Looking back on the critical years of Germany

Not many people understand the struggles Germany has faced, said Rainulf Stelzmann, a former professor of German literature at USF. The 1920s to the 1960s, Stelzmann said was a time of significant events that changed Germany in ways people do not realize.

“There is generally very little knowledge about those years of Germany,” said Stelzmann.

The years that Germany was ruled under dictator Adolf Hitler, Stelzmann said is a confusing piece of history to those of the younger generation.

Stelzmann will share the history from this time and relate his personal experiences about the years he spent growing up in Germany. He will give the lecture “Germany; The Critical Years, 1920-1956: A View from Within” today at 3 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room of the USF Library.

Stelzmann will base the lecture on his memoir Thinking of Germany at Night. Stelzmann said he plans to discuss various chapters and read a few sections aloud. Stelzmann’s book recalls his service in the German Army on the Russian front, where he had to witness the loss of innocent lives.

He also recounts his time living in Germany before, during and after the Nazis. In his book, Stelzmann attempted to distinguish between the “tough, ruthless Nazis” and “simple-minded patriots who wanted to serve their fatherland, no matter what.”

Christine Probes, associate professor of World Language Education at USF, described Stelzmann’s book as “very compelling.”

“The book managed to have sections that were quite lyrical and quite beautiful when describing the scenery,” Probes said. “It was a contrast of what was happening at the time.”

Stelzmann was born in America to German parents in 1924, and his family soon moved to Germany for his education. Stelzmann later moved back to the United States and taught at USF for 38 years, until his retirement last year. He said students will be interested in Germany’s education system at the time.

Stelzmann added that it will be interesting for students to hear about the lack of freedom that existed in Germany because it is something most Americans have never experienced. Stelzmann said it is important to examine the decisions that were made in the past.

“We’re supposed to learn from history,” said Stelzmann. “If you don’t, you’re bound to make mistakes you wouldn’t otherwise have made.”