The 2017 Northfield Conference, “Legacy of 1848 & Holocaust Education”, concluded with “Thoughts on Being German,” a poignant and heartfelt address delivered by Hans Jörg Gudegast, aka Eric Braeden. Born in Bredenbek, Schleswig-Holstein, Gudegast experienced firsthand the horrors of World War II prior to his immigration to the United States in 1959. Eric lives in Pacific Palisades, CA, known as “Weimar am Pazifik“ since 1933; across from his house is the elegant villa where Thomas Mann, a German literature Nobel laureate from Schleswig-Holstein, spent his years in exile during the Second World War. Braeden has appeared in over 120 TV productions and films, including “Titanic“ (1997). Beginning in 1980, he has made daily appearances on US TV, as well as in 28 other countries world-wide with “The Young and the Restless,“ and in 1989 he founded the “German-American Cultural Society.“ In 2007, Eric became only the second German actor (after Marlene Dietrich) to receive a Star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His recent memoir is titled I'll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America's #1 Daytime Drama. -
Scott C. Christiansen, Iowa City:
"Braeden’s experiences and deep understanding provided a fitting denouement for a conference whose first day emphasized the Holocaust. Throughout his adult life, the humanitarian and activist has worked hard in promoting a positive, realistic, and balanced image of German-Americans and advancing German-Jewish dialogue. Braeden’s life experiences also dovetailed beautifully with the focus of the conference’s second day, the important and influential immigrant group known as the Forty-eighters.
Having spent the better part of the last two decades trying to understand the Forty-eighters, it’s my belief Braeden could well have been a member of this significant immigrant group had he been born 120 years earlier. Like so many of the Forty-eighters, Braeden has never been content to sit on the sidelines. He takes a very active interest in politics and helps rally support for those he feels will best serve the needs of his adopted country.
As a German-American who embraces the best of both cultures, Braeden has devoted much of his time to strengthening the ties between the German and American peoples, and his exemplary efforts in this regard have been honored on many occasions. As Braeden concluded his talk, I remembered a previous remark of his I’d run across while writing a brief biographical sketch of him some years ago: “I grew up tough. I’ll fight you to the last — I’ll never give up.” What an apropos sentiment for a conference devoted to the study of the Forty-eighters and Holocaust survivors. It is precisely this trait — that of never giving up, of triumphing over long odds through the sheer force of one’s will — that conference attendees and participants celebrated at “The Legacy of 1848 Through Today.”