Meet Helmut Ziefle

Dr. Helmut Ziefle was born and raised in Germany and came to America on October 22, 1956. As a child, he experienced the horrors of World War II and the tumultuous years of post war reconstruction. As a Christian family, they resisted the Nazis and were persecuted and harassed for their faith. God was faithful and blessed Dr. Ziefle in amazing ways.

Dr. Ziefle attended Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium in Heilbronn, Germany and finished high school in America. He attended Hartwick College, The University of New York, Northwestern University and University of Illinois. He received his BA and MA in German and then went on to University of Illinois for his Ph.D. in early 17th Century German Baroque Literature. There he completed his dissertation on Sibylle Schwarz (1621-1638), a committed Christian woman poet of the Baroque period. He also did a masterful job of writing the very difficult postscript for Lang in Switzerland that published the reprint of Schwarz’s writings.

Dr. Ziefle is a prolific writer in both German and English. He has written many articles in German and English. One major work was Hermann Hesse and Christianity which was published in 1995 and examined Hesse’s theology and ideology. Another recent work was Historical Forces, German Departments, and the Curriculum in Small Liberal Arts Colleges in the Midwest. The University of Wisconsin Press published it in the Monatshefte Occasional Volume 15 Teaching German in the Twentieth-Century America in 2001. It examines enrollment trends among US college students in German at a national level and regional level, such as the Midwest. Special emphasis is given to the history, curriculum, enrollment, and staffing of German programs at smaller liberal arts colleges such as Beloit College, Carleton College, Calvin College, Elmhurst College, and Wheaton College with suggestions for future strategies.

Dr. Ziefle is now a Professor Emeritus at renowned Wheaton College in Illinois. Among his many accomplishments at Wheaton is his creation of a program for students to travel to Germany to study while submerged in the culture. The program is eight weeks long and also includes studies in Austria and Switzerland. This allows the students an empirical approach to German and also facilitates the immersion method, which has been proven to be the most effective means of learning a language. He taught beginning, intermediate, and advanced German, German conversation, German composition, Early German Literature, the Classical Period, Senior Seminar, and Independent Research. He served as the head of the German section for 23 years and as the director of Wheaton in Germany for 20 years. In 1992, at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Teachers of German in Baden-Baden, Dr. Ziefle was awarded the AATG/Goethe House Certificate of Merit Award for outstanding achievements in furthering and encouraging the study of German language and culture in the United States of America.

His latest publication, One Woman Against the Reich is the tragic yet redemptive story of his childhood and early teen years and his family’s struggle against Nazi Germany. Also a recent work is the Modern Theological German: A Reader and Dictionary> This work is unmatched in the English speaking world. No other publication of its depth, accuracy or usefulness exists. It is used in schools all over the world as the authoritative reference for German studies.

Dr. Ziefle has served as a liaison between American and German Christian communities and feels it is one of the most important ways he can serve God right now. Because of the horrors the German church lived through, he knows they can relate to the pain and grief the American church and community feel after September 11th. In uncertain times, he emphasizes the need to band together for encouragement and growth.

Dr. Ziefle and his family are also active in their local church.

Updated 2003

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