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Research Projects

Here you can find a small selection of ongoing and completed research projects on German-American Educational History. The Center does not only want to point out current topics and trends of research in this field, but also seek to support and encourage research. Therefore, it also offers talented students the opportunity (linked with a corresponding lecture) of writing their Bachelor's or Master's thesis on a topic of interest to German-American Educational History.

  • The American College ("Collegium Americanum") of St. Maurice at Münster. Professionalization and Disciplining in the Formation of Priests for the USA at the Dawn of the "Kulturkampf", 1864-1874

    Andreas Oberdorf
    Research Projekt, starting in 2020

    The American College ("Collegium Americanum", 1864-1874) of St. Maurice at Münster in Westphalia served to train priests for the Catholic missions in the United States of America. This research and editing project aims to explore the largely unknown history of this short-lived institution taking into consideration latest research in the history of religion and education. In terms of methods and methodology, the project follows concepts and approaches of cultural and social sciences with special regard to mentalities. The project addresses the question of in how far the priestly formation at the American College aimed at promoting the pastoral professionalization of seminarians or rather served to strengthen ultramontane discipline, particularly at an early stage of the "Kulturkampf" in the second half of the nineteenth century. Therefore, the project seeks to reconstruct and analyze the everyday life and education settings of the seminarians and their teachers, including their religious and cultural orientations, values, world views as well as specific practices of piety and spirituality. For several years, the community of this seminary represented a self-contained and closed educational space with significant linkages to the University of Münster, where the seminarians studied theology and philosophy. A substantial collection of archival sources offers a firm basis for this project, whereby an edition of selected manuscripts is intended to gain access to still unknown sources of German-American entanglements in the interface of religion, culture, and education.

    This project is funded by Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Cologne.

  • Lessons from a Dark Past: The Wannsee Conference in Film and Television

    Nicholas K. Johnson
    Dissertation project, since 2018

    My dissertation explores the possibilities of depicting difficult history on film f by investigating a series of movies and television programs about the Wannsee Conference, which took place in Berlin on 20 January 1942 and was intended to coordinate the Final Solution by asserting the dominance of Heydrich and the SS over other governmental departments. The surviving Wannsee Protocol stands as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the Third Reich’s genocidal intent and emblematic of its shift from mass shootings in the occupied East to industrial-scale murder. This dissertation will explore the differing ways in which the difficult German past has been depicted by both German and American filmmakers. Detailed analyses of the HBO/BBC co-production Conspiracy (2001) and the ORF/Bayerischer Rundfunk production Die Wannseekonferenz (1984) form the core of my dissertation. Both films reenact the Wannsee Conference in real time (ca. 90 minutes) and are examples of two approaches to historical filmmaking that reflect differences in both nationalities, television industries, and respective historiographical trends of their times (mid-1980s versus turn of the millennium). This dissertation goes beyond mere film analysis and is grounded in archival research on the production history of both films, which include script drafts, production notes, meeting minutes, and correspondence. Additional oral history interviews with the writers and production staff supplement-but by no means replace-the archival material. Additionally, this project will analyze other, more minor depictions of the Wannsee Conference on film, such as the NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978) and the recent HHhH (2017). In short, the project explores the myriad ways in which American and German filmmakers have attempted to teach the Holocaust via a singular, notorious event while also grounding each attempt in their respective national and historical contexts. In using the Wannsee films as a case study, this dissertation seeks to examine whether or not history can be “taught” with film and, if so, how and why historians and educators should engage with it on a deeper level.

  • Opportunities and Limits of Democratic Schools - Pedagogical Theory and Practice of Daniel Greenberg's Sudbury Valley School

    Lara Adameit
    Bachelor's Thesis, Summer Term 2018

  • Musical Edification, Building of Identity, and Education - On the Function and Meaning of German-American "Männerchöre" in the 19th Century

    Lisa Mareen Christian
    Master's Thesis, Summer Term 2018

  • Transatlantic Histories of Schooling and Education: Travelling Knowledge, Concepts, and Materials

    Andreas Oberdorf, MEd, MA
    Early Career Researchers Conference
    24-26 May 2018

    © ADAB/HU
  • Public History, Popular History or Historical Edutainment - Representations of German and American History in Theatre, Cinema and Television

    Prof. Dr. Jürgen Overhoff
    Lecture Series
    Summer Term 2018

    The lecture series explores how popular forms of drama have been-and can be-used as powerful tools for teaching the complicated and entangled histories of Germany and the United States. German and American Educators, historians, and theater professionals will discuss an array of German and American productions that depict and teach histories that include the American Revolution, chattel slavery, the Holocaust, and postwar Germany.

    12 April 2018: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Overhoff (Münster): The Early History of the USA in Schiller’s "Love and Intrigue": Teaching a Revolutionary Lesson of Independence on the German Stage

    19 April 2018: Tim Zumhof (Münster): Historical Culture and Edutainment in Germany and the USA. An Introduction to Basic Concepts, Flieds of Research, and Examples.

    26 April 2018: Nicholas Johnson (Münster): History, Film, and Education

    3 May 2018: Amber Mitchell (New Orleans/USA): Transatlantic Slave Trade and Film

    17 May 2018: Dr. Thorsten Carstensen (Indianapolis/USA): Learning from John Ford: History, Time, and Geography in the Novels of Peter Handke

    7 June 2018: Prof. Dr. Raymond J. Haberski (Indianapolis/USA): 1970s Liberalism vs. Radicalism in Film

    14 June 2018: Stephanie Johns (Stratford (Ontario)/Canada): Public History, Education and Theatre: Exploring History through our Thearical Productions at the Stratford Festival of Canada

    21 June 2018: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hochbruck (Freiburg i. Br.): Living History in North America and Germany

    28 June 2018: Alissa Rubinstein (Berlin): The 614th Commandment, A documentary play about how American Jews feel about Germany today

    5 July 2018: Felix Apel (Berlin): Fritz Bauer on Film

  • Higher Education of Women in Germany and the USA: Educational Opportunities and Achievements (1865-1914)

    Romana Beilmann
    Master's Thesis, Winter Term 2017/18

  • German Schools in the USA (1850-1900): An Historical Comparison between private and public education in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis

    Jan-Lucas Schmitt
    Master's Thesis, Summer Term 2017

    Wie viele Deutsche insgesamt in die USA eingewandert sind, ist nicht eindeutig gesichert. Manche Quellen geben fünf, andere bis zu sieben Millionen Menschen an, die bis zu Beginn des Ersten Weltkriegs in der Neuen Welt ihre neue Heimat suchten. Die deutschstämmigen Emigranten machten hierbei die zahlenmäßig größte Gruppe aus. Die Einwanderer brachten in die sich nach dem Unabhängigkeitskrieg konstituierende Gesellschaft ihre eigenen Vorstellungen von Bildung und Kultur in dem Maße mit, wie sie beide in ihrer Heimat erfahren hatten. Gerade im Vormärz und nach der gescheiterten 1848er Revolution wanderten viele politisch Verfolgte und hochgebildete Männer und Frauen in die USA aus. Dort versuchten sie, ihre Vorstellungen von einer besseren Gesellschaft durch die Umsetzung von moderneren Bildungskonzepten einzubringen. Von ihnen wurde der Typus des 'Deutsch-Amerikaners' propagiert und als Bildungsideal vertreten. Das Schulwesen der USA war zu dieser Zeit auf einem eher grundlegenden Niveau und abgesehen von den elitären Universitäten an der Ostküste gab es wenige Möglichkeiten, sich höher bilden zu können.
    An dieser Stelle setzt die Arbeit an. Hier werden die Geschichten dreier Schulen aus drei Städten des Mittleren Westens mit großem Anteil an deutschstämmigen Siedlern verglichen. Der Vergleich fokussiert sich auf Gründungsproblematiken, Schülerzahlentwicklung, Schulkonzept und die Kooperation mit staatlichen Stellen in den sich neu bildenden Staaten. Der Untersuchungszeitraum reicht dabei von 1850, also der Zeit, in der die jeweiligen Staaten noch die Siedlungsgrenze darstellten, bis 1900, wo sie schon durchgängig besiedelt sind, Infrastruktur ausgebaut und die sich für die Schulen ergebenden Probleme nicht mehr technischer, sondern eher sozialer Natur. Somit soll abschließend die Frage beantwortet werden können, ob die deutschstämmigen Einwanderer sich aktiv, wenn auch vielleicht nur auf lokaler Ebene, für eine Entwicklung des amerikanischen Schulsystems – und damit auch der Gesellschaft – einsetzten, oder ob die Bereitstellung alternativer Schulkonzepte sich nur an deutschstämmige Einwanderer richtete und deswegen vorrangig zum Erhalt der deutschen Kultur und Religion gedacht war.

  • Between Mass Education and Elitism - Educational Opportunities and Learning Achievements in American Higher Education (1945-2010)

    Anna-Lena Hageneier
    Master's Thesis, Summer Term 2017

  • Money as the Determining Factor for the American Postsecondary Education System - An Analysis of its Development, Characteristics, Consequences, and Future Requirements of the American Educational System

    Marius Dirksmeier
    Master's Thesis, Winter Term 2017/18

    Die Hochschul-Bildung hat in den USA einen besonderen Stellenwert. Im tertiären Bildungssystem konkurrenzlos, große Verdienste beim Aufstieg der USA zur Weltmacht und Garant für eine wohlhabende Zukunft. Ein Teil dieses Systems zu sein, lassen sich viele Amerikaner daher bereitwillig fünfstellige Beträge kosten.

    Diese Masterarbeit analysiert, wie es dazu kommen konnte, dass die finanziellen Aspekte bestimmende Faktoren tertiärer Bildung in den USA wurden. Hierzu werden die bescheidenen Anfänge heute weltbekannter amerikanischer Bildungsinstitute untersucht und wie deren Entwicklung von gesellschaftlichen Rahmenbedingungen sowie globalen Großereignissen befördert wurde. 

    Besonderer Fokus liegt auf der Zeit nach dem 2. Weltkrieg. Hier wurde die exponierte Stellung der Hochschulbildung offensichtlich. Mit dem Erlass der G.I.-Bill (1944), die Veteranen des US-Militärs eine akademische Ausbildung ermöglichte, öffnete man in den 50er-, 60er- und 70er-Jahren das bisweilen elitäre Hochschulsystem für sämtliche Bevölkerungsgruppen. Der extreme Anstieg der Studierendenzahlen und die damit einhergehende „Explosion“ an finanziellen Mitteln hatten allerdings nicht nur positive Effekte. Besonders seit den 1980ern bereichern sich eine Vielzahl von bildungsfernen Akteuren an den im Hochschulsystem vorhandenen Finanzmitteln. Besondere Auswüchse sind im Zusammenhang mit dem College-Sport und dessen Vermarktung, den Methoden von zweifelhaften For-Profit-Hochschulen oder dem Vorgehen von Finanzunternehmen im Rahmen der Spekulation mit Studienkrediten zu beobachten. Die völlig außer Kontrolle geratenen Ausgaben im US-Bildungssystem sorgen gar dafür, dass die finanziellen Verhältnisse des US-Bildungssystems eine Schieflage der Weltwirtschaft auslösen könnten (Stichwort: „Education Bubble“).

    Trotz einer Vielzahl von alarmierenden Vorgängen und einer nicht gewünschten Regulation, die bei der weltweit unvergleichbaren Größe des US-Bildungssystems allerdings schwer darstellbar wäre, sind die amerikanischen Einrichtungen in vielen Bereichen führend. In dieser Arbeit wird daher untersucht, wie das deutsche vom amerikanischen Bildungssystem profitieren könnte und umgekehrt. Hierzulande dürfte es bspw. sinnvoll sein, Anleihen im Bereich der Digitalisierung von Bildung zu nehmen. In den USA wiederum existieren erste Initiativen, duale Ausbildungsberufe ins Leben zu rufen und hierbei mit deutschen Bildungsträgern und Unternehmen zusammenzuarbeiten (Hierzu BIBB GOVET).

    Durch einen mehrwöchigen Aufenthalt an der IUPUI Indianapolis sowie durch einen Besuch an der University of Notre Dame und die Unterstützung der handelnden Personen an beiden Instituten konnten wichtige Erkenntnisse für die Fragestellung gewonnen werden. Das Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB) unterstützte zudem mit dem Zugang zu Unterlagen und durch den Austausch mit verantwortlichen Personen für die internationale Berufsbildungskooperation.
  • The Concept of Democracy in John Dewey's "Democracy and Education" (1916)

    Nora Milius
    Bachelor's Thesis, Summer Term 2016

  • Clemens Vonnegut and the High Tide of German-American Culture and Education in Indianapolis (1848-1906)

    Maria Drahmann
    Master's Thesis, Summer Term 2016

    The German mass migration to the United States of America in the second half of the nineteenth century had an impact on the American culture that is still visible today. Clubs and Vereine, German architecture or simply the German Gemütlichkeit are only a few examples of the cultural heritage that German immigrants brought to "the New World" and that are still highly appreciated by the American citizens of the twenty-first century.

    In order to comprehend the German immigration process and to understand how Germans carried their culture overseas this master thesis focuses on a single individual: Clemens Vonnegut. When he came to the USA in 1851 he was driven by the old German Turner spirit an seized the oppourtunity of the new American freedom. By pointing out the Westphalian society in which he grew up and the general reasons for Germans to immigrate to America, the first sections of this thesis give necessary background information about the young Vonnegut and the influence he was under in his early years. The following sections take a deeper look into his concrete actions one he settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. The focus here lies on education and culture since the German immigration group had a huge impact on the development of those two aspects within the American society. Clemens Vonnegut was not only a member of many German clubs in Indianapolis; he also founded and co-founded the Indianapolis Turnverein, the German-American Independent School and the Freethinker Society. Moreover, he was a school commissioner for the Indianapolis Public School for 28 years and took an active role in implementing German and physical education as school subjects. He also was one of the key figures to bring the National College to Indianapolis which later turned into today's School of Physical Education and Tourism Management of the IUPUI. With all his activities and changes that Clemens Vonnegut brought to Indianapolis, he is an excellent example in order to understand the German influence on education and culture in the USA during the second half of the nineteenth century.

  • Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770-1840): Transatlantic educational Reforms between Enlightenment and Catholic Piety in Münster and Pennsylvania

    Andreas Oberdorf, MEd, MA
    Dissertation project, 2015-19

    The research project analyzes the life and impact of Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770-1840), a Catholic missionary, publicist, educational pioneer, and parish priest of Loretto in Pennsylvania, sent from Münster to America in 1792. As the son of a Russian prince and ambassador and a German countess, he spent his childhood together with his sister among the parents' illustrious visitors and guests in The Hague. They all took part in a lively exchange about the Enlightenment's ideas concerning religion, philosophy, science, and education. After the parents' separation in 1779, his mother Amalia von Gallitzin moved with her children to Münster, where they soon gathered around them an intellectual, literary-philosophical circle of clergymen, educationalists, aristocrats, poets, and publicists, seeking for individual self-fulfillment in the tension between reason, faith and piety, following the ideas and spirit of a Catholic Enlightenment. In 1792, the young Gallitzin left Europe for the United States, devoting himself to the Catholic mission and eventually settled in Pennsylvania. Gallitzin was one of the few missionaries who clearly understood how to defend his positions and the essential dogmas of Catholicism in the face of ever tougher anti-Catholic sentiments by using a new enlightened Catholic language. Besides, he wanted to improve the living conditions of his parishioners and to care for their religious and useful education. Gallitzin composed apologetic treaties and maintained close relations back to Europe. Large parts of his correspondences are still unknown or were hitherto neglected in historical research. Within these transatlantic networks of discourse and exchange, Gallitzin appears as an important mediator who furthered the transfer of ideas, concepts, and media between Europe and America, especially in the field of education. (Poster).

  • "Stop Teaching Your Kids Dutch" - (Dis-)Continuities in German American Life in the US (1890-1932)

    Anne Overbeck, MA
    Research project, 2015/16

    In 1890, German Americans were a proud and visible community in many cities throughout the US. Innumerous newspapers, clubs, businesses catered to a clientele familiar with German customs and the German language. German culture - in the sense of high brow Kultur - was a defining characteristic of this group's identity. World War I, so the opinion of current research, put an end to this era. A community that had drawn a big part of its self confidence from cultural superiority was now depicted as a community of cheating, lying, dishonest traitors. German Americans reacted to this development by shedding their German roots. Upon closer examination, however, the German American community proved to be far more resilient than current scholarships gives it credit for. The research project takes a look at how the German American community defined its ethnic identity from the height of its influence in the 1890 to the post-WW I era. Special attention is given to how German Americans communicated their situation to their relatives in Europe, thereby encouraging or discouraging them to emigrate to the US. (Poster)


    • Anne Overbeck. "Wissen wandert: Deutschamerikaner in Kultur und Wirtschaft." In: Willi Kulke (Ed.). Vom Streben nach Glück: 200 Jahre Auswanderung aus Westfalen nach Amerika. Essen: Klartext, 2016, 95-108.
    • Anne Overbeck, Kerstin Wölki. "Goethe oder Washington? Die Situation der Deutschamerikaner zur Zeit des Ersten Weltkriegs." In: Willi Kulke (Ed.). Vom Streben nach Glück: 200 Jahre Auswanderung aus Westfalen nach Amerika. Essen: Klartext, 2016, 145-157.
    • Anne Overbeck. "Between Goethe and Washington: German-American Life in Indianapolis in the Early 20th Century." In:  Jürgen Overhoff, Anne Overbeck (Eds.). New Perspectives on German-American Educational History. Topics, Trends, Fields of Research. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt 2017, 122-142 [Studies in German American Educational History; 1].
  • German-American Educational History: Topics, Trends, Fields of Research

    Prof. Dr. Jürgen Overhoff
    Lecture Series
    Summer Term 2015

    Harvard and Yale, the Collegiate System, Democracy and Education, John Dewey – Wilhelm von Humboldt, the University of Berlin, academic freedom, the unity of teaching and research: German and American philosophies of education and their propagators have shaped the modern and distinctively western understanding of Bildung and education to a considerable degree. As the development of educational ideals in Germany and America has been marked by fruitful mutual interaction, the lecture series of the Center for German-American Educational History – organized in collaboration with Faculty from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia – has seeked to sharpen the notion of an entangled and intertwined German-American Educational History.

    8 April 2015: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Overhoff (Münster): Introduction

    15 April 2015: Dr. Charlotte Lerg (München): The Uses and Abuses of the first German-American Professorial Exchange: Academic Diplomacy, 1904-1914

    22 April 2015: Prof. Dr. Heike Bungert (Münster): German Americans and their efforts to bring “Cultur” to the United States, 1848-1914

    29 April 2015: Prof. Dr. Patrick Erben (West Georgia): “To direct my loving countryman’s defect”. Translingual education in  German-speaking Pennsylvania

    6 May 2015: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Lehmann (Kiel): The quincentennial commemoration of the Protestant Reformation on both sides of the Atlantic

    13 May 2015: Prof. Dr. Frank Trommler (Philadelphia): Negotiating German “Bildung” and “Kultur” in American intellectual life, 1870-1918.

    20 May 2015: Prof. Dr. Ewald Terhart (Münster): “Research on Teaching” in the USA and “Didaktik” in (West)-Germany. Influences since 1945

    3 June 2015: Prof. Dr. Bethany Wiggin (Philadelphia): Poor Christoph’s Almanac: Popular Education in Colonial German Almanacs

    10 June 2015: Anne Overbeck, MA (Münster): “Stop teaching your kids Dutch!” (Dis-)Continuities in German-American Life in Indianapolis in the 19th and early 20th century.

    17 June 2015: Prof. Dr. Katja Sarkowsky (Münster): Hyphenated Americanism: Horace Kallen, Randolph Bourne, and the Debate about Cultural Pluralism during World War I

    24 June 2015: Prof. Dr. Simon Richter (Philadelphia): Goethe goes to Yale: William A. Speck, Alice Raphael, and the Education of America’s (privileged, male) youth, 1913-1928.

    1 July 2015: Prof. Dr. Johannes Bellmann (Münster): The Reception of John Dewey in Germany

    8 July 2015: Prof. Dr. Leo O’Donovan, SJ (Washington, D.C.): American and German Perspectives on Universal Ethics: Searching fora New World Order


    • Jürgen Overhoff, Anne Overbeck (Eds.). German - American Educational History. Topics, Trends, Fields of Research. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt 2017 [Studies on German American Educational History; 1]. 235 pp., paperback, ISBN 978-3-7815-2138-4 (Table of Contents) (Introduction) (Link)