Writer-in-residence offers students rare glimpse into German history

This academic year, the German department welcomed award-winning writer Utz Rachowski to their staff. With a unique cultural background, Rachowski shared his first hand account as a political prisoner in East Germany with Gettysburg students. Rachowski designed German 306, Introduction to German Literature, to reflect his extensive knowledge on the subject of German social and political systems.

Several of his students have praised the course and teaching methodology. Carter McClintock ’12 believes that “Prof. Rachowski has helped to create a more vibrant discussion surrounding the East German government, focusing on modern issues and drawing students to German studies.”

The course focuses specifically on the literary representations of National Socialism and the German Democratic Republic and its impact on individual lives. Rachowski has offered eyewitness accounts and insight into the East German dictatorship and his experiences as a political prisoner in the East and exile in the West until the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sarah Hayes ’14 said Rachowski is “unlike most professors” due to his ability to provide first-hand accounts of the conflicts and historical issues examined in German 306. For instance, when discussing the Stasi in the German Democratic Republic, Hayes explains that “he isn’t just reading us a list of facts, but rather it’s his own life we’re discussing.”

Rachowski first visited Gettysburg College four years ago when he gave a public reading. The German department invited Rachowski to bring his personal knowledge of German literature “as a writer of contemporary German literature, as someone personally familiar with other contemporary writers, and as a critical reader of German literature,” according to German Prof. Laurel Cohen-Pfister.

About Rachowski

Utz RachowskiRachowski was a dissident writer in East Germany who spent one and a half years as a political prisoner in the former socialist state before he was released to West Germany through the efforts of Amnesty International. He is a vocal advocate for victims of East Germany’s secret police. As an award-winning writer and an eyewitness to East German history and culture, Rachowski enriches the cultural program of the German Department in a way that its academically trained faculty cannot. Students are excited at the opportunity to learn from his life story and his literature, and to learn about German literature of the twentieth and twenty-first century from his insider perspective.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Article by Libby Conroy, office of communications and marketing intern
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803