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Thomas Heberer: East Prussia and China: Tracing a Wondrous Relationship

The overarching framework of this book are the issues culture of memory, collective memory, and the Chinese knowledge perception with regard to former East Prussia and its great personalities.

In detail, this publication is concerned with the following issues: Firstly, the author's East Prussian family background and his recent travels to former East Prussia, particularly the parts belonging to Russia, Poland and Lithuania. The book signifies that former East Prussia has always had strong links and interweavings to neighboring countries such as Russia, Poland and the Baltic region, and that these countries as well as immigrants from across Europe inspired this eastern part of Europe, its development and culture. The history of former East Prussia is, therefore, part and parcel not only of German history but also of the histories of Russia, Poland, the Baltic States and entire Europe.

Secondly, he introduces to his professional preoccupation with China. Following, he examines the question of what East Prussia and China have to do with each other and how they were or are linked to each other. This encompasses Prussia's East Asian policies, the China relatedness of king Frederic the Great, the German "heritage" (or the German guilt?) in China (suppression of the "Boxer" uprise, German "protectorate" Qingdao) as well as the catastrophe of Nazi fascism which gave rise to the Holocaust and the escape of many East Prussian and other German/European Jews to Shanghai.

The author addresses East Prussia as a point of origin of German sinology and the activities of East Prussian missionaries in China. A separate chapter deals with Kant and Herder and their relatedness to China, their impact on modern China and the development of the German China image. Furthermore, he talks about a large number of renowned East Prussian personalities such as natural scientists, writers, political philosophers, artists, merchants, film directors, musicians, etc. These include both historical figures and people still alive, i.e. people born in former East Prussia in the 1930s and 1940s who had to leave after the German defeat in World War II.

Among these personalities are people such as the astronomer and mathematician Nikolaus Kopernikus, the mathematicians and physicists Christian Goldbach, David Hilbert, Hermann Minkowski and Arnold Sommerfeld (not a few of them Nobel prize winners), the graphic artist and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, the female revolutionary Anna Wang, the Israeli politician and author Leah Rabin, the diplomat Arthur Zimmermann, the architect Volkwin Marg, the sculptor and installation artist Hubertus von der Goltz, the front man and singer John Kay (Joachim Fritz Krauledat) of the US-Canadian blues-rock band "Steppenwolf" and many others. The volume also takes a look at the East Prussian time of the famous authors Heinrich von Kleist and Thomas Mann, the renowned artist colony “Nidden”, and a large number of East Prussians which had or have a specific relationship to China. Even Soviet generals are included who first fought in East Prussia against the Nazi regime, later in North East China against the Japanese army.

The book presents a specific facet of this region, its development, its mutual fertilization by internal and external cultures thus contributing to a more differentiated picture of former East Prussia, its history and development trajectory within Germany, Europe and the world.

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