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The term Germanization refers to the spread of a Germanic people as well as their culture and language and the usually accompanying reshaping or displacement of other cultures and languages. Germanization of words means an adjustment of the words to the German language .

Varying meaning of the term

The term Germanization is used for antiquity , the migration period and the early Middle Ages before the formation of the German Empire in relation to all Germanic peoples. For parts of the Middle Ages in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in modern times , the term is mainly used for the corresponding expansion of the German people and their predecessor peoples.

The exact meaning of this term can also vary in other respects. Germanization can describe the spread of a Germanic culture without significant migration of people. Germanization also describes the displacement of other peoples from their settlement area or their reshaping via majorization by additional populations with Germanic languages ​​and cultures.


Roman army

The gradual displacement of Roman soldiers by mercenaries from Germania in the Roman Empire is sometimes referred to as the Germanization of the army.

Western Roman Empire

From the third century onwards, Germanic tribes increasingly crossed the Limes and invaded the area under Roman control. Both armed conflicts and peaceful immigration of Germanic peoples led to a gradual Germanization of parts of the Roman Empire before its fall. The Romans often accepted the Germanic peoples as federates and assigned them areas of settlement within the Roman Empire's borders.

Migration period

After the Roman troops withdrew from Britain, the partially Romanized Celtic population was left defenseless. The Germanic peoples of the Angles , Saxons and Jutes then conquered England in a process that lasted many decades and in extremely bloody conflicts. The memory of the defensive battles of the Celts has been preserved in the Arthurian legend. Parts of Wales, Cornwall, and what is now Scottish with their Scottish and Pictish inhabitants, however, withstood the onslaught. In the period that followed, at the turn of late antiquity to the early Middle Ages, the formerly Celtic population gradually became Germanized. The conquest of England in 1066 by the Romanized Germanic Normans added a partial Romanization to the Germanization of England.

Middle Ages and Modern Times

Historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries used the term Germanization mainly for the settlement of autochthonous Slavic areas such as Mecklenburg , Brandenburg , Pomerania , Saxony , Silesia , Greater Poland and West Prussia , Baltic areas such as B. the Pruzzen used in East Prussia , as well as Magyar and Romanian areas in Hungary . In part, the Germanization was preceded or accompanied by Christianization . However, it was not a one-sided "Germanization", because the high medieval development of the country in the Germania Slavica (" Eastern colonization ") took place with the inclusion of the Slavic population, whereby completely new forms of settlement were found (e.g. Rundlinge and Angerdörfer ) had never existed in this form in the old settlements. However, the inclusion of the Slavic population did not go through peacefully, as the Slavs campaigns of Henry I, the Slavs uprising of 983 or Abodritenaufstand of 1066 show.

For the most part, the German-speaking immigrants were called into the country by the local sovereigns, who had received oaths of loyalty to the empire as a fiefdom to govern, in order to colonize areas with little or no settlement. From the point of view of the local rulers, displacement of the already resident population would have made no sense, especially since they wanted the highest possible number of subjects who would increase their power. Often there were German and Slavic districts next to each other at one settlement. The assimilation and linguistic Germanization of the Slavs took place gradually over centuries and was supported by judicial bans on Sorbian . In Lusatia , part of the Sorbs were able to evade complete Germanization despite their insular location in the German-speaking area, although the Lower Sorbian language in particular must now be viewed as severely endangered.

Prussia in the 19th century

Within the German Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia pursued a policy of suppressing the Polish language and culture towards its citizens of Polish origin in the eastern provinces of West Prussia and Posen, acquired by the partitions of Poland . The dispute was primarily characterized by the displacement of the Polish language in public use. Polish school teaching was systematically pushed back. In 1873, German was introduced as the sole language of instruction in elementary schools in the province of Posen and West Prussia , which tens of thousands of students did not understand. The subjects religion and church singing remained an exception.

During the same period, a repressive language policy was also exercised against the Danes in Schleswig (also South Jutland ), which has been German since the German-Danish War in 1864 . In North Schleswig , half of the schools were taught in German in 1878 and in 1888 German became the only school language, with the exception of four hours of religion per week. In the same year the authorities closed the last Danish private school.

There was an antecedent in Danish language policy 30 years ago on the Lower Rhine , where the Dutch language was also opposed by the Prussian state. The relative tolerance in language issues, which Prussia still had in the 18th century towards the use of Dutch in its Lower Rhine provinces, gave way in the 19th century to a rigid, active language policy, the aim of which was the complete displacement of Dutch and the establishment of German is the only standard and written language. In 1827 in Kleve and Prussian-Geldern the use of the Dutch language was banned in elementary schools and churches. With the loss of the last public domains, Dutch has also largely disappeared from private writing (cover books, diaries, letters). Nevertheless, Dutch was secretly spoken and taught in the churches in Klevian until the last decades of the 19th century, so that around 1900 there were still 80,361 Dutch-speaking residents of the German Empire.

In the eastern areas, in 1876 and 1877, authorities and courts only allowed German instead of the previous bilingualism. A permanent conflict was guaranteed. In contrast to the Danes, the Poles represented a larger, closed group, were numerically larger and knew how to organize themselves economically. So they successfully confronted the Prussian Settlement Commission with their own land acquisition organizations. The more measures the state took, the stronger the Polish agitation became. The highlight was the Reich Association Act in 1908, which allowed foreign-language meetings only in places with a population of more than 60% foreign-speaking. That should affect the Danish and especially the Polish club system. At the same time, the Polish landowners were to be driven out, partly with targeted land purchase, partly with reprisals (house building ban). However, these were not implemented and could no longer be realized due to the results of the First World War.

In contrast to the Nazi state and its Germanization policy, the policy of the German Empire was based on the rule of law , which freed every citizen, including those of Danish or Polish origin, to sue against state measures.

time of the nationalsocialism

In the course of the national politics of creating a so-called Greater German Reich , the National Socialists took action against other cultures , especially in the occupied eastern areas , and tried to drive them out or to exterminate them in part (e.g. Jews ). The main goal was to create a culturally, linguistically and “ racially ” uniform German settlement area.

This goal was pursued with different measures:

In Mein Kampf , Adolf Hitler made it clear:

“Since nationality , or better still race , is not in language but in blood, one would only be able to speak of Germanization if it were possible to transform the blood of the inferior through such a process. But that is impossible. "

For this reason, the National Socialist policy aimed not only at linguistic Germanization , but also at the displacement of non-German peoples (Poles, Russians, etc.) or at their "Germanization" or "Aufnordung" (see also: General Plan East , Hunger Plan ).

See also


  • Keyword Germanization, Germanization. In: Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, pp. 165f.
  • K. Schäferdiek: Germanization of Christianity? In: The Evangelical Educator. Volume 48, pp. 333-342.
  • Gottfried Maron: Luther and the "Germanization of Christianity". Notes on an almost forgotten thesis. In: ZKG 94, 1983, p. 313.
  • Wilhelm Wichard Waldemar von Sommerfeld: History of the Germanization of the Duchy of Pomerania or Slavia up to the end of the 13th century . Dunckler & Humblot, Leipzig 1896 ( limited preview )
  • Theodor Pisling: Germanization or Czechization? - A contribution to the question of nationality in Bohemia . Winter, Heidelberg 1861 ( online )
  • Anonymous: The Concordat and the KK Germanization in Hungary - Two letters from and about Hungary . Hamburg 1860 ( online ).
  • Detlef Brandes : “Umvolkung, Umsiedlung, racial inventory”: Nazi “Volkstumsppolitik” in the Bohemian countries . Oldenbourg, Munich, 2012 ISBN 978-3-486-71242-1 .

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Society for the History of Schleswig-Holstein ( Memento from July 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  2. ^ Werner Besch: Sprachgeschichte: a manual for the history of the German language, 3rd part. De Gruyter, 2003, p. 2636.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Böttger: Land between Rhine and Maas: the Left Lower Rhine. In: Monographs of German Economic Areas. No. 7, 1958, p. 22.
  4. Georg Cornelissen: The Dutch in the Prussian Gelderland and its replacement by the German, Rohrscheid, 1986, p. 93.
  5. ^ Society for the German Language. In: Der Sprachdienst, No. 18: Die Gesellschaft, 1974, p. 132.
  6. Foreign-language minorities in the German Empire . Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  7. ^ For the measures carried out in East Prussia, see Andreas Kossert: Grenzlandpolitik and Ostforschung on the periphery of the empire . In: Quarter-year books for contemporary history . No. 51 , 2003, p. 117–146, here 138 ff .
  8. Archive link ( Memento from May 27, 2012 in the web archive )