The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800-2000

The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800-2000

The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800-2000

The German-American Encounter: Conflict and Cooperation between Two Cultures, 1800-2000


While Germans, the largest immigration group in the United States, contributed to the shaping of American society and left their mark on many areas from religion and education to food, farming, political and intellectual life, Americans have been instrumental in shaping German democracy after World War II. Both sides can claim to be part of each other's history, and yet the question arises whether this claim indicates more than a historical interlude in the forming of the Atlantic civilization.

In this volume some of the leading historians, social scientists and literary scholars from both sides of the Atlantic have come together to investigate, for the first time in a broad interdisciplinary collaboration, the nexus of these interactions in view of current and future challenges to German-American relations.


This volume is based on papers and discussions that were part of the conference “The Future of German-American History,” which reexamined important phases of the German-American encounter in view of their significance for a common future. the culminating event of a fiveyear project of restoring and cataloguing the largest private GermanAmerican library in the United States, the conference was held April 15–17, 1999 in the landmark building of the oldest German-American society, the German Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. the conference brought together participants from Germany and the United States and from other lands interested in helping to document, at an important historical moment, the state of this encounter.

The editors found that there is no such thing as a useful monolithic interpretation of German-American relations. the conference participants and the papers that make up this volume constitute an acknowledged and even invited set of contradictions. We see this volume as a contribution to an on-going conversation, or perhaps better, an ongoing cultural translation. We have tried to provide an edge along which the reader can follow the contours of the discussion, both in the general introduction and in the section introductions. But each piece remains at a different angle, and all contribute to the larger discussion.

Throughout the volume, we have attempted a certain consistency in the use of the term “German American.” When it refers to people, we use it without a hyphen, as in “German Americans” or “German American workers.” It only appears as “German-American” when used as an adjective, or when the original source that we are quoting used a hyphen. All of the translations in the individual chapters are by the chapter authors unless otherwise indicated.

The editors wish to thank the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Cologne, the Max Kade Foundation, New York, the University of Pennsylvania, and the German Society of Pennsylvania for their generous support of the conference; Bryn Mawr College for its assistance with the conference and the volume; Bettina Hess at the German Society Library and Kelly McCullough of Bryn Mawr College for help in providing illustrative material; and Maria Sturm for her translations and editorial comments. Above all, the editors thank Srijana Chettri whose editorial assistance made this volume a reality.

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