Berlin Excursion January 2019

Stasi

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

We visited the Stasi Museum and prison. We learned about the operations of Stasi, and how involved they were in East and somewhat West Germany. In the museum, we saw how many files they had for each individual, e.g. what they bought, where they lived, where they worked, what facial features they had, etc. We looked at the technology they used to spy on others and how outdated it seems today. Our tour guide also explained how Stasi members were trained, and how they would spy on people such as going into their apartments when the family was away. The tour guide did a great job of explaining how big of an influence the Stasi was, and how much bigger they were than other organizations such as the Gestapo. We also visited a Stasi prison and the tour guide was falsely imprisoned. He showed us all the prison rooms and he shared his experiences. He explained the circumstances and situations in the prison really well, such as sanitary conditions, the mental, physical, and emotional abuse.  The tour guide shared his own experience of how he was captured, and how it was a struggle to have a normal life after being in prison for so long when he was finally released.

 

B.K. and Christa Tragelehn

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

After a few days in Berlin learning about the living conditions in East Germany, on Saturday, January 13th, we had the pleasure of meeting a man and his wife who had, as I like to put it, lived the full East German experience. They had lived not only through the everyday difficulties in the GDR, but through the specialized difficulties of being at the center of a theater scandal. Theater Director, author, and translator B.K. Tragelehn, an older, kind-eyed gentleman who enjoys stroking his cat and smoking cigars, welcomed us into his warm and cozy apartment for a chat and “Kaffee und Kuchen.” As we entered, his wife began serving us immediately, being the perfect hostess, and letting us gawk at the 18,000 books that covered their walls.

Christa & B.K. Tragelehn (middle) with group (Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi, Dr. Falk Strehlow)

Gently puffing away at his cigar, Herr Tragelehn recounted the pinnacles of his life. Being a child in Dresden whose family was subjected to the WWII bombings (firestorm). Befriending and working alongside famous playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Erich Engel, and Heiner Müller. Meeting his wife for the first time (who he has been with for over fifty-five years). And perhaps most fascinating, being sentenced to work in the coal mines after directing the

B.K. Tragelehn with Liz

GDR-critical play Die Umsiedlerin in 1961. His wife chipped into the story too, explaining how difficult it was to live on little money, trying to make ends meet while her husband toiled in the mines.

Visiting the Tragelehns was my favorite part of Dickinson in Bremen’s Berlin excursion. It was truly awesome to meet such kind Berliners who were willing to give us a glimpse into the East German world. It was a very valuable, memorable experience.

 

Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi (from left) at the German Historical Museum

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

On November 24, 2018, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Germans who accompanied us. Everyone at the event wore formal clothes like suits and dresses. Before dinner, we introduced ourselves to other friendly Germans. The organizer of the event, the President of the Carl Schurz German-American Club Neil van Siclen, introduced himself. Then, we could select our food from a variety of options. There were green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, casseroles, turkey etc. that came along with a salad bar.  You were welcome to eat as much as you can (I had four plates). There was vegan and vegetarian friendly food as well. While we ate, everyone introduced themselves to the table and had conversations with each other. It was mostly German, but we could also speak English when something was too difficult to translate. The table was diverse with people from different age groups and from different areas of Germany. After the meal, we played a little quiz game with prizes. The Dickinson participants were really good: three of the four contestants received a prize. At the end of the evening, people went to the bar and ordered some drinks. It was a nice evening where we made some fun memories.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #3: Lana Lux

by Janine Ludwig

For the third William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen on November 9, 2017, we cooperated with the Institute for Cultural German Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen. The student workshop, organized by Dr. Janine Ludwig, was the opener of a three-day conference on German-language literature written by migrant writers from Eastern Europe and Russia, under the title: Migration Foreground, Province Background. German Speaking (World) Literature from Eastern Europe.

In this workshop, the Dickinsonians currently studying in Bremen and German students talked with the author Lana Lux about her debut novel Kukolka. The novel tells the story of an orphan child named Samira who lives in a protectory in Dnipropetrovsk, Eastern Ukraine. At the age of seven, she loses her best friend Marina who is adopted by a wealthy German couple. Subsequently, she decides to flee the orphange, hoping to make her way to Germany to reunite with Marina. Instead, she finds a new “home” in an Oliver-Twist-like gang of teenage beggars and thieves led by the pimp Rocky who adores her and calls her Kukolka (Russian for “little doll”). For years, she thinks he is saving money for her to make her finally see the “land of plenty” called Germany. When, at the age of twelve, she finds out  that this will never happen, she leaves him for a beautiful young man named Dima who becomes her great love and promises to take her to the wonderland that is Germany. He keeps his promise, but only to talk her into and later force her into prostitution. While still clinging to her naïve hopes for a better life, she ends up in a brothel with other Eastern European girls, with similar stories and the same shattered dreams. Samira manages to escape again, and a Ukrainian woman named Olga who can translate between both worlds helps her to finally meet her friend Marina again after eight years of separation.

With Lana Lux, who came to Germany at the age of ten from the same town as her protagonist, we discussed the different images and (mis-)perceptions of Germany as a new dreamland for migrants. Lux read passages from her both funny and hyper-realistic novel which we then analyzed. In this lively talk, our guest answered the students’ questions and told memorable stories from her childhood in the Ukraine, her first impressions as a school child in Germany, her experiences of being discriminated against as a Jew, and her yearning for her homeland which she has not visited in almost twenty years.

Lana Lux describing the scrutiny at the border control when she entered Germany

The workshop also related to our current seminar “German 340 – Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” in which we analyze the former emigration from Germany to the United States and the myth of America as a “promised land” for immigrants. Comparing these findings, we opened the discussion to larger questions of flight and migration and cast a cultural studies oriented glance at the current image of Germany in the world.

At the evening of the same day, Lana Lux gave a public reading of her novel which was also sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden as part of our Literary Series. The IfkuD conference, which was open to our students as an opportunity to take a peek at up-to-date German academia, also cooperated with the renowned international literary festival globaleo (November 3-13).

Further information:

http://www.deutschlandstudien.uni-bremen.de/aktuelles/

http://globale-literaturfestival.de/

 

 

 

Orientation Week: Settling in

by Molly Burger & Kyu Ri Hong

 

IKEA Trip

An orientation week trip to Ikea is an absolute must. Sure, pretty much everything in your apartment is already from Ikea, but hey at least it all matches now. Maybe grab a carpet, some curtains, and a plant or something, and definitely don’t forget to pick up posters for your wall. I still somehow have yet to discover a store downtown that actually sells posters, so my room is basically a mini Ikea store at this point (which is awesome cause Ikea is awesome). Plus, although you’re not in Sweden, Germany is definitely a lot closer than the US, so maybe the meatballs or whatever food you like to get there is a little bit closer to the real thing (probs not but still).

Uni Orientation Events

You know all of those super random sounding activities in the orientation week that Verena told you about, like the Erasmus movie night, the city tour, and all of those bar crawls? Go to them! They’re usually super fun and are great opportunities to meet new people. You don’t have to go to all of them, but try to check out as many as possible. At the very least you’ll have a good time and get to know a new aspect of Bremen.

Explore Bremen

Christmas and New Years in Deutschland: the holidays from northern, to southern, to central GermanyExplore Bremen! Now’s your chance to just walk around the city for as long as you want before classes start. The sooner you get to know the streets, restaurants, bars and museums of Bremen the better and you’ll really feel like the city is yours. And now’s the perfect time to see the sights of Bremen, like the “Stadtmusikanten”, which I actually visited twice during the orientation week. Hanging out in the city during orientation week is a good contrast to the time you’ll be spending with other students getting to know the Uni Bremen and it’s a good amount of time you can spend at museums, concerts and the theater, all of which Dickinson reimburses.

Registration

Now that you’re in Germany, you have to make sure that you have your visa. There is also something called the Meldebestätigung, which is a proof of your residence in Germany. In order to obtain these two documents, there is an office on campus called the BSU. It is only open for a certain period of time on only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays so there’s always a line. I highly suggest that you go and wait in line at least an hour before the opening hour and wait. I got there 45 minutes before the opening hour and had to wait almost three hours just to go through a 10-minute-long process.

Grocery Shopping

Life in Bremen will definitely be different from that at Dickinson. One of the biggest challenges (at least that’s how I feel about it) is having to provide your own meals. There definitely is an option to eat at the Mensa but I don’t have class every day, hence I’m not on campus every day. There are a few supermarkets nearby. For example, I mainly go to the REWE Supermarkt on Wätjenstrasse, which is two tram stops away. It’s close and convenient since it’s right by the tram stop. I also like to go to the market in the city which is open from 9:00-14:00. There’s definitely more fresh options of fruits and vegetables at the market.

Study Buddy

A study buddy is the best way to make a German friend. The university pairs you up with a German student that probably shares the same major (not necessarily in my case) with you or the same interests with you. You have to sign up for this online. It’s nice to have someone who you can practice your German conversational skills with and to meet up regularly just to talk or to explore more of Bremen.

Opening a Bank Account

In order to receive your monthly stipend, you’ll need to have a German bank account. There’s a bank called Sparkasse on campus that you could go to. It took me two weeks just to get an appointment here, so I suggest that you go to the bank as soon as you have your Meldebestätigung, since that’s one of the documents you need when you open a new bank account. The appointment lasts only 15 minutes and you get your credit/debit card, along with the pin to your card/s, in your mailbox after about a week.

Annual Report 2016-17

Another year has gone by. Another group of students has spent a year in Bremen and has gone back to Dickinson for their senior year. Please find our program report on what we did in this past academic year here:

Durden Dickinson Bremen Program – Annual Report 2016-17

 

Greetings from Bremen!

Janine Ludwig, Academic Director

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #2: Thomas Meinecke

Workshop, Reading, DJ-Set

by Janine Ludwig

On June 2nd and 3rd, 2017, the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen hosted the acclaimed writer Thomas Meinecke.

Please find the poster here: DLS Meinecke 2017 Poster (Grafikdesign Sibyll Wahrig)

Meinecke and Ludwig. Foto: Verena Mertz

Thomas Meinecke has received several prizes and many labels: postmodern author, writer of pop literature – although pop philosophy would be more accurate – feminist writer and even queer studies icon, because his new novel Self will surely become a reference text. Meinecke’s other professions as a musician, texter and singer of the alternative cult band F.S.K., as a DJ (Berghain, Pudel Club a.o.) and performer with the format “turntable” (Plattenspieler) at the Berliner Hebbel am Ufer, seem to reflect in his postmodern writing style: His writing technique has been described as sampling, t.i. mixing and juggling with phenomena of 20th and 21st century pop history as well as of diasporas and gender identities, and is based on a wide theoretical background, ranging from Judith Butler to Barbara Vinken.

 

Public lecture and DJ-Set in the club Spedition on June 3rd

Meinecke and Ludwig during the reading. Foto: Verena Mertz

His brand new novel Self (“Selbst”) deals mainly with blurring (gender) identities, love, and erotic desire by analyzing phenomena from fashion (androgynous models), music/ entertainment (e.g. David Bowie or Mykki Blanco music videos), and life style (techno clubs, selfies, beards, intimate shaving, feminist porn). As part of “The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen,” he held a public lecture in the off-scene arts & culture & music club Spedition which had hosted him before. An attentive audience of 60-70 people followed a lively mix of reading, video clips and discussion between Meinecke and presenter Janine Ludwig. Afterwards, DJ Winkhorst warmed up the crowd before Thomas started to turn the tables from midnight to 3 a.m.

 

Workshop at the University of Bremen, in cooperation with the IfkuD, on June 2nd

Meinecke (left), next to Janine Ludwig and students. Foto: Verena Mertz

In addition, Meinecke gave an intimate breakfast workshop to both our current group of Dickinsonians and Bremen students at the University of Bremen the day before. One of the threads of his multi-perspective novel happens to deal with utopian, libertarian German immigrants in Texas in the mid-19th century. Ironically, a German society of nobleman (“Adelsverein”) bought land in Texas in order to get rid of German communists by sending them there to colonize it. However, they were duped with dour land, and the colonists, a bunch of intellectuals with little farming experience anyhow, struggled for survival. They did, however, under John O. Meusebach, manage to sign a peace treaty with the hostile Comanche tribe – supposedly the only one which was never broken and is still commemorated annually by the Comanches today.

Lee making a good argument. Foto: Verena Mertz

Meinecke has extensively researched on these settler colonies and produced a film (at the behest of Alexander Kluge/dctp) for which he interviewed the descendants of the “Texas Germans” – who still speak the language, infused with some English terms: “Die sind hier reingemoved.” „Die Kuh ist über den fence gejumpt.“ Despite the settlement fiasco, the descendants still proudly remember the peace treaty as well as the fact that the colonists opposed slavery and some even defected from the confederate Army (and were killed in consequence). We watched snippets from the film, read passages from the book and discussed the idea of “communes” without government, but shared work and property. The workshop presented amazing insights into an almost forgotten culture between the “Beethoven Männerchor” in San Antonio, the “Wurstfest” in New Braunfels, the “Vereins Kirche” and “Social Turn Verein” in Fredericksburg (named after Frederick of Prussia). All this followed up nicely to the seminar “German 340: Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” which Janine Ludwig taught in fall 2016/17 and which (among other things) covered German immigration to the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. But most of all, it was a unique opportunity for the students to meet, work, and discuss with an author of such a stature in an almost private atmosphere.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen, this year in cooperation with the Institute for Cultural Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen and the Kunst- und Kulturverein Spedition e.V., was sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden and the Dickinson College. We are grateful for the generous support and also thank the Spedition for wonderfully hosting Saturday’s evening event.

4th Dickinson College Public Lecture

On May 15, 2017, the Carl Schurz German-American Club Bremen and Dickinson College invited members of the University of Bremen and citizens to the Fourth Dickinson College Public Lecture on:

“Trumped-up Good Relations? – A Russian Perspective on the USA Today”

with Dr. Irina Filippova

 

When Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America on November 8th, 2016, many were shocked – but others may have harbored faint hopes as well. Since Trump had already announced his intention to improve American relations with the Russian Federation, many Russian citizens might have expected a new thaw between the two nuclear powers. But events and debates in the USA over the last few months have left an ambivalent impression: Amid allegations that Russia attempted to influence the US presidential election, President Trump’s team is also under attack from his own party for its members’ relationships with Russian contacts, and with his recent decision to order an air strike in Syria, Trump appears to be adding to the chill.

All pictures: © private

This raises the question of what Russians think of and expect from the USA right now. And more importantly, will future generations improve relations or further entrench the status quo? Irina Filippova, Director of the Dickinson-in-Russia Program at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow (RGGU), provided us with some answers. She had collected statements from colleagues at the RGGU, from the press, from Muscovites, and from Dickinson students currently studying in Moscow. Rather than presenting a political analysis of what can only be described as an uncertain status quo, she gave us a first-hand insight into public opinion in Russia, and the mindset and sentiments of so-called “ordinary people” there.

First, she offered a brief overview of the checkered history of Russian-American relations from the 16th century to today. It started with a meeting of Russian Tsar Peter the Great and William Penn – the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony – as a first diplomatic meeting of the two countries in 1698. From the selling of Alaska in 1867 to the Russian revolution in 1917, to the Allies in World War II and the enemies of the Cold War to the recent crises in Crimea and the Ukraine, the relations between the countries have overall deteriorated. Today, there seems to be even a reduced ability to understand each other on the lowest levels of political communication, a striking lack of knowledge and amount of miscommunication, even down to the language basis.

Dr. Filippova introduced different Russian polling agencies and showed several polls from October 2016 to April 2017 – that clearly indicated how there were some hopes for an improvement in political relations and some support for Donald Trump, but how those have decreased dramatically within those 6 months. Filippova complemented this development with translated headlines from Russian newspapers and pointed cartoons. She rounded up her findings with statements from knowledgeable academics from RGGU. Her personal poll among Russian students and Muscovites of ages around the 40 showed that, unfortunately, the younger people seemed generally less interested in politics than the older ones and that both groups have come to rather disappointed, pessimistic views on the future relations between the United States and Russia.

However, a final flicker of hope appeared in statements from Dickinson students currently studying in the Moscow program: With remarkable clarity and reflectiveness, they explained how important it is to them, besides all clear differences, to engage in discourse, to be confronted with opposing views from Russian students and to learn about their perspective. Those Dickinson students believe in and prove the importance of intensive study abroad programs as Dickinson offers them – they keep communication alive against all odds and train future competent global citizens who hopefully manage to improve political situations in the future.

See the poster here: Dickinson College Public Lecture 2017 Poster

Neil van Siclen opening the lecture

Janine Ludwig introducing Irina Filippova

 

Filippova showing newspaper headlines

Celebrating a great lecture

Emigration Museum: an Adventure Through Time and Genealogy

by Kate King

Most people familiar with the German Department at Dickinson are aware that in Bremen full year students take one Dickinson course taught by Dr. Ludwig, better known as Janine, our academic director. The course is a cultural comparison of Germany and the USA. In our first few classes, we discussed emigration from Germany to the USA, which began in the late 1600’s and continued, usually in waves depending on what was going on in Europe, for the next few hundred years.

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Kayla, Yvonne, Meghan, Caroline, Lee (fr.l.t.r.), back row: Janine, Fynn, Zhen, Siyun

IMG_0336To learn more about this, we took a field trip to Bremerhaven (the second city of the Bremen city-state) to visit the Deutsches Auswanderer Haus, or German Emigration Center. Bremen bought Bremerhaven in 1827 to replace its inland ports that were at risk from sediment deposition and it quickly became a hot spot for emigration due to the quick access to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Me, Kate

Me, Kate

Now if anyone reading this knows me, you probably know that I am a double science major and I minor in German for the language skills – I do not enjoy museums. I am like a three-year-old child in museums: if you don’t keep my attention with interactive things, I get tired and hungry and just want to go home. This museum catered to my inner toddler. Upon arrival, we were all issued boarding passes with the name of an emigrant of Germany and another name of an immigrant that came to Germany.

 

Caroline before departure

Caroline and friends

We started the tour by entering a replica of the waiting hall, which was part of the original emigration office that millions of people went through to leave Europe.

We were then guided into the next room to the docks where heard farewells from families. The next room, the Gallery of the 7 Million, allowed us to hear the personal stories of our emigrants. We then climbed the stairs of the ship seen from the docks and entered the ship to begin our voyage.

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Caroline and Meghan

Kayla

Kayla

We ended up walking through different points in technological developments. The first had a small room, close to a double dorm room on Dickinson’s campus, with most of the room being built up into a bed with hay, a bucket, and no electricity. The room would have been shared by multiple families. The next stage had more of individualized bunk beds and a bathroom. The final stage had individual beds with proper sheets and an attached dining room with windows, all with electricity.

Ship in rough sea...

Ship in rough sea…

 

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Poor emigrants: Meghan, Zhen, Kayla, Kate (fr.l.)

Caroline and Lee emigrating

Caroline and Lee emigrating

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyone at the dinner table of the steam liner

After we enjoyed our dinner with the passengers, we arrived in the New World. We were taken to Ellis Island where we were tested to see if we could enter the country. If we passed (Lee did not), we could continue to New York City to Grand Central Station. At Grand Central we listened to the end of our emigrants’ stories. Mine emigrated to Brazil and opened a tea company and the descendants still meet up regularly.

Several Bremens in the USA

Blue dots = Several Bremens in the USA…

The seminar group at Grand Central Station

The seminar group at Grand Central Station

After leaving Grand Central, we crossed the bridge and became immigrants into Germany. This area had replicas of different shops that were opened by immigrants in the 1950’s-70’s. There was an ice cream café, hair dresser, camera shop, book shop, department store, kiosk, and cinema. The cinema showed films about immigration in Germany, but they were showing a feature while we were there that looked at relationships between Turks and Germans.

Katie's possible ancestors

Katie’s possible ancestors

My favorite part of the whole tour was the family history room at the end. You could look through their computer records and find your family members. A few of us came prepared with names. I had photos of a genealogy book that someone in my family had put together not too long after I was born. So I went to the oldest name I could find and traced it back another two generations. The book I had said that he came from Switzerland, but the information I found through the ancestry.com portal said that he was born in Zweibrücken, which is close to where I lived when I did my exchange year in high school, and his father was born in Hannover in 1681, which is right next to Bremen. It is definitely something that I want to investigate further. Hopefully, I can find some living German relatives.

Animated photo show:

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