German Studies in the Era of Trump

When we teach the 20th-century history and culture of Germany and Austria, we repeatedly caution students against drawing all-too quick parallels between National Socialism and other anti-democratic developments. This is mainly to avoid the re-categorization of Hitler’s Third Reich as yet another manifestation of a kind of universal “evil.” National Socialism, we emphasize, originated in the historically specific political and cultural environment of early 20th-century Germany and Austria. And the postwar generations of these countries, irrespective of their families’ personal involvement, own the responsibility to maintain political alertness against fascist tendencies.

But there are moments when the parallels between anti-democratic and racist movements in the United States and National Socialism must be highlighted. This is the moment, and Charlottesville is the place.

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Faculty-Student Discussion on European Refugee Crisis and its Global Links

Tens of thousands of refugees have crossed into the EU, into Austria and Germany in the last couple of weeks. Migrants have died on the highways of Austria, on the rail tracks of Serbia, and in the tunnel linking the UK to the European mainland. European member nations react very differently, from opening up the borders (Germany) to calling for an immediate halt and deportations (Hungary). German chancellor Merkel is alternately vilified and declared a saint, as the recent Spiegel cover suggests.

What are the historical, political, human rights, and global connections here? Join a faculty/student discussion on Tuesday, September 22, 5-6pm, in Lower Evans Dining Hall to learn more, contribute your perspectives and experiences. Start the discussion now by contributing links, photos, etc. via #agnesglobal.

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SUMMIT, the Liberal Arts, and the German Prison System

“What can I do with a German Studies Major?” — It’s not atypical at this time of the year to receive  e-mails that either implicitly or directly ask this question. And to those of you who are asking, thank you! You initiate an important dialogue about the benefits of liberal-arts learning and the role of foreign language and culture in the liberal arts curriculum. Of course, there is always a particularly spectacular career path that I could tell you about, or that job which involves jetting back and forth between Washington and Berlin. Yet, what’s really important is to consider learning foreign languages and cultures not as an added skill that looks good on your resumé (although it does!) but as core element of your education that shapes the way you think and solve problems. Over the next couple of weeks, I will use this blog to highlight examples where this convergence of knowing a foreign language and culture as well as having both breadth and depth in other disciplines matters.

While reading today’s NYT I stumbled across the first example, an op-ed piece titled “What We Learned from German Prisons.” Nicholas Turner, president of the Vera Institute of Justice, and Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, write about their experience as co-leaders of a bipartisan US-delegation that visited German prisons in order to learn about the German prison system. Their conclusion is simple: Germany is doing a much better job of returning offenders to society, thereby keeping prison populations and costs low. Why is that, the authors wonder?

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German-speaking News Headlines On Obama’s Reelection

Europeans have closely followed the developments during this election. Here’s a brief overview of this morning’s headlines of online media outlets in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

The Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard leads with Obama’s victory, “Obama reelected, President emphasizes the country’s unity.” In its overview, the newspaper also highlights the difficulties the president has to overcome in order to restore governability to the country.

Germany’s weekly magazine Der Spiegel’s headline “Obama’s Agenda für ein kaputtes Land” also emphasizes the divided nature of American politics and the Republican’s scorched earth politics.

Another German weekly newspaer, Die Zeit, encourages the reelected president to be more courageous: “Mehr Mut, Herr Präsident!” One of the topics the writer pushes is climate change, where Europeans, and Germans especially, are deeply frustrated with American exceptionalism and arrogance.

The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung leads with “Satisfaction in Europe,” but also wonders if “Germany’s love affair with the president will continue.”

The Euro and German Democracy

Yesterday, Germany’s Supreme Court decided that the “European Stability Mechanism [EMS]” did not violate Germany’s constitution, the Grundgesetz [Basic Law]. It also stated however, that Germany’s current liability stops at the level of the 190 Billion Euros the country had so far contributed to the so-called “Euro rescue umbrella” financed by all European Union members. Any future contribution will require the official agreement of Germany’s representative on the ESM board, which in turn requires a decision by the German parliament.

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Austrian Architects Design Expo 2012 Building

If it looks like a giant stranded fish, that’s intended: The Austrian architecture office “soma” designed the building to illustrate the Expo’s theme “The Living Ocean and Coast.” Continue reading Austrian Architects Design Expo 2012 Building

50 Years Ago: The “Oberhausener Manifest” Initiates New German Cinema

50 years ago, a group of young German filmmakers met in the small town of Oberhausen and declared and end to “Papas Kino [Daddy’s cinema]”. That’s why we had a decade of films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder…