Journal Article

Deutsch als Weltsprache? Franz Thierfelder, the Deutsche Akademie in Munich and the Promotion of the German Language Abroad, 1923–1945

Eckard Michels

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 22, issue 2, pages 206-228
Published in print April 2004 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online April 2004 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355403gh306oa
Deutsch als Weltsprache? Franz Thierfelder, the Deutsche Akademie in Munich and the Promotion of the German Language Abroad, 1923–1945

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The Deutsche Akademie (DA) in Munich was founded in the context of a general upsurge in cultural diplomacy in Germany after the First World War and it was the precursor of today's Goethe Institute. After a difficult start, by the early 1930s the DA had become the leading institution in the promotion of the German language abroad. The emergence of the DA's language policy was closely intertwined with the general development of German cultural diplomacy, which was largely financed by the Auswärtiges Amt but executed by private associations. It was also influenced by the discussions in the 1920s about the role of language in shaping German national identity, by contemporary developments in German linguistics and language teaching, and by the discourse of the socalled ‘conservative revolution’. Franz Thierfelder, secretary-general of the DA, managed to forge these developments into a coherent argument as to why Germany should intensify its language policy, centre it around the DA, and direct it mainly towards the Balkan countries. The language policy of the DA remained largely undisturbed by the Nazi seizure of power until the outbreak of war, even though the emphasis was now on race rather than language as the determining factor in German national identity. The reason for this was, firstly, that the cultural diplomacy of the Auswärtiges Amt and its private institutions such as the DA continued to be dominated for some time by non-Nazis and, secondly, that Germany's cultural diplomacy was dictated more by the constraints and dynamics of international politics and by economic necessities than by ideology. It was only after the outbreak of war that the expansion of the DA's language programme became closely linked to the racially motivated ‘new order’ for a Europe under Nazi rule.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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