Center for German-American Educational History


The Center for German-American Educational History has been established in January 2014 at the Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Thus, for the first time a German academic institution is dedicated entirely to the exploration of the conditions and processes of transatlantic educational history – from its beginnings in the 17th century up to today. The Center’s research and teaching is focused on the wide scope and special quality of the multifaceted interrelationships between German and American pedagogues, school founders and education-policy makers from the colonial period up to the 21st century.

The Center’s policy of information provision, teaching and research is based on the premise that the development of the different systems of education in Germany and America has been marked by fruitful competition as well as mutual interaction and interference since the Early Modern Period. Both educational systems profit from the knowledge of their entangled and intertwined history. The awareness of a common history sharpens the sense of the fact that there exists indeed a transatlantic community with shared values even with regard to ideals of education – in theory and practice.

Franz von Fürstenberg - the prime minister and founder of the University of Münster (1773) - was in contact with German emigrants in Pennsylvania.
Franz von Fürstenberg - the prime minister and founder of the University of Münster (1773) - was in contact with German emigrants in Pennsylvania.
© IfE


The current ideals of education both in the United States and in Germany are derived from and related to a set of key values propagated in the Age of Enlightenment: Self-responsibility and autonomy of the citizen, religious toleration, individual rights of freedom and a broad general education available to all people as a sign of their human dignity. These values were first formulated in the 18th century as the predominant goals of modern self-education and self-government. They can be traced back to the American Constitution of 1787/88 and they can be detected in the Grundgesetz of 1949, the German post-war Constitution that came into being with the support of United States officials. This is why the Center’s research and teaching has a particular but by no means exclusive emphasis on the early phase of German-American educational history in the Age of Enlightenment.


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Book of the Month - July 2017

Reise ohne Wiederkehr? Leben im Exil 1933-1945

Corinna R. Unger
© Primus 2009
Die Nationalsozialisten zwangen mehrere Hunderttausend Menschen zur Flucht ins Exil. Die meisten mussten ihre Heimat verlassen, weil ihr Leben bedroht war. Andere wählten diesen Weg, weil sie sich nicht mit der NS-Herrschaft arrangieren wollten. Der Entschluss bedeutete häufig, sich von Verwandten und Freunden zu trennen und fast alles zurückzulassen. Die Bedingungen der Ausreise waren kompliziert und die Wartezeit zehrte an den Nerven, während die finanzielle Situation immer schwieriger wurde. Hatten die Exilanten ihr Ziel endlich erreicht, mussten sie von vorn beginnen – beruflich, sprachlich, sozial. Trotz aller Probleme fanden viele Exilanten die Zeit, sich gesellschaftlich zu engagieren. Etliche Flüchtlinge wandten sich an die Regierungen ihrer Exilländer, um an der Gestaltung der Deutschlandpolitik mitzuwirken. Einige gingen nach dem Krieg zurück und beteiligten sich am Aufbau der beiden deutschen Staaten. Anhand der Lebensläufe berühmter und weniger berühmter Exilanten erzählt Corinna R. Unger vom Leben im Exil 1933-1945.

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