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  • “Homeland“ by Mail. Letters from „Ethnic Germans“ as Life-Historical Testimonies, 1934-39

“Homeland“ by Mail. Letters from „Ethnic Germans“ as Life-Historical Testimonies, 1934-39

Research: Sönke Friedreich
Project duration: 06/2020-

Between autumn 1934 and spring 1939, the State Association of Saxony of the „Volksbund für das Deutschtum im Ausland“ (VDA) (Peoples‘ Federation for Germanness Abroad), the largest contemporary völkisch association, sent so-called “Saxon Homeland Letters” to German-speaking people of Saxon origin all over the world. The altogether 18 volumes of published booklets aimed to create and disseminate a positive image of “home”, a propagandist performance of National Socialist Germany and the preservation of the allegedly threatened German language and culture abroad.

In their articles, The „Saxon Homeland Letters“, distributed all over the world, but mainly sent to North and South America, focused on a sentimental and emotional “homeland”. In short texts and numerous pictures, ‘typically Saxon’ stereotypes were presented, reaching from Christmas in the Erzgebirge Mountains to more recent industrial achievements. At the same time, the editors of VDA encouraged the readers to write down accounts of their own migration history and of their experiences in their new life environment, and send them to them. 

Following this, thousands of letters were sent to the Association (and partly published), reaching from a short notice of appreciation to longer life accounts. These letters, preserved as a comprehensive inventory in the Saxon Archive – Main State Archive Dresden, present a tradition of life historical testimonies of the 1930s in rare concentration, rendering insight into the experience of migration and everyday life of Saxon people abroad and their relation to their Saxon “homeland”.

The project, carried out within the framework of the cultural anthropological focus on life historical materials, aims to record and register the transmitted letters and to analyze them as examples of life worlds and migration experiences. At the same time, the exploitation of the individual testimonies for the propaganda work of VDA and the National Socialist ethnicity policy in general will be analyzed.