- Newsletter March/July 2011

This spring and early summer the domestic political debate and electoral politicsin Germany have been dominated by one issue: the future of nuclear energy after the disaster of Fukushima. The first two contributions of this newsletter discuss the dramatic turn in the German government's nuclear policy and the degree to which Germany decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 is unique in the European-global context. In the second part of this newsletter we continue our commitment to informing you about the past/ ongoing events and news from the German Studies Centres and CAUTG. You will also find the recent DAAD call for the new Theodor Berchem Prize for Outstanding Personalities in International Academic Cooperation.

Fukushima and Energy Politics, Willem Maas, York University

The Fukushima disaster was a classic focusing event, leading policymakers and wider publics to rethink the risk of nuclear accidents and the future of nuclear energy. Post-Fukushima opinion polls in 24 countries found 62% of respondents opposed nuclear power, making it even less popular than burning coal (Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power were the most popular methods of producing electricity).

 The German government's decision to close the country's remaining nuclear plants means energy may need to be imported, including from nuclear plants in neighbouring countries. At the time of the decision, roughly a quarter of German electricity production was nuclear, in line with the EU and US averages and higher than the 15% in Canada. According to Eurostat, Germany was the EU's second-largest producer of nuclear energy (at around 15% of the EU total), trailing France, which accounted for almost half of all nuclear energy produced in the Union. Over half of Europe's (and over 80% of the world's) electricity production comes from burning oil, coal, and gas. These are nonrenewable, produce greenhouse gases, and their prices have increased sharply. The two main alternative energy sources are hydroelectricity and wind. About 12% of EU energy production is hydro; important in Norway, Latvia, Austria, Croatia, and Sweden. Only about 4% of EU energy production comes from wind, with Denmark, Portugal, Spain, and Ireland important producers. If policymakers and publics want to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, nuclear power remains one way to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy.

One post-Fukushima forecast for uranium prices noted that China, India, Russia, South Korea, the UK, the US and other countries plan to build new nuclear plants, even as countries like Japan (which before the tsunami relied upon nuclear power for 30% of its energy needs) and Germany plan to shut theirs. Besides hydro, wind, and solar power, alternatives such as biomass, geothermal and other renewable energy sources should also grow.

Germany´s Atomausstieg, Edelgard Mahant, York University

The well-being of Europe´s economies depends on secure and reasonably priced energy, and most of that energy is imported.  To add to the conundrum, energy policy has become the subject of emotional debates. In Germany, the pleas of environmentalists who denounced carbon emissions and climate change were still ringing in the ears of political leaders when the Fukushima disaster opened a debate on nuclear power.

From North America it is hard to gauge the depth of European reaction to this disaster.  On June 12, 94% of Italians voted to end nuclear power, and that in spite of governmental advice to the contrary.  In Germany, Chancellor Merkel announced on May 30, that the government intended to phase out nuclear power by 2022; all the parties in the Bundestag jumped on the bandwagon. The SPD said, "That's what we wanted all along."  The Greens and the Left said, "We want it done sooner."  They hope to gain political advantage from embracing a popular cause (though German public opinion favours the Atomausstieg, the exit from nuclear power, by a "mere" 70%). In the meanwhile, the electricity generating industry is threatening to sue the government for billions in compensation, and the sixteen Ministerpräsidenten are all in favour of the new policy, as long as their governments do not have to pay for it.


The federal government may yet come to rue its precipitate decision.  The Swedish government made a similar decision in 1980; in 2010 the Swedish parliament voted to reverse that decision.  Germany gets 23% of its electricity from nuclear energy.  The parliamentary debate on the Atomausstieg stressed the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and of programmes to insulate buildings. But 23% will be hard to replace; the German government has recently increased its purchases of electricity from France.  A number of France´s nuclear plants are located near the German border, so that Germany´s abandoning nuclear power will do little to protect Germans from a potential nuclear accident. 

For the last ten years, carbon emissions and climate change have been the cause of choice of Germans environmentalists. Now it is the phasing out of atomic energy.  The high standard of living Germans enjoy cannot be sustained without energy other than that produced by animals and humans.  Instead of embracing the cause of the moment, be it the Atomausstieg, sustainable energy or carbon emissions, the German government should tell its people that energy policy involves trade offs and make a policy that is based on a calculation of risks, not the political flavour of the moment.

Edelgard Mahant, Faculty Affiliate, Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, York University, Senior Scholar, Department of Political Science, Glendon College, York University

News from the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University, John Paul Klein

The first half of 2011 has seen considerable activity at the. At the end of the winter term, CCGES hosted two international conferences which brought together scholars from North America and Europe. The first of these was "The Past on Display: Museums, Film, Musealization", an event organized by Centre Director Peter McIsaac (Humanities) and CCGES Faculty Affiliate Gabriele Mueller (German Section, Languages, Literatures and Linguistics). The more than thirty conference participants considered questions of changing processes of knowledge production in Germany and the construction of cultural memory through visual media. An edited volume with a number of the conference papers is planned for publication in 2012.

The European Union Centre of Excellence project housed at CCGES has overseen several conferences and seminars so far in 2011. Prominent among them was the conference "Adversarial Legalism à l'Européen" which was organized by CCGES Faculty Affiliate Dagmar Soennecken (School of Public Policy and Administration Social Sciences) for two days at the end of April. The focus of this event was the recent interest in the growth of the "American way of doing law" in different policy areas and countries in Europe and beyond.

The first of the EUCE project's EU Affairs Seminars took place on March 7th under the title "The Maturing of the Multicultural Experiment: European Challenges Coming to Canada?" Coordinated by EUCE Junior Research Fellows Hannah Biesterfeld, Katrina Pogosyan and Sibylle Schaffhauser, this event was designed to expose attendees (both faculty and students from York and other institutions in the region) to the thoughts and analysis of scholars and activists from Canada, the United States and Europe and attracted a large and engaged audience.

CCGES presented a series of panel discussions over the past academic year organized around the theme of "Automobility" with the intention of raising socially, economically, technologically and politically important issues around the car, its production, use and culture. These well-attended panels were overseen by CCGES Faculty Affiliates Roger Keil (Director, CITY Institute) and Bernie Wolf (Schulich School of Business) and counted among its contributors Jim Stanford (Economist, Canadian Autoworkers Union), Christian Feilmeier (Vice-President, BMW Canada) and Christopher Hume (Urban Affairs Columnist, Toronto Star).

In May CCGES once again partnered with le Centre canadien d'études allemandes et européenes (CCEAE) at the Université de Montréal and the DAAD to present a third study tour to Germany for Canadian graduate students. This year's iteration of the tour took a group of twelve students from eight universities to the city of Hamburg for a highly successful two week stay in May during which the group explored a variety of issues relevant to contemporary Germany. Among these were the integration of Hamburg's considerable immigrant communities into the city's economic, cultural and social structures, sustainability practices in a variety of contexts as well as the mutable nature of history.

In July CCGES hosted "Transmedial Approaches to Space and Gender", an international graduate student conference on July 7-8, 2011. This event has grown out of a collaboration between CCGES Faculty Affiliates Susan Ingram and Markus Reisenleitner (both Humanities) with colleagues Brigitte Glaser and Jutta Ernst (Universität Göttingen) and brought students from York together with a group from the universities of Göttingen and Mainz.

Finally, August will see CCGES Affiliates Mark Webber and Michael Brown bring their extremely successful multi-year project "Learning from the Past, Teaching for the Future" to a close with a final symposium in Poznan, Poland and a study tour to Israel. Generously supported by Mark and Gail Appel, this project brings together Canadian university students and fellow students from Germany and Poland, to explore how best to counter racism — including anti-Semitism — through teaching about the Holocaust. For more information on any of these activities, please visit the websites and

News from the Joint Initiative in German and European Studies, Randall Hansen, University of Toronto

Through the support of the DAAD, the Joint Initiative in German and European Studies has held a large number of events.  We held two conferences examining immigration, citizenship and integration in Germany and Europe:  one on 'Immigrant Integration: Philosophy, Politics, Practices in Europe' and another on "Between National Closure and Supranational Governance: Work, Welfare, and Migrant Integration in Germany and the EU." Both brought scholars from Germany and Europe, the United States and the rest of Canada to Toronto. JIGES also continued its support of the annual Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Chair in Holocaust Studies lecture, organized this year around a two-speaker panel on 'Ghettoes during the Holocaust.'

JIGES also sponsored a large number of consistently well attended events on German and European Studies.  A full list is given below, but highlights included Norbert Frei's talk on the controversial history of the German Foreign Office under National Socialism (das Amt); Wilfried von Bredow from the University of Marburg, who spoke on Germany's role in Afghanistan; our Hannah Arendt DAAD Visiting Professor, Matthias König, who gave a lecture on securalization and religion in Europe; and Pierre Birnbaum, who spoke on Jewish civil servants in Germany, France and the United States. As it has in the past, JIGES supported through these events scholars in six disciplines at the University of Toronto: History, Political Sciences, German studies, Sociology, Slavic, and Anthropology.

This summer, JIGES is sending a record number of students to Germany for research and study: five undergraduates are studying at the University of Toronto's summer school in Berlin; seven graduates are study at our Toronto/York/University of Montreal-McGill graduate summer school in Berlin; and eight graduates from History, Political Science, and German Studies are undertaking extended research stays in the Federal Republic.

Following JIGES talks and events have taken place between January and May 2011:  François Guesnet (University College London)  "From West to East: Reconfigurations of Ashkenas in the Early Modern Period"; Wilfried von Bredow (Philipps-University Marburg, Germany), "Germany in Afghanistan";  Goldschmidt Memorial Lecture 2011: Paul Mendes-Flohr (University of Chicago and The Hebrew University, Jerusalem), "Hermann Levin Goldschmidt and the Legacy of German-Jewish Humanism"; Jytte Klausen (Brandeis University), "Al Qaeda's War on the Danish Cartoons: A Retrospective"; Helmut Walser Smith (Martha Rivers Ingram Professor of Modern German History, Vanderbilt University), "The Strange Death of the Holy Roman Empire"; Jerold Frakes (Department of English, SUNY Buffalo), "The Discourse of the Muslim Other in Early Yiddish Epic"; Ghettos during the Holocaust Samuel Kassow (Charles H. Northam Professor of History, Trinity College), "Who Will Write Our History: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto" Dan Michman (Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, Professor of Modern Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University), "The Emergence of Jewish Ghettos during the Holocaust"; Norbert Frei (Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena), "The German Foreign Office and the Nazi Past"; Matthias Koenig (2010-2011 Hannah Arendt DAAD Visiting Professor for German and European Studies), "Religious Diversity, Judicial Politics, and Institutional Secularization in Europe; George Steinmetz (Department of Sociology, University of Michigan), "The Imperial Entanglements of Sociology and the Question of Scientific Autonomy: Germany, France, Britain, and the United States 1910-2010; Michael Schneider (Baden-Wuerttemberg Film Academy), "Der Traum der Vernunft und der historische Roman"; Pierre Birnbaum (University of Paris-1 and Sciences Po), "Jews as State Functionaries in France, Germany, and the United States: A Comparative Perspective"; Robert Beachy (Department of History, Goucher College, Baltimore; Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, 2010-2011, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University), "Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity";John-Paul Himka (Department of History, University Alberta), "Ukrainian Nationalists, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, and the Holocaust"; German Studies Symposium: "Fact and Fiction: Literature and Science in the German and European Context."; Judicial Politics and the Accommodation of Religious Minorities; "Between National Closure and Supranational Governance: Work, Welfare, and Migrant Integration in Germany and the EU ."

News from the Canadian Association of University Teachers for German - A Conference Report, Florentine Strzelczyk, President of CAUTG

This year's CAUTG annual meeting took place in beautiful Fredericton, New Brunswick, at the Universities of New Brunswick and St. Thomas. Our program coordinator, Cheryl Dueck, put together an interesting and thought-provoking program and our local coordinator, Anette Guse, took care of all on-site needs of presenters and audience.

Our keynote speaker in the area of literature this year was Georgina Paul from Oxford University. In light of the 20-year anniversary of German unification, Dr. Paul's lecture focused on Eastern German writers' response to post-unification challenges.

This year the CAUTG joined forces with the CATG, the Canadian Association of Teachers of German, in order to facilitate more and better communication among all teachers of German about our common educational goals, including linguistic and cultural proficiency as well as student engagement, assessment and placement. Two sessions were dedicated to these important topics. Enrica Piccardo from OISE/ University of Toronto delivered a keynote address about the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference that affects the way we teach languages in North America in both schools and universities. The second session was a roundtable discussion on secondary/postsecondary articulation, with participation by a high school teacher, university faculty member and a provincial government representative. The Goethe Institute Toronto supported these sessions generously. The focus on language was rounded out by several sessions on second language acquisition and pedagogy as well as by "Fachberater" Friedrich Broeckelmann who contributed a workshop on the transition issue, specifically pertaining to the skills attained in secondary level German education.

The ‘I’ in ‘Eyewitness’: The 2011 Holocaust Field School at the University of Victoria, Helga Thorson, University of Victoria

"This field school changed my life. Not only did I learn about the Holocaust and memorialization in an exceptional environment with wonderful students and incredible group leaders, but I learned about people, humanity and that the two do not necessarily always coincide. This program has given me two invaluable gifts:  a direction for my degree and future studies as well as new standards of tolerance and humility.”
(Andrea Van Noord, 2011 I-witness Holocaust Field School participant)

In May 2011, twenty-three University of Victoria students participated in the inaugural I-witness Holocaust Field School Project. The course, taught by Dr. Helga Thorson in the Department of Germanic & Slavic Studies, consisted of one week of intensive study at the University of Victoria and three weeks in Central Europe. Participants experienced various types of memorial spaces in three different countries—from the sites of former concentration camps to the stumbling stone project, from former ghettos to railway stations, from cemeteries to T-4 euthanasia sites, from museums to memorials. Together with the program leaders, Helga Thorson and Michael Gans, the four graduate and nineteen undergraduate students enrolled in the course traveled to Berlin, Germany; Kraków, Poland; and Vienna, Austria.

In Berlin, a typical day consisted of class sessions in the Neue Synagoge in the morning and site visits in the afternoon. In Kraków, participants had the opportunity to meet European students who were studying the Holocaust at Jongollian University in a combined class session. There they were able to discuss the Holocaust with people their own age from a cross-cultural perspective. Through a partnership with the University of Vienna, field school participants got a first-hand look at memorialization in Austria, and particularly at Vienna University. They also met members of the Gedenkdienst, a form of civil service in Austria. During one particular class discussion, field school participants came to the realization that by personally experiencing memorial sites within Central Europe, they each had become eyewitnesses to the memorialization process itself.

Students not only learned about large- and small-scale memorialization projects as well as geographical, temporal, and gender differences in the memorialization process, but also became attuned to their own expectations at various sites. Other outcomes of the program came to the fore:  students matured and became more independent, they gained confidence to engage with and challenge scholarly research, and they built life-long friendships with other field school participants.  In addition, they have expressed broader interest in the subject matter by enrolling in other related courses upon their return.  The students, who came to the program from a wide range of academic disciplines, have also realized the importance of language study. About one third of the field school participants have enrolled in German language courses this fall.

Upon returning from the program, students have made a commitment to share their experiences and knowledge about the Holocaust with others. On July 20, 2011 several students exhibited their work at the University of Victoria. The art show consisted of photography, collage, poetry, song, and other forms of visuals combined with written word.  Other field school participants reached out to the community in different ways, by presenting to local community groups, by visiting high schools and middle schools to teach students about the Holocaust, and by submitting articles or editorials to their local newspapers.

The I-witness Holocaust Field School is currently scheduled to run on a yearly basis. The 2012 Field School will be led by Charlotte Schallié and Michael Gans.  For more information, visit the field school website at: For news coverage of the field school, please see these related sites: The field school is the focus of a three-part report online in The Ring, UVic's community news source:
Student experiences
Photo essay |

A write-up of the July 20th student exhibit, Our Piece: A Creative Collection from the 2011 I-witness Holocaust Field School, was featured in the Victoria Times Colonist: 

DAAD Newsletter Ausschreibung

For the first time in 2011, DAAD is awarding the Theodor Berchem Prize for Outstanding Personalities in International Academic Cooperation. With this prize, which bears the name of long-standing DAAD President Professor Theodor Berchem, DAAD seeks to honor personalities who have experienced and promoted the international and intercultural dimension of higher education in an outstanding manner. Tribute is to be paid to people who have made an exceptional contribution to bringing together students, scientists and scholars and (academic) cultures across borders, for example, through a comprehensive integration of disciplines or the development of a mutual understanding of cultures and/or nations. This contribution may consist both in the theoretical explanation and scholarly evaluation of international exchange and in innovative projects that have developed an exemplary effect on international cooperation and understanding in the higher education sector.

The prize is endowed with 10,000 Euros, which can be used at the awardee's discretion. The prize-winner may freely dispose of the sum. The prize money is funded from donations made to DAAD. Nominations for the prize may be made by members of higher education institutions and distinguished partner organisations in academic cooperation at home and abroad; self applications are excluded.

Nominations should include a detailed description of the specific achievements of the person to be honored. DAAD will award the prize at a public event, on the basis of the choice made by an international selection committee. The deadline for nominations is: August 31, 2011.

The following documents are to be enclosed with the proposal: - a description of the achievements of the Nominee (length approx. 3 pages); - a curriculum vitae of the Nominee. Decisions on the award are final and not subject to judicial scrutiny.

Queries and Nominations to: Ms. Christiane Schmeken, DAAD – Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, Gruppe Strategie, Veranstaltungen, Fortbildung, Kennedyallee 50, D-53175 Bonn, Germany, Tel: +49 (0) 228 / 882-480, E-Mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it