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Whatever Happened to the Plagiarism Charges Leveled Against Don Heinrich Tolzmann?

In late 2003 Don Heinrich Tolzmann was accused of plagiarism. What's happened since? At the time the allegation was levelled few paid attention. And the matter seemed to drift. But HNN has learned that the University of Cincinnati, where Tolzmann is the current director of the German-American Studies Program, Curator of the German-Americana Collection, and Bibliographer for Germanic Languages and Literatures, Slavic and Philosophy, is conducting an internal investigation.

Tolzmann is a prominent German history scholar, the President of the Society for German-American Studies and German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati as well as an editor or contributor to several publications.

The accusations arose in a review of his book, The German-American Experience, which appeared on the H-Net website in Dec. 2003. The review came to the attention of HNN after a recent reference to it on Correntewire.com. Robert W. Frizzell, the author of the review, noted that Tolzmann, whom he had met years before, is a"tireless promoter of German-American studies--a field stigmatized for much of the twentieth century and, even after the ethnic revival which began in the 1970s, much under-studied by American historians." Frizzell then noted,". . . it is a quite distasteful task to report that the book reviewed here is in no way up to the standards its author has set in his work, as the long-time president of a scholarly organization, and as a librarian." Frizzell asserted that Tolzmann"duplicated" much of the first half of the work from an earlier book by Theodore Huebener, The Germans in America. Frizzell outlined the allegations as follows:

About half of both the substance and the wording of the first 180 pages of this book duplicate Theodore Huebener's The Germans in America (1962). This process begins on page 36 of the work, where several lengthy sentences are repeated from page 3 of Huebener's book. By page 39 of Tolzmann, only 29 of about 400 words on the page do not appear on pages 5 and 6 of Huebener. The next page of Tolzmann (page 40) has, by my count, only nine words that are not on pages 6 and 7 of Huebener.

To be sure, Tolzmann acknowledges Huebener. In the preface, he says,"I leaned heavily on Huebener, especially for the period from the American Revolution through the Civil War" (p. 12). But this is an entirely inadequate and quite misleading description of what was done in the production of this book. Most of the text on pages 65-78 directly duplicates pages 25-41 of Huebener, and this material concerns the period before the Revolution. Wherever he uses a long passage from Heubener, Tolzmann omits an occasional word, phrase, sentence, or even a couple of paragraphs. For example, on page 97, by my count, only 5 of the approximately 400 words on the page do not repeat pages 44-46 of Huebener, but at one point two paragraphs of the original are omitted and at another point, a sentence of the original is dropped. Sometimes Tolzmann inserts a word, sentence, or even paragraph of his own. Occasionally he reverses the order of two of Huebner's phrases. Even in the first half of this book, there are sections as long as twenty pages that do not come from Huebener.

Huebener's words are not put in quotation marks or indented. In addition, there are several cases where Huebener's words are given with references to endnotes listing other sources. For example, the first sentence of the first full paragraph on page 39 of Tolzmann is identical to a sentence in Huebener. But the endnote following that sentence in Tolzmann cites two of Tolzmann's own publications.

In the piece on Correntewire.com, Thomas Spencer caustically noted that"Unlike other more prominent plagiarizers, this guy apparently has just continued on like nothing ever happened." Spencer also added that,"He's still the director of a German-American studies program at a major research university!" This is still true; Tolzmann is still the director of the German-American Studies Program.

What does Dr. Tolzmann have to say about the charges? Tolzmann posted this response on HNN's website:

Dear Editor,

Regarding the reprinted review of my book, The German-American Experience, by Robert Frizzell I thought I had made it clear three years ago when this issue first arose that in my preface I clearly stated that I had revised and expanded a work. Since then I have had a collegial discussion with the reviewer and have consulted with colleagues and scholars in this field of study. I apologize to those who found my preface inadequate in explaining my historical approach. I am always open for honest discussion of German-American scholarship and research.

With kind regards,
Don Heinrich Tolzmann

When contacted via email for a response to Frizzell's charges, Tolzmann reiterated his post to HNN, stating:

Thanks very much for your note and your interest in this issue. I thought I had responded to this several years ago, but realize that my language should have been stronger in my preface as the issue will come up as the text is used. In subsequent printings I will make the wording stronger so that there is absolutely no question. I apologize if my methodology was unclear and take responsibility for any lack of clarity in this regard.

And there the matter rests--for now. Because the matter is under investigation the University of Cincinnati says it will not comment.


"Don Heinrich Tolzmann: Suspected of Plagiarism"

"The one that got away" by"tom"

"Don Heinrich Tolzmann. The German-American Experience." Review by Robert W. Frizzell

"Don Heinrich Tolzmann: Response to allegations of plagiarism"

Email from Dr. Tolzmann to Daniel Sauerwein

UPDATE: 23 August 2006

Univerity of Cincinnati panel finds Tolzmann plagiarized, recommends dismissal