When Germans think of Australia
Fellow German travel writer Heinrich Hauser began his own Australia book in 1939 with a chapter titled “‘Volk ohne Raum’ – ‘Raum ohne Volk’”, demonstrating the popularity of that geopolitical labeling.
“A lot of catchwords come to my mind”, Hauser states midway through his short introductory chapter, and rattles them off. Many of them touch upon things that Ross also featured prominently, although he, too, was not the first German writer to use them. Here too, Australia is a “land of living fossils” with a “dead heart”, a lab for “social experiments”, “cause for the wars of the future”, a continent that could host many millions more than it does and has most of its inhabitants in a few coastal cities [p. 8]. This goes to show the rather repetitive attributes for countries and continents among German travel writers at the time; such reuse sometimes even manifested itself in acts of plagiarism.1
What is strikingly different, however, is that rather than relate the emptiness of Australia to the ‘overcrowding’ of Asia, in this chapter Hauser relates it directly to Germany’s perceived ‘overpopulation’. Using the concept of antipodes, he claims a special relation of contrasts between the two countries: “Can we even imagine what that is like: ‘space without people’? - We want to try.” [p. 9]
Heinrich Hauser. “Volk ohne Raum” - “Raum ohne Volk”. In: Australien. Der menschenscheue Kontinent. 1. Aufl. Berlin: Büchergilde Gutenberg; 1939, p. 5–7.
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30
1 See: Andy Hahnemann: [Excerpt from] Volk ohne Raum - Raum ohne Volk. In: Texturen des Globalen. Geopolitik und populäre Literatur in der Zwischenkriegszeit 1918-1939. 297–301. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter; 2010, p. 272–4.