After 1989 Central Europe once again occupied the focal position of cultural and political dynamism on the continent. The historic constellations that had characterised the continent until 1914 once again revealed their historic significance. Reunified Germany was forced to adapt to this constellation. A difficult task, as the primacy of links to Western Europe and the transatlantic power structure do not yet permit acceptance of the historic significance of Central Europe. The majority of western Germans in particular lack the historic knowledge for this, despite the fact that the shifting of the central point of Germany to the east has been discussed by politicians for years.
The old questions – "Where is Germany? What is the German Fatherland?" – are acquiring an urgent topicality, particularly in view of the aspect of globalisation.
Our educational trail of historical imagination aims to enhance the visibility of this focal point, around which the eccentric centrifugal mass of the historic Central European dynamic rotates. This anchor point lies in a cultural space that is still wholly unknown, which we refer to as "Deutschaschern". This name is based upon Thomas Mann's synthetic fictional town of "Kaisersaschern", the site of German-ness around which his novel on the life of Adrian Leverkühn is oriented. The name is also intended to signify that the old European world no longer exists, but has been burned to ashes. After 1989 it is apparent that not only has the world of the Faustian cultural creators disappeared, but that Germany as the powerful fiction of a national cultural state poses the following intriguing contemporary question: what new political forms will the historic forces take when the fiction of unified Europe becomes effective in global politics?
Because the cultural landscapes between Magdeburg, Quedlinburg, Wittenberg, Halle, Weimar, Naumburg and Prague are considerably older than the concept of a German nation state. They formed the centre of Germany from the 10th century onwards, since the founding of the German nation of the Holy Roman Empire. "Reich" and "nation state" were never one unit, a fact which the founding of the Second and Third Reich also failed to conceal. "Deutschaschern" was the cultural centre of the Reich, never the centre of the nation state, despite the fact that the construction of the Kyffhäuser monument and the incorporation of Quedlinburg into SS mythology in the Second and Third Reich constituted attempts to identify the history of the Reich with that of the nation state.
With a view to the new political unit of "Europe" it is evident that the construction of empires and realms from the time of Augustus to Charlemagne, the Ottonians and Hohenstaufen, the Habsburgs and on to Napoleon was conversely aimed at forming comprehensive brackets around states and cultures. These realms were in effect transcultural, multilingual and universal in form. "Deutschaschern" is the region of the cultural realm in Germany sculpted by such ideas of empire and the similarly universal moulding energies of the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths.
From a political viewpoint, the idea of a future common Europe is based upon the universal civilisation projects of the empires and not the nation states. In Germany, 18th century Weimar acted as a hinge between the old European empires and the new, universal civilisation, borne by the Enlightenment. The spirituality of the old European empires – and thereby also the Deutschascherns – was imbued by Weimar with the rationality and secularisation of the new world civilisation (Goethe's "world culture").
The Weimar thinkers resisted the ideas of, for example, the Romantics, to the extent that these were based solely upon the spiritual energy of Medieval culture and appeared to retreat back to these rather than face the challenges of civilisation.
The Weimar scholars also rejected the unilateral orientation towards western rationality, in other words the "practical philosophy" of the French encyclopaedists or the British empiricists. In other words they mediated between culture and civilisation – a task that currently faces all Europeans.
In the works and person of Goethe this mediation is still represented in its modern-day perspective: Strasbourg Cathedral (homage to master-builder Erwin von Steinbach) on the one hand and rational calculation for the construction of technical infrastructure on the other. In Faust this fusing of Medieval culture and modern civilisation extends far beyond its own times to characterise the European understanding of modernity.
In order for Germans to fulfil the expectation of being European they not only require knowledge of the old Reich culture of "Deutschaschern", but also the concept of infusing this with the technical rationality that they regard so highly. From the perspective of the Weimar scholars of the Goethe era the cultural trail is intended to point to a contemporary model of this standardising perspective of Medieval and modern, of empire and sacerdotalism, of culture and civilisation, elevating these for discussion.
From: Bazon Brock: Der Barbar als Kulturheld. Cologne: DuMont, 2002.