Multilingual and intercultural competence on the threshold of the Third Reich

David Gramling

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This article surveys primary sources from the 1910s to 1940s in Germany that show how phenomena of interculturality and multilingualism were institutionalized and envisioned in the advent of National Socialism in Europe. The presumptive image of the Third Reich as a monocultural, monolingual landscape tends to erase the vast and complex web of communities, institutions, and disciplinary initiatives that were researching and developing programming in multiple languages deep into the period of National Socialist dominion. Importantly, however, many progressive German theorists of the World War I era had seen Germany's "special path" into geopolitical modernity as offering a more just approach to cultural diversity than the Leninist, French, English, and US American capitalist approaches that had been developing alongside them since the mid-1900s. Out of this progressive conviction grew an ambitious tradition of thought spearheaded primarily by the historian Karl Lamprecht, one that was neither fascist-totalitarian nor nationalist-ethnocentric in its visions, but also one that Nazi political operatives ultimately found easy to functionalize for its genocidal purposes. This context thus provides ample evidence that multilingualism and intercultural exchange are not always liberatory or enriching for the parties involved, and that 21st-century research in multilingualism and intercultural competence has a great deal to gain, empirically and conceptually, from a sustained (re-)engagement with the darker hours of political modernity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Multilingual Challenge
Subtitle of host publicationCross-Disciplinary Perspectives
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781614512165
ISBN (Print)9781614515555
StatePublished - Sep 25 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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