Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
H G. Penny
After World War II East and West Germans alike contributed to the maintenance and dismantling of European colonialism, whether by means of direct participation or state policy. At the same time, Germans in both states fashioned a variety of narratives about Germany's own colonial period, selectively including and interpreting facts in order to support sweeping pronouncements on Germany's past, present, and future. In this regard Germans were not unique, as other Europeans after 1945 likewise struggled to find their way in a rapidly decolonizing world and to make sense of the history that had led them to this point. Yet, unlike other Europeans, Germans had been without a colonial empire of their own since World War I.
In West and East Germany colonialism permeated political culture. German politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and workers dealt with colonialism, its decline, and its aftermath on a regular basis. Colonies were objects of foreign policy-making; decolonization provided an important context for political and economic developments within, between, and beyond both German states; and Germany's colonial past offered redemption and reproach to those willing to find them there. These and other encounters with colonialism dot the historical record, appearing in government archives, political pamphlets, and popular culture ranging from periodicals to film and television. Colonialism's continued relevance for Germans--and indeed the continued relevance of Germans in Europe's waning overseas empires--naturally invites one to compare and contrast the German experience with that in France, or the United Kingdom. However, it also points to the importance such similarities or differences had for Germans. Colonialism certainly helped forge connections between Germans and non-Germans across Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, but more importantly it provided a language for defining Germans' relationships with the rest of the world, not to mention with each other.
Copyright 2010 Jason Verber
Verber, Jason. "The conundrum of colonialism in postwar Germany." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.