"Behind Barbed Wire – Prisoners of War in the United States and Germany"
March 19 – April 23, 2015
During World War II, more than two million American soldiers fought in Europe. About 90,000 of them came to Germany as prisoners of war, whereas about 370,000 German POWs were interned in the United States. The exhibition “Behind Barbed Wire” shed light on their lives on both sides of the Atlantic.
The more than forty panels illustrated the capture, life in the camps, the return home as well as acts of reconciliation after the war. While all POW experiences revolve around issues of war and peace, justice under arms, human rights, and international reconciliation, the everyday experience in the camps could not have been more different. Many American POWs only survived with food and medical supplies from the Red Cross, whereas German soldiers were often sent out to harvest crops, build roads, lay city sewers and construct housing. In the Midwest, many of their supervisors could still speak German, and some even found relatives or former neighbors among the interned. On the other hand, more than half of the American POWs came from the Midwest, and many of them had German roots. The exhibition documented several cases that illustrate this entangled history: Some farmers sent CARE packages to POWs’ families after the men returned, many exchanged letters or cards for many years after the war, and many POWs happily revisited the U.S. after the war; it is estimated that about five per cent of German POWs eventually emigrated to the United States. In the American camps, German soldiers witnessed democracy and individual freedom, and some of them returned to actively participate in the founding of the German post war democracy.
"The Rejection Collection:
Die besten Cartoons, die der New Yorker nie druckte"
March 20 – April 24, 2014
The New Yorker is not only known for its excellent reporting, commentary, and literature but is also regarded as the Pantheon of American humor. To have a cartoon published in The New Yorker is the ultimate accolade for every cartoonist.
In March and April 2014, the HCA (in cooperation with Galerie Caricatura, Kassel) showed the “Rejection Collection,“ a selection from 250 Cartoons by New Yorker regulars that were never printed – the best of the rest. Strolling through the exhibition, one could not help but notice that some of the cartoons were truly too dumb, too dark, too naughty, too politically incorrect, or simply too bizarre to be published in the venerable magazine. Yet, most cartoons are actually rejected because of the sheer mass submitted to The New Yorker – about 500 a week by the regulars alone.
However, there seem to be a few genuine criteria for rejection, some which were described by Dr. Anja Schüler in her introductory lecture: Too low-brow, too politically incorrect, making fun of race or religion, too dark, too weird. The New Yorker also seems to reject cartoons that are overtly or specifically political, too difficult to understand, or too dirty. And then there are some really bad cartoons; mainly puns, “the domain of amateurs.”
"The Early Days:
Hip-Hop in the GDR"
March 14 – April 25, 2013
From March 14 to April 25, the HCA showed the exhibition „The Early Days – HipHop in East Germany.“ Photographs, t-shirts, radio cassette recorders and other everyday objects served as illustrations of an unusual piece of East German history and showed that in the 1980s, HipHop constituted a truly global youth culture that transcended the Iron Curtain.
The four elements of HipHop culture – breakdance, DJ-ing, rap and graffiti – originated in the New York Bronx. A distinct scene developed quickly in East Germany, challenging the SED state. The movie Beat Street made it to East German movie theaters in 1985 and facilitated HipHop culture in almost all regions of East Germany as well as its networks. HipHop was not prohibited in East Germany but the party wanted to control and contain it where necessary.
The exhibition took a look at the main actors of the HipHop movement and their relationship to the authorities as well as at the spaces breakdancers, rappers, and graffiti artists claimed on the other side of the wall. The exhibition focused on the biographies of the protagonists, based on interviews with contemporaries. Archival material and everyday objects from private collections. Visitors could admire the youngsters‘ gifts for improvisation: “Fat Laces“ were made from old shirts. Graffiti was painted on the wall after spray cans had been prohibited.
For the exhibition opening the HCA welcomed Reno Rössel from the Steinhaus Bautzen e.V., who had conceptualized the exhibition together with the University of Leipzig. The large audience also enjoyed a screening of Nico Raschik‘s movie Here We Come (2006), a portrayal of the HipHop protagonists in East Germany, and had an opportunity to talk to the director.
"Cold War Politics:
Melvin J. Lasky – New York, Berlin, London"
March 22 – April 26, 2012
Once more, the entrance way of the HCA and the atrium served as an exhibition space. From March 22 to April 26, an exhibition told the life story of Melvin Lasky, one of the preeminent personas of the cultural Cold War. Few American journalists were as well known in Western Europe as the extremely well-read and well-connected Lasky. And few were as controversial.
Born in New York in 1920 and raised in the Bronx, the son of Polish Jews was an ardent Trotskyist who turned into a fervent anti-communist and “culture warrior” after 1945. Lasky’s biography impressively reflects the big ideological disputes of the twentieth century. Curated by Maren Roth and Charlotte Lerg, both of the Lasky Center for Transatlantic Studies at the University of Munich, the exhibit recounted Lasky’s life, a “tale of three cities”: New York – Berlin – London.
Its first part documented Lasky’s early years in New York, his education at City College, the University of Michigan, and Columbia University and his work for the New Leader in New York, where he was editor from 1942–1943. After serving in World War II as a combat historian for the 7th Army, Lasky remained in Berlin, where he worked for American military governor Lucius D. Clay. Soon after, Lasky received Marshall Plan funding to create the German-language journal Der Monat, one of the most influential monthlies of the young Federal Republic, appealing to socially progressive but anti-communist intellectuals. Contributors included, among others, George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Böll, Max Frisch, T. S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, and Richard Löwenthal.
The exhibition impressively detailed Lasky’s extensive networks, which he built and maintained as the editor of Der Monat and as the founder of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) at a 1950 conference in West Berlin, both partially financed by the CIA. In 1953, Lasky also became editor of the Encounter, in many respects a British version of the Monat. He moved to London in the late 1950s and remained a sharp intellectual and a busy networker until the end of the Cold War, when he returned to Berlin for good. The numerous visitors of this exhibition on “cold war politics” certainly left with new insights on the cultural aspects of the Cold War.
"The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany"
March 15 – April 22, 2011
Since the end of World War II, almost three million African American soldiers have been stationed in Germany. Many of them contributed to the defeat of the Third Reich. Their experience as part of the occupation army in Germany, where – in contrast to the United States – institutionalized racism did not exist after 1945, became an important impulse for the African American civil rights movement.
In the 1960s, the German student movement became an important platform for civil rights activists in- and outside the U.S. Army in Germany. These little known aspects of civil rights history are now being documented in a digital archive and a photo exhibition that is on display at the HCA in April and May after showings in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and San Francisco, to name a few. The objects in the exhibition range from pictures of black soldiers at the end of the war over cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s and flyers of the student movement to a poster expressing solidarity with Angela Davis.
In the digital archive directed by the two curators of the exhibition, Maria Höhn of Vassar College and Martin Klimke of the HCA and the Germans Historical Institute in Washington, DC, researchers of these three institutions explore the question to what extent the creation of American military institutions outside of the United States facilitated the U.S. civil rights movement. The digital archive documents the experiences of Afro American soldiers, activists, and intellectuals in twentieth century Germany and thus adds a transnational dimension to the history of the American civil rights movement. With this photo exhibition, the HCA utilized its atrium as an exhibition space for the first time and could welcome a sizeable crowd for the opening, among them members of the U.S. Army and the Rhein-Neckar Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.