Unforgotten Landscapes: Radio and the Reconstruction of Germany's European Mission in the East in the 1950s

in German Politics and Society
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Using the example of the audio series Unforgotten Landscapes (Unvergessene Landschaften) aired on Radio Bremen in 1955, this article addresses the important role that radio played in the complex border-negotiation processes in Germany after World War II. For many years, the agency of radio as an interlocutor and discursive tool in the process of renationalization has been more or less neglected in historical research. Indeed, visual and auditory representation of the Eastern borders was a highly contaminated field in Western Germany until the 1970s. Even today, the relations between Poland and Germany are still affected by these issues. By using the German notion of Heimat as an umbrella concept, this article shows how these radio programs tried to shift the understanding of existing territorial borders, as having resulted from World War II and the atrocities of Nazi Germany to being a part of the imaginary construction of Germany as a Kulturnation. The audio series depicted the history of theses landscapes as German since medieval times, with no human beings living there in the present, but also claiming that the voices of death still can be heard. Thus, the territories could be lost, but by anchoring these landscapes in cultural memory, they would still be part of Germanness. Moreover, the programs reinforce West Germany's European mission to connect the east with the west beyond continuities with the völkisch “blood-and-soil ideology” underlying the concept of Heimat.