Showing the Flag: War Cruiser Karlsruhe and Germandom Abroad

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In the early 1920s the Weimar Republic commissioned a series of new light cruisers of the Königsberg class and in July 1926, the keel of the later christened Karlsruhe was laid down. The 570 feet long and almost 50 feet wide ship was used as a training cruiser for future German naval officers. Between 1930 and 1936 the ship conducted in all five good-will tours around the world, two under the Weimar Republic and three under the Third Reich. These good-will tours or gute Willen Fahrten were an important first step in reconciling Germany to the rest of the world ... continued below

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De Santiago Ramos, Simone Carlota Cezanne August 2013.

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  • De Santiago Ramos, Simone Carlota Cezanne

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In the early 1920s the Weimar Republic commissioned a series of new light cruisers of the Königsberg class and in July 1926, the keel of the later christened Karlsruhe was laid down. The 570 feet long and almost 50 feet wide ship was used as a training cruiser for future German naval officers. Between 1930 and 1936 the ship conducted in all five good-will tours around the world, two under the Weimar Republic and three under the Third Reich. These good-will tours or gute Willen Fahrten were an important first step in reconciling Germany to the rest of the world and were meant to improve international relations. The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defense carefully orchestrated all stops of the vessels in conjunction with the respective embassies abroad. Final arrangements were made at least six-nine months before the scheduled visits and even small adjustments to the itinerary proved troublesome. Further, all visits were treated as “unofficial presentations.” The mission of the Karlsruhe was twofold: first to extend or renew relations with other nations, and second to foster notions of Heimat and the Germandom (Deutschtum) abroad. The dissertation is divided in two large parts; the individual training cruises with all the arrangements, the selection of the individual nations and ports, and explores the level of decision making amongst the various agencies, departments, and organizations involved. For the Weimar Republic, the ship represented modernity and a break with the past, and embodied at one and the same time, traditional German culture and the idea of progress. Since the cruiser continued its training abroad after 1933, a comparison between the “two Germanies” makes sense. The second part of the research will explore the notion of Heimat and the Germans living abroad and how the Karlsruhe acted as a symbolic link between the two. The concept of Heimat is important to the self-understanding, or identity construction of the Germans. It is the quintessence of Germaness (Deutschtümelei). This multi-layered and complex idea embodies not only language, but also traditions and customs, nature and politics. It evokes feelings of belonging, comfort, sanctuary, and safety. We can identify the term with family, birthplace, nation, dialect, race, even food. Heimat is a place where one doesn’t have to explain oneself. The German navy encouraged the sailors to write diaries during the voyages, cadets were required to do so. Several of the diaries and letters provide the foundation for this dissertation. Other primary sources include reports, logbooks, navy policies and procedures found at the Foreign Office in Berlin, the German Naval Archives in Flensburg, the Archives at the Museum for Maritime History in Bremerhaven, the University of Hamburg, the University of the Bundeswehr in Hamburg, the British National Archives in Kew, and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. particularly the records of the German Naval High Command, as well as cabinet meetings from the Weimar period. Various navy journals and the official Merkblätter (information sheets) from the Karlsruhe are also included. Printed onboard, these pamphlets contain general information about the local population, including the form of government, important industries, and the number of Germans living there. German newspapers, but also newspapers from each country or port visited were be incorporated.

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  • August 2013

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  • March 8, 2015, 5:44 p.m.

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  • Nov. 15, 2016, 10:09 p.m.

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De Santiago Ramos, Simone Carlota Cezanne. Showing the Flag: War Cruiser Karlsruhe and Germandom Abroad, dissertation, August 2013; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc500129/: accessed June 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .