Humanities Consortium to Present ‘Letters from Nazi Germany’

Group seeks to spark community conversations with special project and performance

The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Humanities Consortium – a discipline in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program – is the recipient of a 2017 Missouri Humanities Grant totaling $2,500.

This grant funds a community project involving not only departments at UMKC, but organizations and schools around the metropolitan area. Writing Yourself into History: Performing Letters from Nazi Germany, focuses on love letters written by two average Germans from rural Saxony whose courtship, from May 1938 to their marriage in July 1941, coincided with the mobilization of German society and the rise of Nazism. Scholars, students, and Kansas City residents have translated these letters into a “reader’s theater” to be performed in English for a special audience. Scholars also have produced a series of short, digital lectures framing the play for non-specialists.

The Humanities Consortium is sponsoring this program with the UMKC departments of Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, and Theatre; the UMKC School of Graduate Studies; the High School/College Dual Credit Partnership; Johnson County Community College; the Lee’s Summit School District; the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education; the Shepherd’s Center KC Central; and the Missouri Humanities Council with the support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Dr. Andrew Bergerson, UMKC professor of History and Public Humanities, served as project leader and principle investigator.

“These letters fascinate me because the authors, two ordinary Germans, had to come to terms with the new Third Reich while they were building their relationship,” Bergerson said. “We’ve created this workshop to give ordinary Americans the chance to use these sources to make sense of both the past and the present.”

Other key project leaders include Translation and Scriptwriting: K. Scott Baker, chair, UMKC Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures; Theatrical Direction: Beate Pettigrew, Johnson County Community College; and Film Production: Jennifer Friend, Ph.D., UMKC Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies.

The play will be performed in a workshop environment for the partnering organizations on May 20. A free, public performance of the play will take place June 4 at 2 p.m. in Grant Recital Hall on the UMKC Campus, 5228 Charlotte St. Following the performance, actors and project leaders will engage in a dialogue with audience members.

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