National History Day in Cincinnati

Ohio History Day

Every year, the Ohio Historical Society sponsors National History Day. Working indiviually or in teams, students compete first at the District level. This morning I had the pleasure of judging senior-level History Day projects for District 8 at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The kids were great; all were extremely enthusiastic about their projects and eager to talk about them. Every year I find this one of the high points of my spring, and this year was no exception.

The venue for the competition, the Cincinnati Museum Center, is one of the crown jewels of

Cincinnati Museum Center

Southwest Ohio. It was filled with people coming to see an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. How wonderful it is to see this magnificent building throbbing with people!

In three weeks, I will be judging the State competition in Columbus. This should be great.


Frohe Ostern!

frohe ostern

Hope that your next year is blessed.


A Long Hiatus

The wheels came off my personal home page in March 2010. I know longer remember why. It was probably something unpleasant, so that it just as well. I am currently participating in a Faculty Learning Community on Scholarly Communication. My project was to get my profession home page up-and-running so that I could post my research findings on the Internet. You might find my research blog interesting.

Ancillary to that, I started to post here again on my personal home page. Its good to be back.


Liberals into Nazis

Why were rural Germans who voted for Liberal parties before the First World War some of the earliest supporters of the Nazi-völkisch coalition in the Reichstag election of May 1924? 

I explored this topic in a public lecture at Miami University Hamilton's Downtown Center on March 5. Citing the work that I have done on the county of Wittmund along the North Sea coast, I argued that proximity to the naval base at Wilhelmshaven (a center of revolutionary activity in 1918-1919), economic collapse, and the presence of energetic young Nazi activists all contributed to the völkisch success in what had once been one of the most consistently Liberal counties in Imperial Germany.

The large audience was enthusiastic and raised interesting questions. I made a podcast of the lecture that you can access here as well as a powerpoint presentation. The quality of the podcast is not as good as I would like - I tend to walk around alot while lecturing - so the microphone do not pick it all up with consistent quality. Please feel free to direct any comments on the presentation to vascikgs@muohio.edu

I will be delivering a companion lecture (also at the Downtown Center) on April 23 that addresses the question of conservative resistance to the Nazis entitled "Loyal to the End. Ludwig Alpers and the Monarchist Opposition to National Socialism." Alpers is one of the most interesting politicians that I have encountered in my research. A Hamburg school teacher whose political career began in the 1890s and continued beyond the Second World War, Alpers was a passionate advocate of a German fatherland where all power was not concentrated in Berlin.



Happy 18th birthday, Anne!

Anne

Is it possible that it has been so long?  You are a wonderful daughter and we are very proud of you.  Happy birthday from Mom and Dad!



Berlin family scene in the snow

gesundes neues Jahr!

I spent the new year in Germany - Berlin, Bremervörde, Aurich, and back to Berlin. We were absolutely socked in with snow. I arrived in Berlin without luggage once again. This time, my bags decided to take a long weekend in Paris. I had to hustle to pick up things to keep going until Air France shipped the bag on. So I went out shopping along Wilmersdorferstraße, a part of Berlin I have not experienced before. The absence of traffic, the soft crunch of people going about in the snow making their Saturday purchases, the joy of being out in the gently falling snow, all relieved my anger over the lost luggage and made me glad to be alive. 

With the help of the magnigficent staff at Hotel Otto, my bag and I finally reconnected in time so that Monday morning I could take the ICE up to Lüneburg. My goal was to use the marvellous newspaper collection at the Leuphana Universität to collect evidence for a paper to be presented at the upcoming European Social Science History Association Conference on a 1921 strike by Kehdingen farm workers. Since I was there last, the library has purchased microfilm readers that allow you to download pages onto your jump drive as pdfs. This both saves the enormous expense of copying ensures that you can actually read what you copied, which is not always the case with traditional microfilm copiers. The library staff was gracious and helpful as always, so I was able to quickly do my work and get back on the road. Rail traffic was incredibly snarled due to the snow, but I made it in time to Hotel Daub in Bremervörde for a leisurely supper and early night. Founded in 1898, the hotel was the place to stay for the various politicians that I study in my work. I even have a letter on Hotel Daub stationary written by Diederich Hahn to his wife. It is a comfortable lodging and conveniently located near both the railroad station and the Kreisarchiv.

One of the great joys of my life is visiting German archives. I almost universally find the archivists and staff to be enormously helpful and interested in promoting your research. This is particularly true of the local and regional archives, which American scholars rarely frequent. My return to the Kreisarchiv Rotenburg-Wümme in Bremervörde was prompted by a helpful remark from archival assistant Harmut Korzen, who during my previous visit suggested that sometimes the school chronicles (Schulchroniken) kept by village school teachers were a good source of information on local politics. I particularly wanted to see this information as I prepared a paper that I had given at the Social Science History Association conference in November for publication. As it turned out, the archive also held the complete records of the county supervisor (Landrat) regarding the conduct of national elections through the entire period of my study. For my purposes, the Landratsamt maintained records of the eligible voters in each village. I have only rarely found these sorts of records. Having an uninterrupted run of such local data will allow me to  make all sorts of assertions about political mobilization that I would otherwise not be able to make. Herr Korzen also retrieved for me information on George Weidenhöfer, the most important agrarian and völkisch politician in the district, and Gustav Stille, a pre-War anti-Semitic publicist.

In addition to mobilizing these efforts on my behalf, archive director Gudrun Kudick arranged for me to be interviewed by the major regional newspaper, the Bremervörder Zeitung. (See Bremervörder Zeitung, Janaury 10, 2010 below.) Just on the face of it this was exciting, as I have been using that newspaper as major source of information.

article from Bremervörder Zeitung

Frau Frauke Siems conducted a very entertaining interview that got to the heart of my research. I learned alot from our conversation (in which Frau Kudick participated). My GIS, for instance, indicated that before 1933, the parish of Selsingen had been a stronghold of the traditionalist Deutsch-Hannoversche Partei. In an "aha" moment, Siems and Kudick told me that Selsingen was now Erz-CDU, which makes sense since the CDU incorporated the reborn elements of the old DHP in the 1950s. Their comments about traditional and current voting patterns in the county have added a depth to my understanding of local politics that an outsider such as myself would never achieve.

Happily, or sadly, depending on your perspective, I was not able to complete all my work in Bremervörde. In addition to more electoral information yet to be gleaned, the archive possesses a 3 inch thick file on the Kreisbauernrat, 1918-1920. I have only the vaguest notion from secondary sources how the peasants councils worked in the revolutionary years and this extraordinary resource will clarify things for me, and I hope add value to my book project. I look forward to my return visit.

Reluctantly putting my work aside, I entrained to Aurich, where I stayed at my Stammhotel, the Piqueurhof. In the Kaiserreich, the Piqueurhof was the grandest establishment in town and the site of all major in-door political events. Needless to say, Hahn stayed there when he was in town. They offer a great breakfast, a pool and sauna, and other excellent amenities. They are also good enough to remember my name (as they do at Hotel Otto) and pronounce it correctly auf Slowakisch. The older I get, the more I appreciate these sort of things. As my friend Dieter at Hotel Otto likes to say, "Mensch ist ein gewohnheits Tier." 

The next day, I spent a good morning working through East Fresian school chronicles held at the Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv. I was lucky, for instance, to learn that Heinrich van Dieken, a Carolinensiel school teacher who was very active in the 1920s in the völkisch movement, began his teaching career in 1919 and 1920 in Alt Harlingersiel as a substitute for that village's teacher who was still held as a POW in Irkusk. Completing my work earlier then expected, I finished the day at another old haunt, the Ostfriesische Landschaftsbiliothek. As it turns out, van Dieken wrote a very interesting manuscript celebrating Carolinensiel's 200th anniversary. It was never published, but the Landschaftsbibliothek holds a handwritten draft. I also learned that he wrote a play in Harlingerplatt to commemorate the great flood of 1725. I have yet to be disappointed when I visit - there is always some yet-unearthed gem to find.

The next morning, I had intended on visiting Wittmund and touching base at the Stadtarchiv there. With the heavy snow and chaotic train schedules, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and began my return trip to Berlin. It included a six hour stop over in Hanover, so I got in a little research at the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek, as the old Landesbibliothek is now known. Arrival in Berlin was later than scheduled, but not to late to catch a cup of coffee at the Café Hardenberg.

The research part of my trip done, it was time for Culture! This meant standing in the snow outside the newly-opened Neues Museum, followed by more snow time outside the Alte Nationalgalerie.

the Altes Museum in Berlin

The work that has been done to reconstruct the Neues Museum was unimaginable. One could easily spend a whole day there enjoying the artifacts and marvelling at the interior design.

I also fit in a trip to the Hackischer Markt area and the memorial to the Jewish Altenheim

Jewish old age home memorial

on Große Hamburgerstraße. It was all quite moving in the snow and quiet. A visit to the very gemütlich Café Sophieneck lifted my spirits and helped by assimilate the experience. As is now my custom, I ended my last day in Berlin at the Café Hardenberg. Research and revivication! What I phenomenal life. Charlene and Anne make a lot of sacrifices so that I can do this, and I am very thankful.


Georgie

Fröhliche Weihnachten

und

Veselé Vianoce!


May your Christmas memories be as blessed as mine. Christmas eve at the grandparents with the aunts, uncles, and cousins. Christmas carols in the car on the ride home. Waking up with my sister as we emptied out stockings. Wondering why daddy was chewing aspirin in the kitchen while he tried to put together our toys. My mom basting the turkey and getting ready for all the reciprocal family visits. May the true spirit of Christmas fill your hearts this year as you make memories with your loved ones.