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Frank Baron is the professor of Germanic languages and literatures and director of the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies.

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Frank Baron, director of the Max Kade Center for German Studies

Name and job title: Frank Baron, professor of Germanic languages and literatures and director of the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies

Years at current job: 1970 to present on the German department teaching staff; 1997 to present as director of the Max Kade center.

Job duties: Teaching, research and service for the German department; administrative tasks for the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies.

Germanic languages and literatures is more than the study of speaking German. What are some of the more diverse topics covered in your department? We cover the major writings and events of Germany’s and Austria’s 1,000-year history. Our department has an interdisciplinary approach. We consider it important to understand language and literature in historical context. Examples of topics are “German Cinema Classics in Context,” “The European Faust Tradition,” “Thomas Mann and His Contemporaries.” Each spring semester our department selects an outstanding German visiting scholar to cover topics of special interest. The current visiting professor is from the University of Kiel, and his area of expertise is the nineteenth century. A list of previous visiting professors is at

You also direct the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies. What is the mission of the center? The mission of the center is to involve students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty members at KU and visiting scholars to investigate the legacy of German immigrants and to preserve their contributions in conference discussions, printed publications and Internet presentations. Our facility serves these aims with resources that include books, historical documents and manuscripts:

The center studies German-speaking immigrants and their contributions to American society. How have such immigrants contributed to Kansas, its history and current state? Estimates show at least 40 percent of Kansans have a German background. The reason is that there have been significant waves of German immigrations into the state of Kansas, the first of which took place in the 1850s, at the time when the earliest pioneers arrived. Later settlements of Germans took place by an indirect path in the last quarter of the 19th century through Russia and most recently by the Mennonites from Mexico to western Kansas. Our center has conducted research about the German settlements of Kansas, with a focus on the analysis of their language. A dialect atlas on our Web site shows the German speech islands throughout the state.

We also have research results about the role that Germans played in the efforts to make Kansas a slave-free state. An impressive gravestone in the middle of Pioneer Cemetery commemorates the death of one of the earliest, Karl Rau, who died on Nov. 4, 1855. Moritz Harttmann, a physician, came here in that year and became a prominent citizen. He promoted the settlement of Humboldt as a slave-free community of Germans. Karl Kob established the first German newspaper, which served this goal vigorously as early as 1587. Germans August Bondi and Karl Kaiser played an important part in the small band of fighters headed by John Brown.

What aspect of your job might others not realize you’re involved with? Our Web site displays the prominent features of the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies' activities: the German dialect atlas, the Humboldt digital library, the legacy of the 1848-49 revolutions in Europe and the United States and especially Kansas, archival materials relating to Albert Bloch, Ernst Rose, Franz Werfel, Lawrence’s sister city Eutin information and publications, most prominently the “Yearbook of German-American Studies.” For the Humboldt digital library see

It is perhaps not generally known that a former KU professor of art and art history, Albert Bloch, played a remarkable role in the history of modern art. As a young man he took part, as the only American, in the first Blue Rider exhibition in Munich, together with the great modernists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Our library houses the most comprehensive archive of Bloch’s art, writings and correspondence. KU students have written two dissertations about Bloch, and we have published four books about him. We display Bloch’s accomplishments prominently at the center:

What do you enjoy most about your profession? Teaching and research. For 14 years I had the opportunity to conduct our summer program in Eutin, Germany. This presence made it possible for me to be actively involved in the exchanges of the program from the beginning to the present (which includes Lawrence high school students, KU bank interns, artists, musicians and others. The United States consulate in Hamburg considers this exchange to be the most active in northern Germany.

At the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies it is my privilege to host the distinguished visiting professors from Germany in the attractive Max Kade apartment. These scholars contribute much to our research and teaching program.

What should today’s students know about prominent German thinkers and writers you study such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse and Albert Bloch? These names are prominent in the courses I teach every semester, and they are also represented in the Max Kade collection. These authors, and others that should be included, represent the shaping of the modern imagination. In any field — our center represents an interdisciplinary approach — the contributions of Germans and Austrians of the 20th century represent an impressive legacy.

What can be learned from the center’s collections, such as those of materials from exiled German individuals from various eras? Historian H. Stuart Hughes wrote: “The migration to the United States of European intellectuals fleeing fascist tyranny has finally become visible as the most important cultural event — or series of events — of the second quarter of the 20th century … Emigration in the 1930s went beyond any previous cultural experience: in its range of talent and achievement it was indeed something new in the modern history of Western man.” This quotation describes the significance of the latest wave of German and Austrians precisely. A large part of the Max Kade book and manuscript collection has to do with this immigration history. On the other hand, less well known is the importance of the previous wave of German immigration. The immigrants who arrived at American shores after the 1848-49 revolutions also had a significant impact. They had been deprived of freedom in Europe, and they became involved in the politics that preceded the Civil War. Many came to fight for a slave-free state in Kansas, but many more participated in the movement that elected President Abraham Lincoln. The Max Kade Center for German-American Studies has become involved in the preservation of a New York archive that tells an important part of this story.

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