Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad

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VDA logo with cornflower

The Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad e. V. (VDA) is a cultural organization in Germany . The association sees itself as a cultural mediator and link between Germans living all over the world, with whom it maintains diverse contacts, and the German mother country. The VDA sees it as its task to promote the German language and culture abroad by supporting intensive youth exchanges, German foreign institutions such as B. to promote schools and kindergartens as well as German media and publications abroad. The club has a long history with many renaming. Founded in 1881 as the General German School Association for the Preservation of Germanness Abroad , renamed in 1908 to the Association for Germanness Abroad, Schulverein e. V. then renamed the Volksbund for Germanness Abroad in 1933 . After the Second World War , active in 1955 under the name Verein für das Deutschtum Abroad , renamed in 1970 to VDA - Society for German Cultural Relations Abroad and finally, since 1998, the current name, Verein für Deutsche Kulturbeektiven im Auslands e V. (VDA) .

The association last had its office in Sankt Augustin - Hangelar , in spring 2019 the association was insolvent and ceased operations.


1881: General German School Association

The founding date is August 15, 1881, when the Berlin branch of the German School Association , founded in Vienna in 1880 , decided to centralize the approximately 50 independent Reich German support associations in the “General German School Association”. In contrast to the German School Association, the "General German School Association" did not want to limit its activities to the countries of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but rather set up a protection organization for Germans all over the world. Four years after it was founded - at the end of 1885 - there were a total of 12,000 members of the "General German School Association" in the German Reich, who were grouped together in 140 local groups. In 1923 there were 13 regional associations and 600 local groups with over 360,000 members, as well as 700 school groups.

According to § 1 of the founding statute, the purpose of the association was to “preserve the Germans outside the mother country and to support them as much as possible in their efforts to remain or become German again”. This was done through the establishment and maintenance of German schools, kindergartens and libraries abroad. There were scholarships for students to study in Germany. To this end, lobbying, press work and public relations work were carried out in Germany, and fundraising was organized. In accordance with the purpose of the association, the association consisted primarily of teachers and students, but also well-known personalities such as the historians Theodor Mommsen and Heinrich von Treitschke .

1908: Association for Germanness Abroad, Schulverein e. V.

Berlin 1932, festival of the German school. "The Association for Germanness Abroad organized a big festival of the German school in which over 20,000 pupils took part".

After the end of World War I and the political boundary changes and population shifts as a result of the Versailles Treaty and the Treaty of Saint-Germain , the conservative-nationalist, some sat inciting VDA in the circle of reactionary German nationalist movement with the financial support of the Foreign Office for the Revision efforts of the 1920s and with all means for the struggle for the preservation of the "foreign Germans". During this time, the VDA, which had already been renamed "Association for Germanness Abroad" in 1908, gained around 2.5 million members.

In 1921, the Austrian German School Association in Vienna joined the “Association for Germanness Abroad” as the Austrian national association of the VDA.

1933: Volksbund for Germanness abroad

The history of the VDA during National Socialism is controversial. Tammo Luther identifies serious differences between the “traditionalist” national politics of the VDA and the National Socialist national politics. The VDA was also concerned with revising the borders according to the Versailles Treaty, but not with conquering living space in the east . The VDA had not followed any racial theory and was not prepared to subordinate German foreign interests to power-political calculations.

The association had elected Hans Steinacher to lead in April 1933 . Steinacher, according to Luther, was seen by the members of the VDA as the right man "to protect the association from excessive interference by the NSDAP and to maintain [...] independence." Steinacher, who had proven himself in the Carinthian defensive struggle , became "Reichsführer" of the now renamed Volksbund der Deutschen Abroad VDA, which he organized according to the leader principle . With the strengthening of the foreign department of the NSDAP under Ernst Wilhelm Bohle , the VDA got into a competitive relationship for representing the interests of Germans abroad. In July 1935, Rudolf Hess regulated that the VDA, in addition to the Volksdeutsche Rat founded in 1933 under Karl Haushofer , should look after the "Volksdeutsche" in Europe and the USA, the NSDAP / AO the "Reichsdeutsche" abroad and the "Volksdeutsche" overseas. In mid-October 1935, Hess set up a central office for the coordination of national politics under Otto von Kursell , who was replaced by Werner Lorenz on February 1, 1937 after an intervention by Heinrich Himmler . This is considered to be the point in time when the SS took control of the National Socialist Volkstumsppolitik.

In contrast, other historians have worked out the common goals and roots of the said "traditionalists" and the National Socialists in ethnic nationalism. "If an organization like the VDA is portrayed as an opponent of the National Socialists and thus creates the impression that the VDA has represented a kind of 'opposition' to the NS," said Alexa Stille in a review of Luther's study, "then this is not very suitable. to disclose the structures of national socialism in the early years of National Socialism and, moreover, simply wrong. ”Rather, the VDA approached the Nazi ideology at an early stage.

Long before the " Anschluss of Austria ", Steinacher made no secret of the fact that he was in favor of this and of National Socialism in general. As early as 1933 he had brought the German Foreign Institute DAI in Stuttgart into line. The VDA has been providing financial support to the Austrian NSDAP since 1935 . Steinacher defined the VDA's strategy as that of a Volksbund, “which, as a non-governmental organization, is also able to stand up for its Volksbrothers where [...] [the] party cannot do so for political reasons. In addition, the leaders of the VDA are undoubtedly National Socialists of the spirit and not just the party, and after all, the true VDA member is a true National Socialist ... ”.

The VDA supported Alsatian autonomists in the course of the 1930s, e. B. by granting an interest-free loan to Friedrich Spieser for the purchase of the Hüneburg , which was supposed to become a “bulwark of Germanness”. In 1937, Hermann Bickler was supported by the West Secretary of the Volksbund, Karl Poechel, in internal power struggles in the Alsatian autonomist movement.

1938: Synchronization and subordination to the "Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle"

When Lorenz took up the service, the former central office became the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle of the SS, which claimed responsibility for all ethnic groups abroad. Steinacher was given leave of absence on October 19, 1937, probably also because he remained uncompromising on the question of Italian claims to South Tyrol . Haushofer took over the leadership of the Volksbund and VoMi took over their work. Funding for schools, theaters and political work was provided to German ethnic groups abroad through the VDA. The Reich's financial support now flowed to the National Socialist organizations of Germans living abroad. As a result of this financial pressure, the ethnic groups lost their independence and became dependent on Reich German offices of the NSDAP.

1955: Association for Germanness Abroad

After the Second World War , both the Volksbund and the Mittelstelle were banned as Nazi organizations by the Allies in Control Council Act No. 2 . In 1955 it was re-established under the old name "Association for Germans Abroad". The initiators of the new beginning included a. the Bavarian Prime Minister Wilhelm Hoegner (SPD), the Bavarian Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Alois Hundhammer (CSU), the chairman of the DGB regional association of Bavaria Max Wönner , the industrialist Rudolf Rodenstock and other public figures. Supporting German schools abroad was one of the VDA's priority areas of activity.

1970: VDA - Society for German Cultural Relations Abroad

After the association had consciously embarked on tasks from the late 1970s and early 1980s that represented an important addition to the state's foreign cultural policy, such as the intensification of youth exchanges with non-European countries and the publication of a VDA press service to support the German-language press abroad, the "Wende" in autumn 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain created a new political framework for the work of the association, v. a. in Eastern Europe. On behalf of the CDU-led federal government, which was particularly concerned with keeping the Russian Germans in their settlement areas, the VDA took over the coordination of extensive funding projects.

After 1989, the association's work did not concentrate solely on the Germans in the Soviet Union or the CIS states, but also included the German minorities in the states of Central Eastern, Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

1998: Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad e. V. (VDA)

Today the VDA bears the name “Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad” and sees itself “as a living bridge between the German homeland and the approximately 14 million Germans abroad”. He publishes the magazine Globus , which appears quarterly and provides information about the association's work.

At the beginning of 2019, the publication of the magazine was discontinued and the office closed due to accumulated debts in the six-digit range, after the federal government had stopped grants from the Federal Foreign Office in 1998. At the end of March 2019, the board of directors filed for insolvency , which, however, was initially rejected by the Bonn District Court due to formal errors . On June 30, 2019, the association ceased its activities at the federal level.

Federal Executive

Status 1/2011

Chair of the Board of Directors


Association publications

From 1909 to 1919, the Verein für das Deutschtum Abroad published the quarterly magazine Das Deutschtum abroad . The weekly Der Osten appeared between 1915 and 1917, and the monthly Deutsche Welt from 1924 to 1933 .

Since 2000, the Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad has been publishing the magazine Globus , which primarily deals with issues of German-speaking communities abroad. Globus appears quarterly with a circulation of 8,000 copies, a good part of which goes abroad to German clubs and associations, German schools, church parishes, cultural institutes, trade missions and diplomatic missions as well as to over 400 editorial offices of German-language publications abroad.


  • Friedrich Carl Badendieck: People among Nations - On the history of protective work on the German people. 2nd Edition. Self-published, Bonn 1979.
  • Grant W. Grams: German Emigration to Canada and the Support of its Deutschtum during the Weimar Republic - the Role of the Deutsches Ausland Institut , Verein für das Deutschtum abroad and German-Canadian Organizations, Peter Lang Publishers , Frankfurt am Main , 2001.
  • Rudolf Luther: “Blue or Brown?” The Volksbund for Germanness Abroad VDA in the Nazi State 1933–1937. Wachholtz, Neumünster 1999, ISBN 3-529-02099-0 (At the same time: Kiel, Universität, Master's thesis, 1997).
  • Tammo Luther: Volkstumsppolitik of the German Reich 1933–1938. The Germans abroad in the field of tension between traditionalists and National Socialists (= historical messages. Supplement 55). Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08535-1 .
  • Stefan Rinke: "The last free continent". German Latin America Policy under the Sign of Transnational Relations, 1918–1933 (= Historamericana. Vol. 1). Volume 2. Hans-Dieter Heinz, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-88099-670-9 (also: Eichstätt, Catholic University, dissertation, 1995).
  • Marc Zirlewagen (Ed.): “We want to be Germans, a united nation of brothers!” The Association of German Students Abroad 1918–1933. A collection of texts and sources including the chronicle of the VADSt Marburg 1919–1934. Self-published, Wehrheim-Pfaffenwiesbach 2013, ISBN 978-3-939413-25-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Martina Welt: VDA in Hangelar: Association organizes student exchange programs all over the world. In: General-Anzeiger . March 7, 2013, accessed November 6, 2019 .
  2. Association of German cultural relations insolvent abroad. In: YOUNG FREEDOM. Accessed November 6, 2019 (German).
  3. Gerhard Weidenfeller: VDA, Association for Germanness Abroad, General German School Association. (1881-1918). A contribution to the history of German nationalism and imperialism in the empire (= European university publications. Series 3: History and its auxiliary sciences. Vol. 66). Lang, Bern et al. 1976, ISBN 3-261-01973-5 , pp. 165, 169 (also: Münster, Universität, Dissertation, 1971).
  4. Karl Bell: History of the Association for Germans Abroad. In: Erwin Barta, Karl Bell: History of protection work on German nationality. Association for Germans Abroad, Dresden 1930, pp. 99–348, here p. 117.
  5. Paul Herre (Ed.): Political Concise Dictionary. Volume 2: A - K. With editorial assistance from Kurt Jagow . KF Koehler, Leipzig 1923, p. 850 f.
  6. Oskar Stillich : Away with the VDA from schools! Lecture. With an accompanying word by Paul Oestreich . Publishing house for the German people, Breslau 1930.
  7. ^ Norbert Krekeler: Right to revision and secret Ostpolitik of the Weimar Republic. Subsidizing the German minority in Poland (= series of the quarterly books for contemporary history. No. 27). German Verl.-Anst., Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-421-01667-4 (At the same time: Bonn, University, dissertation, 1972: On the German policy of the Foreign Office in the areas ceded by the Versailles Treaty. ).
  8. Tammo Luther. Volkstumsppolitik of the German Reich 1933–1938. 2004, cit. P. 69.
  9. ^ Ingo Haar : Historians in National Socialism. German history and the "Volkstumskampf" in the East (= critical studies on history . Volume 143). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2000, ISBN 3-525-35942-X (also: Halle, University, dissertation, 1998).
  10. Alexa Stiller: Review of Luther, Tammo, Volkstumsppolitik des Deutschen Reiches 1933–1938: The Germans Abroad in the Field of Tension Between Traditionalists and National Socialists. H-German, H-Net Reviews. September 2005. online
  11. ^ Kurt Bauer : National Socialism. Origins, Beginnings, Rise and Fall (= UTB 3076). Böhlau, Vienna et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-205-77713-7 , p. 231.
  12. Alfred Elste, Dirk Hänisch: On the way to power. Contributions to the history of the NSDAP in Carinthia from 1918 to 1938 (= comparative social history and political history of ideas. Vol. 8). Edited by Anton Pelinka and Helmut Reinalter . Braumüller, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-7003-1153-2 , p. 301, cit. P. 372.
  13. ^ Philip Charles Farwell Bankwitz: Alsatian autonomist leaders. 1919-1947. The Regents Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS 1978, ISBN 0-7006-0160-0 , p. 59; Bernadette Schnitzler: La reconstruction du château de Hunebourg. L'oeuvre de F. Spieser et de l'architecte KE Loebell (1932–1944). In: Groupe de Recherche sur le château de Hunebourg: Hunebourg. Un rocher chargé d'histoire. Du Moyen Age à l'époque contemporaine (= Publications de la Société Savante d'Alsace et des Régions de l'Est. Collection "Recherches et documents". Vol. 59). Société Savante d'Alsace (Recherches et documents. Volume 59). Société Savante d'Alsace, Strasbourg 1997, ISBN 2-904920-17-X , pp. 175-236.
  14. Tammo Luther. Volkstumsppolitik of the German Reich 1933–1938. 2004, p. 158.
  15. ^ Claudia Mahnke: Association for German Cultural Relations: 27 student exchanges burst due to bankruptcy. In: General-Anzeiger. October 19, 2019, accessed November 6, 2019 .
  16. Wolfgang Reith, Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung , No. 26 of June 28, 2019: End of the cultural institution
  17. Parliamentary State Secretary Koschyk confirmed in office as Federal Chairman of the Association for German Cultural Relations Abroad. ( Memento from November 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) In: Baltische Rundschau , from January 20, 2011.
  18. Koschyk Chairman of the Association for Foreign Cultural Relations.
  19. Online: Issue 19/1914 , Issue 25/1915 , Issue 26/1915 , Issue 27/1916 , Issue 28/1916 , Issue 30/1916 , Issue 31/1917 , Issue 32/1917 , Issue 34/1917 , Issue 37 / 1918 .
  20. Thomas Dietzel, Hans-Otto Hügel: German literary journals 1880-1945, edited in 1988