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Update on the Henry H. H. Remak Collection…

Much to my relief, the folders have been a bit less dusty in the past 10 boxes or so. I would even go so far as to say that they are fairly well-organized in comparison with what I encountered early on in my processing. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have to say it again. I am simply amazed at the sheer number of files that this dedicated and busy (but never-too-busy) professor of German, West European Studies and Comparative Literature kept on his students. These files are packed with detailed and affectionate correspondence, honest and sometimes glowing letters of recommendation, Christmas cards, wedding invitations, and notes thanking Professor Remak for helping a former student find a job or stay the night at he and his wife, Ingrid’s, home.

In my previous posts I’ve discussed the personal and professional dedication of Henry H. H. Remak (or ‘H to the third power Remak,’ as he often subscribed). In this, my third processing blog, I’d like to tell you about a few of the more unique finds, which provide insight into the somewhat less academic interests and concerns of Professor Remak.

In addition to being an active teacher, administrator and scholar at IU, Henry Remak was a watchful and committed member of the local Bloomington community. Though native to Germany and quite invested in German and West European affairs throughout his life, he was also concerned with the political, educational, and social welfare of the United States. While sorting through the collection, I have come across perhaps two dozen files containing various newspaper clippings on local and national current events. Remak added marginal notes to many of these clippings, expressing his agreement or sometimes dismay. These marginal notes often became the basis of letters to the editors, to political figures such as United States senators, or in one instance, to former President Reagan.

From rebuking the editor of the Indiana Daily Student for an impersonal article on the death of two IU faculty members to being on a first-name basis with the Director of Parks and Recreation in an ongoing correspondence about the safety and comfort of walkers/runners in Bryan Park, it is clear that Henry Remak did his best to stand up for the well-being of the community.

Remak accomplished this in less direct ways as well. In a 1995 interview conducted by Michael Smith, then editor of the West European Studies Bulletin, Henry Remak pointed out that American students view history in a very different way from European students of the same age. For Europeans, “…history is not something ‘bookish’ but rather something that you see around you all the time.” To someone born in the United States, on the other hand, history is not nearly as present or as visible in the everyday. Professor Remak claims that this partially explains why American students are, for the most part, less knowledgeable about history. In a small way perhaps Henry Remak was trying to remedy that both in and out of the classroom. As a member of the Indiana Covered Bridge Society, as well as an advocate for local historic preservation, Henry Remak was enforcing his beliefs in a living, tangible and ever-present history. This too was a way of looking out for his community, which he clearly loved and valued.

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