Volkish movement

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The völkisch movement was a German national and anti-Semitic - racist movement . It comprised associations, parties, publications and other groups and individuals who gained great influence on the public in the German Empire and in Austria-Hungary from the last quarter of the 19th century .

Character and goals

Its character of a heterogeneous nationalist - reformist protest movement corresponded to the syncretistic völkisch world view . The predominantly male and Protestant clientele showed a predominantly bourgeois social profile, characterized by the old and new middle class.

The movement sought to rassenideologischer basis ( anti-Semitic , anti-Slav , antiziganistisch , antiromanisch ) after an anti-egalitarian , militaristic , male-centered, (vocational) corporately organized society, "in a Germanic - Christian " or neo-pagan should be well-founded "species-specific" religion. In many cases - based on a Germanic ideological value system - its aim was a “racial state” of Central European or a confederation of Pan-Germanic style.

Central to the völkisch worldview was the demand for a species-specific , i.e. H. a religion that is consistent with race and people . In accordance with the heterogeneous ideological and organizational structure of the movement, however, there were no common religious convictions, but rather very different religious designs. They range from an Aryanized and Germanized Christianity to the decisive rejection of Christianity and the attempt to revive supposedly pre-Christian Germanic beliefs . In some cases, elements of esotericism were also included.

The ethnic-religious communities were mainly driven by the desire for an autochthonous national culture that was not deformed by any outside influences , less by the will to restore the pagan Germanic world of gods. This search was connected with the search for the local sagas of gods and heroes and Germanic mythology and thus an upgrading of Germanic evidence such as runes and the Edda .

Only a small part of the ethnic groups turned away from Christianity completely. The Germanic and German believing communities belong to the periphery of the ethnic movement and were very small. The largest of these communities, the Germanic Faith Community of Ludwig Fahrenkrog, had just 120 to 150 members at the beginning of the First World War . The greater part of the Volkish clung to (Protestant) Christianity. The attempt to Germanize and “de- Jew Christianity was numerically more significant .

From the perspective of German Christianity , Christ was not a Jew but an Aryan. The roots of Christianity were traced back to an (Indo) Germanic ancient religion. Christianity is originally an Aryan religion , which corresponds to the Germanic and German essence and whose Aryan character is to be preserved and cleaned of foreign influences.

The eclectic doctrine of Ariosophy by Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels , which includes racist ideas as well as elements of esotericism, is part of the ethnic movement . The ideology of the Thule Society founded by Rudolf von Sebottendorf at the end of the First World War in 1917/18 was also influenced by ariosophy . The British esoteric researcher Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke uses the term ariosophy in a broader sense for esoteric currents of the folk movement.

The NSDAP later tried to stylize itself as the driving force of the völkisch movement in order to emphasize the supposed originality of its own worldview. In Mein Kampf, for example, it says : “If today all sorts of associations and associations, groups and small groups and, if you like,“ big parties ”claim the word“ folkish ”, this is itself a consequence of the action of the National Socialist movement . “( Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf ). The party newspaper was from the beginning to the end of the era of National Socialism " Volkischer Beobachter ".

Definitions in historical research

In historical studies, on the one hand, “völkisch” is understood as a collective term for the nationalist-anti-Semitic rights that have been forming politically and culturally in Germany since the 1890s. It can be found, for example, in the Handbuch zur Völkische Movement (1996) by a group of authors around Uwe Puschner. Uwe Puschner recognizes the specifics of the völkisch movement in the connection of nationalism and racism with religious reform ideas.

In addition, there is a narrower definition of the term, which understands the völkisch movement as a partial phenomenon of the radical right. Stefan Breuer explains the emergence of the nationalist movement from anti-Semitism during the imperial era. In addition to this, middle-class ideology, right-wing nationalism and partial anti-modernism (rejection of the "mass democratic" while affirming the "bourgeois-liberal modernity") were characteristics of the Volkish. Racism and anti-Semitism were by no means only to be found among Völkische, but also in other areas of politics. The aim was to create an ethnically closed population ("German people") in an ethnically defined nation-state. Racist and anti-Semitic positions would have served this.

Thomas Gräfe, on the other hand, sees radical nationalist fantasies of purification and anti-Semitism as the common denominator of the competing ethnic groups and ideological designs. In the first part of his study, he traces the origin and development of the völkisch movement in the empire, but under this term he deals with precisely the movement that historical research calls anti-Semitic.

What these authors have in common is that they define the völkisch movement as racist and anti-Semitic.


Formation and first upswing around 1900

After the first völkischer associations were founded in the 1890s, such as the Deutschbund founded in 1894 , the völkisch movement in Germany was formed as a loose collection movement in close cooperation with organized nationalism , above all the Pan-German Association , since the turn of the century . In addition to close contacts with the Pan-German Movement in Austria , which is closely related to it ideally, personally and institutionally, there were lively exchange processes with the bourgeois reform movements that had emerged since the 1880s and the anti-Semitic split parties. In the völkisch movement there were groups that differed considerably in terms of their political, social and cultural goals as well as their organizational form and membership strength. Since the turn of the century, numerous ethnic and religious associations, leagues and orders have emerged, which split into a German-Christian and a neo-pagan direction. Important publication organs of the Völkische were the Bayreuther Blätter edited by Hans von Wolehmen , Theodor Fritsch's magazine Hammer and Wilhelm Schwaners Volkserzieher . Reading communities like the Reichshammerbund arose around these magazines . The founding of umbrella organizations on the eve of the First World War did nothing to change the fact that the nationalist movement remained fragmented and had a weak membership. However, their ideas about multipliers such as the German National Sales Aid Association, the student associations and liaison system and the youth movement, as well as the high-circulation works of Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, had a considerable social impact even before 1914.

From the turn of the century to the end of the First World War

Title page of the magazine Deutschlands Erneuerung. Monthly for the German people , 1919 - contributions and a. von Georg von Below , Hugo von Freytag-Loringhoven , Hans von Liebig , Dietrich Schäfer , Richard von Schaukal

The beginning of the First World War led to the loss of importance of the nationalist movement; many publication organs came under preventive censorship and were repeatedly banned, such as the hammer , the Deutschvölkische Blätter and the Staatsbürger-Zeitung . Despite the war, their primary focus was on the enemy within. With the war, foreign policy moved into the foreground of interest in Germany, for which the Völkische did little of their own. Insofar as ideas about Germany's foreign policy orientation were expressed, they were contradictory and inconsistent. In the First World War, the Völkische therefore sought to close ranks with the old nationalism .

Weimar Republic and National Socialism

See main article: Volkstumsppolitik

“Political activation of the ethnic groups” as one of the touted political means in occupied Belgium on a blackboard in an exhibition about the work of the propaganda department in Belgium, approx. Dec. 1941 / Jan. 1942

The Völkische rejected everything that was praised as progress in the Weimar Republic. They rejected both left party Marxism and democracy. Although the Völkische officially condemned political violence, they maintained connections with right-wing extremist military organizations, took part in the Kapp Putsch and the Hitler Putsch and were involved in assassinations and femicide . In addition to the change in the political system, the influx of demobilized soldiers into their organizations may have contributed to the radicalization of the Völkische.

After the number of ethnic organizations and supporters had increased significantly after 1918, with the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund (1919–1923), an influential cartel of ethnic associations briefly existed and ethnic associations moved into state parliaments and the Reichstag , the ethnic movement began in 1924/25 Due to its structural deficits , it was gradually sidelined by the ideologically close National Socialism , the new reservoir of the radical right. During this time, especially after the re-establishment of the NSDAP, contradictions were emphasized on both sides. They often expressed themselves as a generation conflict between the old Völkisch and young National Socialists. Nevertheless, there were - especially ideologically - close similarities between the two movements. The clearest personal overlaps between Völkisch and National Socialists existed in the settlement movement of the Artamans founded in 1926 .

Although individual völkisch organizations and leaders joined National Socialism - to varying degrees - and the transfer of power to Hitler was welcomed by the majority, the völkisch organizations (and their leadership) that continued after 1933 quickly lost their importance. Individuals were absorbed into the National Socialist organizational structure, the majority dissolved or, until the victorious powers were banned after the end of the war, lived in a shadowy existence equivalent to dissolution. Many supporters had joined the criminal blood-and-soil ideology in the Third Reich by 1945 .

Volkish ideas after 1945

Isolated attempts at an organizational new beginning after 1945 remained unsuccessful, with the exception of existing neo-pagan small businesses of the folk- religious sub-movement such as the “German-Believing Community” or the Species Community - Germanic Faith-Community with a way of life that conforms to its nature .

Set pieces of ethnic religion and world views can also be found beyond these German neo-Germanic-pagan groups; they are part of the international neo-pagan movements, mixed with ideologies of other origins and in many ways and often no longer immediately recognizable as folkish . These remnants of völkisch thought are not limited to small subcultures, but find their way into wider social circles and widespread dissemination through popular genres through their medial communication, which goes hand in hand with their popularization. According to the literary scholar Stefanie von Schnurbein , products of fantasy literature based on the model of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings can also be classified in this context . As an example, she cites the novel Rheingold by the American author Stephan Grundy , which has become an international bestseller.

Ideological elements of the movement can also be found in international right-wing extremism and in associations such as the All-Germanic Pagan Front , sometimes also in various alternative movements and subcultures, such as the ethnic branch within the Asatru belief. Several neo-pagan Asatru religious communities categorically reject relations with National Socialism and the neo-Nazi scene, which does not rule out the spread of elements of ethnic origin.

The esoteric lines of tradition of a völkisch “ right esotericism ” are currently being taken up by some right-wing extremist groups to legitimize their racism . In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , for example, right-wing extremists refer to the historical Artamans . Ethnic set pieces are also often used within the music genres Neofolk or Pagan Metal .

The then chairwoman of the AfD, Frauke Petry, campaigned in a 2016 interview with Welt am Sonntag to get rid of the term “völkisch” from its Nazi involvement and to give it a positive connotation. The Duden definition ("National Socialist, in the racist ideology of National Socialism") displeases Petry because of its negative context. The term is subject to an ostracism. Völkisch is simply only the associated attribute of people.

Thought leaders, publishers and agitators

The most important thought leaders, publishers and agitators of the völkisch movement include:

See also


  • Stefan Breuer : Basic positions of the German right 1871-1945. Edition Diskord, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-89295-666-9 (Historical Introductions 2).
  • Stefan Breuer: Orders of Inequality - the German right in conflict with their ideas 1871-1945. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15575-0 .
  • Stefan Breuer: The nationalists in Germany. Empire and Weimar Republic. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-21354-2 .
  • Kai Buchholz, Rita Latocha, Hilke Peckmann, Klaus Wolbert (eds.): The life reform. Drafts for the redesign of life and art around 1900. 2 volumes, Hausser, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-89552-080-2 .
  • Hubert Cancik , Uwe Puschner (ed.): Anti-Semitism, Paganism, Völkische Religion. Anti-semitism, paganism, voelkish religion. Saur, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-598-11458-3 .
  • Michael Fahlbusch, Ingo Haar, Alexander Pinwinkler (eds.): Handbook of völkisch sciences. Actors, networks, research programs . With the collaboration of David Hamann, 2 vol., Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-11-042989-3 .
  • Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke : The Occult Roots of National Socialism. Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-937715-48-7 .
  • Michel Grunewald, Uwe Puschner (eds.): Le milieu intellectuel conservateur en Allemagne, sa presse et ses réseaux (1890–1960). The conservative intellectual milieu in Germany, its press and its networks (1890–1960). (= Convergences 27) Peter Lang, Bern 2003, ISBN 3-906770-16-8 .
  • Marie-Luise Heuser : What began in green ended in blood red. From the romanticism of nature to the plans for reagrarization and depopulation of the SA and SS. In: Dieter Hassenpflug (Ed.): Industrialism and Ecoromantics. History and perspectives of greening. Wiesbaden 1991, ISBN 978-3-8244-4077-1 , pp. 43-62.
  • Diethart Kerbs , Jürgen Reulecke (Hrsg.): Handbook of the German reform movements 1880-1933. Hammer, Wuppertal 1998, ISBN 3-87294-787-7 .
  • Ilse Korotin, Volker Eickhoff (ed.): Longing for fate and depth. The spirit of the Conservative Revolution. Picus-Verlag, Vienna 1997.
  • Julian Köck: History is always right. The national movement in the mirror of its historical images. Campus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2015, ISBN 978-3-593-50478-0 .
  • George L. Mosse : The Crisis of German Ideology. Intellectual Origins Of The Third Reich. Grosset & Dunlap, New York 1964.
  • Uwe Puschner : Völkisch movement . In: German history in the 20th century. Edited by Axel Schildt , Munich 2005, p. 383 f.
  • Uwe Puschner: The nationalist movement in the Wilhelmine Empire. Language - race - religion. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15052-X .
  • Uwe Puschner, Georg Ulrich Großmann (ed.): Völkisch and national. On the topicality of old thought patterns in the 21st century. (= Scientific supplements to the display of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum 29) Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 3-534-20040-3 .
  • Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz , Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the “Völkische Movement” 1871–1918. Saur, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-598-11421-4 .
  • Uwe Puschner, Clemens Vollnhals (Ed.): The ethnic-religious movement in National Socialism. A history of relationships and conflicts (= writings of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism . Vol. 47). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-525-36996-8 .
  • Religion, "Religosités" et politique dans les extrêmes droites allemandes de 1870 à 1933. Revue d'Allemagne 32, 2000, pp. 163–356.
  • Walter Schmitz , Clemens Vollnhals (Hrsg.): Völkische Movement - Conservative Revolution - National Socialism. Aspects of a political culture. Thelem, Dresden 2005, ISBN 3-935712-18-9 .
  • Stefanie von Schnurbein , Justus H. Ulbricht (Hrsg.): Völkische Religion and Krisen der Moderne. Drafts of "native" belief systems since the turn of the century. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-2160-6 .
  • Fritz Stern : The Politics Of Cultural Despair, A Study In The Rise Of The Germanic Ideology. University of California Press, Berkeley 1961 (German 1963 as cultural pessimism as political danger. An analysis of national ideology in Germany ).
  • Oskar Stillich : Deutschvölkischer Katechismus . 3 volumes; Ernst Oldenburg, Leipzig / Berlin 1929–1932.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Uwe Puschner u. G. Ulrich Großmann: Foreword. In: Uwe Puschner u. G. Ulrich Großmann: Völkisch and national . Darmstadt 2009, p. 11.
  2. Stefan Breuer: The Völkische in Germany . Darmstadt 2008, p. 93 f.
  3. Stefan Breuer: The Völkische in Germany . Darmstadt 2008, p. 104.
  4. ^ Uwe Puschner: The völkisch movement in the Wilhelmine Empire . Darmstadt 2001, pp. 214 and 387.
  5. ^ Uwe Puschner: The völkisch movement in the Wilhelmine Empire . Darmstadt 2001, chapter German Christianity , p. 214 ff.
  6. Wolfgang Fenske: Effects of the de-Judaization of Christ in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-18928-0 .
  7. Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the “Völkische Movement” 1871–1918. Saur, Munich 1996.
  8. ^ Uwe Puschner: Völkisch. Plea for a narrow term, in: Paul Ciupke / Kalus Heuer / Franz-Josef Jelich / Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): "Education for German people". Völkisch and national-conservative adult education in the Weimar Republic, Essen 2007, pp. 53–66.
  9. Stefan Breuer: The Völkische in Germany. Darmstadt 2008; Ders .: The radical right in Germany 1871-1945, Stuttgart 2010, p. 24, 111-140.
  10. ^ Stefan Breuer, Die Völkischen in Deutschland, Darmstadt 2008, pp. 27–33.
  11. ^ Stefan Breuer, Die Völkischen in Deutschland, Darmstadt 2008, p. 125.
  12. ^ Thomas Graefe: Anti-Semitism in Germany. Reviews - research overview - bibliography, Norderstedt (2nd ed.) 2010, pp. 156-169, 188.
  13. Stefan Breuer: The Völkische in Germany . Darmstadt 2008, p. 147 ff.
  14. ^ S. Schindelmeiser: Geschichte der Baltia , Vol. 2, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-00-028704-6 , p. 233.
  15. Uwe Lohalm: Völkischer Radikalismus. The history of the German National Protection and Defense Federation 1919–1923, Hamburg 1970; Hermann Wilhelm: poet, thinker, murderer. Right-wing radicalism and anti-Semitism in Munich from the turn of the century to 1921, Berlin 1989.
  16. Historical Lexicon of Bavaria
  17. Gideon Botsch, Artamanen, in: Wolfgang Benz (Ed.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus , Vol. 5, Berlin 2012, pp. 44–46.
  18. Stefanie von Schnurbein: Continuity through poetry - modern fantasy novels as mediators of ethnic-religious thought patterns. In: Uwe Puschner u. G. Ulrich Großmann: Völkisch and national . Darmstadt 2009, p. 284 f.
  19. Brown Ecologists (PDF; 3.7 MB), a publication by the Heinrich Böll Foundation , 2012.
  20. völkisch Duden.
  21. Petry wants the term "völkisch" to have a positive connotation , Die Welt, September 11, 2016
  22. Frauke Petry advertises the term “völkisch” , Die Zeit, September 11, 2016
  23. Cf. Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the "Völkische Movement" 1871-1918 . Saur, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-598-11421-4 , p. V (content).
  24. ^ Reviews at H-Soz-u-Kult and H-Net .
  25. Review by H-Soz-u-Kult .
  26. Review by H-Soz-u-Kult .
  27. ^ Reviews of this book in H-Net and H-Soz-u-Kult .
  28. Review by H-Soz-u-Kult .