The biographies of Wolfgang Leonhard and Markus Wolf were “strikingly similar” until March 1949. “Yet one remained an enthusiastic collaborator, while the other could not bear the betrayal of his ideals. Why?” Anne Applebaum has answers; please read them.  (The Atlantic, July/August 2020)

Samuel Moyn weighs in on a stubborn problem for (not just) German historians: “It is true that in the face of novelty, analogy with possible historical avatars is indispensable, to abate confusion and to seek orientation. But there is no doubt that it often compounds the confusion as the ghosts of the past are allowed to walk again in a landscape that has changed profoundly.”  (The New York Review of Books, 5/19/20)

The bottom half of Kang Sunkoo’s Statue of Limitations, an 11-meter-high sculpture referencing Germany’s colonial past, has just been installed at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. The upper half will be placed in the city’s Afrikanisches Viertel, so-called for its streets that were in named in the colonial era.  (London Review of Books, 10/4/19; The Art Newspaper, 5/18/20)

Of course, there’s a history behind the history. In History after Hitler: A Transatlantic Enterprise, Philipp Stelzel positions “the dialogue between German and American historians as a key part of the intellectual history of the Federal Republic and of Cold War transatlantic relations.”  (Mosse Program Blog, 1/11/19; New Books in History, 12/2/19)

“We have to sort this through and say: ‘These parts of my national history I can be proud of and I can stand by, and these parts I’m sorry for and I’d like to do my best to somehow make up for.'” A good place to start is Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil, Susan Neiman’s comparative study of how Germans and Americans have come to terms (or not) with the injustices and atrocities in their national histories.  (The Guardian, 9/13/19; The New Yorker, 10/21/19; The New Republic, 10/31/19)

What lessons can we take away from the previous history of pandemics? Richard J. Evans, author of Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years (1830–1910), places Covid-19 in historical perspective.  (The New Yorker, 3/18/20; New Statesman, 4/2/20)

Konrad Adenauer, who served as the Federal Republic’s first chancellor between the ages of 73 and  87, “shaped West German politics and Germany’s relationship with the wider world more than any other single person.”  (The Washington Post, 3/9/20)

Did the Hohenzollern family “substantially abet National Socialism”? Millions of euros, and the fate of important cultural treasures, depends on the answer.  (Berlin Policy Journal, 2/20/20; The New York Review of Books, 2/26/20)

“The gulf between America’s ideals and its realities hit home particularly hard for one group: the thousands of black occupation troops sent to a defeated Germany to promote democracy.”  (The New York Times, 2/19/20)

Sinclair McKay has written a new history of the firebombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945.  (The Spectator, 2/1/20; The Economist, 2/6/20)

Donna Rifkind shines an overdue spotlight on Salka Viertel, “a destroyer of walls, a builder of bridges, a welcome among strangers,” in a new biography, The Sun and Her Stars.  (Harper’s, 1/2020; Time,  1/2/20)

Sheindi Miller’s diary, which documents her ordeal as a 14-year-old prisoner and forced laborer at Auschwitz, is now on display at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Seventy-five years after the camp’s liberation, she attended the opening of the exhibition with her extended family.  (The Wall Street Journal, 1/24/20)

Mietskasernen, or “rental barracks,” have shaped Berlin’s culture and counterculture for more than a century.  (Citylab, 1/13/20)

“But even as Germany is regularly commended as a nation that has faced and taken responsibility for dark periods of its history, it is struggling to reckon with its colonial role.”  (The Washington Post, 1/3/20; Deutsche Welle, 1/19/20)

“Neither scientific study nor psychoanalytic text, ‘The Third Reich of Dreams’ is a collective diary, a witness account hauled out of a nation’s shadows and into forensic light.”  (The New Yorker, 11/7/19)

Anna Funder looks back on Stasiland, seventeen years after it was first published: “My great mistake was to imagine that the stories I was finding would be well received by Germans.”  (The Monthly, Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020)

Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre? is “one of the most astonishing autobiographical documents of the 20th century . . . an open book that makes more sense today than when it was found because it is, in fact, that most contemporary of things: a graphic novel.”  (The Guardian, 11/6/19; Smithsonian, 11/15/19; Apollo, 2/4/20)

“Strauss and Hofmannsthal operatically imagined in 1919 the possible relevance of a spiritually dedicated empress for the 20th century, her beauty embellished by harps and tuned to a solo violin in the key of E-flat.” You’ll want to see Die Frau ohne Schatten after reading this piece by Larry Wolff.  (The New York Times, 10/12/19)

Locally printed “emergency money” from World War I and the economic crisis thereafter combated cash shortages with artistic flair.  (The Observer, 9/28/19)

More compelling testimonials about November 9, 1989 and its aftermath.  (Brookings, 11/2019; Boston Review, 11/6/19; AFP, 11/6/19; The Guardian, 11/6/19; The Wall Street Journal, 11/7/19; Politico, 11/7/19)

“German unification was shaped by both the East and the West, and Helmut Kohl’s political skill and the trust he enjoyed with the allies played a significant role. But the peaceful revolution and Nov. 9, 1989, was the work of the citizens of the GDR.” (Spiegel Online – International, 11/7/19)

Julia Franck, Heike Geissler, Maxim Leo, Norman Ohler, and Bernhard Schlink look back on the opening of the Berlin Wall and its aftermath. (The Observer, 11/3/19)

Beyond Checkpoint Charlie: Avoid the tourists, and visit these lesser-known relics of divided Berlin.  (The Guardian, 10/29/19)

“Democracy is in trouble . . . A century after the founding of Germany’s Weimar Republic is a good moment to revisit the paradigmatic case of a democracy’s demise.”  (Prospect, 8/29/’19)

Whether we needed them or not, there are two new Hitler biographies out in 2019.  (The Guardian, 9/27/19; The New York Times, 9/29/19)

Berlin’s “rebuilt Stadtschloss has become a national monument, but an accidental one—not a legacy defining grand projet, but the product of a series of actions with unintended consequences. It is a German monument developed in a very un-German way.”  (Financial Times, 9/13/19)

In memoriam: Sigmund Jähn (1937–2019), the first German cosmonaut. “The first German in space always saw himself as a bridge-builder between East and West and for a peaceful use of space.”  (Deutsche Welle, 9/22/19; The New York Times, 9/24/19)

Luisa Beck recalls W.E.B. Du Bois’s formative experience as a student in 1890s Berlin and the complicated history of racism on both sides of the Atlantic.  (The Washington Post, 9/8/19)

“They complain that they do not have enough money to do research on these objects to take proper care of them…but they had enough money to build a castle in the middle of Berlin.” The debate over the Humboldt Forum and the repatriation of African artifacts continues.  (The New York Times, 9/4/19)