How do German companies address questions of gender discrimination? What are the policies and rules related to “equal opportunity” work places? And what’s the state of affairs when it comes to women in leading positions in the public and private sectors? We tried to find answers to these questions during a meeting with the European Academy for Women in Politics and Economy in Berlin and a meeting with the Office for Gender Mainstreaming of the city of Dresden. Aside from learning about the specific programs that these offices and departments offer, we also gained insights into the respective cultural norms underlying the discussions about gender equality. For instance, the EAF works with companies to ensure that qualified women will hear about and take advantage of their support programs after parental leave, which can be up to two and a half years in Germany. The EAF also coaches women in how to stay in touch with their employer to facilitate re-entry after the leave. Furthermore, EAF promotes a more sustainable definition of careers that includes a rethinking of male work schedules in order to achieve a better work-life balance for families. Continue reading
The leisurely walk through a nice residential area makes it difficult to prepare for our visit to Hohenschönhausen, the former remand prison of the GDR’s secret police–STASI. At the same time it underscores the secretive nature of this project: Over fifty years, this large compound in the Eastern outskirts of Berlin could not be found on any map. Residents of the area were told that a police training facility and a large kitchen are located behind the walls. The prison was first used by the Soviet Union, which had occupied Germany’s east after WW II and then functioned as protector of the newly created state, the GDR, from 1949 on. In 1959, the GDR’s secret police took over and, over the decades, “treated” at least 7,000 prisoners in this facility. In other words, they used a wide range of psychological forms of torture to manipulate prisoners–political dissidents, intellectuals, artists, etc.–into confessing “crimes against the people.”
An exploration of the historical district of Berlin was scheduled for our first full day in Germany. We started out at the Hackeschen Höfe, the beautifully restored city block featuring restaurants, small shops, and residential areas. Dating back to the early 20th century, this ensemble was badly damaged in World War II and barely renovated during the GDR period. Today the courtyards look great again, illustrating the attraction of what nowadays is called “mixed-use development,” but also the fact that this kind of expensive renovation comes at the cost of replacing small independent shops with international brands. Continue reading
On May 11 another group of Scotties will depart for Germany to study aspects of history, culture, and environmental regulation on location. The two-week study trip will be co-lead by Profs. Gundolf Graml (German Studies, also the main author of this blog) and Katherine Smith (Art History). We will spend our first week in Berlin where we will meet with representatives from government and from cultural organizations. The second week will lead us from Berlin to Dresden, Leipzig, and Weimar, where we will visit historical sites such as the former concentration camp of Buchenwald near Weimar, meet with leaders of the Dresden city government, and learn about the philosophy behind the Volkswagen company’s architectural design of a car manufacturing plant in the heart of Dresden. And, of course, we will try to meet as many former Scotties as we can while in Germany (I’m talking to you, Lucy Nga Than). We will try to post frequent updates on this blog and invite you to follow and ask questions.
Millions of people know about Amon Goeth, the commander of the former National Socialist concentration camp in Plaszow-Krakov in Poland, from Ralph Fienne’s performance of this character in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (1993). This also applies to Jennifer Teege, for whom Amon Goeth was a distant historical figure until that specific day a few years ago, when she discovered that Goeth was in fact her biological grandfather.
For Teege, the daughter of a Nigerian father and a white German mother (Monika Goeth), the discovery was a shock. As a Black German who had lived in Israel and worked with Holocaust survivors, she had been acutely aware of Germany’s history, but had also felt to stand on the “good” side of the German discourse about the Nazi past.
In her memoir Amon: Mein Großvater hätte mich erschossen [Amon: My Grandfather Would Have Killed Me], Teege offers a moving account of how the discovery affected her personally as well as a unique perspective on Germany’s attempts at coming to terms with the past. Jennifer Teege will visit Agnes Scott College during the week of April 14 – 17, 2014. She will read from her memoir and discuss her experiences. For more information, see the poster below. Please contact Prof. Gundolf Graml, Dir. of German Studies, with any questions at ggraml[at]agnesscott.edu.
Agnes Scott College just released a new video showcasing the opportunities offered by its Liberal Arts Curriculum. Check it out, it also mentions where studying German can get you:
Since 1991, the German Parliament, called Bundestag, has been meeting again in the Reichstag. Built by the Kaiser, burnt down by the Nazis, and then lingering in the no-man’s-land along the Berlin Wall for decades, this building synthesizes more than others the many layers of German history. Continue reading