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For nearly three decades Bradley’s history department has organized the Berlin Seminar, a professional-development program focused on German and European politics, society, and culture. For one week every summer, the seminar brings a group of North American scholars to the European Academy in Berlin for presentations, discussions, and tours.
During the 2006 Berlin Seminar,12 German public figures, including politicians and historians, spoke about the remarkable changes that have taken place in Berlin and Germany since 1989, when the Wall that divided communist East from democratic West Berlin was destroyed. During the past 20 years, Germans have struggled with the challenges of building a new Germany. The effort to unify two countries with a common language but mutually hostile political and economic systems has been daunting. Contrary to the optimistic predictions of 1989-1990, reunification has aggravated many of Germany’s problems within the larger context of globalization. Berlin, Germany’s largest city and again the capital, has been forced to confront the challenges of reunification with particular urgency.
After this engaging seminar, Professor John Williams, the seminar’s director, convinced five of the presenters and one of the American seminar attendees to contribute articles on the recent past and the future prospects of the German metropolis. The result is a new anthology edited by Williams. Berlin Since the Wall’s End: Shaping Society and Memory in the German Metropolis Since 1989 (Cambridge Scholars, 2008).
Two broad concerns—society and historical memory—emerged during the seminar and are reflected in these scholars’ writings. The first section of the book assesses how Berliners have reunified the city through urban planning and social, economic, and cultural policies. These chapters also address the pressing contemporary issues of immigration, citizenship, and cultural diversity. The essays in the book’s second part trace how historical memory has been shaped and politically contested in German culture, both in the divided nation and since 1989. Berlin Since the Wall’s End, casts light on a metropolis that has been scarred, but not destroyed, by the upheavals of recent history.
John A. Williams is an associate professor of modern European history at Bradley University. He has directed the Berlin Seminar since 2000. Williams is the author of several articles on twentieth-century German history as well as Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900-1940 (Stanford University Press, 2007). He spends every summer in Berlin.
For more information on the annual Berlin Seminar, please see:
Berlin Since the Wall’s End is available on Amazon.com.