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After participating in an intensive 10-week language institute this summer, Casey Smith '17 plans to continue studying Arabic at Wesleyan. She also hopes to earn certificates in international relations and Middle Eastern studies.

After participating in an intensive two-month language institute in Oman this summer, Casey Smith ’17 plans to continue studying Arabic at Wesleyan. She hopes to use her language skills to work with refugee populations in the future. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Casey Smith ’17 has received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study Arabic—considered a “critical needs language” by the U.S. government—in Oman this summer.

Smith, who plans to major in the College of Social Studies, was one of approximately 550 American undergraduate and graduate students to receive the Critical Language Scholarship. CLS participants will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes in one of 13 countries. They will study critical needs languages such as Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu, among others.

Smith currently studies Arabic at Wesleyan. She began learning the language as a senior in high school, when she enrolled in a course at nearby University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Her interest in the language was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations, including an internship at a refugee resettlement organization.

“Through the internship, I met a lot of people from the Middle East and North Africa. I was struck by the fact that millions of people had to flee their homes in the region, and wanted to learn more,” said Smith.

She previously had studied French in high school, but found the experience of learning Arabic to be different.

Smith's interest in Arabic was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations.

Smith’s interest in Arabic was sparked by her work in high school with local refugee populations.

“When you learn a Romance language, a lot of the words are similar to English, so it’s easier to pick up vocabulary. Arabic is difficult, because you don’t find many words that are familiar. The alphabet is also different, and you write from right to left,” she explained. “Once you get used to it, though, it becomes more like learning any other language.”

Smith was eager to study abroad at some point during her college career. This semester, when her Arabic professor emailed the class about the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship, Smith saw an opportunity to study in the Middle East—a part of the world she has always wanted to visit.

According to Smith, the CLS program sends students to Morocco, Jordan and Oman to study Arabic. She was surprised to learn she would be studying in Oman.

“I didn’t know anything about Oman, really, until I started researching the places I’d be going. It got a lot more exciting because it’s so unfamiliar and different,” she said. (more…)

The second annual Cardinal Golf Outing to benefit Wesleyan women’s athletics will be held May 12 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club.

The Cardinal Golf Outing is May 12.

The second annual Cardinal Golf Outing to benefit Wesleyan women’s athletics will be held May 12 at Lyman Orchards Golf Club. This year, there’s a twist: in conjunction with the tourney, which celebrates Wes women of the 1980s, alumnae will be on hand to offer advice and support to current students.

The two-hour mentoring session in Daniel Family Commons will match alumnae with current Cardinals to discuss careers, academics and athletics.

“We started the Cardinal Golf Outing to raise money for women’s sports at Wesleyan,” said Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Mike Whalen ’83. “This year we’re adding the Mentoring Workshop to provide our alumnae the opportunity to engage current student-athletes, and provide them with career advice.”

The 2013 tournament, which celebrated the pioneering Wesleyan women athletes from the early years of co-education, attracted 127 golfers and raised more than $20,000. Guests at the evening dinner party had a chance to bid in a silent auction, which is being offered again this year.

All funds raised through the event count toward Wesleyan’s multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign celebrating access, inquiry and impact across the university. Financial aid is the focus of the cam paign, and alumni, parents and friends are urged to share not just their gifts, but their reasons why a Wesleyan education is their cause.

To register for the golf tournament, the mentoring sessions or the dinner, go to this link on WesConnect.

Jennifer Swindlehurst Chan attended WesFest with her father Kyle Chan.

Jennifer Swindlehurst Chan attended WesFest with her father Kyle Chan. Jennifer is an admitted student.

WesFest, the annual three-day celebration of all things Wesleyan, was held April 16-18 for admitted students and their families. WesFest allows the students to experience university life first-hand and explore the diverse opportunities that a Wesleyan education has to offer.

Admitted students and their parents tour campus on April 16 during WesFest.

Admitted students and their parents tour campus on April 16 during WesFest.

During Wes Fest, Class of 2018 admitted students had the opportunity to tour campus, visit Exley Science Center and the Center for the Arts, have lunch at the all-campus barbecue, meet Wesleyan students at student-to-student panels, attend a Student Activities Fair, participate in “Homerathon,” an all-day reading of Homer’s “Odyssey,” learn about classes and programs during academic departmental open houses, and meet Wesleyan President Michael Roth. (Watch a video of President Roth’s welcome to students and families online here.)

Jennifer Swindlehurst Chan of San Diego, Calif. attended WesFest with her father Kyle Chan. She learned about Wesleyan through its website and reading about it online.

“Wesleyan sounded like a nice place and it’s one of the top schools on my list,” she said. “Now that I’m here, I think it is a beautiful campus and I enjoyed the students who led the campus tour. I also met [President Roth] this morning. That was so cool to meet the president!”

Hannah Levin of Philadelphia, Pa. attended WesFest with her mother Joan Joanson. The mother-daughter duo, who enjoyed lunch at Usdan’s Marketplace, previously visited campus in 2012.

“I applied to Wesleyan because I was looking for a liberal arts education that offered professor access and a science program. I also like Wesleyan’s vibrant and creative community,” Levin said.

At the all-campus barbecue April 18, families braved unseasonably chilly temperatures to sit out on Foss Hill and enjoy lunch while a student band played.

Caroline Diemer attended WesFest with her father. The two hail from San Jose, Calif.

Caroline Diemer attended WesFest with her father. The two hail from San Jose, Calif.

Caroline Diemer of San Jose, Calif. relaxed over lunch with her father. She had applied to Wesleyan early decision, and returned to learn more about the school she will be attending next fall. Diemer plans to play on Wesleyan’s volleyball team, so she hung out with her future teammates. She also attended a class called “Living in a Polluted World,” watched an a capella concert, and spent the morning wandering the stacks of Olin. Despite the cold, she said she was really enjoying her visit.

David Hoffman of Wilmington, Del. shared lunch with his parents. Visiting Wesleyan since the previous day, he had taken a tour, attended an info session, sat in on chemistry and architecture classes, and gone to a film screening.

“I love it—the culture, the kids,” he said. “Everyone is very relaxed, and very smart. They know when to have fun and when to work.”

Anthony Springate of Louisville, K.Y. stayed overnight at Wesleyan with a current student.

“I made lots of new friends and met a lot of new people,” he said. “It seems like such a community, and such a diverse group of people, but it’s all so harmonious and cool. I love it!”

Photos of WesFest are below. (more…)

 Emily Weitzman ’14

Emily Weitzman ’14 will travel around the world for one year under a prestigious Watson Fellowship studying slam poetry communities.

Emily Weitzman ’14, a double major in English and dance and an original member of Wesleyan’s slam poetry team (WeSlam), will travel around the world studying slam poetry, community and culture under a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Weitzman plans to visit South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal and Ireland to explore communities of slam poets. She was one of about 40 individuals this year to receive the prestigious fellowship, which comes with a $28,000 stipend for travel and independent study. She will begin her year-long journey by August 1.

“While my proposed topic is slam, something that I really love about the Watson is that it’s not so much about your project as it is about your experience while pursuing a project. The Watson says that they ‘pick people, not projects,’” she said. “Just like slam is a vehicle for sharing art, my project is a vehicle for experiencing the world, and the people and art across the globe. So for me, pursing this project is really about meeting new people, learning about diverse cultures, immersing myself in different places, and experiencing the art created in different communities. It’s also probably about a whole bunch of things that I don’t even know yet.”

Weitzman became interested in slam poetry during her freshman year at Wesleyan, when Michael Rosen ’11 founded WeSlam, a performance poetry team that competes regionally and nationally. Weitzman has been part of all four teams in WeSlam history that have competed in the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI); in 2011, she won “Best Persona Poem” for a group piece performed with Randyl Wilkerson ’12, and in 2012, won “Funniest Poem” for her poem “Couch.” (Watch a video of Weitzman performing “Couch” at the Yale Regionals in 2012). (more…)

The American Studies Department will host the inaugural lecture in the annual Richard Slotkin American Studies Lecture Series from 4:15 to 6 p.m. in the Powell Family Cinema in the Center for Film Studies. Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English, emeritus, will speak on “Thinking Mythologically: Black Hawk Down, Platoon, and the War of Choice in Iraq.”

In his more than 25 years at Wesleyan, Slotkin helped establish both the American Studies and the Film Studies programs. He is regarded as one of the preeminent cultural critics of our times, and is the author of an award-winning trilogy on the myth of the frontier in America, as well as three historical novels. In 1995, he won the American Studies Association’s Mary C. Turpie Award for his contributions to teaching and program-building.

Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.SlotkinLecturePoster

The Wesleyan Faculty Writing Group meets frequently to work on independent writing projects in a group atmosphere. Pictured at a March meeting is, clockwise from left, Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior; Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior; Mariah Schug, visiting assistant professor of psychology; Sarah Wiliarty, associate professor of government, director of the Public Affairs Center; Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies; and Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology.

The Wesleyan Faculty Writing Group meets frequently to work on independent writing projects in a group atmosphere. Pictured at a March meeting is, clockwise from left, Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior; Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior; Mariah Schug, visiting assistant professor of psychology; Sarah Wiliarty, associate professor of government, director of the Public Affairs Center; Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies; and Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology.

Once a week, a group of Wesleyan faculty gather to work on individual projects. Although they come from different departments – psychology, classical studies, government, among others – they’re all working towards the same goal: to write, be published, and celebrate each others’ accomplishments.

The Wesleyan Faculty Writing Group, founded in 2010, provides an opportunity for faculty to come sit in a shared space and work on any writing projects they are pursuing. Participants are currently working on book proposals, book manuscripts, articles, reviews, grant and fellowship applications and op-eds.

“All of us have found that the occasional change of scene provided by the Writing Group – just moving outside our individual offices for a few hours once a week – can provide a welcome boost to productivity,” said Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies.

Caldwell, who considers herself one of the group’s “regulars,” is using the group time to work on a forthcoming book, Roman Girlhood and the Fashioning of Femininity, and a book review of Susan Mattern’s The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire. She also wrote an op-ed published in The Hartford Courant

“The group also has allowed us to meet faculty outside our departments and divisions and to gain a real appreciation for the breadth of faculty research across the university,” she said.

In the past few years, Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, has had papers published in several journals including Cognitive Development, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and Current Biology. She is now using writing group time to work on additional journal articles and a grant proposal. She credits the writing group for helping “in some way with everything” she’s published during this time.

“For me, it’s really helpful to have a quiet, dedicated space and time for writing without distraction,” Barth said. “The group members keep each other on task well. Interruptions are minimized, and that is a lot harder to impose when you are by yourself, given the many other personal and professional tasks that always need to be done.”

Mariah Schug, visiting assistant professor of psychology, also had papers published in Cognitive Development and an op-ed on same-sex marriage in The Hartford Courant while taking part in the writing group. Schug also used the group time to focus on two grant proposals she submitted this semester.

“The breaks can be very isolating for faculty. We find that working together, instead of separately in our own offices, helps us to stay focused and motivated over the breaks. We have all found the group to improve our productivity.”

The group meets at various locations on campus including a conference table in the Judd Hall Lounge, the conference room the Public Affairs Center, or in a classroom in the Allbritton Center. In 2013, the group acquired its own printer and coffee maker, “making us an official group,” Caldwell said.

Wherever the group works, they maintain a quiet atmosphere and occasionally consult with each other about writing-related issues.But unlike a writing workshop, the Writing Group does not present their work to colleagues for feedback. Participation isn’t mandatory, and faculty choose to attend when they can.

The group currently meets about once a week and meets daily throughout the summer.

For more information email Lauren Caldwell.

Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics is developing a power limiter which may protect the human eye from radiation.

Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics, is developing a reusable power limiter that will protect sensors from radiation without being destroyed in the process.

The U.S. Air Force has taken a keen interest in the recent work of Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics. Kottos, along with Graduate Research Assistant Eleana Makri, Hamidreza Ramezani Ph.D. ’13 (now a postdoc at U.C. Berkeley) and Dr. Ilya Vitebskiy (AFRL/Ohio), has come up with a theoretical way to build a more effective, reusable power limiter.

Generally speaking, the function of a power limiter is to protect a sensor  — be it the human eye, an antenna, or other sensitive equipment — from high-intensity radiation, like that generated by high-power lasers.

Kottos, Makri, Ramezani and Vitebskiy published a paper titled “Non-Linear Localized Modes Give Rise to a Reflective Optical Limiter“ [Phys. Rev. A 89, 031802(R) (2014)] that was highlighted in Washington, D.C. at the spring review meeting of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) as one of the main research achievements in electromagnetics of 2014 that can potentially benefit the U.S. Air Force. Now, with the Air Force’s help, Kottos is taking the necessary steps to make the project become a reality.

Generally speaking, there are two categories of limiters —  dynamic and passive. These new limiters are of the passive variety.

Tsampikos Kottos is working with Professor of Physics Fred Ellis on a sensor experiment.

Tsampikos Kottos is working with Professor of Physics Fred Ellis on a related acoustical experiment.

“Dynamic limiters are very slow,” explained Kottos. “They consist of many parts, and then these parts have to communicate with each other. So these are not very good. Passive limiters perform the limiting action —  the filtering of the high power —  based on the intrinsic properties of the materials.”

So, passive limiters are the way to go.

When striving to produce better passive limiter components, one can synthesize new materials (which Wes is not currently equipped to do on-site), or one can rely on existing materials and try to design or propose geometries that will improve the efficiency of existing materials.

Since the dawn of lasers in the 1960s, the standard filtering protection has been based on the use of what are called sacrificial limiters. When high-intensity light passes through a sacrificial limiter, the materials absorb the energy, heat up and melt, becoming opaque. The light is blocked and the sensor is protected, but the limiter is destroyed and must be swapped out like a burnt lightbulb. This is less than ideal, as it’s expensive and time-consuming to replace.

A power limiter consisting of a non-linear lossy layer (blue layer) embedded in a Bragg grating (white and orange layers) allows for (a) a transmission of a low intensity beam while (b) it completely reflects a high intensity beam without any absorption.

A power limiter consisting of a non-linear lossy layer (blue layer) embedded in a Bragg grating (white and orange layers) allows for (a) a transmission of a low intensity beam while (b) it completely reflects a high intensity beam without any absorption.

“We want to propose a clever limiter which is not going to sacrifice itself in order to save the sensor on the other side,” Kottos said. “What we are proposing is to create two stacks of alternate layers, A and B. This is what people usually call a Bragg mirror. Such a structure creates a frequency window for which light is completely reflected irrespective of its intensity. This solves one part of the problem but it creates another one. Namely, we want ’non-harmful,’ low-intensity light to be transmitted. How can we achieve this? Well, the simple way is by creating a ‘bridge.’ But the bridge has to be clever. It must allow low intensity light to pass and block high intensity light. One way to do this is to make sure that the bridge will collapse if high intensity light goes through.”

Kottos’ new work involves placing a defect layer of dissipative nonlinearity (“the bridge”) in the middle of the Bragg mirror. The nonlinear properties of the materials increase dissipation for high light intensities. Strange as it sounds, losses (dissipation) can rescue the limiter (bridge) from high power light and reflect the energy into space.

“To understand this we need to think of how three oscillators coupled with springs — with the middle one having friction (the dissipation layer) — will behave when energy is pumped into the system. Say the left one is excited, displacing it from the equilibrium position. Then energy will move from the left one to the right one via the spring and then will continue to the third via the second spring that connects the last two together. Via this process, some energy will be turned to heat via the friction of the middle oscillator. Now let’s further increase the friction in the middle, which in optics is achieved via the dissipative nonlinear mechanism when incident power is increased. Obviously the process will be repeated, but now more energy will be radiated as heat since the friction in the middle is higher. But what will happen if the friction in the middle is huge, corresponding to high incident power in optics which will trigger high dissipative nonlinearities?”

The intuitive prediction is that friction-generated heat will burn the middle oscillator. But students in Kottos’ “Waves and Oscillations” course would predict that a huge friction will turn the middle oscillator into an immovable wall, neutralizing the friction and reflecting all the energy back without letting it pass to the third oscillator. And this is exactly the mechanism Kottos and co. are exploring, but in the optics realm.

“We knew this principle since centuries ago — it’s called impedance mismatching,” Kottos said. “The more you create an absorber, the more the energy that’s not absorbed but reflected back. I know that’s an oxymoron, but this is how it happens. The reason that we did not use this property up to now is rather psychological. In most cases we strive to ‘match’ things and we are used to this way of thinking. In this specific case we thought the other way around.”

The experimental realizations of these new theoretical optical limiters are currently being investigated at two U.S. labs. With time, the Wes group hopes to continue refining its proposal to further increase the limiters’ effectiveness. A further step down the road is to implement the same idea acoustically.

“I am hopeful that the experimental group of Professor Fred Ellis at Wes will be able to demonstrate the applicability of this idea in acoustics,” said Kottos. “Discussions along this line of research are in progress.”

Jennifer Roach ’14 on a group trip to Wild Carrot Farm, Bantam, CT

Jennifer Roach ’14 is the recipient of a Davis Projects for Peace grant.

Four years ago, Jennifer Roach ’14 co-founded Summer of Solutions Hartford, a food justice and youth leadership development program in Connecticut’s capital. Since 2010, Summer of Solutions has grown to seven garden sites across Hartford, continuously working to “increase access to healthy food and community green spaces in Hartford by empowering young people as innovators in the food justice movement and providing them tools and opportunities to create solutions to food inequality in the city.”

This month, Roach’s organization was the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace program. The Projects for Peace grant will allow Summer of Solutions to expand its nine-week summer program to a seven-month internship for youth interested in urban agriculture.

Now in the its eighth year, Projects for Peace is “an invitation to undergraduates at the American colleges in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects that they will implement during the summer.

By funding the summer component of the Summer of Solutions internship, Davis will enable Roach and her team to amplify their impact in Hartford. Twelve garden interns will work alongside community members, maintain seven gardens, teach gardening and cooking classes, and come together weekly for a workshop series on food justice, sustainability and community resilience. In addition, they will partner with Capital Workforce Partners, a youth employment initiative in Hartford, to run a five-week Urban Farming 101 program for 10 high school students in July. (more…)

Story moved to: http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2014/04/18/wesfestclass2018/

Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of music, has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. The prize will allow her to spend the next academic year in residence as a Fellow of the Academy. At Wesleyan, Matthusen teaches the course, “Laptop Ensemble,” which promotes knowledge and skills in live electronics performance and cultivates new musical repertoire for the group.

Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of music, has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. The prize will allow her to spend the next academic year in residence as a Fellow of the Academy. At Wesleyan, Matthusen teaches the course, “Laptop Ensemble,” which promotes knowledge and skills in live electronics performance and cultivates new musical repertoire for the group.

Assistant professor of music Paula Matthusen has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy, which will allow her to spend the next year in the Eternal City working on the compelling compositions that distinguish her career.

Matthusen is a composer of acoustic and electronic music who, among other things, teaches Laptop Ensemble at Wesleyan, and records sound in historic structures and architecture. The resulting work reflects the character of these spaces, which include the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York. As an American Academy fellow, she will visit the paths of the Roman aqueducts.

“I’m elated,” Matthusen said. “It’s a very great honor and a wonderful opportunity.”

Each year, through a national competition, the Rome Prize is awarded to approximately thirty individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. The American Academy in Rome provides extended time and support (room, board, stipend, work space, and freedom from every-day cares) for each fellow to pursue his or her own work and to live among other artists and scholars.

“The Rome Prize in composition has been awarded to such musical luminaries as Samuel Barber, Elliot Carter, and David Del Tredici,” said Dean of the Arts and Humanities Andy Curran. “We are extremely proud that Paula, who reflects the strength of Wesleyan’s music program, has been admitted to this select group.”

Her Old Croton Aqueduct work, developed by working with the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, was called “eden’s arch of promise bending,” after a line in an ode composed at the opening of the waterwork in 1842.  The Aqueduct was closed in the mid-20th century, but for more than 100 years, it brought water from Westchester to Manhattan and enabled New York City’s enormous growth. The composition explores the nature of the aqueduct through field recordings and samplings of its resonant frequencies. Go here to listen to an excerpt.

The New York Times has praised Matthusen’s “creative vitality” and “vivid imagination.”

The Academy is a leading American overseas center for independent studies and advanced research in the fine arts and humanities. Founded in 1894, the Academy was chartered as a private institution by an act of Congress in 1905. On the occasion of the Academy’s centennial, the President of the United States signed a joint resolution of Congress in recognition of the Academy’s contribution to America’s intellectual and cultural life.

Pictured below are photos taken at Paula Matthusen’s “Laptop Ensemble” class on April 7. She also teaches a class on “Total Harmony.” (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

stu_tec_2014-0407184955 (more…)

Professor Jeanine Basinger is teaching “Marriage in the Movies: A History," starting April 21.

Professor Jeanine Basinger is teaching “Marriage in the Movies: A History,” starting April 21.

Always wanted to take a course with legendary film professor Jeanine Basinger? Miss the first run of Professor of Psychology Scott Plous’ wildly popular “Social Psychology” MOOC? Now’s your chance!

The next round of Wesleyan’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) is starting up this month, with “Marriage in the Movies: A History” launching April 21. Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, is teaching the course based on her book, I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies.

“This is essentially a descriptive course on stories and stars and business strategies,” says Basinger, who is also chair of film studies and curator of the cinema archives. “It provides information and shows clips for support and example. It’s not philosophical; it’s not a formalist analysis. It’s a simple study about content in the movies designed for people who love films and would like to have more information about some of them and have, what I hope, will be a fun conversation on the changes that evolved over time in stories about marriage that were made in Hollywood.”

In the course’s intro video, Basinger says the course will explore “how Hollywood had trouble telling the story and selling the story of marriage on film.” (more…)

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem investigated the story of a celebrated German General during World War II, uncovering new evidence that he cooperated in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. His research has made national news in Germany, where the government is now responding to revelations about the General's legacy.

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem investigated the story of a celebrated German General during World War II, uncovering new evidence that he cooperated in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. His research has made national news in Germany, where the government is now responding to revelations about the General’s legacy.

Growing up, Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem heard many family stories of his grandfather, a member of the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II. Little did he know then that he would go on to uncover new truths about a celebrated German general, and ignite a public debate over the general’s place in history.
Grimmer-Solem holding a photo of his grandfather, Dr. Odd Solem, and his father, Eivind Solem, taken in 1939, one year before the German invasion of Norway. Odd Solem, part of the Norwegian resistance movement, was arrested by the Gestapo and met General Hans von Sponeck in prison in 1942.

Grimmer-Solem holding a photo of his grandfather, Dr. Odd Solem, and his father, Eivind Solem, taken in 1939, one year before the German invasion of Norway. Odd Solem, part of the Norwegian resistance movement, was arrested by the Gestapo and met General Hans von Sponeck in prison in 1942.

Grimmer-Solem’s grandfather, Dr. Odd Solem, was arrested by the Gestapo along with two other Norwegians during the German occupation of Norway in the summer of 1940. He was sentenced to death by a German military tribunal, but had his sentence reduced to a prison term in Germersheim. There, he met and befriended General Hans von Sponeck, a German general who was court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to follow Hitler’s orders during a major Soviet counteroffensive on the Crimean Peninsula in 1941 by withdrawing his troops from Kerch, likely saving the lives of thousands of soldiers. Von Sponeck was ultimately executed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler following the failed assassination attempt on Hitler in July 1944, while Solem and the other prisoners narrowly escaped an SS execution squad and survived the war.

In the decades since the war, von Sponeck has been celebrated in Germany for his moral courage, with an Air Force base, city streets and other monuments named after him. Along with the tales of von Sponeck’s kindness toward Grimmer-Solem’s grandfather, the general’s unusual reputation as a heroic “anti-Nazi” sparked Grimmer-Solem’s interest. Since he regularly teaches a course on Nazi Germany and knows the literature on the role of the Wehrmacht (Germany’s unified armed forces from 1935-45) in war crimes in the Soviet Union, he began to have questions about von Sponeck’s career when it became clear that the general had commanded units of the German 11th Army during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, in the summer and fall of 1941. War crimes and crimes against humanity are well documented within the area of operation of the 11th Army. Grimmer-Solem undertook a detailed investigation of von Sponeck’s military career in the German Military Archives in March 2013 (more…)

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