German-American Day at McDaniel College

Hundreds of Maryland high school and middle school students gather in front of Big Baker Chapel at McDaniel College as the German-American Day opens at the Westminster campus on Oct. 16. (photo by Phil Grout / October 16, 2012)

Maggi Uhland was happy on Tuesday that she decided to pursue German at South Carroll High School.

"It is a lot easier than Spanish and a lot more fun," the 14-year-old freshman said, of the language. "And we can choose to come here."

Uhland was one of more than 1,000 students from around the county, state, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., to participate in German-American Day at McDaniel College in Westminster on Oct. 16.

Now in its 18th year, the day focuses on German culture and history through workshops and lectures that discuss everything from German fairy tales and music to chilling survivors' tales of the Holocaust and anti-Hitler resistance movements during World War II.


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Among those was Rubin Sztajer, of Baltimore, a Polish Jew who told students of his experiences as a Holocaust survivor who endured the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps.

"We try to balance it ... something that appeals to everyone," said Dr. Mohamed Esa, department of foreign languages and founder of the event. "From hands on with marzipan to historic perspective with speakers."

A lunch featuring German favorites like latkes (potato pancakes) and sauerkraut, followed by a concert performed by a German rock band completed the day.

Liberty High School students got their hands into marzipan. Using the mixture of almonds and sugar, the students sculpted a scene from "Hansel and Gretel" — a witch standing by a gingerbread house with bread crumbs leading to the front door.

"It looks really good," Anna Hohl, 17, a junior said of the creation. "Hansel and Gretel are inside."

"I think it's great," said Raymond Hohl, Anna's dad, and a chaperon, about the day. "What I really liked about it was we heard about the origin of marzipan. The history of it all was amazing."

"It came from Middle Asia," Nate Felbinger, 14, a Liberty freshman added.

It was Justin Heber's third year attending the German-American Day events, and the third time he participated in the face painting workshop.

"The first year, I had a blue wolf design," said Heber, a junior at South Carroll. "The second year, last year, I had a pirate." This year, a Spiderman-inspired design was being painted on his face by Sabine Antoniades, instructor of the face painting class. .

"I used to teach them how to do a German flag in a butterfly," said Antoniades as she worked on Heber's face. "This is more fun."

Though she left with her face unpainted because she had a cross country meet later, Belle Nelson enjoyed the workshop nonetheless.

"It's not as hard as I thought," the Century High freshman said of face painting.

A 2012 graduate of Manchester Valley High School, Juliana Ottomano never took German in high school. Still, the McDaniel freshman volunteered to lead a workshop on German fairy tales and Walt Disney films — known for their adaptations of German tales — because she enjoyed Esa's class on the topic.

"It went really well," Ottomano said of the workshop. "I tried to make it so the kids had interaction. They acted out fairy tales and watched Disney films."

Uhland was among students who attended, and enjoyed, Ottomano's workshop.

"It was very interesting," Uhland said. "The Grimm's tales were much more grotesque and disgusting. It was really fun — and the food was good, too."