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Shaping of European identity in the Alsatian community

Shaping of European identity in the Alsatian community

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Published by André Feldhof
In its history, the region Alsace has been annexed by France and by Germany multiple times. Each annexation has brought about a change in language and a change in the identity of the Alsatian population. This paper sets out to show how European integration has benefitted the Alsatian identity and how it has made Alsace one of the most pro-European regions in Europe.
In its history, the region Alsace has been annexed by France and by Germany multiple times. Each annexation has brought about a change in language and a change in the identity of the Alsatian population. This paper sets out to show how European integration has benefitted the Alsatian identity and how it has made Alsace one of the most pro-European regions in Europe.

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Published by: André Feldhof on Aug 16, 2011
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09/10/2011

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SHAPING OF EUROPEAN IDENTITY IN THE ALSATIANCOMMUNITY
Supervisors: André Feldhof Dr. Ruud Hendriks (course) ID 502243Ms. Giselle Bosse (tutor) Pigeonhole 189Mr.Clive Lawrence (language coach) Date: 07-01-08Research and writing Group Number 19 Research paper (1A2)Language training Group Number 114 Version: Resit, Final paper 
 
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IntroductionThe French region of Alsace has often been characterized as the crossroad of Europe, a placewhere different currents connect and Europe comes together. Firstly, authors believe thatAlsace links two major European culture zones: the Mediterranean culture of France, Spainand Italy and the Anglo-Saxon culture of Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain (cf.Baas, 1945, p. 162). Alsace secondly is the border region between Germany and France; withthe end of the Second World War it became the symbol for reconciliation between the twoformer enemies. Thirdly, after its capital Strasbourg was made home to the EuropeanParliament and the Council of Europe, Alsace also stood for the desire to establish a new political Europe.While Alsace thus became a connector for Europe in a cultural, symbolic and politicalway, we may wonder how this reflected upon its citizens. This paper therefore investigates towhat extent the Alsatian identity became more European with the construction of Europe after the Second World War. To this end, the paper uses two main concepts. The first one is theidea of “new medievalism” as presented by Woever in 1995 (quoted in King, 2000, p. 419-20). It points out that European citizens today have intertwined affiliations between the local,regional, national and supranational level, thus between their city, their region, their nationand Europe. In addition, the paper also uses the concept of Castells and Ohmae (quoted inKing, 2000, p. 420). According to them, in the complex relations between the different levelsregions and cities contribute most in the shaping of identity.The paper is organized as follows: The first part outlines the Alsatian identity beforethe Second World War. In the second part it is described how this identity has changeddirectly after 1945. The third part focuses on the development of Alsatian identity up to today.The findings of this paper may help to understand how European identity develops in other regions today, especially those on the cultural frontier of the former iron curtain.
 
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1. The Alsatian identity before the Second World War: voluntary patriotism and strongregionalismAlsace has been part of both France and Germany for a long time and both cultures have lefttheir mark on its citizens’ identity. During the Middle Ages, Alsace was a part of the HolyRoman Empire of the German Nation. The cathedral of Strasbourg and the regional Alsatiandialect are distinct German features of this time period which still remain today.In the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, Alsace was turned over to France. After itsintegration, Alsace adapted much of French culture, such as the republican values of theFrench revolution, and it remained a part of France until the Franco-German War in 1870-71.After this war, in 1871, the French were forced to give Alsace to the new German nation-stateas a war repayment. In consequence, many French felt humiliated and built up hatred againstthe Germans. They wanted to have Alsace back in France.Most Alsatians also wished to return to France. They felt oppressed by the Germanadministration which dictated its terms upon Alsace in school education and culture (Hoffet,1951, p. 156). Many members of the working class in particular proved “systematicallyhostile to Germany”, according to Hoffet. The Alsatian elite, on the contrary, was split between secret passion for France and open support for Germany (p. 141; Baas, 1945, p. 75).Local officeholders, on the one hand, aspired to maintain their positions under the Germangovernment and therefore became the Germans’ best friends. Many old protestant families, onthe other hand, privately remained loyal to France and continued to be inspired by Frenchculture and literature (Baas, 1945, p. 73). They could rise to higher positions than before, onceGermany had to give Alsace back to France in the Treaty of Versailles.With Alsace’s return to France in 1918, patriotism erupted in the region (Hoffet, 1951, p. 44). The workers, on the one hand, embraced the return of the French values of freedomand self-determination and developed a strong feeling for their nation. The francophile elite,on the other hand, could now manifest its patriotism in the open and become a part of theFrench elite. However, patriotism in Alsace did not become as deeply rooted as in other French regions. Due to its history with Germany, the Alsatians were not as closely bound tolove their country as a person from inner France. In principle, they could make a choice between France and Germany. Baas (1945) believes that most Alsatians hated Germany andvoluntarily chose to love France; yet the mere possibility to make a choice gave them a moredistanced standing toward their nation (p. 44). They rather took the position of an externalspectator upon the French community. When talking about the French, they did not refer to

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