In a recent open house, leading members of the German-speaking community in Los Angeles joined faculty and students to celebrate the official reopening of the USC-Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies.
Housed in USC Dornsife, the institute’s newly renovated headquarters is located at 2714 South Hoover St., a few blocks from the USC University Park campus.
“I’m absolutely delighted that an institute with such great tradition has once again opened its doors to the USC community and to our friends throughout Los Angeles,” said institute director Paul Lerner, associate professor of history in USC Dornsife.
Home to USC Dornsife’s German and European Studies Program, the institute’s areas of emphases include: exile studies; Cold War studies; German history, film and aesthetics; contemporary German and European affairs, and the built environment: ecology and technology.
"Slowly but surely, we have been rising like a phoenix from the ashes,” Britta Bothe, associate professor of German, said during the event.
After the German department was closed in 2008, and with it two of its three study abroad programs, Bothe and others began to rebuild German studies on campus.
This included deepening ties to the German studies community on and off campus; building a Web presence, including social media; proposing new curriculum and a new study abroad program; starting a teaching internship program for German studies minors, as well as yearly scholarship information sessions; and expanding extracurricular activities for students.
“We aim to build something meaningful for the student body on campus, entice more students to study German and open up more opportunities for scholarships and study abroad,” Bothe said, noting that the German studies program, now housed in the department of Slavic languages and literatures, has offered an interdisciplinary minor since Fall of 2011.
The institute’s founder, Emeritus Associate Professor of German Cornelius Schnauber, a playwright and novelist, spoke of his long experience as its former director and his joy at its reopening. “I am convinced Dr. Lerner will be an excellent director for the future of the institute,” he said.
Lerner said he aims to create a mix of public community programs and academic, research-oriented events and lectures at the institute. He is currently planning a conference for January 2014 on Los Angeles as a site of German American encounters in collaboration with the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, and the German Historical Institute in Washington D.C.
He is also working with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to host a June 23 panel discussion to complement the museum’s upcoming exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters. And he’s planning further collaboration with the Wende Museum in Culver City, Calif. On May 21, a staged reading of Schnauber’s play, Richard and Felix: Twilight in Venice will be held at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.
Schnauber founded a German cultural house in the then-Department of German in 1975 with the backing of the Max Kade Foundation, headquartered in New York. This evolved into the Max Kade Institute in 1981. Kade, a German-born philanthropist who made his fortune in pharmaceuticals, was committed to advancing German-American relations. He created the Max Kade Foundation in 1944 to promote scientific and technical progress and a peaceful coexistence of nations.
A personal friend of many famous German-speaking émigrés in Los Angeles — including the late filmmakers Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder and many actors, writers and musicians — Schnauber’s goal was to bring together newcomers from Germany with authors and composers from German-speaking countries. Another aim was to foster German-Jewish dialogue.
“This is a great opportunity to honor Dr. Schnauber who founded the institute,” Bothe said. “And to move on into the future with the new director Dr. Paul Lerner, and the collaboration that the German studies program and the Max Kade Institute hope to deepen in the future.”
Bothe told guests that the new internship program for German minor students in cooperation with the Goethe International Charter School in Los Angeles successfully completed its second semester in operation since its Fall 2012 launch.
German Consul General Bernd Fischer stressed the importance of the Max Kade Institute: “It teaches not only the German language but also German culture,” he said.
Other speakers at the April 12 event included Andreas Lins, Austria’s deputy consul general; Berlin-born Andreas Kratky, a media artist and assistant professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Michael Meyer, emeritus professor of history at California State University, Northridge, and a founding member of the German American Cultural Society.
Representatives from organizations involved in German studies and programs both on and off campus — many of whom manned information booths at the event — chatted with students.
Guests learned about opportunities to study or work in German-speaking Europe, found out about internships and scholarships around Los Angeles and heard about life and current affairs in Austria and Germany today.
Organizations represented at the open house included the German Studies Program, the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education, and the USC Genocide Resistance research cluster, all housed in USC Dornsife, and the USC Holocaust Studies Collection and USC Feuchtwanger Memorial Library.
Also present were the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, the German-American Business Association, the Wende Museum, the Office of Overseas Studies, the German Academic Exchange Program, the Los Angeles-Berlin Sister City Committee, the German American Cultural Society, and the Getty Research Institute.
Guests enjoyed entertainment provided by students from USC Thornton School of Music and USC School of Social Work alumna Hee-Seung Lee ’08. Thornton’s Eva Siegel sang Brahms accompanied by Lee on piano. Violinist James McFadden-Talbot played Bach, while soprano Sevana Salmasi, accompanied by pianist Jessica Hall, performed works by Emmerich Kálmán and Robert Stolz.
The ubiquitous German flavor continued outside where the popular Currywurst Truck served guests national delicacies such as bratwurst and sauerkraut.
USC German Club Vice President Ko Ricker, a double major in linguistics and narrative studies with a minor in German in USC Dornsife, welcomed visitors to her stand with a smile. She will spend her junior year studying in Dresden, Germany. She is hopeful that her efforts to rebuild a German presence on campus will be aided by the reopening of the Max Kade Institute.
“This is really good news for students who are looking to learn more about German study, travel and opportunities in Germany,” she said. “Hopefully it will encourage more students to get involved in German studies.”