„Německá“ kultura ve Francii – Alsasko a Alsasané
Authors: Petr Kokaisl (ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0702-5046), Kateřina Hamouzová, Michaela Hromádková, Tereza Jarolímková
Provozně ekonomická fakulta ČZU v Praze, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Praha-Suchdol
Faculty of Economics and Management, CULS Prague, Czech Rep.
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Page Range: 20-44
No. of Pages: 25
Keywords: Ethnic minorities; German-speaking minorities; Alsace; Alsatian dialect; ethnicity
The main aim of this paper is to specify perceptions of ethnicity among the German (or Alsatian)-speaking population living in Alsace in France. Because the German-population (or population speaking a German dialect) also live outside Alsace, it is possible to make relatively efficient comparisons of the influence exerted by government in shaping ethnicity and language. This paper therefore addresses the question: What is the relationship between the state and ethnicity of inhabitants and how Alsatians develop their own ethnicity?
Celý příspěvek / Full Text Paper: „Německá“ kultura ve Francii – Alsasko a Alsasané
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As a border area, the Alsace (Alsace-Lorraine) region has been a frequent subject of dispute between France and Germany since the earliest historical times, but also relatively recently – the Alsatian population changed its nationality four times between 1850 and 1950. This region is a typical border area where it is possible to study whether the population is gradually becoming closer to the majority or, on the other hand, whether it is constantly emphasising cultural differences. At the same time, the inhabitants of what is now Alsace can be used as an example to show how their identity has changed from German to French to Alsatian.
The paper shows the specifics of Alsace (economic, climatic, geographical, historical) and the mixing of German and French influence on culture understood in its broadest definition – culture as a way of life. Therefore, the paper briefly mentions various elements of such a broadly understood culture – from the observance of traditions (Advent, Christmas), the distinctive elements of architecture, the adherence to certain „typical“ dishes of the national cuisine, the role of religion.
A more extensive part of the paper is then devoted to the use of language – Alsatian, German and French, education in these languages and noticeable trends in this area. If we look at the influences shaping ethnicity comprehensively, then it is possible to suggest which of these influences carries the most weight – whether, for example, state intervention, consciousness of otherness based on a different historical awareness, language use or religious affiliation.
The aim of this paper is to highlight the specificity of the self-perception of ethnicity of the German-speaking population living in Alsace. Given that the German-speaking population (or the population speaking German dialects) also lives outside the region, it is possible to make a rather effective comparison of the influence of self-government on the formation of ethnicity and language use.
The paper should provide an answer to the question: how does the state influence the ethnicity of the population through its interventions and how do the inhabitants of Alsace derive their own ethnicity.
The paper is based on the field research carried out within the framework of the project „Diverse Europe“ implemented at the Faculty of Economics of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, which aims at mapping ethnic minorities in Europe.
During the short-term field research in Alsace in 2010, observations were made mainly in villages that were referred to as Alsatian in the thematic literature, especially in the sense of a higher use of Alsatian, but also in towns where Alsatian cultural and educational institutions are located. However, these towns are also very strongly Francophone. In addition to the observations, semi-structured interviews were carried out in order to give a relatively wide space to the interviewees, who were thus able to present facts and contexts that are only apparent to the local population. In addition to the interview data, the paper uses data from respondents from a questionnaire survey (with open-ended questions).
Alsace – basic information
With an area of 8,283 km², Alsace is one of the smallest regions in France. The region is further subdivided into the departments of Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine) in the north and Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine) in the south. The capital is Strasbourg, which today is much more associated with the European Parliament than with the magnificent historic centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Figure 1. Alsace on a map of France.
In 2006, Alsace had 1 817 000 inhabitants (209 inhabitants / km2).
Alsace has an above-average proportion of foreigners compared to France as a whole. In 2007, the proportion of foreigners living legally in France as a whole was 5.8 %; the capital region (Ile-de-France) has the highest proportion of foreigners among the French regions, at 12.4 %, followed by Corsica (8 %) and Alsace (7.6 %).
In 1999, there were almost 150 000 foreigners living in Alsace – the top two places, with an almost identical proportion of over 14 %, were occupied by Turks and Germans, which amounts to over 21 000 people for each ethnic group in absolute terms..
Figure 2. Change in the number of all immigrants to Alsace by year (1915-2000). Source: MAFFESSOLI, M. 2005. Atlas des populations immigrées, c. d.
In addition to the indigenous German-speaking minorities in Alsace (and neighbouring Lorraine), there are also the aforementioned German immigrants in France – 128,000 people in total in mainland France, making up 2% of all foreigners living in France. For these Germans, Alsace is the most attractive of all France, as the following statistics show. Whereas in 1960-1969 German immigrants accounted for only 7% of all immigrants to Alsace, in 1970-1979 they accounted for 5%, in 1980-1989 for 8% and in 1990-1999 for 22%. In this decade, Germans took first place among all foreigners in Alsace.
Figure 3: Changes in the number of German immigrants to Alsace by year (1915-2000). Source: MAFFESSOLI, M. 2005. Atlas des populations immigrées, c. d.
When looking at the German-speaking population, one cannot forget the Germans from Switzerland, of whom 4,570 live in Alsace. Both German-speaking groups live mainly along the border.
Figure 4: Proportion of German and Swiss immigrants in each part of Alsace. Source: MAFFESSOLI, M. 2005. Atlas des populations immigrées, c. d.
Specifics of the area
The semi-continental climate and the gently undulating terrain, which merges into the Vosges Mountains to the west, make this landscape ideal for growing wine. Although Alsace’s wine production is very significant, Alsatian vineyards account for only 1,8 % of the French total. Alsatian wines also show that Alsace is a frontier region, influenced by both French and German culture: German wine sources and French restaurants in Germany state that the specificity of Alsatian wines, which differ significantly from French wines, is due to centuries of German influence. In addition to wine-growing, Alsace is also characterised by the cultivation of tobacco, cabbages and hops.
However, Alsace is not only renowned for its wine production, but it is also the region with the highest beer production in the whole of France, which again can be attributed to German influence. Traditionally, beer was brewed in monasteries, with the first independent breweries appearing in Strasbourg in 1268. In the mid-19th century, small family-run breweries underwent major innovation and production began to rise. Today, five Alsatian breweries account for a total of 50 % of French production. A typical Alsatian aperitif is a glass of beer with a slightly bitter taste (made from orange peels).
Alsace is one of the richest regions in France (in terms of gross domestic product per capita) – it has been at the top of the French comparisons for a long time, ranking second behind Ile-de-France in 2004 and fourth in 2009. Services accounted for the largest share of GDP in Alsace in 2006 (56.6%), followed by industry (22.2%), trade (13.9%), construction (6.3%) and agriculture (1.0%).
Historical background of the German-speaking minority
Celtic settlement in the area of present-day Alsace lasted from about 600 BC to 52 BC, when the area was conquered by the Romans. Before the beginning of AD, the Roman fortress of Argentoratum, the future Strasbourg, was founded here. In Caesar’s time, the Rhine River formed the boundary of the Roman Empire between the western Roman and eastern ‚barbarian‘ populations (a situation that lasted, in fact, until its demise in the 5th century). The emerging Gallo-Roman population from the 1st century AD onwards also assimilated the surrounding Germanic groups. From the 3rd century AD we have the first mention of Alemanni as members of Germanic tribal societies. In some languages (French, Spanish) this designation (Allemands, Alemanes) has remained reserved for all Germans to this day.
After the division of the Frankish Empire by the Treaty of Verdun (843), the territory of present-day Alsace became part of Lotharingia (Duchy of Lorraine). In 962, Alsace became part of the Holy Roman Empire (from the 15th century onwards with the title of German nation) for the next six centuries.
The 12th century was a period of development for Alsace, and in the 14th century (1354) the ten major Alsatian cities, led by Strasbourg, succeeded in gaining autonomy and forming a union of free imperial cities (Decapolis). The heyday was interrupted by the Black Plague and the Hundred Years‘ War (1337-1453). After this period, the towns began to benefit again from renewed trade. In the 16th century the area became one of the centres of the German Peasants‘ War (1524- 1526).
A major turning point in the history of Alsace came after the Thirty Years‘ War (1618-1648), when the German emperor ceded mainly the southern parts of Alsace to France as part of the Peace of Westphalia, while the rest of the territory, including Strasbourg, was gradually annexed under Louis XIV (1681). As late as 1798 the town of Mulhouse tried to break free from French influence by declaring a free republic and joining the Swiss Confederation, but the French economic blockade forced the inhabitants to capitulate.
In 1870 France declared war on German Prussia, but as early as 1871 France was forced to surrender Alsace to Germany, as agreed in the Peace of Frankfurt. The Alsatians were allowed to choose their nationality or citizenship (German or French). For this reason, over 50 000 people had to emigrate because they opted for French citizenship. Subsequently, new lines of defence were built to show that Alsace would no longer remain part of the German Empire. In 1872, a German university was established in Strasbourg by imperial order, in 1874 the Alsace-Lorraine Regional Council was created and in 1911 the territory received its own constitution. At the beginning of the First World War (1914), Alsace was part of the German Empire. Along with the war, the region became increasingly Germanised. Initially, the use of French and German was tolerated, and it was possible to encounter, for example, bilingual street names, but over time the German language became stronger and French was banned. Fear began to reign among the people, groups of informers appeared, and anyone who was suspected in any way was usually sent as a soldier to the Russian front.
After the end of the war, the independence of the Alsatian Republic of Councils was declared (because of the creation of self-government bodies on the Soviet model, this republic is also referred to as the Alsatian Soviet Republic). This full independence lasted only 11 days (10 November to 21 November 1918), when French troops arrived in Strasbourg and the territory was annexed to France.
After the annexation to France, a reverse process began in the linguistic sphere, with French becoming the only official language in all respects. Local names, street names, road signs and signboards in German had to be in French. Instruction in German could only take place from the fourth grade onwards, so only French was taught in the municipal schools. As a result of complaints from the population, the Paris government allowed various gradual concessions to be made regarding the introduction of German teaching in schools. After the defeat of France in World War II, an armistice agreement was signed in 1940. Alsace was seized by the Germans and effectively became part of the Reich. On the other hand, the Alsatians (like the Lorrainians) did not become Reich Germans, but still remained French citizens and as such could not be conscripted into the German army. Therefore, in 1942, the Decree on Nationality in Alsace, Lorraine and Luxembourg was issued: all Alsatians, Lorrainians and Luxembourgers who had already served in the Wehrmacht, in SS units or would serve in the future, as well as other reliable Germans, were granted German citizenship; this also applied to their spouses and minor children. Beyond that, German citizenship could be granted – revocable, of course – by special decision to other persons. An implementing regulation of the Reich Ministry of the Interior stipulated that only those inhabitants whose at least one grandparent had been born in the territories or in the Reich could be regarded as national Germans. Alsatians were therefore recruited into the Wehrmacht or the SS air units. Conscription applied first to the classes of 1920 to 1924, and disobedience was draconianly punished. Later, even the classes of 1914 to 1918 were conscripted, which led to particularly harsh protests because those affected had already served in the French army. Desertion was not only punished by shooting, but also affected family members who could be evicted to other parts of the Reich. After the war, the territory was regained by France, but in addition, it occupied other territories it claimed, such as the town of Kehl near Strasbourg, or the Saarland. These territories, however, had to be surrendered under Allied pressure.
After the end of the war, a process of purification – épuration – began in France. This process only affected French nationals, but compared to the French average, the number of convicts (sentences ranging from prison to forced labour to the death penalty) in Alsace was above average. The purge in the Alsatian administration was also very drastic. After the war, French again became the only official language and the teaching of German in schools was abolished. Alsace was not affected by the partial relaxation in the language area since the 1950s, when regional languages were recognised in the country, allowing (albeit minimal) school teaching. These languages included Basque, Breton and Catalan; Alsatian was still considered a mere dialect. In the 1980s, some autonomy was created – since 1982 Alsace has had its own 47-member regional council, headed by the President of the Alsace Regional Council (Président du Conseil Régional d’Alsace). This council approves the regional budget each year. In the context of autonomy, bilingual (German-French) education at lower levels has been increasingly promoted since the 1990s (but especially since the beginning of the 21st century).
Identity of the inhabitants
Although the definition of identity is a rather complex matter involving several different levels, the question „Who am I? Who do I feel I am? French? German? Alsatian?“, is not as complex for Alsatians as it might seem at first sight. Most of them simply answer, „I am Alsatian“. According to a 2006 questionnaire survey of teachers (and teacher candidates) in bilingual schools in Alsace, almost two-thirds identified themselves as Alsatian, less than a third as French, and 6% identified themselves in the supranational category of European.
Although Alsace has been part of Germany for a relatively long time, there has been a significant change in identity and no Alsatian has said that they feel German. The rivalry between the Germans and the French is certainly understandable. In the post-World War II period, however, the hatred went so far that a new name was coined for the Alsatians – the French began to call them Bosh (from the German boshaft, meaning malicious or spiteful). The origin of this name was the unfortunate situation where the Alsatians were forced to fight for the Reich and thus betray their country, their friends and often their own family. Today the term is no longer used, as relations are more or less peaceful, but at the time it was a very derogatory term.
For some Alsatians it was very difficult to visit Germany itself for a long time. This feeling may still exist today among the older generation, but among the younger generation relations are on a much better level. There is no longer hostility, quite the opposite. The villages organise various festivals together and are in constant contact.
However, declaring one’s own identity is only part of the whole identity complex – equally important is the perspective of those who stand outside the group under observation. Markham captures this perspective well – Alsatians are too French for Germans and too German for French.
Celebration of holidays and observance of traditions is a very important indicator of the maintenance of „indigenous“ and adopted customs among all ethnic and minority groups. However, it is sometimes very difficult to determine what that original custom and tradition actually is – many typical and national traditions may have their origins geographically elsewhere, and even in a completely different ethnic group. For example, certain distinct dietary customs are fundamentally influenced by the environment – what some members of a particular ethnic group consider to be national dishes are not familiar to other members of the same ethnic group living elsewhere.
Christmas. These holidays are a good example of the adoption and absorption of many traditions that originated in relatively distant places. Traditions thus adopted and partially modified are often described as ‚typical‘ of the area.
Comparing the celebration of Alsatian and French Christmas, we find differences already in the pre-Christmas time – Advent. Alsatian Advent is much more similar to the celebration of Advent in Germany, where this time is already of great importance. Of course, both in Alsace and in other parts of France, Advent is characterised by the pre-Christmas decoration of shops and streets. For the people of Germany (and Alsace), however, Advent is a society-wide event that takes place not only on the streets and in the shops, but above all in families – here is perhaps the biggest difference with France and the French perception of the Advent season.
We have records of decorating Christmas trees with stars and candles from the German region in 1509 and from Alsace in 1521. Decorating trees was often criticized as having little to do with the true nature of Christmas, but on the other hand it was supported by the Reformation – even Martin Luther recommended this custom. Nevertheless, the tradition was limited to wealthy aristocratic families and did not become widespread in Western Europe until the early 19th century. In Catholic villages in Alsace, the Christmas tree was still completely unknown in 1870, even though German emigrants to North America had been observing the tradition for 200 years.
The tradition of celebrating Christmas in Alsace today is still closer to the German (and for example Czech) tradition, because the main Christmas holiday falls on Christmas Eve. In other parts of France, too, we can find a festive Christmas Eve dinner, but in Alsace the evening of 24 December is definitely the biggest holiday, while in France only 25 December is celebrated (the official French holiday does not even include 26 December, which is a working day – as in Belgium).
However, festive Christmas food in Alsace is also entirely based on French recipes – traditional Christmas delicacies include turkey stuffed with roasted chestnuts, oysters, foie gras pate, wine, cakes and cheeses and, of course, the bûche de Noël Christmas cake.
Alsatian cuisine. If we look at traditional Alsatian dishes, we can see that German culture has also played a part, because, for example, Charcuterie, our sausage, Choucrote or what the Alsatians call Sürkrüt (German: Sauerkraut), which means pickled cabbage, does not really resemble France. Tarte á l’oignon (Ziwelkueche) is the name of a very popular onion tart, which is one of the typical Alsatian dishes (see Appendices).
Thus, Alsatian cuisine is mainly influenced by „original“ German influences, which are combined with French influences. This is typical of the cuisine and eating habits of most minority ethnic groups in Europe and beyond – the attempt is made to preserve the original dishes (which are often only prepared on particularly festive occasions), but these dishes are often so altered that they may only remotely resemble the ‚original‘ food.
Architecture. The Alsatian architecture with its typical half-timbered houses is very similar to the German one on the other side of the border. The first half-timbered houses appeared in the 12th century in the central Rhine region, typical of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, but also of England and France. They experienced a great boom in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were built both in villages and in larger towns. The timber-framed building (apart from dialect and tradition) was considered a very important part of the regional identity and as such was highlighted by cultural leaders (Charles Spindler, Gustave Stoskopf, Pierre Bucher) from the late 19th century.
The timbered buildings are not only a relic of the past, but are also a sought-after item nowadays. In Alsace, there are building companies specialising in the construction of such houses.
Figure 5. Typical Alsatian architecture – the village of Boersch.
In Alsace, apart from a large group of Muslims and Jews, there are mainly Roman Catholics and Protestants – the Catholics are slightly more numerous, but the Protestants are no less important. It is very difficult to obtain specific numbers at present because religious affiliation is not allowed to be ascertained in the official census. A figure from the late 19th century stated that Catholics were two-thirds and Protestants about one-third.
While Catholics are more numerous in the cities, Lutherans and Calvinists often predominate in the countryside. The dual religious tradition (Catholic, Protestant) is linked to the change of borders and to the considerable migration of the population, with German Protestants moving into the territory of Alsace inhabited by French Catholics. This process (and assimilation) has been going on for a long time, which is why today it is no longer possible to say „you are Protestant, you are German“.
Due to the prevalence of both religions, there is a Catholic and Protestant church in every major village. If this is not possible in some small villages, a church visit is always arranged at least in the next village. In the past, religious difference was also solved by building only one church in a village and people of different faiths took turns to attend church every day.
Figure 6. Protestant church in Obernai (Ewernahn / Owernah) – outside the historic core.
Picture 7. Saints Pierre et Paul Catholic Church in the centre of Obernai.
The French law of 9 December 1905, which implemented ecclesiastical separation (separation of church and state), does not apply to Alsace because it met with very strong opposition from the local population in this territory after its annexation to France. The legal situation is therefore still based on the Concordat (the treaty on relations between the State and the Roman Catholic Church) of 1801 and Napoleon’s Civil Code (1804), which recognised and materially provided for the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist churches and Jewish synagogues. The arrangement is thus very different from the strict separation of state and church affairs in the rest of France and resembles the situation in Germany: Catholic archbishops, senior clergy of Protestant churches and Jewish communities are appointed only after approval (which may be very formal) by the public authorities. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy are funded by the French state. Religious education is compulsory in public and private schools.
German or bilingual German-French services are not very common in Alsace, although the situation is beginning to change. Whereas in 1966 the Archbishop of Strasbourg recommended „that services should be held only in French, because that is the language of the youth“, in 1992 there was a change in this respect when his successor, Archbishop Brand, said „that future priests should improve the German language in spoken and written form, or reintroduce the German language“. Among Lutherans, the situation with the use of German is better – there are almost as many German services as there are French services.
Alsatian as an Alemannic dialect. In France, the official language is French, which is also enshrined in the constitution, and this makes the introduction of other regional languages difficult – for example, the French Constitutional Court rejected the already signed European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages as unconstitutional.
Figure 8: The spread of French and regional languages in France.
Due to the Alsatian history of the region, the traditional language of the local population, Alsatian, is found in this area. It is essentially a German dialect on the level of, for example, Swiss German. However, the various forms of the Alemannic (Swabian) dialects are not only spoken in Alsace, but can be found in large numbers (a total of 10 million people) in southern Germany (Baden), Switzerland, Austria (Vorarlberg), Italy and Liechtenstein.
Figure 9. Distribution of Alemannic dialects. Source: <http://www.klettgau-historia.de>.
In France, Alemannic dialects are spoken in the neighbouring region of Lorraine, which in many ways has a very similar history to Alsace. The main dialects are (from north to south):
- Rheinfränkisch / Lothringisch (in Alsace Sarre-Union)
- Südrheinfränkisch / Pfälzisch – north-eastern Alsace, Sarre-Union
- Nördliches Niederalemannisch – Saverne, Hagenau, Strasbourg, Sélestat
- Südliches Niederalemannisch – Colmar, Mulhouse (Mülhausen / Milhüsa)
- Hochalemannisch – South Alsace, Saint-Louis, Altkirch
While in Switzerland the Alemannic dialect is used quite commonly in everyday life (the dialect is of course used by Swiss young people on various internet forums, the dialect is spoken in parliament, on the radio or on television), in Germany it is giving way to written German and in Alsace to French. Since Alemannic has no official status anywhere today and has many dialect forms, German (Hochdeutsch) remains the literary language.
In this context, it should be borne in mind that the designation Alsatian, or Alemannic dialects in general, have often and quite naturally been referred to in publications as German. Later on, German in Alsace came to be referred to with the adjective (deutsches Elsässisch ), and nowadays the term language is very often used in connection with Alsatian. However, the use of the Alsatian dialect is not entirely at the level of language – according to the official definition formulated in 1985, the ‚Alsatian regional language (Regionalsprache) is a dialect whose written form is written German‘.
Although Alsatian does not have the status of an official language, it is classified as an „official“ (but not official) language of France, as it is second only to Provençal in its distribution in France.
Alsatian over time
The oldest fragments of Alemannic texts date from the 6th century, the more extensive old Alemannic texts come from the Abbey of Sankt Gallen from the 8th century (there are other Alemannic texts in the monastery library in St. Gallen from later times – e.g. the Alsace-West Swiss calendar from the 12th century). Swiss chronicles from the 14th century are also written in Alemannic.
Figure 10. Deutsche Historienbibel (Niederalemannische Papierhandschrift (Elsässisch), r. 1400). Manuscript of a prose rendering of biblical stories in the Alsatian dialect. Source: SLUB Dresden (http://www.slub-dresden.de)
The first German Bible was printed in Alsace in 1466 by Johann Mentol, and the Alsatian printing tradition continued with many other titles in a wide range of disciplines. This is perhaps why the Alsace region became one of the main centres of German humanism in the late 15th and first half of the 16th century (Geiler von Kaysersberg, Jakob Wimpfeling, Sebastian Brant).
Alsatian in decline
Already today it is clear that the Alsatian language as such is slowly disappearing from Alsace. Nowadays, only old people who lived through the Second World War speak fluent Alsatian among themselves. Their children, now middle-aged, understand Alsatian and could even speak it if necessary. Today’s younger generation understands a little Alsatian, but certainly not the language itself. Interestingly, when a child is naughty and a parent wants to reprimand or admonish him, he uses Alsatian. The inhabitants themselves feel a certain harshness and severity of the Alemannic dialect against the melodious French.
According to the 1999 French Mother Tongue Survey,  970,000 people (2.12% of the French population) spoke German dialects, of which Alsatian was spoken by 660,000 people (1.44% of the French population), written German by 210,000 people (0.46% of the French population), and Fränkisch-Lothringe (Lothringisch) by 100,000 people (0.22% of the French population).
Number of speakers
Table 1: Number of speakers of the Fränkisch-Lothringe dialect (Lothringisch), 19 54-2010 (estimates of Lothringian associations). Source: Anzahl der Lothringer Dialektsprecher laut Volksbefragungen und Volkszählungen , 2011.
Speakers of the Alsatian dialect in the period 1900-2001. The number of people actively using Alsatian has been declining quite sharply – while at the beginning of the 20th century almost all Alsatians were Alsatians, by the beginning of the 21st century it was less than two thirds. However, this number does include people who speak Alsatian but prefer French for communication.
|Speaking Alsatian was identified as||2001||1997||1946||1900|
|% of population||61 %||63 %||91 %||95 %|
Table 2: Percentage of Alsatian speakers in Alsace (1900-2001). Source: Der elsässische Dialekt in Zahlen, 2010.
According to the 2001 questionnaire, respondents answered that they would use the alphabet from:
- 88% in communication with friends
- 48% in work relationships
- 68% of respondents said that knowledge of Alsatian is an indisputable advantage when looking for a job and when travelling to German-speaking countries.
Another 1989 study ranks respondents‘ use of alphabets in descending order with:
- parents and grandparents
- shop assistants
- colleagues at work
- your own children
- civil servants
Because of its development and preservation, Alsatian does not have a very good age structure of its speakers. Alsatian was spoken in 1997 by:
86% of people over 60
77% of people in the 50-59 age group
70% of people in the 40-49 age group
60% of people in the 30-39 age group
38% of people in the 18-29 age group
This unfavourable situation is compounded by the fact that the transmission of Alsatian to the next generation is very low (and if one of the spouses does not know Alsatian, then almost zero). In 2001, only 15.5% of all respondents said that they passed on Alsatian to their children. In the 18-34 age group this proportion is only 12.5%, in the 35-49 age group this proportion is 21%.
In 1999, a survey was conducted on the use of Alsatian in urban and rural areas. In the three largest cities (Strasbourg / Straßburg, Colmar, Mulhouse), Alsatian is used very little – less than a third of adults speak it. In contrast, in the north (Lower Alsace), Alsatian is still quite widespread, with more than half of the adult population in the Saverne-Sarre-Union, Wissembourg and Haguenau-Niederbronn municipalities identifying themselves as speakers of the dialect.
Alsatian in schools or an attempt to revive the language
The slow extinction of the Alsatian language is understandably something that some Alsatians are trying to prevent, as they do not want to lose this element of their culture and would like to preserve the local folklore to which the language inherently belongs. These efforts have manifested themselves mainly in education. Students can study Alsatian as an additional optional language, but French remains their main language. As part of their final exams, students produce a special paper on local folklore, history and traditions. However, few students take advantage of this option and most prefer to study German as a classical language.
At present, the situation in minority education has partially improved, as bilingual education (12 hours of instruction in German and 12 hours in French) is also supported by school regulations. An agreement has been concluded between the State and local authorities on the Alsatian language education system for the period 2007-2013. At the all-French level, there is a decree of the Ministry of Education of 2001 which lays down the procedures for bilingual education. According to data from September 2009, almost 17 500 students were enrolled in bilingual education, which is about 10 % of the enrolment in Alsatian schools.
The predominance of the French media is not helping to rebuild Alsatian linguistic awareness. German-language newspapers are published in Alsace, but mostly bilingually or with a German supplement (Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace – DNA, L’Alsace). Alsatian is not the only regional language to face this situation, as is the case in Brittany.
To save the language, there are a number of projects carried out by societies for the recovery and preservation of Alsace. These projects include teaching Alsatian from birth, whereby materials are sent by post to interested families with practical information and advice on how to speak Alsatian with their children. The materials include, for example, a CD with lullabies in Alsatian, French, German and English. The associations also sell children’s books and audio materials for the youngest children (0-6 years) and make these materials (in Alsatian and parallel French) freely available on their website.
Although the only official language of France is French under the French constitution, French politicians like to speak to their constituents in Alsace in German. Moreover, the directive of 8 August 1919 allows the use of posters and election programmes in German in the election campaign – see Annex (Examples of posters from the 2007 presidential elections).
Although the vast majority of Alsatians have German roots, they certainly do not claim this origin, although the region shares many cultural elements with Germany. Neither is it typical for Alsatians to identify fully with a French identity – when asked, most residents tend to choose a regional layer of identity that does not emphasise ethnic distinctiveness and declare pride in belonging to the Alsatian region.
There is no doubt that the events of the war led to a very significant break with the German identity. Even more than sixty years after the end of the Second World War, traces of it are still evident in memories, regardless of whether people experienced it personally or whether they are based on authentic information from their parents or grandparents. Although there have been quarrels and quarrels between Germans and French in the past, today’s Alsatian society is mostly on good terms with the people on the other side of the border and maintains contacts with them.
Interestingly, although on the one hand the population does not consider itself to be German but Alsatian, and is proud of its specific dialect, which is often referred to as a separate language, Alsatian, on the other hand, it is keen to extend the teaching of German in schools. This is due to the fact that the German language is not associated with a German identity, but is only used as a written form of Alsatian.
The older generation has an important role to play in the revival of the use of Alsatian, because people who still remember the war know what the Alsatian language sounds like and some of them know it. In some places it is possible to find a situation where almost the whole family speaks Alsatian, in others the opposite is true. The observance of the typical Alsatian cultural features is very individual among the Alsatians. Some people cook Alsatian food, others keep the language alive, and still others wear the national costume. However, the influence of France is more than evident – there are also traditional Alsatian folklore celebrations within the region, but people here celebrate French national holidays and festivals on a regular basis.
Religious affiliation is not crucial to the ethnicity and identity of the Alsatians – Protestants and Catholics live peacefully side by side. Due to the relatively high number of immigrants to Alsace from Turkey and North Africa, there is also a minority of Muslims, so it is not unusual to see women wearing headscarves.
Although there has been a revival of Alsatian in recent years, the statistics showing trends in language use are very telling – Alsatian is disappearing very quickly. The situation is by no means hopeless, because the actions organised to save the language are not coming completely late, but at a time when there are still a relatively large number of native speakers. There is also a partial improvement in the education system, because after a very long time the French government has at least allowed bilingual education, in which 10% of schoolchildren participate, and Alsatian courses for all generations are widespread.
Today, it is not yet possible to say whether the language, as one of the main attributes of Alsatian culture, will be saved, but action to save it is quite intense.
In the search for answers to the questions „how does the state influence the ethnicity of the population through its interventions?“ and „how do the inhabitants of Alsace derive their own ethnicity?“, it follows that state interventions have a very significant influence on the formation of a particular ethnicity, whether it concerns its suppression or its strengthening. In the case of Alsace, the French state has successfully eliminated the ‚German‘ identity, even though this identity was also abandoned by the Alsatians because of the events of the Second World War. However, the French State has suppressed elements of the Alsatians‘ indigenous identity, which was particularly evident in the field of French-language education.
In the case of Alsace and Alsatian identity, the situation of the German-speaking group in Belgium can serve as a comparison. The Belgian identity is in many ways completely fictitious – only Flemish (Dutch/Dutch) and Walloon (French or Francophone) are manifested as ethnic identities. The Belgian German-speaking minority, like in Alsace after the Second World War, has completely broken with the German identity. At the same time, however, it adopted a new identity – neither Belgian (nor Walloon) nor German, but a completely distinct identity – ‚Ostbelgier‘. It can develop this identity within a very strong cultural and political autonomy. Alsace is far from having such autonomy – if the question of the relationship between culture and the state comes up, it is clear that culturally the Alsatians now feel almost completely self-sufficient (albeit strongly influenced by German culture), but at the same time they feel completely integrated into the structures of the French state, which they already consider natural.
 L’Alsace en chiffres. [online] Alsace International, 2009. [cit. 22. 1. 2010] Dostupné z: <http://www.alsace-international.eu/dn/dn_alsace_chiffres/ >.
 MAFFESSOLI, M. Atlas des populations immigrées. Strasbourg: INSEE-ALSACE, 2005, s. 6–12.
 L’Alsace en chiffres. [online] Alsace International, 2009. [cit. 22. 1. 2010] Dostupné z: <http://www.alsace-international.eu/dn/dn_alsace_chiffres/ >.
 Německé menšiny v právních normách 1938–1948 Praha: Doplněk a Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR, 2006. ISBN 80-7239-201-8, s. 525–526.
 Německé menšiny v právních normách 1938–1948. c. d.s,. 535.
 GEIGER – JAILLET, A. Sprachattitüden zukünftiger b ilingualer Lehrkräfte im Elsasss. In Mehrsprachigkeit in Europa. Plurilinguismo in Europa. Multilingualism across Europe. Bolzano / Bozen, 2006. s. 23–25.
 MARKHAM, J. Alsatian identity remains a study in contradictions. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Dec 31, 1987.
 NIERAAD, N. Elsässische Weihnacht . GRIN Verlag: 2007, s. 6–12.
 FISCHER, CH. J. Alsace to the Alsatians? Berghahn Books, 2010, s. 20
 OLCALSACE – Langue et culture régionales en Alsace. Weitergabe: Unterricht und Elsässischkurse . [online] Carte linguistique. 11a, rue Edouard Teutsch – 6700 0 Strasbourg, 2010. [cit. 18. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.olcalsace.org/aff_carte/carte_linguistique_web.jpg>.
 E.g. Germania. Archiv zur Kenntniß des deutschen Eleme nts in allen Ländern der Erde. 1847. Frankfurt am Main: Druck und Verlag von Heinrich Ludwig Brönner. or Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung. 1847. Leipzig, s. 262.
 SPRINGER, C. P. E. The manuscripts of Sedulius: a provisional handlist. American Philosophical Society, 1995, s. 184.
 TSCHIRNER, S. Elsass: Fachwerkdörfer und historisc he Städte, Burgen und Kirchen im Weinland zwischen Rhein und Vogesen. DuMont Reiseverlag: 2000, s. 35– 36.
 The census does not ascertain mother tongue in France; it was a survey of 380 000 adults in mainland France and a recalculation of the total population. Source: Enquête familiale. Insee, 1999.
 DNA/ISERCO approached a representative sample of 600 Alsatian respondents. The results of the survey were published on 21 September 2001 in Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace in the article „Erosion naturelle“ by Claude Keiflin.
 ISERCO approached a representative sample of 300 respondents in Alsace and the German-speaking part of Moselle in October 1989.
 Study on the bilingualism of the Alsatian population (Regionale Amt für Zweisprachigkeit / Office Régional du Bilinguisme – ORBI) with 1840 respondents in April 1997.
 DNA/ISERCO approached a representative sample of 600 Alsatian respondents. The results of the survey were published on 21 September 2001 in Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace in the article „Erosion naturelle“ by Claude Keiflin.
 Published in „Chiffres pour l’Alsace“ Nr. 12, Dezember 2002.
Teaching of Alsatian
Figure 11: Map of places in Alsace where Alsatian courses are offered in the 2010/2011 school year. Source: OLCALSACE, 2010.
Figure 12. Excerpt from a children’s book in Alsatian. (Draw the head first, then the belly). Source: DAUL, L. [s. d] Wàs màche m’r hit? Vejele fliej!
Differences between German dialects
The New Testament Parable of the Lost Sheep
English. 3 And he made a story for them, saying, 4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if one of them gets loose and goes away, will not let the ninety-nine be in the waste land by themselves, and go after the wandering one, till he sees where it is? 5 And when he has got it again, he takes it in his arms with joy. 6 And when he gets back to his house, he sends for his neighbours and friends, saying to them, Be glad with me, for I have got back my sheep which had gone away. (Bible in Basic English, 1949/1964, BBE)
Alemannic. 3 Er sait aba zue nene des Glichnis: 4 (a) Wela Mensch isch unda äich, der hundat Schof het un, wenn er eins vu nene vuliert, nit de nineninzig in dr Wüschte lost un goht däm vulorene nohch, bis er’s findet? 5 Un wenn er’s gfunde het, so legt er sich’s uf d Schulta volla Fräid (Freud). 6 Un wenn er heimkummt , rueft er sini Freunde un Nochbere un sait zue nene: Fräie (Freuet) äich mit ma (mir); de nn i (ich) ha mi Schof gfunde, des vulore war (Jazyky Evropy: Alemanština – Alemannisch , 2008).
Schwyzertüütsch (German Swiss). 3 Er hät gseit aber zunänä säb Gli echnis und ret’: 4 Welä Mänsch isch under eu, wo hundert Schaf hät und, dä wo eis verlüürt, dä wo nöd laat die nünänünzg i dä Wüästi und higaat nach em verlorenä bis dass er’ s findät? 5 Und wän er’s gfundä hät so leit er’s uf sini Achslä mit Freudä. 6 Und wän er h ai chunt, rüäft er sini Fründä und Nachbärä und redät zunänä: Freuäd eu mit mir; wel ich ha mis Schaf gfundä, wo verlorä gsi isch (Jazyky Evropy: Švýcarská němčina (Schwyzertüütsch) , 2008).
Upper German (Hochdeutsch). 3 Er sagte aber zu ihnen dies Gleichnis und sprach: 4 Welcher Mensch ist unter euch, der hundert Schafe hat und, so er der eines verliert, der nicht lasse die neunundneunzig in der Wüste und hingehe nach dem verlorenen, bis daß er’s finde? 5 Und wenn er’s gefunden hat, so legt er’s auf seine Achseln mit Freuden. 6 Und wenn er heimkommt, ruft er seine Freunde und Nachbarn und spricht zu ihnen: Freuet euch mit mir; denn ich habe mein Schaf gefunden, das verloren war (Jazyky Evropy: Hornoněmčina, 2008).
Examples of posters from the 2007 presidential election
Nicolas Sarkozy – Together everything will be possible; Ségolène Royal – Change; François Bayrou – France at full strength
José Bové – Another future is possible; Philippe de Villiers – Pride of being French; Jean-Marie Le Pen – Vote Le Pen
Sürkrüt, Flammekueche, Baeckeoffe (Eintopf), Münschterkäs
• Anzahl der Lothringer Dialektsprecher laut Volksbefragungen und Volkszählungen. [online] Culture et Bilinguisme de Lorraine – Zweisprachig, unsere Zukunft, 2011. [cit. 15. 1. 2011]. Dostupné z: <http://www.culture-bilinguismelorraine.org/definitiondenotr/index-de.html>.
• DAUL, L. Wàs màche m’r hit? Vejele fliej! Strasbourg: Amt für Sprache und Kultur im Elsass. [s. d.] ISBN 2-84512-047-8.
• De la langue alsacienne: du „Elsasserditsch“ au „Oberditsch“. [online] Les EMIG à Marseille et sa région: les racines alsaciennes – lsasserditsch et Oberditsch, 2010. [cit. 18. 1. 2011]. Dostupné z: <http://emig.free.fr/ALSACE/dialecte_alsacien.html>.
• Der elsässische Dialekt in Zahlen. [online] Office pour la Langue et la Culture d´Alsace. 11a, rue Edouard Teutsch – 67000 Strasbourg, 2010. [cit. 18. 1. 2011]. Dostupné z: <http://www.olcalsace.org/de/dialecte-chiffres/der-elsassische-dialekt-in-zahlen.html>.
• Elsässisches Wörterbuch. [online] 2002–2010 by Kompetenzzentrum für elektronische Erschließungs- und Publikationsverfahren in den Geisteswissenschaften an der Universität Trier, 2010. [cit. 15. 1. 2011]. Dostupné z: <http://germazope.unitrier.de:8080/Projekte/WBB2009/ElsWB/wbgui_py?lemid=>.
• FISCHER, Ch. J. Alsace to the Alsatians? Berghahn Books, 2010.
• Food and Agricultural commodities production. [online] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: FAOSTAT, 2008. [cit. 8. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://faostat.fao.org/site/339/default.aspx>.
• France Guide. [online] Atout France 2002–2008. [cit. 10. 10. 2010]. Dostupné z: <http://cz.franceguide.com/destinace/francie/regiony/alsace/home.html?NodeID=144>.
• GEIGER-JAILLET, A. Sprachattitüden zukünftiger bilingualer Lehrkräfte im Elsasss. In Mehrsprachigkeit in Europa. Plurilinguismo in Europa. Multilingualism across Europe. Bolzano / Bozen, 2006. s. 23–25.
• Germania. Archiv zur Kenntniß des deutschen Elements in allen Ländern der Erde. Frankfurt am Main: Druck und Verlag von Heinrich Ludwig Brönner, 1847.
• Jazyky Evropy: Alemanština – Alemannisch. [online] Stránky pro studenty HKS, 2008. [cit. 11. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.hks.re/wiki/alemanstina>.
• Jazyky Evropy: Hornoněmčina. [online] Stránky pro studenty HKS, 2008. [cit. 11. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.hks.re/wiki/hornonemcina_-_hochdeutsch>.
• Jazyky Evropy: Švýcarská němčina (Schwyzertüütsch). [online] Stránky pro studenty HKS, 2008. [cit. 11. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.hks.re/wiki/svycarska_nemcina>.
• L’Alsace en chiffres. [online] Alsace International, 2009. [cit. 22. 1. 2010] Dostupné z: <http://www.alsace-international.eu/dn/dn_alsace_chiffres/>.
• MAFFESSOLI, M. Atlas des populations immigrées. Strasbourg: INSEE-ALSACE, 2005. ISBN 978-2-11-061612-1.
• MARKHAM, J. Alsatian identity remains a study in contradictions. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Dec 31, 1987.
• Německé menšiny v právních normách 1938–1948. Praha: Doplněk a Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR, 2006. ISBN 80-7239-201-8.
• NIERAAD, N. Elsässische Weihnacht. GRIN Verlag: 2007.
• OLCALSACE – Langue et culture régionales en Alsace. Weitergabe: Unterricht und Elsässischkurse. [online] Carte linguistique. 11a, rue Edouard Teutsch – 67000 Strasbourg, 2010. [cit. 18. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.olcalsace.org/aff_carte/carte_linguistique_web.jpg>.
• Produit intérieur brut en 2008 et 2009: comparaisons régionales. [online] Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques, 2010. [cit. 18. 1. 2011] Dostupné z: <http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/tableau.asp?reg_id=99&ref_id=t_2601R>.
• SPRINGER, C. P. E. The manuscripts of Sedulius: a provisional handlist. American Philosophical Society, 1995.
• TSCHIRNER, S. Elsass: Fachwerkdörfer und historische Städte, Burgen und Kirchen im Weinland zwischen Rhein und Vogesen. DuMont Reiseverlag: 2000.