German at Bowdoin officially began when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was made the first professor of Modern Languages at the College in 1829. By the end of the century German was a standard in the curriculum. After World War II, Professor Fritz Koelln gained a devoted following as an inspired teacher. The Koelln Room, where most German classes are taught today was dedicated in 1972 in his honor. Jacob Jasper Stahl, '09, Litt.D.'60, established the Old Broad Bay Prize in Reading German in 1965 in honor of the first German settlement in Maine (now Waldoboro).
In 1986, the Consular Prize in Literary Interpretation was established by the German Consulate, and is financially supported by Jeffrey Wilson, '75, a loyal alumnus of the Department. The names of the winners of both prizes are displayed in gold-leaf on tablets in the Koelln Room.
In the fall of 2006, Jill Smith joined Helen Cafferty, Steven Cerf, and Birgit Tautz in the German Department. She will eventually replace Helen who will retire in the fall of 2009.
In the 2002-2003 academic year, the German Department welcomed Birgit Tautz, who was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the spring of 2007.
In 2003, James Hodge, Steven Cerf, and Helen Cafferty marked their thirtieth year of working together. During that time, the department has been joined by outstanding visiting faculty such as Professor Thomas Beebe, now teaching Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University, Kathleen O'Connor, Director of the Writing Project at Bowdoin, Otto Emersleben, German freelance writer, and Christine Haase, now teaching Literature and Film at the University of Georgia.