Articles and Reviews

Book Review: "German-Americana: Selected Essays," 
The Report: A Journal of German-American Studies
, 46(2011):136-38


German-Americana: Selected Essays.
By Don Heinrich Tolzmann. Milford, OH: Little Miami Publishing Company, 2000. 299 pp. $22.50.

In a section of the volume entitled ":Swiss Travel Notes," Tolzmann relates his reaction upon visiting the Thomas-Mann-Archiv while on a research tour in Zurich: "The crowning gem of the exhibits is a room replicating Mann's personal Arbeitszimmer, or work room... . Impeccably reconstructed, Mann's study takes you into his personal working space, where he greeted and met with visitors..." (92). Although much is made of Don Tolzmann's many valuable contributions to our body of knowledge on the German element in North America - and rightfully so - for this reviewer and perhaps for many of his personal friends and professional colleagues, this collection of essays is an opportunity to enter the work room of Don Heinrich Tolzmann. One senses not only the painstaking research which underpins many of the essays, but the enthusiasm, love, and devotion with which Tolzmann sets about the task of chronicling the history of German settlement in America.

The volume itself consists of thirty-seven chapters divided among five sections named respectively: Anniversaries and Celebrations; People and Places; Authors and Publications; Museums and Centers; Libraries and Research; and Notes and Reviews. The essays are generally evenly distributed over the various sections, although there tends to be a few more contributions per section in the earlier sections. The chapters themselves are largely reprinted from elsewhere, always with a short introductory paragraph by Tolzmann which outlines the time and situation in which the item first appeared. Most, but not all, of the chapters reproduce full essays as might appear in an academic publication. Some were never essays per se but rather public speeches or addresses, most notably Tolzmann's remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 2, 1987, after President Reagan proclaimed October 6th German-American Day. There are also a number of essays - ten by my count - which have not appeared in print previously.

The individual chapters themselves cover an extremely wide range of topics. In his foreword, Jerry Glenn notes the depth and breadth of Tolzmann's work, a fact which is mirrored in the subject matter of the collected essays. Glenn also notes the personal flavor of many of the contributions, an observation borne out particularly in the "travel notes" section as cited above. Given the diversity of material in the volume it is likely that each reader will have his or her particular favorite. There are essays of general interest, essays with a very specific focus, and essays which reflect Tolzmann's interests. For this reviewer, the winner is "German Contributions to America" (Chapter Seven). As Tolzmann himself says, it is his attempt to summarize the topic in a "brief and concise" (43) manner, and he succeeds masterfully. Indeed it takes an expert to concisely and accurately pull together reams of information into a coherent narrative.

The volume itself is attractively laid out. Each chapter stands on its own and can be read individually, which means that this is a volume which can be kept near at hand and enjoyed in spare moments. It is regrettable that there are so many typographical errors, especially surprising in a collection consisting largely of reprints. Nonetheless, as Jerry Glenn points out, "readers of this book will learn a great deal and will enjoy every minute of the learning process" (xi).

Loyola University Maryland, Randall P. Donaldson