Deutsches Haus

Our programs cover a range of Germanic languages and cultures, providing a cultural resource for the wider intellectual and professional community of New York City. Frequent events throughout the fall and spring terms offer students opportunities to practice their language skills, to experience Germanic culture, and to participate in exchanges on academic topics as well as current political and social issues. Cultural programs and social activities sponsored by Deutsches Haus are free and open to the public.

The Deutsches Haus Library, located on the second floor in Deutsches Haus, is open to all German undergraduate and graduate students. This library is a designated study space for students of German. Literature and philosophy books in German and English are available for on-site use. 

Deutsches Haus has academic ties to Columbia University's distinguished faculties in Germanic and other languages and literatures, and to the prestigious scholarly journal, New German Critique.

Established at Columbia University in 1911 by Edward Dean Adams and Rudolf Tombo, Deutsches Haus was the first foreign language house to be founded at an American University. Since then, Deutsches Haus has forged a vital link between German culture and the rich artistic life of New York City: we have introduced German authors, critics, politicians, philosophers, directors and entrepreneurs to an American audience concerned with German affairs.

A partial list of intellectuals who have spoken at Deutsches Haus reads like a history of the twentieth century: Edmund Husserl, Max Planck, Max Brod, Gerhart Hauptmann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Arnold Zweig, Stefan Qweig and Thomas Mann; Günter Grass, Max Frisch, Uwe Johnson, Wolfgang Koeppen, Barbara Frischmuth and Niklas Luhmann.

The fate of Deutsches Haus has been closely tied to political events. As a consequence of World War I, Deutsches Haus was closed in 1917, and the facility reopened as a workroom for the Columbia War Hospital in January 1918.

In the spring of 1928, F. W. Lafrentz, President of the Germanistic Society of America, urged the reestablishment of Deutsches Haus at Columbia University, enlisting the aid of the Columbia University president N. M. Butler.

University President Butler opened the new Deutsches Haus in 1929. The New York Times as well as other American and German newspapers featured the cultural center in front-page articles. For the numerous scholars and businessmen attending and supporting the re-opening, the Haus embodied the "good will" in the restoration of German-American relations. There were congratulatory messages also from numerous German officials and intellectuals such as Edmund Husserl and Max Planck, as well as from authors and poets such as Max Brod, Gerhart Hauptmann, Freiherr von Münchausen, Hugo von Hoffmansthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Clara Viebig, Arnold Zweig, Stefan Zweig, and Thomas Mann.

Operation of Deutsches Haus ceased again during World War II. During the 1950s and 1960s many German-Jewish émigrés participated in Deutsches Haus programs both as speakers and active audience, thus significantly shaping and preserving Bildung in the United States.

In 1972, after the original building was torn down and the location of Deutsches Haus had changed several times, the cultural center moved to its current address at 420 West 116th Street.

Early on, Deutsches Haus was dedicated to preserving Germany's unique cultural and literary tradition. Later in the twentieth and now in the twenty-first century, its mission has developed to incorporate a more dynamic understanding of culture in its transnational contexts.

The film and lecture series, recitals, and informal social events hosted at Deutsches Haus have also come to increasingly incorporate cultural representations from the smaller language and cultural programs, such as Dutch, Swedish, Yiddish, and Finnish, which are a vital part of the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia University.

In the twenty-first century, the audience attending Deutsches Haus has become more diverse. As the American interest in German culture has evolved, so too has the curriculum of the Germanic Languages Department and with it the program of Deutsches Haus. Initially dedicated to preserving Germany's unique literary tradition, Deutsches Haus today seeks to integrate various facets of German, Austrian, Swiss, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and Yiddish culture into an extended dialogue, and to explore both historical and contemporary cultural processes in transnational environments.

Today's New Yorkers look to Deutsches Haus as a resource to discover new developments in German film, literature, theater and performance, political commentary, popular culture and criticism. A strong presence on campus with its conferences, lectures, films, symposia and readings, the Haus is a lively center of international and interdisciplinary scholarly exchange. Topics and formats range from general issues of broad public interest to specialized work in academic disciplines and cultural practice across media.

With its academic events, the Deutsches Haus supports the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature at Columbia in providing students with systematic training in German literature with a focus on the modern period and on contemporary cultural theory. The curriculum provides comprehensive coverage of the major periods, genres, and authors of German literature from 1750 to the present, as well as theoretical perspectives such as critical theory, psychoanalysis, feminism, discourse analysis, and hermeneutics, narratology, gender, affect, film, performance and media studies. Students are also encouraged to develop an interdisciplinary program of study with faculty in Comparative Literature, Philosophy, Film, and Women's Studies. Distinguished Max Kade Scholars, such as Reinhart Koselleck, Gertrud Koch, Klaus Scherpe, Slavoj Zizek, Elizabeth Bronfen, Friedrich A. Kittler, Eva Geulen, and Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky have regularly supplemented the Department's offerings and serve as sponsors to graduate students doing dissertation research at German universities.

To finance its Fall and Spring program, Deutsches Haus has regularly received small contributions from Columbia University as well as outside sources. The list of organizations that have contributed to Deutsches Haus in recent years is long: it includes the Goethe Institut New York, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Washington, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Consulate, the German Information Center, the Max Kade Foundation, the Baier Foundation, the Austrian Institute, the Swiss Institute, Cornell University Medical College in New York City, and Institutes at Columbia such as the Center for Jewish and Isreali Studies, the Institutes on Western and Eastern Europe, the Casa Italiana, the Maison Française, Miller Theater, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

    If you would like to make a donation to Deutsches Haus, please make your check payable to Columbia University-Deutsches Haus and send your contribution to:

    • Department of Germanic Languages
    • 415 Hamilton Hall, Mail Code 2812
    • 1130 Amsterdam Ave
    • New York, NY 10027

    You may also donate by going to the following page online.

    For more information about giving to Deutsches Haus, please e-mail [email protected] or contact us at the address above.

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