The old German problem

It’s really interesting how far the problem of „not acting German in public“ actually permeates German society. There’s a discussion thread at the German steampunk community Clockworker, in which a fellow German steampunk asks, why so few German steampunks choose to impersonate Germans. A valid question and he has to point out that he is no nationalist, in case somebody misunderstood his intention to ask…

Had a Chilean, Chinese, Japanese or French asked this question, an excuse like the one in the thread would have seemed odd. I am actually fairly convinced that most foreigners would consider it odd if it came from a German (which it frequently does).

I have said this before and I am saying this again:

During the Victorian Age Germany was not the global villain! That started later and by now this is already 64 years ago! In a few years there will be noone left alive who participated in World War II. And looking at the track record of Britain and especially the USA ever since the end of the War and the US in the last 10 years in particular, it is about time to stop feeling bad about things people did most of us never met.

So, German Steampunks: Wear your Pickelhauben with pride! The Gründerzeit is something to be proud of! Think of Zeppelin, Diesel, Benz, Röntgen and Siemens! They could all be found during this time!


13 Responses to The old German problem

  1. Garmany became the global villain between 1914-1918, which is a valid setting for steampunk. During the WWI terms like „huns“, „boche“ or „fritz“ were used by ordinary people and official progaganda – see the posters:
    http://www.digitaldesk.org/projects/secondary/propaganda/destroy_brute.html
    http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/41862/100.html
    http://www.rainfall.com/posters/WWI/434.htm

    According to common opinion in 1939, WWII was just a natural continuation of WWI, a consequence of German expansionism and revanchism after loosing Great War. I understand your sentiments, but I’m afraid you’ll have to reconsider your statement.

  2. Hi Piechur, jak sie masz? Good to see you again.
    Thanks for the links. I did not know the third one but the first two posters you find in every German history textbook.
    As to the time period: To me WW1 is not classic steampunk but marks the transition to the pulp/dieselpunk era. I was talking about Victorian times, which ended in 1901. You’ve got a point there, none the less. I think we discussed the time spans at the Gatehouse Forum and there is also my little essay here:
    http://daily-steampunk.com/steampunk-blog/2009/06/16/the-punk-gap/, there is a lot of overlap and the jury is still out concerning the times, I guess.
    The statement: „According to common opinion in 1939, WWII was just a natural continuation of WWI, a consequence of German expansionism and revanchism after loosing Great War.“ Is a bit one-sided. Even genera Foch said: „This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years“
    General Foch
    The winners botched the peace, Hitler used German anger stemming from Versailles. But that’s an oversimplification in any case.
    Besides, it’s easy for me to say this. No member of my family fired a shot in anger during World War 2 (one grandfather served in Norway for the whole of the war, the other one was already too old)
    And a completely different thing: Could you please update the link in your catalogue to this blog?

  3. I don’t think it’s reasonable to distinguish Victorian steampunk from Edwardian steampunk. Nothing has changed in 1901. It’s the Great War that set a sharp line between two eras, between development and destruction. In your opinion WWI belongs to the dieselpunk, in my opinion it’s still steampunk (see my Chronologies). But it’s just a detail if we consider that Bismarck Germany was perceived as a potential enemy by the European powers since the Franco-Prussian War (1870) and Austro-German treaty EDIT:(1879). German aggressive policy forced Russia to ally with its old enemy France (1894), France to ally with its old enemy UK (1904) and finally Russia to ally with its old enemy UK (1907). Triple Entente was nothing more than a reaction against Germany – the global villain.

  4. Well, to me Edwardian times lean more towards Dieselpunk. This blog is mine, so it expresses my oppinon in the matter.
    „But it’s just a detail if we consider that Bismarck Germany was perceived as a potential enemy by the European powers since the Franco-Prussian War (1870) and Austro-German treaty (1879)“
    No, he wasn’t. Bismarck allied himself loosely to both Russia and Great Britain. Up until 1888 Germany was on excellent terms with Britain. Germany’s second Emperor, Friedrich III who was only Emperor for 90 days, was even married to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter.

    But yes, everything else you say is absolutely true. Emperor Wilhelm II was a damned militaristic lunatic who did his best to screw up Germany’s reputation in the world.

    EDIT 30 minutes later:
    Besides, we never really were a global villain. We lacked the naval power to be that.

    All in all: All these shifting alliances just show the fickleness of politics. I mean look at you and me: 25 years ago our countries were official enemies, now Poland is both part of the EU and NATO. And we both know what was going on earlier.

  5. 1) Tirpitz worked very hard to have a strong naval power.
    2) Till 1989 only the western part of your country was the enemy of my country 🙂 Which was much better than 50 years earlier.

  6. Tirpitz never succeeded to create a naval power strong enough.

    „Till 1989 only the western part of your country was the enemy of my country “

    (AFAIK DDR ceased to exist and West Germany „swallowed“ it, and people just stopped calling BRD West Germany. So, in principle Germany nowadays is the very same country as West Germany.)

    And when it comes to history, searching for villains or heroes is just plain stupid. Is the US a villain or a hero of our days? Was the US a villain or a hero of the 20’s?

  7. Herr Sten, so you mean that DDR never really existed? Tell this to the Ossis.

  8. BTW, is Germany a villain or a hero now?

  9. Wow… I never would have thought to trigger such a discussion…
    I think Germany has ceased being the villain somewhen between 1950 and 1965 and was replaced by „The Eastern Block“ whatever that was (Hungary, in my experience, never was part of that definition, which does not make sense).

    And in my opinion, there are very few heroic nations around these days, The Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, the German Democratic Republic, Bulgria and South Africa deserved this title in the ’90s but there is no country today to which I would give the title „Hero“.

  10. I think it’s just a perspective of reach and peaceful Europe. People in the Middle East probably have their hero states/nations.

  11. „Herr Sten, so you mean that DDR never really existed? Tell this to the Ossis.“

    No? I’m telling that East-Germany is no more, but West-Germany is, nowadays it’s just called Germany (as far as i’ve understood). This is nitpicking of course. (Nevertheless, I like nitpicking. ^^)

    Personally I wouldn’t call Edwardian and WW1 era dieselpunk, but neither steampunk. I’ve always thought that the age of steampunk ended when RMS Titanic sank (1912), but the actual dieselpunk era is essentially post-WW1. In between only thing you can find is a transition period between diesel and steam.

  12. May I caution everybody? This has reached the state where it could become a name-calling contest, i.e. flame war.

    BTW: I’m German but consider Nottingham/UK to be my hometown, Piechur is Polish as far as I know, Sten, where are you from?

  13. Herr Stern, what have happened to the territory of East-Germany, then? To Ossis, to their houses, schools, offices, factories, forrests etc? Disappeared? 🙂