Sarah Schwab, M.A.

PhD Project

"Remember that you are a German!" - Germans in South Africa from 1914 to the 1960s.

A farmer plowing African soil, Table Mountain, a - "German" - oak tree with "Gedenke, dass du ein Deutscher bist" carved into its trunk, an eagle, and a castle on the Rhine: at first glance, this combination of images and symbols seems to be random. However, being the cover of a weekly newspaper for the German minority in interwar South Africa the composition depicts essential elements of the discourse on Germanness within the group at that time.

After and during World War I, South Africa's German minority faced restrictions in the British Dominion of South Africa because they were considered “enemy aliens”. This led to a general sense of marginalization within the German minority. Conservative elites responded to this by promoting the ideal image of a united, strong and specifically South African Germanness. To this end, they clung to conservative images of Germanness from the Kaiserreich, in the hope to unite the often-divided group of South African Germans both internally and externally.

In my thesis, I examine the elements of the discourse on the ideal of South African Germanness. I am particularly interested in the way everyday practices of South Africa's German minority were indeed "ethnified" and to what extent. Which practices and material things - such as clothing, books, or certain forms of domesticity - played a role in the group's identity, and which - such as certain food or visiting certain pubs - were considered specifically "German"? Which connections to the discourse on Germanness were drawn by members of the German minority and what role did this play in everyday life?

Based on theoretical concepts of identification and group formation processes, this comprehensive account of the hybrid group of Germans and people of German descent in South Africa will analyse their diverse, overlapping feelings of belonging.

Promoted by:
Center of Excellence "Cultural Foundations of Social Integration" University of Konstanz, Ph.D. Program "Europe in the Globalized World"

About me

Since 2023 Employee at the Jewish Museum Augsburg, responsible for program, project management & publications

2019-2023 Curator at Jewish Museum Gailingen

2013-2018 PhD-Programme „Europe in a globalized World”, Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration”, University of Konstanz

2010-2012 MA-Programme “Studies in European Cultures”, University of Konstanz and University of Pretoria, South Africa

2006-2010 BA in History, German Literature and Musicology, University of Augsburg

Research Interests

German Diaspora, particularly in South Africa
Nationalism, Ethnicity, and the Construction of Collective Identities
Colonialism in Southern Africa

Jewish Emigration/Flight from Germany in the 20th century
Jewish History in South Baden


“No Single Loyalty”: Processes of Identification among German-Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany in South Africa. In: Grenville, Anthony/Steinberg, Swen (Hg.): Refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe in British Overseas Territories (Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies Nr. 20). Leiden 2020, S. 68-85.

mit Miriam Lay Brander: Nachwuchsförderung im Konstanzer Exzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration. In: Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 2/2016, S. 147-148.

Sir Ernest Shackleton – „Spuren“ von Odysseus. In: Baumann, Helge u.a. (Hg.): Habt euch müde schon geflogen? Reise und Heimkehr als kulturanthropologische Phänomene. Beiträge des dritten Gießener Studierendenkolloquiums vom 24. bis 26.04.2009. Marburg 2010, S. 83–100.

Joachim Schlör, Escaping Nazi Germany: One Woman’s Emigration from Heilbronn to England, in: German Historical Institute London Bulletin 43 (2021), 2, S. 125-129.

Jamie Miller: An African Volk The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2016, in: sehepunkte 18 (2018), Nr. 7/8 [15.07.2018]

Science Slam:
„History Slam“ im Rahmen des 51. Deutschen Historikertages, Hamburg