Letter from the Chair

2 September 2021

Letter from the Chair –

I find writing this letter more of a challenge than I had hoped just two or three months ago. The German Department has come through the last academic year and a half in very good shape. Our enrollments have done well; a great many of our students have stressed how valuable they found our classes in 2020-21, how much they appreciated the personal attention received from our faculty, even for classes that were taught remotely over Zoom. Enrollments look strong, and the German Department is currently planning a series of events, poster exhibits, film screenings, guest speakers, and more for the fall semester (all with co-sponsorship from the German Embassy, UVA’s Max Kade Cultural Center, Center for the German Studies, and Jewish Studies Program). We’re planning a poster exhibition and discussion with a representative from the German Embassy about the German federal elections on September 26. Also planned is an exhibit produced by the Leo Baeck Institute for Jewish Research on “1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany” (or what would become Germany), accompanied by several talks addressing the subject of this important milestone. We are additionally planning two more important exhibits: one dealing with the groundbreaking early researchers of the Holocaust; and one devoted to the remarkable Sophie Scholl (1921-1943), a student political activist who formed part of the core of the White Rose movement in Germany which, in the 1940s, produced pamphlets denouncing Hitler, the Nazi regime and the persecution and mass murder of the Jews – a protest action for which several, including Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, paid for with their lives. In addition to these events and exhibits, we have once again our usual panoply of stimulating courses in German and English for the fall, which can be found on this website as well as the easily searchable “Lou’s List.”

Yet, as I note above, I find this to be more a challenging time than I had anticipated earlier this summer. Like everyone else, I had high hopes back then that this fall we would at UVA be able to re-enter the classrooms and all buildings on grounds with nary a worry for those who are vaccinated (97% of UVA students on grounds, 92%-96% of faculty and staff, according to the latest numbers I have seen). Yet, just over a week into the semester, we are all masked in classes and UVA buildings, student housing excepted, and this masking policy, initially set for review on September 6, has just been extended to October 1. Whether or not UVA – and the conditions we currently live under – will require that we continue to mask thereafter, we will know soon enough. Additionally, those with vulnerable family members may choose to continue wearing masks in any event or even, when needed, to teach remotely. Yet, UVA health officials also point out that the very high vaccination rate at UVA and the relatively high vaccination rate in Charlottesville both make the UVA Grounds one of the safest places to be just now.

For that reason, I remain at this time cautiously optimistic about the coming semester. A last note in that regard – as I write this letter, a little over a week since the start of classes, I am struck, as are many of my colleagues, by how truly engaged our students are, how well-prepared and eager they are to participate in class, to interact with faculty and their fellow students alike. As always, our students provide the strongest indication that we can expect a successful academic year in 2021-2022.

Warm Regards,

Jeffrey Grossman, Chair