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Symposium studies past German exiles in LA

Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles features panels, discussions and performances.

Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles, a three-day symposium exploring issues of liberty and responsibility, creativity and commerce, through the life and work of Germans who made their home in Southern California before and during World War II, runs though Aug. 30 on the University Park Campus and at Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades.

The first-of-its-kind program, presented by the London-based Legatum Institute (LI) and the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study at the USC Libraries, includes academics, artists, policy experts and business leaders, who will guide participants through an exploration of European political heritage and Los Angeles as a cultural and economic center.

“Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles draws upon our libraries’ expertise and collections strengths in exile studies to support a unique model of in-depth, interdisciplinary inquiry,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries. “The entire program embodies the USC Sidney Harman Academy’s polymathic ideals, the libraries’ essential role in discoveries of consequence, and USC’s role as a vital resource for understanding the past and future of Los Angeles.”

USC and LI selected 20 core participants through a competitive process open to undergraduates, graduate students and accomplished young professionals with an intellectual curiosity in the period and its continuing influence on contemporary times.

Participants will include young professionals, USC students and renowned faculty, as well as distinguished guest speakers, such as Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures. The symposium will examine the works of Einstein, Brecht, Billy Wilder, Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoenberg and others who exerted incomparable influence on the creative scene of the time.

The partnership between LI and the Harman Academy stems from a shared belief in an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to research, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The forum, panels, discussions and performances will investigate creativity and entrepreneurship, how Weimar-era aesthetics and philosophy have informed contemporary public policy and how a complex moment in 20th-century history has shaped 21st-century innovations in business, art, film and literature.

Among other topics, individual sessions will examine the role of cultural minorities in a free society through the lens of director Wilder; how the music of Schoenberg embodies the Modernist aesthetic and relates to political expression; what was it about the United States that allowed entrepreneurship to flourish; and why preeminent Weimar artists eschewed established cultural centers of the United States’ East Coast for the relatively undeveloped intellectual landscape of Southern California.

“The Weimar Exiles in LA program is a part of our institute’s Global Leadership Forum, which brings together young, gifted professionals and a world-class faculty to discuss today’s global economic and political issues through a prism of history, culture, politics and science,” said Jeffrey Gedmin, CEO and president of LI.

“The institute aims to create an environment in which people are set free to discuss and debate without the need to rush to simple answers and formulas but to step back and gain fresh perspective on current global policy issues and better prepare for the future.”

The complete program, including sessions and performances that are open to the public with an RSVP, is available at

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Symposium studies past German exiles in LA

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