Edited by Eric H. Kessler and Diana J. Wong-MingJi
Chapter 7: Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership in Germany
128 Europe mythology. According to Burkert (1981) myth as a traditional story has the function to structure reality in order to cope with it. In this way, the present time should be bound to the past and at the same time guide future expectations. Given Germany’s history, an examination of German mythology and its myths is not unproblematic. In the more recent past, mythology became relevant for Germanic people during the period of romanticism (1800–50) (Herrmann et al., 1977) when Germany consisted of several independent principalities. In 1806, after the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, the nation state of Germany did not yet exist. The idea of Germany as a national state started to develop during those times. Since mythology was used to create patriotism and a sense of national feeling, it was changed or rather adapted for those purposes (Phillipson, 1962). One of the most influential misinterpretations, the so-called ‘Nibelungentreue’ (loyalty of the Nibelungs), which means unquestioning loyalty unto death toward the emperor, the country, and the superior, influenced Germany’s role in the First World War. It also supported the National Socialists in gaining power and eventually the beginning of the Second World War (Heinzl, 2004). Due to this specific history, the most important influences on Germans’ view of their mythology today are the experiences and their critical reflections that resulted from the misuse of that part of Germanic mythology during the Third Reich (1933–45). The National Socialists used Germanic mythology and...
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