Articles and Reviews

Finally United: Tolzmann's Essays on German-Americana

Don Heinrich Tolzmann, German Americana . Selected Essays.
Milford , Ohio : Little Miami Publishing, 2009. 300 pages. $ 22.50 plus $3.00 shipping.

Gert NiersBy Gert Niers
Don Heinrich Tolzmann, the author of this essay collection, is not unknown to anybody seriously interested in German-American history, literature, and culture.

For many years a librarian and professor at the University of Cincinnati, as well as president of the Society for German-American Studies, Don Heinrich Tolzmann has established himself as one of the leading scholars of his field and a most meritorious promoter of everything German-American (the German government honored him with the Bundesverdienstkreuz).

During his tenure in academe and beyond, Tolzmann has dedicated his time and efforts unselfishly to the research and preservation of German culture in the United States, covering all areas of German settlement and influence.

At the University of Cincinnati , he designed a degree program for German-American Studies and organized a German-Americana Collection as part of the Rare Books Department of Blegen Library. addition, Dr. Tolzmann, left, is well-known for his role in establishing the annual celebration of German-American Day and German-American Month.

Apart from his own writings, he has engaged himself in the preservation of numerous books of German-American relevance which would have continued their Dornröschenschlaf  had he not awakened them through a reprint edition.

In the course of years, he not only saved seminal works on German-Americana from oblivion but also advised countless students during their completion of term papers, M.A. theses and doctoral dissertations. Now his own collected writings of various sources and occasions have found their way between two book covers.

The carefully illustrated volume is divided into six parts under the following titles: Anniversaries and Celebrations, People and Places, Authors and Publications, Museums and Centers, Libraries and Research, Notes and Reviews.

Like a red thread, personal explanations aptly placed at the beginning of various chapters bind the collection together. Depending on the context, Tolzmann portraits well-known German-American personalities and sheds light on lesser known figures. and fact sheets contain valuable information that is not always easily accessible. Apart from famous names like Franz Daniel Pastorius, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, Carl Schurz, and John A. Roebling, the reader comes across other German-Americans of important contributions, such as Friedrich Hecker, Friedrich Muench, Heinrich Armin Rattermann, Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, Albert Steinhauser, and many others.

Tolzmann also pays tribute to Robert E. Ward, the elder statesman of German-Americana whose Journal of  German-American Studies became the forerunner to the Yearbook of the same discipline.

In his preface Tolzmann points out that this essay collection should be understood as the counterpart to his groundbreaking early publication, German-Americana: A Bibliography (first published in 1975 at Scarecrow Press in Metuchen , New Jersey ).

However, this new essay collection can also be read as a more subjective collection of thoughts and concerns, almost an autobiography.  It maps out the field of research that became the life purpose of this scholar. could also be read as a follow-up publication to his history book titled The German-American Experience in which Tolzmann pays homage to the research results of preceding scholars (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2000), and it also shows the widening of his scope since the publication of The Cincinnati Germans After the Great War (New York: Peter Lang, 1987), still an exemplary case study.

Gert Niers
Point Pleasant, NJ
June 29, 2009