Politics of Citizenship in Germany: Ethnicity, Utility and Nationalism

Politics of Citizenship in Germany: Ethnicity, Utility and Nationalism

Politics of Citizenship in Germany: Ethnicity, Utility and Nationalism

Politics of Citizenship in Germany: Ethnicity, Utility and Nationalism


Why did German states for so long make it extraordinarily difficult for foreigners who were not ethnic Germans to become citizens? To what extent was this policy a product of popular national feeling, and to what extent was it shaped by the more state-centered goals of the political elite? In what ways did Nazi citizenship policies perpetuate, or break with, the actions of earlier German states? What does this larger historical context suggest about the causes for, and implications of, therecent and dramatic liberalization in German citizenship laws?

German states have long exercised tight control over which foreigners might become citizens. Because Germans felt a cultural attachment to other ethnic Germans, it has been argued, German national states naturally welcomed the immigration of ethnic Germans and sought to prevent the naturalization of individuals who were considered foreign. It is true that ethnic nationalism came to play a - and after 1918 the - key role in German citizenship and naturalization policies. But ethnicity was farfrom the only criterion employed to distinguish desirable from undesirable subjects or citizens.

In a study that begins in the early nineteenth century and reaches the dramatic changes of the 1990s, the author challenges the traditional interpretation of the role of ethnicity. He shows that appeals to ethnic solidarity often masked more political objectives. Other factors affecting the politics of citizenship included German states' efforts to mold and improve society and to safeguard their own grip on power; changing conceptions of economic and military utility; the personality and political aims of Bismarck; the international conflict with Britain, France, and Russia; anti-Semitism and the world wars. While other authors have stressed consensus within German society, this account focuses on conflict.


It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to thank the individuals who have made the completion of this study possible.

This book began as a dissertation at Johns Hopkins University. I thank Vernon Lidtke for his generosity with his time and his wise advice. Those who know his work will recognize the influence of Mack Walker. I wish it were still possible to thank John Higham.

For their detailed comments on the entire manuscript I would like to thank Ben Nathans, Marc Raeff, Anne Raeff and Hartwin Spenkuch. Geoff Cocks, Charles Fairbanks, Robert Forster, Melody Herr, Ann Goldberg, Matt Levinger and Nick Stamos also made valuable suggestions. Ina Paul was exceedingly generous with her expertise and time. At Albion College Russ Clark, Ralph Houghton, Melinda Kraft and Robin Miller all provided most generous and invaluable help with maps and images, as did Juneyeta Gates and Melinda Rains at Ball State University. Ken Ledford gave me the chance to present part of the study at Case Western Reserve University. For this and much else I thank him. I also want to thank Bowdoin College, Albion College, the American Historical Association and the American Society for Legal History for offering venues for presentations and critiques. The anonymous reviewers at Berg Publishers made very helpful suggestions. I also want to thank Kathleen May, Ian Critchley and George Pitcher at Berg.

Financial assistance from various sources made this project possible. The people of the United States provided generous funding for four years through the Jacob Javits Fellowship program; the people of Berlin, through the Berlin Program of the Free University, granted a stipend for one year and office space. A grant from Albion College paid for the images in this book. I thank them all.

Lisa Enders, Shirley Hipley, Charlotte Magnuson, LaVonne March, and in particular the late Sharon Widomski, the staffs of the various history departments where I have studied and taught, provided generous assistance in many matters large and small. The directors of the Berlin Program, Ingeborg Mehser, Dagmar Klenke and Karin Goihl, were also exceedingly generous with their time.

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