Suzanne L. Marchand “uses porcelain as a vehicle to weave a sweeping economic, social and cultural history of central Europe. Along the way, she traces the transformation of the hundreds of German principalities into a powerful state that, by the late 19th century, was producing porcelain on an industrial scale.”  (The Economist, 7/16/20; The Wall Street Journal, 7/28/20)

Scott Calonico’s short documentary Betrayal tells “the story of how the flight of an East German spy affected the family members he left behind.”  (The New Yorker, 8/5/20)

How do we identify Albert Einstein? For the man himself, “being Jewish and German were not questions of identity but rather mutable matters of identification.”  (Aeon, 4/2/20)

“With its heavy armour plating, its second horn halfway up the back, its three-toed feet and its cruel face, the poor animal looked more like a tank than the real thing.” Albrecht Dürer’s oddly inaccurate rendering of a rhinoceros shaped Europeans’ imagery of the animal for centuries.  (History Today, 8/2020)

The villa where it happened: a new exhibition at Cecilienhof commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference.  (The New York Times, 6/29/20)

“For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the ‘American catastrophe.'”  (The Guardian,  7/23/20; The New York Times, 7/24/20)

Pömmelte, a sacred site from the Late Stone Age, is helping scholars “build a picture of the dawn of the Unetice culture, sometimes described as Europe’s first ‘state.'” You can visit the reconstruction near Magdeburg.  (The Art Newspaper, 6/2/20)

Freya von Moltke held onto her uncensored correspondence with her husband Helmuth, written during his last months in a Nazi prison, until her own death in 2010.  Last Letters: The Prison Correspondence, 1944–1945 has been newly translated by Shelley Frisch.  (Lithub, 9/18/19; National Review, 2/29/20)

“Available at train stations, supermarkets, bakeries, kiosks, factories, Portuguese beach resorts, online, and everywhere else Germans buy things, Bild Zeitung squats like a large toad on German life.” Thomas Meaney examines the history and persistent influence of Germany’s largest tabloid newspaper.  (The Guardian, 7/16/20)

Learning from the Germans? Thomas Laqueur explains why “it seems far-fetched to imagine that comparing slavery to the Holocaust can help us to come to terms with the granular ubiquity of American racism.”  (London Review of Books, 6/18/20)

“The well-intentioned determination of German politicians and academics to take exclusive responsibility for the Nazi genocide is now aiding other perpetrators to whitewash their participation”: A thoughtful critique by historian Jan Grabowski.  (Haaretz, 6/22/20)

Through the Darkest of Times and Attentat 1942 are among a new breed of video games that seek to portray the historical experience of National Socialism, and the difficult moral choices that accompanied it, in a more nuanced way.  (The New York Times, 3/20/20; The Washington Post, 7/6/20)

“The Habsburgs are a writer’s gift, offering a regal cast of mad, colourful and deeply flawed characters.” In a new book, Martyn Rady charts the rise and fall of one of history’s most powerful families.  (Financial Times, 5/20/20; TLS, 6/26/20)

“In the postwar era, Germany fundamentally redesigned law enforcement to prevent past atrocities from ever repeating. Its approach may hold lessons for police reform everywhere.” (The New York Times, 6/23/20)

Hello, Lenin? As a 35-year-old statue of the Soviet leader stands firm in Schwerin, Gelsenkirchen bucks worldwide trends to become the first western German city to display a statue in his honor.  (Digital Cosmonaut, 6/2020; Deutsche Welle, 6/20/20)

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; The New Yorker, 7/6/20)

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; Jacobin, 7/3/20)