“The greatest son of our Heimat”: reading German Leichhardts across the National Socialist era

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Journal Article
Journal of Australian Studies, 2015, 39 (4), pp. 529 - 545
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© 2015 International Australian Studies Association. The article discusses German commemorations of Ludwig Leichhardt (1813–1848) in the National Socialist era when officials, journalists, educators and writers, spurred by the double anniversary of the explorer's 125th birthday and the 90th anniversary of his disappearance, began to re-imagine the explorer's life and fate in the light of the ideological imperatives of the day. Our analysis of this period pays particular attention to how these reimagined Leichhardts emphasise or neglect some of the key elements that make up his story to this day, among them: Leichhardt's ethnicity; his sense of attachment to place and home; his homosocial relationships; his evasion of Prussian military service; his role in the British colonial project; and finally, his engagements with Aborigines. On the one hand, our analysis reveals, how Leichhardt was portrayed first on the local and, later, the national level in ways that increasingly sought to elide ambiguous aspects of his life and deeds. However, it also uncovers some of the ideological labour required to render him useful to the National Socialist cause. Often enough, these re-imagined Leichhardts escaped party politics, and cast up some of the logical inconsistencies and limits to key terms in National Socialist thinking.
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