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Revenants of the German EmpireColonial Germans, Imperialism, and the League of Nations$
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Sean Andrew Wempe

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190907211

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190907211.001.0001

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A Question of Respectability

A Question of Respectability

Colonial German Responses to the Treaty of Versailles and Colonial Guilt

Chapter:
(p.31) 1 A Question of Respectability
Source:
Revenants of the German Empire
Author(s):

Sean Andrew Wempe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190907211.003.0002

Chapter 1 explores the demands for colonial restitution by the former officials, with particular emphasis on Heinrich Schnee, the last governor of German East Africa, and Theodor Seitz, the last governor of German Southwest Africa. In order to maintain imperial/national conceptions of the “self,” these individuals argued against the idea of colonial guilt and reasserted German Europeanness in a world where empire was an essential component of this identity. They engaged with the new political vocabulary of empire and civilization made normative by the Allies and the League, using it in conventional ways to legitimate past actions and to reassert German Europeanness as well as manipulating it to claim moral superiority. Their arguments against colonial guilt can therefore be broken into three categories: (1) pointing to past praise of Germany’s colonial record; (2) reconfiguring the relationships between the terms “violence,” “European,” and “civilization”; and (3) highlighting Allied hypocrisies and claiming to be the only true embodiment of the new ideals of empire. The intention of this threefold line of argument was to preserve imperially constituted identifiers of the German nation in a postcolonial situation. The end result was a tricky negotiation of Colonial Germans’ identity as a group. German colonial irredentists simultaneously claimed the status of victim alongside their former colonized subjects, and yet insisted they were separate from and more advanced than these groups. They demanded recognition of the word “German” as synonymous with the term “European,” and yet also claimed moral superiority over the rest of European civilization.

Keywords:   Heinrich Schnee, Theodor Seitz, Treaty of Versailles, Mandates System, Woodrow Wilson, self-determination, imperialism

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