Ever since the University of California-Berkeley opened its doors and hearts to the first refugee scholars fleeing the Third Reich, the campus has had a special relationship with Germany. A 2014 exhibit at Berkeley’s Magnes Museum entitled, “Saved by the Bay” documents this fascinating, important, and indeed noble chapter in the history of the university. As a haven, UC Berkeley provided security and safety for those academics fortunate enough to escape their persecutors. Berkeley’s relationship to Germany, however, goes far deeper than this one chapter, for UC Berkeley is home to a very long-standing scholarly tradition, one which sees it as a world leader in the field of German Studies. Across campus, historians, literary scholars, film critics, music scholars, language instructors, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, legal scholars, and economists have produced field-defining scholarship on all aspects of German history, politics, economics, culture, and society.
Recognizing Berkeley’s prominence in German Studies, in 1990, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany selected the University of California (UC) as one of the original three Centers of Excellence in the United States. The mission of these centers is to encourage activities that will increase American understanding of contemporary developments in Europe, and particularly in Germany. The establishment of the "University of California Center for German and European Studies" (CGES) was accompanied by a generous long-term grant from the German government with the contractual agreement that when the grant period ended in the year 2000, the Center would continue in its structure and mission with the support of the University.
On its 25th anniversary, celebrated in 2015, the UC Berkeley Center for German and European Studies can justly claim to be in the forefront of research and teaching in German and European Studies. Over 200 UC faculty members with important scholarly contributions to the field as well as the top-ranked Departments of History, German, Sociology, Political Science, and Economics have been providing CGES with a core interdisciplinary faculty of fine scholarly specialists in German and European Studies. In the year 2000, CGES joined together with the Portuguese Studies Program, Finnish Studies, the Italian Research and Study group, . British Studies, Spanish Studies, the Center for West European Studies, and the European Union Center of Excellence (EUCE) to create the Institute of European Studies (IES) as its umbrella organizational support structure. By gathering these Centers under one roof, IES has created a cooperative interaction within the European Studies program.
CGES has offered substantial support to the faculty in the History and German Departments, involved in extensive research on 19th- and early 20th- Century Germany, the role of German business in the Third Reich, and changes in German culture and society in the post-World War II period. - UC Berkeley, in particular, has long been a prominent place for the production of scholarship on German-Jewish history and culture. Each year, history, film, and literature courses that document the German-Jewish experience are taught on the Berkeley campus. CGES has generously funded individual speakers on this topic as well as conferences and symposia on various aspects of German culture and society, both at UCBerkeley, other campuses of the University of California, and in Germany. A wide range of publications has resulted from the research conducted at CGES. To name just a few : “Financial Institutions in the Third Reich: New Research and New Problems,” “Nazi Gold and Holocaust-Era Assets,” “Constructing Collective Memory: Architecture and Identity in the New Berlin,” “Tamed Power, Memory and Power, or Just Power? Germany in the EU,” “German Foreign Policy in a New International Environment,” “Welfare State Integration of Immigrants: The Case of Germany,” “Reframing the Transatlantic Partnership,” “A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African-American GIs, and Germany.”
CGES sponsored research has been disseminated widely through books, articles, working papers, and faculty participation in international conferences, as well as lectures abroad. CGES faculty have published articles in the Journal of Common Market Studies, Cicero, Magazin fuer Politische Kultur, Foreign Affairs, German Politics and Society, the Journal of Economic History, and the National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series to name just a few. Books by CGES faculty have been published, among others, by Cambridge University Press, Routledge, Oxford University Press, and University of Konstanz Press. The Chair of CGES is represented on the board of German Politics and Society, the only American publication that explores issues in modern Germany from the combined perspectives of the social sciences, history, and cultural studies. Indeed, CGES at Berkeley was home to the journal before it moved to Georgetown University. CGES co-sponsors TRANSIT, the first refereed, multidisciplinary online periodical dedicated to the critical inquiry of travel, migration, translation, and multiculturalism in the German-speaking world.