German settlement. In considering the fate of the individual nations, the architects of the Plan decided that it would be possible to Germanise about 50 percent of the Czechs, 35 percent of the Ukrainians and 25 percent of the Belorussians. The remainder would be deported to western Siberia and other regions. In 1941 it was decided that the Polish nation should be completely destroyed; the German leadership decided that in ten to 20 years, the Polish state under German occupation was to be fully cleared of any ethnic Poles and resettled by German colonists.
In the Baltic States, after an agreement with Stalin, who suspected that such Germans would be loyal to Nazis, Germans set out to propagandize their departure, including scare tactics about the Soviet Union, which produced ten thousands, who were never to be called "refugees" but as "answering the call of the Fuhrer." Packed into camps for racial evalution, they were divided into groups: A, Altreich, who were to be settled in German and allowed neither farms nor business (to allow for closer watch), S Sonderfall, who were used as forced labor, and O Ost-Falle, the best classification, to be settled in the Eastern Wall -- the occupied regions to protect German from the East -- and allowed independence. This last group was often given Polish homes where the families had been evicted so quickly that half-eaten meals were on tables and small children had clearly been taken from unmade beds.
For Poles who did not resist and the resettled ethnic Germans, Germanisation began. Hitler Youth and League of German Girls sent young people for "Eastern Service", which entailed (particularly for the girls) assisting in Germanisation efforts. One member of the League recounted afterward that she at first pitied the starving Polish children, but soon realized this was "politically naive" and to concentrate solely on the Volksdeutsche; her beliefs in the stupidity of Poles were reinforced by the lack of educated Poles, not knowing they had been jailed or deported. This included instruction in the German language, as many spoke only Polish or Russian. They found the new settlers dispirited and put on various entertainments such as songfests to encourage them and ease their transition.
Germanisation tended to proceed slowly. Younger people spoke German poorly, if at all, and older people were found to become completely denationalised, requiring that they be Germanised in Germany before they could be restored to the East where they would increase the German population. Many resettled Baltic Germans learned Polish quickly and got along better with the locals than with the German authorities.
Later, colonies such as Hegewald were set up in the Ukraine as well.
When young women from the East were recruited to work as nannies in Germany, they were required to be suitable for Germanization.The program was praised for not only allowing more women to have children with their new domestic help, but for reclaiming the German blood and giving advantages to the women, who would work in Germany, and might marry there.
See also: Kidnapping of Polish children by Germany
"Racially acceptable" children were taken from their families in order to be brought up as Germans.
Children were selected for "racially valuable traits" before being shipped to Germany. Many Nazis were astounded at the number of Polish children found to exhibit "Nordic" traits, but assumed that all such children were genuinely German children, who had been Polonised; Hans Frank summoned up such views when he declared, "When we see a blue-eyed child we are surprised that she is speaking Polish." These might include the children of people executed for resisting Germanisation. If attempts to Germanise them failed, or they were determined to be unfit, they would be killed to eliminate their value to the opponents of the Reich.
In German-occupied Poland, it is estimated that a number ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 children were removed from their families to be Germanised. It is estimated that at least 10,000 of them were murdered in the process as they were determined unfit and sent to concentration camps and faced brutal treatment or perished in the harsh conditions during their transport in cattle wagons, and only 10-15% returned to their families after the war. Obligatory Hitlerjugend membership made dialogue between old and young next to impossible, as use of languages other than German was discouraged by officials. Members of minority organisations were either sent to concentration camps by German authorities or executed.
Many children, particularly Polish and Yugoslavian who were among the first taken, declared on being found that they were German.Russian and Ukranian children, while not gotten to this stage, still had been taught to hate their native countries and did not want to return.
Oletzko County was an historic East Prussian county with its capital at Oletzko. The county was populated by Mazurs, a Polish ethnic group. In the process of Germanisation, the proportion of Polish-speaking people declined steadily:
- 1818 - over 90% of population
- 1852 - 65%
- 1861 - 58%
- 1890 - 46%
- 1900 - 33.5% (German census)
In the Warmia and Masuria plebiscite on 11 July 1920 inside Oletzko only two votes were cast to join the Second Polish Republic; 98% of the inhabitants voted to remain in East Prussia. The town was renamed Treuburg (loyalty castle) after that plebiscite.
Germanization in the other conquered countries proceeded more slowly. The Nazis had need of local cooperation and the local industry with its workers; furthermore, the countries were regarded as more racially acceptable, the assortment of racial categories being boiled down by the average German to mean "East is bad and West is acceptable." The plan was to win the Germanic elements over slowly, through education. Himmler, after a secret tour of Belgium and Holland, happily declared the people would be a racial benefit to Germany.Occupying troops were kept under strict discipline and instructed to be friendly to win the population over, a technique that did not work not only because of their having conquered the countries, but because it was soon clear that being German was far superior to being merely Nordic.
Various Germanization plans were implemented. Belgian Flemish prisoners of war were sent home quickly, to increase Germanic population, while Belgian French ones were kept as laborers. Lebensborn homes were set up in Norway for Norwegian women impregnanted by German soldiers, with adoption by Norwegian parents being forbidden for any child born there. Alsace-Lorraine was annexed; thousands of residents, too loyal to France, Jewish, or North Africa, were deported to Vichy France; French was forbidden in schools; intransigent German speakers were shipped back to German for re-Germanization, just as Poles were. Extensive racial classification was practiced in France, for future uses.
After World War II
In post-1945 Germany and post-1945 Austria, Germanization is no longer an issue. Danes, Frisians, and Slavic Sorbs are classified as traditional ethnic minorities and are guaranteed cultural autonomy by both the federal and state governments. Concerning the Danes, there is a treaty between Denmark and Germany from 1955 regulating the status of the German minority in Denmark and vice versa. Concerning theFrisians, the northern federal-state of Schleswig-Holstein passed a special law aimed at preserving the language. The cultural autonomy of the Sorbs is a matter of the constitutions of both Saxony and Brandenburg. Nevertheless, almost all of the Sorbs are bilingual and the Lower Sorbian language is regarded as endangered, as the number of native speakers is dwindling, even though there are programmes funded by the state to sustain the language.
In post-1945 Austria, in the federal-state of Burgenland, Hungarian and Croatian have regional protection by law. In Carinthia, Slovenian-speaking Austrians are also protected by the law.
Descendants of Polish migrant workers and miners have intermarried with the local population and are thus culturally mixed. It is different with modern and present-day immigration from Poland to Germany after the fall of the iron curtain. These immigrants usually are Polish citizens and live as foreigners in Germany. For many immigrant Poles, Polish ethnicity is not the prime category through which they wish to characterise themselves or want to be evaluated by others, as it could impact their lives in a negative way.
In linguistics, Germanisation usually means the change in spelling of loanwords to the rules of the German language — for example the change from the imported word bureau to Büro.