Events | Los Angeles as a Site of German-American Crossings

Los Angeles | February 7, 2014 – February 8, 2014

The symposium asks whether Los Angeles, or Southern California more broadly, could be viewed as a site, a sort of Heimat, of German history. It explores the “local” history of Los Angeles through the lens of German and Central European history and the experiences of émigrés from German-speaking lands in Los Angeles. The contributions of German immigrants, émigrés, and exiles to Los Angeles history are legion, and even include one of the founders of the University of Southern California, Isaiah Hellmann. The symposium focuses in particular on the extraordinarily fruitful exchange of people after the 1920s that helped to reshape Los Angeles: entrepreneurs, studio executives, artists, intellectuals, directors, scientists, architects, and, the often overlooked ordinary people who restarted their lives in the City of Angels.

While the contributions of many of these figures are well-known, and a great many have been studied as individuals, the organizers would like to explore how these people encountered Los Angeles in their lives and work and what difference their own German/Central European roots made in reshaping Los Angeles. Exile studies, by now a well-developed field of inquiry, has tended to focus predominately on major cultural figures and key intellectuals. It has also remained largely a subfield unto itself and has yet to be integrated substantially into either the local history of Los Angeles and California or modern central European history. By tracing changing styles and practices in fields as diverse as architecture, design, business, science, art, and film, the symposium shall explore how émigrés created new hybrid practices out of their encounters with Los Angeles (and America more broadly). However, they did not bring a static “German” or “Austrian” style that was merely imported into America, rather their experiences in Los Angeles created novel cultural forms.

The organizers hope, in short, to stimulate a lively discussion on the nature of Los Angeles through a mid twentieth-century Central European mirror. They are envisioning a lively workshop with short pre-circulated papers and intensive discussions among the invited experts, who range in age from doctoral students to emeritus professors and include scholars on business, culture, and science from both sides of the Atlantic.

Central questions to be addressed:
• How and why did the subject(s) arrive in Los Angeles?
• What sort of impressions did s/he have of Los Angeles/America?
• What were the results of this “encounter” for his/her career, thinking, art, or entrepreneurship?
• What aspects of “coming to America” or Los Angeles could not be absorbed by the person, i.e. which ones came as a shock of the new?
• How did this person navigate the shoals of a transatlantic identity in an age of divisive conflict?
• What relationship did the figure have (or not have) to his/her German identity? What sort of relationship did s/he maintain with Germany and/or relatives back home?
• How did the individual’s identity shift between the vectors of Germanness, Jewishness and Americanness over his/her life abroad?
• What was distinct about Los Angeles/California/the West as a site of emigration as compared to New York or other cities like London, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, or Cape Town?
• What sorts of local and global networks did the individual(s) maintain?

Host: The Max Kade Institute for Austrian-German-Swiss Studies, USC

German Historical Institute, Washington DC (Director: Prof. Dr. Hartmut Berghoff)
Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung, Cologne
Institute for California and the West, USC (Director: Prof. William Deverell)
Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, USC (Ms. Michaela Ullmann, Exile Studies Librarian)
Centre for Business History in Scotland (Director: Ray Stokes)
German Consulate General of Los Angeles

Paul Lerner (Director of the Max Kade Institute, Associate Professor of History, USC)
Jeffrey Fear (Professor, University of Glasgow)

Los Angeles as a Site of German-American Crossings
A Symposium, February 7-8, 2014
Day 1, Friday, February 7, 2014
Venue: Max Kade Institute, USC
9:00 Greetings, Introductions & Opening remarks (Deverell, Biedermann, Lerner, Fear)

9:30-11:30 Session 1: Intellectuals, Writers, Artists
Chair: Marje Schuetze-Coburn, USC Libraries

Ehrhard (Ted) Bahr, (UCLA): Weimar on the Pacific Revisited

Thomas Wheatland (Assumption College): Critical Theory. The Los Angeles Years

Michaela Ullmann (USC): A Lasting Legacy: Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger’s Impact on Preserving the Memory of German-Speaking Exiles in Southern California

11:30–12:00 Coffee Break

12:00–13:30 Session 2: Lunchtime Panel on Exhibiting the Émigrés
Chair: Bill Deverell, USC

Karen Wilson (UCLA/Autry): Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic

Doris Berger (Skirball Cultural Center): Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood 1933-1950

13:30-14:00 Coffee Break

14:00-16:00 Session 3: Immigrant Entrepreneurs in California
Chair: Jeffrey Fear

Hartmut Berghoff (GHI): The German-American Immigrant Entrepreneur Project

Uwe Spiekermann (GHI): The Spreckels Family in Southern California

Kathleen Feeley (University of Redlands): American, then German: Irving Thalberg and the Second Generation in Hollywood

18:00-20:00 Dinner at University Club (USC)
Cornelius Schnauber (USC): Speak German You Are In Hollywood: Episodes and Experiences with German-Speaking Exiles and Émigrés.
Day 2, Saturday, February 8th, 2014
Venue: Villa Aurora, Pacific Palisades
9:00 Bus from Hotel to Villa Aurora

10:00-12:30 Session 4: Exile, Science and the State
Chair: Jonathan Steinberg (University of Pennsylvania)

Judith Goodstein (CalTech): Caltech’s German Connection

Anne Schenderlein (UCSD): Making German History in Los Angeles: German-Jewish Refugees and the West German Foreign Office

Giles Hoyt (University of Indiana): Max Kade: Pertussin and Philanthropy

12:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-16:00 Session 5: Film Worlds
Chair: Steven Ross, USC

Nicole Neuman (Univ. of Minnesota): Home Sweet Heimat: Finding Germanness in LA’s Moviegoing Culture

Margrit Frölich (UCSD, DAAD Visiting Professor): Liberties and Constrictions: Émigré Producers in Hollywood Motion Pictures

Tom Kemper (USC): Sue Mengers and the Rise of the Hollywood Agents


16:00-16:30 Coffee Break

16:30-18:30 Session 6: Weimar on the Pacific Revisited: Exiles between Two Worlds
Chair: Paul Lerner (USC)

Marion Kant (Cambridge University): “For the Time Being a Row of Palm Trees Is Nothing but a Nice Façade”

Cristina Stanca Mustea (Paris), No More Crossings: Carl Laemmle’s Last Visit to Germany

Joachim Schlör (Southampton): Werner Richard Heymann in Hollywood: A Case Study in German-Jewish Emigration after 1933 as a Transnational Experience

18:30-21:00 Closing Reception Sponsored by German Consulate General of Los Angeles
21:00 Bus to Biltmore Hotel

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