Peasants and Jews: Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics in Northwest Germany

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Geo-referenced map of the soil structure of Northwest Germany

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Geo-referenced map of the three primary landscape types of Northwest Germany
green = Marsch     purple = Geest     blue = Moor

Soil morphology closely followed landscape type. The area under study has 34 soil types, each having differing levels of fertility and differing hydrology. I am currently working with my daughter Anne, a soil scientist, to build a concordance of soil types (the European classification system is different from the American) and create a "first principles" soil map. This will be part of my long-term plan a "deep map" of northwest Germany.

Landscapes and Soil Structure


"The history of East Friesland is written on the landscape." - Bernd Kappelhoff


The land between the Ems and the Elbe is composed of three landscape types - March, Geest, and Moor - each reflecting the social construction of space over time.


Marsch is drained wetland reclaimed from the sea or riverbeds. It lays below sea level, must be protected by an extensive system of dikes, and drained by canals large (Teiche) and small (Weiken). Locals distinguish between old Marsch, land drained from the beginning of human habitation, and new Marsch, land reclaimed since the 13th century. The face of the Marsch has changed markedly over the centuries, with whole villages swept away in catastrophic floods and bays and inlets poldered and brought into cultivation.


Geest formed the twin spines of the region, between the Ems and Weser and the Weser and Ems (depicted in the map below as purple), with occasional "Geest islands isolated within the Marsch. The Geest is a sandy highland safely above sea level. It is frequently planted with rye or forested. Many of the villages on the Geest trace their roots back to Carolingian times. Of the three landscape types in northwest Germany, the Geest is the least transformed by human hands.


As with Marsch, there were two sub-types of Moor: high (hoch) and low (nieder). In earliest times, the Moor provided a barrier to communication and control, allowing the coastal region to develop in relative autonomy. Like the Marsch, the Moor have been heavily impacted by human hands. From the early 18th century, the State and private companies established colonies on the low Moor that specialized in the cutting and export of peat to the Netherlands, Bremen, and Hamburg. The environmental impact of this process is only now being fully studied.