After the Proclamation of the Second Empire in 1871, the anthropomorphic
treatment of nature, whose mythical cadence could be heard resounding throughout
the nineteenth century, was put to use in order to conjure up the grandeur
and unity of nation and state, to assert its legitimacy in the difficult
relationship with Austria-Hungary. It was only as a result of the contrast
between notions of the state and attitudes towards national minorities
(a result of the mono-ethnic mindset of the German Reich as opposed to
the multinational character of the Austro-Hungarian state) that the aggressive
nationalistic potential of Wilhelmine Germany could come to full fruition.
Motivated by the euphoria felt by a great power amongst the European states
- forged through "blood and steel" - Germany witnessed a reawakening of
pre-national ideologies originating in the period before the revolution
of 1848 during the second half of the nineteenth century. In the
spirit of Romanticism, these ideologies
offered to a rapidly industrializing Germany a common cultural identity with roots in in the forests of the dim and distant Teutonic past.
After the fall of the Wilhelmine Empire, only the forest, that symbol of national unity, that metaphor for the soul of the people, seemed able to offer protection from the dangers threatening social order and morale. At the same time, the defeated German Empire gained renewed strength and renewed vigor from the forest. The paths leading to the Third Reich were made smooth by a social Darwinism which left traces of a conviction regarding the need for the battle of survival. These traces surfaced even where one would least expect it, including guidelines for those seeking to reform their lifestyles in greater harmony with nature and in the statements of committed pacifists. It is primarily in these seemingly innocuous sources produced for a wide readership, including the science sections of school textbooks describing the life community of the forest, where one finds a consistent representation of pre-Fascist and National Socialist ideology.