from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The western part of Europe , especially Germany , England , France , Italy and the Iberian Peninsula was originally referred to as the Occident or Occident (also the West ) . This essentially refers to the Latin-speaking Roman provinces in Europe that were lost in the year 476 at the latest when the Western Roman Empire fell . They are somewhat congruent with the district of the Patriarchate of Rome . During the Cold War , the term was used in part consistent with that of the Western world , i.e. H. especially the old member states of the European Union and North America . Since the Romantic era , a special line of tradition has developed around the concept of the Occident, especially in German-speaking countries, which reached a final climax in a downright Occidental ideology of the 1950s.

The term West arose from the ancient and medieval idea of Europe as the westernmost, the setting evening sun nearest continent . Its corresponding antonym is therefore the Orthodox Greek and Islamic coined the East or the Orient . The Greek Orthodox Church was also known as the Oriental one towards the end of the 19th century.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union , the concept of the West is no longer limited to the Latin western part of Europe, but includes the Christian Orthodox part of Eastern and Southeastern Europe up to the Bosporus . Istanbul , the European Capital of Culture in 2010, is once again assigned a cultural and economic bridging function between Occident and Orient or Occident and Orient. With the expansion of the term to practically all of Europe, the concept of the West is primarily thought of in terms of geography.

Concept history

In the Roman Empire , the Latin term occidens (to be supplemented: sol , "the setting sun") stood for the western direction . The term “Occident” for “Occident” was first found in 1529 by Kaspar Hedio . Martin Luther coined the term evening for this in his translation of the Bible .

In the Latin languages, the terms Orient, Oriental or Occident, Occidental are used as a matter of course. In French, the terms “occidental” and “oriental” mean “western” and “eastern” respectively. In German-speaking countries, the term "Orient" or "oriental" is used quite often, while the terms "Morgenland", "Morgenländisch", "Abendland", "Abendländisch" or "Occident", "Occidental" are very seldom heard or read . This may be due to the fact that these terms are very vague in terms of content and also appear a bit old-fashioned or stilted.

The word "orientate oneself" or "orientation" are loan words from French and contain the term "Orient" and primarily mean "align oneself", "find one's way around", literally "align oneself with the Orient". "Orient" means the east or the direction where the sun rises. The name comes from the historical representation in which maps were often aligned with Jerusalem on top. Jerusalem was equated with the Orient or the East. Orienting a map meant turning the map so that the east was on top.


In Germany, at the suggestion of Novalis , the brothers August Wilhelm Schlegel and Friedrich Schlegel developed a conception of Europe that was based on cultural traditions. According to their ideas, the Occident encompassed all countries which, through their Romanesque , Germanic and Christian heritage , were united into a single European cultural area in antinomy to an Orient or Orient conceived as Islamic . They attached particular importance to Charlemagne as the supposed unifier of Europe and lord of the Christian West.

Between the world wars

Shortly after the end of the First World War , Oswald Spengler published his main cultural and philosophical work The Downfall of the Occident . In this he describes the threat or the disintegration of the occidental culture, which he located in Europe and North America . According to Spengler's historical conception, such advanced cultures could be viewed as giant plants that are born, grow, mature and finally die out of a maternal landscape. However, he emphasized that the fall of the West should not be understood in terms of catastrophism . Rather, the occidental cultural organism is gradually being replaced by foreign civilizations. Spengler assumed that “Russian culture” would take on this role and decisively determine the history of the third millennium.

In the journalism between the wars, the idea of ​​a peaceful coexistence of an occidental empire revived. The reconnection with traditional European narrations and symbols since the end of the Weimar Republic led to the spread of a specific “occidental identity” during the time of National Socialism . This was composed in particular of ancient ( Greco - Roman ), Germanic and Romanic elements.

In National Socialist propaganda , the ideologue of the West played a smaller role than in the years before 1933. When it was used, it was connoted with ideas of the Reich or Central Europe and charged with racism . After the Battle of Stalingrad , it experienced a new boom: Now National Socialism appeared to be the salvation of Western culture from the approaching danger from the East. For this purpose, attempts were also made to portray personalities from myth and history such as Leonidas I , Hagen von Tronje or Charlemagne as forerunners of a pan-European society. At the same time, the similarities that were ascribed to the “occidental” Europeans served as a mark of demarcation , especially in relation to images of others or enemies , which were drawn by the Slavic , Russian-Asian and especially by the Jewish culture. As a basis of legitimation for wars of aggression and deportations, these enemy images could be contrasted with a self-image of belonging to an Aryan-occidental culture and integrated into the prevailing ideologies of race , blood and soil as well as into National Socialist plans for Europe .

After World War II and 1950s

Election poster CDU 1946: Save occidental culture ... - Allegory Ecclesia from the portal of Bamberg Cathedral with a cross flag in front of the cross-shaped SED symbol

After the Second World War , the idea of ​​the Occident gained considerable influence in West Germany at times. Conservative - bourgeois values should after the disaster of the Hitler dictatorship find a new anchor and both against the soulless and individualistic called modernity go west European or American model in position and against collectivism and totalitarianism of the Soviet Union . Occidental ideology also distinguished itself from the so-called demons of its own National Socialist past, understood as nihilistic . In this sense, in his first government declaration on September 20, 1949 , Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer explicitly acknowledged the “spirit of Christian-Western culture” as the foundation of his chancellorship.

At a school celebration in Heilbronn on September 16, 1950 , Federal President Theodor Heuss stated with even greater emphasis :

“There are three hills from which the West started: Golgotha , the Acropolis in Athens, the Capitol in Rome . The West is spiritually worked out of all of them, and one may see all three, one must see them as a unit. "

Politically, the West ideology in the forties and fifties was in the school policy used, such as the fight for the preservation of the tripartite school system , for the denominational schools , for the grammar school and the classical languages teaching .

The concept of the West also played a role in other areas: Adenauer's foreign policy, with its emphasis on ties to the West , NATO membership, European unification , Franco-German friendship and anti-communism , could be integrated into the traditional concept of the West. As a result, national-conservative circles within the CDU could also be reconciled with the idea of ​​supranational cooperation between European states. Thereafter, the Carolingian Empire appeared as an anticipated realization of the European ideals of the post-war period. The foundation of the Aachen Charlemagne Prize was an expression of these ideas . But also the history studies and the history lessons in the West German schools of the post-war period conveyed an image of the Middle Ages that corresponded more to the European wishes of the federal government than to the historical reality.

The so-called occidental movement around the magazine “Neues Abendland” was of lesser importance. Here, Orthodox-Catholic aristocratic circles of the Catholic - conservative intelligentsia tried to mobilize. In this context, "Occident" primarily meant the revival of Christianity , demarcation from the Soviet Union and socio-political paternalism . Even corporate state ideas played a role, allegedly Christian dictators Francisco Franco and António de Oliveira Salazar were received positively. Since the Western Movement thus openly propagated anti-democratic principles and did not succeed in gaining a broad base apart from the elite leaders, it sank into insignificance in the mid-1960s.

Since the empire of Charlemagne had only reached as far as the Elbe , parts of the opposition at the time understood this Western conception as a turning away from the goal of German reunification . But even these last, politically relevant discussions about the meaning of the term occident petered out in the 1960s without any result.


Until the dissolution of the antagonism between Western Europe and the Warsaw Pact, the term “Occident” was primarily used geographically. After the catastrophe of the Third Reich, circles of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation, who were trying to achieve reconciliation, coined the term “Christian-Jewish West” to emphasize the common roots of Christianity and Judaism. The term is currently used to differentiate one's own Western cultural identity from Islam . In national-conservative , right-wing populist or right-wing extremist discourse, it is claimed that the West, which may be attributed as “Christian” or “Judeo-Christian”, must be defended against an allegedly threatening Islamization . Among other things, the movement “ Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West ” (PEGIDA) came into being in 2014 . According to the Berlin anti-Semitism researcher Wolfgang Benz , the term “Judeo-Christian West” is misleading: For a thousand years, the Christian West did everything in its power to exclude Jews and discriminate them as scapegoats . That is why the widespread idea of ​​a symbiosis between Jews and non-Jews is wrong: Rather, " Muslim enemies would construct a Christian-Jewish western world that never existed". In view of this front position, the American Islamic scholar Carl W. Ernst sees a constructive perspective in a serious discursive process of searching for the unifying humanitarian foundations.


In addition to the concept of the Orient , Edward Said also criticizes the concept of the Occident. Said assumes that both terms have no independent ontology , that is, that they are constructed. The pair of opposites Occident / Orient fulfills the purpose of being able to differentiate oneself from the other in order to gain an identity of its own. According to Said, this also means "that these almighty fictions can easily be put into the service of the manipulation and organization of collective passions".

According to the historian Wolfgang Benz , the term Occident was used in Latin Christendom as a “battle or exclusion term” against external enemies such as Byzantium or Islam . However, a unified Christian West never existed, but the state power calculation played a greater role than faith. The term has lost its meaning in recent times, until the protest movement “ Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West ” picked it up again.


  • Richard Faber : Eternal Rome or: the city and the globe. On the archeology of “occidental” globalization. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2000, ISBN 3-8260-2034-0 .
  • Richard Faber: Occident: A political battle concept. Hildesheim 1979; 2nd edition: Philo, Berlin / Vienna 2002 (= cultural studies. Volume 10), ISBN 3-86572-251-2 .
  • Michael F. Feldkamp : What is the Christian Occident? In: Ders .: Reich Church and Political Catholicism. Essays on church history and church legal history of modern times (= Propylaea of ​​the Christian Occident. Volume 3). Patrimonium-Verlag, Aachen 2019, pp. 11-17, ISBN 978-3-86417-120-8 .
  • Heinz Herz : Orient - Occident. Fragments of a Critique of Western History. VOB Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1963.
  • Heinz Hürten: The Topos of the Christian Occident in Literature and Journalism after the Two World Wars. In: Albrecht Langner (Ed.): Catholicism, national thought and Europe since 1800. Paderborn [et al.] 1985, pp. 131–154.
  • Otto Kallscheuer : On the future of the West. Essays. zu Klampen Verlag, Springe 2009, ISBN 978-3-86674-040-2 .
  • Oskar KöhlerOccident . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie (TRE). Volume 1, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-006944-X , pp. 17-42.
  • Dagmar Pöpping : Occident. Christian academics and the utopia of anti-modernism 1900-1945 , Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-932482-71-9 .
  • James G. Carrier (Ed.): Occidentalism: Images of the West. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995, ISBN 978-0-1915-9084-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Occident  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Meyers Hand-Lexikon, Fourth Edition 1888, Vol. 1, p. 3
  2. cf. about Dr. Nikodim Milaš: Canon Law of the Eastern Church. Zara 1897.
  3. For example: Ezekiel chapter 47, verse 20
  4. Vanessa Conze: The Europe of the Germans. Ideas of Europe in Germany between imperial tradition and western orientation (1920–1970) . Oldenbourg, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59633-5 , p. 57 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  5. ^ Peter Krüger : Etzels Halle and Stalingrad. Goering's speech of January 30, 1943. In: Die Nibelungen. A German madness, a German nightmare. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1991, pp. 151-190; Günter Barudio : Politics as Culture. A lexicon from the occident to the future. Metzler, Stuttgart 1994, p. 3; Anuschka Albertz: Exemplary heroism. The history of reception of the Battle of Thermopylae from antiquity to the present. Oldenbourg, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-486-59637-3 , p. 296 f ;; Axel Schildt : Between the West and America. Studies on the West German landscape of ideas of the 1950s , Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 978-3-486-59439-3 , p. 26 ff. (The latter two accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  6. Klaus von Beyme (ed.): The great government declarations of the German Chancellors from Adenauer to Schmidt. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1979, pp. 53–73 and http://www.kas.de/wf/de/33.820/ .
  7. On this day the rebuilt buildings of the Robert-Mayer-Gymnasium and the Rosenau School were inaugurated in Heilbronn . The humanistic Karlsgymnasium, where Theodor Heuss graduated from high school in 1902, became independent again on the same day under the name Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium after being merged with the Dammrealschule . Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium ; Speeches to the youth. R. Wunderlich, Tübingen 1956, p. 32; see. Meik Gerhards, Golgotha ​​and Europe . Why the Gospel is one of the lasting foundations of the West, Universitätsdrucke Göttingen 2007, p. 31 f. Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI. in his address in the German Bundestag on September 22, 2011: “The culture of Europe emerged from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome - from the encounter between Israel's belief in God, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and the legal thought of Rome. This threefold encounter forms the inner identity of Europe. ” Vatican.va
  8. Dietmar Süß , Dear Occident, May You Be Calm , in: Die Zeit from September 17, 2009, p. 98, also online
  9. Axel Schildt , Between Occident and America. Studies on the West German landscape of ideas of the 1950s , Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, p. 23
  10. Hans-Ulrich Wehler , Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte, Vol. 5: From the founding of the two German states to the unification 1949–1990 , CH Beck, Munich 2008, p. 168
  11. Axel Schildt, Between Occident and America. Studies on the West German landscape of ideas of the 1950s , Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, p. 64
  12. Patrick Bahners : The alarmists. The German fear of Islam . CH Beck, Munich 2011, pp. 83, 125, etc.
  13. Wolfgang Benz: Rush to the Occident? On the perception of Islam in Western society . Picus Verlag, Vienna 2013; Otto Langels: uprooted and humiliated . Wolfgang Benz: German Jews in the 20th Century. A story in portraits. (January 23, 2012) on DRadio.de , accessed on October 22, 2013 (here the quote).
  14. ^ Carl W. Ernst: The West and Islam? Rethinking Orientalism and Occidentalism. In: Ishraq. Islamic Philosophy Yearbook 1 (2010), pp. 23-34. ( online , accessed June 25, 2015).
  15. Die Welt: "Occident" as a battle term against Byzantium and Islam ; accessed on January 9, 2015