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Berlin Berlin (; ) is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the most-populous city of the European Union, according to population within city limits. One of Ger ...
. The German noun ''Volk'' () translates to :wikt:people, people, both uncountable in the sense of ''people'' as in a
crowd A crowd leaves the Vienna station on the Washington Metro in 2006. Generally speaking, a crowd is defined as a group of people that have gathered for a common purpose or intent such as at a demonstration, a sports event, or during looting (this ...
, and countable (plural ''Völker'') in the sense of ''
a people
a people
'' as in an
ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, ...
or
nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group; it has been described as "a fully ...
(compare the
English English usually refers to: * English language * English people English may also refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * ''English'', an adjective for something of, from, or related to England ** English national identity, an identity and ...

English
term ''
folk Folk or Folks may refer to: Sociology *Nation *People * Folklore ** Folk art ** Folk dance ** Folk hero ** Folk music *** Folk metal *** Folk punk *** Folk rock *** British folk rock ** Folk religion * Folk taxonomy Arts, entertainment, and media ...
''). Within an English-language context, the German word is of interest primarily for its use in
German philosophy German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wil ...
, as in ''
Volksseele ''Geist'' () is a German noun with a degree of importance in German philosophy. Its semantic field corresponds to English ghost, spirit, mind, intellect. Some English translators resort to using "spirit/mind" or "spirit (mind)" to help convey the ...
'' ("national soul"), and in
German nationalism German nationalism is an ideological notion that promotes the unity of Germans and German-speakers into one unified nation state. German Nationalism also emphasizes and takes pride in the patriotism and national identity of Germans as one nation ...
– notably the derived adjective '' völkisch'' ("national, ethnic").


Etymology

The term ''Volk'' in the medieval period (Middle High German ''volc'') had the primary meaning of "large crowd, army", while the more general sense of "population" or "people" was expressed by ''diet'' (adjective '' dietsch, deutsch'' "popular, of the people"). It was only in the early modern period that ''deutsch'' acquired the meaning of an ethnic self-designation. Beginning in 1512, the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 180 ...
was named ''Imperium Romanum Sacrum Nationis Germanicæ'', rendered in German as ''Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation'', suggesting that Latin ''germanicus'' "German, Germanic" was now expressed by the adjective ''deutsch''. ''Volk'' is the
cognate In linguistics, cognates, also called lexical cognates, are words that have a common etymological origin. Cognates are often inherited from a shared parent language, but they may also involve borrowings from some other language. For example, the ...
of English ''
folk Folk or Folks may refer to: Sociology *Nation *People * Folklore ** Folk art ** Folk dance ** Folk hero ** Folk music *** Folk metal *** Folk punk *** Folk rock *** British folk rock ** Folk religion * Folk taxonomy Arts, entertainment, and media ...
'' and also overlaps in the usage of the latter as in ''Volksmusik'' "folk music", ''Volksglaube'' "folk belief" etc. In the 18th century, German ''Volk'' was mostly reserved for "crowd" or "mass of the population", while the concept of "a people" or "a nation" was now expressed by the Latinism ''Nation''. Use of ''Nation'' in this sense was replaced by ''Volk'' after 1800, explicitly in the context of emergent
German nationalism German nationalism is an ideological notion that promotes the unity of Germans and German-speakers into one unified nation state. German Nationalism also emphasizes and takes pride in the patriotism and national identity of Germans as one nation ...
. Compounds in which ''Volk-'' translates to "populace" or "nation" include ''Volksentscheid'' (plebiscite, literally "decision of/by the people") ''Völkerbund'' (League of Nations). The somewhat obsolete meaning of the commoner, common people, ''hoi polloi'', working class is visible in the brand name ''Volkswagen'' "people's car", historically a name chosen by the German Labour Front in 1937 for a car designed to be affordable to the "common man". In contrast to German ''Volk'' being elevated to the sense of "nation" in the early 19th century, English ''folk'' came to be seen as inelegant at around the same time, being mostly replaced by the latinate ''people''. It re-entered formal or academic English only through the invention of the word ''folklore'', coined in 1846 by William Thoms, William J. Thoms as an Anglo-Saxonism. This word revived folk in a modern sense of "of the common people, whose culture is handed down orally", and opened up a flood of compound formations, e.g. ''folk art'' (1921), ''folk-hero'' (1899), ''folk-medicine'' (1898), ''folk-tale'' (1891), ''folk-song'' (1847), ''folk-music'' (1889), ''folk-dance'' (1912).


German national identity

In
German philosophy German philosophy, here taken to mean either (1) philosophy in the German language or (2) philosophy by Germans, has been extremely diverse, and central to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy for centuries, from Gottfried Wil ...
of the late 18th and 19th centuries, ''Volksgeist'' is used in the sense of "national spirit", not necessarily in reference to the German nation, but still strongly correlated with the development of a German national identity in the wake of the dissolution of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 180 ...
. The völkisch movement originates in this time, proposing the formation of a German nation state as a solution to the "German Question". Johann Gottlieb Fichte in his ''Addresses to the German Nation'', published still during the Napoleonic Wars from 1808 onwards, asked, in the eighth address, “What is a ''Volk,'' in the higher sense of the term, and what is love of the fatherland?," He answered that it could only be that "particular spiritual nature of the human environment out of which he himself, with all of his thought and action... has arisen, namely the people from which he is descended and among which he has been formed and grown into that which he is". The movement combined sentimental patriotic interest in German folklore, local history and a "back-to-the-land" anti-urban populism with many parallels with expressions of Romantic nationalism in other parts of Europe, such as the writings of William Morris. "In part this ideology was a revolt against modernity," Nicholls remarked. Throughout much of the 19th century, it was not universally agreed that there was such a thing as a single "German nation" (''Volk''). The "Germans" (''die Deutschen'') were rather seen as the equivalent of what would now be called the Germanic peoples, i.e. a large ethno-linguistic phylum comprising a number of peoples (such as the German stem duchy, "stems" or tribes of the Franks (or Franconians), Swabians, Bavarians, Thuringians, Saxons, etc.; also included into the term were the North Germanic peoples, Scandinavians and the Anglo-Saxons, e.g. the Brothers' Grimm ''Deutsche Sagen'' of 1816–1818 which includes legends of Germanic antiquity as well as of German, Austrian and Swiss folklore. In the wake of the Revolutions of 1848, the Frankfurt Parliament attempted to create a national constitution for all German states but rivalry between Prussian and Austrian interests resulted in proponents of the parliament advocating a "Lesser German" solution (a monarchical German nation-state without Austria). The King of Prussia, Frederick William IV of Prussia, refused the offer and efforts to create a liberal German nation-state faltered and collapsed. A division developed among German nationalists, with one group led by the Prussians that supported a "Lesser Germany" that excluded Austria and another group that supported a "Greater Germany" that included Austria. Prussia achieved hegemony over Germany in the "wars of unification": the Second Schleswig War (1864), the Austro-Prussian War (1866), which effectively established the separation of Austria from Germany, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1, after which the unification of Germany was finally achieved, by the fusion of the North German Confederation (dominated by Prussia) and the South or Central German states of Kingdom of Bavaria, Bavaria, Kingdom of Württemberg, Württemberg, Grand Duchy of Baden, Baden and Grand Duchy of Hesse, Hesse.


Nazi era

Adolf Hitler in ''Mein Kampf'' denounced usage of the word ''völkisch'' as he considered it too vague as to carry any recognizable meaning due to former over-use, although he used it often, especially in connection with ethnic Germans or ''Volksdeutsche''. During the years of the Third Reich, the term ''Volk'' became heavily used in nationalistic political slogans, particularly in slogans such as ''Volk ohne Raum'' "(a) people or race without space" or ''Völkischer Beobachter'' ("popular or racial observer"), an NSDAP party newspaper. Also the political slogan ''Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer'' ("One nation or race, one realm, one leader"); the compound word ''Herrenvolk'', translated as "master race"; the "Heinkel He 162, Volksjäger" jet fighter, translated as "people's fighter aircraft, fighter"; and the term ''Volksgemeinschaft'', translated as "people's community". The term Volk, in the vision of Nazis, had a broad set of meanings, and referred sometimes to the entirety of German nation and other times to the Nordic race. In the writings of leading Nazi thinkers, such as Alfred Rosenberg and Hans F. K. Günther, Hans Günther several ''Völker'' or "peoples" made up a ''Rasse'' or "race", so these two terms did not always denote the same concept.


After 1945

Unlike the adjective '' völkisch'', which became associated with German nationalism, the German noun ''Volk'' remains the unmarked term for "a people" or "nation" (while its older meanings of "a crowd of people" or "commoners" are less current). The Reichstag building retains its dedication, inscribed in 1916, reading ''dem deutschen Volke'' ("to the German people"). While ''Volk'' suggests an ethnic group or nation, the term ''Bevölkerung'' is used in the sense of "populace, resident population". The term ''Volksdeutsche'' for "ethnic Germans" retains some usage but is increasingly replaced by ''Deutschstämmige'' ("[people] of German descent"). In composition, ''Volks-'' retains the meaning "of/for the common people", after the pattern of ''Volkswagen'', sometimes used humorously in advertising (as in ''Volks-Zahnbürste'' "people's toothbrush") "Wir sind das Volk!" ("We are the people!") was a chant used by the Monday demonstrations in East Germany, Monday demonstrators during the peaceful demonstrations of 1989/1990 to end the East Germany, GDR and bring down the Berlin Wall. The slogan meant that the "simple people" would no longer endure the dictatorship, and wanted to reform the political system of the GDR. It did not necessarily express support for the idea of a reunification. However, the slogan was also altered to "Wir sind ein Volk!" ("We are one people") during the course of the protests, indicating the ethnic meaning of ''Volk'', where the division of Germany was regarded as unjust because of the common ethnic identity of all Germans. Image:PEGIDA Demo DRESDEN 25 Jan 2015 116139879.jpg, First Pegida protest in daytime, January 2015. In 2015 the slogan "Wir sind das Volk" became popular again among members of PEGIDA (a nationalist movement), and various groups that claimed to stand in the tradition of Monday Demonstrations. Here, however, the ethnic connotation of "Volk" quickly became obvious. While the slogan "Wir sind ein Volk" was no longer in use since the reunification, the slogan "Wir sind das Volk" was given a new meaning. Now the word "Wir" was used by right wing protesters to refer to themselves, in order to distinguish from migrants and so-called "Gutmenschen" ("Good People", meaning Germans that supported refugees). After Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to give shelter to a growing number of refugees, especially from Syria, in 2015, right wing groups as well as more modest movements, that were referred to by the media as "the concerned citizens", started to use the slogan. They wanted to indicate that, according to their beliefs, the ''Volk'' (meaning only ethnic ''Germans'') should have more rights than immigrants and especially refugees. The similarity to the National Socialist ''Volk'' conception was pointed out by various media. The protesters also made references to the protests against the dictatorship of the GDR, since they regarded it as their right to decide whether the state should give shelter to refugees or not. This, however, is a constitutional right in Germany for "[p]ersons persecuted on political grounds" that can not be changed unless the constitution is changed with a two-thirds majority in both houses of the parliament; however, asylum seekers who enter "from a member state of the European Communities" already have no constitutional right to asylum.


See also

* Volcae#Namesake * populus * pueblo * people * þeod * Volksdeutsche * Johann Gottfried Herder * Volksgeist * Volkshalle * Volksmusik * Volkshochschule * Volkssturm * Volkswagen * Dutch language#Etymology of the word .22Dutch.22, Dutch * Folk music * Zhōnghuá Mínzú


References

Notes Bibliography * Henning Eichberg (2004), ''The People of Democracy. Understanding Self-Determination on the Basis of Body and Movement''. (= Movement Studies. 5) Århus: Klim (Theory of folk, people, and civil society with Scandinavian background) * Emerich K. Francis (1965) ''Ethnos und Demos. Soziologische Beiträge zur Volkstheorie''. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot (classical German-American sociology of folk, ethnos and demos) * Emerich K. Francis (1976) ''Interethnic Relations. An Essay in Sociological Theory''. New York u.a.: Elsevier. * Raphael Samuel (1981) (ed.), ''People's History and Socialist Theory''. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. {{Authority control Germanic languages Germanic mysticism German nationalism Romantic nationalism German words and phrases de:Volk