Revolutionizing Weimar Germany's Public Sphere

Page 3: Mapping "Heimat" / "Homeland"

This spatial view informed my understanding of this section. While the photos remain visual symbols of historical and political events, thinking of them spatially in relation to the rest of Germany, opened up Tucholsky's text and my idea of "Heimat" / "Homeland." (All images need to have proper titles and annotations like the page layouts.)

These photos are neither private nor public and neither a product of mass culture nor of an individual’s effort. They do not show people or members of certain social classes that should be associated with Germany to push its standing to be “above all” (GG 230). They also do not show cities or technological developments as might be expected for Weimar Germany and its modern advancements. Instead, the idea of “Heimat” is unfolded via the association with German landscapes and landmarks, to the very south and very north of Germany.

            While this sounds like a romantic approach to the idea of Germany as Heimat, these images and essays are still as strong a comment on the socio-political issues at the end of the Weimar Republic. The photographs show, for instance, in the south the pilgrimage church St. Bartholomew at the Königsee lake in Bavaria, an unidentified lake and, in the very north of the country, the Lange Anna (Tall Anna), the famous high sea stack of Buntsandstein in the North Sea island of Heligoland. The latter is not a coincidence as Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote “The Song of the Germans” that contains the line “Germany, Germany above All” on this island in 1841. For Tucholsky, even if one does not own a piece of land in the Bavarian alps, the German citizen can attach “a feeling separate from all politics” (227) to this landscape; and it is this feeling for which the citizen can love his country. At first, this reads like Tucholsky is propagating romantic escapism and urging his reader to leave the city, a view often mentioned in reviews of GG at the time and later on. However, even in this section, he uses a photograph of a larger-than-life war monument, or an image of Linderhof Palace in Southern Bavaria to show that even in a seemingly untouched landscape, there are buildings and monuments that his reader first views as beautiful and integrated into the landscape. Yet, Tucholsky does not let his reader forget that — and here he uses the rarely employed first-person perspective in GG — “I don't forget that hundreds of peasants lived in poverty so that this might be built" (228). In opposition to scholarship, I argue that only after Tucholsky has covered all other areas, classes and institutions of public life, he is able to turn from his first-person perspective to a collective one: “Yes, we love this land” (230); “The flags are nothing to us - but we love the land” (231). Continuously employing this perspective in “Heimat,” I argue that he does not escape any concrete standpoint of how the public is defined or what action the public should take, particularly against the “nationalists-in-reverse” (231). In the end, the “we”, the public, is not located in cities only, or somewhere in the German landscape or with the peasant, presenting Blood and Soil ideology. It is located somewhere in-between. Hence, Tucholsky’s choice to include photographs only from the very south and very north of the country — the war monument at the Rhine, also commemorating Germany's Unification in 1871, is the only exception. In the end, the public is one that is supposed to be on the move, not confined to their subscription of a newspaper that they read at home, but moving around a city, its buildings, parks and transit hubs, and even moving around the country as the very last photograph of a train on the Hindenburgdamm that connects the island of Sylt to the mainland indicates. 

In doing so, Tucholsky underlines, every individual is carrying her “Private-Germany” with her (228), while either feeling connected to the south, or to the north, either emphasizing her individuality or her connection to a group or social class. Thus, the idea of homeland is dissolved here, as much as the binaries between private and public and between individual and mass have been dissolved in earlier sections and now again in “Heimat” in order to emphasize that a mobile, fluctuating identity is of need in the modernity of the Weimar Republic. Thus, a German citizen is not just attached to his Scholle, “signifying the native health to which man is supposedly attached [in the Blood and Soil ideology]” (Boa/Palfreyman 7); her identity is rather defined by modern mobility, signified by the train here, connecting mainland Germany with the island of Sylt, via a thin, artificial railroad embankment.

While each citizen might define their idea of homeland through local loyalty, national citizenship or even cosmopolitan openness, bridging the gaps between the island and the mainland and between the north and the south will make a difference. Yet, this can only work, and that’s the reason why Tucholsky and Heartfield chose this photograph of the train – and not one of landscapes, buildings or people – as the final image of DD, when the German citizen is aware that like the train, the idea of national identity connects various concepts and ideas. And, moreover, that a national identity is an artificial construct like the railroad embankment.  

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