Academic journal article German Quarterly

A Greener Vision of Home. Cultural Politics and Environmental Reform in the German Heimatschutz Movement, 1904-1918

Academic journal article German Quarterly

A Greener Vision of Home. Cultural Politics and Environmental Reform in the German Heimatschutz Movement, 1904-1918

Article excerpt

Rollins, William H. A Greener Vision of Home. Cultural Politics and Environmental Reform in the German Heimatschutz Movement, 1904-1918. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P 1997. 332 pp. $54.50.

William Rollins's A Greener Vision of Home is an audacious study of the German environmental movement that formed during the first two decades of the twentieth century under the name of Heimatschutz. Predominantly an organization of the educated middle class that by 1914 counted some 30,000 members, Bund Heimatschutz combined a Schillerian idealism of outer and inner beauty with the applied aesthetics of John Ruskin and William Morris. It is one of Rollins's theses that by applying the German idea of Heimat to its environmental concerns, Bund Heimatschutz had a political impact far beyond its English counterpart.

Rollins takes great pains to show that Heimat, as the Heimatschutzer understood it, should not be confused with Heimat as used either by the contemporaneous Heimatkunst movement or, later, by National Socialist propaganda. As Rollins explains it, Heimat for the Heimatschutzer was a way of seeing: "It was the eyes that were the key; true change would only be possible in a population that had learned to see, to distinguish the aesthetically and environmentally good from its opposite" (68). Moreover, Rollins argues that the Heimatschutzer's idea of Heimat was neither conceived in opposition to some notion of die Fremde, nor promoted a narrow-minded nationalism.

The first of the book's four chapters uses Gramsci's theory of "hegemony" to show that Heimatschutz's concern for the environment was oppositional and counterhegemonic in character.

Rollins's review of the Heimatschutz movement between 1904 and 1914 in chapter two offers many surprising insights into a period when the National Socialist repolarization of values and language had not yet occurred-for both the term Heimat and the first chairman of the Bund Heimatschutz Paul Schultze-Naumburg ( 1869-1949) would be strongly implicated in these repolarizations over the next three decades. Rollins reminds us that, hard as it may be for us to accept this today, we must not see Schultze-Naumburg as a Nazi already in 1904, although he became a principal formulator of National Socialist cultural ideology later on. Nor can we read Heimat as a necessarily nationalist term before World War I. Rollins's book supports the current anti-Sonderweg stance in German historiography: clearly the Bund Heimatschutz, a German "middle class, whitecollar phenomenon" (103), contradicts the notion that the German middle class was largely passive in political matters. …

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