Location and cultural history
Germany today sits pretty much at the geographical centre of the European Union, one of several factors leading to the country’s dominant economic position within the trading bloc.
To understand modern Germany and its recent past, it is necessary to bear in mind that its borders have changed drastically in the past 100 or so years. Prior to the formation of the German Empire in 1871, Germany did not exist as a unified country. It was a loose federation of states with differing forms of government, united mainly by a common culture, a common language and established trade routes dating back to the time of the Hanseatic League. The German Empire was in large part a realisation of the concept of Kleindeutsche Lösung (“the Lesser German solution”), one of two rival nineteenth century proposals for uniting the german-speaking peoples into a single nation state with Prussia as its focal point.
After the First World War huge territorial losses were imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (1919), reducing Germany to the area coloured brown on the map dated 1933‒1938 below. From 1919 to 1933 this territory was administered by a parliamentary republican government called the Weimar Republic. Following the disbanding of the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission in 1930, it also administered the Rhineland (Rheinland in German), which was a demilitarised zone until Third Reich troops occupied it in 1936 and re-established full sovereignty. Also during the 1930s under Adolf Hitler, some other territorial expansions took place. The Saarland was re-incorporated into Germany by a plebicite in 1935 and in 1938 Austria unified with the Third Reich through a process called the Anschluss (Literal translation: ‘Connection’). Also in 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, the german-speaking parts of what was then Czechoslovakia.
The great “What If ?” of modern European history is this: If Britain had not declared war in September 1939, would the German invasion of Poland have stopped at Prussia’s old borders, or would Operation Barbarossa have taken place some 21½ months before it actually did? The former prospect must be given credence simply because the latter would have involved the futility of invading Russia at the onset of winter. That implies an original intent on Hitler’s part to implement nothing more than Großdeutsche Lösung (“the Greater German solution”), the unification of all the german-speaking peoples including those of Austria. The awful implication is that many of the horrors of the Second World War in Europe may have stemmed from the British over-reacting to the Germans merely re-taking what had previously been theirs.
Following Germany’s defeat in the Second World War, the country was divided into zones administered by Russia, the United States, Britain and France. In 1949 the Soviet Zone became a nominally independent state within the Soviet block called the “DDR” (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, German Democratic Republic, East Germany). In the same year the US, British and French Zones became the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany or ‘West Germany’). Separate divisions existed in the former capital, Berlin, which was surrounded by East Germany and connected to West Germany by the “Berlin Corridor”. This situation continued until the Soviet Union’s economic collapse in the late 1980s. That destabilised the DDR government and with it, the division of Germany epitomised by the infamous Berlin Wall. The frontier was opened and unification followed almost immediately, formalised on 3 October 1990. Later the same decade, much of the former central government of West Germany relocated from Bonn to Berlin.
The land area of the reunited Germany is 348,672 km², a little less than two-thirds of the country’s territory as it was in 1910.
Germany - Location within the European Union
Germany - Borders since reunification
Circumcision in Prussia before 1871.
In common with much of Western Europe and North America, German attitudes to anything sexual were strongly influenced by Christianity, meaning an absence of any widespread religious motive to circumcise.
Monsieur Tissot’s book L'Onanisme, Dissertation sur les Maladies Produites par la Masturbation, first published in French in the 1790s, would undoubtedly have been read in Prussia but there is no evidence of circumcision being widely adopted as an anti-masturbation measure. Tissot’s book does not mention circumcision; the two issues only became inter-twined several generations later. Such circumcision as did take place prior to the formation of the German Empire would have been amongst religious Jews or as a treatment for phimosis.
Circumcision in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic.
There is no evidence to suggest that circumcision rates changed in consequence of the formation of the German Empire.
An unresolved issue relating to circumcision at this time concerns the Winkelmann Clamp. To date, no patent for this device has been traced, making it difficult to identify its inventor with any degree of certainty. It has been provisionally credited to the German urological surgeon Karl Winkelmann (1863‒1925) after whom the Winkelmann‒Jaboulay operation for hydrocele is named. If this is correct then the whole history of the Gomco Clamp needs to be re-written, because of the clear implication that the ‘Bell Clamp’ concept did not originate with Yellen and Goldstein.
Circumcision in the Third Reich (1933 to 1945).
The persecution of both Jews and homosexuals during the Third Reich is well documented elsewhere. Not being circumcised may have been a distinct advantage at this time!
Circumcision in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik
(East Germany, 1945 to 1990).
Persistent rumours exist concerning state-promoted circumcision in East Germany, and not just in respect of male circumcision. Allegations have been made to the effect that young female athletes aspiring to join the country’s olympic team underwent clitoridectomy in order to ‘reduce sexual distractions’ and conceal the use of male hormones and anabolic agents as performance-enhancing drugs. It is difficult to unravel truth from black propaganda here; more evidence is needed.
Separately, there is a suggestion that male circumcision was commonplace in the Volkspolizei, the national police force of the DDR, done on the initiative of its Chief Medical Officer. Again, black propaganda is a possibility and more evidence is needed.
Circumcision in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland
(West Germany, 1945 to 1990).
In the early years after the war, there was a strong US military presence in the south of West Germany, encompassing almost all of present-day Bavaria and Hesse, the north-east part of Baden-Württemberg including both Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, along with parts of the Bremen area in the north and the American Sector of West Berlin. The extent of US influence on circumcision rates in these areas is unclear, but boys born in US military facilities are almost certain to have been circumcised before discharge from maternity.
Gastarbeiter is German for ‘guest worker’ (or guest workers ‒ the plural is the same as the singular). It refers to migrant workers who had moved to Germany mainly in the 1960s and 70s, seeking work as part of a formal guest worker programme (Gastarbeiterprogramm).
With a booming economy short of unskilled workers, in 1961 West Germany negotiated a migration agreement with Turkey that brought in hundreds of thousands of temporary guest workers. The Gastarbeiter were young men who were paid full-scale wages and benefits, but were expected to return home after a few years.
The original migration agreement with Turkey ended in 1973 but few workers returned because of a shortage of good jobs in Turkey. Instead they brought in wives and family members and settled in ethnic enclaves. By 2010 there were about 4 million people of Turkish descent in Germany, mainly Muslim. Turks in Germany are concentrated predominantly in urban centers; the vast majority are found in the former West Germany. The majority live in industrial regions such as the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg along with the working neighbourhoods of cities like Berlin, Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Mainz, Munich, and Stuttgart. The Turkish tradition of Islamic circumcision persists in these communities, accounting to this day for a significant proportion of circumcisions in Germany.
The reunited Germany (1990 to present).
Nearly a generation on from reunification, the former East Germany still ‘feels’ different. There is a slower pace of life, a sluggish economy compared with the old West Germany, some persistent inadequacies in the infrastructure and a different political outlook too. But throughout the country circumcision remains largely confined to the Turkish Muslim community, to those who have suffered phimosis and ‒ here’s the local speciality ‒ the homosexual community. Together these factors seem to give rise to a belief that circumcision is to be avoided by the majority, lest it be deemed a badge incorrectly identifying an individual as belonging to one of these minority groups.
In 2012, a major upheaval took place regarding the legality of circumcision in Germany. This is best tracked by reference to Circlist's News Page
For news in the German language about circumcision in Germany today, see: http://infobeschneidung.blogspot.de/
More about the Vopos...
Someone raised the question of circumcision being the norm in the former East German Police. I can give a few facts on the situation. But the facts give rise to more questions which I cannot answer and wish some German member would research this.
The rumours are true. The work seems to be decision of one man, Dr. Otto Dietz, who was the Chief Medical Officer of the Volkspolizei. He published several articles in German so he was not hiding too much. The fact is that he forced circumcision on all Vopo recruits. His articles do not mention the word "forced" but they were and he writes about thousands of circumcisions. Reports are that if the recruit had a son extreme pressure was put on him to bring his son in. And apparently if the recruit has a brother some pressure was put to try and get the brother as well.
In another of his articles he brags about his invention the "Dietz circumcision shears" for doing them faster. This went on from the early 50s until the 1970s. I am uncertain whether Dietz is still alive.
[Possible, given that he appears to have been born 23.Dec.1920, but his Volkspolizei file in the Landesarchiv in Berlin was apparently declassified in 2010. Such declassification seems unlikely during a person’s lifetime - Editor]
I am unclear how Dr. Dietz could feel so secure of his position operating as it were in Moscow’s backyard. How was he able to get away with something (forced adult circumcisions) which American military doctors could at times just get away with. How did he become so motivated? Was he gay? Was he a holocaust survivor getting his revenge?
Personally I have always suspected this had some relation of Soviet spy efforts. Two Soviet spies in the US and one in Canada were discovered by having foreskins when the records of the men they were impersonating stated they were circumcised. I have wondered if spies were subsequently selected from this pool of circumcised men in the Volkspolizei.
National pro-circumcision group
||Circumcision information from a German perspective, presented in both the German and English languages. Eurocirc.org
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