Alsace to the Alsatians?: Visions and Divisions of Alsatian Regionalism, 1870-1939

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Berghahn Books, Mar 30, 2010 - History - 254 pages
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The region of Alsace, located between the hereditary enemies of France and Germany, served as a trophy of war four times between 1870–1945. With each shift, French and German officials sought to win the allegiance of the local populace. In response to these pressures, Alsatians invoked regionalism-articulated as a political language, a cultural vision, and a community of identity-not only to define and defend their own interests against the nationalist claims of France and Germany, but also to push for social change, defend religious rights, and promote the status of the region within the larger national community. Alsatian regionalism however, was neither unitary nor unifying, as Alsatians themselves were divided politically, socially, and culturally. The author shows that the Janus-faced character of Alsatian regionalism points to the ambiguous role of regional identity in both fostering and inhibiting loyalty to the nation. Finally, the author uses the case of Alsace to explore the traditional designations of French civic nationalism versus German ethnic nationalism and argues for the strong similarities between the two countries' conceptions of nationhood.

 

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Interestingly this very well documented book appears just as the history of Alsace is about to reach its end. The French parliament decided on November 25 2014 to dilute Alsace in a big French Eastern Region. This sad end is consistent with the final assessment of the author's own conclusion.about Alsace's present loss of identity.
Alsace presents a unique case of a people denying its own cultural roots. Alsatians fell under the spell of France although France never understood Alsace and always despised it for its servile adulation. German by race, temperament, language, culture many Alsatians it is true have displayed a consistent desire to be French since the XIX century. C Fischer although he tends to stick with a mostly francophile narrative does explain many of the paradoxes in the attitudes of the 2 major powers that have ruled Alsace. He demonstrates in a factual way that Alsatians never reached the level of unity that would have allowed them to develop a consistent political action. It is true that any such action always implied some geopolitical dimension far transcending the aspirations of a very pragmatic entity that although a reality only found its political embodiment in 1871. The author certainly fails to recognize the emotional blackmail France used to subdue Alsatian desire for autonomy. France managed to turn France's swift abandonment of Alsace when ever it suited its interest into Alsatian guilt for moving on with life after french desertion. This is particularly true after WWII when any sign of germanity was equated with nazi nostalgia.
A must read for anyone interested in one of the most complex historical context in European history particularly given the paucity of writings in English on the subject.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
Chapter 1
20
Chapter 2
52
Chapter 3
73
Chapter 4
100
Chapter 5
128
Chapter 6
152
Chapter 7
179
Conclusion
206
Bibliography
213
Index
229
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About the author (2010)

Christopher J. Fischer received both his Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He currently is an Associate Professor at Indiana State University.

He is also recipient of the Fritz Stern Prize awarded by the German Historical Institute and the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

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