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History prof traces roots of German expansion to Canada in HRG talk

A PhD student who came to Canada in 1883 was so inspired by how settlers were dealing with Aboriginal peoples in the west that he travelled home to Germany to convince authorities there to use the same methods with Poles who had settled in the eastern part of their country, according to History professor Rob Nelson.

Max Sering, a student at the University of Strasbourg, has become the source of a great deal of fascination for Dr. Nelson, who researches how such countries as Germany, Russia, Canada and Argentina colonized their inner borderlands. At the request of Chancellor Otto Van Bismarck, Sering was hand-picked by his professor to travel to Canada on a fact-finding mission to learn more about how Canada was settling its vast tracks of land in the west.

Germany was trying to stem the tide of emigration of its people to North America and wanted citizens to move east and ‘Germanize’ its borderlands, but had the problem of large numbers of Poles to deal with there, Nelson said. When he arrived in Manitoba, Sering saw the way settlers were dealing with the native population there and thought the same methods could be applied back home.

“Sering was fascinated by the Métis in Manitoba who were being taught, in his eyes, Western farming techniques because he believed this would assimilate what he termed ‘half-civilized’ peoples into proper Canadian citizens,” said Nelson. “This is exactly what he wanted to happen to Poles in the German Empire. They were the Metis of the German east for him.”

Unfortunately for Sering, his ideas failed and were eventually bastardized by the Nazis who came to believe that rather than assimilating non-Germans, they needed to be eradicated.

Nelson, who was recognized earlier this week at the Celebration of Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, will deliver a lecture on the subject of inner colonization for the Humanities Research Group at 4 p.m. today in the Freed Orman Centre at Assumption University.

He’ll also appear tomorrow on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that focuses on the work of University of Windsor researchers and airs every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on CJAM 99.1 FM.

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