German Historical Institute Washington DC

German Historical Institute Washington DC

The website of the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, has a nice colletion of primary sources, including scans of photos, maps and original documents.  The collection is organized by the following time periods:

  • From the Reformation to the
    Thirty Years War (1500-1648)
  • From Absolutism to
    Napoleon (1648-1815)
  • From Vormärz to Prussian Dominance (1815-1866)
  • Forging an Empire: Bismarckian Germany (1866-1890)
  • Wilhelmine Germany and the First World War (1890-1918)
  • Weimar Germany (1918/19-1933)
  • Nazi Germany (1933-1945)
  • Occupation and the Emergence of Two States (1945-1961)
  • Two Germanies (1961-1989)
  • One Germany in Europe (1989-2006)

One of the items I stumbled across was this quote from a letter written by the novelist Theodor Fontane to his wife, concerning the march to war with France in 1870.  I think it captures quite well the anxiety that could be caused by modernity and the beginnings of mechanization:

The entire situation appears to me like a colossal vision, a Wild Hunt rushing past me; you find yourself standing there in amazement, without quite knowing what to make of it all. It is a Völkerwanderung [great migration of peoples] regulated by railways, organized masses, but masses all the same, ones within which you whirl around like an atom, not standing apart, not dominating; instead, you are entirely at the mercy of this great movement and have no will of your own. It is like being in a theater when someone shouts “Fire!”, you are swept toward an exit that is perhaps no exit at all, mercilessly squeezed, pushed, throttled, the victim of dark drives and forces. Some people love it because it means “excitement” – I am too artistically inclined to be able to feel comfortable under these circumstances.

(Photo is a screen capture of the top navigation bar at the site mentioned below. Credit: German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.)