Eastern research

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Up until the 1990s, Ostforschung referred to research into German nationality and the cultural achievements of Germans in East Central Europe . Subjects of research were history, language, migration, law, religion and geography.

Under the term "Ostforschung" as a central component of the völkisch sciences, this part of German science is historically researched with regard to its course and continuities up to the 1990s and is self-critically processed by some of the institutions concerned. This self-reflection in particular marks a paradigm shift and leads, among other things, to the renaming of institutes. For example, the “Journal for East Research” was renamed “Journal for East Central Europe Research”. The term Ostforschung, like the term Westforschung, is rarely used for current research today.

History of Ostforschung

Research on the East has its origins in the history of science emerging in the 18th century. Their ethnocentric approach was closely linked to German and folklore . Their ideological orientation followed the principles of the patriotic and was characterized by the establishment of the German Empire in 1871. The principle of the patriotic was accepted uncritically and formed the general framework. In their German-national orientation, the culture and history of other residents, especially the Jewish, Polish, Kashubian and Czech as well as the Sinti and Roma, were ignored. The consistent orientation of their work through the political-ideological environment has only been the subject of self-critical research for a few years.

Alleged protection of Germans abroad

Geopolitical ideas of the Pan-German Association were able to rely on research on the East as early as 1894. The “protection of Germans abroad” became the active foreign policy of the German Reich. In addition to colonial research, research on the East also served to legitimize this policy. Quite a few professors and intellectuals in Ostforschung were scientifically and politically committed to border Germanism and the protection of German ethnic groups .

Interwar period

Even after the loss of the First World War , research on the East developed a pronounced anti-Slavism and was involved in the formation of the master human ideology. The focus was on racial doctrine and political advice that wanted to gain a “ living space ” in the East. The folk and cultural soil research, which was establishing itself in Eastern research, was particularly closely linked to the “ethnic struggle”. The social Darwinian conviction, which is often found in Eastern research , led to the elevation of German culture and the devaluation of Slavic cultures.

Well-known scholars here included the linguist and "Urheimatkundler" Ernst Schwarz , the historians Albert Brackmann , Hermann Aubin , Kurt Oberdorffer , Erich Keyser , the folklore researchers Max Hildebert Boehm , Herbert Cysarz , Erich Gierach , Emil Lehmann , the geographers Albrecht Penck and Nikolaus Creutzburg , the professor of Eastern European history Josef Pfitzner , the international law expert Hermann Raschhofer , the leading Sudeten German folklorist Bruno Schier as well as Walter Kuhn , the professor of legal history at the Prague German University Wilhelm Weizsäcker , the economist Theodor Oberländer , the racial teacher and social anthropologist Karl Valentin Müller , the later Nazi historian Theodor Mayer and the geographer and geopolitician Karl Haushofer .

The jurist and politician Rudolf Lodgman von Auen , the geographer Friedrich Ratzel , the people's pedagogue Rudolf Lochner , the teacher trainer Eugen Lemberg , the people-fighter Ernst Lehmann , the editor and people-propagandist Hans Krebs , the writer Guido von , among others, had political and ideological influence on research on the East List , the national fighter and financier Alfred Hugenberg and the writer Hans Grimm .

National Socialism

Ostforschung was given a policy advisory function for the foreign policy of the Nazi regime . The living space concept assumed a central ideological position. In terms of personnel, there were hardly any differences to the previous Eastern researchers, their methodology and their vocabulary.

A still rather unexplored aspect of Nazi research on the East is the "war effort of science". During this action, various commissions of German academics from ethnicity research, who were formed for the "war effort", seized the archives, libraries and museums of the occupied countries.

In 1999, Frank-Rutger Hausmann analyzed the ' Aktion Ritterbusch ' (1940-1945) for the first time in his book German Spiritual Science in World War II , the connections between NS folk research and research in the interwar period, NS ideologues and the use of their semantics , the interdisciplinary characteristics of a "joint effort" linked to political ideologies, the post-war defense of scientists, their pervasive influence on the Federal Republic of Germany and their attempts to separate their own work from National Socialism.

Hausmann quoted the Krakauer Zeitung from 1941 to exemplify the ideological ties to National Socialism and the goal of Germanizing Europe. In a newspaper article about a report on the “Book and Document Show” of the Technical University in Berlin-Charlottenburg “German science in the struggle for empire and living space” it says: “ During the war, German humanities came together to form a global community to deal with crucial problems to present the German way of life, the German worldview and the reorganization of Europe on the basis of scientific knowledge ”.

At the center of the Ritterbusch company was the “idea of ​​a new European order”. Walther Wüst , the curator of the " SS-Ahnenerbes " and Günther Lutz formulated the ideological concept in "Science as a national necessity - war effort, task and future of German science" in the magazine "Deutscher Wissenschaftlicher Dienst (DWD)", which Walther Wüst im Kohlhammer Verlag in Stuttgart .

One of the first critical accounts of the role of Eastern Studies under National Socialism was a lecture by Werner Philipp , Full Professor of Eastern European History, which he held on the occasion of the 1966 University Days at the Free University of Berlin under the title "National Socialism and Eastern Studies".

The most important East and Southeast research institutions at the time of National Socialism

  • Institute for German East Research, Königsberg Pr.
  • Institute for Border and Foreign Studies Berlin-Steglitz
  • Institute for East German Economy, Königsberg Pr.
  • Institute for Eastern European Economy, Königsberg Pr.
  • Institute for Scientific Research on the Soviet Union, Berlin
  • Central Europe Institute, Dresden
  • Northeast German Research Association, Berlin
  • Eastern Europe Institute , Wroclaw
  • Ostland Institute, Gdansk
  • Baltic Sea Institute, Gdansk
  • Publication office Berlin-Dahlem
  • Reich Foundation for German East Research, Posen
  • Reich Foundation for Slavic Research, Prague
  • Russia Institute of the Foreign University, Berlin University
  • Seminar for Eastern European History and Regional Studies, University of Berlin
  • Wansee Institute (so-called Eastern Europe Institute Berlin)
  • Central Office for Eastern Europe, Berlin
  • Working group for questions on the Danube
  • Institute for the History and Culture of Southeast Europe, Leipzig
  • Institute for Central and Eastern Europe Southeast European Economic Research, Leipzig
  • Institute for Southeast Law, Vienna
  • Main publication point, Vienna
  • Southeast Institute , Munich
  • Southeast German Research Association, Vienna
  • Southeast German Institute, Graz
  • Southeast Europe Institute, Leipzig
  • Southeast Community of Vienna Universities, Vienna

See also : General Plan East , Reinhard Heydrich Foundation , Charles University in Prague , Reichsgau Sudetenland , Gau , Lebensraum , Untermensch , Volkstumsppolitik , Theodor Oberländer

Since 1950


The results of the Potsdam Conference and the claims of the expellees essentially determined research on the East

After 1945, German research on the East was reorganized in the West and later in the Federal Republic. A first center was formed in Marburg in 1950 . There, Bruno Schier , Eugen Lemberg , Hermann Aubin , Josef Hanika , Kurt Oberdorffer , Wilhelm Weizsäcker and other well-known Eastern researchers founded the Johann Gottfried Herder Research Council . A network of scientists and associations was connected to the Research Council, to which the Collegium Carolinum can also belong.

"Zeitschrift für Ostforschung" was the name of the central publication organ in 1952. The Eastern researcher Hermann Aubin was elected President of the Association of Historians in Germany in 1953. During this time and in this function, too, he emphasized the “part of the Teutons in the reconstruction of the West after the Great Migration ”. The non-profit association has been supported by state and state funds since 1950.

The continuities in the methodology, the biographies and the vocabulary of Ostforschung, even after 1945, were the subject of own investigations in parts of Ostforschung for the first time since the 1990s.

The Cold War and the displaced population shaped the political framework for research on the East in the post-war period. During this time, the "Ostforschung" of the Federal Republic was the constant target, usually sharp polemical criticism on the part of the East, which was reflected there in an abundance of relevant publications. In the GDR there was even a special “Department for the History of Imperialist Research on the East” at the Humboldt University in Berlin with its own publication organs, including the confidential “Information about Imperialist Research on the East”, vol. 1. 1960ff.

With the paradigm shift in this science that began in the 1990s, it began to open up to international research standards. In connection with this, it is now called " East Central Europe Research " instead of "East Research".

JG Herder Research Council and Herder Institute e. V.

Johann Gottfried von Herder coined the German popular term and became the namesake of Ostforschung

Today, which was founded in April 1950, the Institute one of the central institutions of the historic "East Central Europe Research". The term Ostforschung has not been used since around 1994. A scientific service facility with 42 permanent employees is offered. Total budget of 3.67 million euros.

Ostforschung and East Central Europe research have published their own publications on their history

  • Thirty-five years of research on East Central Europe . Publications by the members of the JG Herder Research Council 1950–1984. Edited by JG Herder Research Council, Marburg / Lahn 1985.
  • Hugo Weczerka : Johann Gottfried Herder Research Council . In: Erwin Oberländer (ed.): History of Eastern Europe. On the development of a historical discipline in Germany, Austria and Switzerland 1945–1990 . Stuttgart 1992, pp. 256-275.
  • Hugo Weczerka (Hrsg.): Aspects of cooperation in East Central Europe research . Conference of the Herder Institute and the JG Herder Research Council on 22./23. February 1994, Marburg 1996.
  • The work of the Research Association for East Central Europe in the years 1990–1996 . Historical commissions. JG Herder Research Council with its specialist commissions. Edited as a manuscript by the JG Herder Research Council. Marburg 1997. 63 pp.
  • Hugo Weczerka: 1950 - 50th anniversary year: Foundation of the Johann Gottfried Herder Research Council and the Johann Gottfried Herder Institute in Marburg an der Lahn . In: Ostdeutsche Gedenktage 2000, published by the Kulturstiftung der Deutschen Vertrieben , Bonn 1999, pp. 384–392.


The concepts and paradigms in Ostforschung included population studies / demography , German sociology , German folk and cultural soil research, cultural area research and spatial planning , racial studies , settlement history , population change , folk history, folk theory, folk sociology , ethnic geography, German folklore and spatial research , ethnic group studies .

Research and publication projects

Research and publication projects after 1945 included foreign studies, German East Settlement, German People's List, Atlas of German Folklore (ADV), documentation of the expulsion of Germans from East Central Europe, dictionaries of border and foreign Germans, archiving.

Publication organs

Important publication organs for Ostforschung were Der Auslandsdeutsche , Deutsche Forschungen im Südost , Jomsburg , Reich - Volksordnung - Lebensraum, Volk und Reich, Zeitschrift für Ostforschung and the journal Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft published by the Institute for German Ostarbeit .

Polish West Research

The " Polish West Research ", a German word creation from " polska myśl zachodnia " (= " Polish West Thought "), developed as an answer and essentially in confrontation with the positions represented in German East research in the interwar period, so that, like Jan M Piskorski writes, "In a certain sense, it [became] an almost faithful reflection of German research on the East." Her work lasted until the 1950s and legitimized itself with the "return of German research on the East to the field of scientific and journalistic debate". Its most important representative was Zygmunt Wojciechowski , who from 1945 to 1955 headed the Poznan- based center for western research - the Instytut Zachodni (= West Institute). With a new orientation, with Germany remaining the focus of interest, the institute has continued to work since the end of the East-West conflict and German reunification .


  • On the trail of Eastern research; A collection of contributions from the working group to combat West German “Ostforschung” at the Institute for the History of European People's Democracies , Leipzig 1962.
  • Michael Burleigh: Germany Turns Eastwards. A Study of 'Ostforschung' in the Third Reich , Pan Books, London ²2002; ISBN 0-330-48840-6 .
  • Jan M. Piskorski, Jörg Hackmann, Rudolf Jaworski (eds.): German East Research and Polish West Research in the field of tension between science and politics. Disciplines in Comparison , Osnabrück (fiber) 2003; ISBN 978-3-929759-58-7 .
  • Gregor Thum (Ed.): Dreamland East. German Images of Eastern Europe in the 20th Century , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006; ISBN 3-525-36295-1 .
  • Gunther Gebhardt, Oliver Geisler, Steffen Schröter (eds.): The 'East' principle. Past and present of a symbolic space. Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8376-1564-7 .
  • Alan E. Steinweis : Eastern Europe an the Notion of the "frontier" in Germany to 1945, in Keith Bullivant, Geoffrey J. Giles, Walter Pape Eds .: Germany and Eastern Europe: Cultural identities and cultural differences. Series: Yearbook of european studies, 13. Rodopi, Amsterdam 1999 ISBN 9042006889 pp. 56–69 (p. 67ff .: list of literature, especially on spatial planning under National Socialism, including many contemporary sources up to 1945, e.g. from the Nazi regime Zeitschrift Raumforschung und Raumordnung ) Visible in Google books

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. To have worked this out is the long-neglected achievement of Michael Burleigh . In 2001, in the foreword to the new edition of his “ Germany Turns Eastwards. A Study of 'Ostforschung' in the Third Reich ”states that German research is now also interested in the subject it deals with: S. XI in Pan Books, London ²2002; ISBN 0-330-48840-6 .
  2. Robert Brier: The Polish “Western Thought” after the Second World War 1944–1950 , Digital Eastern European Library: History 3 (2003), URL: epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de (PDF; 828 kB) p. 13.
  3. ^ Robert Brier: The Polish "West Thought" (2003), p. 84.