The Theatrical Concept Powerful Enough to Break a Trumpian Spell 

The Great German Playwright Bertholt Brecht Knew How to Jolt an Audience Out of Narrative Complacency

“All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.”
— Bertholt Brecht, Solidarity Song

How strange to watch Trump’s failed insurrection on Congress unfold from one’s living room TV during COVID lockdown—sidelined by stay-at-home orders, reduced to binging the way one might devour The Queen’s Gambit or Ozark into the wee hours with snacks and pets sharing the couch. Watching an attempted coup was a strangely stupefying and passive experience.

It all looked a bit …

It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory  | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory 

Returning Jews and Local Communities Worked Together to Lead Germany Toward Historical Reckoning

In the early postwar years in the German town of Warendorf, no one contributed as much to facing the difficult past as Hugo Spiegel. He was not a learned man. …

A Letter From Bonn, Where Quiet Calm Meets COVID | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Letter From Bonn, Where Quiet Calm Meets COVID

A Powerful and Transparent Health System—And a Confident Chancellor—Counteract a Crisis

As a resident of Bonn, a small college city that once served as West Germany’s capital, I know something about calm and its connection to health.

I live a brisk walk …

Waltzing With Polar Bears | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Waltzing With Polar Bears

The Unexpected Joy of Viewing Photos From a Forgotten German Fad

Combing through photographs at flea markets brings its own particular thrill. The act carries a voyeuristic delight, akin to reading a stranger’s diary or listening in on someone else’s confession.

Every …

How Concentration Camp Prisoners Found Comfort in Imaginary Feasts

From Ravensbrück to Mao's Labor Camps, Inmates Recited Family Recipes to Preserve Their Humanity

When the Soviet Union sent Dmitri Likhachev to an offshore detention camp in February 1928, the Russian scholar was crammed onto a train car with other prisoners and handed a …

When Does a Garden-Variety Demagogue Become Dangerous?

In 1923, Adolf Hitler Created a Fictional Persona to Recast Himself as Germany's Savior

In the summer of 1923, Adolf Hitler realized he had a problem. Germany was in the midst of an extreme economic crisis that inspired widespread feelings of disaffection, worries about …