2012-13 Events

A photo of windmills
“The German Energiewende: Renewable Energy for the Economy of the Future”

April 29, 2013

with Dr. Hermann Ott

Dr. Hermann Ott has been a Member of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) and the Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) speaker on climate policy since 2009. He is also a member of the Bundestag’s “Commission on Growth, Prosperity and Quality of Life.” Before becoming a politician, he worked as a scientist, policy advisor and author at one of Germany’s leading think tanks, The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, where he was the director of the Climate Program, and later head of the institute’s Berlin office. Hermann Ott studied law and politics and wrote his doctoral dissertation on “Environmental Regimes in International Law.” As part of his professional career he worked at the European Commission in Brussels, the United Nations Ozone Secretariat in Nairobi, as well as the German Foreign Office where he was a member of the policy planning team.

Dr. Ott brings together the expertise of a renowned scientist and the experience and insights of a politician in the fields of climate and energy policy — especially the German energy transition (Energiewende). After participating in international climate conferences for many years, he advocates climate clubs as forerunners in international climate policy to overcome the current stalemate. Dr. Ott emphasizes a crucial link between climate policy and energy transition. He argues that an Energiewende will only be successful and sustainable with the right compass at hand — with combating climate change as one of the main directing and decisive factors.

Photograph of a man holding a baby in the Warsaw ghetto
“Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 19, 1943”

April 21, 2013

An evening of songs and testimonies from letters, diaries and memoirs

In October 1942, the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto was ordered. In January 1943, armed resistance to the deportations began forcing their suspension. On April 19, 1943, the Germans ordered Ukrainian auxiliaries to reenter the ghetto to round up the remaining Jews. The Jews managed to resist the assault for three weeks. On May 8, the fighters were killed, the remaining Jews deported to killing centers. The Warsaw ghetto, with its 400,000 Jews, was liquidated.

We are commemorating the courage and endurance of the Jews of Warsaw in an evening that features Yiddish songs and diary entries composed in the ghetto, as well as letters and accounts written outside the ghetto by distressed Polish and German witnesses to the destruction.


Susanne Klingenstein
Kathy Lawrence


Sophie Michaux (mezzo soprano)
Eugenia Gerstein (piano, choral conductor)
Temple Emanuel Choir

Event poster with a globe in rainbow colors. Text says: Tuesday, April 9, 2013. International Conference. Transatlantic Perspectives of Gay Marriage. The Court of Law and the Court of Public Opinion.
“Transatlantic Perspectives on Gay Marriage: The Court of Law and the Court of Public Opinion”

International conference held in cooperation with the Goethe Institut Boston


Nancy Cott, History, Harvard University

Jennifer Evans, History, Carleton University, Canada

Bruno Perreau, French Studies, MIT

Axel Hochrein, Federal Association of Gays and Lesbians in Germany (Bundesvorstand des Lesben und Schwulenverbandes in Deutschland [LSVD])

Florence Tamagne, History, University of Lille, France

David Paternotte, Political Science, Universite Libre of Belgium


Luncheon and panel discussion at the Faculty Club Lounge, Brandeis University

Panel Discussion at the Goethe Institut Boston, followed by a reception courtesy of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany.

About the Conference

This international conference aims to shed light on the past and present struggle for human rights and against discrimination that has become synonymous with the term gay marriage. Experts from Germany, Belgium, France, Canada and the U.S. will place the current debate surrounding civil partnernship and gay marriage into the context of various rights struggles throughout the 20th century, and will explain the European diffusion of same-sex union laws and the globalization of same-sex marriage claims as well as highlight the stakes involved in bringing the institutional and legal history of marriage in the United States to bear on same-sex couples’ marriage rights today. The conference aims to draw attention to the wide spectrum of political and societal forces at work in the process of achieving legal and actual equality, and the challenges that continue to exist in the form of prejudices, hate crimes and gay bashing.

Why This Conference Now?

The struggle for marriage equality is currently fought openly on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2001, Germany’s federal government approved of civil unions for same-sex partners. It represented a significant milestone in a long and painful history of discrimination. Dubbed Homo-Ehe [homo-marriage], it is not technically identical to legal marriage.

However, recent constitutional court decisions have challenged remaining restrictions like abortion rights. On January 13, 2013, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against gay marriage in Paris, France. Yet in the polls, over 60% of the French approve of same-sex marriage in principle. On February 5, 2013, the British parliament approved marriage for same-sex couples, joining several other European countries, including Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Today, nine U.S. states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington, as well as the Disctrict of Columbia — have legalized same-sex marriage. Former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996, is now calling on the Supreme Court to rule the same law unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on March 27, 2013. Clearly, the legal battles are pointing in one direction.

But do these victories represent an actual change in public opinion? The conference hopes to address these timely questions with the help of this international forum of experts from both sides of the Atlantic.

Watch a video of the event

Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis University (CGES)
Goethe Institut Boston
Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany
Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Brandeis University
Interdepartmental Program in Sexuality and Queer Studies at Brandeis University
Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University
Legal Studies Program at Brandeis University
Brandeis University Intercultural Center
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University

Discussion with Filmmaker Jeanine Meerapfel

April 15, 2013

Jeanine Meerapfel is a German-Argentine filmmaker and screenwriter. Her film “My German Friend” (2012) was screened on Saturday, April 13 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. “In the Country of My Parents” (1981) was screened Sunday, April 14 at the West Newton Cinema. Both screenings were part of the National Center for Jewish Film’s Annual Film Festival (April 10-21)

About “My German Friend

In her latest feature film, Jeanine Meerapfel tells the story of a deep love in a time of political upheaval and historical change. Sulamit, the daughter of Jewish emigrants from Germany, is growing up in Buenos Aires in the 1950s. Living cheek by jowl are Jews and Nazis who have fled from Europe and been thrown together again in a foreign country. As a young girl, Sulamit meets Friedrich, a young German boy, whose family lives in the house directly opposite. They quickly become close. When Friedrich learns that his father was a high-ranking officer in the SS, he breaks with his family and goes to Germany. He soon joins the German student movement. Sulamit follows him a few years later. But she realizes that he is so politically engaged that there is little room for their love. Sulamit studies, later working as a translator, and starts up a relationship with Michael, an assistant at the university, who loves and helps her. But it is with Friedrich that her heart lies. When Friedrich leaves Germany to join an Argentinean guerrilla movement, they lose contact and he disappears without a trace. Sulamit embarks on a search that takes her up to Patagonia. 

About “In the Country of My Parents”

As in her first feature-length film MALOU, Jeanine Meerapfel examines in this autobiographical film what it means to live as a Jew in Germany today. The filmmaker was born in Argentina. Her mother tongue is Spanish. She came to Germany in 1964. Her friend tells her: “There are far worse things happening today than to be a Jewish woman in Germany.”

“My Oma, the Tank Driver — My Papa, the Survivor: WWII and the Holocaust in the Eyes of German Brandeis Students”

April 15, 2013

What does it mean to grow up German today, having to come to grips with German history?

Brandeis students from Germany talk about their upbringing, their schooling and their mixed family background.


Jonathan Jecker
Sarah Klapisch
Nelly Schlaefereit
Alex Schmidt


Elena Korn
Abe Feldan

Photograph from the event poster, a screenshot from the film about Gabriella Hartstein Auspitz's life.
Film Screening and Discussion: “A Letter to Wedgwood: The Life of Gabriella Hartstein Auspitz”

March 21, 2013

A documentary film directed by Yale Strom

Post-film discussion with Gabriella Hartstein Auspitz

Gabriella Hartstein was born in 1914 in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia, a thriving and cosmopolitan Jewish city where secular Hungarian Jews co-existed with Hasidim and Zionists. When British Colonel Josiah Wedgwood came to the city in 1922 to speak about Christian Zionist support for a plan to create the State of Israel, 8-year-old Gabriella was selected to greet the esteemed visitor. Gabriella became a respected teacher and ardent Zionist. In 1938, following the invasion of Czechoslovakia by German-backed Hungarian fascists, Gabriella wrote to Wedgwood for help. Astonishingly, Wedgwood (by then Lord Wedgwood) interceded, eventually bringing Gabriella and her brother to England. The 55-minute film is based on Ms. Auspitz’s 2004 memoir “My Righteous Gentile.”

Co-sponsored by:
National Center for Jewish Film
Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry
Facing History and Ourselves
Harvard Hillel Worship and Study Minyan
Harvard University Center for European Studies

Lunch with German Authors Nora Bossong and Sherko Fatah

February 27, 2013

Johannes Brahms
“Love in Schlossberg Village”

February 9, 2013

A folk opera based on the music of Johannes Brahms, directed by James Olesen

Fully staged in German and open to the public with a reception after the performance.

Sponsored by:
Brandeis University Chorus
Brandeis Chamber Choir
Voice Department.

“Clemency for Sodom and Gomorrah”

February 5, 2013

with composer James MacMillan and Professor Jonathan P. Decter

Discover how the story of Abraham and Sarah has played a prominent role in the histories of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and inspired BLO’s Opera Annex production “Clemency.”

November 15, 2013

Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was a Jewish woman from The Netherlands who kept a diary during the years 1941-1943, where she recorded her impressions of the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands and of her own experience serving on the Jewish Council. She was eventually deported to Auschwitz and killed. Her diaries were published 20 years ago under the title “An Interrupted Life” and have made her widely known. New York based actress Susan Stein presented her one-woman drama, “Etty,” a play based on the diaries of Etty Hillesum.

With an introduction by Andreas Teuber, Department of Philosophy

Co-sponsored by:
The Department of Philosophy
The Program in Coexistence and Conflict at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
The Program in Peace and Conflict Studies
The Theater Department
The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry
The Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

We are grateful to Elena Korn ’13 for her inspiration and hard work to bring this performance about.

December 6, 2012

Jewish-German Dialogue with Professor Sander Gilman, Emory University

The recent debates about infant male circumcision in Germany and California have highlighted what is an older and more complicated discussion of ritual versus rights. This debate was of particular importance in Germany beginning in the Enlightenment, as it defined the boundaries of acceptable practice for Jews in their new role as full citizens of a national state. Today’s debate (unlike that of the 18th century) stresses the need for collaboration between Jews and Muslims in the contemporary world in redefining what it takes to make a good citizen.

Sander L. Gilman is a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of over eighty books.

Co-sponsored by the European Cultural Studies Program.

“Remembering Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938)”

Jewish-German Dialogue with Generalkonsul Rolf Schuette, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New England.

Think Transatlantic! Campusweek

In this year’s “Think Transatlantic! Campusweek” sponsored by the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis aims to highlight key issues of the 2012 U.S. elections. Experts from both countries come together to discuss what the U.S. can learn from Germany and Germany’s cooperation with other countries in Europe, and where and why our paths may merge.

October 16, 2012

Gesundheit: Comparing The Healthcare Systems in Germany and the U.S.”

Stuart Altman, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Sophia Schlette, Federal Ministry of Health, Berlin, Germany (invited)

October 17, 2012

“Integration: Immigrants in Germany in and the U.S.”

Jytte Klausen, Politics, Brandeis University
Ammar Alkassar CDU, Saarland: since 2008 speaker of the saarländischen Altstipendiaten der Kontrad-Adenauer Stiftung

October 22, 2012

“NATO 2012: The Transatlantic Alliance and National Security in Times of Terrorism and Globalization”

The German Ambassador to NATO Martin Erdmann in conversation with Professor Robert Art, Politics, Brandeis University

October 25, 2012

“Krise: National Debt, Unemployment, the Euro”

The Economic Crisis in Germany, Europe and the U.S.

Catherine L. Mann, Brandeis University International Business School
Armin Steinbach, Center for European Studies, Harvard University

November 2, 2012

“Umwelt: Energy Independence, Regulation, Climate Change”

Environmental Challenges in Germany, Europe and the U.S.

Charles Chester, Environmental Studies, Brandeis University

November 7, 2012

Post-U.S.-Election Luncheon Conversation in conclusion of our “Think Transatlantic! Campusweek”

November 5, 2012

Young Russian-Jewish author Gary Shteyngart read from his best-selling novels “The Russian Debutante's Handbook” (2002); “Absurdistan” (2006), and “Super Sad True Love Story” (2010). 

Introduction by Dr. Kathy Lawrence.

In cooperation with:
Brandeis Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry
Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry
Department of English
The Program in Creative Writing
Department of German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature
The Russian Culture Club

“Voltaire and Frederick”

October 22, 2012

The World Premiere of “Voltaire and Fredrick: A Life in Letters,” a new play commissioned by the Goethe-Institut Boston in partnership with the Consulat Général de France, will feature American Repertory Theater founding member Thomas Derrah and Actor’s Shakespeare Project founding member John Kuntz. The Stage Reading runs 75 minutes (in English).

About the Play

Commissioned in honor of Frederick II’s 300th birthday,“Voltaire and Fredrick: A Life in Letters” is an overview of the pen pal friendship between these two great thinkers that spanned almost half a century. The play is made up of selected letter exchanges between the great French-European philosopher and the Royal Prince (and later King) of Prussia, beginning when the latter was a mere 24 years old (and the former 42) and ending with the eulogy Frederick II wrote in memoriam of Voltaire’s death in 1778.

Their intensive correspondence on everything from questions of torture and human rights to good and bad governance, from handling a global financial crisis to judging whether a war is justified or unjustified, all in the context of a newly enlightened Europe, is surprisingly modern. Much of it rings true in our own politicized times including the ongoing German-French wrangling at the center of Europe. Voltaire and Frederick’s tempestuous and unfolding love-hate relationship gives insight not only into the history of the 18th century but also into more general ideas about love, desire, desperation, death and God.

Thomas Derrah (Voltaire) is a founding member of the American Repertory Theater and has acted in 119 of its productions. His numerous awards include the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence and IRNE Awards for Best Actor. He has appeared in many films and television productions including “Mystic River” (directed by Clint Eastwood) and “The Pink Panther II.” He is on the faculty of the A.R.T. Institute, teaches acting at Harvard University and Emerson College, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

John Kuntz (Frederick) is a founding company member of the Actors Shakespeare Project and has acted with many theater companies including Lyric Stage, Huntington Theatre Company and Commonwealth Shakespeare. He is the author of 14 full-length plays for which he has received numerous awards. He received both an Elliot Norton Award and New York International Fringe Festival Award for his solo show “Starfuckers” and his plays “Sing Me To Sleep” and “Freaks!” both received Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Fringe Production. His newest solo show, “The Salt Girl,” received the 2010 Elliot Norton Award for Best New Play and was recently performed at the Boston Playwrights Theatre, directed and designed by David Gammons. He teaches at Suffolk University and is on the faculty of The Boston Conservatory.

Guy Ben Aharon (Director/Producer), born in Israel, is the producing artistic director and founder of Israeli Stage, an initiative to bring Israeli theatre to American audiences. Guy is also the sole proprietor and president of GBA Productions LLC, a commercial entity that is dedicated to producing theatrical ventures. He has directed and produced seven plays for Israeli Stage, featuring multiple IRNE and Elliot Norton Award winning actors; of those five plays: one world premiere, three American premieres and three regional premieres. Though primarily focused on producing and directing, Guy has experience with musical directing, conducting and composing for straight plays as well as musicals. Guy is a proud Emerson College alumnus where he was the Waldman Award recipient for an exceptional promise for a career in theater.

About German Stage

German Stage is an initiative supported by the Goethe-Institut Boston to explore narrative in German culture and society through theater. In addition to presenting stage readings of contemporary German plays in the presence of the invited playwrights, German Stage develops staged works that address current and historical topics in Germany. The series was developed in close collaboration with Guy Ben-Aharon, producing artistic director and founder of Israeli Stage.

Rachel Cylus

October 10, 2012

A young American scholar, Rachel Cylus, talked about  the work she is doing to understand the current state of historic synagogues in Germany. Among her guiding research questions were: Where are these synagogues? How are they being used? Who visits them? Her research took her to small towns and cities throughout Germany, particularly in the East, to learn about how communities are interacting with local Jewish history through re-discovered Jewish historic sites. In her talk, Rachel discusses the sites she visited, their accomplishments and the challenges they face, along with the story of preserving Jewish history in unlikely places over the last 20 years.

“Berlin ist Eine Frau” with Annika Krump

October 11, 2012

Annika Krump’s new program leads us on a journey through the Berlin of the last 100 years in the voices of its most exciting female chansonnieres. With the help of chansons made famous by Claire Waldoff, Blandine Ebinger, Lotte Lenya, Marlene Dietrich, Hildegard Knef, Nina Hagen, Nena and Judith Holofernes, the singer and accordionist tells the story of Berlin from the Weimar Republic and the depression era to the time of the fall of the wall, reunification and the present.

Annika Krump is a musical talent of great variety who has brought her one-woman show to audiences all around the world, from Europe to Asia, Australia and the U.S. In Berlin she has made a name for herself as founder and artistic director of a number of salons, including the “Green-Wednesdays-Salon” at the Volksbühne, the Varietéshow “Palma Kunkel welcomes you...” in the historic Palace of Tears, and most recently with “Salon Papillon” in the Underground Circus Willisi.