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Contemporary Ideas in a Traditional Mind-Set: The Nature Conservation Movement in Post War West-Germany (1945-1960)

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Abstract:

In winter 1947 the Association for the Protection of the German Forest wasfounded to prevent the eradication of the forest across Germany after sufferingwartime destruction, overuse and firewood logging. Especially the occupyingforces faced harsh criticism from the German people for their widespreaddeforestation even though it seems that the Allied Powers used the woodresources quite responsibly. This article argues that the uproar by natureconservationists, politicians and “normal people” reflected a German sense ofpowerlessness, and revealed images and convictions of the forest as a nationalsymbol that was supposedly endangered in post-war Germany. These post-wardiscussions referred back to the discourse of the 19th century, when Germanintellectuals declared the forest to be the myth of the German people anddeveloped a notion of “Heimat” that saw a close connection between nation andnature. The post-war discussions involved many of those images andconvictions. Nevertheless, the discussions were not only retrospective: they alsoreacted to the contemporary political situation and adapted their answers andsolutions accordingly.

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