Results 1 to 1 of 1

Thread: The Forest in German Consciousness

  1. #1
    Funding Member
    „Friend of Germanics”
    Funding Membership Inactive
    Blutwölfin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Last Online
    Friday, June 5th, 2020 @ 10:35 PM
    Skåne and North Frisia
    Iceland Iceland
    In a steady relationship
    Thanks Thanks Given 
    Thanks Thanks Received 
    Thanked in
    81 Posts

    Lightbulb The Forest in German Consciousness

    In Germany, surveys conducted in 1984 showed that 74% of the people in the Bundesrepublic Deutschland (BRD, West Germany prior to unification) thought the conditions of the forests were of great concern. They also showed that 97% were cognizant of the import of the term Waldsterben, German for forest death.

    Today the Greens, a political party that stresses environmental themes, particularly forest conservation, are represented in the Reichstag, the German parliament. This is the only national parliament in which such a party is represented.2 Heinrich Siegmann, who has done studies into the links between labor and environmentalism, believes that the environmental awareness in Germany is more widespread and popular than in the US, where there is a strong movement for environmental protection.

    This awareness of the natural environment is also apparent in the number of readily identifiable forest areas in Germany. Most Americans have heard of the Black Forest (Schwarzenwald) or the Vienna Woods (Weinerwald) or the Hartz Mountain Forest (Harzbergerwald) or the Teutoberg Forest (Teutoberg Wald, from whence the word teutonic, as a description of something German, as in Teutonic Knights, emanates).

    This identification of large areas of woodland is not common to most other countries. This is particularly significant in that Germany is a country which has a high population density, but is not one of the larger nations of the world in terms of area. This awareness can even be seen in the German capital, Berlin, where one of their most world renowned streets is named Unter den Linden (Under the Linden Trees). Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, forestry has been a serious academic discipline at German universities.

    It is evident from the foregoing that there is in the culture and society of Germany a special connection with their forests and that this bond has engendered an environmental awareness and an attitude which encourages conservation and preservation of the existing forested areas. More importantly, it informs the psyche of the German people in a way that has produced both beauty and deformity during our century and can be expected to continue to exert influence on them. This investigation shall attempt to gain an understanding of the historical, social, and cultural roots of this attitude and show its continued existence in today's Germany.

    In his book Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama contends that in Germany, as elsewhere, there was a "long tradition that imagined the forests as the primal birthplace of nations; the beginnings of habitation" and that the immortality of the nation is personified by the continued health of their forests. He believes that the subliminal awareness, recognized but not investigated, of the special nature of the forest in German culture had its inception in the ancient the Roman era.

    The Roman attempts at subjugation of the Germanic tribes of the time, which were thwarted with the defeat and decimation of the army of Varus at the Teutoberg Forest in 9CE by Arminius, gave birth to the German sozialen Gedächtnesses (social memory)6 of the forest as the site of the birthplace of the German people7 and the identification of the nation with the forests even as the US identifies with its 'purple mountain majesties.'

    Thus is engendered the concept of Heimat (homeland), which incorporates not only the physical place, but also the cultural concept of belonging to that place, as residing in the forest. Further, this ancient conflict with the Romans inaugurated a continuing clash within the German psyche between their concept of forest, nature, and the north on the one hand and the artificiality, decadence and urbanization represented by the Latin (Rome and, later, France) south on the other.9

    This sense of place in a culture is built first as an image within. It is based from the outset on the inter-action of people and their surroundings. In the German case this setting was imbued with the varied meanings of Landschaft (we see within this word the etymology of our landscape), which carries the connotation not only of the physical features of the place, but also includes the people within it and the life they lead. It is significant that there is a German governmental division which also uses Landschaft indicating a distinct administrative unit.

    So, while it is natural in setting, man is essential to it. It contains the German notion of their place in the world and their perception of how a person is integrated into it. In it we can see the foundation of the Heimat which is formed not only of the land but of the land and the people. Integral to this concept is the German resistance to Rome and things Latin and its link to the forest in those associations. This relationship was, ironically, developed initially by Tacitus.

    This is the same Tacitus who produced the Urheld (original hero), Arminius, the forest dwelling destroyer of Roman armies; intelligent, fearless and crafty, but incorruptible by civilization. These conceptions have shaped the identity of the Germans, associating the dualities of nature and Nationalism, civilization and decadence, forest and Volk (people who belong in and to a place). The Volk, whose perception is colored by these relationships, since how you see changes what you see, conceives of itself as having sprung from the Hercynian forest unsullied by association with others, thanks largely to Tacitus and the myth his writings produced.

    So too do the Germans associate their antipathy to civilization with their perceived forest origins, their identity is shaped by it, and encompassed by the shared concept of Heimat. Further, as this is a product of nature myths, the memories of pagan forest worship (in and of) become a motivating factor in the evolution of culture and society. The forest sacrifice (human) which presents a ritual of death and rebirth in the confines of the sacred grove continues to be demanded by the German psyche as propitiation of the forest god.

    Aby Warburg, the art historian of the fin de siécle, believed that for good or ill, Western 'rational' culture was derived from irrational mythos. And, in such a mélange, reason and irrationality combine to inform the culture. Given such a construction, you can have a Hitler and a Schweitzer, war and peace, the dichotomy with which all nations struggle.

    In 98CE Cornelius Tacitus described Germans as inhabitants of the "bristling forests, formidable warriors who relentlessly sought war even in time of peace, clad in furs or fabric made of tree bark" and "ferocious primitives" with a certain "nobility" that could not be corrupted by the luxury and civilization offered by Rome.11 He described their independent attitude which ranked each according to his abilities and how they lived in individual dwellings, but prized community and hospitality. Tacitus intended this work as an implicit critique of the decadence of his own people, but when rediscovered in the medieval era, it was incorporated in the German's self image.

    A constituent of this image was that of the German as a nomadic warrior and hunter who did not work the land as the Romans and their subject peoples did. The self picture that the German people have internalized is substantially informed by this identification with the woods and the self-sufficiency that it requires and symbolizes. It is in stark contrast to the settled, civilized world which is deforested. This conflict, between civilization and its trappings of dependency, unnatural surroundings and anthropocentricity opposed to the rustic, primitive, independent but natural surroundings elicited by the memory of the forest, has substantial bearing on the perceptions of the German people throughout their history and animates their attitudes even today.13

    However, as strong as this association through the medium of opposition to Latinium was, the German identification with the forest Heimat can be traced still further into prehistoric time through the understanding of cultural legacies, such as religious practices which were in use prior to the Christian conversion of the Germans that also contributed to this consciousness For not only did the rituals take place in the sacred precincts of oak groves in the wood, but the gods themselves dwelt in the trees and the spirit of the place.

    [...] the gods of the woods could not be realized in anthropomorphic form, but could only be conceptualized in the abstract. Pagan rites were performed exclusively in the deep wood. Indeed, they could not have taken place elsewhere, as the spirits of the gods would only be present in those places. Because of its prominence in the places where these ceremonies occurred the oak came to symbolize the German nation.

    The oak was considered sacred, even today a single free- standing oak is defined in German law as a forest and protected as such. Moreover, this unconscious paean to the forest permeated other areas such as German gothic architecture, which reflected the sacred grove in its trunk-like columns and echoes of intertwined branches in the pointed arches. A further example of the acceptance of the forest as sacred is the incorporation of the Yule log and the 'Christmas tree,' which now symbolized the new god, into the Christmas celebration.

    As the Germanic peoples proceeded through history this theme was repeated, amplified and also modified. As the people became more sedentary during the first millennium CE, the paradigm changed to include the peasant, but in a unique manner combined the 'wild' man of the forests with the natural setting of the smallhold farmer. Christianity modified the practices of worship in forest groves and it ended ritual human sacrifice which had been a part of German religious practice.

    It brought worship within the strictures and structures of the church, put man above nature (thereby exhibiting what could be considered an anti-nature stance) and imparted a civilizing adaptation to the mythos of the Heimat. The identification with nature mutated to include the smallhold farm and the idea of self-sufficiency on it, as well as continuing to celebrate the wild wood.

    In the early Sixteenth Century Conrad Celtis, a Renaissance German proto- nationalist, scholar-humanist, in an address at Nuremberg, urged a return to the "rude and rustic life of old", using the image of the woodsman/peasant as the archetype to be emulated. He extolled the beauty of the German woods, in particular the Urwald (Hercynian forests of pre-historic Germany), ironically, as Germany was being deforested by expanding population and the growth of towns.

    The loss of the primeval deciduous forests and their identification with the nation was being transferred to the second growth domesticated forests of conifer which we see now. This change also transformed the wild brute of the Hercynian forests into a 'noble savage' capable of autarky both as a farmer and a woodsman.

    The cultural standards were carried in art as well. Contemporaneous with Celtis, Albrecht Altdorfer in his art developed the forest as the natural protagonist of German uniqueness. His concept was of the forest not as the setting but as the story, thus Altdorfer imbued the wood with the hopes of the nation. Landscapes of der Wald were produced not as paintings of forest but patriotic allegories. Native history and vernacular arts/folklore, fairy tales, popular poetry, all the arts contributed to the burnishing of the forest's position as the well-spring of the German Volk and culture.

    Nevertheless, with the 30 Years War and its aftermath, this resurgence of belief in the forest as Germany itself faded into the background. The old conflict between the Germanic and the Latin worlds subsided, and Latin, French, and the revitalized Roman Catholic Church of the Counter-Reformation came to dominate, as the people attempted to recover from the deprivations of war and found a new cosmopolitan atmosphere in the strengthening towns.

    Subsequently, with most of the hardwood forest decimated by 1700 and replaced by more commercial conifer wood cover, the German people modified their cultural self- perception again. Now the myth of the rustic, innocent, martial virility of Herrmann (usually identified with Arminius, as the epitome of the innately clever warrior of the forest) and that of woodland nativism came together. The "Wald Heimat" (forest homeland) ethos returned in reaction as the towns grew in size and sophistication and became 'civilized' in what was a derogatory identification with Frenchification. This philosophy posited a return to the village and Wald from the town.

    Johann Gottfried Herder held that culture is naturally based in the land-forms, conventions and communities of autocthonous tradition. His definition places that of the Germans in the forest and its Gemeinschaft (traditional natural society, nation, community). In opposition to the more organic kin, land and home of the Gemeinschaft is the notion of the Gesellschaft. This is a collection of unrelated people or groups with only economic bonds among them with which to identify and Herder believes this is the antithesis of the Gemeinschaft with features that alienate and isolate rather than include those involved in it.

    Thus through the Gemeinschaft the past and future of Germany is contained in the Teutonic wood, its past and its tribes and is divorced (or perhaps divorcing) from the urbanity, civilization and decadence of modernizing society with its emphasis on the Gesellschaft of the economy and capitalism.

    With the increase in population, town and industrial growth into the Nineteenth Century, new symbols appeared which reinforced the perceptions already in place. These new concepts re-emphasized the conflict between the developing world and the myths of the past. Die Straße (the street) exemplified the town, markets and the man-made as juxtaposed with der Weg (the path) of the village, people, forest and the natural. William Heinrich Riehl, a conservative opposed to capitalism and urbanism, exalted Gemeinschaft and the labor associated with it. He felt der Heimat to be central to the culture and society of Germany and this particularly included the forest.

    In his Land und Leute (Natural History of the German People), he held out the German forester as the embodiment of ethnic authenticity rooted in der Vaterland and the Heimat. In contrast to the 'rootless Jew' was the bearer of capitalism, usury, and urbanization. In his postulates we find some of the antecedents for the darker forces within this forest ethos, those linking virulent nationalism and conservatism with the forest origin myths and of the anti-Semitism of the Nazis.

    Riehl says of this period that Germany's fragmentation and backward social and economic conditions enabled preservation of forests through laws passed during the Renaissance designed to protect feudal rights of princes in remaining woodlands. These laws remained on the books through the 19th Century. Riehl also feared that the forests were being destroyed by industrialization, and he felt government intervention was necessary and desirable.

    In 1852 he experienced some success when Anhalt-Dessau declared all oaks were state property and that they were to be protected. Also in the Nineteenth Century, partly as a result of Riehl's work, forestry became a serious academic discipline in Germany with university status. The academics who led these studies realized the significance of the forests and were critical in obtaining the recognition by the newly unified Reich government that the forests had more importance to the state than just the economic potential inherent in them, but that they also held part of the foundation of the national character and, thus should be protected.

    There is a negative aspect that is latent in the German identification of their culture with the forest that becomes evident at this point. This appearance has to do with the darkness, hardness, and unforgiving and unyielding character which is the obverse side of the forest world as it is in nature. This is the path in the woods that becomes a labyrinth and where one can become lost in the twilight or be led astray. Many folk tales which begin in the forbidding darkness of the forests of the Brothers Grimm frequently end there in disaster. An additional difficulty lies in the identification of the forests with the nation which led to militant Nationalism and contributed to right wing conservatism. This connection of the forest myth and militant Nationalism aided the rise of radicalism on the right and left. However, it was on the right that the most serious problems arose.

    Another part of this negative countenance is the idea of biological purity in the Volk (people) of the wood. This was first expressed by Tacitus, subsequently, if erroneously, re-invoked throughout the millennia and was responsible for a portion of the National Socialists' platform. The influence of the anti-Semitism of Riehl, who wrote on the correlation of the cultural myth of the forest and the purity of the German Volk, which gave inspiration to the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg is important, but not alone, in this respect. These sentiments led a large segment of the Nazi leadership to champion ecological perspectives, of which, more later.

    In the late Nineteenth Century the mechanistic thought characteristic of Enlightenment shifted to a vitalist perspective. One of the postulates of vitalist theory, was that entropy feeds the growth of systems but that the ultimate outcome is death through entropy. Biological vitalism and organic geology were a base for the ecologists global vision. This vision denies dominant relationships exist, thus negating the possibility of the sadistic aspect of dominant relationships which could come to the fore even if the relationship was initiated in altruistic manner.

    However, it does acknowledge that there is no way to stop these types of relations. Integrative biology, the recognition of the interdependency of man and nature, including energy, land, resources and the impact of the new theory of scarcity combined with vitalist theory to drive this change in thinking. As these scientific ideas, aesthetic and moral values sought expression in different political frameworks, the environmental movement, which Bramwell calls 'ecologism', was born.

    Bramwell contends that ecologism is a total Weltanschauungen (world view) has the basic tenet that truth is attainable and desirable. Its adherents renounce a piecemeal approach in favor of universalist and all-encompassing methods and formulations. They fears the dissipation of energy and resources due to their scarcity and also as an aid to entropy, as in the vitalist perspective. They are non-anthropocentric, seeing man as a part of an over-arching system. They want to reform man, society and their relationship to the world, to produce harmony within this structure.

    And, although nature is not necessarily kind to humankind, there is in ecologists of Bramwell's stripe a belief that humans have absolute responsibility for their own actions and for the world in general. The key questions behind this acceptance of responsibility for the world are whether humans are part of nature and subject to its law and entitled to compete and survive as per Darwin's theories or whether they are so adaptable they have transcended this and are now responsible for Earth.

    The ecologists accept the increased responsibility and see themselves as guardians of Earth, man as shepherd. They are aware that everything has a cost and a place, a Heimat or Landschaft, if you will, but they are not passive about it. They feel science has shown them the way to plan for the planet and feel it is their responsibility to light the path for all. This view is informed by scientific knowledge (and theories) and reverence for beauty and the order of nature. There is in this belief in scientific rationalism a contradiction that we have seen typified in German character previously, an anti-progressive element and a determinism through reason combined with rejection of reason as shown in the belief in alternatives which are not rational, e.g., peasant values, etc. This contradiction simply reinforced the appeal that ecologism exerted on the Germans.

    Thus, Germany's traditions lent support to ecological scientism, perceiving it as a way back to the ancient 'sacred groves' of der Wald. One of the most salient features of these changes was that man was no longer seen as the crown of creation. As a corollary, this led to the Gaia hypothesis, which predicates the Earth as a live organism which can and, eventually will, stop man and is superior to him. However, like him, it lives and will die. Christianity, as we have seen, put man above nature and was thus, in a sense, anti-nature.

    Ecologism appealed to those who wished to return to a god-filled nature and this was particularly true of the Germans. The heretical nature of this postulate in terms of religious thought is substantial, but given the nature of the mentality of the Germans, its appeal can be reasonably well understood, dissatisfaction and uncertainty being part of the German psyche. So, as in Riehl's work, there is a search for 'earth-bound' identification, a Landschaft or Heimat, in which to include one's self.

    These attitudes couple with anti-mechanistic values to oppose institutions (the church) and growth for its own sake (which seems to be an unconscious tenet of capitalism) and to reinforce anti-capitalist positions. The changes that were wrought by this new thought created an ethic that man and animal were comparable and that realized the alteration in biological perspective which started in Germany, where it was pioneered by Ernst Haeckel's Generelle Morphologie of 1866. His web of linked organisms and their environment, which had overtones of an organized system of autarky, melded well with the German tradition of Landschaft, Volk and Wald.

    Haeckel's universe was a unified and balanced organism, it was not anthropocentric, and nature was the source of truth and guidance. We inherited his philosophy as the theory of Monism; i.e., everything has the same material composition, that it is one spirit. This was a progressivist, meritocratic, expansionist, nationalist (but pacifist), agnostic/atheistic theory which opposed the image of the mind/body split of dualism. In Haeckel's theories we once again see the traditional German conflict between nature and civilization. This time his Monism takes the nature position and the dualists are the opponents representing civilization, establishment and de-humanizing industrialization.

    This monist perception of nature by the Germans is crucial, for they see in it a sense of a lost past having to do only partly with movement away from the agricultural world with the Industrial Revolution, but also as having roots farther back in the mists of prehistory. This attitude runs throughout the political spectrum, developing an independent paradigm which is neither left nor right, but an amalgamation of both and neither. Much of the essential characteristics of this political shape of ecologism come from scientific thinking and not conservative political leanings and although there is a strong conservative vein running through it, it is not a reactionary conservatism, but a natural one.

    Thus, the forest consciousness found a natural outlet outside of the then standard political spectrum and now had a new channel through which to realize the integration of that consciousness into the practical world of political activism. Further, ecologists' loyalties were not to institutions, but to belief and conscience and although they believed in a centralized state for some purposes, that state was to be predicated on cooperative, efficient, harmonious, individuals with sense of duty holding the levers of power.

    The early years of the Twentieth Century saw an enormous increase in the philosophical underpinnings of ecologism. At first there was great optimism and openness to the new. German youth looked to escape the old and out worn, and this produced a sizable generation gap at turn of the century. Rilke's thingness of things lost with the Industrial Revolution was confirmed as people were removed farther and farther from nature and individual production.

    The older conservatives were bound by tradition while the reborn German naturist was attempting to establish a new tradition with problem solving at its base. The 'other' was defined as mechanistic, exploitative and anti- nature in these philosophies. Biologic vitalism and holistic philosophy held that the planet was an interdependent complex, with the Gaia hypothesis very popular in Germany, particularly after W.W.I. Others felt there was a mystic bond between man and land.

    Also at this time Halford Makinder, a English geographer who was influential in Germany, asserted that geographic factors affect society, politics and economic conditions. George Perkins Marsh postulated his theory that deforestation led to the decline of past civilizations. The idea that all energy ultimately comes from the sun was promulgated. The word ecology came into use around this time and its implications of moral dimensions of the use and conservation of resources and their effect on survival were recognized.

    The word Umwelt was coined which has come to mean environment, but during this period meant the subjective world of the individual. The anarchist Kropotkin urged decentralization in an argument that encouraged the peasant ideal that is autarky. He was supported by studies which showed that peasant production per unit was higher than larger farms and that some economies of scale were chimerical. There were many experiments in the twenties and thirties with German youth communes and messianic and art communes to try to move back to the land and harmony with nature as a result of the ideas that were popular during this era. Wandervögel (wandering bird) youth held a love of the rural area with reform attitudes on society.

    One result of these new images was that Germans evolved beliefs in modern, rural simplicity in contrast to urbanization. These also took an anti-capitalist stand against the banking system, 'unrooted money' and financial capitalism. This position was taken on the premise that banks were usurist and all credit should emanate from a benevolent state (there were attacks on Jewish bankers as a racist danger to workers). Additionally, these environmental and communard groups set out to solve specific small ecological problems. The youth movements combined ecology, socialism, pacifism, elitism and eugenics (to produce the best people). By the thirties the foundations of these movements in their philosophical alienation from capitalism, industrialization and urbanization and their proclivity toward ecological and socialist solutions increased their susceptibility to the blandishments of the Nazis. 26

    In art at this time we have ecological symbolism rampant. In it we see a representation of endurance and doom not utopia. Artists were seeking the answers with nature as the teacher, der Wald were the symbol of the German homeland, blue flowers were the symbol of the unknowable and death, the bluebird were the symbol of the unreachable and death and, of course, the blue angel represented nature as purity (also seen today in Germany on packaging as the symbol of an environmentally sound product).

    In literature in the twenties, after the disruption of W.W.I, there was a desire for return to simplicity; i.e., the peasant life, the forest, etc. Even Berthold Brecht described himself as aus den Deutschen Schwarzenwalden geboren (born of the Black Forests of Germany). One of the results of the confusion that these new paradigms caused within the Germans was the ability of the National Socialists (Nazis) to appropriate many of the principles of ecologism. Possibly the major connection which facilitated the Nazi ability to co-opt these themes was the association between forest myth and militant nationalism.

    The Nazis attracted ecologists after W.W.I with their apparently anti-capitalist stance, their insistence that the technology of the market was corrupt and their naturist propaganda. Fascism 'catonism' looked to the peasant as savior of nature and exalted peasant values as incorruptible in the face of modern urban values, co-opting part of the ecologists' message and, coincidentally, making use of the old nature/civilization conflict of the German Volk.

    Thomas Mann wrote that rural values were behind Nazism. Moreover, there was an actual 'green streak' in Nazism. They emphasized the link between nature and culture (Blut und Boden, blood and soil) and this was the critical heart of green Nazism. They either believed or took advantage of the organic reaction of natural science to mechanistic biology, which is the existential philosophy of greens all over Europe, but in Germany differences between nature and culture were squelched and similarities in organicism to Nazism were boosted.

    Schama believes that the forest myth in German culture was also one of the foundations of Nazism. German fascism came 'from below' in the ecological arena, in contravention of the normal Nazi procedure. The Nazis appealed to 'natural laws' to acceptance of state of world as is. "German naturist thought' sought answers and saw nature as the teacher with a concrete truth which could be grasped although it was obscured at first. There was no sensuous nature as in English environmentalism and the literature was didactic in tone. They rejected transcendental doctrine and separated it from Nazi approach to ecological politics.

    A support for this perspective came from the reaction after W.W.I in which nationalist school teachers looked to supplant Christian myths with German ones, to replace the holy land (Palestine) with Germany, the holy river (Jordan) with the Rhine, the holy mountain (Carmel) with the Wartburg, and, later, the holy symbol (Crucifix) with the Swastika. The pacifist-ecologists were subverted by the appeal to their nature as German nationalists. They taught that nature links with life-force and exists independent of man, but that man was a vessel for its use and expressed this force through dance, gesture, and poetry and satisfied it by living close to nature. They fell back on the ancient conflict to explain how this link was lost in Germany, blaming Rome, Christianity and urban living and the change from matriarchal (Bronze Age feminine dominated religion and society which was seen as harmonious) society to a society that was patriarchal and unnatural. They explained that the rejection of patriarchy is the rejection exploitative insensitivity to nature.

    Thus the description of sacrifice and death in W.W.I were couched in propaganda and naturist terms with male domination identified with the patriarchy, civilization, industrialization and the anti-natural. Heidigger's arguments that Western culture was flawed from the time of the Romans by Roman distortion of German ideas and that this flaw resulted in the wrong historical path being taken by Western civilization were called upon to support this position.

    Yet there were some ecologists opposed to the Nazi rise. National Socialism was at odds with ecologism. The Nazis were militarists and anti-enlightenment, while the ecologists were pacifists and not anti-enlightenment. Hitler was not a supporter of the 'green wing' of the party. He used the environmentalists in the party in the same calculated way he did the S.A. The Nazis were basically conservative and bound by tradition, while the naturist is opposed to stifling tradition.

    This harkens back to the idea that man, world and nature are one (Lebensphilosophie, life philosophy, whose roots in Monism can be readily seen) and does not seem to be a link between the ecologists and National Socialism. Moeller van der Bruck and Spengler, who has often been linked with the Nazis, both rejected nature as a philosophical guide and that rejection spelled the difference between them and the Nazis. The German naturist, while identifying with nature, looks to objective nature not mythos for answers. They move through obscurantist institutions and history to try to uncover fundamental truth. They look back beyond the present to avoid historical mistakes and this is a very radical position compared with the conservative one of the Nazis.

    During the Nazi era, Reichsminister of Agriculture, Rudolf Darré, was a committed believer in organic farming and coined the motto Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil) which emphasized the interconnection of the culture and people with the land. He pushed Naturschutz (environmental protection) as a state function. The scarcity theory of Ballod, a utopian anarchist, stimulated the Nazis in establishing the 'Erdhof', a peasant farm of 75 to 125 hectares, and in instituting the department of wind energy and methane technology to investigate alternative energy sources Ballod's postulate of the leadership of a technological elite was executed by Hitler in his use of farm advisors, the engineering and scientific push and synthetics production (ersatz).

    In the Nazi period forest themes were everywhere in art, literature and politics. They emphasized anti- modern (at least anti-urban) themes and the racial and national uniqueness attributed to sylvan heritage, e.g., Karl Rebel's Der Wald in der Deutschen Kultur and Julius Kober's Deutscher Wald, Deutsches Volk. The Nazi leadership was photographed in wooded milieu often. Hitler and Himmler were vegetarians and animal rights advocates. Lamentably, as the world learned to its detriment, their attitudes did not apply equally to humans.

    While it is not fashionable to praise the Third Reich, it was the first government to support a policy for rural conservation, the first to set up nature reserves, the first to mandate broad leaf deciduous tree planting, the first to halt wetlands drainage, the first to protect wild-life habitat and the first to pass anti-vivisection laws. Much of this work was the product of the efforts of Darré, who was supported by Rudolf Hess and thus, when Hess made his flight to England much of this work was suppressed in reaction.

    Unfortunately, these and other positive steps were overshadowed by the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The foundation of the forest mythos and the militant Nationalism which informed Nazi philosophy tarred the entire socio-cultural German identity that had built up over the centuries. The term "Holzweg" is symbolic of the dichotomy seen above. It implies not only a natural path through the wood but also the darkness of the forest and one's ability to lose one's way in it.

    Nevertheless, the forest consciousness remained a part of the German psyche even after the war. However, its visible manifestation changed and now took on a political cast as its proponents shifted into the liberal, leftist environmental movement which arose in the 1960s. Initially there was a clash of this movement with the labor movement of the BRD. Labor saw the environmentalists' agenda as affecting wages and employment and met them with antipathy. However, the movement widen and deepened in the late sixties and early seventies as a result of the anti-nuclear movement.

    The environmental consequences of nuclear power and stationing of nuclear weapons on German soil were of concern not only to environmentalists, but to the majority of Germans. There was a move to a heightened sense of the importance of the environment and Lebensqualität (quality of life) which resulted in the establishment of citizen groups, nature groups, alternate technology associations and the Bund Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND, the German Association for the Environment and Environmental Protection).

    Also of inspiration to the Greens was the work of Kiefer, an artist whose name in German is literally 'the pine tree'. He brought attention to the problems of pollution affecting the German forests and coined the term "Waldsterben", now the cry of the German environmentalists, which means forest death. This raised the specter of the loss of the symbol of Germany and motivated the people to action.

    Even before the environmental movement became a factor, the academic community sounded the klaxon of forest preservation, as they had in the Nineteenth Century. The Institut für Waldbargrundlagen (Forest Study) of the University of Göttingen was established in 1955 and initiated an extended pilot project, only the second of its kind in Europe, of the Solling Forest, one of the largest and last deciduous forests in Germany in 1966. This study was conceived to avoid the replacement of the hardwood forest with spruce softwood as had already begun.

    Also under investigation at this time, and the above-mentioned study had some impact on this, was the problem of modern emission pollution of the air and its effect on forests. In the early seventies it was determined that there was a serious problem and the Federal Law on the Prevention of Immissions [sic] (BImSchG) was passed curbing air pollution in several areas including the Schwarzenwald (Black Forest).

    The oil shock of the early seventies gave tremendous impetus to the movement by highlighting the problems of scarcity, recession, energy, employment and environment and their interconnection. The first serious environmental political activism began in about 1975 with protests against the BRD nuclear program, using non-violent methods, such as planting saplings on the site as opposition to a nuclear energy construction project at Gorleben. By 1979 "dying forests"(Keifer's Waldsterben) began to attract attention showing that the problems were national in scope.

    This mobilized even conservative politics and in June of 1979 the Green Party was established. However, due to parliamentary structure environmental groups took longer to influence government policy in BRD than in US. The German environmental movement was decentralized and outside politics until late seventies when they finally organized politically and were elected first in the Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) parliament and then in 1983 to both the Reichstag and the European Parliament (where they currently hold more seats than the communists). They gained much political clout after they were installed in the Reichstag as a swing vote in coalition governments and even though small and have had much impact on federal legislation.

    The environmental movement has been broadening its base and is no longer seen in left/right political terms as in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Moreover, it has shifted to post-materialistic values and post-modern politics. Their concern is now with natural living conditions, with "Staatsverdroßenkeit" (general social mores and values) and considerations applicable to the younger, post-W.W.II generation. They contend there is a basic human right to satisfaction of needs within ecological tolerances of land, sea, air and forest and this applies to future generations as well.

    Their focus is anti-capitalist, anti-Communist, anti-nuclear and environmental protection. The problems that they see as important include water depletion and deforestation. They equate cancer prevalence with industry and industrial agriculture. They note that one main battle tank costs the equivalent of 520 classrooms, that plants supplying electricity for three cities and nineteen rural zones could be built instead of one destroyer, and that soldiers far outnumber teachers, doctors and nurses combined. They contend that these correlations reflect that the choices that are being made are wrong and need readjustment. They conceive of projects like the one the artist Beuys did to plant 7000 oak trees throughout Germany as Verwaldungen (afforestation) to make cities and towns more forest-like (the project was completed in 1987 a year after Beuys' death from cancer).

    Throughout their history we see that the identification of the German people with their forests as the birthplace for their nation and as a symbol of its vitality has informed their culture and society. Thus, even today there is a consciousness of the need to maintain the health of those forests which has been exemplified in the rise of the Greens and the large percentage of the population which is concerned by the concept of "Waldsterben" and Naturschutz. Though this consciousness has had both detrimental and positive effects on the German nation, it will be seen to be an integral part of the German psyche and thus will be a factor in the social and cultural attitudes for a long time to come.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

Similar Threads

  1. Our Ancestors and Racial Consciousness
    By Razzok in forum Indo-Germanic Spirituality
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016, 02:35 AM
  2. German Forest Boy Baffles Police
    By DutchfromHolland in forum Articles & Current Affairs
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: Monday, September 26th, 2011, 12:04 AM
  3. The Nature of Odin - Cosmic Consciousness
    By Airmanareiks in forum Cosmology & Mythology
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Friday, February 2nd, 2007, 11:08 PM
  4. Being, Consciousness and Everything - An Essay
    By TisaAnne in forum Metaphysics
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Friday, January 6th, 2006, 10:09 AM


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts